Working With First-Time Homebuyers in the Luxury Real Estate Market

luxury real estate marketBarbara Fox specializes in the luxury real estate market in Manhattan, selling apartments and townhomes. Manhattan is New York City’s most expensive and densely populated borough. Since New York City is a renting town, the founder of Fox Residential Group often works with first-time buyers who are entering the market to the tune of well over $1,000,000.

“I moved to New York at 22, wanting to make money, and I didn’t want anyone controlling how much I made,” she recalls. “Selling real estate was a way to be my own boss and make as much as I could, knowing I would work hard for it. Your ability to broaden the scope of whom you know, and whom they know, is critical.”

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Luxury real estate market wish list

“I usually start by asking first-time buyers for a wish list,” she says. “What size do you need? What does your family consist of? What neighborhoods would you consider? What’s your price range? Then I line up all the items on the list and give them a realistic idea of what they can expect to find. Of the items on the list, I’ll usually find at least one that will make the client really like a particular property.

“The list might include outdoor space, a view, its own laundry area, proximity to a gym—that’s almost always on the list, nowadays—and above all, light. Only once, maybe 30 years ago, did a client ask for a dark apartment.”

Misconceptions about the luxury real estate market

The most common misconception among first-time luxury buyers, says Fox, is that they’re going to find what they want, for the price they want to pay. They’ll always have to compromise, and they’ll usually have an inflated notion of how much apartment they can get for their money. On the other hand, their pre-conceived but mistaken ideas could prevent them from getting a great property—unless the agent sets them straight.

“People often don’t know what they want, even if they think they do,” she says. “They might tell you they don’t want to live in a particular neighborhood because that area used to have a bad reputation. But bad neighborhoods almost don’t exist in Manhattan now. Plus, it doesn’t matter where you live, because—I promise you—it will become ‘your hood,’ and you’ll learn to love it unless it is inconvenient to live there.”how to get a real estate license

Types of properties in the luxury real estate market

In Manhattan, for-sale properties are condo or co-op apartments, or townhouses. Condo buildings usually can’t turn buyers down as long as they can pay. Co-op boards usually require that the buyer has some financial backing over and above the purchase price and maintenance fees. Thus, Fox says, an agent who’s trying to get a client into a co-op will need to get a financial statement completed immediately and be confident that it’ll pass a co-op board’s smell test.

“If there’s financing involved, we ask that the client get pre-approval,” she adds, “to put the seller at ease. If you’re buying a townhouse, you’ll find it easier to get a loan because the buildings are so valuable.”

“You have to impress on clients that they’re making the biggest financial decisions of their lives,” Fox concludes, “so they have to work with an agent who knows what she’s doing. It doesn’t work to choose an agent just because she’s your friend. She might care a lot, but you need someone who knows the way.”

Find out more about the luxury real estate market

Are you interested in working in the luxury real estate market? Visit the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, the premier independent authority in training and designation for real estate agents working in the luxury residential market.

Article by Joseph Dobrian. Joseph Dobrian has been writing about commercial and residential real estate, and real estate-related finance, for more than 30 years. His by-line has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Real Estate Forum, Journal of Property Management, and many other publications. He is also a noted novelist, essayist, and translator. His website is, and he can be contacted at

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