Spotlight on … Patrick Smith

Patrick Smith - Century 21 Cedarcrest RealtyPatrick Smith has served in the U.S. Navy as a hospital corpsman, worked for various retail establishments, sold cars at dealerships, and provided customer service at the MetLife Stadium. His multitude of early work experiences and broad skills were all rooted in his love for helping others, which guided him to becoming a real estate agent.

Pat found his love for real estate by mistake. He enrolled in a real estate licensing course with his mother to spend time with her and coach her through the material; they both passed the exam. Engaged to be married, working long hours in retail, Patrick realized it was time for a career change and took a chance on his new real estate license. It didn’t take him long to fall in love with his choice.

“I cannot imagine doing anything else,” he says. “No two days are ever alike and each one is an adventure.”

A resident of Bloomfield, Pat has been helping residential real estate customers in Essex and Passaic counties for approximately 25 years, all within the Century 21 system. Patrick joined Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty about three years ago for one reason: broker owner John Sass.

“John is a people person with great understanding and a keen ability to train others,” says Pat. “The family atmosphere we enjoy in our office and everything that makes Cedarcrest Realty what it is, is a direct reflection of John.”

Today, Pat specializes in working with homeowners dealing with short sales. This allows him to help people going through hard times to reach their ideal end goal.

He works closely with the banks to arrive at a sales figure the lender will accept, noting that short sales have a much longer closing process than typical transactions because of the negotiating these transactions entail. He is accustomed to working in divorce situations as well as estate sales, balancing the competing interests of multiple parties to make sure the contract gets signed. He is also involved in commercial work with multifamily rental and investment properties.

Pat’s hard work has paid off in many ways. He is a member of the National Association of Realtors and a New Jersey Association of Realtors Circle of Excellence multi-year award winner, and he has acquired the E-Pro for Realtors and Certified Negotiator designations, and the Military Relocation Professional and Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource certifications.

When asked for advice to new real estate agents and what he values about his career, Pat says that he values the flexibility. “As a real estate agent your sales will fluctuate, so you must become an expert at budgeting. However, you also have the option to create the availability in your schedule to be with your children; for me as a dad, that’s my favorite job of all.”

Spotlight on … Adrienne Wheeler

Adrienne Wheeler is used to getting things done. As a former network television producer, she appreciates timelines, deadlines, accountability, and challenges. Having worked with some of the biggest names in TV, she knows the importance of honesty, integrity, and confidentiality. These are some of the factors that are making her a successful commercial and investment real estate specialist at Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty.

Adrienne joined Cedarcrest in January 2017 about a year into her real estate career; she says that after meeting broker owner John Sass, she knew she’d found the right fit.

“I knew right away that this was the best place for me. I needed an agency whose broker invested in his agents. From our first meeting, I felt I could become successful under John’s tutelage.”

With more than 49,000 real estate agents in northern New Jersey alone, Adrienne knew she had to focus on a particular sector that would lend itself to the skills she had from producing. After researching and talking to people in the commercial part of the business, she focused her efforts in that direction.

Working with real estate investors, developers, and sellers in Essex County, Adrienne focuses mostly on multi-family properties, warehouses, and industrial buildings. She is building a clientele in Newark, which is experiencing increased interest in real estate, as well as in Bayonne, which is also undergoing renewal and new development. She “produces” every commercial real estate transaction, prioritizing her clients’ goals and listings, keeping all the players involved and all the pieces moving ahead, as she ferries each listing to a completed sale.

Part of producing those transactions is keeping both the buyer’s and seller’s attorneys in the loop throughout the process and staying a step ahead of all parties to make sure everyone is prepared at all times. She helps the other agents through the transaction as well to make sure it goes through smoothly and on time. She also believes that her commitment to client confidentiality, business savvy, and her personal and professional integrity have helped her grow her book of business.

