Marc Hennes is literally taking South Florida home buying to new heights. For the past year, the Fort Lauderdale-based realtor has been offering complimentary house-hunting by helicopter. Hennes, who also holds a commercial helicopter license, tours property sites on foot like more traditional realtors but says his more affluent customers prefer to see how a property looks like from above.
“It’s so beautiful to fly here. Seeing a property from the air is a completely new experience,” Hennes explains. “It’s also a lot of fun.”
Helicopter house-hunting is just the latest amenity available to buyers interested in the South Florida market. Hennes says he sells mostly to out-of-town buyers looking for their second or third home. Since a flight can cost as much as $1,600 an hour, Hennes can only offer it to people interested in homes that cost more than a half-million dollars. But that isn’t too hard considering the recent boom in luxury skyrises in Broward County and that a recent rent report revealed that Pembroke Pines, Miramar, Fort Lauderdale, and Coral Springs closely trail Miami for the most expensive rent in Florida.
“For people who are relocating and are not familiar with the area, [flying above a property in a helicopter] helps them see how everything is laid out,” Hennes says. “By the end, they get a much better understanding of an area.”
So far, Hennes has taken out nearly a dozen customers. Beforehand, Hennes and his clients pick out a handful of properties to look at from Hennes’ office on Las Olas Boulevard. Then, if the weather is nice, they depart from the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, Pompano Beach Airpark, or North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines. Hennes mans the helicopter, and his clients hold an iPad with the properties pinned.
“It can be challenging to fly the helicopter and talk about the property,” Hennes says. “Sometimes I’ll bring a friend with me to copilot so I can explain what we’re looking at.”
Hennes says flying helicopters is his passion. He earned his commercial helicopter license in Toronto in 2003 and spent the next decade flying helicopters there. He moved to Fort Lauderdale and opened his real estate business last year. Because Hennes had friends in Fort Lauderdale who had helicopters he could borrow, he figured complimentary helicopter house-hunting would make his business stand apart.
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It has. Although Hennes admits that some clients are wary of heights and decline the offer, most are enthusiastic and excited to see their new neighborhood from above.
Helicopter house-hunting can seem impractical, but a few times it has really impressed Hennes' clients. Once, an Italian investor wanted to purchase an empty lot. Hennes and his client searched online, but when that didn’t pan out, Hennes took the man up in the air. From there, they noted any empty lots in areas his client was interested in. Then they contacted the owners to see if they were willing to sell.
Another time, Hennes' clients were interested in purchasing a unit at Paramount Bay Condos on Fort Lauderdale Beach. The skyrise wasn’t finished being built, but his clients couldn’t wait. They wanted to see how their view from the 12th floor would look. So Hennes flew his clients to the top of the building so they could get an idea.
“I love flying, and I want other people to explore the same thing with me,” Hennes says. “I’m combining two things that I love. I’m so grateful that I’m still flying. The real estate [commission] is just an extra bonus for me.”