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More than ever before, luxury real estate agents are making their first introductions to clients online rather than face-to-face. This dynamic may last for the duration of the sales process — they will meet, vet properties, submit offers, and close the deal virtually, without ever being in the same physical space.
Zoe Ramirez and Erin Thomas, Luxury Real Estate Associates with Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty, have been tracking this accelerating change. For years, Ramirez worked with a global clientele in Los Angeles, while Thomas’ work in New York City spanned an international scope. As such, neither are strangers when it comes to building strong virtual relationships. It’s a skill they employ constantly through working with worldwide buyers and sellers in the Greater Seattle Area’s luxury condo market.
“We knew the need to nurture virtual client relationships would increase with the times because of changes with younger generations, as well as the impact of digital changes in society,” explains Ramirez. So how do Ramirez and Thomas ensure their clients feel supported, even from far away? Here are their top five tips.
1. Communicate on the client’s chosen channel
“It’s vital to provide consistent communication, and clear systems of communication, in the manner the client prefers,” notes Thomas, emphasizing that the clients’ comfort and convenience always takes precedence. “Nevertheless, we learn so much about others through body language and facial expressions.”
Because of this, she recommends striving to ensure an experience that’s as close to in-person as possible. See if clients are amenable to being on-camera. Then, when you are face-to-face, make the most of it — show the client that you’re engaged, enthusiastic, and actively listening to them, and be your friendly, authentic self.
2. Give your client a chance to get to know you before your first conversation
Your introductory virtual touchpoint doesn’t have to be the first time your clients see or hear you. The best icebreakers can take place before that initial interaction through the establishment of a robust online presence.
“Social media, videos, blogs — use any resource you can to help those that don’t know you feel as if they do,” says Ramirez. “That way, your relationship has a foundation before you really get started.”
3. Checklists are useful for helping clients understand the real estate journey
Real estate can be complicated enough for clients, and collaborating remotely adds yet another level of coordination and effort. But Ramirez and Thomas have a workaround for this essential project management, too.
“We’ve found that many of our clients love checklists,” says Thomas. “We provide a timeline of all the events of a transaction, from start to finish, for them to refer to. So along with phone or video check-ins, we always refer to the checklist.”
4. Clients already have lots of virtual meetings, so keep your check-ins quick
Speaking of those check-ins, short, sweet, and frequent has proven to be the perfect formula for Ramirez and Thomas. “Everyone is working digitally, so attention spans are shorter,” observes Ramirez. “Having multiple shorter meetings is more helpful than having a few longer ones.”
On average, she says that she and Thomas aim for 20-minute meetings twice a week, if the client’s schedule permits. Along with being more efficient, these brief, regular meetings enable clients to focus on the questions and concerns that are top-of-mind for them at that moment. “Recently, one of our clients overly thanked us for the shorter meetings compared to drawn-out explanations and discussions,” Ramirez recalls.
5. Invest the time necessary to cultivate authentic relationships built on trust
As with any luxury real estate relationship, having a strong grasp of the client’s aspirations, motivations, and goals is critical — but when the relationship is entirely virtual, Thomas cautions that patience really is a virtue.
“Be ready for the process to take longer — connections may take a bit more time to foster, and your client may or may not be as tech-savvy,” she says. “We strive for each client to feel confident and comfortable with us representing them and helping them make real estate decisions.”
As Ramirez and Thomas have experienced, catering to virtual clients brings benefits to the business overall. Not only does it encourage agents to identify areas for optimization in terms of their systems, processes, and capabilities, but the lessons learned from communicating and collaborating remotely improve in-person interactions.
“Viewing our business from the position of a virtual buyer or seller has been extremely eye-opening,” says Ramirez. “Virtual relationships, just like any other, need nurturing. We now connect and build these relationships around the globe.”