NEW YORK — Louise Phillips Forbes didn’t know just how much of a top producer she was until she sat down and did the math at one point during the housing boom.
Forbes is an associate broker and executive vice president at Halstead Property in Manhattan. She represents rental buildings that convert to co-ops and condominiums. She joined fellow mega-agent Ron Lense, executive vice president at Prudential Douglas Elliman, on stage at Real Estate Connect last week. Both have been in the real estate industry for more than 20 years.
In 2007, Forbes’ sales surpassed the $1 billion mark, according to a profile in Haute Living magazine. Now her transactions average between $80 million and $100 million a year, she told conference attendees.
Both Forbes and Lense said the secret to their success was to show their value and build trust with their clients.
"With (online search portals) PropertyShark and StreetEasy there are less buyers who feel they need the existence of a broker. However, I never feel like I sell real estate. My purpose is to educate. I don’t need to shove an apartment down somebody’s ‘you know’ to (force them to) make a decision," Forbes said.
She said she gives her clients choices, emphasizing that an apartment could be right for them, or they could find something better.
"By giving them other options you create a trust," Forbes said.
It can be easy to fall into a "make the sale" mentality, Lense said, but "I do what’s best for my buyer or what’s best for my seller. When I cross that line to doing what’s best for my interest, the relationship is over."
He once told a couple not to buy a particular apartment because a new building was going to be built that would obliterate their beautiful Central Park view.
"They almost started crying they were so grateful I’d said that to them," Lense said.
"The formula (for success) is really quite simple. It’s not that difficult," he added. "Show you care about them, that their interest comes first."
Another secret? "You have to know your market better than anyone else," Lense said.
He grew up in New York City and became fascinated by the layouts of buildings as a child. By studying window configurations, he realized there were only four or five building layouts in the city. When he became an adult, he decided to follow his childhood interest and became a real estate agent. He became a top producer after his first year, he said.
"I was like a sponge. I would go see the property and remember the layout. I knew my product because I liked it," he said.
He advised agents to not just tell their clients they know their market, but to communicate their own knowledge in the way they speak.
He also urged agents to not be discouraged by setbacks. At one point he had a buyer’s offer in for a $6 million sale, but the buyer changed his mind and decided to move to the suburbs. Where he could have "killed" himself for not making the sale, he said, that particular encounter meant he could later speak very confidently at a listing presentation for a similar listing worth more — and got the deal.