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Be on brand: align your business with the values of your luxury clients


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Gone are the days of flashy wealth signaling. Today’s luxury client is all about values: whether they’re health-conscious, eco-conscious, or interested in experiences over material things, an increasing number of affluent consumers place a premium on their own principles. As a result, they want to work with agents who will not only recognize these values, but will respect them and reflect them back.

In some markets, the shift towards value-based decisions has happened fast. “Luxury clients are very value-conscious and discreet in Denver,” says Stuart Crowell, Global Real Estate Advisor with LIV Sotheby’s International Realty. “We have a lot of coastal influence when it comes to luxury buyers in our market, and sellers have had to adjust to different tastes very rapidly.”

As younger buyers enter the luxury market in greater numbers, it’s crucial that agents take a values-focused approach to connecting with clients. Here’s how to align your business for success.

Identify the “deeper values” in your market

Marilyn Clark, Associate Broker, Sotheby’s International Realty — Bridgehampton Brokerage in New York

Line up the principles of your business with those of your luxury buyer by unearthing the reasons people buy in your market that have nothing to do with spectacular homes. “People purchasing in the Hamptons are primarily buying vacation homes, and my experience has been that what many luxury buyers value most is time with family and friends,” says Marilyn Clark, Associate Broker with Sotheby’s International Realty — Bridgehampton Brokerage in New York.

“Key Biscayne offers a ‘small-town feel’ minutes from Miami’s buzz,” says Claudine Coto Knautz, Global Real Estate Advisor with ONE Sotheby’s International Realty of the reason clients appreciate her market. “Residents find comfort in its laid-back setting. Besides being extremely safe and family-friendly, there is a lively community where getting around by golf cart is the choice for many.”

Whether your clients value time with family or proximity to a dynamic urban center, meeting those priorities with timely information and insider knowledge will set your business apart.

Connect with your community

Stuart Crowell, Global Real Estate Advisor, LIV Sotheby’s International Realty

When it comes to being a value fit, keep your business close to home by investing in your community. Whether you volunteer with local organizations or shift your shopping habits to stay within a certain radius of home, you’ll come away with a better understanding of your own priorities — a key to being able to cultivate authentic connections. “I find that by sharing who I am as a person I attract my ideal client in the process and the values automatically line up,” Crowell says.

An added benefit of keeping your hobbies local is the opportunity to naturally develop connections with potential clients who genuinely share your interests. “I am passionate about horses,” Clark says. “I’ve helped numerous clients start their children with riding lessons and pony camp, and I love to watch and cheer the children on when they compete at horse shows. Because it’s something I genuinely love, it’s a shared interest that comes about organically. It’s simply a joy to see these kids improve and excel.”

Your business is more likely to align with the values of people who like to do what you yourself enjoy doing, so getting into your community as a participant improves your chances of bringing like-minded clients into your circle.

Do a “values check” with your marketing and branding

An excellent first impression can be undermined if your website and other marketing materials lack the same emphasis on your values. After an initial audit of your messaging, continue to adjust at regularly scheduled intervals. “My partner and I examine our brand on a weekly basis and make sure that our messaging is relevant to our target audience,” Crowell says. “We run campaigns twice a year that usually center around a story we are trying to share or a value that we bring to the marketplace.”

The stories you tell about your business and through your website and social channels are another way clients can gauge whether what they care about is echoed in the way you work.

Follow up as a person, not a business

Claudine Coto Knautz, Global Real Estate Advisor with ONE Sotheby’s International Realty

When you do make an interesting connection, take the extra step to follow up — but keep sales messaging to a minimum. “I met a couple at the farmer’s market who had arrived into town the day before,” says Coto Knautz. “I suggested some nearby restaurants, and they were pleased to learn that I was in real estate. Instead of just sharing my business card, I followed up with an orchid and a welcome package including market trends, a local guide to restaurants, school information, and more. They called immediately and we are looking for homes together.” Giving potential clients a preview of how you work welcomes them in without putting undue pressure on the exchange.

Maintain existing relationships by keeping the focus on solving a problem. “We make a point to create space in our schedules to specifically add value to our client’s lives,” Crowell says. “We brainstorm about our clients’ needs and work to connect them with solutions, whether that is through other professionals, inviting them to events, or facilitating something in their lives that reduces a burden.”

Don’t be afraid to say “no”

Focusing on finding a value fit with clients can lead you to say “yes” a lot — agents are, by nature, problem solvers. And it can be counterintuitive to draw a boundary when working with clients who can have anything. But there is a great deal of value in the kinds of services money can’t buy — among them, integrity. “The only way to deal with a discerning client is by being 100% honest about a deal, which is the highest form of authenticity,” says Crowell. “Luxury clients are savvy and strategic. You have to know their needs well enough to know when to push and when to pull back.”

This push and pull is one of the most challenging aspects of luxury real estate to navigate, but Coto Knautz agrees. “Sometimes authenticity means telling clients what they may not want to hear,” she says. “Being upfront and setting expectations has also helped me in building trust.”

“My clients rely on me for my expertise in the market, my candor, and my discretion,” adds Clark. “I care about the people I work with and am attentive to their needs. As a result, I’ve formed long-lasting relationships with many different people I’ve worked with over the years.”

And it’s that candor that can earn you repeat business. By remaining true to your business ethics and personal interests, you’ll find the clients who are looking for an agent just like you.

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

The affiliate network is operated by Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC, and the company owned brokerages are operated by Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc. Both entities are subsidiaries of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY) a global leader in real estate franchising and provider of real estate brokerage, relocation and settlement services. Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC and Sotheby’s International Realty Inc., both fully support the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act.

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