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Call them the “billionaire whisperers.”
Husband-and-wife agent team Rayni and Branden Williams market a wide array of properties with mind-boggling price tags, including two homes listed at $180 and $150 million. They frequently sell homes for billionaire friends in Beverly Hills — where their brokerage, Hilton and Hyland Real Estate, is based — to buyers both stateside and overseas. Few are more familiar with the mindset of the global 0.1 percent.
Ahead of Luxury Connect in Beverly Hills next month, Rayni Williams spoke with Inman about these globetrotters, breaking into luxury sales, the temperature of the ultra-high end market and what sets her and her husband apart from other high-flying agents.
What are billionaires like? How do they both resemble and differ from ordinary people?
Some billionaires are very, very down to earth, and you would never know they’re billionaires, but I would say the one common denominator of billionaires is they are generally very decisive [and] often times they’re eccentric.
Why are they decisive? Because time is money and when you’re running a huge corporation or conglomerate … you have to be able to see from A to Z. And I say: “When you have a billionaire in the room, you have three minutes to capture their attention.”
It’s very hard to put a billionaire on a leash and tour them through a home the way you want to … They generally have a team of people with them.
There’s a level of, not paranoia but sort of .. there’s a layer between them and you as a salesperson. And then a lot of them are friends and that’s a totally different scenario.
What’s been happening to the luxury market over the past year or so? What are some trends you’re seeing in the space?
There has been a slowdown, but the sales are still happening. They’re just taking longer. I’ve also noticed that there have been a lot of foreign buyers back, whereas in the past I would say three years American buyers have been leading. This past year the foreign buyers have been leading, which often leads to longer escrows.
What else we’ve been seeing is buyers just kind of moving a little more cautiously.
What’s causing that caution?
I think they’re more aware of the market being a global market, so they’re concerned with what’s going on around the world, and I think that you know we’ve had some real things happening around the world.
Any crisis that has happened in other countries has a trickle-down effect.
I remember doing a deal with a Chinese buyer when the tariffs were going on with our President, and this was like a month ago. He decided he was going to wait.
What do you do as a real estate agent that you think sets you apart from other luxury agents?
I think that Brandon and I, we tag team everything so there’s two of us as a team, and we’re essentially one. So you get a male perspective, and you get a female perspective.
I think the candor shows an authenticity in the meeting … when we go into a meeting, his number might be $10 million higher than mine.
What’s your advice to agents who want to break into the luxury game? What’s the best way to get there?
It’s a sacrifice to get there because you have to make a decision that you want to align yourself in the luxury market, which may mean you may have to turn down some business and hold out to build your brand.
It’s a very hard market to just walk into because it’s not like you can just walk into a circle of billionaires and become friends with them. You kind of have to be in that circle.
What are the most significant startups and technology you’re seeing impact the luxury market?
I touched on that 3-D world and even the 4-D world a couple years ago, and we were doing the models and all of that …. but it didn’t parlay into sales or really necessarily translate for us.
We also kind of veered away from videos and stuff. That’s all a calling card to get people there and that’s great, but there is no substitute for coming to the property, and just walking the property.