With New York City at the heart of the real estate industry, the city’s agents are shaping the future of the rapidly evolving industry. To celebrate the individuals who are helping drive the industry of today and forging the industry of tomorrow, Crain’s selected 79 of New York City real estate’s best as 2020 Rising Stars. Chosen for their ingenuity, professional achievements, community involvement, and role in the industry’s growth, these 79 individuals are the “true drivers of New York’s real estate engine.”
Four of the honorees are Halstead agents who are currently transitioning into becoming Brown Harris Stevens agents: Matthew Cohen, Candice Milano and Malessa Rambarran of the Milano Rambarran Team, and Mary-Jean Gianquinto. They share the ways their businesses have changed in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tell us what they expect from the future of the industry, and offer advice to the agents of tomorrow.
Navigating the Business During a Pandemic
A longtime Brooklyn resident and specialist, Mary-Jean Gianquinto, is known for her ability to connect with clients and serve as a trusted advisor. As the uncertainty of the pandemic descended on New Yorkers, she knew immediately that it was her job to reach out to her clients. “Suddenly being quarantined and unable to see others was quite jolting for people,” she said. “I made a point of connecting with all my clients via Zoom. Connecting face to face created a lovely bond and made everyone feel more comfortable.” She also set up group Zoom meetings for her clients and their attorney or lender to encourage this face-to-face conversation.
Matthew Cohen continued to work long hours on behalf of his clients, but he, too, began to use Zoom to communicate with his buyers. “I share my screen with them and use Google Maps to virtually walk around the block or neighborhood with them before going to view the apartment in person,” said Matthew, who was one of the youngest agents to surpass $100 million in sales in New York.
Similarly, Candice Milano and Malessa Rambarran, who lead the Milano Rambarran Team, had their business change dramatically from one day to the next as a result of the pandemic and ensuing shutdown. The tech-savvy duo, who have been named “The New Millennial Power Brokers” by Forbes, found themselves more dependent than ever on technology and social media to connect with their clients. “Virtual showings have proven to be an effective tool to qualify buyers and build a rapport before meeting in person,” they said. It’s been an effective approach, given that the team has closed several deals—done remotely—during the lockdown.
The Future of the Industry
Overnight, our agents shifted to an almost entirely tech-based approach to their business. They don’t see things going back to the way they were pre-pandemic, either. “The industry had to adapt quickly with visual aids (virtual tours and 3D models) to help the consumer understand interior spaces,” says Mary-Jean. Matthew agrees that these virtual components will now be standard for each listing, just like photographs and floorplans. He also emphasizes that the value of outdoor space will increase following many people’s experience with being cooped up inside. “I have a feeling you’re going to see many developers build new buildings where the majority of units have some outdoor element,” he says.
Not only will the marketing of real estate change, but Mary-Jean believes the nature of buying and selling will evolve as well. “Buyers will choose to see listings that specifically fit their needs, rather than tour open houses after Sunday brunch,” she said. Similarly, sellers will prefer pre-approved buyers who are serious about their search instead of the casual browser. In the industry of tomorrow, “both buyers and sellers are more serious with their transactions.” This will streamline the process for everyone, Mary-Jean believes.
As for the market itself, Candice and Malessa are optimistic. “We believe short-term contract activity will be supported by pent-up demand. Longer-term market conditions will depend on the wider economic recovery and the containment of COVID-19,” they said. It may be a tough time, but “New York City is very resilient and one of the most stable economies in the world.”
Advice for the Agents of Tomorrow
As the industry evolves, agents will, too. Matthew, who serves as a mentor to new agents, believes that these challenging times will force agents to work even harder. They will have to be more committed than ever to their business and, most importantly, their clients. Mary-Jean shares some ways agents can better serve their clients: “Listen. Pay attention. Be a giver. Be yourself. Listen to the feedback your clients are communicating to you.”
Candice and Malessa also suggest listening to agents who have been in the business for a while. “It is beneficial to have guidance from more experienced agents whether in a mentor role or by joining a team [with] the necessary support,” they advise. Mary-Jean echoes the suggestion, saying “Observe other agents—their knowledge base, how they communicate and interact with clients and agents—and ask questions.”
While you should learn from other agents, our Rising Stars agree that you have to stay true to yourself. “Develop a business plan and a distinctive brand,” Candice and Malessa share. “Now that digital marketing is more important than ever, it is critical to be able to successfully market yourself and the properties you represent across digital platforms, specifically social media.” Mary-Jean adds, “Be yourself. Authenticity always shines through.”
Recognizing the work that goes into building a successful real estate business, Matthew says that it’s also more important than ever to be genuinely dedicated. “Being an agent is not easy,” he says. “There are truly not enough hours in the day—so you better love it.”