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In one of the hotbeds of all that embodies luxury — the ‘sin city’ of Las Vegas — real estate professionals gathered this week at Luxury Connect and Inman Connect Las Vegas to share ideas, learn from each other’s mistakes, network and connect. In person, for the first time in far too long.

The week’s events started off with a bang, as Luxury Connect attendees heard from Dr. Audrey Sue Cruz, a Hawaiian native and doctor at Linda University Medical Center in Southern California, as she relayed the intense, unwarranted discrimination and hatred she and other members of her Asian American and Pacific Islander community faced following the outbreak of COVID-19.

Rather than meet hatred with more hatred, Dr. Cruz shared with the audience how she banded with her community and spoke as with one voice through the hashtag #Iamnotavirus in order to combat the suddenly rampant Asian American discrimination. The social media campaign gained traction, and Mattel ended up making Dr. Cruz into a Barbie, to serve as a role model for young kids.

Where the luxury market is headed

Photo by AJ Canaria of MoxiWorks

Following Dr. Cruz’s reminder to deploy one voice to enact positive change, Connect attendees — now inspired to meet the day — heard from some of luxury’s top agents and brokers about what’s on the horizon for the luxury market. Jade Mills, Ryan Serhant, Gary Gold and Mauricio Umansky all celebrated their good fortune this year with each of their luxury markets hitting highs, following a scary and uncertain period during the pandemic.

However, Gold and Serhant were quick to point out that nothing lasts forever. “My only concerns is that things look too good,” Gold said. Serhant added that agents and their clients should seize the current market opportunity now and prepare for any future downturns. For agents, that means beefing up branding, marketing and value proposition.

“We’re not gonna be in our convertible tomorrow and the next day and the next day because one day it’s going to rain,” Serhant said.

Keys to success in branding and marketing

Photo by AJ Canaria of MoxiWorks

Serhant continued to share his secrets for building a brand in a solo session where he and moderator Katie Kossev discussed how he positions himself and his brokerage for success. “You want to build a brand that’s large enough so that when you’re sleeping, people are emailing you,” Serhant said. Building a self-sustaining brand, managing his time well and maintaining clear, transparent communication with his clients and loved ones have been the keys to his thriving business, he explained.

Conversations about the importance of luxury branding and marketing continued to flow as Kofi Nartey and Julia Spillman dug into digital marketing strategies. Since most interactions with consumers begin from a digital place today, the two luxury pros stressed the importance of getting it right the first time. The perfect combination of high-tech and high-touch is a winning one that agents should strive for, all while preserving authenticity.

“It’s hard to balance the filter of perfection and keep authenticity,” Spillman said. “People are craving that imperfect perfection.”

Strive for authenticity

Photo by AJ Canaria of MoxiWorks

The importance of authenticity in luxury real estate spans beyond just digital marketing, however. Aaron Kirman and Tami Pardee said being real with sellers is a crucial component to conducting a successful transaction. Kirman said he’ll actually start the conversation by pointing out all the cons of a seller’s property to give them a good dose of reality. Pardee, meanwhile, will turn to the data, and inform sellers that if they aren’t getting any showings immediately, they need to consider a 10-15 percent price drop.

Both luxury pros agreed that if it isn’t working out with a seller, an agent just needs to be ready to say “no.” “I’d rather walk away in round one, and be the second or third agent,” Kirman said. “Let someone else work on it.”

Pardee returned to the theme of authenticity in a separate session with Gary Gold when discussing luxury client retention. Gold maintained that he earns and keeps his clients’ respect by being authentic and not trying to be best friends when the goal is to conduct business. “When someone is trying to act like your buddy, people call bullshit on that,” he said.

Pardee, on the other hand, acknowledged that she does become like a friend to her clients, because that’s who she is. “I love connection,” Pardee said. “When I’m out with a client, I’m creating value for them. I fight for them, and I talk them through everything.”

When working with family in real estate — as is the case for many real estate professionals with family businesses — authenticity and honesty are key for a healthy family dynamic and a healthy business.

Mauricio and Alexia Umansky shared in a panel about running a family real estate business that the two realized they needed to be open about how they communicate and work together as a family. Alexia realized she needed to learn to work with her father in a more professional, employee-based role, and Mauricio learned he couldn’t take his daughter as his employee for granted, just because of their personal relationship. The two opened their lines of communication and learned how to better work together.

Luxury buyer demands

Photo by AJ Canaria of MoxiWorks

Luxury buyer trends may come and go, but the pandemic had and continues to have a significant impact on what luxury buyers want in a home today.

In the words of luxury agent Ivan Estrada, “nothing is impossible.”

Luxury buyers want their homes to have it all, to serve as a place of opportunity where they can do anything — that includes meditating, homeschooling, exercising, working, entertaining and more, Estrada and Tyler Jones of luxury development company Blue Heron said during a Luxury Connect session. All of that requires more square footage and more rooms.

In addition, Jones said buyers are requesting more thoughtful outdoor spaces with kitchens and entertainment areas, “as a seamless extension of your interior space.”

Future luxury brokerage models

Photo by AJ Canaria of MoxiWorks

As luxury buyer needs continue to adapt, new brokerage models have emerged to help facilitate those needs — and will continue to do so in future years, Justin Fichelson and Michael Martin of tech-forward brokerage Avenue 8 and Marnie Blanco of co-ownership luxury home platform Pacaso argued.

“We’re in this tectonic shift right now, where we have traditional brokerage models that are being consumed or merging with other companies,” Fichelson said. “And we have this influx of new brokerage models coming out, and the pandemic massively accelerated that change.”

Pacaso’s model, which allows second homeowners to buy fractional shares of a property, allows second homes to get more use, the company argued. They also recently started accepting cryptocurrency, based on buyer demand.

The founders of Avenue 8, meanwhile, created a tech-forward brokerage, that markets itself as mobile-first, in order streamline business for agents and cater to an emerging market of millennial consumers.

Representatives of the two companies agreed, moving forward, brokerages will need to set agents up for success in order to best serve the needs of their customers.

“Luxury is about service,” Martin said. “We’re enabling that.”

Email Lillian Dickerson

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