Do you have what it takes to be the agent who represents the most luxurious properties in your marketplace? While taking classes can help you be better prepared to represent luxury clients, the real key to your success results from your ability to build personal connection.
Recently, I was at a party where a top-producing agent who specializes in luxury properties asked whether agents should be “certified” to sell luxury properties. She went on to answer her own question by saying, “I don’t know a single agent who specializes in the million-dollar-plus price range who needs a certification.” I spent 20 years selling in that price range and I had to agree. None of the luxury agents who worked with me in Los Angeles ever attended a luxury certification class.
When I first moved to Austin, Texas, a local title company asked me to put together a course on how to market luxury properties. Since I had been an active agent in Southern California (Brentwood, Bel Air and Beverly Hills) for almost 20 years and had run the training program for the 4,000-agent Beverly Hills-based Jon Douglas Co., this was second nature for me.
One of the biggest surprises came as I chatted with the agents during the break. Most of them were terrified at the thought of representing a buyer or seller in the $700,000-$800,000 range. A million-dollar listing was absolutely out of the question. Nevertheless, they were hopeful that this class or a certification program would provide the magic bullet that would somehow transform them into luxury agents. Sadly, this underlying lack of confidence would probably be the biggest stumbling block to their success.
In a different class, we had about 50 agents in attendance. One agent arrived in shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and strapless sandals. Nevertheless, I remembering thinking, I’ll bet he’s a luxury agent. When I surveyed the class, he was the only one who had actually sold a property priced at more than $1 million. In fact, he had owned commercial offices both in Beverly Hills and Austin.
So if it’s not your clothes or the number of years you have been in the business, and it’s not something you can get from just taking classes, what does it take to become a luxury real estate agent?
Perhaps the best answer comes from the law of attraction: Like attracts like. If you want to represent luxury clients, you must in some way mirror who they are. There are thousands of ways to do this. In fact, regardless of who your clients are, in most cases the reason that you are doing business together is that you have found a commonality that is the basis for your connection.
For his book, “Lessons from Richistan,” Robert Frank interviewed people who are multimillionaires. While many of these people were accessible, a large number of them didn’t want to speak with him.
Frank was particularly interested in interviewing one particular woman. He had tried reaching her several times and each time she turned down the interview. When he finally met her at a cocktail party, she was very aloof. He noticed that she was wearing a beautiful bracelet that was worth more than $1 million. He was familiar with the artist’s work as well as the value. When he inquired about whether her bracelet was indeed by that artist, the woman’s whole demeanor changed. Apparently, very few people recognized the value of the bracelet nor were they aware of the artist who created it. Because Frank recognized what mattered to this woman, he got the interview.
Consequently, if you want to represent luxury clients, the first step is to engage in activities outside of real estate that put you in regular contact with luxury buyers and sellers. For example, if you are interested in the arts, join an organization that raises money to support the local symphony or light opera. Attend art auctions and chat with people there about what they find interesting about that day’s sale.
Other luxury clients are highly engaged in organizations that rescue and find homes for animals.
If you enjoy doing charitable fundraising, do more than just writing a check. Volunteer for committees, help at events, and make yourself useful in whatever way possible. If your charity raises money for cancer, heart disease, diabetes or any other illness, always be the person who is willing to go that extra mile to help someone else who is experiencing a difficult time.
The point is that real estate is always about connection, about similarities and common interests. If you understand what matters to the client as well as the pressures of their lifestyle, you will be well equipped to do business with them. A piece of paper saying you are certified to sell luxury properties never has been nor ever will be a substitute for the two things that ultimately matter: connection and trust.
Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of the National Association of Realtors’ No. 1 best-seller, “Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success.” Hear Bernice’s five-minute daily real estate show, just named “new and notable” by iTunes, at www.RealEstateCoachRadio.com.