Knowledge of 'good life' a necessity
Knowledge of fine wines is not something most people would consider putting on their résumé. But this is one of the more unusual skills that might be desirable in somebody seeking to be a luxury property agent. The luxury property market in Hong Kong is booming, creating a high demand for real-estate agents who have the ability to understand the world of wealth and to relate well to wealthy clients.
"It's quite a different way of selling," says Chris Liem, owner and principal of the luxury property agent Engel & Völkers in Hong Kong. "Luxury property agents have to understand what it's like to move in that world and what considerations the client might have."
Most important, Liem says, is that agents can understand the particular reasons these clients may have for buying a property. These might include a desire for exceptional comfort, to project a particular image, or alternatively, to secure funds and make a profit.
"It's about understanding the motivations of the client," says Liem.
Alongside this, luxury property agents need to be able to relate to their clients' wider interests, which may include things such as luxury boating, art collections, or golf. In Hong Kong, for example, there is a particular enthusiasm for fine wines.
"It's about being engaged and understanding that world," says Liem. "Some people like boats, some people like fine wines, some people like sporting events. Whatever it is, whether it's the social aspect or the things that they aspire to, that's the world with which I expect my agents to be familiar."
To engage with clients in these ways, Liem says it is crucial for luxury property agents to have exceptional communications skills. This allows them to build up strong relationships with their clients and fully understand their needs.
"All of our agents are excellent communicators," says Liem. "They have got to be able to engage with the client and build up a high level of trust. If that's not there, then it's very difficult to facilitate a transaction."
It is also important for luxury property agents to have language skills. The luxury property market's international nature means clients buying properties in Hong Kong come from all over the world. With the growth in mainland buyers, Putonghua is a particular asset.
"Nearly all of our agents speak a second language," says Liem.
Alongside languages, he says the agents also need to be able to understand different countries' cultures. He adds, however, that teamwork is an important part of the role. Agents from the company's different international offices collaborate to deliver the skills and understanding needed to serve a particular customer.
Employees working for Engel & Völkers are also offered regular training to help them further develop the skills required to relate effectively to luxury clients.