The New York real estate scene is pretty crazy these days. Prices were recently at an all time high, and new developments are constantly popping up all over the city. To venture into this market as a buyer or seller can be a bit overwhelming and intimidating. That's why it's important to work with the right people. My friend Zack Sosne is one of the best, and would be an excellent guide on your next real estate journey. Zack and I met nearly 10 years ago at the New York School of Interior Design, and he is a savvy real estate agent as well as a trained interior designer and construction manager. While most agents come into the field with a law degree or finance background, Zack has brought his design eye and renovation experience to the table to create a one-stop showroom to meet all of your real estate and renovation needs. In 2012, he along with Craig Roth of NextStopNY, and Lindsay Joyce of 3F Living opened the first joint showroom of NextStopNY and 3F Living, and are working on their second location opening this fall. In the past seven years they have developed a loyal customer base through both selling and renovating over 100 NYC apartments. I interviewed Zack to learn a bit more about how he got here, what he is currently working on, and how he envisions growth in this niche market. Keep reading for the full scoop:
Back when we were in design school nearly 10 years ago, did you have any idea you would venture into real estate sales?
I've always kept my options open and pursued opportunities I felt I would enjoy. I began my career in graphic design at a major ad agency, but became tired of sitting behind a desk and sought a career where I could have more direct interaction with my clients. As an interior designer I found immense gratification in helping people make the most of their spaces. I needed to reach more people and with virtually no marketing budget I felt that joining a real estate firm as a part-time agent would help expand my design business. It quickly became apparent that my real estate clients were drawn to me because of my design skills and my design clients loved knowing I had real estate experience.
You, Craig Roth of NextStopNY, and Lindsay Joyce of 3F Living opened the first joint showroom of NextStopNY and 3F Living in 2012. Can you tell us a bit about the new showroom you are opening?
NextStopNY and 3F Living have a solid brand, and we are going to carry that identity into this new showroom as well. The businesses are very team-oriented, and the new showroom will further support that. Our team will be expanding and the new office will also feature a contractor’s representative and a real estate attorney. We will have a few private offices, which will be used for client meetings, but the public space will be large desks where agents can bring their laptops, plug-in, and essentially work and run. We encourage our agents to be out showing apartments, going to open houses, scheduling networking events, etc. If the office is packed with agents, then something is wrong.
Having been involved in over 100 renovations since 2004, do you have any out of the ordinary stories you can share with us?
Early in my career I was working for a Hasidic family up in Riverdale. The 3 children shared a nice size bathroom, and the parents had asked me to redesign it using various configurations of gold onyx. About a week after the bathroom was completed I went back to start working on the kitchen design. As I walked into the bathroom I hear "quack, quack...quack, quack" and notice small turds scattered all over. Turns out the children were not allowed to have a cat or dog but really wanted a pet. They now had 2 ducks living in their onyx-clad bathroom.
A client comes to you today looking for an apartment, what are some of the things you ask them and what are some of the things they are probably unaware to look for?
We start off simple - what is your desired location, size, and budget? Then I need to find out if this will be a primary residence, a second home, or an investment property. There are times where I need to educate people on co-ops vs. condos, and help them determine what is the best fit for them. As we start touring apartments I really start to point out things they should be aware of. Most people don't realize that the ceiling is predominately concrete and it is difficult to add overhead lighting. People often ask about the flooring, and if it can be refinished or replaced. Some people want to know if they can add a half bath. I'll explain alteration agreements, the approval process, time frames, and almost always provide on the spot concept sketches and potential costs.
What separates you from other Real Estate Agents?
If you walk into a space with me you will walk out excited about what can be done. You’ll know how much it will cost to do it, and how long it will be until you officially move in. If I have a good understanding of what you want, the process will be quick, painless and enjoyable.
What are some of the design trends and styles that are popular with your clients right now?
Today my clients are looking for clean, minimal designs. They want durable products that appeal to the masses and promise good resale value. Caesarstone has a great new collection of countertops, Nemo Tile carries a nice selection of decorative tiles, and our in-house millworker produces affordable, solid wood cabinetry.
When working with a limited budget, where would you prioritize spending money?
After a client buys a 1-bedroom co-op for $600,000, finding extra funds to renovate is not always easy. I advise people to tackle the general conditions first - meaning they should have the floors refinished, the walls painted, the light fixtures upgraded, and any TV’s mounted and wires hidden. Budget permitting we next head to the bathroom and kitchen.
What are the team's goals and visions for the future of your business?
Over the years I have established the following process: Find it. Fix it. Furnish it. Our design team is growing, our contractors are executing, and our agents are becoming more and more knowledgeable in all aspects of the business. I expect this to continue, and hope that we can have at least ten offices/showrooms up and running in the next 5 years.