“This is an area of business that requires hours of preparation and leg work, and a strong contact list. I also know it’s all in the marketing; you have to know how to write a story about what you’re selling.”

Adrienne’s process includes doing thorough research, canvassing the area, and providing an executive summary of the properties to her buyers. “I’m a bottom line person committed to a positive outcome; I go into each transaction fully prepared and ready for any objection.”

Her efforts and attention to detail result in getting to the closing table in a shorter-than-average sales cycle. Adrienne reports that every one of her commercial and residential transactions has gotten multiple offers within four to six weeks, which is especially unusual in commercial real estate.

A resident of Essex Fells, Adrienne also does residential real estate in Essex County, working with buyers and sellers. But, she likes the challenge of working in commercial and investment real estate, which she admits is a tougher end of the business; she proudly points out that only 37 percent of all commercial real estate agents are women. She is a member of CoStar, which offers a vast suite of tools and resources for the commercial real estate market, and she continually invests in additional training classes specific to commercial real estate, which she believes is a win-win for both her as a real estate agent and for Century 21 Cedarcrest.

Of the office and its broker owner, Adrienne says that, “Every agency and broker claim to be the best but I have the best right here. John Sass goes above and beyond; he doesn’t just talk about what he’s going to do, he does it. He supplies me with the tools I need to create my success.”

Spotlight on … Bruno Marino, Jr.

Bruno Marino, Jr. has grown up in the Century 21 system, the son of a former franchise owner in a busy Belleville, NJ office. Bruno joined his father and mother, who was the agency’s bookkeeper, after graduating college in 1985 and has been an award-winning real estate professional ever since.

Although his original career plans out of college did not include real estate, his father asked Bruno to join him in the agency, Century 21 Homes Thru Us. He decided to go for his license, passed the test, and began making a name for himself in Essex County real estate in October 1985.

“We were one of the first franchises in the area,” said Bruno. “We used to wear the gold Century 21 jackets. They certainly stood out but they made a difference, people noticed.”

Over the years, Bruno worked side by side with his parents, until his father decided to retire. He subsequently joined Cedarcrest Realty in June 2013.

“Bruno is a consummate professional, a Quality Service award recipient year after year and is loved by all,” said John Sass, broker owner of Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty. “We are so fortunate to have him on our team.”

Since joining Century 21 Cedarcrest, Bruno has been a recipient of the Century 21 Centurion Award, the system’s highest honor, a Quality Service Pinnacle awardee, and he has been recognized many times for his high production levels. He is also a past REALTOR® of the Year Award winner and a Distinguished Sales Club Award member. In addition, Bruno is a member of the Graduate Realtor Institute* (GRI), a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), and a member of the NJ Association of Realtors.He works primarily with first-time home buyers as well as seniors who are selling their homes to downsize, and adult children who are handling their parents’ estates and selling a home.

When asked to what he attributes his success over the past 32+ years, Bruno says that “99 percent of my business is from past customers. The Century 21 system was built on the golden rule. I was trained that you always treat people right and it comes back to you. A favorite quote of mine is ‘People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.’ I’m one of those guys who cares.”

This is borne out by the fact that now, Bruno is working on next-generation customers. “I remember when my clients’ children were little, walking around as I was showing the parents a house. Now I’m selling those children their houses; I never thought I’d do that!”

He believes that those referrals are a result of his approach to real estate, which comes from the life lessons he’s learned about what’s truly important.

“Having helped take care of my mother, watching out for my father, seeing family come together to support each other—that’s what’s it’s all about. That commitment that we had for each other is something I bring to my work every day. To be successful in real estate, you have to understand that it’s a long-term commitment; and you need to be honest and open with everyone you deal with. If you treat everyone fairly, it keeps you in business as long as you want to be.”

When asked what he enjoys most about real estate, he says, “When you help someone and they’re thankful, you want to do it again. That’s what keeps me going every day.”

Congratulations to our 2017 Award Winners for Production and Customer Service!

