Emily Cho-Roache of Brown Harris Stevens got her start in the months following Sept. 11, when she and her partner, Greg Roache, decided to put in long days and nights targeting buyers when many in the industry weren’t. The result was 27 sales in 2002, and a REBNY Rookie of the Year award. Cho-Roache is one of a dozen agents profiled in this month’s Top Agents Under 30.
“Nobody starts out planning to go into real estate,” is a common refrain one often hears. Traditionally, residential real estate has been a profession that most launch into as a second or third career, one or two or three decades after entering the workforce. It’s not a young person’s game.
But that may be changing. A new breed of younger agents are increasingly coming into the profession, a trend that has been fueled by the downturn in other sectors of the economy and the impressive amount of money that can be made in real estate.
Given the trend, The Real Deal decided to assemble a list of some of the hottest agents under 30. We approached 25 of the city’s most prominent firms, both large and small, asking for their most accomplished or top-producing agent still in their 20s (for the largest firms we asked for two names), and then whittled down the list some more.
The results speak for themselves. From Manhattan-born-and-bred family business scions to new agents who came to New York from small towns to make it big, they run the gamut. Some have worked on Wall Street. Some hail from the art world. What they all seem to possess is an impressive degree of maturity, drive and smarts, which no doubt has helped them to elevate their careers at a relatively early stage.
Company: The Corcoran Group
Deals: 12 contracts in six months as an agent
“I’m five feet tall, and look like I’m 15,” admits Rachel Kaplan, who started as an agent at Corcoran a month after graduating from George Washington University in May. Though she looks even younger than her age, and is the least senior agent in Corcoran’s Carnegie Hill office by a decade and a half, Kaplan is off to a stellar start in real estate, with 12 signed contracts in her first six months on the job, including half a dozen closed deals. The native New Yorker, who graduated from The Hewitt School and worked at Corcoran as an assistant during college, mostly caters to young homebuyers. She cited Barbara Corcoran’s book during her job interview when concerns were raised about her size and age. “I told them ‘you have to take a disadvantage, and turn it into an advantage.'”
Emily Cho-Roache/Greg Roache
Company: Brown Harris Stevens
Deals: 17 sales in 2003; 27 sales in 2002
Age: Emily 26 and Greg 29
In the months following Sept. 11, Emily Cho-Roache and her partner, Greg Roache, decided to put in long days and nights at Brown Harris Stevens targeting buyers when much of the industry was at a standstill. The result was 27 sales in 2002, and a REBNY Rookie of the Year award for Cho-Roache. The New York native, who was born in Korea, initially got started in the industry in 2000 as an assistant, but soon went on to form a partnership with Greg. The alliance worked out in more ways than one, and the couple got married in April, with Cho-Roache now expecting. “We’ll have to reorganize our plans a bit,” she said. Marriage hasn’t diminished their deal-making skills, however – the couple did 17 deals in 2003, for a higher dollar amount than the year before. “We were even on the phone with a seller during our rehearsal dinner,” Cho-Roache said. In the partnership, Cho-Roache said she is the more organized one. Greg, 29, formerly the top-producing agent at Madison International Real Estate before joining Brown Harris Stevens, is “the more imaginative, creative and aggressive one.”
Company: Warburg Realty
Deals: $9.5 million in last six months
Sarah Steinberg is the daughter of two of Warburg’s top brokers, Richard Steinberg and Renee Bross, but has also shown she has what it takes to be superstar herself since beginning as an agent three years ago. Over the past six months, working both independently and with her father, who is the company’s top producer, she has obtained $9.5 million in signed contracts and closed deals, and presently has a whopping $26.6 million in exclusives. Steinberg graduated from the Nightingale-Bamford School on the Upper East Side and from Cornell University, and said because of her upbringing she learned early on “the twists and turns of a deal – it’s not a surprise to me.” Nonetheless, starting so young, “people were welcoming, but skeptical” of her, she said. “But I got the trust and was able to prove myself.” Since she started, she said, “there are so many other young brokers entering the business.”
