By David Jo
Mohan “Johnny” Lal, a vice president at Citi Habitats, started selling early.
Growing up in Kartarpur Punjab, India, as a son of a furniture merchant, he recalls the highlight of his childhood as when he sold his first piece of furniture at the age of 11. “I learned some sale techniques in my childhood,” Lal says.
In 1985 at age 18, Lal came New York to take a two-week course in real estate at New York University. He was following the advice of a relative who was a broker in India, and his original plan was to learn the trade and then return to India to work. But he was so taken with the New York market that he decided to stay.
Before diving in, however, he spent a year-and-a-half working at a delicatessen in Greenwich Village saving up a nest egg.
The legacy of that job is with him today. His immediate predecessor had been named Johnny, and his supervisors were seemingly disinclined to learn a new name. Easy-going Lal learned to answer to the new name, and kept it when he started in real estate. At home, however, his wife calls him Mohan.
Lal’s track record boasts 80 rental transactions per year and 2,000 rentals and sales transactions in his 12 year tenure with Citi Habitats.
A true workaholic, he says his biggest regret is not working seven days a week. On days that he does work, Lal takes the term hard worker to a new level to ensure that he finds his clients the perfect property, having shown 100 apartments to one client last week alone.
In short, “Work hard and treat every client like gold. When I find people the right apartment for the right price and see their happiness, that is the most rewarding aspect for me,” Lal said.
Following in the footsteps of his mother and role model who squarely overcame difficulties in life, Lal achieved the title of top producer at Citi Habitats. His mother, now 69, has been battling cancer for six years. His father has passed away, but his mother visits her son (the sixth of nine children) here in the U.S. every year or so
.“She taught me how to be honest and she helped me grow up better,” Lal says. As a child, Lal dreamed of becoming a doctor or someone who helps people with their lives. Although not a doctor, his burgeoning referral-based clientele and signature post-sales follow up may very well help him realize his goal to own and manage real estate in New York City and, ultimately, be remembered as “a workaholic that made 10,000 people happy in my life,” Lal said.
Lal lives in Manhasset, Long Island with his wife and their two teenage children.“I had nothing 25 years ago,” he says. “Thanks to my real estate career now I have almost everything.”