If you want to make money, you’ve got to go where the money is.
That’s the advice of brokerage power players who’ve busted through the multi-million dollar sales barrier in a city where money makes everything go round.
In New York, there seems to be no shortage of billionaires buying gold-plated condos in ever-higher ivory towers.
But for the 30,000 or so sales agents in town, finding an Ultra High Net Worth Individual (UHNWI) can be like looking for a tiara in post-Imperial Russia.
However, with the size of your commission check related directly to the size of your sale, elevating the profile of your client base can bring some big results.
Professional prosperity coach Suzanne Muusers (yes, there’s such a thing) said there’s no shame in making a bee-line for a billionaire.
“I have always believed in targeting the higher end of the market. It is much easier to compete where there are fewer competitors than where the market is crowded with Walmarts, Sears, and the JC Penny’s of the world,” reads her website.
According to latest numbers from money trackers at WealthX, there are currently 2,473 billionaires in the world worth a staggering $7.7 trillion. That’s one fore ever 2.75 millino person.
The latest WealthX billionaire census is packed with information about how and where these mega-rich folk live, including a social calendar that has a January to December schedule of money-magnet events ranging from the World Economic Forum in Switzerland to the Sundance Film Festival.
Major brokerages have long since aligned themselves with some of those high profile events, creating opportunities for their top brokers to mix and mingle with potentially platinum-plated clients.
But what about the rest of us, squeezed out of the private jet with a commission check just short of an Art Basel entry ticket? This week, we asked a range of top brokers to tell us how they bagged their biggest deal and built a client list made of gold….
We apologize in advance that John Burger of Brown Harris Stevens, the city’s top selling broker with a $637 million sales tag next to his name on this year’s RealTrend list, was unable to participate. We’re told he has a big client in town — and nothing gets in the way of a big client!
Biggest sale: $30 million
How she met client: Wealth manager referral
TOP TIP: Mix with those who work with HNWI
One of Douglas Elliman’s most successful brokers, Teplitzky has sold more than $1 billion worth of real estate in New York and Miami, making her among the top one percent of all NYC agents.
Her advice is simple: “Connect with wealth managers, private bankers, art dealers, CPA, family offices who handle high-net-worth individuals (HNWI). Network where they network; vacation where they vacation.”
Victoria Rong Kennedy
Biggest sale: $20 million
How she met client: Client referral
TOP TIP: Sell a lifestyle
According to Kennedy, “Luxury homes are marketed differently than other homes. It’s more about selling a lifestyle than bedrooms and square footage. The motivation of luxury buyers is different. They truly have it all, and what they desire are new and unique experiences.
“When I market a luxury apartment, I focus on what that particular listing offers to a buyer, local or international. What kind of lifestyle does it offer that other apartments may not?
“Experience-based features that wealthy buyers covet are 7-star hotel service; a location near the best galleries, high-end shopping or Lincoln Center; or Central Park views.
“Things like this matter more to them than what the kitchen counter is made of, or what brand the appliances are…. Many buyers will rip-out and customize their finishes anyway. It’s that “only in New York” feeling they are after.ˮ
Prime Manhattan Residential
Biggest sale: $32 million
How he met client: Developer introduction
TOP TIP: Refer the best
After years in the business, Dankner has a long and varied client list and has become the go-to guy among them for vendor recommendations.
“When I give recommendations, whether it be an architect, attorney, expediter, builder, etc., I am careful with sharing only those that I am 100 percent sure will satisfy a need, as I do not like problems or issues to arise. If I do not have someone I am certain will do the best job, I say I can’t help rather than possibly disappoint.
“More often than not, prospective clients find me through a client or other professional that I have brokered or done deals with.”
Nest Seekers International
Biggest sale: $10 million
How he met client: Referral
TOP TIP: Look the part
Go-getter Kaptan has sold more than $150 million worth of real estate since 2011. One seller he met in the street.
His advice? “ Attend special events, sit at the hotel bar for dinner or go somewhere out of your daily routine.
