Spotlight on … Tom Siso

When it comes to amazing customer testimonials, the one Tom Siso received last month really blew us away! Tom worked with a Clifton homeowner to get his home sold; here’s what this happy customer had to say about the experience:

“Tom was such a positive change from the real estate brokers I have dealt with in the past. He took the time to understand my financial, personal and business commitments that impacted the price and timing of the sale of my home. He was remarkably patient and understanding of my decision (regarding) several offers I turned down. I never experienced an agent who was more concerned with what I wanted and needed than about his time and efforts (or his commission).

Tom and his associates were the most understanding and professional group of real estate personnel I have ever had the experience of working with, and I have had many previous real estate transactions in many different locations. They are the BEST!”

WOW – but we knew that already!

Tom, also a Clifton resident, is a 21-year New Jersey real estate veteran who had worked years ago with our broker owner, John Sass, at another office. He joined Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty about three years ago.

He attributes his success to his patience and his focus on cultivating the sales seeds he plants early in the year to bring them to fruition now. He attributes his success and stamina to understanding the rhythms of real estate sales and how to keep nurturing his prospects throughout that sales cycle. It’s a lesson he tries to impart to his colleagues who are newer to the real estate world.

“It’s important to know that the year has its cycles and that those who are patient enough to ride out the lulls will reap the benefits,” says Tom. “There are definite patterns to how real estate agents should be working. It’s easy to get discouraged but if you follow a steady plan, things work out.”

Tom usually seeks out listings in January and February—using real estate technology tools as well more traditional methods—and he stays in touch with prospects through the following months. “When the homeowner realizes it’s a good time to list, which often happens around this time of year, they call me to discuss their listing,” he says.

He also gets many referrals from satisfied customers. “If you are in good standing with past clients you’ll be in good shape for the future.” In addition to maintaining total commitment to clients, Tom says it’s equally important to be committed to the broker.

Before he got into real estate, Tom was in food sales and the dry cleaning business, doing both for many years. When he semi-retired from that business at a fairly early age, he was looking for work that would fulfill him, and went into real estate in December 1996. He clearly enjoys sales, and had purchased several properties on his own, so real estate appealed to him as his next career.

“There’s great joy in real estate,” he says. “It was exciting for me when I bought my first house and I expect to deliver the same experience for younger people coming into it now. Plus, the referrals stimulate us and keep us going. If you leave a good impression and touch base throughout the year, they come back. In fact, I’ve worked with several grown children of former customers who stayed in the area.”

Tom works mainly in Passaic County but says, “I am willing to go anywhere and because of the referrals I get from past customers, I’ve gone down to Brielle and up to Butler,” he explains. “I’m always willing to help, especially when it’s for past customers who are referring their friends and family.” The happy Clifton homeowner has already referred Tom to several friends and associates and Tom is currently the listing agent on one of those referrals.

Although the internet and availability of information online has changed the industry and given clients a lot more information, Tom notes that “they can look at listings and research areas, but they don’t really understand the full process. I counsel them to be patient and explain the process of buying and selling a home.”

Spotlight on … Patricia “Pat” Popola

If you are ever looking at photos from a Century 21 Cedarcrest event, chances are, you’re seeing the work of Pat Popola, an ace photographer who’s also an ace REALTOR®—and has been for 25 years. Having started in 1992 with the Century 21 system, she is now celebrating her 25th anniversary in the business. Pat joined the Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty office in 2011, having worked previously with broker owner John Sass in other locations.

Pat serves home buyers and sellers in Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic, and Union counties. Prior to working in real estate, Pat was a marketing & sales analyst for a computer company and later, became the client service manager for ADP. However, seeking the flexibility to raise her children, she left the corporate world to go into real estate. We’re glad she did!

A Passaic County native and resident of Roseland, Pat is very knowledgeable about the area. She puts her prior experience in marketing and sales analysis to good use at Century 21 Cedarcrest, as she carefully markets the properties she lists. She especially enjoys matching people with the right properties for where they are in their lives—from that first home to the “mature” move later in life.

“After doing this for so many years, I’ve found that people need different lifestyles and homes for different stages of their lives. Marketing properties helps my clients move on to their next lifestyle, their next phase, which I find so satisfying.”

Pat has a lifelong love of photography and uses her excellent photo skills to chronicle many of Century 21 Cedarcrest’s special events and gatherings. She is also our office advocate for Easter Seals, a charity supported by the Century 21 system. She coordinates our participation every year in the annual Easter Seals Walk with Me fundraiser at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.

