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Real-Estate Tips from a Mega-Broker to the Stars

Called the "Queen of Real Estate" and even "Jaws" for her aggressively successful tactics, super broker Dolly Lenz has sold over $8.5 billion in high-end properties, catering to clients like Barbra Streisand, Billy Joel and P. Diddy. Now she's revealing some of her inside secrets for those looking to sell your mega-home, or even not-so-mega-home. Check out her advice.

Asking Price Is Critical – Avoid Shooting For the Moon

Dolly Lenz, Vice Chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman.
Ben Hider |Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
Dolly Lenz, Vice Chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman.

Sure, when it comes to one-of-a-kind mega-home properties, the sky might very well be the limit for price; but being overly aggressive in establishing an asking price for your home can have serious consequences that could prevent you from reaching top dollar. Obviously, you want to leave room to negotiate, but hoping to find that one buyer who will pay your unrealistic price is a risky proposition.

In the past, "testing the market" to see what offers you might get had no real downside. But with the advent of ubiquitous real-estate websites that offer listed property information to the general public, you can no longer afford to just let your property sit there and wait to see what happens. As time passes, buyers perceive unsold property as stale, which will not help you maximize your selling price.

(Read More: Secret Lives of the Super Rich: Mega-Homes)

If you want to test the market, just reach out to the brokerage community in your area. They'll help you get a read on how fast properties are selling and at what price. Don't list your property outright, though, because once you do, the clock starts ticking.

Making an Offer? Put It in Writing

So, you've found the home of your dreams and would like to make an offer. My advice – always put it in writing! Do so for two reasons – to avoid future misunderstandings, and, more importantly, to convey to the seller that you are a serious buyer.

(Read More: America's Most Expensive Homes 2012)

When submitting the offer, make sure to include a bank pre-approval letter, if you have one, and your attorney's name and contact information. The more detail you provide, the more serious your offer appears, especially if other players are also bidding on the property. A buyer who appears able and willing to close the deal is often more attractive to a motivated seller than a buyer who's offering a higher price.

Mark Your Offer With an Expiration Date

Oftentimes when you submit an offer, the property owner or his broker will try to maximize the selling price by showing it to other potential buyers. The hope is to create a bidding war, which is great for the seller but definitely disadvantageous to you.

(Related: The Secret to Selling Real Estate to the Rich and Famous)

A good way to protect against this is to mark the offer with an expiration date. Clearly state in your letter that "the offer is in effect for the next 36 hours," or words to that effect. Again, such language conveys your seriousness and limits the seller's ability to shop your offer.

Does Your Home Pass the Smell Test?

I've shown more property in my career than I'd care to recollect, and I can say with certainty that first impressions matter. How a prospective buyer feels – and what she smells – when entering a property is critical to an eventual sale. Sellers must understand that an unpleasant or stale odor will lead to difficulty finding a buyer.

(Read More: Homes of Pop Stars)

If a potential buyer walks into your home and the scent is even slightly offensive, you have just created an obstacle that's hard to overcome. Seems like common sense, right? Yet smell is the factor most commonly overlooked by sellers, who might not even realize they have a problem --especially if they live in the property.

To combat potential stink, I always carry a fragrant vanilla coconut scent with me in preparation for all showings. Whether you use an air freshener or brew a pot of coffee right before a showing, please make sure your home is odor-free. If you do that, then you've already gone a long way toward selling your home.

Want to Become a High-End Broker? Know the Rules

Sales agents often ask me what it takes to becoming a high-end broker, and I tell them the secret is playing by the rules.

Standards and practices at the upper end of the market differ from those at the lower end where selling a home means holding a public open house. The prevailing sentiment here is that a home is more likely to sell if more people tour it. But that's not so at the upper end.

(Read More: New Housing Fears: Home Prices Are Rising Too Fast)

Before granting access to their homes, affluent property owners insist that all prospective buyers be vetted to ensure financial ability to close on the property. If not, an appointment will not be granted. If a buyer is unwilling to disclose such information up front, a novice broker might find the situation uncomfortable. But when it comes to high-end properties, the precedent has been set.

My advice is to convince your client to play by the rules, or the number of viewings you can schedule will be severely limited. Hopefully, with a little explanation, the client will become more compliant. If not, you should seriously reconsider working with him. Harsh or not, you'll save a lot of time – as well as your credibility.

Watch CNBC's exclusive access to the "Secret Lives of the Super Rich: Mega-Homes." Premieres Jan. 28th, 9ET

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  • A reporter and editor, Robert Frank is a leading authority on the American wealthy for CNBC.