“Looking the part of a successful broker will make you feel good, and you will naturally attract more clients. Also, your clients will want you to look the part. And it may not be a full suit and tie for every client.
“ When I work with clients downtown, what I wear is very different from when I work with clients and sellers who own on the Upper East Side.”
And don’t forget your existing clients. “Everyone is connected to someone wealthy, especially in NYC where the topic of real estate occurs in most conversations. If that person is looking to buy or sell – you want to be at the forefront of your client’s mind so they refer you.”
Brown Harris Stevens
Biggest sale: $18 million
How she met client: Client referral
TOP TIP: GO above and beyond
A Christie’s International Real Estate Luxury Specialist, Greenfield is considered an authority on international real estate.
She said, “My business is a business of levels – social, philanthropic, and international. You must be connected on all of these levels and interface with your connections regularly. That said, my business is primarily referral-based. Clients who buy through me are consistently impressed with the level of service I provide. I go one step above the rest by caring for and maintaining client properties when they are not in residence. Some have multiple residences, investment properties, or live internationally. I’m an asset manager to my clients every step of the way.”
Julie Leedes Bienstock
Biggest sale: $4.1 million
How she met client: via fellow Halstead broker.
TOP TIP: Work with other brokers
While $4 million may be at the lower end of the billionaire scale, it’s not too shabby for a broker who just started out a few years ago.
A former actress, Leedes Bienstock said she has found most success in landing clients by working with other brokers.
“If you’re just starting out with high-end clients and have a small network, one way to enhance your reach is by offering to help brokers who already do more high-end business,” she said.
Leedes Bienstock closed her biggest deal with a Halstead colleague she’d previously brought a buyer to. Although that sale never materialized, the two brokers connected and, when the more experienced broker needed help on a later deal, she turned to Bienstock.
“My career has been helped in many ways by having great relationships with other brokers,” said Leedes Bienstock .
Biggest sale: $4.2 million
How he met client: Family friend
TOP TIP: Build professional network
Swillinger got lucky with his $4.2 million sale, referred by a family friend he grew up with.
Most recently, he has been notching up the multi-million dollar deals thanks to a network of professional colleagues.
He explained, “Over the years, I’ve gotten to know my own personal financial advisor so well that he has designated me his “go to” real estate resource in NYC. On a quarterly basis, I advise him on the local real estate market and he explains to me the overall economy and the direction in which he sees it heading.ˮ
When a client of Swillingerʼs advisor needed real estate expertise, his colleague referred him. Within two months, the client was in contract to purchase a $4 million condo in Midtown East.
“It goes to show that strengthening relationships with others who deal with high-net worth individuals on a daily basis will potentially pay off.”
TOP TIP: Take care of people, be passionate about your business
Luck had everything to do with Markowitz’ latest $10 million listing – a Park Avenue classic owned by movie producer Martin Bregman and his wife.
Turns out Bregman’s wife was actually eavesdropping on a conversation Markowitz was having over lunch with a developer.
“We had our lunch meeting at Dishes, on 54th and Park Avenue. I was passionately speaking about the industry, but more specifically my personal brokerage and company Charles Rutenberg,” recalled Markowitz.
A woman at the next table approached her and asked to speak. “She expressed her delight at hearing a real estate broker speak so passionately and honestly about the profession. She found it refreshing,” said Markowitz. “She asked if, after my lunch, I would come view her property, which was around the corner at 417 Park Avenue. She had been struggling to rent and/or sell it.”
Turns out, that woman was Mrs Bregman, actress Cornelia Sharpe, who appeared in Serpico, The Next Man, The Reincarnation of Peter Proud.
Markowitz’ team initially rented the apartment and, now that tenant has vacated, recently listed the home.
“Mrs Bregman has given me other properties of hers to sell as well, and this will be a very long, fruitful, and special relationship,’ said Markowitz. “ This business is about taking care of people, having their best interest at heart and loving what you do. She feels all of that in working with me and my team.”