- Working part-time at real estate while holding down your "real" job can be a good way of seeing if real estate is your passion
- Helping long-term clients when they become landlords can help make for a long fruitful relationship.
- When building a team, don't hold back what you know from your team -- they should know everything you know.
The children of immigrant families often face high expectations to take advantage of the educational opportunities available in the U.S. Their parents want them to enter respected professions that can be relied upon to give them a good standard of living after all the sacrifices that have been made to get them here.
And so it was for Boris Sharapan, a native Russian, who was born in Ukraine while it was still part of the Soviet Union and immigrated to New York when he was young. But in his teens, he worked in his father’s real estate firm in Brooklyn and caught the property bug.
He was so interested in real estate that he sat the real estate agent licensing exam at 18, while his friends were doing nothing over the summer break between high school and college. Then he went off to college to study law.
“I always knew I loved real estate, but my parents wanted me to do more — to be a doctor or a lawyer,” he said.
Real estate as a second career
After graduating, he worked as a lawyer for seven years, initially for a top New York law firm, then as an in-house attorney. But he couldn’t keep away from real estate.
While still working as an in-house attorney, in 2013, Sharapan approached Victoria Shtainer, then a Douglas Elliman team leader, about dipping a toe in real estate once more.
It took all his persuasive lawyer’s skills to talk Shtainer, now at Compass, into taking him on as an agent working part time, but he had proof that he had a knack for it. He had continued working during college in his father’s real estate firm, taking over the rental division of the business one summer.
“I very quickly became the no. 1 agent at my Dad’s business. I built a book of business from nothing,” said Sharapan.
That time dealing with landlords and tenants has stood him in good stead. At Douglas Elliman, he helps clients with rental property from time to time and finds it’s a good way of keeping in touch with them after buying or selling a property with them.
“It taught me how to read people, I really like to get to know the person I am dealing with,” he said.
Taking the long view
Looking at the industry with his lawyer’s eyes, Sharapan feels that agents can take a very short term approach to their clients.
“My approach is, I want to be a part of their lives for the next 20 years. If I am, they will refer their friends and family who will also recommend me.
“I get a lot of business from the building that I live in,” he said. If someone in the building asks him about renting out their apartment, it’s an opportunity to create a relationship with a tenant or landlord.
The attorney started small.
Sharapan said he got his first listing from the board president at 225 East 24th Street.
“I sold that one, then another one, then another one — and I was doing all this while having a full-time job. I never worked with more than one client at a time,” he explained.
In April 2015, Sharapan started up The Sharapan Team at Douglas Elliman — still working part-time — and bringing in a trusted friend from law school, Collin Bond, to work with him.
Then in July, he went full time with his real estate career and added Michelle Easterlin to the team as an assistant.
“With Collin and Michelle, I have all of these ambitions and plans,” he said. He has hired another assistant, and a fifth will join the team in the coming months.
No niche, quick learn
The fast-rising agent doesn’t have a niche. “Anything South of 100th Street, I am an expert on,” he said.
But he doesn’t turn down business elsewhere.
“If it’s something I don’t know, it’s like me to pick it up and learn it in a couple of days.
“That’s due to law school — it teaches you how to pick up a new area, to learn it, distill it and disseminate it,” he said.
After several transactions in Murray Hill, Sharapan has grown his business to most of Manhattan with sales in Chelsea, Tribeca, West Village, Upper East Side and Soho.
Since starting in 2013, Sharapan has closed more than $30 million in sales.
He likes the team concept, which is popular at Douglas Elliman, and he believes in growing organically.
Be generous with your team members, is his advice. “My goal is for Collin to know everything I know.”
And support their ambitions. “Michelle said she wanted to go from assistant to broker on our team.” Sharapan’s response was: “Great — you can train the next assistant.”
“Invest in people very heavily. If you can do that, then you have a very successful team,” he said.
At nearly 33, Sharapan is trying to educate his cohort of millennials on the benefits of owning property rather than paying $5,000 to $6,000 in rent a month. It will be a good stream of business once they start buying.
“Millennials move jobs every three to five years,” said the agent. This can often lead to a home change or upgrade.
As a lawyer, one thing he can’t understand is why some buyers decide they don’t want to have a buyer’s agent.
“It’s free labor, having a representative on their side,” he said, mystified. He is trying to educate clients about this.
Six months on, since going full time in real estate, Sharapan has no regrets about that law career left behind.
“For me, personally, sitting at a desk all day, spending a long time looking at documents, I was not that great at it. I know that I’m great at real estate,” he said. “The things that I love about law, I still get to do — to negotiate and educate, and this distinguishes me from other agents.”
How have his parents taken his new direction?
Sharapan’s brother is a lawyer, and his sister married a doctor, so his parents have eased up the pressure to follow a certain path.
“I think they are very happy because they see me happy — I love every aspect of real estate, even the parts that others hate,” he said.