In today’s fast-moving and ever-changing market, agents are challenged more than ever to deliver superior service and value to clients in innovative ways — and the high-end market is no exception.
With luxury properties selling quickly, and with buyers and sellers often being anywhere but where the property is located, how can an agent provide more value to their clients amid such a frenetic and chaotic pace? Here are seven things to consider.
1. Be in the know more than anyone else
To serve as a trusted advisor to a luxury client (and really any client for that matter), you have to know your market better than anyone else. I’m not talking about just statistics as far as average list-to-sales price ratios, absorption rates or days on market. That’s standard operating procedure.
You need to understand who the buyers are, where they’re coming from and what’s bringing them to your area. You also need to know what other areas buyers also look at and why. Is your client also considering these other markets?
If so, learn about potential competing areas so you can provide context and be ready to refer vetted agents in those markets to assist. That way, you can stay connected to the process and ensure their needs are being met.
Do a deep dive and get into the weeds as much as you can by talking to agents who have active, under contract and sold properties within the last few months. While they may not be able to divulge everything for confidentiality reasons, think of yourself as a reporter gathering information for a story.
You can glean more information from a conversation with another agent than you could ever find just by looking at comps in the MLS. Use these conversations to find out if other agents may have any properties coming up for sale or any clients who would consider selling if the right situation presented itself, but don’t wish to be formally listed on the market.
Given that luxury sellers value privacy and security, especially during the pandemic, many potential luxury homesellers may not want to officially be listed so they don’t obligate themselves to be publicly on display and available for showings.
Talk to custom builders, contractors, interior designers and those luxury home vendors in your market about the projects they are working on to get a better feel of what they are involved with and the latest design trends, time frames, potential challenges and general costs involved for what they are doing.
Luxury clients want someone who’s in the know and is well connected to what’s happening in their areas of choice. It doesn’t matter if the clients are buyers or sellers. As you work with either, you will be able to weave all of the information you’ve gleaned from the above into your meetings when the opportunity presents itself. This will demonstrate that you are on top of your game and dialed in.
High-end clients expect whoever they interact with to have a leg up on information and insight — which is why they don’t want to work with just any agent.
2. Be the source of the source
Have a plethora of resources at the ready for the kinds of vendors and services that the client may request. Continually vet those vendors, refine your lists, and double-check that the people in your contacts on your phone are actually still reachable and providing the service that they were referenced as doing.
Let them know you are actively working with luxury buyers and sellers, and that you would like to be able to call upon them to be a resource. Confirm that they can assist. Unfortunately, we’ve all experienced various vendors we respected and felt positively about go MIA when we needed them the most.
During crazy busy times like the market we’re in, many simply stop answering their phones or fail to return messages until months later when they have a lull and whatever it was you were calling about no longer matters. There is nothing worse than providing a list of vendors to a luxury client with none of them being reachable.
3. Be proactive versus reactive
When you start working with a luxury client, you can anticipate the kinds of questions and concerns they may ask, and the sort of information they may want about the area, the social and recreational activities available, commute times and everything in between.
Make it a point to have as much information or the appropriate contacts at the ready to put them in touch with. For example, if belonging to a country, beach or tennis club is extremely popular in your market and might be something a buyer is interested in, make sure you have the latest membership information on hand. They may not know what they want to do, but having the information at the ready will help them decide.
In a fast-moving market, minutes matter. Be proactive in coordinating tours if they will be coming in town in person, or determine a way to provide a video tour with the membership directors if necessary.
If the client needs information on particular clubs before deciding on a property to buy (which can be the case due to a variety of factors), “waiting” could cost the buyer a home. Current market conditions do not favor writing in buyer-specific contingencies that necessarily buy time for making these kinds of decisions.
4. Find solutions before presenting problems
Every transaction has problems. If you don’t have a problem to solve, you aren’t transacting real estate. Whether it’s a situation with repairs, understanding permit histories, clarifying information with the homeowners association on an issue of concern during the due-diligence period, knowing who to contact and being able to vet some information with the appropriate people will help to put the problem in context. It will also likely yield a potential solution or a couple of options on how to handle the problem.
A transaction can present many scenarios for throwing the problem onto the buyer or seller. As an agent, you want to catch that problem before it hits the buyer or seller, and be able to come back to them with options on how to move through it. Minimizing the stress of the transaction — instead of adding to it — is key.
5. Offer concierge services
Luxury clients often approach their lives with an array of service providers. They have “people” for whatever that may be — a personal trainer, private chef, pet sitter, personal assistant, etc. They are used to having a go-to person for whatever it is they’re trying to do.
