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Finding the perfect home for an unconventional client

12/28/2020

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Have you ever had a client request the highest, most panoramic property in the area so they can maximize natural light for their world-class art collection? Or perhaps you’ve worked with a pro athlete, and they wanted an indoor basketball court beside the open-concept kitchen-living room. I’ve had both scenarios in my time as an agent. And that’s just the beginning.

Working in the high-end real estate markets of Silicon Valley and Southern California, I’ve seen some extremely specific requests from clients who are willing to pay a high price for unique features. On the flip side, I’ve also been challenged with finding the perfect buyer for properties that take one-of-a-kind to new heights.

With both sides of a transaction in mind, here are the lessons I’ve learned when listing and finding homes that are not just exceptional, but truly unconventional.

Tracking down niche amenities for the discerning client

New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty

Not every buyer is a professional athlete or an avid car collector, but most high-end real estate buyers have some sort of special request. Golf courses, art studios, equestrian facilities, organic produce gardens, tennis courts—the list of home must-haves are as varied as the people requesting them. How can you make sure you’re always able to deliver, no matter the ask?

1. Know your inventory inside and out

When my art-collector client told me the specific type of property he was in the market for—spacious, scenic, and positioned high above everything else—I was able to find him a fabulous historic home by a famous architect, on 12 acres in the hills. And the reason I knew about it was because I kept an eye on all the luxury real estate for sale in my market, whether it was listed on the MLS or not. This particular property wasn’t advertised anywhere, but I showed it to my client—and he loved it.

2. Patience and perseverance pay off

I had another client who was an avid golfer and wanted a property on Pebble Beach. As you can imagine, getting a Pebble Beach mansion with immediate access to the golf course and the oceanfront is like winning the lottery—but instead of telling him that it was impossible, I told him we’d need to bide our time.

Though it took eight months of visiting Pebble Beach every time a property came on the market, as well as routinely calling the local agents working in my price range, my client’s dream home appeared at last. Needless to say, I wasted no time writing that contract.

3. Sometimes, you have to customize

I was working for a buyer who was a dedicated collector of beautiful luxury sports cars, and it became clear to me that the perfect property just didn’t exist in the place he wanted it. So we had to do the next best thing: I helped him find a home he loved, with storage for five or six cars, and we worked with his architect to install a car elevator and subterranean, 16-car showroom. When the right home just isn’t there, the right contacts and resources should be.

Reaching the right buyer for a highly specific property

Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty

There are times where it’s not the buyer who has an unusual request—it’s the seller’s home that has unique or obscure amenities suited to particular tastes. I once had a listing that featured baseball bats in the kitchen as cabinet handles; luckily, I had a baseball player in mind who loved the unique take on décor. That kitchen is the perfect example of some of the unlikely things that can land in the luxury listings. Here’s how I find buyers that fit.

1. Be a satellite in the right orbits

It’s no secret that luxury buyers who share a specific hobby, talent, or passion are often members of a club. These communities are active in the markets you serve, as well as further afield in areas where potential buyers may be looking for property in your market. You don’t have to join every club to sell your homes, but it is useful to know what niches exist and where they intersect with your own sphere of influence so you can reach out to the right prospect at the right time.

2. Make the most of your network

Related to making the most of club connections, be sure to leverage other agents affiliated with your brand—because when your property is unlike any other, they may have the buyer you need. For the clubs you don’t belong to, you may know another agent who’s already involved who can make introductions.

I’m a member of the country club at Pebble Beach, the Lotus Club in NYC, and I have colleagues whose social circles include Cornell and Stanford. Having these connections is an asset when a challenging property comes across my desk; it takes a lot of direct phone calls, but it’s worth it.

3. Stay curious and engaged

When people are passionate about something, they love to talk about it—so it pays dividends to simply be interested and enthusiastic when connecting with someone new, and constantly be eager to learn. If you were paying attention when your client mentioned how much she loves to write music, then she’ll be top of mind when the home with the state-of-the-art recording booth appears on the market.

At the end of the day, we work just as hard for a $1 million home as we do for a $10 million home, so the best advice I can share is to continue earning your clients’ trust. Transparency and honesty are essential in luxury real estate, as they are in any relationship—and if a niche request or a property has you perplexed, remember that your client won’t mind if you say, “I don’t have the answer at this moment, but I’ll get it.” To me, that’s the key to a great career.

Maryam S. Dickey

Maryam has consistently been among the top 1% of residential real estate agents in the United States, specializing in high-end luxury. Her expertise covers all aspects of the real estate transaction, including upsizing, downsizing, investment planning, negotiating, marketing, and tax-deferred 1031 Exchange transactions.

Maryam has over 26 years of experience in many phases of the commercial and residential real estate business. She has been awarded the “Outstanding Achievement Award” in Listing and Sales Production by the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors.

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