Deals: $8.2 million in 2003; 24 sales and 4 rentals
Nominated for REBNY Rookie of the Year in 2003, Ivana Tagliamonte has been getting deals done at a rapid pace since starting as an agent in New York a year and a half ago. The former environmental consultant and marketing director for a D.C. real estate company averaged two deals a month in 2003. Around 25 percent of her business is relocation work, a natural fit for someone who spent her childhood in Italy before moving extensively around the East Coast as an adolescent. Tagliamonte is “broker for the building” at The Foundry at 310 and 312 East 23rd Street, where she lives.
Company: Citi Habitats
Deals: Top listing agent; 50-plus rentals in 2003
The downturn in the economy and his subsequent departure from Goldman Sachs was one of the best things to have happened to Robin Schneiderman. The Citi Habitats broker, who graduated from Syracuse University, came into real estate when the trader training program he was in didn’t lead to a job. Schneiderman’s best friend, Andrew Barrocas, brought him on board at Citi Habitats, where he is now a top rental broker, receiving the company’s ‘platinum award’ this year for doing more than 50 deals. Schneiderman is also the number one or two listing agent in the company, earning enough commission for getting new developments into the system that it more than pays for rent. “It’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” he said. “I’m a good networker and I ask a lot of questions.” Most of his business is done downtown, and his typical client comes from Wall Street.
Sabrina Kleier Morgenstern/Robert Morgenstern
Company: Gumley Haft Kleier
Deals: 20 sales and rentals in 2003
Age: Sabrina 27 and Robert 28
Sabrina Kleier Morgenstern started her career as the youngest producer at NBC’s Access Hollywood, where she covered New York events in a segment she produced called “Hot Spots.” After enough celebrity interviews and movie premiers, she decided to enter the family business (owned by her parents Michele and Ian Kleier), because she saw “my mother had a fabulous career and a life,” though the still does the occasional television segment. Since starting in real estate in 2002, Morgenstern has parlayed her contacts at Access Hollywood into listings – Charlie Matthau, son of Walter, who she once interviewed, recently hired her to put his deceased parents’ apartment at Trump World Tower on the market, now priced at $3.799 million. She is currently working with three other celebrity clients. Morgenstern also learned about real estate – and celebrities – from her mother, a power broker whose clients have included John Travolta, Warren Beatty and Billy Joel. “My mother would wheel us around in a carriage while looking for a place with John Travolta, and negotiate deals during dinner,” she said. “You just absorb the information.” After graduating from Horace Mann and cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, Morgenstern also has access to “a network of people buying the most expensive apartments in the city, including my friends, who are starting to buy places.” Expanding the business even further, Morgenstern’s husband, Robert, came aboard in April and sold a $2.5 million townhouse in his first three months on the job.
Company: Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy
Deals: $4 million in first six months
Michelle Jacobson decided to pursue a career in real estate relatively recently, when she was moving back from Miami Beach to New York and had an experience with an inept broker – who also happened to be her friend. “She didn’t do a good job and I lost a lot of money,” she said. “I knew I could do a better job.” Jacobson has racked up more than $4 million in sales in her first six months on the job, including a deal for a four-bedroom Tribeca loft in November. Jacobson also has a background in art history and interior design, having managed Meridian Fine Art, a gallery on the Upper East Side, and attending the Art Institute.
