The Real Deal New York

Day in the life: Stefani Berkin

The Rutenberg president on growing the firm by 200+ agents, learning the business from her grandfather and being a ‘girl boss’
By Christopher Cameron | November 01, 2017 10:00AM

Stefani Berkin

UPDATE: Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 6:25 p.m.:

Stefani Berkin, 30, is president of Rutenberg NYC, a 100 percent commission model brokerage. Since she took the firm’s helm in 2014, Rutenberg has grown from 489 to 703 agents, unveiled free weekly real estate classes for its brokers and closed $1.8 billion worth of sales. Rutenberg rounded out the top five on The Real Deal’s ranking of the largest residential brokerages by agent count last year. The firm also had 111 listings totaling $178 million as of late last month, according to an analysis of active apartment and building listings on On-Line Residential.

Berkin’s success didn’t come out of nowhere. Her grandfather, Wall Street veteran Richie Friedman, co-founded the Manhattan branch of Rutenberg in 2006. But long before then, he had already begun grooming Berkin for the business. When she was a child, Berkin remembers, her grandfather would walk her through how he was pricing an initial public offering and explain why he was getting involved in a particular real estate investment. He would show her memoranda and the prospectuses, always speaking to her like she was an adult. Berkin said it was that upbringing that spurred her into the real estate business. After graduating from the University of Michigan in 2009, she landed a spot on Doug Heddings’ team when he was at Douglas Elliman. She later moved over to the Modlin Group. Berkin still does deals, and recently sold a house on East 76th after a bidding war for her wedding planner, “the incomparable Lawrence Scott,” she said.

She grew up in Westchester and now lives on the Upper East Side with her husband and new baby girl.

5:30 a.m. I wake up and have coffee in bed while I read real estate news. I get a Venti black iced coffee with no ice from Starbucks on my way home from work the night before. I leave it in the refrigerator and have it the next morning.

6:00 a.m. I go to the Tracy Anderson studio on East 59th Street. It is the hardest, most intense workout. I usually take a muscular mat class or dance cardio.

7:30 a.m. I’m back at home by the time my 6-month-old baby wakes up. I put my phone away. We play. It’s a lot of tummy time. Then I feed her. She just started eating solids. Her name is Madison, which happens to be very appropriate for being in real estate.

8:15 a.m. I head to our office at 641 Lexington Avenue. I usually walk and do a conference call with my team of four brokers about new exclusives, active buyers and offers. I alternate walking down different avenues. There is one elderly homeless woman who I pass frequently and bring her breakfast.

One57

8:45 a.m. I arrive at the office and have a meeting with my assistant, Jennifer Silva, to map out my day.

9:30 a.m. I interview new and prospective agents. I like to hear their stories. Mostly they want to make more money. We offer 100 percent commission and cut a check the same day the deal closes. We hire about 15 agents a month.

11:00 a.m. I check out my agents’ listings. I was recently at Anjollie Feradov’s $7.5 million listing at One57. It lets the agents know that the president of the company cares about their listing. I’ll usually post something on social media to help market the property.

Freds at Barneys

12:30 p.m. I like to have lunch out of the office at Freds at Barneys with a disrupter, someone who wants to pick my brain about new technology. Recently, I met with Suzanne Dumaine [who works at meal kit delivery startup Plated]. She came from a real estate family and is completely disrupting the culinary industry. And very recently I had a lunch about a potential acquisition of another company.  Stay tuned.

2:00 p.m. I block out time to meet with agents in my office. Any agent currently at the company can schedule a time to meet with me about their current deals, new business, etc.

2:45 p.m. I close the blinds in my office and pump. Not the most glamorous part of the day, but very realistic. I believe that every office should have a private room for nursing moms. Our office has one. The stories I hear about women having to pump at their desks in open offices are crazy.

3:15 p.m. I have meetings with my residential sales manager and then my commercial sales manager. And I try to check in and get the most current updates on the residential listings service syndication.

Richie Friedman

5:00 p.m. The stock market is closed, so I go meet with my grandfather. His office is next door to mine. We talk about new incentives and company expansion. We have our eyes on New Jersey. One of my brothers is on my team, and another is in private equity. My sister is a child life specialist.

5:45 p.m. I try and congratulate anyone who picked up a check that day, which at our office means they closed a deal that day. It can take weeks to get a check from other brokerages.

6:30 p.m. I run home and give my daughter a bath. During the day, she stays with my fabulous nanny. I play with her, feed her and put her to bed.

8:00 p.m. I put on a little black dress and pumps and go out to dinner. I love Sant Ambroeus and the Polo Bar. Recently, I have been going out with five or six girl bosses like Lisa Binderow of [workout clothing company] Nicepipes Apparel, Nicole Berrie of [wellness blog] Bonberi and health coach Caroline Leventhal. We’re all in our early 30s. We talk about management skills and what it’s like running a company as a young woman.

8:45 p.m. I will usually go to some networking event or gala. I am very involved in Wounded Warriors, Dress for Success and Young Jewish Professionals.

12:00 a.m. I am in bed around midnight. I don’t sleep a lot. My husband, Michael Berkin, gets home about the same time. He’s in real estate finance at Silver Fin Capital. Mutual friends wanted to set us up a year before we were randomly seated next to each other at the same restaurant. We exchanged business cards, and the rest is history.

12:30 a.m. I check on my baby and social media and go to sleep. 

Clarification: This story previously stated that Stefani Berkin worked at Halstead; however she did not.