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How to break into luxury real estate

By January 30, 2015 One Comment

NEW YORK — The path to becoming a “luxury agent” isn’t always a long and arduous journey. Sometimes agents can take a quantum leap into the niche.


Diane Ramirez, CEO, Halstead Property

That’s what happened with one greenhorn that Diane Ramirez, CEO of New York City-area brokerage Halstead Property, hired in the past.

The agent, who Ramirez described as “brand-spanking-new to the industry,” poured his heart and soul into helping one of his first clients rent out a relatively modest apartment.

That deal didn’t turn him into a millionaire.

But the relationship it provided him with may have: When the client’s family later decided to sell their seven-building “compound,” they chose him for the job, handing him listings that collectively ended up selling for more than $200 million.

The lesson of that fairy tale: Give every deal your all, Ramirez said.

That was one of many words of advice that panelists at Real Estate Connect delivered to luxury real estate agents looking to break into the high-end hustle. Here are some others.

Pitch yourself to luxury firms

Real estate agents shouldn’t be shy about reaching out to luxury brokerages about potentially working for them, panelists said.

Always on the hunt for talent, the industry vets said they’re very much open to interviewing go-getters who express interest in their firms.

Kathy Korte/  President and CEO, Sotheby's International Realty, Inc.

Kathy Korte, president and CEO, Sotheby’s International Realty Inc.

“Don’t be intimidated by a great brand,” said Kathy Korte, president and CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty. Pick up the phone and “give it a try.”

Make sure people know what you do

You never know who might be thinking of selling or buying a home, so it’s always worth making sure that people are aware that you’re a real estate agent.

In social settings, Ramirez has hinted at her profession over the years by sharing compelling experiences she’s had on the job. One anecdote she’s often recounted over drinks or dinner involved an experience visiting Barbra Streisand’s home.

“At the end of the story everyone is like, ‘Where did that story come from?’ at which point you let it slip that you’re a real estate agent,” she said.

Sponsor or attend targeted events

Real estate agents or brokerages looking to snatch up well-heeled buyers and sellers should sponsor or attend events targeted toward that segment of homeowner.

For example, Sotheby’s partnered with J.P. Morgan to host a cocktail reception showcasing a flatware collection. That ended up generating several $5 million-plus sales for the company, according to Korte.

Schmooze at industry conferences


Laura Brady, president, Concierge Auctions

That’s one of the best ways to forge lasting partnerships with agents that can feed you business. Such connections are particularly helpful in the luxury vertical since many silver spooners snap up real estate all over the world.

“Build your reputation by helping other people build theirs,” said Laura Brady, president of New York City-based Concierge Auctions.


Wendy Maitland, TOWN Residential

“You need to know people and they need to remember you,” added Wendy Maitland, president of sales at New York City brokerage TOWN Residential. “It’s all about strategic networking” and “tenacity.”

Understand foreign cultures

Ideally, some of your referral partners will be based abroad.

That could set you up to receive business from international buyers. But to keep that pipeline flowing, you should familiarize yourself with foreign cultures.

“Understand the culture of the international clients,” Korte said. “Asians think different than the Russians.”

Embrace video and 3-D

Many luxury buyers, particularly those who live abroad, don’t have a lot of time on their hands to visit properties, so the more you can help them understand a home without seeing it in person, the better.

Video can go a long way in helping agents convey the feel of a home, particularly if paired with a virtual 3-D model of a home, which Ramirez calls “the perfect enhancement for video.”

Matterport, Floored and InsideMaps are among some of the firms providing such models.

Build a database

Maintaining connections with contacts can work wonders for real estate agents.

Use a database synchronized with marketing tools to streamline your marketing, expand its reach and gauge the effectiveness of campaigns.

Brady said that approach paid off recently when a contact who’d been receiving her firm’s auction alerts for years ended up placing the winning bid on one of the firm’s listings.

Concierge Auctions’ contact database has information on over 200,000 people in 197 countries, according to Brady.

Nurturing contacts is “so important because you’re [building] a relationship because you never know when it’s going to come to the forefront,” she said.

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