Company: Douglas Elliman
Deals: $14 million in last 4 months;
five $1 million deals in May
Recently named REBNY Rookie of the Year in 2003, Timothy Melzer is off to an astounding start in real estate. He has tallied a total of 41 deals over last two years, and in the last four months alone has racked up $14 million in sales. Last May, Melzer did five $1 million-plus deals in one month, and was named “Broker of the Month” by Douglas Elliman. Melzer’s background is far away from the world of New York real estate. Growing up on a large wheat ranch in Oregon, where he graduated high school in a class of 37 people, Melzer then received a degree from the University of Washington in Seattle before moving to New York. Working as a waiter at River Caf , he was trying to “figure out what to do with himself” when a he came across a contact in real estate, a profession he had always thought about as a career. Starting right before Sept. 11 at Elliman, he didn’t get a deal done for four months – then business took off. His main focus is Tribeca lofts, and he occupies a niche selling properties between $1 and $2 million, he said. Melzer said his clients cover all ages and types – “straight couples, gay couples, single men, single women” – and said clients gravitate to him because he’s likeable, and provides good customer service. He said most clients aren’t put off by his age – those that are, he doesn’t work with – and said the playing field is equal “as long as you have an extensive knowledge of the neighborhood and market.” One notable recent deal, which hasn’t closed yet, involved representing a New Jersey doctor who bought the penthouse at Morton Square for $1.9 million. Melzer said he is also known as one of the top listing agents at Douglas Elliman, finding out about new developments and getting them into the company’s system.
A Harvard graduate who worked as a Nasdaq trader at Merrill Lynch for five years, Alison Seanor left her job to travel the world for a year after Sept. 11. When she returned to New York, a chance encounter with Fenwick-Keats co-owner Jeff Wolk in a building elevator lead to a career in real estate. After starting six months ago, Seanor is off to a solid start, with eight deals, and she’s approaching $2 million in sales and rentals.
Company: Citi Habitats
Deals: Youngest office manager
Citi Habitats’ youngest office manager, Andrew Barrocas, runs the company’s 100 John Street storefront downtown, and has tripled business there since taking over a year ago. He started by clearing house – only two of the 15 original agents remain – and then expanded the office to make room for 35 agents. Overall, his agents – most are around his age – did more than 1,000 rentals last year. Beyond rentals, Barrocas has helped close some large sales, including a deal in progress representing the buyer of an $8 million townhouse downtown. He credits his success to his father, who runs a handful of businesses in the garment center. “As a kid, we weren’t taught sports or anything else like that. We just talked about business.” His brother Jason, 28, who is also an office manager for the company in Midtown, brought Andrew on board after he graduated from Arizona State University. Andrew did 130 rentals in his first year as an agent, before becoming a manager. He is also responsible for bringing Robin Schneiderman, a childhood friend from New City in Rockland County and now a top agent at Citi Habitats, into the company.
Company: Douglas Elliman
Deals: $13 million in 2003
Ryan Fix’s approach as an agent involves a heavy dose of technology. Once involved in developing the real estate division at citysearch.com, where he assisted some of the city’s top firms with their marketing strategies, Fix knows with today’s younger buyers, “you’ve to get information for them in the way they want it. I send a lot of emails, do a lot of follow up calls.” He’s also able to effectively convert buyers browsing properties on the Internet – “people will keep browsing until there is a broker smart enough to commit them” – and it’s paid off well. At the end of 2003, Fix was in contract for more than $13 million, and had more than $8 million in closed sales. Before being recruited by Douglas Elliman from citysearch.com, Fix had worked as a rental broker and on the trading floor at Merrill Lynch and for Citibank. Most of his clients, he said, are “young people who have hit it big,” like an energy trader at Goldman Sachs in her early 30s who is “rocking and rolling” in her career and currently looking for a place, or the JP Morgan analyst who he took on a walkthrough of a $1.6 million loft at Bullmoose Condominium at 42 East 20th Street recently. Fix hopes to branch out into development eventually, and is also in the process of starting a non-profit organization for children in need.
Company: The Corcoran Group
Deals: 20 sales and rentals in 2003
Although he’s only 28, Josh Rubin has got a lot of experience in real estate. He entered the business seven years ago, after working in retail finance as a stockbroker for Smith Barney and Bear Stearns and attending the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, where he grew up. Joining Corcoran three years ago after working in rentals, most of the deals he does now (about 90 percent sales and 10 percent rentals) are downtown, and a lot in Chelsea. “Business just sort of snowballed there,” he said. ‘It’s not by design.” Recent deals include a 5-room, 1,600 square foot loft at 32 Morton Street. Rubin’s eventual goal is to be a developer. “That’s my end game,” he said.