Joan Levinson: The Desert’s Luxury Real Estate Expert

Real Estate Agent Magazine sat down with Joan Levinson, Arizona’s premier luxury real estate expert. For the past 30 years, Levinson has been an expert in dealing with the most exquisite estates in Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Arcadia. In 2020, she was nationally recognized and ranked among “America’s Best Realtors.” This year, she was recognized as Arizona’s Top Realtor.

REAM: What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve received during your time as a real estate agent?

JL: The most important piece advice I’ve received was even before I was an agent, and it was from my father. I used to sit on his lap as a small child while he read the Wall Street Journal and pearls of wisdom just came from him. Be honest, treat everyone with respect, and you can never lose money with a profit were some of the core values he espoused.

REAM: What is your biggest challenge running a business? How do you overcome it?

JL: I’m a perfectionist.  While that has proved to be a great asset to me in my relationship with my exacting clientele, it remains difficult for me to delegate even small details. Fortunately, I’ve got an excellent staff who keeps me pointed in the right direction and focused.

REAM: Can you tell us how you built your niche with high-quality properties and more discerning clientele?

JL: Early on I became extremely information based. Know the inventory, see every house, learn the details and the differences. Information is king. A wealthy clientele wants a knowledgeable agent.

REAM: What is the most interesting “pocket listing” you’ve worked on that you can share with us?

JL: Oh! Ha! I have had so many. My clients count on me and my staff for discretion, so that can be a bit difficult to answer. But let’s just say that not everyone who lives in Paradise Valley is known to publicly live in Paradise Valley. Some of the world’s most fascinating people have homes here, and I love engaging with them and seeing how their minds work. Some truly brilliant and interesting people!

REAM: Since most of your listings are referrals, how would you advise a new real estate agent to expand his or her clientele?

JL: Choose an area and specialize in it. Don’t know a little about a lot. Know a lot about a little. Become the go-to expert for something – whether it is a condo building or a community or a neighborhood. My staff says that my knowledge is “an inch wide but a mile deep”. It’s better than spreading yourself thin. Your clients will be impressed by you, and they will pass you forward, and your base will grow.

REAM: What is the biggest challenge when working with the luxury market or more exclusive properties?

JL: My clients are used to concierge service, and they expect it. They receive it in every other aspect of their lives. You need to be available 24/7 for them. If you don’t know they answer to something – admit that – but find the answer fast. Don’t use an answering service. You or your staff must be available, and be responsive.

REAM: What is the hardest part about working with the luxury market and more prestigious properties?

JL: My clients have high expectations and require a high level of service and attention to detail. They also frequently have great demands placed on their time. It really is a white-glove concierge service we provide, and I believe it is this attention to detail that keeps my clients coming back to me again and again.

REAM: What technologies and techniques do you use to market homes and attract clients? How has that increased/changed in a post-COVID world?

JL: We do everything other agents do I suppose – contact management, social media, print media etc. – but the truth is I am old school. I am a phone girl. Put me on a phone, let me weave a story that entices someone, let me flex my rolodex and connections (do people still use rolodexes?? Ha!) – and I will get the job done.  I don’t think that has changed with regard to COVID.  I am also a firm believer in earned media over paid media. People have ad-blindness, but an editorial catches their attention.

REAM: What is your best advice to other agents for managing seller’s expectations?

JL: Do your homework and get in front of the bus. Know the market. Know the inventory and be able to communicate it. Sellers deserve your honesty, even at the cost of your business.

REAM: How has the real estate industry evolved throughout your career? How has your team adapted with the industry?

JL: The industry continues to evolve, certainly everything is electronic now when everything was paper before – but the core principles and responsibilities have stayed the same. Do your best, work hard for your clients, and hustle.

REAM: What first drew you to the real estate industry? Did you work in a different industry previously?

JL: I originally got my license as a task write-off! – My first job was in the stock market, I used to analyze funds for Wellington Management Company. Who knew how it would all turn out!

REAM: Tell us about your first sale.

JL: I sold my own house before I had my license in Philadelphia before I moved to Arizona. As an agent, my first sale was a friend who was moving here and asked me to find me a home.

REAM: How are you involved in your community? Is there one group you support especially? Why did you select that cause/group?

JL: Close to my heart is the Paradise Valley Mountain Preserve Trust, of which I’ve been a board member for many years. Preserving the amazing beauty of our community is very important to all of us, and it is also the area in which I have most expertise to lend.

REAM: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies? Sports?

JL: I love playing with my kids, their families and all of our dogs. Especially my wonderful Goldendoodle Shayna. She’s a princess.  I read the Wall Street Journal and New York Times every day. I also love reading non-fiction, doing Pilates and swimming in our pool.

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