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How Real Estate Agents Upped Their Game


An unlikely trajectory?

The New York Knicks came to a party I was promoting at a nightclub called Tatou, which is arguably how I got my start as a real estate agent. At the time I was working in fashion and taking a summertime share in the Hamptons — back when you could afford to share a house in Amagansett on an entry level salary.

After the famous party, a Brown Harris Stevens agent, who was impressed with my ability to gather a crowd, convinced me to leave my stagnant fashion career for a relatively unknown path as a real estate agent.

This was April of 2001, the first season of “Million Dollar Listing” hadn’t been conceived of yet. In the Brown Harris Stevens office at 2 Fifth Avenue, I was surrounded by intelligent, engaging agents who didn’t wear power suits or take selfies. They helped people buy and sell downtown apartments and townhouses so they could fuel their true passions. It may have been acting, traveling, writing a novel or simply filling their time so they didn’t go stir crazy while waiting for their spouse to work endless hours climbing the corporate ladder.

 

Real estate wasn’t considered a lifelong career path

So how did the role of the real estate agent go from the domain of those looking to make some extra money with a flexible schedule to becoming a full time career as a global real estate advisor? Certainly the days of “dabbling” in real estate are long gone. Fourteen seasons of the Bravo hit show, “Million Dollar Listing” coupled with the rise of Zillow and other tech platforms changed how people around the world thought about New York City real estate and it changed how we buy and sell real estate.

 

Are you thinking of becoming a New York City real estate agent?

If so, be ready to throw yourself into the full time pursuit. Many of those who work as top NYC real estate agents are thriving in their full time careers, juggling family and the demands of running a business in today’s ultra competitive environment.

Kirsten Jordan, the only female ever to be cast on “Million Dollar Listing” is known for her video clips and public speaking engagements where she encourages other women to see themselves as the CEO of their own lives. She advises delegating areas of your life where you don’t feel joy and choosing quality time over quantity time with those they love. She makes it look easy because she’s so incredibly dynamic, but it is not easy.

You may have loved watching the drama of getting a deal done on TV, but it is far less fun to live through it. You have to prepare yourself for the emotional highs and lows that go along with real estate deals and living on commission. The market is either going up or down. (Remember, in either case you make money).

NYC — always changing

On rare occasions, I have seen the market come to a complete stop — like it did in 2001, a few months after I started in the business. In the wake of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, all real estate business stopped for about three months. There was an eerie silence as the phones stopped ringing. Many left the city for the suburbs only to discover they were bored and missed Manhattan. (The same thing happened during the pandemic.)

At this point, I knew the business would come back again, but it did take a bit longer and plenty of people left permanently while new people arrived. The one constant about New York City is that it is always changing. It is ever dynamic and evolving.

Focus on what you love

My next piece of advice for newly licensed agents is to focus on what you love and what you are good at — they are likely to be one in the same. Starting out can be overwhelming and confusing. There is so much to know that can only be learned through experience and so many different ways to build a real estate business in New York City.

A young and clever agent on my team loves seeing luxury properties and especially new developments. She also happens to be very talented at creating videos. Marrying her passions she created a TikTok channel which has garnered millions of views in under six months, leading to plenty of business leads.

 

Find your own voice

The next challenge is to find your own voice and be authentic. It’s tempting to look around at successful agents who are killing it and to copy them. What is important to realize is they threw themselves into their work every day bringing their A game.

The consistency of hard work and bringing the best version of yourself is what helps you find your voice. When I started doing video, I wasn’t very good at it but the camera has always been kind to me and I am a practiced public speaker. I stuck with it and it’s paid off.

One of my most  popular posts was a photo of me shooting a video in my own home which my son took. It was summertime and I had paired my fancy top with shorts and bare feet! My audience loved seeing the real me.

Too many agents starting out try to be their role model. While having a good mentor is invaluable, being anyone other than yourself will not ring true with your clients. The relationship between you and your clients requires trust. You are helping them with a very large sale or purchase. This trust must start with your honesty — it will infuse all of your communications.

Helping Others

Make sure you are in the business to help others. While the role of an agent certainly has undeniable aspects of luxury and the ability to make a good deal of money, it is ultimately a service business. The fun and the challenge of a career in real estate lies in the fact that no two properties and no two clients are exactly the same.

Figuring out how to help your clients achieve their goals requires a great deal of care and attention to their needs. While sales is associated with presenting and being a good talker, listening is often an underrated skill. I once worked for a developer who was flabbergasted when I was able to sell an apartment to a young couple and get the exclusive to sell their current apartment in a half hour. All I did was listen intently to what they said and provided solutions for their housing needs.

If you are counting your commission before asking yourself how you can help your client get the best deal possible, then you will never be successful. The best agents know that their clients come first and when they have made them a priority, they are successful because happy clients will refer to their agent. Right now approximately 75% of my business comes from referrals and word of mouth.

If you are thinking of starting a career in real estate please feel free to contact me.