This summer we’re looking at the state of the luxury agent and broker in today’s increasingly complex real estate market. In October, we’ll gather in Beverly Hills at Luxury Connect to share best practices, network and create blueprint for the luxury agent/broker of tomorrow. Don’t miss it.
Stephanie Anton, president of Luxury Portfolio International, the high-end arm of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, believes forging good relationships with luxury clients is easier than with clients at lower price points.
“I think that in the high, end it’s all about who you know in everything,” she told Inman. For example, if someone is diagnosed with a grave illness and they have significant means, the search is on to find the very best doctor.
“They do that more in the high end than any other price point, she says. And once you’ve got the ball rolling, it tends to roll faster.
Then, once that first deal is done, it’s all about continuing to offer extraordinary ongoing customer service.
One creative North California agent in the Luxury Portfolio network makes bespoke holiday baskets, which she personally delivers to around 100 of her best clients every year.
Last year’s gift was an Italian food basket with handmade pasta and special recipes among other goodies.
“It is all about the high touch — she is the person ringing the door bell,” Anton said.
Of course, what may seem like an extraordinary amount of effort to some in forging and maintaining these luxury client relationships, is often worth it because luxury clients tend to buy more than one home every 20 years.
And if you can make the relationship multi-generational, that is an even bigger opportunity, Anton said.
The Luxury Portfolio president knows of one agent who cleverly hosts an event every year, one for fathers and sons — it was a fly fishing trip last year — then they do another trip with moms and daughters.
“It’s brilliant, it’s such a great way to make connections,” said Anton, who says they always get business from these events sometimes from both generations.
Meanwhile for Santiago Arana, a top agent with The Agency in Los Angeles, whose home sales range from $8 million to $40 million, he is happy to outlay some serious cash in keeping his name top-of-mind with his clients.
Rather than giving clients a closing gift, he is more likely to take them to a very good dinner at a favorite restaurant, he told Inman.
Spending a couple of hours in their company is a much better way to solidify the relationship and give him a better read of their interests and passions rather than a gift that they might think about for 30 seconds.
For some good clients he might reward them with a generous anniversary present, a two-night stay in a top hotel at the cost of $5,000 or $6,000, perhaps.
The Agency agent has also been known to spend $10,000 to $12,000 sending clients on a getaway to Hawaii. These property owners might easily be able to afford these things, but they still appreciate someone else doing it for them, Arana said.
This isn’t so crazy when you hear how much business they have sent his way. He has clients for whom he has sold multiple houses.
In some cases, his clients are seeking Aran’s highly specialized real estate knowledge. Passionate about property development, the agent partners with custom home building company, Cutting Edge, and is often called on by clients to gauge his opinion on new properties under construction.
He frequently charges a consulting fee if he is spending any length of time looking at the project, he said, adding that clients often need help choosing materials or understanding the property’s resale value down the road.
“A lot of them don’t proceed on buying the property til I approve it,” he said.
Another important tip, according to luxury agent professionals, is to build strong bonds with clients’ existing team of advisers, including the family office, lawyers and bankers, Douglas Elliman broker Daniela Sassoun wrote in an email.
These relationships will help you, the agent, understand how real estate is fitting into the clients’ overall portfolio.
“The client needs to know that everyone is watching out for their best interest together,” Sassoun said, adding that the approach to advisors should be fiduciary, as with any long-term business relationship. In other words, it’s not just about that one sale.
“Don’t be afraid to say no when you think it’s a bad investment or the wrong time to sell,” she added.
Jennifer Johnsen Cameron, director of Global Luxury at Coldwell Banker Bain, advises agents to treat sophisticated clients with respect. Don’t bother them with blanket emails, she told Inman in an email. Make the information you provide more tailored.
“We know and follow their communication styles and provide bites of information that keep them informed and let them know that we are anticipating their needs, which leaves the door open for them to reach out with a simple or complicated question or provide a wide array of resources,” she said.
And be prepared to be asked to do a wide variety of services, some of which may not seem to have anything to do with real estate.
“They may call our brokers for a resource to move their collector car to their vacation home or ask for advice on how to find an estate manager for their island home,” she said.
“We are always big advocates that if you are going to be a luxury real estate adviser you have to be a life(time) concierge,” Anton added.
Thinking of bringing your team to Luxury Connect? There are special onsite perks and discounts when you buy those tickets together too. Just contact us to find out more.