When the rich go house hunting, it’s all about fancy cars and fine dining

  • Namrata Kohli
  • Updated: Aug 16, 2016 19:27 IST
Property agents have to be constantly on their toes to ensure their high-profile clients get what they are looking for.

Buyers scouting for luxury properties want a superior address, luxury amenities, a good community and high-end home automation. But beyond the obvious and in between the lines, they’re hungry for extraordinary buying experiences. An efficient buying process but also a bespoke experience in property selection is thus important to them as most often the rich and the powerful work in real time and expect their queries to be answered immediately. Property agents, therefore, have to be constantly on their toes, ensuring their high-profile clients get what they are looking for.

“We put in extravagant efforts in order to make our customers feel special and to give them a bespoke luxury sale instead of a regular sale,” says Amit Goyal, chief executive officer, North India Sotheby’s International Realty, a company that deals only with premium to luxury properties. The first step is taken at Southeby’s offices - all of them are designed to enable clients to view luxury properties from all over the world with the touch gallery podium and E-gallery. A dedicated agent curates the process and the client is taken for site visits in luxury cars, and pampered with the best in fine dining. Along with informative presentations on the property, “we may even pamper our clients with drinks and dinner at the city’s most sophisticated hotels and restaurants.” Gifts are an important part of the overall treatment - Diwali hampers, co-branded magazines and calendars, a bottle of wine and chocolates given as tokens of gratitude. “We keep in touch with our clients and maintain permanent our relationships with them.” Also organised are road shows and special networking events in domestic as well as international markets such as art events, and wine and cheese parties.

US based luxury sales broker Michael Chuck likes to “wow” and “surprise” his HNI clientele with anything from a White House tour to a lunch with a NASA astronaut or a Hollywood actor.

Sioul Villas in Goa. (North India Sotheby’s International Realty)

In majority of the cases, a luxury property purchase is not a calculative investment but more of an indulgence, says Dubai-based luxury property transactions agent Noor Amin, “In my experience, most of the luxury sales are not for any return appreciation or other revenues. People buying luxury property want to enjoy life, competing with their level of people in society, enjoy the best facilities and continue to remain part of the big league.” No wonder, when it comes to purchase, it has to be experiential buying and treatment - one befitting the king and queen.

The sampling of the properties is all important as top-of-the-line facilities are demanded. Many are ‘by invitation only,’ have spa pools attached with every living room, sun decks and walk-in closets. Take the case of Mori HAUS, a popular, first-of-its-kind, Thai-Japanese resort condominium in Bangkok. This is a forest-themed development with reflecting glass house, balconies with pre-planted trees. Another much anticipated project in this market is 98 Wireless, a modern version of classic European Beaux-Arts (neoclassical architectural) style. Design Worldwide Partnership led the design team and New York interior designer Anne Carson styled the reception areas and three levels of facilities including a tea salon and a business lounge in Ralph Lauren Home furnishings. The project uses natural materials and finishes throughout the building such as the solid white-oak herringbone floors and rare crotch mahogany (a rare African mahogany variety, the term crotch comes from the point where the limb separates from the main trunk, giving the outer grain a feather-like appearance) door panels imported from the United States, as well as façades made of Portuguese limestone, which has undergone accelerated weathering tests prior to installation. The marble used in the master bathrooms has been handpicked from a marble quarry in Carrara, about 100 km northeast of Rome.

HNIs are informed about these exclusive projects by luxury sales specialists or by influential clubs such as Tiger 21 in New York or Asia Bankers Club in Hong Kong. Hong Kong being the most expensive market with the biggest transactions lends itself perfectly to the club model with its large community of wealthy, international expats. A member of such an elite billionaire club is able to access luxury property deals even before these are announced officially. Access to off-market deals and pre-launch offers are arranged by these clubs with bespoke trips for members interested in overseas property investment.

Kingston Lai, founder of Asia Banker’s club, which has a database of over 50,000 members of the banking community across China, Singapore and Hong Kong, says most members aim to invest in properties such as resort condominiums in Thailand and Vietnam that suit their lifestyles. These also serve as family vacation homes. Their purpose is beyond buy-to-let investment. Therefore, they are very keen to make time to travel and visit the property, in order to experience the community and property first-hand before making decision. “We always have priority access to in-demand new projects from our development partners and members can make the most of their money by enjoying special discounts and other exclusive privileges while purchasing through us.”

The club gets exclusive access by their key property development partners to their latest iconic development projects before these are available in the market. Hence, their members would be the first in market to purchase flats on desirable floors as well as those with special design, along with privileges such as attractive discounts.

For example, members of Asia Bankers Club got an access to two of the hottest projects in Bangkok - Mori HAUS and 98 Wireless, both by Sansiri, one of the largest developers in Thailand. Then there are off-market deals where the Club approaches potential buyers from their network, ensuring the confidentiality of the transaction with anonymity. Current projects with them include Grade-A offices in New York City, USA and Canary Wharf in London.

Among other things, soft skills are equally important in a luxury home sales process as well as the ability to understand human psychology. According to US based earliest Wendy Maitland, best known as “broker to the stars” who has sold everything from a million dollar mansion to penthouses at astronomical figure in New York city- “Listening is the most underrated skill. What people say, and what they don’t say, will tell you everything.” So many things put together lead to a deal struck – “It’s like the greatest Rubik’s Cube of all time, and it is such a joy when all of the pieces fall into place on an intricate deal in this industry.”

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