You've made the decision to buy or sell a luxury home, and now it's time to select the real estate professional who can best assist you. Not all good agents operate effectively in the upper-tier market. It is a market segment that requires special competencies. Here are some general guidelines for choosing an agent to help you in the upper-tier residential marketplace:
- Look for market knowledge and real estate skills.
Not only should your agent know the city or area you are interested in, he or she should be knowledgeable about the price range you've targeted. A luxury home expert should be able to discuss the amount of inventory available, the average number of days a property is on the market before going under contract, the number of sales in the last 90 days, and the list to sales price ratio, all by price range. The more knowledgeable the agent is about the upper-tier market, the more valuable he or she can be as a resource for you. When you schedule your first meeting with a prospective agent, let the agent know you want an overview of the market conditions based on price range. A solid track record of success is also a clear indicator of market savvy. Don't choose an agent based on country club membership, the kind of car he or she drives, or similar criteria. Do choose your agent based on the answer to the question, "Does this agent have the skills and resources necessary to help me accomplish my real estate goals?"
- Notice special luxury affiliations and designations and ask what they mean.
To zero in on professionals who specialize in the fine homes and estates market, look at an agent's memberships and designations. Some agents are members of organizations specific to the luxury market such as The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, which awards an international designation (Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist or "CLHMS") to agents who meet education requirements and have a track record of success. Some real estate companies offer special recognition to their associates who work successfully in the luxury market. Some firms have special luxury marketing programs available to their agents. All these memberships, affiliations and credentials add credibility.
- If you are selling, ask that the listing presentation include a specific marketing plan for your property.
Don't assume that the best marketing plan is always the most expensive. Listen to why the agent has included each element of the plan. Be sure that your home will be promoted Online as well as in more traditional ways. If the home is very expensive or the buyer is likely to come from outside the area, a luxury home magazine may be an important part of the plan. Recognize that the marketing plan in a fast-moving sellers' market will differ from the plan to be implemented in a slower buyers' market. Your agent should outline his or her proposed plan and explain it. Look at the quality of the marketing pieces the agent has used in the past as part of your evaluation process. Some agents will have access to special luxury home marketing systems with special marketing pieces that add value to their toolkit.
- If you are selling, don't let an agent "buy" your business.
Choosing an agent based on the highest suggested list price is counterproductive if the house is overpriced. The agent doesn't set the price-the marketplace does. If your home goes on the market as an overpriced listing, agents and their prospects will quickly move on to other properties that offer more value relative to cost. Will they come back if the price goes down? In many cases, no.
- Rapport and clear communication are important.
Buying and selling can be stressful. Choosing an agent with whom you communicate clearly will help simplify the process. Be sure he or she understands your needs and expectations and that you understand the process and the agent's expectations of you. In short, specialized knowledge + quality tools + clear communication = an agent who can deliver the results you want in the luxury home arena.