Lessons from Leaders at the Luxury Portfolio SUMMIT
What differentiates the luxury real estate agent from other agents and brokerages? As in other verticals, the luxury difference often comes down to the specific details of customer care and knowledge. Hosted by Alf Nucifora of the Luxury Marketing Council of San Francisco, the luxury track at the Luxury Portfolio Global Summit delved into the importance of service as a core element of the practice of luxury real estate.
"I'm not a salesperson, I'm a service person,” said Paulette Greene of Ebby Halliday Realtors when describing the approach that has led her to over one billion dollars in sales in the Dallas and Fort Worth areas. Paulette shared that transparency and honesty are key and that the clients she works with know that the relationship isn’t transitory, it’s a lifelong friendship reinforced by a spirit of gratitude and appreciation.
Real estate investment occupies a unique space in that it’s both emotional and financial. As Ariel Agustin, a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch, explained, “It’s all about making sure our clients can sleep at night.” Real estate provides more than a place to live; it can also provide an income stream and help diversify a portfolio heavy in stocks and bonds. In this case, service is also giving clients a sense that they, and their investments, are being handled with expertise and care.
For luxury clients, understanding their lifestyle is equally important. Leslee Farrell of Macdonald Realty in Victoria, British Columbia shared her strategy of reaching out to the services and businesses providing luxury services in her area. She has networked with marina owners, golf course props, and local arts councils so that she can provide clients with specialized advice. When a client’s private plane pilot was ill, Leslee was able to find another pilot to fill in. When a new client needed to house his exotic car collection, Leslee worked with the local Mercedes-Benz dealership to find appropriate storage. Zarek Honneysett of Sibarth Real Estate uses his knowledge of St. Barth’s to make sure that even his clients who are new to the island feel like they can navigate as natives within a few weeks.
Service paired with knowledge is what luxury consumers demand. Eleanor Farnsworth of Gardner Realtors is a one-woman database of the city. With an encyclopedic understanding of not just the neighborhoods of New Orleans from but the histories of the homes and who has lived in them, Farnsworth doesn’t so much open doors as she hands her clients the keys to the city, empowering them to love the city as she does.
As experts in luxury real estate, these top-level brokers are also on top of the market trends that may shift their markets. Chaille Ralph of Heritage Texas Properties reported that Houston has battled back in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The city has experienced continued growth in the luxury market. Nancy Fennell of Dickson Realty has seen Reno expand in population and technology as Tesla, Google and others have moved to the area, creating new interest in Reno’s luxury market. Top real estate agents and brokers also have to be aware of how large economic shifts impact the local market. Chris Meyers of Houlihan Lawrence has seen changes in New York’s Westchester area noting shifts in not just tastes but in neighborhoods. Meyers, like many others in states with high property values, is paying attention how lost property tax deductions might impact the market going forward.
Service at the top end of the market is complex and all-encompassing. It incorporates a dedication to personal service, deep engagement in the community, a devotion to the area, and a sense of understanding how external factors impact the market in the present and going forward. The practice of luxury real estate at its highest level combines the discipline of service, attention to detail, and caring for both clients and community.