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Luxury summit peeks into lifestyles of ultra-high end home buyers

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POSTED August 7, 2015 7:23 p.m.

LOS GATOS (AP) — The summit on luxury homes and high-end buyers brought over 100 real estate professionals to the Rosewood Hotel in Menlo Park last month, where they listened to top producers explain how they market to the ultra-affluent across the globe.

The panel of experts at this year’s Asian Real Estate Association of America Silicon Valley Mega Luxury Real Estate Summit included David S. Friedman, co-founder and president of Wealth X; Ken DeLeon, founder of DeLeon Realty; Michi Olson, Alain Pinel Realtors vice president of global business development and relocation; and Arthur Sharif, owner of Arthur Sharif & Associates. DeLeon, Olson and Sharif are members of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors.

Friedman said in order to serve its ultra-high net worth clients efficiently, Wealth-X acquires extensive information about them--from their lifestyles, their passions, daily schedules, acquaintances and interests to what type of shoes they buy and food they eat. He indicated there are 211,275 UHNW individuals in the world whose total net worth is $30 trillion. The average UHNW individual is 59 years old, with an average liquidity of $35 million. About 70,000 of UHNW individuals live in the U.S.; 19,000 Germany; 14,700 Japan; 11,500 the UK; and 11,000 China.

Olson said global employee/family relocation industry for high-end clients is a $27 billion a year industry that involves relocation management companies, real estate, movers, housing, lenders, pet movers, auto shippers, etc. It costs about $100,000 to move a family of four domestically and $1 million internationally. The average home purchase is $1.4 million.

According to the National Association of Realtors, international buyers spent $104 billion on U.S residential properties last year; 35 percent were Chinese buyers in California. Olson said agents working with Chinese and other foreign buyers need to understand their culture and business practices. The Chinese will not be interested in homes whose house numbers have the number 4, which they view as unlucky. The French don’t know that appliances are included with a U.S. rental.

Gain their trust and referrals will follow. Provide excellent customer service and help them assimilate into the American culture, said Olson. This can mean helping them get a driver’s license, open a bank account or use an ATM.

Although his company specializes in luxury properties in Silicon Valley, Sharif treats all clients the same. He stressed the importance of the personal touch, understanding the client’s goals and the marketplace. “My goal is always to find the perfect home for my buyers,” said Sharif.

To cater successfully to high-end buyers, agents need to look ahead, dress like them, travel and educate themselves. “You have to have a sense of who they are. Invest in your clients so they feel you are at their level. Find out what are your clients’ problems and solve them,” said DeLeon. He strives to make his firm a one-stop shop, like a full service concierge.

The top producers did not become successful overnight. They shared stories of their low points and how they got back in the game. They said succeeding in high-end real estate ultimately depends on an individual’s attitude and how much they want to grow and develop themselves.

“Stay positive. Understand yourself, optimize yourself, push yourself to the next level,” DeLeon told Realtors. “Real estate is not a competition. We have the brightest Realtors here. Find out what works for you and play your strengths.”


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