In this column, real estate agents across the nation share stories of the lessons they’ve learned during their time in the industry.
Ranking among Warburg’s top brokers, and currently ranked as the No. 2 producer company-wide, Annie Cion Gruenberger enjoys an exceptional professional reputation in her New York City market. Many of her clients are repeat or referral clients, often spanning several generations.
In addition to her real estate services, she prides herself on providing even more service after the sale as a life resource, providing recommendations for contractors and painters, physicians, tailors and restaurants.
Described by one client as “hard-working, patient and no-nonsense,” Gruenberger splits her time between Manhattan and Boca Raton. Find out where she learned her service-oriented philosophy and the advice she’d offer to other agents.
Name: Annie Cion Gruenberger
Title: Licensed associate real estate broker
Experience: 30 years
Location: New York City
Brokerage: Coldwell Banker Warburg
Sales volume: Over $600 million in career sales
Awards: Year after year, Annie ranks among Warburg’s — and New York’s — top-producing brokers and currently ranks as the No. 2 top producer company-wide
Q&A with Annie Cion Gruenberger
What’s one big lesson you’ve learned in real estate?
Real estate has taught me the power of patience. Many years ago, before I worked in the industry, I had moved out of NYC for a short time, but when I was looking for a place when returning to the city, I was anxious to buy an apartment quickly since I knew it took several months for the entire process. I looked and could not find anything I loved.
My broker at the time took me to see a gorgeous, newly renovated apartment on York Avenue with a terrace with amazing views. I fell for the view, bought it and moved in. However, I had not researched enough to know this was not a well-managed building; the water pressure was awful, the building’s service was not very professional, and it was a terrible location for everyone in my family.
My broker did not guide me, and I had never bought an apartment before. Six months later, I sold it and moved to an apartment on Madison Avenue that had no terrace, but we could all walk everywhere, and the building management was terrific.
I learned the hard way to take my time and to thoroughly research the property myself. While the view is important, location and building management are key.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I really wanted to be a lawyer when I was younger. I wanted to help people by providing the most accurate information and advocating on their behalf — especially for women who, in those days, did not know much about the intricacies of the law.
I wanted to guide people at a time when they were faced with an important decision so they had all the facts to help assess their needs and trust in the process, which can be overwhelming.
However, back then, women of my generation were only encouraged to become teachers or nurses. Now, working in real estate, I feel that I do something very similar: I look for the best plan of action and try to help my customers understand what is entailed in their pursuit of a purchase or sale.
What’s the best advice you ever got from a mentor?
My father was my mentor. He owned a chain of clothing stores, and I started working there at a young age, vacuuming. He felt it was important that I start at the very bottom so I understood every aspect of the business. The same holds true for real estate — there are a million details, and it’s important to understand all of them and how they impact every aspect of the sales journey.
He also always told me that all sales — no matter what business you’re in — are based on relationships, trust, listening and details.
Finally, my father always told me, “Never sell a customer something you know they shouldn’t buy.” The same applies to selling homes. You may want the sale, but if you know the client won’t ultimately be happy with some aspect (the location, a lack of light or windows — all based on understanding what’s important to them), then you are doing them a disservice by not pointing it out. Then, it is their decision.
What do too few agents know that would make their lives easier?
Real estate isn’t just about transactions of buying and selling property. You are helping someone purchase or sell the most important asset they will have. There is often an emotional component to consider, and these transactions take time.
You need to really understand your clients and find out the specifics of what’s important to them so you can help them find the right home for them and provide all the important information about the market so they feel comfortable.
Some clients think they know it all, and some will need a tutorial on the very basics; you need to meet them where they are and understand where they are coming from.
Tell us a story about your most memorable transaction
I had a new client moving into the city from Connecticut. After showing her 14 apartments, she fell in love with a beautiful Fifth Avenue home with views of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We went back several times, and she made an offer.
However, when she mentioned her love of open kitchens, I asked her if she liked to cook, and she replied that she loved to cook and entertain. I realized she had failed to notice that neither the kitchen nor the dining room had windows. When she asked what I thought, I was honest and pointed out that without windows in that area, the entire apartment would smell from her cooking. She thanked me profusely, and we pulled the deal.
A few months later, she came into the city to look at three more places and fell in love with a classic six on Park Avenue in one of my favorite buildings. It was the first day it was on the market, and it was priced accurately. The broker representing the seller was a colleague whom I knew (from another firm), but she was not at the showing because she was out of town at her niece’s graduation.
My client was desperate for this apartment, and I knew it was a good deal, so my client offered to pay full cash and begged me to make it happen. I called my colleague at the graduation and explained the situation. This broker said she wanted to show the apartment to more people since it was only the first day of showings, so I told her I would call the owner directly and say there’s an all-cash deal for the asking price on the table and let’s make this happen. And we did.
In five days, we had the paperwork signed and closed three months later. My client is the happiest lady in the world.