Real estate agent Michael Johnson of Compass elevates the art of the remote home showing
“Showing homes remotely requires a totally different approach to the process,” says Mike Johnson of Compass. “The pacing is different, the way you respond to your client’s cues is different, and even the way in which the house is revealed is different.”
One of Johnson’s latest cinematic case studies? A multi-level, ocean-view post-and-beam in Laguna Beach. Tucked in, up, and around its hillside location near downtown Laguna, the home is comprised of a series of strategically positioned, box-like structures that are stacked and staggered towards stunning ocean views. Purchased by James Kisel in 2004, the architect redesigned the original midcentury, 850-square-foot house into an expansive 2,000-square-foot, ocean-embracing retreat.
“The big idea of the house is that we wanted to play off the midcentury post-and-beam vibe but bring it forward to today. We wanted light and views in every part of the house. One of my husband’s main goals was to see Catalina Island from the kitchen sink,” says Kisel of the new middle floor with the kitchen and family room. With an added third-floor master suite, the home now has three bedrooms and two baths. The architect also added a series of outdoor areas, including an expansive terrace on the second level, complete with outdoor fireplace and ample entertaining space.
While the home offers no shortage of drama in the form of stunning design details and breathtaking views, translating that to the confines of FaceTime isn’t as straightforward as it may appear. “When you’re showing a home in person, you’re obviously going to start at the front door,” says Johnson. “With a video tour, that’s not necessarily the best place to start. For this home, I actually start on the terrace, outside the slider of the dining room looking up onto the yard. It’s a more cinematic opening to experience the home, and it gives a better sense of what it feels like to be here.”
From there, Johnson heads back into the home’s first level, which includes the original structures on the property from the 1950s. There, a dining room, living area, and two bedrooms all boast ocean views. Moving up to the more recently built middle level’s family room and kitchen, Johnson says he takes time to point out details that would be obvious in person, but easy to miss electronically. “It’s easy to get confused about where you are in space when you’re seeing a house on a device,” says Johnson. “I find that one thing that’s really important is to slowly show people how you transition from one room to another. That gets easily lost if you move too quickly.”
Details like the fact that the kitchen is slightly elevated from the family room are entirely missed unless highlighted, while huge moments can lose their impact without the right approach: “I really emphasize how indoor/outdoor this home is. I make a point of showing how these amazing 15-foot-high Fleetwood doors open onto amazing ocean views from the terrace.”
Saving one of the home’s true scene-stealers for last is also part of the plan. Perched at the top of the property, the third-floor master suite with the slightly pitched roofline is “the home’s big moment,” says Johnson. “It’s this crow’s nest up high with wrap-around views, a fireplace, and windows all around. This is where I pause, don’t talk, and let people just experience this amazing space.”
While allowing for awe is part of the process, Johnson says that surprise and delight are just as important. “One of the home’s great surprises is that the back wall of the master suite shower is a glass pivoting door. It opens onto the rear of the house, which is completely private, so you feel like you’re taking an outdoor shower.”
And while a potential buyer wouldn’t be able to feel the ocean breeze and hear the fountain that waterfalls from one level to another, Johnson says it is possible to get a true feel for the home without stepping foot within it: “Even though you can’t get the total body language of someone touring the home, if you listen enough and observe what they’re feeling, you bring them into a place, even from their phone.”