How one luxury brand did an about-face to get with the times

by Carlo Calma

What is considered luxury today may not be the height of opulence for tomorrow’s luxury buyer. Any brand or business catering to a luxury clientele must be ready to change with the times, and residential real estate is no different.

Coldwell Banker recently rebranded its luxury arm, unveiling its new Coldwell Banker Global Luxury brand and retiring its predecessor, Coldwell Banker Previews International. The move is an effort to better connect luxury agents across multiple international brands, syndicate listings globally and reflect the changing needs of international luxury buyers. Currently, the real estate brand has a footprint in 49 countries and territories.

Catering to a global residential clientele

According to Craig Hogan, vice president of luxury at Coldwell Banker, areas like Miami, Manhattan, L.A., Seattle, Boston and the Dallas-Houston area are seeing a surge in foreign buyers. He explains that these buyers prioritize the true value of the property over its price tag.

“It’s not so much about the money as where [the property] is located, what they can get, and they also have the tendency not to buy these gigantic properties that Americans seem to just love,” says Hogan.

For example, Hogan explains that Chinese buyers prefer single-family homes and take the ranking of the property’s local school district into consideration. He adds that, while Chinese and Indian buyers look for properties that have large kitchens, other international buyers value an open concept and homes with plenty of natural lighting.

Education and training

Conducting business with international buyers comes with its own set of unique challenges and cultural differences, and Hogan says under the new Global Luxury brand, the group has upped its education component. Agents encounter luxury clients from many different cultural backgrounds, so training around, for example, communication and other soft skills are important to prepare agents for the intricacies of dealing with foreign buyers. Hogan explains that another aspect of agent education is encouraging them to pursue their Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation with NAR.

“We encourage them to understand the current markets they work in,” he says. “Learn how to speak to them [international clients], learn how to handle them. There are things that will make it [client interactions] better if you just pay attention.”

The brokerage has also retooled its certification program, adding a new component offered by the Institute of Luxury Home Marketing based on the book, “Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands.”

“Our new program, now, is with the Institute of Luxury Home Marketing. They are authoring the “Kiss, Bow and Shake Hands” course as a follow-up to our first course so we’ve really upped the game with multiple designations being available that are outside of the NAR realm,” says Hogan.

Ahead of the Curve

Awareness of the unique challenges and needs of foreign buyers is paramount for real estate professionals today, as more and more international clients continue to invest in U.S. property, says Hogan.

“We’re missing the boat if we don’t start to pay attention to constructing what they’re looking for,” he says.

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