Barbara Corcoran says she made $1 million in a day selling apartments nobody wanted: I ‘created a buying frenzy’


Some risks come at a price. Others can pay off handsomely — a lesson Barbara Corcoran knows well.

In a recent TikTok video, the co-star of ABC’s “Shark Tank” told her followers about a crucial moment in her real estate career, when she was at risk of bankruptcy. The problem: Her Manhattan-based real estate company The Corcoran Group owned 88 empty “terrible apartments” that “nobody wanted” to buy.

With such high stakes, Corcoran felt there was little to lose — so she concocted a risky marketing strategy to sell the units.

She decided to host a 24-hour sale where all the apartments — regardless of neighborhood, size and quality — would be priced the same. She spread the announcement solely through word of mouth, creating the illusion that the apartments were desirable not because they were luxurious, but because everyone wanted one.

“[I said] bring only your best customer, because there’s not enough to go around,” Corcoran said. “The day of the sale, I had 150 people waiting in line for those 88 apartments. It created a buying frenzy.”

Every apartment sold, putting “$1 million in commissions right in my pocket” in a single day, she added.

That was back in 1991. More than three decades later, the lesson still matters: “Everybody wants what everybody wants, but nobody wants what nobody wants,” Corcoran said.

Today’s businesses and influencers use similar tactics when flying first class, staying in luxury hotels or even signing up for credit cards that offer specific perks. High demand and low quantity can make products, services or events seem exclusive, regardless of their quality.

Corcoran often deployed non-traditional ideas to stay competitive in a cutthroat market during her 28 years owning The Corcoran Group, which she started at age 23 with a $1,000 loan from her then-boyfriend.

“I was competing with the old boys’ network and they were asleep at the wheel,” Corcoran said on a December podcast episode of “The Diary of a CEO hosted by Steven Bartlett.” “They did the same old thing and they did it the old same way. … I would think of the greatest bull—- to create publicity every day of the week.”

A decade after avoiding bankruptcy by unloading those 88 apartments, Corcoran sold her company to real estate company NRT for $66 million. The mogul admitted to struggling with impostor syndrome, and said she felt like “an absolute fraud” after selling her company, she wrote on Instagram in 2020.

These days, she says that self-doubt — paired with the luck of opportunity — helps her remain at the top of her game at age 73.

“Thank God, you doubt yourself, because the one thing that I have learned that is true of every single person who is exceptional in whatever they are doing is self-doubt,” Corcoran said on a 2020 episode of her podcast “888-Barbara.” “Without it, you become big-headed, arrogant, and you’re just waiting for the clock to make you fall on your feet.”

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”

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