Feb. 1, 2022
The president of Nest Seekers International discusses his path to becoming an ultra-luxury real estate agent, some of his most notable accomplishments and advice for others looking to break into the industry.
You may have seen Shawn Elliott on your television screen on hit shows such as "Selling the Hamptons," "Million Dollar Beach House," “Selling Sunset” or “Real Housewives of Miami,” but this ultra-luxury real estate maven’s knowledge of the housing industry runs even deeper off-screen.
As president of Nest Seekers International, Elliott serves as a global agent and sells luxury homes from both across the U.S and globally. Every locale is his expertise, he says, and with over $5 billion in sales to his name, he has become one of the most respected and sought-after experts in the industry.
We talked with Elliott to learn how he became an ultra-luxury real estate agent, some of the most notable accomplishments of his career along the way and his advice for others looking to break into the luxury real estate market.
ESTATENVY: Tell us about your background and how you broke into the ultra-luxury real estate market.
Shawn Elliott: I was in the fashion business before I was in real estate. At the same time, I also owned some highly valuable leases in New York City, and I began to dabble in real estate there. Then I began Elliott Retail Group in 2001. We represented manufacturers and dealt with capacity and handled everything from site selection to lease negotiation to the hiring and training of the staff. But in 2002, I made a change. I knew that instead of swimming with the sharks, I would rather swim with the dolphins, and I decided to go into residential real estate. I always had a passion for beautiful homes.
I sold my first house in 2002, when I joined Douglas Elliman, for roughly $1,600,000, and I got a commission check for around $32,000. I realized that real estate was much better than retail: All I did was connect the dots and put people together. I really enjoyed that first transaction, and it became an addiction from there. I broke $50 million in my first year at Douglas Eilliman and decided I wanted more responsibility, so I started my own firm in 2002, which I sold in 2017. I’m now the President of Nest Seekers.
EE: How did you go from an agent with a passion for residential real estate to one of the highest-earning luxury real estate agents in the industry?
Elliott: I was always the guy you would find at an open house on Sunday, and the brokers would look at me and knew I was never going to buy the house. I attended these public open houses on the weekends because my true passion was real estate, and I just loved beautiful homes. Also, the more I knew the market and every single home on the market, the better I was able to serve my clients. I would also say that I was always the guy on the Gold Coast North Shore who sold the most expensive homes, and the most expensive homes in that market traded around $10 million.
EE: How are you able to serve clients in so many territories? Can you elaborate on the process and what price ranges are targeted?
Elliott: I have a team of 26 agents at Nest Seekers. Those agents are at all price ranges and are my boots on the ground in New York City, The Hamptons, the Gold Coast, Miami, Palm Beach, Malibu, Bellaire, Beverly Hills and London. We can handle any price range, whether it's a million-dollar home or $100 million home or $200 million home. Additionally, we have everything in-house: our marketing team, our own photographer, our own writer for our listings, our own editors and graphic designers and our own videographers.
Also, I’m constantly moving. I'm licensed in New York, Florida, California, Connecticut. I’m currently in St. Lucia in the process of listing a $17.5 million villa. Between Christmas and New Year's, I was in St. Barts listing an $80 million villa. I'll be in Los Angeles in two weeks listing a property in Malibu for about $60 million. At the end of the day, I go where the clients go and move within the market.
EE: What are some of the most memorable real-estate transactions you’ve had?
Elliott: In 2012, I sold a home in Upper Brookville for $10,550,000. That was a record-breaker in the Upper Brookville area. What's amazing is that the owner of that house bought it for $3.8 million about eight years before that, and he said he’d never get more than $9 million for the house. I sold the home for 20% more than we thought it would get and $4 million more than what the market value was.
Another record-breaker is 1181 Hillcrest, which ultimately sold for $70 million, breaking every record in Los Angeles and in Beverly Hills. We had a bidding war between Marcus Pearson, Richard Carey, Jay-Z and Beyonce and Markus Persson. Markus Persson designed Minecraft and sold it to Microsoft for $2.4 billion. When you’ve got $2.4 billion in cash, you’re 34 and you just sold your business to Microsoft — when you want something, you get it. So he paid $70 million, broke a record and raised the bar.
EE: How has being on reality TV impacted your real estate success and notoriety?
Elliott: The success from the shows have been more recent — like the last three or four years — but I do get a lot of notoriety from these shows and people are able to see my style. That’s the biggest part of it: The more exposure you have, the more business you have. When clients do call for my business, I (and my team) work really hard to make sure we are doing everything possible to deliver for these clients. The coolest show I ever did, which truly led to all the international business, was a show called “World's Most Luxurious,” which aired only in the U.K. and went through syndication all throughout Europe. I ended up getting multiple listings from families who live in London and families who live in the U.K. and have properties worldwide. Some of the listings that I now have in the South of France and in the Caribbean are a direct result of that television show.
EE: Where should a residential Realtor start if they are looking to break into luxury real estate?
Elliott: They’ve got to start networking. They need to go to every single house possible to get an idea of every house that's on the market, learn the inventory, the price range and demographic that they’re interested in. That’s number one. Number two: The only way to make money in this business is to connect the dots, and in order to connect the dots, you have to network. You need to go where your customers go. If you want to be selling $10 million houses in Beverly Hills, for example, you need to go to the rooftop of the Waldorf Astoria. To target New York City, go to the Polo Lounge in Manhattan or the Plaza Hotel or Four Seasons. In Palm Beach, the agent needs to be at The Breakers. For Miami, ideal places are Seaspice and Kiki on the River. The overarching idea is, whether it’s the country club or church or the bar, agents looking to elevate their careers into the luxury market need to go where their clients are going and make connections.
President of the Ultra Luxury Division