The same goes for that luxury client’s real estate agent. They may need more than simply a list of the best restaurants in the area, so be prepared with your “newcomers” list of contacts — ranging from cleaning services, luxury car dealers, mechanics, the best car wash, lawn service, landscapers and dog walkers, to name a few.
Be willing to serve as a conduit to introduce and connect them to the service providers they need, and be willing to meet them at the property (if applicable) and coordinate access.
Go a step further, and create a binder (similar to what you might find in a vacation rental property), and include all pertinent community information that may be helpful as it relates to the property. This could include a list of vendors who’ve been servicing the property during the current seller’s ownership, phone numbers for the nearest urgent care and medical centers, as well as takeout menus from nearby restaurants.
Save their contract and closing documents onto a thumb drive, provide it them, and save a copy yourself to retrieve for easy reference.
Let them know they can always call on you to assist as their “local ambassador” for whatever it is they might need. You don’t want to be the agent that just sold them a house, appeared to collect a large check and moved on to the next.
6. Leverage speed and technology
The speed at which properties are going under contract right now is mind-numbing. There often isn’t time to coordinate a showing with a lot of lead time. This is especially the case if your client is located out of town.
When a property becomes available that fits the client’s criteria, an agent needs to jump into action immediately and schedule a viewing. In today’s market, the ability to get a showing appointment is not guaranteed.
Due to sheer buyer volume, the agent and seller may determine that showings can only happen during limited days and times, and after so many viewings, they could make the call to cut all off if there are several offers being submitted.
As I mentioned before, minutes matter. If you are unable to coordinate for the client to physically be there to see the home or joint a live video walkthrough, make sure to film a video of the property for them.
Don’t preview the home with the hope that you can come back at another time. There may not be another chance. It’s always better to go and capture what you need and send it to your clients than have them learn they’ve missed out on an opportunity.
Although we have an idea of what our clients want, they may end up buying something completely opposite of that for a variety of reasons. They might be cautious of the low supply problem, grow weary of looking or decide they want to take on a project.
In any case, if something comes up that remotely fits what your clients looking for, it’s always a good idea to check it out and share it with them. That is, unless your market has the luxury of numerous options that are taking longer to sell.
In order to deliver value, you must leverage technology to be able to bring properties to them wherever they are. Make sure you have access to and are proficient with all of the various videoconferencing and meeting options available.
Utilize file sharing and tools like Dropbox to send video instead of texting grainy cellphone footage of a property walkthrough. Go a step further and capture a video of the neighborhood — the entire street the home sits on, as well as of nearby shops, services and amenities to put it in context.
A dashboard cellphone camera holder is ideal for this and will allow you to record, and provide commentary and insight about the area. If commute is a concern, show the drive from the community to reach the major roadway they might take to get to work, school, the airport, etc.
If they are in the beginning phases of their search, you may need to capture video of several neighborhoods and areas. The bottom line is — the more legwork you can show them on video, the more comfortable they may become with conducting the search remotely.
7. Be creative and resourceful
Always be thinking outside the box, and figure out how to reverse-engineer a solution. When there is “nothing for sale,” create the inventory to provide options — it might just result in you gaining a listing or two or three as a result.
Luxury clientele do not shop for what’s on the rack or on the store shelf. They want private label and the designer stash that their person at their retailer has access to that you or I won’t likely ever see or know about.
The same goes for real estate with this group. You need to identify and curate a collection of properties for them to look at, some of which may have never been on the market. When working with a luxury seller, you will need to be resourceful and coordinate a plan for the potential of managing a high volume of showings and offers.
Being overwhelmed by the response is not an excuse, and a seller will expect you to make sense of multiple offers and all nuances in a way that is easy to understand. They will not want to be overwhelmed with numerous emails boasting a plethora of offers and attachments that don’t make sense.
Use an offer matrix or spreadsheet to manage all information with a list of pros and cons of each offer’s price, terms and conditions. Luxury sellers expect their agents to know how to play the multiple offer and negotiation game well and with ease.
While all of the above may seem like a lot of extra legwork, the client will recognize that at every turn of their interaction or when a potential problem cropped up, you were at the ready with information, resources and solutions. Before they could ask, you had already anticipated and were able to provide what was needed.
Not every agent is going to do this or will want to do this, because it requires extra steps and legwork, especially in the early stages when you may not even know if the client is going to buy. Luxury clientele did not reach the level of success they’ve achieved by being average. Exceptional agents attract exceptional clientele and vice versa.