DwellHomes.com curates modern homes for the well-heeled young professional — and a 30 percent referral fee. Is it worth it?
Let’s say you want to showcase your new listing: A high-end, multi-million dollar modern home. Of course you’ll put it in your MLS and build a custom website for it. But what if you could get it “certified” by the editorial staff of Dwell Magazine, and advertise it amongst its super-cool, mod brethren online?
That is the goal of DwellHomes.com, the latest entrant in the advertising race for high-end homes. The twist here is that all of the homes featured are modern and curated by hand by the editorial team at Dwell Media, so browsing the site feels similar to leafing through the pages of your favorite architectural magazine.
Even though the listings are handpicked by the Dwell editorial team, Dwell Homes is only loosely associated with the Dwell Media empire. The site, which was built by Los Angeles brokerage Live International Real Estate, licenses the Dwell brand, and it makes money via traditional referral fees paid on buyer leads.
DwellHomes.com launched last fall with about 400 homes, and as of this writing appears to have about 70 homes on the site, primarily in California and New York. The company says that it is launching on a state-by-state basis, and has hundreds of submissions from real estate agents from all 50 states and abroad.
“The goal is to showcase quality modern homes that match the Dwell brand,” explains Tiffany Gatto, CEO of Live International Real Estate. “We’re not about having thousands of homes that we source through syndication. We want to create a destination, where homebuyers who want quality modern homes can find the right property that is vetted by experts who know the genre. We’re about curation, not quantity.”
Gatto says that’s why the selection process is strict. To get on the site, you need to submit a property history and description, quality photography and ideally, a 360-degree virtual tour. Your listing will then be reviewed by Dwell’s certification team (which includes Amanda Dameron, the magazine’s editor-in-chief).
“There are a lot of pieces that come together to create what a Dwell home is,” Gatto continues. “They’re looking for architectural significance, finishes, flow, design — everything the modern buyer is looking for, and that would fit into the pages of Dwell Magazine.”
Gatto is careful to say that her brokerage has nothing to do with deciding which properties make it on to the Dwell Homes website.
Dwell’s team will deem it “in” or “out” — and only about 25 percent of homes Gatto submits actually make it onto the site.
“It’s really about what Dwell thinks is worthwhile,” Gatto explains. “We facilitate the process, but nothing more than that. What Dwell’s team says is absolutely final. Every house on the site has to pass muster.”
Can You Be “Dwell Certified”?
While you can point prospects to the Dwell Homes website, you can’t market your listing as Dwell “certified” or even that you’re a Dwell certified agent.
That means you can’t associate Dwell’s brand with your own as you market the property on your website, or within your other marketing materials and programs. Gatto admits the restrictions are tight, but says that it’s for a reason: Dwell wants to maintain absolute control over its brand.
Familiar Business Model
If your listing makes it past the Dwell team, it will be showcased at no charge amongst other suitably modern homes. If Dwell Homes attracts a buyer for your listing, you’ll pay a 30 percent referral fee back to Dwell Homes. Although home sellers can submit their houses to Dwell Homes as well, the site is clearly focused on acquiring listings from real estate professionals.
“We only charge the referral fee if we have procured the buyer through Dwell Homes,” Gatto says. Listings on the site are presented with the listing agent’s name. However, no direct contact information is published, so web visitors must use Dwell Home’s form to inquire about the property.
If the property sells to a prospect that originated on the Dwell Homes site, the referral fee is due.
Gatto says that if a home seller in California chooses to list a home directly with Dwell Homes, the transaction will be handled through Live International Real Estate (a California brokerage) and traditional fees will apply outside of Dwell Home’s fees.
When Gatto can place a home seller with a partner agent in a state other than California, Dwell Homes will collect a referral fee as well.
“What we are at the end of the day is buyer lead generation,” Gatto explains. “We’re just like Redfin or Zillow — it’s just that we focus on a specific type of home, and a specific kind of buyer.”
Listings begin at a minimum of $1 million, and go north of $50 million for a penthouse in Manhattan.
What’s interesting about the assortment of listings and the price points is that clearly Dwell, and by extension, Live International Real Estate, is interested in selling high-end homes to high-end buyers.
The original Dwell manifesto promises that the modern homes it presents will show the human side of living — from Pepperidge Farm cookies in the cabinet to Meow Mix kibble in the cat bowl — in real homes for real people. Yet as Dwell has evolved into a modern mega-media empire, Dwell’s homespun approach has morphed into showcasing seriously high-end homes and finishes to equally affluent buyers.
Will it work for you?
Even though Dwell’s brand is well known, and appeals to younger professionals (average age of 40, household income $110,000) with 600,000 print subscribers and two million unique visits a month, you may not benefit from that traffic and exposure to qualified buyers.
Here’s why: There’s no direct or obvious link from Dwell.com to DwellHomes.com.
That’s probably because Dwell’s main site accepts advertising from various real estate companies, and it seems likely that Dwell doesn’t want to compete with its bread and butter display advertisers. Besides, Dwell Homes is a licensed venture of a real estate brokerage, not a direct line of business for Dwell Media.
Unless Dwell Homes can generate enough traffic and exposure without the might of the Dwell brand, this niche site might continue to play in a very expensive — yet beautiful — walled garden.