13 luxury real-estate agents reveal what it's really like working with millionaire and billionaire clients

Getty ImagesMany agents said working with affluent clients is easier than working with ordinary clients.

Business Insider asked real-estate agents around the US about what it’s really like working in the industry, what they wish they could tell their clients, and what it’s like working with millionaire and billionaire clients in the luxury market.

Many agents said working with affluent clients is easier than ordinary clients because they tend to know exactly what they want, they have the means to get it, and they don’t want to waste any time.

One agent said wealthy buyers want a good bargain as much as anybody else – and since they have more options, they will walk away if the price isn’t exactly right.

Here’s what it’s really like working with ultra-wealthy clients in the real-estate industry.


Several agents said millionaire and billionaire clients aren’t too different from ordinary clients.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

“I’ve only had a handful of truly wealthy clients, but I can say that my experience with them was honestly the same as any other client,” Jason Tsalkas, an agent at Compass who sells homes primarily in Brooklyn for between $US650,000 and $US2 million, told Business Insider. “As a hired real estate advisor, you should be working for the relationship, not solely the transaction. Additionally, we live in NYC on a ‘New York Minute’ – time is everything. No matter who the client is, respond and react in REAL TIME.”

And as with any client, honesty is the best policy when it comes to super-wealthy clients, Tsalkas said.

“I remember having to tell a certain famous client a property wasn’t for them, despite how much he thought why, until I laid out the reasons,” he said. “No one deal is worth losing the confidence and respect of a client; being transparent will gain you that respect for a lifetime.”

Colin Turek, a Compass agent who sells in the $US800,000 to $US2 million range in New York City, says millionaire and billionaire clients “care about the same stuff – just on a bigger and more luxurious scale.”

“Most of them are down-to-earth and want to be treated just like everyone else – in a private car, of course,” said Boris Fabrikant of Compass, who sells homes with an average price of $US1.5 million in Manhattan.


Many said it’s actually easier to work with clients who have “infinite funds” …

“I commonly work with millionaires,” Barbara Leogrande of Douglas Elliman, who sells homes at an average of $US550,000 in Suffolk County in Long Island, told Business Insider. “I find it to be easy, as a millionaire didn’t accumulate wealth by accident. They have a head for business and understand the dynamics of a transaction.”

It’s typically a smooth process from start to finish, she said.

“When you work with clients who have infinite funds, it becomes almost easier in a sense because a couple hundred thousand dollars don’t typically make a difference,” Eric Goldie of Compass, who handles sales in New York City for $US1 million to $US5 million on average, said. “Working with clients who are buying their first starter home is more of a challenge because every dollar matters. I once had a client who wanted to put a hot-tub on the roof of his penthouse which would require shutting down a major road in Manhattan. I told him it would cost roughly $US100,000 and he didn’t even flinch. “

Jose Laya, who sells homes in Miami for between $US800,000 and $US2 million, said most wealthy clients make quick decisions, don’t waste time, and tell you exactly what they think.

“Most deals can be quite easy as they pay cash,” he said.


… as long as you work around their schedules.

Giovanni Rufino/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty ImagesLuis D. Ortiz in ‘Million Dollar Listing New York.’

“This of course comes at a price, as they expect you to be on-call at all times,” Laya said. “And always remember… everything will happen on their time. And that is the tough part… working EVERYTHING around their schedules.”


Communication tends to be easier with wealthy clients.

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Brian K. Lewis of Compass, who sells $US2 million to $US10 million homes in New York City, says he loves the “ease of communication” that comes with working with the highest-end buyers and sellers.

“They tend to be good communicators and are often self-made individuals,” Lewis told Business Insider.

He added that many of these clients grew up middle class and have universal values and fears.

“I don’t get distracted by fancy titles, or their fame, or the trappings that come with their fortunes,” Lewis said. “I relate to them as individuals. Trust is built. Communication is good. I get them what they want. I’ve used this formula to effect a sale for $US42 million- but I also use this same approach for my $US420,000 clients.”


Agents get to see some of the most luxurious homes in the world working with these clients.

Katie Warren/Business Insider

“Working with millionaire and billionaire clients is one of the most exciting parts of the job as you get to see some of the most luxurious homes on the market,” Jared Barnett, a Compass agent who sells homes between $US2 million and $US5 million in New York City, told Business Insider.

“People have the perception it’s more challenging to sell ultra-luxury homes to a buyer, but in fact these clients have often bought and sold properties many times throughout their life,” Barnett said. “For this reason, they know what they like and are able to make quick decisions, which can expedite the process.”


Some of them have “handlers” who deal with their real-estate transactions.

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Michael Bello of REAL New York, who does $US5,000-per-month on average rentals in the city, said the most affluent clients often have “handlers” – such as accountants or lawyers – who take care of the transactions for them.

“I rented to the daughter of a wealthy celebrity last summer, and they had their accountant handle everything,” Bello said. “They wanted to remain anonymous. They couldn’t have been nicer people, though!”


Wealthy clients know exactly what they want.

“They are very clear on what they want, do not like to waste their time and want us to respect their time and they respect our time,” said Smitha Ramchandani, a broker-associate at SR Real Estate Group at Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, who sells homes in New Jersey and California, in the $US400,000 to $US3 million range.


Working with millionaire clients requires a perspective shift.

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Scot Dalbery of REAL New York, who deals with rental properties in New York City that are $US4,000 a month on average, said that working with millionaire clients is all about adjusting perspective.

“Unlike other typical buyers, there is more urgency for their needs to be met,” Dalbery said. “They’re often the nicest and most understanding clients. However, you have to know what you’re getting into and understand that they have a different perspective on many things than the typical buyer does, and make sure you allow them to voice those opinions in a way that doesn’t feel judged.”


Agents should understand their time is less valuable than that of their ultra-wealthy clients.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Martin Eiden, an agent who sells homes in Manhattan and Brooklyn for between $US700,000 and $US7 million, says working with millionaire and billionaire clients is “pretty much the same” as with other clients.

“Be courteous, professional and prompt,” Eiden said. “If they call you on your cell, you need to pick up. Time is extremely important to them. Don’t waste it, and understand your time is less valuable than theirs. For billionaires, you will often work with their personal attorneys and rarely (if at all meet them).”


Millionaires want to get a great deal as much as anybody else.

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Julie Brannan of Compass, who deals with homes at an average $US2 million in New York City, said there’s a misconception that people of means don’t want a bargain.

“In some ways, since their options are so open, they are more driven to get the right apartment at the right price or they will walk away,” Brannan said.

“I once negotiated up to $US26 million on an apartment that was listed for $US31 million and the seller wouldn’t come down from a counter of $US29 million,” she said. “My buyer could afford it but felt it was overpriced (and I agreed). We walked away and bought something else – and three years later that apartment is still on the market, now for $US26.9 million.”

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