The Real Deal New York

A broker who listens differently

Deaf Elliman agent featured in new book
By Gabrielle Birkner | February 01, 2013 07:00AM

Elliman’s Jackie Roth

When Jackie Roth, then an actress and public relations consultant, decided to try real estate seven years ago, she approached a manager at a large city residential brokerage. He told her that she simply wasn’t cut out for the business. Sure, Roth was whip-smart, a hard worker and a skilled communicator. But, the manager reasoned, she was also deaf.

“I said, ‘I have ways to overcome that — I have technology, tools and I’m good at what I do,’ ” recalled Roth, who reads lips and speaks with only a hint of an accent. The manager still discouraged her, but Roth was undeterred. In 2005, she joined another brokerage, Douglas Elliman, where her recent successes include the $2.9 million sale of a three-bedroom condo at 200 Chambers Street in Tribeca.

Roth is also among those featured in “Far from the Tree,” a new book by author Andrew Solomon. The book explores raising children with appreciable differences due to deafness, mental illness or other reasons. In the book’s section on deafness, Solomon chronicles Roth’s upbringing as the daughter of two deaf parents who felt limited by their hearing impairment. If her now-deceased parents “knew what I was doing today,” Roth said, “they would never have believed it possible.”

Solomon has known Roth since the early 1990s, when she provided him entrée into the deaf community for a New York Times Magazine story he was writing.

Of Roth’s career in real estate, Solomon told The Real Deal, “Jackie has so much self-confidence that she has the courage to go into a field that might have looked closed to her. I really do think it’s her personal warmth and intelligence that capture people; she could sell me the Brooklyn Bridge, and I’d leave a happy guy.”

And Roth said that her hearing impairment can actually be an advantage in the real estate business. For one thing, her deafness has heightened her ability to read people visually. “When I do open houses, when someone walks in who really, really loves the space, I know that,” Roth said. “Their face, their eyes — they don’t have to say anything.”