I was recently asked to speak at the inmociónate real estate fair in Valencia. The name is a play on words between ‘inmobiliaria’ (real estate) and ’emocionarse’ (to get excited). Five years ago, many people would have laughed at the idea of combining these two words, but as recent official statistics show, the recovery of the Spanish property market is well underway with prices across all main indices back into positive territory. Data from the Spanish Registrars for example indicate that prices have risen 26% since they bottomed out at the end of 2014 but, interestingly, are still down 18% compared to the peak in 2007, indicating that Spain continues to be a very attractive proposition for overseas investors.
Spanish luxury property sales is a huge potential market that very few agencies have the capability to service. Last year over 53,000 foreigners bought homes in Spain. That’s over €10 billion in property sales and a huge chunk of potential fee revenue. 25% of Lucas Fox’s total sales were prime sales (over €900,000) in 2017, a figure that has been growing every year since 2014.
Being able to demonstrate an ability to sell to international clients has enabled us to list better, higher value properties and agree better conditions with private sellers and property developers.
Having success in high-end sales has also created a great source of advocate clients. Many of our international buyers who have been happy with the sales process and also the outcome have become ‘brand evangelists’ and regularly recommend us to friends and family. In 2017, more than a quarter of Lucas Fox’s total revenue was generated from referrals.
The core of the Lucas Fox’s success has always been finding people who have the skills and talent to sell luxury property to international buyers.
Many people have asked me about the key to selling luxury property to foreign buyers. Without giving away any secrets, here are some of the most important skills I believe that an agent needs to become successful in this sector…
Understand the main difference between national and international buying clients
This sounds very obvious but in order to successfully deal with international clients you need to understand that they require a completely different approach and methodology to national clients. One has an opportunity to develop a relationship with an international buyer in a way that you normally can’t with a national buyer. With international clients you often have to start by imparting some of the most basic information – anything from the latest Spanish property market trends to how to make the perfect paella. Your own story helps too – your relationship will become more trustworthy if you share your own (hopefully successful) experience of relocating and/or buying a property in Spain.
Today many of our agents are part of the extended families of their best international clients – they know their parents and friends, they go to their birthday parties, and they meet with them when they are on holiday in Spain. This is all part of what we think of as the traditional US model of luxury real estate brokerage. The ownership and enjoyment of residential property is a key part of High Net Worth clients’ lifestyle and a good broker should be an indispensable part of helping them to enjoy their life and wealth.
The average international client requires a greater investment of time and energy than your average national client but in most cases, we find that there is a higher probability of getting a (bigger) sale. So, how do you make sure that you’re dealing with a client that is worth you investing your time in?
Get them on the phone
The first thing I was taught when I first entered the world of luxury property sales was always to try to speak to my clients by phone rather than communicating by email. If you approach it correctly, a short telephone conversation can give you a huge amount of useful information, allowing you to start identifying with and understanding what makes the client tick and it will also allow you to start building a rapport with the client.
Speak their language
You are not going to make much progress with international clients unless you can communicate with them and, if you can’t, you need to find someone who can. At Lucas Fox, we invested time in finding agents who can speak a range of languages including Russian, Chinese and Arabic.
Be quiet and listen!
I’m still amazed by the amount of sales people who talk at clients. To adapt a famous sales quote, “you can get more clients in two months by listening than you can make in two years by talking at them”.
Ask leading questions and be direct
How much do they have to spend? Do they need a mortgage? Don’t be shy! This will save you a lot of time going forward.
Follow up is the key to success
The reality is that very few international buyers you talk to for the first time will tell you that they are interested in buying immediately. This is why you have to start following up even before they have viewed a property. Our objective is always to ensure that Lucas Fox is the agency that they want to work with. To make that happen you have to ask for the business.
There’s a lot more to it, certainly on the practical side. But the emotional intelligence needed to succeed in high-end sales should never be underestimated.
If you are interested or you know of anyone interested who may want to work for us, please take a look at our latest recruitment video or email us firstname.lastname@example.org.