Behind the glitz and glitter of the Million Dollar Agent shows, the hard truth is that very few agents break into the stratosphere of the ultra-high end market.

Behind the glitz and glitter of the Million Dollar Agent shows, the hard truth is that very few agents break into the stratosphere of the ultra-high end market.

Client expectations are through the roof, competition is akin to a great white shark feeding frenzy and everyone is ready to lawyer up the moment anything goes wrong.

When it comes to selling real estate in ultra-high-end markets such as Beverly Hills-Bel Air, the Hamptons, Manhattan, Miami or San Francisco, over-the-top-broker open houses, exceedingly expensive marketing campaigns and coping with celebrity egos and tight-fisted business managers have always been part of the landscape.

If you are interested in knowing what is required to play in the ultra-luxury market, here are a few of the basics.

1. An understanding of the two primary types of luxury clients

Stanley and Danko’s The Millionaire Next Door and Robert Frank’s Richistan describe the two primary types of luxury clients.

Millionaires next door don’t display their wealth. They live in relatively modest houses, drive their luxury vehicle for 10 to 15 years and are more focused on their families and giving back to their communities.

In contrast, “Richistanis” have a hedge fund mentality, are opportunistic when it comes to what and when they purchase and are in constant competition for who has the biggest and the best.

Needless to say, the ultra-luxury market is populated primarily by Richistanis who want to strut their wealth.

While the millionaires next door will be more interested in working with someone who shares their passion for a favorite charity, is actively involved with where their kids attend school or at their place of worship, Richistanis generally want a high-profile, superstar agent.

2. Quirks, fears and privacy

Ultra-luxury clients have some unusual quirks coupled with very legitimate fears about the dangers they face.

For example, many ultra-wealthy individuals are germaphobes. The two most notable examples are President Trump and Howard Hughes.

The ultra-wealthy are also usually into collectibles. They may collect exotic automobiles, posters from really horrible movies or even old cereal boxes.

They also have legitimate concerns about their risk of being kidnapped as well as having an overzealous reporter invading their privacy. This is one reason why someone like Bill Gates or Elon Musk will market their properties through private sources rather than on the MLS or other public sites.

Consequently, any agent working with these individuals must be prepared to handle what borders on obsessive-compulsive behavior regarding germs, their collectibles and, most importantly, their privacy.

3. Who’s in your CRM?

Because of risk of kidnapping as well as their privacy concerns, people like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerburg almost never will have their properties marketed publicly.

Instead, they normally rely on their agent’s network that would include an extensive list of high-net-worth individuals, their financial and/or business managers, plus the charities and causes in which they are the most active.

Their agent will also have a strong international network, especially if they are located in areas where there is substantial investment from global clientele.

4. What’s the story?

Agents who represent ultra-luxury clients understand the importance of spinning the story about the lifestyle the client will experience when they purchase the property.

A key part of the story is what makes the property truly unique. Frank McKinney, the world’s most luxurious spec builder, begins his description of his $135 million Manalapan residence like this:

Set upon 5.5 acres, with 520 feet fronting direct Atlantic Ocean-to-Intracoastal waterway property, The Manalapan Residence triumphantly blends Old World elegance and classicism with 21st-century amenities. Over a year was spent by the design team traveling and touring through the great estates of Rome, Venice, Milan, Florence and the greater Tuscan region in an effort to perfectly blend Mediterranean architecture with South Florida coastal living. The Manalapan Residence offers the unique opportunity to enjoy a private stroll on the estate’s white sandy beach, and the ability to keep a yacht of nearly any size at your private dock on the Intracoastal waterway immediately across from the residence.

Although print and online marketing are important, it pales in comparison with video marketing. At $250 million, this listing video for 924 Bel Air Road epitomizes how video story-telling works to market the unique features and lifestyle of America’s most expensive listing.

The next step beyond videos is the 3-D virtual reality tours that are now available through Matterport.

While the words allow the agent to convey the details, the visuals that illustrate the lifestyle will be what makes the sale.

5. The concierge of everything

Ultra-luxury agents know that time is their clients’ most valuable possession.

To effectively serve these clients you must be up on where to service their airplane(s), the best dog-groomer in town, where to get the best deals on everything (many are extremely cheap), as well as handling all the transaction details.

Essentially, the client wants to write the check and have you handle everything. This can even include getting a house fully furnished, right down to the toothbrushes.

6. The dragon in the deal

Everything is great until your client says, “Call my business manager, Dwayne — he handles everything.” Unlike your client — who is acting on emotion — the deal won’t happen unless you satisfy Dwayne the dragon, who will be all about the numbers, the legalities and how quickly the property can be liquidated if need be.

In fact, there may be three dragons in the deal — the attorney, the CPA and the business manager/personal assistant.

Each of these individuals will have very different concerns, all of which the agent must negotiate to close the deal.

When commissions can be $100,000 or more, it takes much more than just having the right connections to fulfill client expectations. These clients are drawn to agents who share their values, who are willing to cater to their whims and wishes and who have exceptional skills and reputations.

Do you have what it takes to play in this game?

Bernice Ross, CEO of, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles and two best-selling real estate books. Learn about her training programs at and

Email Bernice Ross

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