Forget the glitz and glamor of high fashion or showbiz, residential real estate is the best job in America.
According to the largest survey of U.S. workers ever conducted, despite dealing with a down market for the past five years, Realtors continue to love their jobs and the companies they work for
The survey, conducted in conjunction with the 2013 Top National Workplaces rankings, found that those working in the business appreciate that they have a great deal of control over their own destiny, a strong connection to their work, and a sense of personal accomplishment every day, all of which led them to highly rank their workplaces.
As Brokers Weekly reported earlier this month, the number of real estate licenses issued in New York in the past five years has tripled and more and more are making the jump to real estate after successful careers in other fields.
At a New Entrepreneurs event at The Fashion Center in midtown last week, Douglas Elliman broker Lawrence Rich told an audience of agents and potential converts: “I was born a designer. I never wanted to be anything else.”
Rich, a Platinum broker at his brokerage, co-founded a women’s knitwear line more than 25 years ago called Rich & Levy that catered to the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Nancy Reagan.
But after the market took a bad turn and the September 11 attacks occurred, Rich and his partner knew they had to phase out the company.
“All I really wanted to do was stay in fashion,” he admitted. “But I couldn’t see myself working for anyone else.”
While in the midst of phasing out his company, Rich built and sold an East Hamptons home. When friends took notice of his success in the venture, they began to ask him for real estate advice on their own homes in Manhattan.
“I thought, well maybe this is something I should look into,” he said. He then “very quietly and secretly” went to real estate school and went to work at Elliman after getting his license. “It turned out it did work for me,” he said. “Real estate is a perfect fit for me.”
The former fashion designer said he realized the things he loved about real estate tied into the things he loved about fashion.
He also had some tips for the would be agents in the room: “No matter what you do in real estate, you have to be clever and a little pushy. Don’t complain, put blinders on, and move forward.”
Deborah Lupard had a lucrative career as an assistant director of films directed by Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone before becoming a residential agent at Warburg Realty.
Last year, the brokerage ranked her the top producer in Tribeca and she is now a regular on the HGTV show Selling New York.
The flexibility of a career in real estate was what attracted Lupard to the trade after she started her family. “It was very hard for me to go back to work,” she said. “It’s a 14-hour-a-day job where I traveled all around the world.”
After becoming pregnant during filming of the Oliver Stone biopic JFK, Lupard said she realized how difficult it would be balance her demanding job and her role as a new mother.
After brief stints as an art dealer and co-ordinator with the Tribeca Film Festival, Lupard realized she needed a job where she could make money and be her own boss.
A Tribeca resident for many years, Lupard said it was a conversation with a developer that persuaded her to make the leap. He was considering constructing a building next door to hers and asked her about the neighborhood. Afterwards, he told her “You just talked me into building this,” and Lupard said she enrolled in a class within days.
Now a seven year veteran of the industry, she said, “I never, never, never thought I’d be in real estate. Do I wish I’d done it sooner? Yes.”
Her advice to those considering a career change? “Never be debilitated by fear,” she said. “Try anything, you just never know. This would have been one of the last things on my list, ever. But I have to say, I really enjoy my job.
“It’s similar to film, always changing, there’s a learning curve all the time, always something new, new rule, new law, new problem. It’s not a boring job, that’s for sure.”
Tennis pro-turned Time Equities broker Javier Lattanzio echoed that sentiment.
“Don’t be afraid to make a change,” he said. “You have to start from the beginning, with rentals, making your own clientele, telling friends. Keep advertising yourself.”
Lattanzio has gone from practicing with legends like John McEnroe to being a multi-million dollar broker and he said it was the likes of Harry Macklowe, Thomas Elghanayan and Jeff Blau who convinced him to switch careers when they chatted about deals during workouts at the same tennis courts he used in Long Island City.
“Every time they were talking about business and how they were naming deals,” he said. “They were indirectly teaching me real estate.”
As fate would have it, Lattanzio met Time Equities chairman Francis Greenburger during a doubles match, and he was given a chance at a new career. “He saw something in me that showed I was a salesperson,” he said.
Now an established agent with his own brokerage within Time Equities, Lattanzio still coaches tennis at the John McEnroe Academy. “I couldn’t let go completely,” he admitted. “A lot of my clientele does come through tennis. It’s a whole network that I create.”