Why your broker wears a $5,000 Panerai

By J.Z., Manhattan Real Estate Broker,  | October 14, 2011 - 8:11AM

To be awesome at selling real estate, you have to be awesome at establishing a connection with people, and fashion is a really important way to do that, even for a straight guy like me.

The basics are usually the same: I always wear custom suits ($1,200 apiece by Tom James or Signature) whether I’m selling a $400,000 studio or 4,000 square foot loft in Tribeca. And I wear very businesslike leather shoes, Aldens, which are $600 a pair, but you can get them completely redone once a year for $150 by sending them back to the factory, so over 10 years it works out to be as much as buying a much less nice $200 pair of shoes every year.

From there, I adjust the details as needed.  If I’m going to pitch a seller who’s underwater on his apartment, I’m not wearing the $200 cufflinks, I’m gonna wear the $4 ones I bought on  I don’t want him to think about the fact that I’m making money off of his loss.

I also have a bunch of different watches, ranging from a cool $200 Swatch that I wear when I'm working with underwater-real-estate clients, up to my $5,000 Panerai,  $10,000 Cartier and $6,000 Rolex. Those are for my $1.5m and up clients--the guys, actually, because watches are what guys connect over.

For instance, I pitched a $6 million apartment wearing my $5,000 Panerai watch. The guy was kind of hostile at first, and then he saw my watch. His posture literally changed and his attitude went from a dickhead who knew everything to a guy who trusted what I was saying and thought it was clear we could work together in getting the apartment sold.

At an open house I held the other day, this guy from Dublin comes in with his wife and a kid in a stroller—they were relocating to New York.  The first thing I did was check out his watch. It was a Panerai.  And I could see he was checking out my watch too and he was like, “Nice watch.” We're negotiating a deal on the apartment now.

The custom suit is another kind of connection with guys, because the last button on a custom suit is always open on the cuffs—if a guy looks at you he could recognize a custom suit. It's a status thing--once you go custom, you never go back.

My ties vary anywhere from Thomas Pink to Brooks Brothers, or sometimes they’re custom.  I adjust the style to the client—so if I know I’m going to take a conservative banker around, I’ll wear a striped Brooks Brothers tie.  If I’m going out with a successful artist who is a Chelsea boy I’m probably going to wear a pink tie to show that I’m not scared to wear pink.

Connecting with women is a little bit different. It’s more about what they’re wearing than what I’m wearing.  With my high end clients, I make it a point to know the high end designer handbags.  I can say hey that’s a great Devi Kroell, or Chloe, or Chanel or Prada

I can also tell the difference between Manolo Blahniks and Louboutins, but I don’t go there. I have to be careful because I don’t want them to think I’m hitting on them, and I think the purse is a neutral ground. Though sometimes if they’re wearing a spectacular dress I might say something like, “That is such a beautiful dress –where did you get it? My wife would love it.” 

Bottom line is, I think fashion is really important as a real estate agent, because if you look like a schlub you will do business like a schlub. 

Related posts:

How not to be a real estate agent (the sequel)

Inside Story: What I saw at your open house

How not to be an obnoxious buyer

A broker's mind after 100 days without a closing

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