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Sotheby’s International Realty’s President And CEO Phillip White Talks International Expansion As South Korea Joins The Brand

Sotheby’s International Realty is long known as a blue-chip brand. Founded in 1976 by the famed Sotheby’s Auction House. In 2020, the brand announced new offices in seven countries, six of which marked the first time a Sotheby’s International Realty office opened in the region. Most of these deals were done 100% virtually. Each international company agrees to a 25-year affiliation with Sotheby’s.  

New international markets for 2020 included Montenegro, Ukraine, Romania, Baden-Wurttemberg (a new office there for the brand), Antigua & Barbuda, Paraguay, and South Korea.

Korea Sotheby’s International Realty in South Korea recently opened. This is the first time the brand has opened an office in the country and comes at a time that the luxury market in South Korea is poised for significant growth.

Dr. Lei Wang and Ms. Tiffany Park are Co-Chairman owners and operators of the South Korean office. “Our company, Korea Sotheby’s International Realty, has 35 years of combined real estate experience. We serve the residential markets of Seoul, Gyeonggi-do, and the surrounding areas,” notes Wang. Choosing Sotheby’s was a strategic choice. “These markets are poised for luxury real estate growth and it was important for us to align our company with a brand that mirrors our dedication to elevated and high-quality service,” Park adds.

Q&A with Sotheby’s President and CEO Phillip White

EP:  Explain how market expansion looked different in 2020 due to COVID?

PW: In 2020, the way we expanded shifted as a result of the pandemic. Previously, we would have in-person meetings with companies looking to join our network, whether they were international or domestic. While in-person meetings were no longer an option due to COVID-19, we still needed to offer that same level of interaction in our virtual meetings. I am proud to say that in 2020, we expanded to seven new countries and cities and all of these agreements were done 100% virtually. It’s an amazing feat considering all the obstacles COVID-19 presented our industry and the world, but I think it further reinforces the idea that many companies and agents are looking to align themselves with well-established brands.

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 EP: Describe how the brand is perceived internationally?

PW: The Sotheby’s International Realty brand is one that is recognized worldwide. As you may know, Sotheby’s International Realty was founded in 1976 as a real estate service for discerning clients of Sotheby’s auction house. So, I believe that when people first think of Sotheby’s International Realty, they think of heritage, thanks to our affiliation with the auction house, and we have built on that legacy by delivering impeccable real estate services.

I’m sure many will also think of our position as a leader in global luxury real estate. We have a presence around the world with 1,000 offices in more than 70 countries and territories and more than 23,000 sales associates. Our clients know that they can rely on us to expertly navigate the home buying and selling process and we pride ourselves on maintaining a network of local experts, worldwide. We also have a presence in all the major metropolitan and resort markets across the U.S., which further aids our brand recognition, especially internationally as many of these markets are incredibly popular among international buyers.

The pandemic really demonstrated the strength of our network to our clients and our affiliate companies – deals were able to be completed virtually, agents were still able to showcase homes in an elevated, virtual fashion, and referrals were still taking place. This is primarily due to our vast network of affiliate companies and agents, and that we recognized the importance of technology early on and we were the first brand to support virtual reality home tours for our listings five years ago.

EP: What are potential markets for further international expansion?

PW: From an international standpoint, we are currently looking to expand our presence in the Caribbean, Europe, and Africa. On the domestic front, we are currently exploring major cities around the country and where we can look to expand our presence based on luxury demand and interest.

 Look to Sotheby’s affiliate network’s expansion in 2021 as the global luxury market continues its growth.

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