Flight of the Realtors

When, Geir Magnussonan East Hampton producer with a pilot’s license, took a broker friend and his real estate customer on a flight over the Amagansett dunes to view a property from its aerial perspective, little did he know that the flyover would lead to marriage. 

“It shows clients from the air the relationship of the property to schools and shopping,” said Mr. Magnusson. In this case, it also showed the customer a new relationship entirely. “As we took off from the runway there was a group of deer, the sun was setting, and the moon was coming up,” he said. A boon for romance to be sure. And a deal-clincher too. She also bought the house.

Of course not all real estate flyovers end in nuptials or even house sales.  But they do work to give a customer who’s serious about a property a sense of its scale, boundaries, and who its neighbors are.

Broker Christopher Burnside may have an office at Brown Harris Stevens in Bridgehampton, but his other office is his four-seat Cessna 172. When we spoke to him in early April he was planning on taking a customer up that coming weekend. In fact, he was picking the Greenwich, CT resident up at the airport in White Plains and flying her to the South Fork for a look see at a 14-acre property from the air before landing and showing her a ground’s eye view. One thing this potential buyer wants to know: how far is the property from the airport. She owns a plane herself.

How does he lure people skyward? “A lot of time it starts out that people just want to go somewhere, say Martha’s Vineyard,” he said. They’ll ask if he can give them a ride there. Off they’ll go into the wild blue yonder, and check out a property or two en route.

Robert Kittine, a broker with the Corcoran Group and a former commercial pilot also owns a four-seater. His is a Cessna 182. He will bring up that fact in conversation to test the waters. If someone is interested, about one in ten he said, he’ll take them up. “They get a kick out of it,” he said. “There’s an awful lot of competition from other real estate agents out here. If anything can give you an edge, you try it.”

Mr. Burnside agrees.  “If you’d had a broker show you three houses and then he took you up in a plane, would you go to another broker? It’s about loyalty.”

But a flight is not the first thing he offers a customer. “Flying is very distracting. You’re wearing headphones, talking to air traffic control, and navigating,” he said. “You can’t focus on selling a piece of real estate from the air. I try to show them when I’ve already got the

Broker Christopher Burnside

deal in the bag: they’ve seen the property and area, they know the comps, and have been back a second time. The next step would be seeing it from above – if they’re brave enough.”

Mr. Kittine has been known to offer a flight to Nantucket for lunch as a “closing present.”
The 55-minute ride over the shimmering bays and inlets of the East End, and into the Atlantic Ocean certainly has an advantage over the usual closing goodie bag.

by Heather Bryce