The art of gift-giving in real estate: A personal touch

Key Takeaways:

– During the holiday season, many Americans return or exchange gifts, resulting in a significant amount of merchandise being returned.
– John Ruhlin’s book “Giftology” provides real estate professionals with insight on strategic and thoughtful gift-giving.
– Ruhlin suggests reevaluating the traditional approach to branding and personalizing gifts on an emotional level.
– Gifts should be seen as investments in relationships, and the more personalized and thoughtful the gift, the more memorable it will be.
– Real estate professionals can enhance the overall client experience by incorporating the principles of Giftology.
– Examples of thoughtful gifts include boxes of steaks and meat from Five Marys Ranch, custom-engraved bottles of wine or liquor from Etching Expressions, books with a personal touch, and custom stationery and pens.
– Meaningful gifts can create lasting memories and solidify relationships in the world of real estate.


As we come out of the holidays, we’re cleaning up, throwing out tired-looking decorations and looking for a place for presents in the closets or cabinets. However, if you’re like many Americans, you’re probably planning to take at least some of those presents back to the store for a refund or exchange. 

The National Retail Federation found that during the 2022 holiday season, retailers saw 17.9% of the merchandise purchased being returned. That’s equivalent to a mind-boggling $171 billion in gifts that simply didn’t do it for the recipient. (The 2023 holiday return window is still ongoing.)

In the world of real estate, transactions are not merely about properties but also the people behind them. The power of personal connection cannot be overstated. A great gift can make you feel seen, understood and acknowledged. A bad gift, one that’s generic or possibly even totally clueless, can make you downright annoyed.

John Ruhlin’s book Giftology sheds light on creating a strategic and thoughtful approach to gift-giving, offering real estate professionals a unique perspective on how to create positive impressions that last beyond the closing table and set you up for return and referral business.

Rethinking branded gifts

One common practice in the real estate industry is gifting branded items like Cutco knives to home buyers and sellers. While these items serve as practical and lasting reminders, Ruhlin encourages a reevaluation of the traditional approach to branding. 

Instead of engraving your name and logo on the knives, consider personalizing them with a touch that resonates on a more emotional level. Add the clients’ names and the date of their closing. Add the map coordinates for their new home or the nickname you gave their home when you were comparing it to all the others they visited. Make it warm, make it personal and you’ll make an impression.

Investing in relationships

Ruhlin argues that gifts should be seen as investments in relationships rather than mere expenses. However, you don’t have to break the bank to gift well. The more thoughtful and personalized your gift, the more memorable it will be.

During the transaction process, be on the lookout for little hints from your clients about things they like or things they enjoy, then think about how you can take them to the next level. Did your buyer ask you where the best wine shop in the neighborhood is located? Buy them a bottle from there and provide it along with the business card of the owner and an offer to introduce them personally.

Enhancing the entire client experience

Real estate transactions can be stressful, and clients often remember the exceptional service and personal touches that set their agent apart. By incorporating the principles of Giftology, real estate professionals can enhance the overall client experience. 

Don’t limit yourself to gifting at the closing table. From showing up with their favorite coffee on open house day to personalized housewarming presents and “homeiversary” presents that keep you top of mind, thoughtful gestures showcase a level of care that goes beyond the standard expectations.

Below are a few of my favorite gift choices, each carefully selected to leave a lasting and meaningful impression on your clients. Let’s delve into the unique qualities of each gift and how they contribute to building strong and memorable client relationships.

Five Marys Ranch: A culinary delight

Sending a box of steaks and meat from Five Marys Ranch is a thoughtful and unique gift that transcends the ordinary. Not only does it provide the recipient with a delicious culinary experience, but it also offers a lasting memory every time they open their freezer. 

The inclusion of ground beef and tomahawk steaks adds a touch of luxury and ensures that your gift stands out. The association with a reputable ranch like Five Marys adds a layer of quality and authenticity to the gift.

Etching Expressions: Personalized celebrations

A custom-engraved bottle of wine or liquor from Etching Expressions is a perfect choice for celebrating milestones, victories or home purchases. The personalization adds a bespoke touch, making the gift truly unique. 

Whether it’s toasting to a successful transaction or celebrating a client’s new home, the engraved bottle becomes a cherished keepsake that captures the significance of the occasion. This gift not only shows your appreciation but also commemorates the shared success of the client.

Books with a personal touch

The gift of books accompanied by a handwritten note is a classic yet impactful choice. Books have the power to inspire, educate and entertain, making them a thoughtful and versatile gift. The addition of a personal note demonstrates your genuine care and consideration for the client’s interests. 

This gift provides the recipient with an enjoyable read and creates a connection through shared literary experiences. It’s a gesture that goes beyond the transaction, revealing a deeper understanding of the client.

Custom stationery and pen: Timeless elegance

A set of custom stationery and a quality pen is a timeless and sophisticated gift. In the age of digital communication, tangible and beautifully crafted stationery stands out. The custom touch adds a sense of exclusivity, making the client feel truly special. 

Whether used for handwritten notes, thank-you cards or personal correspondence, this gift reflects a commitment to tradition and an appreciation for the finer things in life. It’s a practical yet elegant choice that leaves a lasting impression.

I have a colleague who’s a creative, gift-giving Realtor. We were discussing old cell phones and how I missed hanging up the phone by flipping it closed. To my surprise and delight, a week later what should show up at my house but a vintage Motorola StarTAC, with a heartfelt handwritten note, of course. 

This thoughtful and personal gift did more than evoke a sense of nostalgia. It showcased this Realtor’s attention to our conversation. It’s not just a phone, it’s a cherished piece of technology history that I will proudly display as a reminder of the connection forged during our conversation.

This experience really solidified my belief that meaningful gifts, rooted in personal interactions, have the power to create lasting memories in the world of real estate. (As you can tell, they don’t just make an impact on clients. They’re a big “wow” for friends and colleagues as well.)

Every client interaction is an opportunity to build lasting relationships, so the art of gift-giving takes on new significance. John Ruhlin’s insights from Giftology provide real estate professionals with a roadmap to infuse personalization, thoughtfulness and a genuine commitment to clients into their gifting strategies. 

By rethinking the traditional approach to branded items and embracing the power of personal touches, agents can create a memorable and positive experience that extends far beyond the closing date.

Troy Palmquist is co-founder of Doora Properties.

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