Payfully chatted with New York real estate agent, Kevin Bendis from Branco Group who specializes in apartment rentals and digital advertising for real estate listings. See what real estate advice and tips he has for the real estate community.

Why did you want to get into real estate?

I got into real estate for a few different reasons, the principal one being that I came to understand it to be a field that was friendly to the arts. Actors, dancers, painters, and musicians often end up finding real estate to be a worthwhile career because the hours can be flexible.

Nine or so years ago when I first began working in real estate I was an active musician and I wanted a job where I could balance my time between making money and playing music. Showing apartments allowed me to do that. Depending on the brokerage you work for, making your own hours is a real perk of the job. You could work for six straight weeks and do well and then take off time to go on a tour for instance.

Having a schedule that was on my terms and being around people who are in the arts really appealed to me and still does. I think this aspect of the job isn’t mentioned enough. Real estate is incredibly demanding and requires many hours of work, but you can also make the time for your passions if you choose to.

Since real estate agents don’t get guaranteed compensation, do you have any tips on how to manage your finances during high and low season?

This is the most difficult aspect of any job that involves sales and in New York real estate it can be grueling. I think this ties into the last answer a little bit, but balancing your finances during the changing seasons is tricky. If you’re new to real estate and begin during the summer, the market seems saturated with deals to be hade. However, winter is the opposite. You don’t think of New York as a college town, but the market ebbs and flows around the school year.  If you’re not careful and don’t balance your budget you can wind up with little income during the winter months.

My advice is to be practical. August can be one of the most lucrative months. If you’re able to save and put away money from summertime deals it’s imperative that you do so. Many brokers take what they’ve earned during the busy season and go for long vacations during the winter. Conversely, I’d say there is an opportunity during the winter. Everybody needs to move at some point and some of us end up doing that in the middle of January. I often like to switch gears and try to focus on making bigger deals during this time. It’s easy to close a number of smaller deals across the summer, but I try to focus on properties outside of my comfort zone. Preferably properties with a bigger budget than I’m used to. It can be more challenging, but the payoff can be great.

Do you use any apps or technology to keep your business organized, or to generate more leads?

At my company, I think the most used resource for us is Nestio.com. I wish it were in app form, but the site is easy enough to navigate. A few years ago mine and other companies switched over to Nestio as the home for all their listings. It has since become a necessary tool we use. Nestio links listings with brokers. This is where we publish our own listings and where property owners list their homes as well. Nestio is raw data on specific units, but its precise and up to date. Of course, StreetEasy is probably the most used and most effective app for prospective buyers and renters. The way it streamlines listings and images is pretty great. From the agent side, I find I’m using Nestio more than anything else. It’s best for checking a property’s status and details, especially when in the field.

What’s your strategy to close a real estate deal?

Every deal is different, but the best advice I can give is to communicate with your client as clearly as possible. From the get-go, you need to establish a relationship with clients. When people are looking for homes they’re also seeing ads, listings, and emails from other agents. It’s difficult to stand out and to lock someone down. These days we communicate via text and email so often it is easy to lose personal connection. It’s becoming more old school, but picking up the phone and speaking to someone is the best way to start and close a deal. Agents just beginning may roll their eyes, but I can almost guarantee that if you speak to someone or meet them face to face your odds of them sticking with you and closing the deal will increase dramatically.

Any broker can show a client any unit in the city, and so you need to be yourself and demonstrate you have a client’s best interests in mind. Take the time to break down every detail of a deal to a client. The idea is to make sure they understand, but you never need to go for the hard sell. Most people find it off-putting if a broker is so pushy.  However, you do need to highlight what is great about the unit you are showing. It’s true for all sales, no matter the product. People are looking for human connections and if they trust you with their housing needs not only will they move forward with you, but they will recommend you to their friends.

Our first insider, Chelsea Werner, is a senior real estate agent for Bold NY, focusing on luxury sales. Chelsea has been in the real estate industry for almost 10 years from up and coming neighborhood rentals to upscale, luxury condominiums.  We’ve asked Chelsea to give us her expert perspective on the luxury market and tips that will help real estate agents close deals faster.

You can follow Chelsea Werner and stay up to date on the Manhattan luxury marketing on your Instagram, @chelcjw.

What are the best tips for an agent when selling a luxury home?

I think the best tip is really to take the time prior to listing to get all of your ducks in a row. Once a seller decides to list their apartment, they typically want to get the ball rolling quickly and go to market. As an agent, you want to make your client happy. However, you also have to set appropriate timelines and expectations to give yourself time to prep.

There is a lot that goes into listing an apartment. I am a firm believer in making sure the apartment is in peak condition—even if that delays the process a bit.  Some units can benefit massively from small upgrades. For example, hiring an organizer, or a professional deep cleaning service will give the space a polished feel.  You can also bring in a visual expert to re-arrange or add to the space in its current state. It is important to take the time to go that extra step as it will definitely help in the long run!

Typically, the luxury market is also slower to move. Therefore, having direct buyer pools and targeted lists of people you can reach out to prior to listing a home can help expedite a sale. Anything you can do to create awareness around a space prior to listing it can help move the needle. Additionally, consider hosting a broker event where you can generate more leads. Or reaching out to other brokers who have similar inventory in the area. All of this can help attract more people to the space.

What do you find challenging as a real estate agent and how do you overcome them?

In my opinion, the hardest part is getting someone to agree to work with you.  Especially when it comes to purchasing or selling what is most likely one of their most expensive assets.  Is it a huge personal and emotional process to buy or sell a home, even if it is more of an investment. You need to be able to showcase yourself and connect with someone so they feel safe with you.  Just like any other relationship, there needs to be a level of trust between a buyer or seller and their agent. You also have to set yourself apart from the competition. There are some real estate brokers that will say whatever they think they need to say in order to get a client. However, this practice ultimately becomes a detriment to the profession and to themselves.

What are your go-to strategies for closing a deal?

I don’t have any “go to” strategy because I like to take each person on as their own situation.  I do think it is really important to have a face-to-face meeting with a client prior to working with them. This enables you to connect with the client and get a better sense of who they are.  It is also an easier way to establish a genuine connection. I’m always very careful and diligent about following-up and putting things in writing. Even if it is just outlining a call, it’s better to have a concrete understanding of their expectations and my game plan. The last thing you want to do is make the experience for a client like a second job for them.

I figure out based on the clients needs what is the best way to communicate with the buyer or seller. They need to feel comfortable and supported throughout the process. I also think finding ways to stay organized is the key to success. Always keep lists and save everything so you can refer back to something in an instant if you need.

What are 5 mistakes you’ve seen rookie agents make?

  1. You cannot want a deal more than a client.
  2. Time management is a huge part of this business as you are pretty much your own boss. You need to make sure you are organizing your time wisely as it is really all you have.
  3. Stay organized! Keep track of everything—all your deals, all your clients, set reminders for follow through etc… It is really easy to get sidetracked and not make this a priority, but it’s essential to success in real estate.
  4. Align yourself with the right people in the industry. When starting out, you want to soak up all the experience you can and start making money as fast as you can.  Make sure you are not just working for the sake of working, but that you are learning as you go. Make a conscious effort to seek jobs you think will be as much of a learning experience as it will be money in your pocket.
  5. Don’t burn out too quickly. It will take time to learn the business and to start earning real estate commissions.