By Holly Dutton
Many residential brokers come to real estate from different fields; often finance, business, sometimes the performing arts. But from the circus?
Donna Bradbury did.
The Citi Habitats broker went from making people happy as a circus performer and clown to making people happy by helping them find their dream homes.
The one-time traveling circus performer and clown college graduate ditched her stilts and juggling balls for the world of real estate and hasn’t looked back.
Originally from Bergen County, New Jersey, Bradbury’s foray into the circus world came with a simple trip to the library.
“I was an office manager in Midtown taking a word processing class and I was so bored with it,” Bradbury admitted. “I wanted to do something, I didn’t know what. I was 19.”
On a whim, Bradbury went to the New York Public Library at Bryant Park, where they happened to be having a career day.
“They had a bunch of books on careers, and one was how to be a complete clown,” she said. “I said okay, and started reading it. At the end, it talked about auditioning for Ringling Brothers. I said, ‘you know what? I’m going to try this’.”
With the full support of her family, Bradbury enrolled in Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey clown college.
In the 20 years it had been touring, Ringling Brothers had only had 50 women make it through clown college, said Bradbury. “It’s such a grueling process,” she said of the highly selective school. “It would make a great reality show.”
Bradbury, who had never performed before, teamed up with a friend from clown class and put together an act called “The Whipcracker.”
“We were pretty polished and it got us noticed,” she said. “I was pretty good with physical stuff, stilt walking, rolling globe — I learned to juggle balls and clubs. My skill set was a big help to get on the road.”
She toured for a year in 1985 with the organization, and the experience was a life-changer, giving Bradbury important skills that would benefit her future career as a residential real estate broker.
“It gave me a lot of confidence, the ability to get out in front of people,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.”
After she married and had a son, she continued performing as a clown for birthday parties and mall promotions in the suburban New York and New Jersey area.
“I was the area’s only juggling comedic clown,” she said.
She joined an acting troupe and toured Europe, but said she realized the time apart from her son was too much. Looking for something calmer, she dipped into massage and bodywork, which she did for a number of years until the mortgage market crashed and she saw friends losing their homes.
“I wanted to help people,” she said. “So I did.”
She became an agent and worked in loan modifications and short sales in New Jersey, where she saw the market continue to spiral downward.
After moving to Manhattan three years ago, she transitioned from short sales in New Jersey to helping people list, sell and rent properties at a boutique agency before joining Citi Habitats.
An Upper East Side resident, Bradbury loves her Yorkville neighborhood, where she lives with her dog.
“I really love helping people find their ideal homes,” she said. “It makes me feel very good, helping them brave the New York City market – especially first-time buyers.”
Another of Bradbury’s specialties is helping pet owners find the right place.
“It can be hard to find,” she said. “Especially rentals — a lot of buildings don’t allow larger dogs. I do my best to help people looking for a place. I know Upper East Side buildings really well.”
As head of The Bradbury Group at Citi Habitats, a four-person group with listings mostly on the Upper East Side, Yorkville and some in Carnegie Hill, Bradbury has found her niche, earning the title of “Rookie of the Year” in 2012.
She credits ethics and negotiation as key to her success with buyers and sellers.
“Ethics and honesty with your buyers and sellers is really important in this market,” she said. “I like to go in and speak to a seller, find out if it’s doable and if I can help them get there and achieve it. If I don’t feel that, I enjoy that I’m able to say it’s not going to work right now.”
“I’m very upfront and ethical, and an excellent negotiator. I want to sell their property of course, I don’t want to let it sit there. I want to make sure everyone is working toward the same goal.”