Monday, March 15, 2010

Manhattan Property agent

How I became a Manhattan Property Agent

Originally from Malaysia, I came to the US for undergrad and business school.  After grad school, joined Citigroup and stayed for 9 years.  Did very well and was one of the youngest VPs and was in the top 2% of managers.

During the last 3 years at Citi, I was investing in property as a principal.  Visited numerous cities and viewed thousands of properties.  It was during this time that I interacted with a LOT of property agents.  Manhattan property agents and property agents in other states.  The interactions with Manhattan property agents can be summarized as follows:

1.  Manhattan property agents typically do not own property.  Rather, they sell property as a job.  The rare occasion where I dealt with an agent who's also an investor was so welcoming because of the personal insights gained.  Why should an investor take advice from a property agent who is still renting?  Doesn't make sense right?  Well, that's how the world seems to work.  Same thing with stock brokerage financial advisors.  High net worth people take advice from financial advisors from private banks whose net worth is a fraction of theirs.  Go figure.

2.  Most Manhattan property agents do not know what's a "yield" or an "ROI".  Rather, property agents push what they're trained to push - granite kitchens, marble baths, name of the architect etc. 

3.  I always felt rushed through the viewing process because property agents play a numbers game.  The more properties they show, the higher probability of a deal.  Hence it's always, taking calls when talking to me, rushing etc. 

Hence I disliked working with property agents.  I disliked property agents! 

The top 5% of property agents were good.  I give them a lot of credit for understanding their product, their competition etc.  I learned from them.  But majority of Manhattan property agents were ... an experience.  Well, after buying several properties, I realized I could get a broker's license simply because I qualify as either a developer or investor.  This means I could bypass having to become a Manhattan property salesperson, work for a firm to build numbers etc.  That was great because after getting the license, I started representing MYSELF when viewing properties. 

From there, I decided that since there's such a void for a financially savvy property agent, eg one who watches and understands CNBC, I should consider being one.  I'm sure my banking and consulting friends would welcome a broker who talks their talk.  Someone who can talk ROI of property vs stocks,  Manhattan condo yields vs Treasurys.  Instead of another pretty face pushing a designer kitchen.  But then I had to deal with myself for doing a profession that I didn't care much for.   That took some time but eventually, I accepted it. 

Actually, it took several months before I can directly tell people I'm a Manhattan property agent.  Unless I tell them, nobody I meet ever thinks I'm a Manhattan property agent.  They usually assume I'm managing a hedge fund or doing real estate private equity.  Which is why a lot of potential business got away because they didn't think I'd help them buy an apartment. 

But yes, I am a Manhattan property agent.  Having syndicated private equity real estate deals, I enjoy being a property agent because there's no SEC regulations or tons of legal paperwork to deal with. 

It is a very simple model.  I represent clients to buy property.  They are not buying a 20% share in an LLC (a type of company in New York), they are not buying into a feeder fund, I am not dealing with tons of disclosure, SEC regulations or lawyers.  We don't deal with seasoning and clawback provisions.  It's simple - I represent clients, as  a Manhattan property agent, in buying property in the Manhattan market for investment.  The client owns 100% of the property.  There's no annual votes, politics to influence decision votes etc.

And I enjoy what I do.  Think of it as MBA / hedge fund analysis applied to Manhattan condos or buildings.  It's fun.  I love it.  A lot.

Castle Avenue Partners - Manhattan Property Agent
Manhattan Property ROI

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