At 28, Mara Navaretta had a goal of making $100,000 her first year in real estate, when the average Long Island house was selling for about $200,000.
"My manager laughed when I told him I wanted to make six figures as a new agent," she recalled. "You had to sell a lot of houses to do it." A year later the goal was met.
After becoming a top producer in the East Norwich office of Daniel Gale Real Estate, she worked for a few other firms but many closed down during the recession. In 2010, she and her attorney husband founded their own real estate firm, Homes by Mara Realty.
The firm has grown fast, selling $16 million in properties in 2011 and $39 million in 2012. The phone started ringing with more agents who wanted to work under her company's umbrella, and the company grew from five to 35 agents.
"I've only recruited one person out of the 35; everybody called me," she said. Now 45 years old, Navaretta says she's already sold $50 million in properties in 2013. Her new goal is to double her production within 5 years.
How did you make six figures as a new real estate agent?
Pounding the pavement, literally knocking on doors, cold calling, calling For Sale by Owners; everything that's uncomfortable I was willing to do. There's something called "expireds" which are homeowners that have been on the market but the Realtor was not able to sell their house, so then it expires on multiple listing. I'd call them and say, "If you want to re-list then I'll show you how I can sell your house."
What are your biggest obstacles?
People -- personalities. Putting together the buyers and the sellers: The sellers think they've got gold and the buyers want their deal, but they want the deal of the century. So negotiating is the biggest part of our business. It's not about showing pretty houses. It's all about putting together two personalities . . . and negotiating to make everybody feel like they are the winner.
What trends are you seeing in Long Island real estate?
First-time home buyers are out in droves. Interest rates are remaining low, even though they've crept up. The North Shore, especially after [superstorm] Sandy, is really picking up at an incredible pace. If people are deciding between Syosset and Seaford, they're going to choose Syosset.
What makes it a tough business?
You run around [showing people properties] for six months: going to dinner, barbecues and family functions, and then they buy from somebody else. And there's a lot of rejection when you're looking to get a listing. . . . It's just a numbers game: you will eventually get that seller who wants to list with you.
What's your advice for new real estate agents who're picking their first company?
Find somebody who's going to support you; sometimes that means emotionally. Sales is a really tough game. I give agents one of my favorite books, "The Greatest Salesman In The World" by Og Mandino.
What does it mean to be productive as opposed to busy?
Making your goals. So with goal setting, if that means making 20 calls a day so that you could speak to five people and make one appointment, that's what productive is.
Name: Mara Navaretta, broker/owner, Homes by Mara Realty in Syosset.
What it does: Residential real estate sales.
Employees: 35 independent contractors -- 20 full time, 15 part time.
Revenue: $1.5 million.