NEW YORK — Becoming a successful global luxury real estate agent is all about "relationships and reputation," says The Corcoran Group’s Patricia Cliff, who estimates that 40 percent of her business is international.
Cliff, whose book, "The Art of Selling Luxury Real Estate," was published this month, attributes her success not to heavy socializing, but to strategic relationships.
A senior vice president at Corcoran, Cliff shared more insight into the topic in a conversation with Corcoran CEO Pamela Liebman during a panel discussion at Real Estate Connect New York City.
Agents are the spark that bring transactions to life, Liebman said. That’s why Corcoran’s new website, launched in November, integrated social media so thoroughly into its design. "Our website has become a hub for online relationships," she said.
When Cliff travels, looking to establish relationships or maintain the ones she has, she hosts no lavish parties, but instead focuses on cultivating trusted personal relationships. She picks out two to five of the most valuable contacts in a certain place and sets up meetings with them in advance.
Or, if she doesn’t know some influential potential clients in a place, she looks to enter their spheres. For example, when she went looking for high-end clients in Hong Kong, Cliff went to a jeweler to see about buying pearl and diamond earrings in the hope of sparking a relationship with the jeweler. She employed the same strategy with a Rolls-Royce dealer and private bankers.
Cliff said she helped establish her reputation as a valuable expert for potential clients by writing a 28-page booklet describing the ins and outs of doing real estate transaction in New York City, distributing it to clients early on in a relationship. The booklet also made her life easier, she said — she didn’t have to repeat herself with the same detailed explanations of how to navigate the New York City real estate world over and over again.
When hosting a potential client in the U.S., Cliff said, it’s important to cast a "net" around them and provide an attentive, high level of service, in order to prevent other agents or brokers from swooping in to represent them. And try not to leave clients until a contract is signed. If they’re visiting New York City, for example, the excitement of being in the city and the agent’s enthusiasm creates the ideal atmosphere to close the deal, she said.
Liebman said that sometimes agents will say "you won’t see me for a couple of days," because they have a client coming into town, and their every waking hour will be committed to taking care of their needs and providing the exceptional, top-level service that many luxury real estate buyers and sellers expect and are accustomed to.
But before getting too caught up in their zeal to capture high-end clients — and a big pay day — it’s important that agents know who they’re dealing with. Potential clients may not have accessible assets in U.S. banks, and since 9/11 moving money into the U.S. has become much more difficult, Cliff said.
Banks are beholden to a "Know Your Customer" provision of 2001’s U.S. Patriot Act that requires banks and financial institutions to add measures to restrict funds associated with terrorist financing and money laundering, which can hamstring otherwise promising deals, Cliff said.
In fact, Cliff said, at one point the FBI had placed her under investigation because of a relationship with a former client, though she knew him only through intermediaries.
At the end of the day, Liebman said, agents who want to deal in luxury real estate can do themselves some good by being in New York City, and knowing a little about its architecture, history and the real estate conversations that happen around the world.