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A New Business Model?

When I first saw Paulo Zampolli, he was positively leaping out of a shiny black Rolls that matched his equally shiny black hair. My producer Jill and I had come to Manhattan to interview Paulo about his new real estate agency, located in SoHo.

Paulo is always surrounded by beautiful things: cars, models, and real estate. He made much of his fortune running a modeling agency, with offices around the world, until a friend, Donald Trump, suggested he go into real estate.

“Yes, it was my friend Donald,” sighs Paulo.

“What did he say?” I asked.

“Paulo, you’re too good for modeling, get into real estate.”

But Paulo did one better; he combined the two, offering current and former runway models the chance to become his brokers.

“Well, models are very driven, and modeling is a very difficult job. And as well they are gorgeous ladies, they meet the most rich and powerful people in the world and some of them, they keep these connections.”

Paulo introduced me to one of his top agents, Sports Illustrated swimsuit veteran Angie Everhart.

“I’m doing this because it’s something different in my life and I’m not always going to be a pretty face; it’s something to rely on in the future.”

Angie says she’s still doing the modeling and acting thing, but real estate is, well, real. She spent 45 hours in classes and took the test for her license. But will being a “model broker” really make a difference?

I asked one of her clients, Raymond Dowd, whom she was walking through a 14 million dollar building just down the street from Paulo’s SoHo offices.

“Absolutely! When we look at real estate we look at the package that it comes in. We're talking about retail combined with high end luxury living, so if you have a Roberto Cavalli or a Gucci on the ground floor, the apartments above are going to have a certain cache. Involving supermodels in the process really ensures that there's a commitment to the highest quality of clientele and of living.”

Ok. I have to agree, real estate is emotional, more emotional even than those old GE refrigerator commercials (sorry, parent company, gotta do it), and perhaps the beauty of the broker does bleed over onto the property. But in the end, the model doesn’t come with the deed, and once you sign the deal, the front door might as well be the catwalk, ‘cause she’s outta there.

I asked Paulo if this would fly anywhere but New York, like, I say, St. Louis.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know St. Louis real estate market,” says Paulo.

Of course he doesn’t.

Realty Check Reader Responds: John G. Johnson
This is very good strategy. There are those that will condemn this idea, simply because they are only equating beauty with stupidity, which is a fallacy and a stereotype. Having beautiful women sell Real-Estate is a good thing; for one, it breaks down sales-resistance and motivates the prospect to “put up or shut up.”

The second reason this is a good strategy is that our cultural code for beauty is “status”. And just as Ivan Pavlov demonstrated in his stimulus response experiment decades ago, that anything can be linked/associated with anything, attaching a beautiful, well-dressed and INTELLIGENT model to a Real Estate product adds status to the product itself. In short, the models’ status rubs off on the product. and as common sense tells us, who wants to buy low-status products when they are given the opportunity to buy hi-status perceptive products?

This is persuasion and influence at work…and everyone, whether they verbalize it, or not, wants to influence and seduce AND also want TO BE influenced and seduced. Hey, why do we go to see the movies?

Do you have Questions? Comments? Email: RealtyCheck@cnbc.com

  • Diana Olick serves as CNBC's real estate correspondent as well as the editor of the Realty Check section on CNBC.com.

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