Ever wonder what it takes to become a real estate agent to the stars? Coldwell Banker Global Luxury’s vast network of agents works with some of the wealthiest homeowners in the world. Exclusively for Forbes, three top Coldwell Banker-affiliated agents share their experience and advice on working with celebrities, athletes, Wall Streeters and more.
After selling her line of designer clothing stores and moving to Bergen County, New Jersey, Michele Kolsky Assatly of Coldwell Banker Realty wanted to continue working to provide high-touch services to a high-end clientele. A career in luxury real estate felt like natural fit – a move further bolstered by her affiliation with the admissions committee for a notable high-rise building in the area, which elevated her brand as more and more illustrious clients sought her out.
From hedge fund executives to professional athletes and coaches, to top music producers and world-famous rappers, Kolsky Assatly’s business has attracted many wealthy clients with careers in New York City looking to settle down in Bergen County. Over her three decades in real estate, she holds a record in New Jersey for closing over $1 billion in sales. “It all starts with someone deciding to take a chance on you,” she says.
For Joyce Rey of Coldwell Banker Realty, celebrity connections kickstarted her career – she was married to the late Hollywood actor Alejandro Rey. After settling down in Beverly Hills and falling in love with the house-hunting process, Rey decided to become an agent; her early clients were famous friends and colleagues of Alejandro’s. Those connections got her foot in the door, but she’s quick to stress the importance of having real sales skills to succeed: “I had a master’s degree in business from USC at the time, which was certainly an added credibility.” One of the most respected names in luxury real estate since she joined Coldwell Banker Realty in 1975, Rey has closed more than $5 billion in sales working with a star-studded list of clients.
Down in Tampa Bay, Jennifer Zales of Coldwell Banker Realty had a corporate background in business development prior to taking on a career in real estate, and also worked with a well-known celebrity for over a decade. As she made a name for herself in the area, all it took for her reputation to skyrocket was one celebrity to come to her. “Once I shifted to working with celebrities, word of mouth really took off – especially amongst the athletes,” she says, noting team owners, athletes, coaches, agents and advisors from professional football, baseball and hockey teams began consulting her. Building trust through referrals was the key to breaking through in her market.
In addition to sports professionals, Zales works with actors, business executives and many of the wealthiest people in the Tampa Bay area. Today she is ranked the #1 agent in Tampa for homes of $1 million+ and has transacted many record-breaking residential sales in the Tampa Bay area.
Why Trust is Key
To achieve the success these three agents have requires an infinite amount of trust. When asked about how they earned the trust of celebrities, all three emphasized the same thing: discretion.
“Being discreet is extremely important to high-profile clients,” Kolsky Assatly explains. “It is nobody’s business besides your client’s that you are working with them.” While using social media can be a vital tool for agents, using it to brag about your clients is a big faux pas, and she believes in only advertising properties — not who you are working with.
Rey agrees, saying, “Famous people deal with enough publicity as it is. Buying a home is a personal and private process for anybody, but celebrities especially need to know that privacy will be guaranteed throughout the process.”
Zales adds: “Confidentiality and how you handle the press is very important. Never just start talking without thinking.” When the press try to get certain details out of you, she recommends pausing to really think about what can and cannot be shared. Once discretion is violated, celebrity clients will think twice before choosing to work with you.
Advice from the Pros
Kolsky Assatly, Rey and Zales agree that being a luxury real estate agent takes commitment, education and investment.
When working with celebrities it’s very common to be asked to meet at a moment’s notice – something Kolsky Assatly says she never questions. “If you want to be a top agent, then this needs to be your full-time job. Being available for clients no matter what is huge – working at this level requires serious commitment.”
No client ask is too big, and to make it in the world of luxury real estate you need to be prepared for anything. Zales notes that when working with professional athletes, a lot of decisions need to be made around their team’s schedules – which can mean turning around a contract in 24 hours so that they can report to spring training in a few weeks. “Pulling off these kinds of deals takes a team of partners all staying within their lanes to get the job done. I’ve had situations where I needed transform an empty home into a turnkey property, complete with jet skis in the backyard overnight.”
Going the extra mile includes taking time to brand and market your business, says Zales. “When you take on a luxury listing, you need to have adequate resources to advertise that listing. Using MLS isn’t enough, you must have the budget to go the extra mile when marketing the home. You can’t afford to make mistakes with someone’s largest asset, especially at this price point.”
Joyce Rey of Coldwell Banker Realty COLDWELL BANKER
Rey emphasizes that a strong education goes a long way, too, and that there’s no substitute for knowledge. Not only should you be well-educated in business, sales and entrepreneurship, but you should know your luxury neighborhoods inside and out.
Kolsky Assatly agrees that knowing your market is key – but translating that knowledge to famous clientele can be tricky. She recalls some athletes and musicians over-improving their properties, then asking her years later to sell the home for what they’ve invested. Ultimately, she says, “I advise my clients: Don’t put too many toys in, because not everyone wants those custom investments.”
Being a luxury agent is also a judgement-free zone. Rey recalls one client – a late Hollywood actress – deciding to take an impromptu dive into the pool of the house she was showing her. Everyone in the group was shocked, but, unfazed, Rey calmly told the seller’s agent, “Don’t just stand there, get her a towel!”
She made the sale.
The Power of Coldwell Banker Global Luxury
In addition to the hustle, passion and dedication Kolsky Assatly, Rey and Zales have put into their successful careers, affiliating with Coldwell Banker and utilizing the Global Luxury marketing program has given them access to its elite global network and unparalleled branding.
Earlier this spring, Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC announced its 2020 year-end sales volume reporting an 18% percent year-over-year growth of $1 million+ transactions. In fact, the Coldwell Banker network of agents conducted approximately 33,000 transactions of homes priced at $1 million or more in 2020, placing the brand as a leader in the space. On average in 2020, the Coldwell Banker brand sold approximately $168.4* million in $1 million or more luxury homes every day, with an average sales price of $1.9 million.
Coldwell Banker Global Luxury has been able to achieve this kind of success in large part because agents like Kolsky Assatly, Rey, and Zales. Ultimately, this program’s evolving roster of tools and resources is designed to make agents’ lives easier and increase their productivity so they can stay focused on the client experience.
The Coldwell Banker Global Luxury program differentiates itself not only because of its commitment to agent education through the Luxury Property Specialist certification course – which is taught by the top 1% agents in the world – but also through its best-in-class partnerships with leaders in luxury real estate like The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, Unique Homes, James Edition, and Wealth Engine, to name a few.
“This brand has supported my business a great deal,” Kolsky Assatly says. “The worldwide connections are extremely effective. I’ve gained personal relationships around the world through this brand, and they are relationships that I frequently utilize.”
Echoing the value of the brand’s network, Zales added that the connections to its agents in other markets has helped her find housing quickly for athletes that are being traded, and even second and third homes for her clients in popular vacation spots. “There are several areas throughout the country that have celebrity populations – such as Montana, Aspen and Miami – where celebrities will buy a ranch or vacation home,” she explains. “Oftentimes my clients trust me to refer them to my connections in those places. Those connections are a huge advantage, and they come directly through Coldwell Banker Global Luxury’s network.”
On top of the brand’s elite networking, Zales says its marketing advantages are priceless and help her compete with the upper end of luxury price points. “Many of those sellers are interested in international buyers, and Coldwell Banker Global Luxury has the capability to market internationally,” she explains. “It differentiates us from the competition and local brokerages.”