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When it comes to luxury real estate, most people think about the East Coast’s bustling metropolises with their lumbering multimillion-dollar condominiums filling the skylines or the West Coast’s cool and breezy mansions with to-die-for ocean views.
Although many luxury real estate deals are indeed happening in those places, Prudden & Company founder Peter Prudden, Compass agent Dee Dee Guggenheim Howes and Sotheby’s International Realty star Neyshia Go have all proved there are luxury goldmines all over the country.
“I’m from flyover country,” Prudden said proudly of his home base, Minneapolis, while a few agents in the Luxury Connect crowd backed him up with a chorus of cheers. “We’re essentially the halfway point between the flight from LA to New York, and our luxury market in Minneapolis is evolving and growing.”
Guggenheim Howes also lauded Houston as a bastion of luxury real estate in the South, thanks to a robust community of architects and designers building scores of unique, luxury estates. “Houston is kind, warm and diverse,” she said. “We are known nationally and internationally actually for our builders, designers and architects.”
“We count on them to build beautiful luxury homes, which they do,” she added. “And without them, I wouldn’t be able to sell anything.”
Both Prudden and Guggenheim Howes said their stories prove success in luxury real estate can happen anywhere and it depends more on an agent’s skills, business acumen, sphere of influence and ability to pivot than their location.
“I was crazy about it,” Guggenheim Howes said of her entrance into the business. “I found myself with an abundant sphere of influence, a love for everything luxury, and a desire to sell beautiful big expensive homes.”
“So I created a fast track to that and created a plan — I had to elevate my game, right, because luxury is not fast. It’s a long game,” she added.
For her, the plan included creating strong relationships with homebuilders, architects and interior decorators and designers, providing luxury service to clients at all price points and arming herself with the most up-to-date data to get a leg up over the competition.
“I had to escalate my timetable so I could get things done quick; I had to do things that maybe other people wouldn’t want to to get those things beautiful luxury homes,” Guggenheim Howes said of her drive to establish herself as the leading luxury real estate agent in Houston.
While Prudden and Guggenheim Howes grappled with the challenges of being big fish in small ponds, Go faced the challenge of being a small fish in the gargantuan luxury pond known as Beverly Hills.
“I started in luxury at the ripe old age of 20 years old. I was a confused college student with six months left in my senior year,” she said. “I ended up answering a few Craigslist ads when it wasn’t sketchy yet, and of my four job interviews I actually got three job offers — two of them being paid and I took an unpaid internship with my dear friend and mentor Eric Kerwin.”
Go said she lived on Top Ramen during her internship but what she got in return were the skills to thrive through any market shift. “My mentality was, if I can start even at the top of the real estate market, I can only garner so much experience and knowledge from someone who’s out there and propel myself into something a lot faster,” she said. “I am glad to say that was 11 years ago and I’m doing relatively well.”
While it can be relatively easy to start a career in a blaze of glory, all three agents said it takes more effort, grit and determination to create a longstanding track record of success, especially when inventory grows tighter, home sales slow and economies hit a rough patch.
In those times, Prudden said it’s crucial for agents and teams to up the ante and put all of their cards on the table from the very first listing appointment.
“We approach every listing pitch as an opportunity to bring our team,” he said while noting his in-house designer, contractor and other team members come to every pitch session. “We are bringing in a full-scale service offering. We’re not just a standalone agent — there’s power in numbers in providing a concierge experience.”
In addition to keeping up with consumers’ expectations of concierge-level service, Go said agents stay on the cutting edge of buyers’ ever-changing viewpoint of what luxury is or isn’t.
“I think luxury is very much defined differently in each marketplace. Historically speaking, luxury has been defined as a location, price point, finishes and quality of materials used,” she said while noting builders’ and buyers’ shifting preferences. “You need to study the buyers, understand your sellers and be able to market it appropriately.”
Guggenheim Howes echoed Go and said the most successful agents can deliver on what luxury means to a specific client, whether that means having one-of-a-kind marble flooring or simply being able to comfortably entertain all of their family and friends for the holidays.
“Without putting a client in a box, you can teach them differences in building styles and bring in builders for broker opens and open houses to point out luxury. It’s all about making and growing our luxury clients through education,” she said.
In addition to white-glove service and excellent sales skills, Prudden, Go and Guggenheim Howes all said authenticity is key to maintaining success in a shifting market.
“With authenticity and integrity, good things happen,” Prudden said.
Go added, “The most important thing is authenticity. Each day, each individual should be true to themselves and what their skill sets are better tailored for.”
“For example, if you’re a really great negotiator and that is your thing, base your value proposition on that,” she said. “When you are your authentic self, and you truly enjoy those activities, business is no longer a sell because clients want to work with you because you’re damn good.”
Lastly, all three said the hard truth about this market is there will be losers and winners; however, the prospect of losing shouldn’t keep agents from doing their absolute best to win in their markets through investing in technology, lead generation and education to make themselves better.
“We all know we’re in a changing marketplace and right now, I hate to say it, the fittest will survive,” Go said. “Separate yourself by being better at what you do and recognize that each market has its individual set of needs to tailor and cater to.”
“Figure out in your marketplace, what the need is and serve it and find the best ways to do that,” she added.