Many New York sales agents have come to the business of real estate from a wide range of other professions. In an ongoing series, TheRealDeal.com will profile brokers for whom selling properties represents a major career transition. Ideas for the series? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eric Patino, 42, has been a New York City police officer for 18 years; as of a month ago, he’s also a real estate agent, having joined the commercial brokerage Azad Property Group. These days, he’s selling real estate by day, and working as a police detective in the evenings and on Saturdays. He spoke recently with The Real Deal about how his police work turned him onto to real estate, what confounds him about New Yorkers and how to tell when someone is wasting your time.
What motivated your transition to real estate?
I’ve always been interested in real estate. I just was never into sales. So now that I am getting close to my retirement [from the NYPD], I said “You know what? Let me try it.” So I went to take the [state certification course] at the New York Real Estate Institute, and I passed right away.
Do you have any listings yet?
I do. We do open listings. I have three buildings in Brooklyn, in the Greenpoint and Red Hook areas. I can’t tell you the addresses. We have investors, so we dole them out to our investor groups.
Did you work in a particular geographical area as a detective?
I worked in Manhattan South. I don’t want to be too specific; it’s really 59th Street down.
Did you grow up here?
I was born in Brooklyn and raised in Ozone Park, Queens. I went to John Adams High School [in Queens]. I played football.
How did you start your career?
I went to Nassau Community College … and I worked at Tony Roma’s. Then there was the point where I turned 21 and I decided I had to get a real job. A friend had gone into [the police force] and I said, “Well, I’ll take the test.” The first time they called me, I passed it up because my mom said “I don’t want you to be a cop — you’ll get killed.” When they called me the second time I decided to take it. I said “Sorry mom.”
Did you have to start in a rougher precinct?
My whole career has been in Manhattan South, and I was on the East Side at the beginning of my career. So I caught the whole thing with the squatters [on the Lower East Side], and there was a bit of heroin back then.
Do you miss the old New York, with its seedier elements?
No, I like the new New York.
What do you wish still surprised you?
You know what still shocks me is people. You have a crime scene, and you have cops and barriers and yellow tape and police cars. And there are always the New Yorkers who say, “Excuse me, I have to get to that building over there.” I go “Do you see us here? Do you really think it’s a good idea to go down the block?”
Where do you live now?
I [used to own] a home Upstate, in Putnam Valley, which I just sold. Now I am in Manhattan. I stay with my mom out in New Rochelle and I have an apartment in Manhattan. No wife or kids, so I just take care of myself and my dog. I have a Labrador named Macy. She just turned one.
What will be relevant to real estate from your experience with police work?
Interacting with people, reading people, knowing when someone is just wasting my time.
How do you know when someone is wasting your time?
I can’t tell you all my secrets.
I know, trade secrets, but we’re a trade publication here.
Body language. You learn how to read people — their body movements, their eyes. Believe it or not, they start sweating right in front of you. You can hear it in the tone of their voice.
So you work here during the day and then as a detective at night?
Yeah, I’m here the whole day on Monday, and then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday I come [to Azad] in the morning and then I go to work [as a detective]. And then I work on Saturdays at the police department.
Did you do anything else before you joined the police force?
Believe it or not, I was a cable guy. It was good pay. I had union benefits. I worked in Manhattan, so I got to see some really, really nice apartments. That’s where my love for real estate really started to hit me.
Tell us about the nicest apartment you ever saw.
It was either Park Avenue or Fifth Avenue … and I remember walking in and the city was gone. I was in this huge mansion —marble, stairs. I went to move this iron side table to run the cable and [the owner told me], “Be careful, that’s priceless!”
Did it have a pool?
No, but I recently, a few years ago, went to an apartment with a pool, in the Chelsea area. In fact, I think that apartment has been on TV. They had a swing above it, in the pool.
I think I know that one. Can we deduce that someone in that apartment may or may not have committed a crime?
No, no, they were the victims. But not personally, it was property. We ended up getting the bad guys in this case.
Sounds like you enjoy detective work.
It’s been great. If and when I decide to leave, it’s going to be heart wrenching.
What do you mean if?
Well, I have the option to stay on. I mean, I’m giving this my all, and I hope [real estate] brings me to my next life. But if I could do both for five more years, I mean, my pension grows, my salary grows, but also [real estate] has great rewards as well.
Any type of property you are focusing on?
No. I am calling every building on every block. I’m doing every block in my area. I’m doing Chelsea right now. I’m talking to owners, tracking down owners, asking if they want to sell. This week has been hard. But the first three weeks, I got a couple bites here and there.
Will any of your business be with contacts through law enforcement?
It’s all about who you know, so you never know, although they are often just regular people.