As happens every January, we held our annual awards breakfast on January 24, 2018, when broker owner John Sass announced Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty’s top agents in terms of production and customer service. These awards recognize those real estate agents who earned the highest gross closed commissions and highest customer satisfaction scores in 2017.

John presented the following Century 21 customer service and production awards at the event:

1 – Quality Service Producer: Patricia Popola and Joey Scotto for attaining an overall 90 percent approval rating in the past year.

2 – Quality Service Pinnacle Producer: Bruno Marino, Tracy Chan and Frank Conturso for attaining a 95 percent approval rating for two or more consecutive years.

3 – Century 21 CENTURION Producer: Tracy Chan, the number one agent in production at Century 21 Cedarcrest. Not only that, Tracy has distinguished herself in another way: she is ranked 13 out of over 1000 agents throughout Century 21’s entire New Jersey/Delaware region (putting her in the top 2 percent!) and a Century 21 Presidents Award winner. She had over $16 million in sales volume in 2017. Tracy is also a New Jersey Association of Realtors® (NJAR) Gold Level Circle of Excellence® Sales Award® winner.

4 – Century 21 Masters Emerald Level: Frank Conturso and Joey Scotto, who ranked second and third respectively in gross closed commissions at Century 21 Cedarcrest. Both are also NJAR Silver Level Circle of Excellence® winners.

In addition, Patricia Popola, Susan McGarrity and Bruno Marino were recognized for being among the top six agents in gross closed commissions in the office. All Century 21 Quality Service and Top Producer award winners will be recognized at the Greater New Jersey Brokers Council Gala at The Venetian in Garfield, N.J. on March 8, 2018. At that event, another Century 21 Cedarcrest agent, Paula Cano, will receive an NJAR Circle of Excellence® Bronze Level Sales Award®.

Office recognition
John also shared the year’s high points at the event, including the agency’s growth in terms of commission figures, numbers of transactions and numbers of real estate agents since he became the broker of record and owner of Century 21 Cedarcrest in late July 2009.

“We had about 16 people and we were doing between $15 and $20 million in sales volume at that time and in 2017, we did over $90 million in sales volume. Last year was our eighth straight year of positive growth, and we closed transactions in 59 different municipalities throughout New Jersey,” said John. He also pointed out that the growth curve meant that not only did Century 21 Cedarcrest survive the Great Recession and the housing market collapse but continued to show positive growth year over year—in sales volume and agents. We now have 70 real estate agents on our roster.

More good news revealed at the awards breakfast: for the fourth year in a row, Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty was the GOLD MEDALLION Office Award Winner and Century 21 Quality Service Pinnacle Award winner for the region, reflecting total office production and customer satisfaction scores. We are delighted to add this to the honor of being named “Best Realtor” in Suburban Essex magazine’s 2017 Best of Essex Readers’ Choice Awards, in recognition of our high level of customer service, for the third consecutive year.

What’s the secret to all this success? John points out several factors:

  • Our team’s commitment to customer service and leveraging the leading real estate technology tools to expand listing reach, improve lead generation and enhance customer relationship marketing
  • Onsite training and professional development, including informational and educations webinars and seminars, and professional development classes
  • His investment in external marketing efforts, including website updates, social media marketing, TV commercials and direct mail campaigns.

We’re all looking forward to a great 2018 for the home buyers and sellers we help throughout northern New Jersey and beyond!

Spotlight on … Frank Conturso

Frank Conturso has certainly earned his place in our spotlight, as Century 21 Cedarcrest’s top producing real estate agent in 2016 and 2015 (he was warming up by being our second highest producer the previous two years).

A native of Nutley, Frank joined our agency eight years ago after an interesting and winding career path that in hindsight led him straight to our door. His professional life began in finance on Wall Street and then as a client rep for a financial software company in California, where he got a taste of customer service.

