Anxious clients? Here’s how you can respond

Three ways agents can be a calming force in turbulent times

In the world of luxury real estate, it’s not unusual for clients to feel a sense of urgency, pressure, and even anxiety. While a global pandemic and related economic crisis certainly ups the ante for agents and raises a unique set of risks, stressors, and challenges, we are well equipped with the tools necessary to comfort our clients and see them through these difficult times.

In the world of luxury real estate, it’s not unusual for clients to feel a sense of urgency, pressure, and even anxiety — after all, homes are profoundly important, and selling or purchasing one isn’t always easy. So while a global pandemic and related economic crisis certainly ups the ante for agents and raises a unique set of risks, stressors, and challenges, we are well equipped with the tools necessary to comfort our clients and see them through these difficult times.

Right now, our clients aren’t just anxious about their investments; they’re worried about their health, their friends, their families, and their communities. Our role as steady, confident, trusted advisors is essential. In times like these, I encourage agents to concentrate on two things: power listening and staying informed. Here’s how to practice these two integral skills.

Provide a willing ear and a helping hand

luxury dining room

Photo courtesy of Legacy Properties Sotheby’s International Realty

When our clients face uncertainty, they need to share their concerns and vent their fears to someone who will listen without judgement or exploitation. This is the value that we provide through power listening. As agents, we are our clients’ fiduciaries. I practiced law for 10 years prior to working in real estate, and the fiduciary responsibilities in that position — to be a trusted and true confidant and strategic advisor — are exactly the same in my current role.

Be prepared to let your clients share their fears. Rather than asking them how they’re doing, find out how they’re feeling. Listen for their concerns, and proactively find ways to be of service in the short term. Even when we’re not faced with an economic or humanitarian crisis, our first duty is always to serve and advise; our second is to transact. Let’s ensure we have our priorities straight.

Over communicate with your clients. You won’t have all the answers, and you can’t anticipate every future change, but let them know you’re there with them every step of the way. What clients need right now is to not feel alone. In all the business and leadership books I’ve read — from Dale Carnegie and Napoleon Hill to Brené Brown — the most important principle is building and maintaining relationships. That may seem challenging when our way of life has been so fundamentally upended, but there are ways to be present with each other even when circumstances beyond our control force us to be absent.

Have a conversation via FaceTime or Zoom. If you have a client who’s not used to video calls, pick up the phone and let them hear a human voice. This isn’t the time for texting — we want a connection nowadays, not efficiency — but personal notes can also be very comforting. Support a local business. If you can’t give a client or loved one a handshake or a hug, you can send them an electronic gift certificate to your favorite neighborhood restaurant or wine store.

Be a pillar of strength and a source of truth

luxury living room

Photo courtesy of Legacy Properties Sotheby’s International Realty

Our clients are counting on us to bring some light and transparency to all this darkness and opacity, so it’s never been more crucial for us to keep our knowledge up-to-date. This is why we need to be hyper-vigilant about staying informed and connected, and do everything we can to maintain a holistic view of the situation.

Keep in touch with all stakeholders and industries that impact your business, because they affect your clients as well. Attorneys, financial advisors, title companies, and moving companies are hosting conference calls and webinars, so join in. Be an active participant in these sessions and ask plenty of questions, by video or in the comments. Your presenters will appreciate that they’re providing value to you, and you’ll build up your own network of professional contacts. Feel free to follow up with a personal note or phone call.

Your fellow agents and brokers in other markets are keen to share their learnings as well, so tune into their webinars to understand the tactics and best practices they’re using. Pay attention to other authoritative sources as well, such as your chamber of commerce and local universities.

Utilize this information to craft a strong, thoughtful action plan that you can tailor to individual clients. Then, if the situation starts to take a surprising turn and your clients are feeling anxious, you have a set of tangible, factual steps you can follow to provide a sense of assurance.

This is something I experienced personally in the early days of this crisis: in one case, I had found a buyer for one client’s exclusive, off-market property and everyone was looking forward to closing in a few months. But as I stayed informed and connected with my network of brokers across North America, it became increasingly clear to me that if we did not move up our closing date, economic uncertainty would derail the deal. My buyers wanted to keep the original closing date, but when I presented them with the evidence and opinions I had collected from experts across the country, they came to see that waiting to close would significantly increase their risk and would make their move more complicated. They agreed to accelerate the closing date and were extremely grateful they changed their minds and listened to the advice.

In these situations, it’s so important to let your clients know the steps you’re taking to stay informed. They want to feel like they have every resource available — that there’s no idea, tactic, or strategy that isn’t being deployed on behalf of their best interests.

In spite of everything, don’t forget to laugh

A good sense of humor, a commitment to self-care, and a spirit of generosity go a long way in troubled times. It’s also a great way to keep your community engaged. I created a contest for my own team, asking everyone to submit anonymous pictures of their pets and then challenging people to pair the animal with its owner. It was hilarious — an opportunity to just have a wonderful, whimsical, fun interaction with my people, and give ourselves permission to laugh. The contest prizes were gift cards that I had bought in support of our local businesses, and we also shared them with our first responders and health care workers.

These little things can make a big difference to boost morale. Host a virtual happy hour, and make the “price of admission” a joke or a funny story. That’s what I’ve done with my team, and it feels so good to let our guards down and just laugh nonstop for 45 minutes. It might seem strange to have fun while our friends and neighbors are worrying about the future — but believe me, we need it for our mental health. You can’t be a pillar for others if you feel like you’re about to break.

My last piece of advice is to approach this turbulent situation with a mindset of abundance, not scarcity. When you’re talking to others, whether they’re a client, colleague, or a service provider, take the perspective that they’re doing their best to navigate these challenging circumstances. Look out for the interests of others. We’re all anxious these days, but we have to remember that we’re all in this together. As agents, let’s continue to do what we’ve always done: remain astute, realistic, supportive, and strong leaders in our communities.

Elise Kiely

real estate professional in Portland, Maine, Elise Kiely makes it a point to have her buyers, sellers, and investors know that she provides a level of service unmatched in a crowded and competitive industry. She doesn’t just close deals. She nurtures relationships. Her plan is not to expand her client base — she wants to deepen it. For sellers, Elise identifies and targets the right buyers, invents compelling ways to grab their attention, and shows each home to its best advantage. For buyers, she researches their entire target market — not just what’s on sale — to find their dream home. And investors know she doesn’t just see opportunities. She creates them.


About Sotheby’s International Realty

Sotheby’s International Realty was founded in 1976 as a real estate service for discerning clients of Sotheby’s auction house. Today, the company’s global footprint spans 990 offices located in 72 countries and territories worldwide, including 43 company-owned brokerage offices in key metropolitan and resort markets. In February 2004, Realogy entered into a long-term strategic alliance with Sotheby’s, the operator of the auction house. The agreement provided for the licensing of the Sotheby’s International Realty name and the development of a franchise system. The franchise system is comprised of an affiliate network, where each office is independently owned and operated. Sotheby’s International Realty supports its affiliates and agents with a host of operational, marketing, recruiting, educational and business development resources. Affiliates and agents also benefit from an association with the venerable Sotheby’s auction house, established in 1744. For more information, visit www.sothebysrealty.com.

The affiliate network is operated by Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC, and the company owned brokerages are operated by Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc. Both entities are subsidiaries of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY) a global leader in real estate franchising and provider of real estate brokerage, relocation and settlement services. Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC and Sotheby’s International Realty Inc., both fully support the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act.