By Holly Dutton
From the front lines of war to the world of New York City residential real estate, Citi Habitats broker Udi Eliasi’s has come a long way from his days as an Israeli soldier to a West Village family man.
Eliasi grew up in Israel, and as is mandatory in the country for young men, served three years in an infantry unit of the Israeli Defense Forces.
He spent a year-and-a-half in Lebanon during the ongoing Israeli-Lebanese conflict in the early to mid-90’s.
“It was tough,” said Eliasi of the time. “It definitely shaped my character.”
In 1995, Eliasi immigrated to the U.S., landing in New York City, where his older brother was already living. “I needed a big change after three years in the military,” he said. “I needed to get away.”
He enrolled in Hunter College, studying psychology and media. After working with a couple of real estate developers as a construction site manager, he met an agent from Citi Habitats who encouraged him to join the firm’s West Village office and has been there ever since.
It was 2003 and the housing market was blazing towards its biggest ever boom. Eliasi fast-became a top producer and has remained among those ranks ever since, twice earning the Citi Habitats Platinum Award and appearing twice on the HGTV show “Selling New York.”
“I had a passion for real estate,” he said. “It wasn’t planned ahead of time. I always liked the advertising and marketing part of real estate the best. There was always a connection there.”
He has made it through tough times in the industry, too, most notably during the economic crash in 2008-2009. “Adjusting is the best word to describe it,” he said of the time. “We had to adjust to a new reality. On the rental side, the game changed. Owners paid incentives instead of renters. I was fortunate to be in a neighborhood that wasn’t as affected by the economy. It was one of the last areas to feel the impact and one of the first to get back on its feet.”
In his decade as an agent in the West Village, Eliasi has become an expert on the perennially popular neighborhood, even earning the moniker “Mayor of the West Village,” from his colleagues and clients.
“Making things happen for people who thought they didn’t have a chance of renting or buying in this neighborhood has been a highlight,” he said. “It’s not about the monetary amount, it’s more about knowing landlords here and making things happen for people on the rental side.”
He said that staying consistent and honest has kept him at the top of his game.
“In sales, you get rejection,” he said. “You have to remove emotion from a lot of transactions. Some deals go through, some don’t – it’s an emotional roller coaster sometimes. It’s the world we live in. To be consistent and reliable is a big part of the job.”
A West Village resident himself, Eliasi has seen the community grow from “bohemian,” to a more diverse mix of families, and “Wall Street guys and bankers,” with the added popularity of the ultra-hip Meatpacking District and the success of the Highline.
“Mostly single professionals move to the West Village,” he said. “But we see a lot of families as well because of the school system.”
Eliasi recently formed a team at his Citi Habitats office and looks forward to developing that further.
In his spare time, he enjoys playing his Les Paul guitar with friends. “I always had a passion for music,” he said. “We just jam around a couple times a month, nothing more than that. We’re not going to open for Led Zeppelin any time soon.”
He enjoys working out and raising his two daughters, age three and six, in his beloved neighborhood. “I always wanted to be an expert on one neighborhood to give people a better experience,” he said. “I really love living and working here.”