Startup gives Hollywood punch to luxury home marketing

Ruhm creates a custom video for each property with a unique tone, layout for each. The above showcases a Huntington Beach, California, property and features a wry tone that pokes fun at staid display videos.

In the rarefied air of luxury home marketing, the relatively high profit margins give agents and sellers the opportunity to take their marketing beyond hi-def photography, virtual tours and descriptive videos to real estate heights.

The luxury real estate marketing startup Ruhm Inc. is betting big that there’s a market for ultra-refined, and expensive, real estate marketing.

The Irvine, California-based marketing firm, a 10-month-old spinoff of a small Orange County, California-based brokerage, may be best known for its creative short films it’s made for a handful of listings so far.

In addition to the wry video for a Huntington Beach, California, listing above, Ruhm produced a Wes Anderson-inspired video for a Laguna Hills, California, home.

Wes Anderson-inspired short film produced by Ruhm to promote a Laguna Hills, California, listing.

Ruhm comes up with a storyboard for each listing video, hires actors, and uses Hollywood production techniques including high-resolution video cameras, drones and helicopters.

Ruhm grew out of a brokerage Ruhm’s CEO and founder Mark Fitzpatrick founded in 2009, Fitzpatrick Prince Inc. He sold the firm to Orange County brokerage The Boutique Real Estate Group this month to focus on Ruhm.

He started in real estate in 2003 and ran his brokerage for five years, so he knows real estate intimately, which informs his marketing, Fitzpatrick said.

Mark Fitzpatrick.

Mark Fitzpatrick

Ruhm has 14 full-time employees. They include: graphic designer, cinematographer, video editor, creative director, project manager, operations manager, Internet marketing specialist, sales associate and photographer. Soon the firm will add a copy editor, copywriter and public relations specialist, Fitzpatrick said.

While sellers hire Ruhm themselves, Fitzpatrick says it has worked with agents on all of its projects so far and intends to do so in the future. The agent’s name and the brokerage is on all marketing materials, and agents receive the leads and close the deals, he said.

Ruhm does more than produce unique films tailored to a property. It also builds an elaborate website for it, including a custom logo. Check out the websites it built for two Hawaii properties here and here.

For the film featured on the latter site that features a $26 million Maui listing, Ruhm filmed for two days, Fitzpatrick said. The crew traveled to Hawaii for a total of 12 days, he said, to capture all the materials that eventually went into the site. After returning to the mainland, it took four weeks of post-production to develop it.

A GIF of the Hale Ali’i, illustrating some of the site’s features.

The websites feature background videos; professional copywriting; professional photography; both a documentary-style video describing the property and a story-based one like the two above; a virtual tour; and floor plans. Ruhm hired a translator to translate the Hale Ali’i property site into Chinese.

Ruhm’s virtual tours are built from photos Ruhm takes and which are stitched together into panoramas with software. On the Hale Ali’i listing, users can visit areas outside the home in the virtual tour like Black Rock beach and a lookout in Haleakala National Park.

In addition, Ruhm records a heat map for all visits to a property’s site, and shares that information with the sellers and their real estate agent.

Screen shot of a lookout in Haleakala National Park featured in the Ruhm virtual tour of the Hale Ali’i property.

Ruhm collects its marketing fees from sellers in two lumps: one at the beginning of the project and one when the home sells, Fitzpatrick said. Ruhm’s fees are custom to each project it does. They depend on the size and price of the home, how far the Ruhm team has to travel and what the sellers want, Fitzpatrick said.

Fitzpatrick claims that the Ruhm treatment has earned the seven homes it’s helped sell so far an estimated 8 percent bump in per-square-foot price relative to that of recently sold comparable homes.

Ruhm takes its inspiration from outside the real estate industry, Fitzpatrick said. It looks to tech companies, major luxury hotels and clothing brands. He sees the firm evolving into an at-large luxury marketing company.

Fitzpatrick envisions eventually having Ruhm branch out from real estate to market other luxury items like yachts, art, jets and possibly even people (think celebrity athletes).

Ruhm is a German word that means “glory.”  Fitzpatrick said he and his team were searching for a four-letter domain name that meant something to them. “We like to think our creative work encapsulates the glory of the subject matter,” he said.

Editor’s note: For the benefit of new members, over the holidays Inman is bringing back a few of the best stories that debuted with the launch of “Select.” This story was originally published Nov. 17, 2014.

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