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What you can learn from one of Hong Kong’s top residential agents
A recent conversation with JLL's Head of Residential Leasing and Relocation Services , Stella Abraham, revealed some of the secrets of the trade when it comes to finding her clients the right home, building a strong team, and succeeding in residential leasing and relocation services. Her insights can help you understand the market, find the right property, and possibly even open career doors.
The life of a residential property agent is not for the faint-hearted, particularly when market conditions are tough and the competition heats up. Being resilient and riding the cyclical ups and downs of the market is key, as is spotting and jumping on opportunities.
"A good estate agent is generally nosy," says Stella. "You have to be chatty, proactive and put yourself forward. You have to get out there, and not stay in the office. Otherwise, you will lose touch of the market."
Stella ends up enjoying close relationships with most of her clients, in part because she often meets them at times of stress and change and becomes part of their lives. That kind of attachment also has its downside, since she also has to attend a lot of farewell parties for expatriate families returning home.
Rites of passage: Anticipating tenants' needs at various life stages
Understanding where clients are in life is essential in finding them a suitable home. Their needs change with time as they pass through different stages of their life in Hong Kong: From bachelor pad, to married couple's home, then a nest for raising children, to downsizing when those kids eventually fly the coop.
If you've lived in Hong Kong for a few years, is it time to move to a new neighbourhood or are you better off staying put and renewing your lease? The ability to anticipate a client's future needs isn't just about real estate – it's about lifestyle and what will make them satisfied.
"It is an amazing feeling when you finally put away the last box, and have a cup of tea or a glass of wine and you know finally you're home," says Stella. "It's exciting to help people look ahead and build the life that's right for them, from accommodation, to schools, to clubs and leisure facilities."
Do your best in both worlds
Hong Kong places agents in the potentially awkward position of representing the interests of both the landlord and the tenant. One hallmark of a good agent is the ability to make prudent judgement calls on behalf of the tenant, and match their needs with the realities of the market. As Stella points out, she is powerless to change the market conditions and pricing, but she can help clients set realistic expectations to avoid disappointment, as well as make a strong case to landlords as to why they should sign a lease with a particular client at a particular price.
Dual agents (not double agents!) learn how to assist tenants in getting their desired property, while at the same time winning the trust of the landlords over time. "A good negotiation ends with both sides achieving what they want," says Stella. "There is always a price that a prospective tenant is willing to pay, at a rental level that the landlord is also willing to accept, although it can require a back-and-forth game of ping pong to get there."
Build a diverse team to satisfy a multitude of clients
"As your career progresses, what you get measured on changes. Many agents – like me – move from focusing on their individual performance, to building teams and systems," says Stella. "I still get a huge amount of satisfaction from finding a new home and a new life for a family in Hong Kong, but increasingly I am recruiting and managing team members with diverse skills, who can relate to a broad range of clients."
She identifies her team's strengths and matches up agents with clients and landlords, depending on the needs of the client and the situation. Good chemistry with the client and a solid relationship with the landlord is a winning combination for any agent.
JLL's history, reputation and credibility in the marketplace bring benefits to both agents and clients, and while that opens some doors it does not necessarily make the work any slower paced. For both Stella and her team of 20 agents, checking dozens of emails in the back of a taxi, rushing to their next appointments, and working outside office hours entertaining clients is routine. But Stella says that's all part of the buzz.
You're home in Hong Kong with JLL Residential.
For more information on JLL's Residential Leasing and Relocation Services, visit our residential leasing webpage or contact Stella Abraham.
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