Selling luxury homes takes a certain kind of panache and dedication. So how do you become a sought-after real estate adviser to your market’s wealthiest movers-and-shakers?
It comes down to superior customer service and market knowledge, says Shannon Ferguson.
“This is a great time to go after the luxury market, but you have to be aware of the size of your commitment; this is a hands-on niche,” says the Broker Associate with RE/MAX Select One in Dana Point, Calif. “On a $14 million transaction I closed recently, I met with the buyers every time a document needed to be signed because they didn’t like doing business by phone or fax. I gladly did it because that’s what they preferred and their interests came first; it’s never about me.”
If you want to impress high-end buyers and sellers and earn future referrals, here are seven of Ferguson’s tips to exceed their customer service expectations:
FOCUS ON QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY.
Ferguson never carries more than a handful of listings at a time because she wants to give the best service she possibly can to each client. Don’t take on more listings than you can handle, otherwise details will fall through the cracks, she advises. Consider hiring an assistant to tackle administrative tasks so you have more face time with clients.
USE THE RE/MAX COLLECTION®.
Multimillion-dollar properties need sophisticated, high-quality marketing to help them stand out. The RE/MAX Collection gives Ferguson and other luxury agents these resources, such as access to coveted advertising spots in publications like duPont Registry, Unique Homes and The Wall Street Journal. In addition to print advertising, Ferguson also uses presentation binders, business cards and yard signs from the program.
INVEST IN YOUR LISTINGS.
Ascribing to the adage, “Spend money to make money,” Ferguson budgets $20,000 per listing for marketing expenses. She suggests hosting broker previews for agents in your market, as well as building an online database of luxury agents in high-end markets around the world. “I email listing fliers to 80,000 contacts, especially when I do price reductions,” she says. “Wording is the key to generating interest, so use an eye-catching phrase like ‘Million-Dollar Price Reduction’ as your subject line.”
BE DIRECT ABOUT PRICING.
Speaking of price reductions, there’s no way around it: It’s a sticky topic for sellers. But agents should be prepared to make their case if one is needed. Go in armed with comparables and market reports to justify a reduction to a seller. “When a high-end home is in a great location and it’s staged right but there’s no buyer traffic, pricing is the issue,” Ferguson says. “Be direct about why a price reduction is needed, and make sure you have the numbers and facts to back your assertion up. Remind clients that properties have to be priced competitively to create interest.”
WORK ON LISTINGS.
This is a challenge if you’re just getting started. Ferguson suggests going on broker previews of luxury properties in your market, then offering to host open houses for those agents to assist their marketing efforts. It’s a great way to get in front of buyers and learn the niche, but make sure you do research about the area ahead of time, she adds. “Getting that first luxury listing is hard, and sometimes it comes down to selling yourself and your market knowledge.”
SHOW THEM YOUR FULL ATTENTION.
Luxury clients tend to be well-read, savvy business people who expect prompt responses to phone calls and emails. They also want a responsive agent who isn’t taking other clients’ calls in front of them. “They will call you often and expect your undivided attention; if they have questions, you need to have answers because they’re not used to waiting,” Ferguson says. Having strong communication skills and anticipating problems as well as solutions must be crucial components of your customer service.
JUST BE YOU.
Enjoying what you do and the people you’re working with makes it all worthwhile, Ferguson says. Avoid being someone you’re not, and leave your ego at the door. “If you treat luxury clients right, they’ll be loyal to you for many years,” Ferguson says. “Keep the relationship goal-oriented and casual, and don’t be stuffy. Add some laughter and humor to the mix, and have fun!”