Luxury buyers and sellers need straight talk on the market

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Sellers of luxury homes need to hear straight talk on what asking prices today’s market will bear, and luxury agents can earn points for authenticity by providing that insight — as long as it’s backed up by data.

Chad Roffers

“It’s essential to have difficult conversations with your sellers,” said Chad Roffers, founder and president of Concierge Auctions. “If you’re not having it, it’s like a cake pop at Starbucks — it may taste good for a second, but there really isn’t a lot of substance there. So you need to have substantive, hard conversations with people.”

Roffers shared that view on stage Monday at Inman Luxury Connect Las Vegas as one of three panelists who discussed luxury market trends with designer and television host Jennifer Farrell.

Jennifer Farrell

“It is an unpredictable market and that level of unpredictability makes for a challenging navigation,” Farrell said. “Some homes are still selling very fast. Others are taking a long time. Managing client expectations can be a handful.”

Roffers said the disconnect between buyers and sellers relating to home values is the biggest trend in luxury real estate, with “Big, big gaps everywhere.”

Farrell wants to know what tactics and techniques panelists use to navigate sellers through today’s unstable market, in terms of not only valuations but the timeline to a sale.

“You’ve got to check fear at the door and just go for it,” Roffers said of the need to provide straight talk about the market. “If they’re not ready to hear it, they’ll thank you down the line.”

Farrell asked the audience: “How many of you have had the courage to have a difficult conversation with a client and they thanked you for your time and dismissed you? It sounds great to be brave and to be confident in your conversation of managing expectations [but] how do you have that conversation and ensure the relationship with the client stays true?”

Corcoran Affilicate Network President Stephanie Anton said data is the key.

Stephanie Anton

Stephanie Anton

“You really have to come at them with the information and the data to be able to say, ‘Well, here’s what’s happening with days on market, here’s what’s happening with velocity, here’s what’s happening in the price bands and here’s the properties,’” Anton said.

Brad Nelson

Sotheby’s International Realty Chief Marketing Officer Brad Nelson had a slightly different take — that because the market remains “incredibly uneven,” educating clients about the process is probably more important than price.

“I think that you can have several different phases of a marketing campaign,” Nelson said. “Obviously I’m the lone marketer up here on stage, but when Apple introduces a new iPhone, that is not a singular event.”

Rolling out a new iPhone includes research on price discovery, building anticipation before launch and then making adjustments based on actual market feedback, he said.

“I think if you can persuade your client that you are best at navigating the process and giving them the strongest data and the strongest advice, then ultimately, it’s the client’s decision to make,” Nelson said.”But we need to be helpful in guiding them through the process.”

So how do luxury brokerages and agents position their brands and the business to rise above market uncertainty and differentiate themselves from the competition?

Roffers said that in uncertain times, keeping it simple, staying in your lane, “and not trying to be all things” to all people can be an effective strategy.

“Probably 15 years ago, I had to whisper that I was an auction business,” Roffers said. “But I’ve encouraged our company and our sales team around the world to lean into what you do, and what you deliver. If somebody is interested in that and they’re gonna buy it, and if they’re not, that’s okay.”

Authenticity is particularly important with younger clients who are a growing share of the luxury market, Anton said.

“You know, if you look at the high net worth consumer, the age has come down,” Anton said. “So the business is changing, and we’re adapting to ensure that we’re relevant to a younger buyer, to a younger seller.”

It’s not just buyers and sellers but luxury agents who are skewing younger, Nelson said, which plays into branding.

“So many individuals and brands when they think about breaking into the luxury market, they go back to Robin Leach and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” Nelson said. “How do I make this brand perception to be fancy? Or how do I fake it until I make it?”

“But what we’re actually seeing is a significant number of the No. 1 agents in individual markets are 40 years old or younger and really being comfortable with that and being comfortable in your own skin I think is really attractive to clients as well.”

While younger luxury buyers and agents may not be familiar with Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Farrell noted that lavish homes and lifestyles are all the rage on Instagram and Tik Tok.

“Are you finding that your clients in the luxury market are now expecting this extra level of bling to be attached?” She asked the panel. “Are they expecting that if they’re buying a luxury home it’s going to come with a Rolls Royce and it’s going to come with a diamond-encrusted tiara when they walk in the door?”

Not in his experience, Nelson said.

“The reason for that is no one wants to pay transfer taxes on any of those objects that are included in the sale,” Nelson said. “So you throw in the Rolls Royce and that just makes the transaction more complicated. And particularly if I’m a buyer, I’m prioritizing value over bling.”

Client expectations around luxury are rooted in service, Nelson said, recommending that agents read Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect by Will Guidara for practical tips.

Email Matt Carter

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