From design trends and client management tips, to agent retention strategies and more, discover additional stories on Leading in Luxury.
In today’s marketplace, sellers understand it’s not as easy to put a home on the market as it was five years ago. Sellers expect perfection, attention to detail at every corner; today’s buyer wants to fall in love with a home that could appear in a magazine spread. It doesn’t matter where you’re located: clients will ask a lot of you, and it’s the broker’s job to deliver on all of it. Here are some of the most common requests I receive from luxury buyers and sellers.
“What should I look for, where should I look for it, and why?”
The luxury buyer, like anyone searching for a home, wants in-depth, insider knowledge about the local neighborhoods and communities. But when it comes to working with the luxury buyer, the key is to listen to what they say and what they may not be saying. It is important to be aware of the differences between each and every buyer, and what they will define as value for them and their family. Why is one view, or one side of the street, more desirable than the other?
Working in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles as a whole, which every year is becoming more a city of villages, I can anticipate my clients’ requests by understanding the nuances not only of neighborhoods but of specific micro-market details. If you’re not on the pulse of the city — and dialed into the available inventory both on market and off — then it will be extremely difficult to meet the expectations of any client.
Speaking of off-market property, I make it my priority to have an intimate knowledge of a secondary market comprised of homes that are not on the market. I also keep track of homes that I know a particular client would love that the seller may not even know they’re willing to sell just yet. How can I pair someone with their perfect home if I’m only aware of what’s publicly listed? In fact, I just closed a deal with a client moving to Los Angeles, helping them secure their dream property within three days of hearing their wishlist; it was a celebrity home and it was off the market, but we made it happen without any competition from other buyers — who undoubtedly would have flipped for a home like this in that particular neighborhood.
“Can you sell my house and let me know when it’s over?”
At times, a seller is very upfront about sharing the fact that they don’t want to do anything to get their home ready, while still understanding that is not realistic in terms of achieving success in today’s market. This is where the power of my team comes into play. My team is well-versed in connecting with third-party vendors, coordinating a dozen different schedules, and collecting and negotiating quotes and bids on the work needing to be done.
In my experience, when we are able to manage the process from end to end, it is truly the most effective way to achieve the highest possible price in the shortest amount of time, with the least amount of drama for the seller. Our clients appreciate working with more than just one agent, but an entire team that provides dedicated, white-glove service in sharing their ultimate goal of a successful home sale. This singular approach has been a great differentiator for me in the luxury marketplace.
The requests you couldn’t have anticipated
Regardless of how long we’ve been doing this, we’re always prepared for a request we haven’t heard before. There will always be the request that you can’t predict — and as prices escalate and more deals are getting done, the component that has become overlooked is high-quality service. As luxury agents, we can’t forget that while we don’t get paid for service, it’s the bedrock of the client experience.
When a client called me because he received a tax bill that was intended for the previous owner of his newly-purchased home, we were more than happy to help him find a resolution with the tax assessor’s office and have the bill redirected to its intended recipient. Sure, that’s not really our job, but then again, we are here to assist our busy clients whenever possible — which is almost all the time. Our clients view us as their trusted resource of resources for all things related to real estate, and beyond.
We’ve sold rooms full of furniture for clients, mowed lawns while they’re away on holiday, set up utilities for new buyers, checked alarms when clients are out of town — the list does not end. We recently had a client who was shooting a film in New York for the summer. We arranged for a short-term rental in the city within a few days. Even though they weren’t buying or selling, our desire to help them achieve their goal never changes.
The unspoken requests
There are some requests your client won’t really be able to articulate that they will need help with. And it’s because they haven’t gotten there on an emotional level yet. I can remember, a couple of years back, a client of ours who was leaving her large Beverly Hills home where she had raised her children and enjoyed wonderful times with her family, experiencing many of the most memorable years of her life. The idea of selling her home wasn’t difficult for her, but taking the first step forward was the hardest.
Immediately, we sensed she needed more than our usual white-glove service. She needed to feel we understood the last 20 years of her life. We were there with her every day for two weeks, helping her decide what she should take to the new home, and what she could probably let go of and not add to her storage unit. I remember we had fun dancing, playing music while we worked to help her stay in the highest spirits, and listening to her share the memories of these treasures she would soon be parting with.
I truly feel like we allowed her a proper farewell to the past and helped her look forward to her new destination — all while strategically keeping the timeline on schedule so the property could be painted, repaired, staged, and photographed at magazine quality in under 30 days.
Thinking back, our client never once asked us “to be there for her”, but then again, the most important requests are sometimes the ones that are never asked. And this is where you will truly stand out as a luxury real estate agent.
Eric Lavey is a Senior Global Advisor with Sotheby’s International Realty — Beverly Hills Brokerage. From Brentwood to West Hollywood, Hancock Park to the Hollywood Hills, and out to Venice and Santa Monica, Eric advises his discriminating clients on the sale or purchase of the most sought-after real estate in today’s market. He regularly traverses the entire city, deriving energy from the diverse neighborhoods, architectural styles, and culture of one the world’s greatest cities — Los Angeles.
About Sotheby’s International Realty
Sotheby’s International Realty was founded in 1976 as a real estate service for discerning clients of Sotheby’s auction house. Today, the company’s global footprint spans 990 offices located in 72 countries and territories worldwide, including 43 company-owned brokerage offices in key metropolitan and resort markets. In February 2004, Realogy entered into a long-term strategic alliance with Sotheby’s, the operator of the auction house. The agreement provided for the licensing of the Sotheby’s International Realty name and the development of a franchise system. The franchise system is comprised of an affiliate network, where each office is independently owned and operated. Sotheby’s International Realty supports its affiliates and agents with a host of operational, marketing, recruiting, educational and business development resources. Affiliates and agents also benefit from an association with the venerable Sotheby’s auction house, established in 1744. For more information, visit www.sothebysrealty.com.