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Luxury real estate is already a highly competitive space, yet today’s markets are increasingly represented by a small number of brands, brokerages, and top-producing teams. For companies that want to compete in the top tier and expand their presence, recruiting and retaining the right agents is essential to success — and it starts by making sure they’re aligned with your culture.
As you find and screen potential newcomers to your firm, here are four techniques to ensure they’ll be the right fit, as explained by two luxury real estate leaders.
1. Look for productive team players
First and foremost, the ability to communicate and cooperate with others is central to an agent’s role, and a key recruitment consideration. “Your team should function as a collective of professional, high-producing agents who want to work alongside — and learn best practices from — similarly performing agents,” emphasizes Jeffrey Gibson, Executive Vice President and Brokerage Manager at Sotheby’s International Realty in San Francisco.
Likewise, Heidi Pay, Chief Operating Officer and General Manager with Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty which operates throughout the greater Bay Area covering Silicon Valley, East Bay, Marin, and Wine Country, highlights the importance of interpersonal skills. “We look for agents who can work collaboratively with others since so much of the transaction involves navigating multiple relationships and competing agendas,” she says. “As business practices have changed in light of recent events, our agents also demonstrate a commitment to safety and professionalism that has been acknowledged throughout the brokerage community.”
For Pay, a good fit is assessed at both the individual and brand level: team members need to work collaboratively with colleagues, as well as represent the caché of the brand name that will be on their new business cards.“We bring agents on when we’re convinced that this brand can increase their price point, transactions, or both,” she explains. “Announcing their affiliation to their clients and broader sphere of influence often results in added business for the agent.”
Gibson concurs that brand fit is an important component of an agent’s culture fit. “I’m always looking for like-minded, serious agents who I believe will benefit from the Sotheby’s International Realty brand and our work environment to increase their business.”
2. Listen to the word on the street
The luxury real estate community is just that — a community. That means agents have a reputation that precedes them, and it’s worth investigating ahead of time to anticipate how they’ll resonate with your internal culture, not to mention your clients.
“We rely on our team’s knowledge of ‘problem’ agents, and our focus is always on adding agents who thrive in a positive and productive environment,” says Pay. “Our local and regional managers spend considerable time out in the field, so they are aware of who to avoid and who is well-respected in their market. This level of exposure hasn’t changed even as more agents conduct virtual business.”
Place your trust in your team’s expertise. “I always ask a potential recruit who in our office they know, or have done a deal with, or shown properties to,” says Gibson. “That way, I can ask my agents what their experience has been. Even in a large market like San Francisco, word gets around if an agent is difficult.”
Gibson has other suggestions for screening out candidates that can cause trouble, provided offices and restaurants are open. “If I get the chance to dine with them during recruiting, I observe how they treat the server. And I also often ask my receptionist what they think based on their initial interaction,” he says. When in-person meetings are off the table? “Listen to your gut. If you get the sense that an agent is over-entitled, just think: how is your marketing department supposed to handle them?”
3. Learn the what, how, and why
Pay and Gibson use tactical questions to uncover past conflicts or issues. “I like to ask, ‘What is preventing you from achieving the level of success you are hoping for?’” says Pay. Gibson agrees. “Find out why they are considering a move — someone unhappy at all prior firms will probably be unhappy with yours as well.”
Then, assess whether their vision and values are aligned with the brand, and what they hope to bring to the organization. “How do they see the brand benefiting them personally and improving their current level of business?” says Pay. Gibson also recommends asking potential recruits what their goals are for the business, and if they can share a written business plan.
In a world transformed by a growing remote workforce and global concerns around health and economic security, Pay’s team is mindful of both the hard and soft skills agents bring to the table. “In this market, resilience, creativity, and empathy are also key to success.”
4. Lead with impactful onboarding
When you find an agent with the right culture fit, make sure they feel welcome from the moment they’re recruited. “I put great emphasis on this,” says Gibson. “Orchids on desks when they arrive, a welcome lunch with four other agents at a good restaurant, and appointments with the marketing team, transactions team, and IT team in the first two days.” And in times when the office isn’t gathering, scheduled video calls can give new agents facetime with their teammates.
Furthermore, Gibson sends a welcome email with the entire agent team copied “so they can get all of the love and positive feedback from their new colleagues,” and schedules a check-in meeting at the end of their first month.
“A transition involves many aspects, particularly during a busy listing season,” says Pay. “We have outstanding staff with an extensive 60-point checklist devised to assist new agents with everything from email migration to updating their social media and signatures.”
Pay makes sure managers are on hand to answer questions about marketing tools and technology platforms, and also creates networking opportunities with other sales professionals. “We assist our agents in building successful referral networks both regionally and globally through our affiliation with the Sotheby’s International Realty brand,” she explains. “We work to connect our team to top producers and markets around the world. Because of our existing international network, as well as our digital tools, training, assets, and resources, we have been well-positioned to handle the challenges of recent times.”
Luxury firms and brokerages are looking to build out their talent worldwide, so take the time to vet new agents to make sure they’re aligned with your values. When you find the right match, retain them by investing in their capabilities. Your business will see short-term and long-term benefits, as will your clients.