Why Houston is like no other luxury market

by Meg White

It’s not easy to stay up-to-date on the latest in luxury real estate. The true trajectory and intensity of trends in this specialized market can be obscured by noise in the data when sample sizes or time frames are too small. That’s according to the annual report put out by Coldwell Banker’s Global Luxury program, titled “The Report: State of Luxury 2019.” The authors caution agents to avoid month-to-month comparisons and keep a long-term perspective.

Houston is one of the many cities identified as one of several “power markets” called out in the report. But Amy McGee, a luxury agent at Coldwell Banker United Realtors, said working with high-net worth individuals in Space City is a little different than some of the other traditional luxury markets out there. “The Houston luxury buyer tends to be ‘the millionaire next door.’ Our wealthiest clients either hail from very old family money or from bootstrapping entrepreneurship,” she said, noting that this puts extra pressure on agents. “That means the Houston real estate professional serving the luxury market has to be well-versed and be able to demonstrate their expertise, level of service and time-saving knowledge.”

While the report singles out a number of trends driving the luxury market internationally, from urban migration to wellness to technology, McGee noted in particular that tax incentives and furry friends are two driving forces for Houston in particular. “Houston is one of the top ‘move-to’ cities in the country and Texas has significant tax breaks for large corporations. That draws not only our robust energy sector but what is now considered one of the top medical centers in the United States,” she said. “We have entire neighborhoods that seem to cater to dog lovers, for example the Heights, where I live. There are nearby dog parks, trails, dog walkers and even restaurants that allow the four-legged family friend to be included for a meal out on the town.  We welcome dogs in Houston. OK, and cats, too.”

Of course, amenities are an important consideration for luxury buyers as well. As for what her clients are looking for, McGee identified luxury kitchens and high-quality construction details — such as rounded sheetrock corners, solid interior doors, two-by-six exterior construction, solid hardwood floors and quartz and marble countertops — as key. But she also encouraged agents to think of the intangibles too. “A short commute is one of Houston’s greatest luxuries, so for people working inside or near Houston’s center, proximity is the best luxury money can buy. The second most important luxury is a high walkability score or proximity to some of our world-renowned restaurants and shopping,” she said. One amenity to avoid? “Built-in cabinets are passé unless they are very strategically placed and have clean lines, or were included to create drawer space in closets.”

When asked what kind of advice she’d offer to Houston agents looking to break into the luxury market in your city, McGee suggested taking it slow. “Don’t try to run before you learn to walk. Make sure you are the best agent you can possibly be by cutting your teeth in all real estate sectors for at least five years before moving into the luxury market,” she said. As for getting the attention of high-end clients, McGee said it’s best to come from a generous place. “Don’t seek clients out just because they are affluent. People have a way of sensing that and being turned off by it. Instead, find causes for which you share a passion and make yourself known as being a ‘go giver,’ not just a ‘go getter.’ Be known for having the heart of a servant, a quick wit and unshakeable ethics. That way when a luxury client crosses your path, you won’t have to sell yourself; they will gravitate to you.”

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