4 tips for helping your urban clients find their ideal second-home market

This top luxury agent shares how to expand your business by selling outside your primary market

Sean Nielsen shares the must-haves on most of his luxury real estate clients’ wish lists, which he uses to help them find a home away from home.

In Seattle and Bellevue, where I’ve worked in luxury real estate for the past 15 years, the rising demand for vacation properties among urban buyers is not entirely new or unprecedented.

The desire to invest in second homes that afford more breathing room, more opportunities to reconnect with nature, and more time to pursue personal pastimes has always been strong in this city, and it’s been getting stronger for the last five years. As an avid golfer, I’ve seen my clients and colleagues purchase residences in the region’s mountain retreats and resort towns.

Today, we’ve expanded our business to help luxury buyers find their dream vacation homes, both here in Washington State and abroad on the Baja California Peninsula, and the process has taught me some valuable lessons. Here are four that I believe any agent can benefit from.

1. Understand the wish list for today’s busy buyers

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My first piece of advice consists of the three must-haves on most of my clients’ wish lists. Perhaps the most prominent is that for many, the vacation home has become the staycation home; they no longer need to board a plane to discover their own piece of paradise.

Far away—but not too far away

People would love to drop their obligations and responsibilities and head out of town, but for most, that simply isn’t realistic. Today’s buyers are looking for second homes where they can enjoy a weekend escape and a digital detox, while still being in proximity to their families, lives, and lifestyles.

I like to describe the ideal vacation destination as “close enough but far away,” and I encourage agents to familiarize themselves with the natural getaways and hidden gems within a two- or three-hour drive of the areas and clients they serve.

I also consider my business in Baja to be an extension of the market I serve, as it’s a fairly short flight for my West Coast clientele. It’s a smart idea to broaden the area you specialize in, as long as it’s still easily accessible for your buyers.

Find a place that feels like home

We’ve all heard the cliché that home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling—but in the case of finding a vacation residence, it rings surprisingly true.

Your buyers want a location that’s different enough to be an exciting change, but with the amenities, comforts, and conveniences that let them indulge in all the favorite activities they wish they could do every day.

A change of scenery and season

Buyers also value a change in the weather—even if that just means moving from one local microclimate to another.

Homeowners accustomed to the soggy weather here in Seattle and Bellevue appreciate the fact that within an hour, they can be in the Cascades where the seasons are dryer and the winters are snowier. What’s in your region?

2. Pursue what you’re passionate about

Helping clients find their ideal second-home market starts with finding your ideal second-home market. Spend time doing what you love doing, in places that interest and inspire you.

You’ll gain firsthand experience and expertise in that locale, form connections with agents and brokers who have an established presence in the community, and get to know potential clients who are drawn to the same places and activities as you.

Where your focus goes, energy flows. Embracing my personal love of golf helped expand my professional network and practice, first across Washington and then all the way to Mexico. It’s had a transformative impact on my life and work.

3. Sell there because you’ve been there

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On a related note, authenticity is vital. Cultivate local knowledge and connections, and tell personal stories about why you love a particular vacation market. Maybe it’s the Fourth of July parade you always attend or the Memorial Day pool party that the family loves. Provide bespoke recommendations for restaurants and recreation.

If you can visit the area with your client and view homes together, all the better.

4. Collaboration is critical for expansion

It’s common for agents to hand off clients to other brokers when buying out of town, but I prefer to stay involved. By specializing in a select few vacation markets, I’m able to support my clients across their journey without burdening local brokers—but I still leverage my local network for the latest insight into prices and inventory.

Collaboration leads to new business opportunities. My own team may be based in Seattle and Bellevue, but between all of us, we have our mountain division, our Baja operations, and a selection of other vibrant, fascinating second-home markets where my peers have built their networks. When you’re passionate, authentic, and collaborative, organic growth comes naturally.


Sean Nielsen

As a lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Sean has an exceptional understanding of the local market dynamics and its diverse communities. With an emphasis on in-city real estate, Sean specializes in assisting clients seeking to downsize from suburban homes in areas such as Newcastle, Bellevue and Downtown Seattle to cosmopolitan and eco-conscious condominiums. Prior to real estate, Sean was PGA teaching professional in Washington at Canterwood Country Club and Glendale Country Club where he built relationships centered around understanding clients’ needs and goals. Thus Sean’s success stems from lasting business relationships built on trust, hard work, and a high level of service. His attention to detail, commitment to exceptional customer service, and strong negotiation skills deliver results. Sean Nielsen runs the Nielsen RE Group together with Ashley Stevens.