By Holly Dutton
After years of traveling the world as a PanAm flight attendant, one Douglas Elliman broker is now using her knowledge of other cultures to help her seal deals with foreign clients.
Carol Staab spent more than a decade with PanAm working on international flights to Africa, India, Asia, the former Soviet Union, and Eastern Bloc Germany.
“Being a global traveller and doing it for nine years, and having the relationships with different cultures, has been enormously helpful,” said Staab.
The Boston native studied biology and math at Boston University and married at 19. When she split from her first husband a few years later, she was living in Pittsburgh when a friend got her involved with modeling, first for Wilhemina and then with Ford Models, which eventually landed her in New York City.
“I was divorced in a state that didn’t have alimony,” she said. “It paid the bills, it was good.”
In 1980, spurred by a friend who was a flight attendant for PanAm, Staab interviewed with the famed airline, helped by the fact that she also spoke French.
She landed the job, no easy feat at an airline that at the time was the ‘crem de la crem’ and the most difficult to get hired by.
And despite television and movie portrayals of the heyday of PanAm in the 60’s as nothing short of glamorous and sexy, Staab said it’s a lot different in real life, though she “won’t deny” there was an element of glamour.
“Thirty to forty percent of the flight attendants back then were men, not women,” she said.
Many of her colleagues were also attending law school in their spare time, and others had multiple academic degrees.
“It was a very educated group of people,” she said. “They had other things going on, businesses on the side.”
One thing she hasn’t missed about her days flying high was the now-extinct smoking flights.
“It was horrible,” she said, adding that during the smoke-filled trips she would spend her rest break hiding out in the cockpit with an O2 bottle to replenish her oxygen supply.
As PanAm’s reign at the top began to wane in the late 80’s, Staab knew it was time to find a new job.
“I wanted to leave PanAm,” she admitted. “I didn’t want to do all the traveling any more, and the company was financially in trouble. A couple years later, they went into bankruptcy.”
When she started in real estate, she was admittedly green.
“I didn’t know anything about the industry,” she said. “I was very naïve, I had no idea.”
She started out doing rentals and was soon learning the ins and outs of the industry.
“It was a really good thing to do because I did transactions everywhere,” she said. “I had a good working knowledge of the entire city at that time when the market was really soft.”
After obtaining an associate broker’s license, she worked her way to top firms before finding the right fit with Douglas Elliman, where she lists luxury apartments on the Upper East Side, Tribeca and Soho.
Staab and her husband live in a stunning apartment on 5th Avenue, in a pre-war building just a couple doors down from the late Jackie Onassis’s former apartment building, overlooking her eponymous Central Park reservoir.
She often works in her own building, where she’s sold more than a dozen apartments, some of them multiple times.
“It’s sort of like being an on-site broker,” she laughed.
At the time of Real Estate Weekly’s interview with Staab, she had one listing in contract and three others listed in her building, including the $15 million penthouse.
When it comes to business philosophy, her motto is simple: always put clients first.
“I offer what I call an elite concierge service, where clients come to me and it’s a one stop shop,” she said, adding that she has all the resources a client would need at her fingertips, including contractors.
As a broker who has seen the market at its highs and lows, she predicts the remaining half of 2013 to be tough, but not impossible.
“I think it’s going to be a very good year, though it’s tricky,” she said, citing the lack of inventory in the current market. “For brokers, it’s all about listings, and those who don’t have listings will suffer.”
“You need to be very savvy and know how to go prospect for listings and persevere.”