With a burgeoning entertainment industry and as the hub of popular rap and R&B artists, Atlanta has a sizable celebrity population. That’s great news for local agents, but working with celebrities is an experience that is somewhat unique in the industry. Marc Castillo, luxury broker with Coldwell Banker, has sold houses to some of the most popular artists and athletes in the city. He explains how he broke into the celebrity real estate game and how to work with famous buyers and sellers.
Q: What’s it like working with celebrities?
It’s a delicate dance when you deal with them. More than the average person, they really treasure their privacy. So when you list a home, I wish I could just say to the world, ‘Hey, this is a popular R&B singer’s house” or ‘this is a famous ball player’s house,’ because it adds cache to that. I have to be careful when I do that. It depends on if they are selling a home they’re still occupying.
If they’re not there in the house, I’m more inclined to say, ‘former home of…’ or just hint to it, [for example] ‘this celebrity author.’ I recently closed an athlete’s home in Atlanta. The buyer knew who they were from doing research on the MLS. But I signed a non disclosure so I was not allowed to disclose. If someone else finds out, that’s for them.
Q: Are non-disclosure agreements common?
Very common. In fact, when I was working with [very famous female artist whom he is barred from naming on the record because of a non-disclosure], before I found out who she was, I signed a non-disclosure. They said, ‘If you agree to work with this person, you’ve got to sign this.’ I said, ‘OK.’
Q: Are there agents who focus primarily on celebrities?
You know what happens when you get a few of them? Their managers start recommending you. Oftentimes an agent will have multiple entertainers they represent. It’s all just word of mouth. Nobody is exclusively a celebrity agent, but there are some of us who are known to have earned the trust of managers and agents and attorneys who work with them.
Q: How do you break into that market? How did it come to you?
Just having had a personal reference. I had an R&B artist who I just hit it off with. It goes back to the relationship. It was a good fit. The universe has its way.
Q: Do celebrities go to showings, or do they send a representative?
It’s both. I’ve had appointments, absolutely, where you meet them and it’s a private showing for them. I’ve also had celebrities who aren’t even there, but they’ll FaceTime. The manager will FaceTime and they’ll tell them, ‘how big is that tub? Go lay in that tub for me.’ [laughs] So, it’s both.
Q: What’s the biggest different between working with celebrities compared to other Uber-rich buyers?
I have to sell three times. I have to sell the house to the money manager, who doesn’t want them to spend that much money. I have to get them over the hurdle. I have to get the attorney or the agent over the hurdle. ‘This person might not be making this much money forever, is this a good investment? Are there comps to justify this purchase?’ They might like this house, but they don’t want them to make a mistake. And I have to sell to the celebrity.
Q: Are homeowners ever hesitant to sell to a celebrity?
Nope. The other way around. They get excited about it. I’ve never had one say, ‘No I don’t want them.’ They’re excited about the prospect of being able to say they sold their home to a celebrity.
Read more from our Luxury issue
- Cover story: How agents break into the luxury market
- The dos and don’ts of staging a luxury home
- Survey: What do agents experience when selling a luxury home?
- How the luxury market is shifting across the country