- Linking your real estate success with your favorite charity can lead to a win-win experience.
- Discuss with your brokerage how to talk about your philanthropic efforts publicly.
- When identifying a charity as your main philanthropic effort, make sure it is getting the funds as directly as possible.
- Having a philanthropic passion can give you a real personal fire when winning new business.
Any successful real estate agent worth his or her salt has a favorite charity to contribute toward during the year, often linked with transactions.
But one of Stribling & Associates’ top producers, Inez Wade, who’s based in New York City, has taken her commitment to cancer research to another level in the past 20-plus years.
And she has a very personal reason for it. Twenty-six years ago, her beloved older brother, Stanley Grode, died of acute myeloid leukemia.
Three years later Wade and her husband, Barry, moved to New York, where she began a career as a real estate agent with Stribling & Associates, specializing in luxury property.
A personal reason for giving
For Wade, going into luxury real estate could satisfy two passions — her love of real estate and wanting to make a difference, she reasoned.
She explains: “After the loss of my brother to leukemia, I realized that entering the luxury residential real estate sales market would potentially enable me to earn sufficient sums of money to donate to much-needed cancer research and treatments.”
Since starting at Stribling & Associates 23 years ago, she has established a research endowment in leukemia and related blood cancers at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia, where her brother was treated. She has also funded four treatment rooms in the new cancer center. (Wade declined to share the total dollar amount of her donations over the years.)
Her efforts and those of other leadership donors are paying off: A new treatment developed by Dr. Carl June (no. 5 in Time Magazine’s 2016 People of the Year) at the Abramson Cancer Center, where she is now on the board, has seen a 90-percent success rate in children and 70-percent in adults.
And these were patients with acute and chronic lymphocytic leukemias who had exhausted all other medical options.
“When I first started contributing to the Abramson Cancer Center 26-and-a-half years ago, I didn’t know where cancer research would go — what advances would be made. I simply felt that if medical research could result in just one person not having to endure my brother’s disease or his fate, it would all be worthwhile,” said Wade.
As she has learned more about the capabilities of different research groups, the New York agent said she has tried to focus on work that has a much better-than-average chance of major success.
Record-breaking sale? Start a fund
While some agents might celebrate a big sale with a vacation or a new car, in July 2012, with the proceeds from her record-breaking $11.5 million sale of apartment 39A at 1 Central Park West, Wade and her husband Barry established the Solid Tumor Vaccine Research Fund at Penn. This is a research initiative in personalized immunotherapy for solid tumors.
In real estate and in all business areas, there are debates about how much you should talk about or “tout” your charity work — should you shout about it from the rooftops or keep your activities humbly under the radar?
Many real estate companies are talking about their philanthropic interests on their website to put the spotlight on their charities of choice. Never having gone public about her involvement in medical research publicly before, Wade talked about it with her brokerage, and because of the breakthroughs going on at ACC, she felt the time was right.
“The research being pursued at the ACC is so exciting and game-changing. It is reflective of medical science being so close to either cures or to converting life-threatening cancers into chronic, manageable diseases,” she said.
Stribling supports all its agents in their charitable endeavors, and the agents all share information on their philanthropic passions on an e-bulletin board, said its director of public relations, Ashley Murphy.
“Inez’s case is unique in that she made a successful real estate career in pursuit of donating to finding a cure for cancer. It is central to her being in her work and in her life. We believed her story to be inspirational and enlightening — and one worth telling,” she added.
And although Wade’s activities in aiding cancer research might be news to her real estate competition, for years Wade has been known as the go-to woman for many friends and contacts in New York when a loved one became seriously ill.
While she works full time on her real estate career, she is often up early or working late at night researching a medical issue for someone — trying to help direct them to good care, acting as a conduit between them and the complex medical world.
“The connections I have made through philanthropy have [given me insights] about the accelerating medical progress at some world-class institutions and enabled me to put my acquired knowledge to work for people who, as patients or family members are less able to navigate the increasingly complicated world of medicine,” she said.
Having many doctors in the family as well has helped, she said.
“Most of my first cousins are physicians — a neurosurgeon, a radiologist, a pathologist and an internist. My late brother was a podiatrist. There seems to have been a good deal of medical interest in my family,” she noted.
When philanthropy and real estate come together
At times, her medical world and her real estate world collide.
Wade has helped a number of top-level medical professional find homes over the years — she has also helped a few physicians secure medical space for their practices.
She stresses that real estate is something which has always given her a rush. She is not doing it just to pay for her fundraising activities.
“I have been passionate about real estate since I was a child. I was inspired reading The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck.”
Right after college, she and her husband renovated a townhouse in Washington, D.C., with money that had been lent to them. That endeavor was so successful that it led to other real estate renovation for their personal use, Wade then establishing a business to renovate properties for others.
All this led to eventually to selling luxury real estate in Manhattan at Stribling, where she feels she found her “professional niche.”
In her first year of selling real estate in 1994, the agent came third in the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) Real Estate Residential Deal of the Year Award and has gained a reputation for making record-breaking sales. She is now in the President’s Circle at Stribling, equivalent to a senior vice president (SVP) in other companies.
“Stribling & Associates gets it,” she said. “We are smaller, but our stats are incredibly impressive, and our impact on the market, and there is a tremendous culture there of integrity.”
In 2015, Stribling had $692.7 million in sales. It has just over 300 agents in four offices across Manhattan and Brooklyn, making it the 12th-largest brokerage in NYC by size, but the fifth largest in total sales volume. The company said it also had the highest median listing price in Manhattan out of any brokerage — $2.99 million, beating out big real estate players such as Douglas Elliman and Corcoran.
Nothing like a good cause to help the competitive spirit
Wade’s passion in the area of medical research certainly gives her some firepower when up against her agent competition.
When she pitches for a listing, she thinks about what the commission could mean for the Abramson Cancer Center.
“I bargain with God. I say: ‘If I get this, God, I will give this much away,’” she laughs.
It seems to be working. The successful agent currently has four deals totaling $25 million set to close in early 2017 in her Manhattan market.
Wade, who has a number of investor clients, gets a buzz from seeing properties she has sold appreciating in a few years.
Her business tends to be referral-based, and she has a reputation for being thoughtful and analytical.
She recently advised her son on the purchase of an apartment in the $500,000-plus range — which has already gained value — and at the other end of the scale is also helping a $50 million buyer at the moment.
“I find it gratifying to locate just the right fine value property for a purchaser or to achieve a record-breaking sale when representing an owner,” she said.
“I love what I do and have always been very independent. I walk to the beat of my own drum,” she said.
Tips for philanthropy
The New York agent’s tip to others wanting to share their wealth and make a difference in an area of their passion is to do their research thoroughly.
If you have a passion, make sure the organization has a good set-up for funding, she advises. Find out what percentage of your donation is going directly to the charity, she says.
If medical research is your passion, try to donate straight to the institution and “bypass the middle-man,” she said.
Wade enjoys getting the reports on the progress being made at the Abramson Cancer Center and the access to doctors. She plainly intends to continue her work and is optimistic about the property market this year and for the next four years.
What else would she do with the money, she asks.
Her view is: “How much do you need? I just want to leave my kids enough money, but I want them always to be working.”
And remember the small things matter, too. “I believe that every day I should look back on the day and ask, what kindness have I done today?
It can just be telling someone they look pretty.
“It’s the cheapest way to feel good about yourself,” she said.