Joyce Rey, the Southern California-based head of the estates division of US real estate company Coldwell Banker Previews International, has been at the top of her game for a long time. Her ascent started in 1978, early in her career, when she sold an Italian-style mansion that had once belonged to Sonny and Cher for $4.2 million – more than double the price anyone had previously paid for a home in Los Angeles. The sale revolutionized her business and also shook up the industry, driving market prices up. The following year, she formed a new company – the first in the United States to specialize in estates valued at more than $1 million. Joyce has been at the forefront of the landmark and luxury property industry ever since, with residences such as an exceptional Beverly Hills estate set in 20 acres of land. So far her team has made over $200 million’s worth of transactions in 2012.
In 2010, she showed that her skills were as keen as ever when she oversaw the sale of what was then the United States’ most expensive mansion, a lavish $72 million French chateau-style property in Bel Air. Of course, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. In 2008, as the global financial crisis took hold, real estate prices fell precipitously. ‘In October 2008, I lost $30 million in cancelled sales.’ she explains. ‘People just walked away from their deposits. Right after the recession hit, wealthy people became much more hesitant about putting their properties on the market.’ But such is Joyce’s industry standing that she was able to ride out the bad times, and business was soon thriving again. It helps that most of her clients come to her via word-of-mouth recommendations. House prices may rise and fall, but a good reputation is a gold standard whose value can only increase.
Joyce has witnessed tremendous changes in the real estate industry over the past few decades. In particular, the way properties are marketed has undergone a transformation. ‘It’s totally different now compared to when I first started out,’ she explains. ‘When I began nearly 40 years ago, there was almost no marketing or publicity. You didn’t even photograph your listings. You wrote a two-line print ad, which appeared in the newspaper, and that was it. That was enough to get business. Now we’re on the internet, on television shows, and the marketing of our business has skyrocketed.’ Joyce has consistently stayed ahead of the curve in this aspect of the business. She was one of the first realtors to have a website back in the mid-1990s, and today the internet generates a good deal of business for her company, especially from abroad. ‘We have seen increasing demand for our residential properties from all over the world, including China, Europe and the Middle East,’ she explains.
Although marketing strategies may have changed over the years, the key to selling a property remains the same. It’s important to have a good knowledge of your field, and Joyce has more than three decades’ worth to draw on. Realtors also need to have a keen business brain; Joyce honed hers while studying for an MBS at the University of Southern California. But most of all, she ascribes her success to her personality. ‘I’ve always been patient and enthusiastic,’ she says. ‘But most importantly, I always put my clients’ best interests first.’ That determination has seen her garner a host of awards throughout her career, including being named one of the ‘35 most influential people in real estate’ by Unique Homes magazine. Despite the intense demands of her business, Joyce still finds time for charity work, serving on the Southern California board of US UNICEF. And with her company thriving, having seen an annual increase of 45 per cent in sales on properties valued at more than $5 million in 2012, Joyce looks set to break even more records in the future.