In this weekly column, real estate agents across the nation share stories of the lessons they’ve learned during their time in the industry.
After more than two decades in Manhattan real estate, Stan Ponte, a senior global real estate adviser and associate broker with Sotheby’s International Realty – East Side Manhattan Brokerage, was named the No. 2 agent in Manhattan by sales volume for his 2020 professional accomplishments.
However, despite his experience and expertise, he still spends time listening to and learning from the clients and colleagues with whom he works.
How long have you been in the business?
I’ve been a real estate broker for 21 years. I came to New York in 1989 to become an actor and studied at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. I found out pretty quickly that there is another word that goes with actor, and it’s starving. I was a starving actor.
My best friend was also a starving actor, but then one day, he invited me to dinner at an amazing steak house in the Meatpacking District. I finally asked him how he could afford the fancy dinner, and he told me that he got his real estate license, and he was renting apartments.
It was an “aha” moment for me. I went home that night and laid awake thinking about it. The very next morning, I went straight to the New York Real Estate Institute and said I wanted to become a real estate agent. Two weeks later, I had my real estate license and started renting apartments.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
My goal is to stay on the cutting edge of where technology meets real estate. In five years, I’ll still be finding ways to navigate a changing market and the technologies that go along with the buying and selling of real estate.
We’ve seen massive adjustments in the way both buyers and sellers use technology to assist in the purchase and sale of properties. The real estate brokers that learn how to utilize technology to their advantage and who are not worried that technology will somehow replace them will continue to survive and thrive.
Real estate is not like the travel industry. It’s not just a transactional business. Real estate is an industry that requires expertise and a relationship mindset.
What’s one big lesson you’ve learned in real estate?
One big lesson that I learned early on is that I’m not working for my own decisions of what’s right or wrong for my clients. I work for my clients, and listening to their needs and preferences is what’s most important.
How did you learn it?
I was selling a townhouse in the West Village many years ago, and it was a significant property for me at the time. It was a big listing and career-making moment for me. The house ended up in a bidding war between two buyers — one buyer was a mid-century modern furniture collector, and the other buyer was a young couple.
My clients loved the young couple, and they really wanted the house to go to them. However, the young couple lost out during the bidding war that I had put together to get my seller the highest price. My clients asked me if we could sell the house to them anyway, and I said no because I got them more money with the other buyer.
I sent the contract out right before Christmas, and then I went on Christmas break. While I was on break, I got a call from the attorney saying that the buyer had backed out. I immediately called the young couple’s broker, and he said that the couple had already gone into contract on another property. I had to call the owners and explain all of this to them.
I’ll never forget that conversation. They said to me, “Stan, we are so disappointed in you. You didn’t listen to what we wanted.” While I ended up finding my client another buyer for the same amount of money, I never forgot that experience.
What advice would you give to new agents?
Learn from your colleagues. Don’t enter this business with a siloed mentality. This is not necessarily a business of teamwork, but it is a business of camaraderie.
It is also a business of partnership. A new agent may come in and think everyone is a competitor, but the reality is the same. People that we compete with, we also need to make our coworkers to get deals done and to advance our careers.
The additional benefit of perceiving other brokers more as coworkers and less as competitors is that you get a chance to learn from them. I learn something new from a broker in every deal that I do. You can always learn and pick up new tools for your toolbox.
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Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.