The affluent homebuyer is a discerning one. After all, when they’re well-acquainted with the best of everything, it’s no surprise that their standards are high when it comes to service. Agents who specialize in the luxury market are already uniquely positioned to best understand the needs of this sophisticated client — because chances are, you’re just as discerning as they are.
Excellent service is only part of the equation (and, quite frankly, is already a given) when a high-net-worth client is considering an agent. Instead, this type of client bases their decision on something that might seem intangible: the ability to build a relationship with their agent.
This lesson is one I’ve kept in mind throughout my career, from my early days in luxury property management to my current work with Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty. While you’ll undoubtedly click with certain clients, you can broaden your horizons in the luxury market by building upon the four qualities affluent customers consider a must in their agents.
Excellent listening abilities
Being a good listener and understanding a client’s needs go hand-in-hand. When a client lists their priorities, take them seriously. Pay attention to their personal stories and remember what’s important to them — birthdays, milestones, anniversaries, etc. Catching these little details shows that they are top of mind to you, and goes a long way to establishing trust. Beyond your clients, spend the time to get to know everyone you meet. You will find, nine times out of ten, that they have something unique to offer — and you might have something to offer them.
Unparalleled communication skills
In the luxury market, response time is everything. If you’re having to wait for your client to ask a question, communicate proactively via text, email, or phone calls. Whether they’ve asked you for something or not, they’re going to get it: if not from you, then from somebody else.
Affluent clients also want clarity in communication and to know from you what Google can’t tell them. Ask forward-looking questions, because a relationship that starts with a lease could end up as a very large sale down the road.
Strong connections in the luxury market (and beyond)
Affluent customers know precisely what they want. This usually means that what they’re looking for isn’t on the market. Recently, I had to find a 10,000-square-foot home with room for a basketball court (half court minimum), a koi pond, and a fireplace within a pool. The clients were willing to build, but the land had to be just right — and I was able to find it. This applies beyond real estate.
I also had a client who was going to Louisville for the day for a party and wanted a very specific bourbon, and I was able to connect them to a local contact who had it. Keep a list of vendors and contractors. Who can provide a chef to a celebrity that’s only in for a week? Who’s the best massage therapist in town? Just remember: your connections need to offer the highest quality of service.
You look the part
This point isn’t (just) about appearances. It’s about knowing and relating to the luxury lifestyle first-hand. You need to know the best neighborhoods, but also how they’d suit the needs of your client. Schools are important for families, but commute matters as well: in Houston, it’s crucial to factor in time spent in the car. If you’re just starting out, you can build your knowledge in this space by networking with agents in your area who live the lifestyle. With permission, attend their open houses to observe and learn.
In the end, connecting to the luxury customer on a personal level builds invaluable relationships. What starts as a conversation could lead to a sale, or just a great connection to know in the future. You really can’t go wrong.
Dee Dee Guggenheim Howes is a REALTOR® Associate with Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty. An acknowledged expert in luxury properties sales, Dee Dee serves the real estate needs of high-net-worth clients in exclusive neighborhoods throughout Houston.
About Sotheby’s International Realty
Founded in 1976 to provide independent brokerages with a powerful marketing and referral program for luxury listings, the Sotheby’s International Realty® network was designed to connect the finest independent real estate companies to the most prestigious clientele in the world. Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC is a subsidiary of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY), a global leader in real estate franchising and provider of real estate brokerage, relocation and settlement services. The Sotheby’s International Realty network currently has more than 22,000 affiliated independent sales associates located in over 960 offices in 72 countries and territories worldwide. In 2017, the brand achieved a record global sales volume of $108 billion USD. Sotheby’s International Realty listings are marketed on the sothebysrealty.com global website. In addition to the referral opportunities and widened exposure generated from this source, each brokerage firm and its clients benefit from an association with the Sotheby’s auction house and worldwide Sotheby’s International Realty marketing programs. Each office is independently owned and operated.