No transaction in luxury real estate stands alone; every home purchase happens in the middle of a network that yields new opportunities. High-net-worth clients are likely to purchase and sell multiple properties, and their wealth is typically shared among immediate and extended family. Real estate professionals have the opportunity to engage with all of these stakeholders when working with a client throughout the years.
Frank Aazami, Founder of the Private Client Group at Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty, has experienced this long-term network firsthand. “Everything that we’re working on today is from what we had seeded years ago,” he explains. “Ten years ago, we worked with a family that was still growing. Now, the parents are empty nesters. We’re finding them a condo, and helping their kids purchase their first homes.”
The best way to ensure the prosperity and longevity of your business is to build connections that last a lifetime — or several lifetimes. But what exactly goes into making those generational relationships? Here are Aazami’s top three suggestions.
1. Establish the full picture and address it with expertise
Real estate entails so much more than purchasing a home. “It’s all about the investment,” says Aazami. Clients want to know that their investments are protected, and professional assistance throughout the process can provide peace of mind and asset security.
Be purposeful in learning everything you need to know: about your clients’ desires, their portfolio, and the wider real estate landscape. “If someone is hiring me for a service, I want to make sure I do that service well; and I can’t do it unless I understand the entire scope of their finances, their timelines, their likes, their lifestyle. All of it,” says Aazami. “That’s how I built my business — by just asking a lot more questions. I became an advisor, not a real estate agent.”
2. Propose creative solutions
Aazami established his credibility early on by becoming a problem-solver. “It was an agent referral that got me into the business and kept me in business. I would find multiple ways to make a deal work.”
Aazami had a client who was considering building a dream house on a lot that he owned but was reluctant to start because of the time and costs involved. Aazami took a holistic look at the client’s assets, funds, and future aspirations. He found an investor who would be interested in buying the client’s property, and who already owned a spec home similar to the one his client hoped to build. The investor happily purchased the lot, paying the balance in cash, and the client bought the spec home — living in an ideal $2.5 million dollar property when his original budget had been $1.5 million.
“Real estate agents take a listing, and they talk about the size, the features, the selling price,” says Aazami. “For me, it’s more than that. It’s understanding a client’s entire portfolio, their assets, what they want, and what they can afford, and using all that information to create something unexpected and wonderful for them.”
Affluent clients may not be in the market for a new confidant, but they do need someone with whom they can be comfortable sharing deeply personal information. Real estate agents for high-net-worth-clients need to be tactful in striking this balance, cultivating trust without crossing boundaries.
“Your perspective about every topic matters,” Aazami cautions. “Keep it as professional as possible, tailored to what you’re hired to do. Clients will be watching you along the way — everything you say, everything you do — especially now online, where all of it is transparent.”
Privacy and discretion are always critical with clients, and this is no less true for agents that navigate the relationship between parents and children. When it comes to partnering with a family long-term, Aazami is respectful of his client’s wishes regarding how much information they want to share with their children at any given point in their real estate journey. “We keep discussions as private as possible,” he says.
But as properties are gifted from one generation to the next, or passed along through a will, knowing the whole family is helpful. If you are the parents’ trusted advisor, it’s more likely the children will trust you too.
“This is something I just experienced recently. The family’s children were never in any of the meetings, but they saw me in and out with their parents. Then, later on, they came to me when it was time to talk about how money gets dispersed, where properties go, who’s in charge.” This well-deserved trust forms the foundations for long-term partnerships.
As a knowledgeable, present problem-solver, you can ensure that your partnerships with your clients are perennial. When they or their loved ones need an expert they can count on, they’ll naturally turn to you.