Ismar Maslić

Montalvo Realty
14585 Big Basin Way, Saratoga, CA 95070
(408) 877-6000


Agents of change

All kinds of New Yorkers — from nonprofit workers to corporate lawyers — are looking to real estate as a second career

The lure of being an independent contractor with no real boss is another part of the appeal. “I’ve learned to be good at sales, but there has been a friction for me with younger management people,’’ says Marc Barnes, a 50-year-old, who is transitioning from a career in IT. “I would like to control my income without anyone getting upset with me anymore. I made this decision a week ago and I can already see how I will be more financially successful.’’

Real-estate schools typically help students find jobs, in addition to providing the course and exam necessary to get a salesperson’s license (a basic state exam must be passed as well).

SOLD!:  Heather McDonough (above) got into real estate to maintain her lifestyle after a break-up.
Brian Zak/NY Post
SOLD!: Heather McDonough (above) got into real estate to maintain her lifestyle after a break-up.
Noble Black (above), a senior VP at Corcoran, says he makes more now than when he was a high-powered attorney.
Jonathan Baskin
Noble Black (above), a senior VP at Corcoran, says he makes more now than when he was a high-powered attorney.

Effy Plotnik, a partner in the real estate firm Reaction, was at the NYREI on exam day last fall to scout out potential employees. “Being a broker is the fastest way to build wealth and become financially independent right now,’’ insists Plotnik, 52. “My wife has a Ph.D. and I make more than her as a stupid real-estate agent. If you have determination, common sense and a few hundred dollars for the course, you can definitely make a quarter million a year. You just have to be a real New Yorker, or at least act like one.’’

Being a New Yorker helps, but being a foreigner can also be a boon. English isn’t the first language for many of those who took the test at the NYREI in November. While negotiating some of the exam’s trick questions may pose more of a challenge to them, fluency in a foreign language has actually become a major asset in today’s market, where buyers from Russia, the Middle East, Asia, South America and Europe are grabbing up some of the loftiest properties.

Vanina Takvorian, a native Parisian who recently took the real-estate exam, notes that many wealthy French people are moving to New York because they’re unhappy with the country’s recently elected president, François Hollande. “I can take advantage of that and sell to them,” she says.

Of course, longtime New York residents have their own advantage. “A lot of wealthy women have been going into the field: They just sell to their friends,’’ points out Gilpin. “And high-end hair stylists have found they can make a lot of extra income by talking to clients about properties as they are doing their hair.’’

Heather McDonough, 40, transitioned from the nonprofit world to a very lucrative career in real estate. “I was breaking up with my ex, and my accountant told me I should go into real estate because I couldn’t afford my lifestyle,’’ she recalls. “It was the best recommendation anyone ever gave me. At first I did it sporadically, and it took a few years, but right now I’m selling a $48 million penthouse in TriBeCa.’’

Still, Elliman VP Neal Sroka warns that the road to real-estate riches may be tougher than newbies expect. “You can become a star in this business really quickly, but although the current requirements and barrier of entry might not be that high, you had better learn what you are selling. Connections are important, but the truth is, hard work, diligence and learning everything there is to know about the product is what makes a successful broker.’’

Selling apartments in the most exclusive and costly buildings doesn’t require a social pedigree: In fact, some of the biggest brokers come from surprising backgrounds.

One of the industry’s top earners is Fredrik Eklund, a former porn star, who has sold an estimated $1.5 billion in real estate since he got his license 11 years ago. “I sold $50 million my first year and I now sell townhouses, penthouses, co-ops, condos and new developments,’’ he says.

Steinberg says his masseuse has just become a broker. “She is Russian and was working on two Russian clients who told her they wanted to buy apartments in New York, so she decided to get her license and she did both deals.’’

Masseuses and hairdressers are playing on the same field as former high-powered attorneys, like Noble Black, who transitioned from a securities law firm to become a senior VP at Corcoran. “I enjoy a lot of the things I liked about law, like the client contact, but the decisions I help people make now are more personal,” he says. “A lot of the time it’s like playing therapist, and I’m good at that. People thought I was crazy, but I’ve done better every year than I would have done if I stayed in law. One of the law firm’s partners even started working for me.’’

But, warns Eklund, patience is key. “The challenge with real estate is that there is no salary. Even if you close something right away, you won’t get paid for months. People think it’s quick, easy money and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.’’

Still, he says, the upside in enormous. “I tell my clients with a smile, ‘It doesn’t matter how successful you are; you are not truly successful until you own a place in New York.’ It’s shocking how much money there is to spend; people will pay millions in cash. The sky’s the limit.’’

  • Last Updated: 3:11 AM, January 7, 2013
  • Posted: 10:08 PM, January 6, 2013