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.
Ari Martin spent two decades in the music industry — working with talents such as Sarah McLachlan and Avril Lavigne — before entering real estate late last year. The Real Deal recently sat down with Martin, who works for the five-agent brokerage RealDirect.com in the Flatiron District, to talk about mining his musical contacts, injecting a dose of realism into apartment searches and how his experience in the record business primed him for a career selling New York real estate.
How did you decide to join RealDirect?
After I got my license, I spoke to friends in the business and wrote to all the managing directors and met with a few. I really clicked with the managing directors at Town. I was there about three months. Everyone is very impressive, it’s a great firm. But like a lot of agents I was struggling to build a client base. So I was looking for other opportunities and when I met Doug [Perlson, founder of RealDirect], I immediately realized that it was a better structure for me.
He seems like a real straight shooter.
He is. I related to him right away. Again, the structure is perfect for a new agent. I was even given a few listings right away. I was able to hit the ground running.
Why did you decide to go into real estate to begin with?
The music industry has been decimated by downloading and consolidation. The last few years I was starting to think seriously about whether there would be a place for me over the long term. I had been in the industry for 20 years; I was a marketing person at record labels, and most recently I worked at an artist management firm called Network Management.
Whom did you manage?
Singer/songwriters mostly. We had, at various times, Sarah McLachlan, Dido, the Barenaked Ladies, Avril Lavigne.
Why so many Canadians?
They started in Vancouver, so New York was their satellite office. But, I had started to think about what else I can do … experience in the music industry is not very transferable. There is no directly analogous other career. I knew that real estate was a common mid-career choice, and I was already interested from selling my own places.
Where were those?
I used to live in a co-op on the Upper West Side, but I moved to a condo at Chelsea Stratus. I also felt like there were some overlap skills. You’re dealing with clients. You’re negotiating; you’re dealing with contracts, so I felt like a lot of it would be familiar. There are probably more people from the music industry than you think [in real estate]: one at Halstead, a former singer, and one at Corcoran I’d worked with at record labels.
What skills are most important in the music industry?
You are dealing with all kinds of personalities in the music industry. You have to be the calm center. And, obviously, when you are dealing with people buying and selling their homes, they are stressed out and there is a lot of anxiety.
Do you plan to mine your contacts?
Yes, but I did have some hesitation about it. I had hesitation because I know I wouldn’t be anxious to be the guinea pig for a new agent. But as I get more experience, I’m becoming more confident in reaching out to people who know me from another field.
Are you specializing in a certain neighborhood?
Chelsea, I guess, if I had to specify.
Where are you from?
Livingston, N.J. I went to Tufts (in Medford, Mass.) and I actually went to Fordham Law, as well. I went to law school thinking I’d be an entertainment lawyer, but I realized that would be like having homework everyday, so when I got out I just looked for a job with a record label. I started out at Epic Records, then I went to Arista, and then to Network.
Do you miss it?
Certain aspects, but not others. You can get very burned out and start to feel very old.
Is that because the artists are young?
The artists you expect to be young, but even the executives. That most sought-after person is a kid who is very social media savvy. You can feel outdated.
Do you think people who have worked in other industries are better suited to work in real estate? There are now younger and younger people entering real estate.
It’s because of “Selling New York.” [But] I feel like a customer wants to deal with someone who is on their level in terms of professional accomplishments and experience. Real estate is one industry where being older and more seasoned is not looked down upon. You want someone who has seen it all. You could be the most brilliant 22-year-old, but you may not be able to relate to someone in middle age, who is looking at spending a million bucks.
What deals have you done?
Well I just sold a friend from MTV a place in Battery Park City. He wanted to be in a hip, hip neighborhood. I think he envisioned sitting at outdoor cafes every night. But then he slowly started to realize [that Battery Park City made more sense].
So part of your job is getting clients to be realistic?
Absolutely. That’s probably my number one job. Everyone is always disappointed – with what they can get for their money, the money they can get for their apartment.
Is that similar to what you did in the music industry? Did you have to get artists’ expectations in line?
Yes, because every artist thinks that they are the next Kanye West. They aren’t thinking about budgets, and how it’s a business.