Achieving success in residential real estate is exceedingly more challenging than how it appears on the surface. To rise to the top in this competitive industry, enterprising real estate professionals say they are driven by their passion for work and community-building, combined with their eagerness to meet innovation head-on. Having the right culture within the agency to help empower its agents as true trailblazers starts with having the right tools for a successful and profitable business.
Shaping the future of real estate begins with its team members at Douglas Elliman, one of the largest household names in the industry. Being able to meet their agents’ needs runs across a layer of elements such as providing professional continuing development, having access to the latest in technology, and also proving a culture and family that is community-orientated that constantly looks at ways of giving back through charitable means and efforts.
“I’m proud that my team and my client base is across the spectrum of diversity, including ethnicity, socio-economic demographics and age,” said Ernie Carswell, a 34-year real estate veteran who leads Carswell & Associates, a division of Douglas Elliman that is among the most active in California. Carswell said a team that reflects the community has a deeper understanding of client needs and can provide more astute guidance.
Carswell jumped into the brokerage business in 1980s New York City, driven by a passion for real estate. To endure and succeed in this demanding industry, he embraced innovation.
“Our business is changing other people’s lives. Our business is change and we have to be constantly evolving and innovating,” he said. “I began in this business where there were fax machines, before the Internet. To stay competitive, I’ve had to constantly innovate and be on the cutting edge of technologies as they emerged.”
Carswell was a co-founder of Teles Property, purchased by Douglas Elliman in 2017. His team at Douglas Elliman closes well over $100 million in California real estate annually. Carswell ties the strength of his professional team to their unique mix of ages and backgrounds. An experienced agent who is knowledgeable, innovative, entrepreneurial and passionate is the best you can find, he said.
Passion has powered Jennifer Kalish, a New York-based licensed real estate salesperson who is ranked first in Manhattan and fifth nationwide, as she grew her business over the past 13 years.
“The reason I have consistently been a top agent is primarily due to my passion,” said Kalish. “Yes, I am passionate about real estate, but I am passionate about the people that choose to work with me. I go deep. The connections I make with clients are not superficial. I truly want to understand what is most important to THEM. And I listen, and I execute. I will not be outworked, I will never compromise my ethics or integrity, and I am an expert in my field.”
Kalish lives in the city in which she works, raising three sons. She stays involved within the school’s sports programs but says that the idea of community extends to causes that are important to her clients. Community-driven and charitable organizations she is active are those promoting Harlem Dance Theater and the Lyme Disease and Pancreatic Cancer foundations.
“I am looking to make my clients happy, and ultimately I want to do whatever I can to make their lives better. And that means finding them the best home, and beyond,” Kalish explained.
A passion for hard work and respect for the community has motivated Maria Babaev to carve her own career in real estate at Douglas Elliman. Babaev is synonymous with luxury real estate on the North Shore of Long Island. Her passion for the industry developed from a career on Wall Street, where she learned how to form powerful business relationships and bridge connections between professionals of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
“Realtors are some of the only professionals that wake up unemployed every day. You need to stay motivated and resourceful. You need to be resilient and bounce back quickly after setbacks,” she said. Babaev is an anchor within the New York Metro Russian community, actively involved in New York-based cultural councils such as the Russian Nobility Association, American-Russian Children’s Welfare Society, and Gift of Life Foundation. She leverages her relationships in these councils to create a broad business-based network of professionals, community leaders and residents throughout the North Shore of Long Island and New York City. She also devotes time to the youth baseball community through her 16-year-old son, who is passionate about the sport, and the equestrian community, which her daughter is actively involved in.
“Community is paramount to me personally and professionally, and I’m involved in a number of activities,” Babaev said. “I view neighborhoods and clients as important communities and I am constantly involved in events and charities in the area of my home in Old Brookville and in the neighborhoods where I do business.”
To educate and better reach her community, Babaev began developing her multimedia offerings during the pandemic to keep news and content fresh on her neighborhood information hub.
“The pandemic propelled a lot of people and technology forward but it also simplified things for people and helped them look at what’s really important. I’m always looking for ways to streamline things to what’s important for clients,” said Babaev.
In South Florida, expert agent David Siddons says a focus on community and innovation have pushed his business to new heights. He leads the David Siddons Group, a Douglas Elliman team of nearly a dozen real estate professionals who focus on the art of selling luxury real estate in Miami. Last year, the David Siddons Group closed $142 million in sales.
David has taken an innovative approach to operations, naming territory managers who lived in the neighborhoods they sold.
“This is not a hierarchy for me, but a syndicate of partnerships,” he says about his approach to running the business. “I am a champion of each person on my team.”
The lack of turnover at David Siddons Group is proof-positive. Everyone on the team has been with him for at least five years. His marketing director has been working with him for 11 years. To empower his community, Siddons has developed three software platforms to educate clients: the neighborhood Economic Health Score; Advanced Analytics; and Condo Geeks. The platforms all work to track fundamentals, data and economic cycles within the South Florida market in unique and actionable ways. The David Siddons Group has produced 1700 articles, 85 reports and 510 videos to educate buyers and visitors alike on the latest trends influencing Miami real estate.
“Acting in blind faith should not exist. We give confidence to buyers. We empower them to trust us,” Siddons said of his decision to build out a resplendent collection of articles and research. “After all, nobody buys real estate to lose money.”