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5 Traits of Successful NYC Real Estate Agents and Brokers

Chances are, if you love the energy and vitality of the city and you want to sell New York real estate, you’ve probably noticed it’s full of people with sharp elbows, too. So, how do you become a success in real estate in the Big Apple? It’s not easy, but with a lot of hard work and adopting best practices of top agents, it can be done. Below we put together five traits of successful NYC real estate agents and brokers.

1. Work hard.

This is a no-brainer. In a 2008 profile of Paula Del Nunzio — possibly the first press profile of the reticent super broker known for her mansion sales — writer Adam Piore cites her “maniacal work ethic.” Her competitor Dolly Lenz, who is one of the city’s top brokers, admires Del Nunzio’s tenaciousness, too. “To me, she’s a great role model. People make fun of her; people are jealous. They say she sleeps in the office. You walk in in the morning, and they say she hasn’t left. But I see it as a positive,” Lenz told The Real Deal.

This is a general sales principle, of course. Gary Keller, the founder of Keller Williams Realty, which by agent count is the largest brokerage in the U.S., has written, “more than anything else, expertise tracks with hours invested.” But in New York, the city that never sleeps, it has a special resonance. Put in the hours and you’ll be able to communicate with clients who are themselves working demanding schedules.

2. Shout from the rooftops.

Look at the top NYC brokers as a group, and it seems like the quality that they all have in common is self-aggrandizement — they’re a bunch of people who appear to be tweeting, Instagram-ing, and filming TV shows as much as they’re selling real estate. For some, it’s their core personalities — these are people who love the spotlight. But for others, brand marketing — whether it’s through advertising or social media — is simply an essential part of the business.

profile of “billion-dollar broker” Jacky Teplitzky in Real Estate Weekly mentions the advice of Barbara Corcoran, founder of the Corcoran Group and no stranger to TV herself:

“You can be the smartest kid on the block, but if nobody knows your name, you’re not going to succeed.”

But, what if you are an introverted personality type? You can go far by publicizing your successes to your contact list — just make sure they have opted in to receive your emails or newsletters. Also, if you work for a large firm, make sure that your manager knows what you’re doing as they can often be a source of mentoring, not to mention sales leads.

Barbara corcoran
Barbara Corcoran (second from left) is a self-made multimillionaire, starting her own real estate firm in the 1970s and selling it for $66M in 2001. She is now a star on ABC’s “Shark Tank” TV show.

3. Dress the part.

When asked to give advice in Elle for people starting their first job, Clelia Peters responded, “Dress as formally as the most formally dressed person in your office or that you interact with in your industry. Casual is different from sloppy.” Peters, the president of Warburg Realty, oversees 150 agents at the century-old firm.

Corcoran tells the story of how, when she got her first paycheck, she headed over to Bergdorf Goodman to buy an expensive coat. “The flashiest one in the whole place,” she wrote in her memoir. “For the next two years, I marched in and out of buildings up and down Manhattan wearing my expensive coat and new image for all they were worth.”

4. Meet and greet.

In his book, “The Sell,” Fredrik Eklund, the Million Dollar Listing New York star who has sold billions of dollars’ worth of New York real estate, says, “Introduce yourself to everyone. People will be impressed and flattered if you make an effort to meet them.” Make an effort to be a part of the communities that touch your daily life (if you have kids, go to the PTA meetings), but don’t overlook the value of professional conferences (to meet other real estate agents and learn best practices) or simply socializing at cocktail parties. Sotheby’s Nikki Field told the Real Deal, “At these cocktail parties or fundraisers or charity events, people would ask me questions about different properties…. I made sure I brushed up on recent sales before I left the house that evening.”

5. Learn, learn, learn.

Lisa Lippman, a Brown Harris Stevens broker who is consistently ranked by data provider Real Trends as one of the top brokers in the country, was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “I give people a lot of information….I always remember it’s their money, and I keep them as informed as possible.”

But how do you get the information if you’re just starting out? Your brokerage firm probably publishes quarterly or monthly reports on the state of the market and you can also get market reports on StreetEasy. Other tips:

  • Tap the senior broker in your firm (nicely, while offering coffee) what he/she thinks of the current state of the real estate market.
  • Go to open houses consistently. Even if you are not going with clients, you can become informed about current inventory, how neighborhoods are changing, and the latest in design and decorating trends.
  • Attend seminars given by mortgage brokers and real estate attorneys. Introduce yourself and ask what trends they are seeing in the real estate market.
  • Read local newspapers or trade magazines to learn about new development and what buildings are going up and why.
  • Also, read publications that are read by co-op and condo board members, such as the Cooperator New York. This may help you see things from their point of view.

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StreetEasy Team

StreetEasy is New York City's leading real estate marketplace on mobile and the Web, providing accurate and comprehensive for-sale and for-rent listings from hundreds of real estate brokerages throughout New York City and the major NYC metropolitan area. The company launched in 2006 and was acquired by Zillow, Inc. in August 2013.