After returning to New Jersey, Frank experienced firsthand what it takes to build a quality home, when he went to work with his brother in the latter’s construction company. Although he was a project manager, he had ample opportunities to get his hands dirty and see how to build a house from the ground up, to see a raw piece of land become someone’s dream home. The experience also taught him the value that remodels and additions bring to an existing home. This got the wheels turning about his next career move into real estate. The time was right to make the transition when the construction business slowed down in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

“I saw a career as a real estate agent as an opportunity to do things the way I wanted to—to look out for my clients’ needs and interests first and foremost,” says Frank. “I believed that the income would flow naturally if I did things the right way.”

As part of his research into a real estate career, Frank turned to his uncle, who is in the business locally. Frank told his uncle that it was important for him to get into an office where he’d receive good training. He originally thought he’d go work with his uncle but the advice he got was a game changer. “If I had to start over, I’d go work for John Sass,” his uncle told him. “He believes in ongoing education and does excellent training.”

Frank agrees 100 percent. “John is a great person to learn with. I really liked that training is a priority for him. He truly wants to see his agents succeed.”
Although he got started in the field during a very difficult time (2009), with many distressed properties and short sales in the New Jersey market, Frank understood that the tough times offered an excellent opportunity to learn the business the right way. “Learning in a difficult time like that prepares you for just about anything,” notes Frank.

He seems to have learned quite a bit, given his rising sales production over the years. In addition to being our agency’s top producer, he has won the following Century 21 honors: Quality Service Pinnacle Producer Award (2011-2016), Masters Diamond Level and Emerald Level Awards (2012-2016), and a President’s Award (having achieved both CENTURION® level production and the Quality Service Pinnacle Award in the same year, 2015). Frank is also #79 in our entire NJ/Delaware region and a recipient of the New Jersey Association of REALTORS® (NJAR) Silver Level Circle of Excellence Sales Award (2012-2016).

“I have a good team around me with strong support, with John being first and foremost in that role. My mentor there (who has since left) was also a big part of my success as is believing in what we stand for at Century 21 Cedarcrest,” he says. Frank is quick to point out that all agents, new and seasoned, really look out for each other.

“Being here feels like family to me and family has always been important to me in personal life. To have it in professional life is a blessing.”

Is It Possible to Sell a Home in the Winter?

Is It Possible to Sell a Home in the Winter?

A lot of people look at the winter season as an absolutely horrific time of year to purchase a home. Truth be told, it’s not always the most pleasant time of the year, but it’s still possible to sell.

What are the Drawbacks?

You’re fighting a lot in the winter months. First, you have to compete with the holiday season, during which everyone tends to focus on each day and generally not on moving. Then you have the deepest part of the winter to contend with, including bitter cold, ice, and snow. People just don’t want to go out in the dark, especially in dreary conditions.

The Benefits of a Winter Sale

The benefits are, of course, that any buyer you do meet is very likely moving quickly and with purpose. Many winter buyers do so for a reason – a job relocation, a divorce – some sort of need. They don’t tend to have a ton of time to shop around and aren’t interested in prolonging the process.

Believe it or not, the numbers support not waiting until the Spring to put your home on the market. According to the Redfin Research Center, winter listings are 9% more likely to sell, are likely to sell a week faster than other homes, and generally sell for 1.2% more than home sold during other times of the year. That’s huge!

How to Sell Faster in the Winter

You will, of course, need to make some effort to make your home appealing during the winter months. Make sure your home is always well-list, especially since people looking to buy may be visiting after work, when it’s colder. Make sure your driveway and walkways are cleared of snow and are salted to prevent dangerous ice accumulation.

Make sure the inside of your home is warm and inviting as well, and ensure your holiday clutter is carefully put away. A warm, clean home will allow potential visitors to envision themselves living in your space, no matter how dreary it is outside.

Not sure if winter is right for you? Talk to your real estate agent. We can help you decide when and how to list your home and what price points are best.