When you drive into Albany in upstate New York, chances are you might spot a sign welcoming you in 26 languages to the neighborhood.
That would be the brainchild of Alex Monticello and his local brokerage Monticello.
The independent broker-owner has printed up 200 signs, a $2,000 project thus far.
His aim was to make all the international residents and newcomers to the New York state capital feel welcome.
How it came together
Monticello used social media to get this marketing endeavor off the ground.
About three weeks ago, he put a call-out on Facebook asking friends to check if he’d missed any languages.
“Our goal is to provide a sign to anyone who wants one, available for pick up at our office for no charge,” he wrote.
Monticello did his research among local clients through social media before choosing the languages, which range from Bulgarian to Russian, Swahili to Farsi.
He has a diverse background himself. His grandfather, who was Persian, could speak six languages including Farsi, French and Arabic. The other side of the family is Sicilian.
“I can’t speak any of these languages. I relied on clients to help me with saying “hello” correctly in their language,” he said.
He added he had one agent in his office from Nepal who can speak Nepalese and Urdu among others but it was by no means an office of linguists.
Albany, though not as multicultural as New York City two hours away, has a number of international residents thanks to universities including SUNY Albany and local employers such as silicon chip company, GlobalFoundries and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
“We have people who are moving from around the world to Albany with these large employers here,” Monticello said. The average house price in Albany is a very affordable $250,000, he added.
For Monticello, it is a non-political gesture — just good business and being a good neighbor.
Industry and client response
In discussions on Inman Coast to Coast, he was warned it might be perceived as a political statement.
Others said they would happily steal his idea.
“It’s really hard to be negative about a message like this. It’s a pretty innocuous Mr. Rogers ‘welcome to our neighborhood,'” Monticello said.
The enterprising broker is getting requests from clients to put the signs in their yards, and they will get first dibs.
“We must have received 40 to 50 calls from clients who want one. We are now getting inquiries from non-clients after the last 24 hours,” he said.
Does he fear any push-back or consequences? “I can’t imagine there would be. We are not going to please everybody 100 percent of the time,” he said.
He thinks it will be good for business. Monticello, going for five years, was just named the fastest-growing real estate business in Albany by the Albany Business Review based on MLS data, he said.
Last year, Monticello and his eight other agents did a volume of $29 million and 133 transactions. Monticello said he had 64 percent growth from last year and that he had had no slowdown over winter, busy since November and going into his busiest time of the year right now.
They might reach 180 transactions this year, he said.
The broker has started a list for more international greetings. “We are missing Vietnamese, Filipino and Malay, he said.
You can also expect the New Zealand “Haere Mai” to make an appearance.
He’s thinking he might do some fundraising for the next round.
“The message is we will work with anybody who speaks another language,” he said.