Like many other agents in our office, Pat finds value in the on-site training and development at Century 21 Cedarcrest. “No matter how many years you’re in the business, as rules and regulations change, our in-house education offerings stay abreast of those changes, to make sure we are always on top of our game,” she says.

Standing by her credo of “customer service is my business,” Pat has cultivated an impressive list of vendors and professionals that support her clients’ needs, from plumbers and electricians to attorneys and mortgage specialists. For example, when a pipe broke in a home the day before the closing walk-through, she was able to get a plumber in to fix the problem in time so the deal went off without a hitch.

In her 25 years in real estate, it’s safe to say that Pat has also developed an impressive following; one client has done 12 transactions with her over the years, and even though he now lives in Florida, he continues to send her client referrals here in New Jersey. In addition, she has a new generation of customers.

“My past clients send me their grown children to purchase their first home because they trust me and my ethics,” she notes.

Pat has won numerous awards for sales and service throughout her career. You can read more about Pat’s recognitions from Century 21 and her real estate industry affiliations and credentials on her team bio page at http://century21cedarcrest.com/our-team/patricia-popola-realtor-essex-county-nj/

Spotlight on … Joan Puzzo Burkhard

Since breaking into the real estate business it seems like Joan Puzzo Burkhard has a knack for getting clients to find their perfect home. As one of our newest team members, she has quickly gained success as part of the Century 21 Cedcarcrest’s multiple-award-winning team. With her extensive background in customer service and sales, she has the knowledge and experience to become an outstanding real estate agent who closed her first transaction within a short period of time.

Being a native of Essex County, Joan is very familiar with the area and she will invest the time to help the client get the best value in buying or selling their home. She enjoys representing clients who are home buyers and home sellers, and her passion about real estate extends to working with those who are on the market for quality investment properties. Whether you are looking for a condo, your first house, or are upgrading to a larger home, Joan will put in the time to find the best property for your needs.

Prior to joining Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty, Joan worked for North Jersey Media Group in advertising sales, where she worked closely with a real estate agent on various projects. This opened new doors for Joan as she gained more experience working with multiple real estate offices. After working as an assistant part time in one office, Joan became inspired to enter the real estate business as a full-time occupation.

Susan Mazzetta, Century 21 Cedarcrest’s career development director, called her in for an interview when she saw that Joan was sitting for the real estate licensing exam. Joan saw that the great working environment where everyone was close knit and willing to do help each other out; she also was attracted to the ongoing professional training we offer at our office.

“I really appreciate the great support I receive from the other agents here and the one-on-one time Susan gives me has been invaluable,” says Joan.

She was also pleased that the office is conveniently located to her home in Roseland and that she is able to show so many great properties in Essex County, an area that she knows so well.

As for her relatively quick success in securing one closing already with another in the pipeline, Joan says that, “I really dove right into this. Within a couple of weeks, a friend’s aunt was selling her home and they asked if I was available to list it. It was a smooth transaction and the sale closed quickly but even better was the wonderful feedback I received from my client.” She attributes that to her attention to detail and to being a good listener who takes clients’ concerns to heart.

“My client said that, ‘Joan paid attention to the details and to my concerns. She was focused and provided some good suggestions to make small changes to the home.’ It’s those small changes that can sometimes make a big difference,” notes Joan.

Selling a home and moving can be a stressful time and Joan realizes the importance of making the transition as smooth as possible for her clients. She says there are certain things sellers should take care of in advance, and she brings attention to these during the initial walk-through so the client has less stress throughout the sales process. These include:

  • Reduce clutter; make each room as clutter-free as possible.
  • Stage the home for a more open feel.
  • Provide the best pricing strategy to attract more buyers.
  • Maintain good curb appeal with attractive landscaping.
  • Keep the home well maintained to improve its value.

She also notes that a good real estate agent will put the buyers and sellers in touch with qualified tradespeople such as plumbers and electricians, who can address faulty problems within the home.

“My main goal is to make my clients’ life as stress-free as possible when buying or selling a home. Whatever it takes, I’m there for them.”

Spotlight on … Carolyn Maloney & Jacqueline Cabrera

Meet Century 21 Cedarcrest’s very own dynamic duo, Carolyn Maloney and Jacqueline Cabrera. Carolyn has been with Century 21 Cedarcrest from the very start of her real estate career and Jackie joined us about 18 months ago. They teamed up last year to work not only on area listings but on community outreach projects as well and we couldn’t be prouder of these two!

Carolyn, a lifelong resident of Essex County, came to Century 21 Cedarcrest after a career in teaching. In fact, the Cedarcrest real estate agent who sold her the home in Cedar Grove where she still lives convinced her to make the switch; she’s been with our office ever since obtaining her real estate license in 1988.
“The thought of being able to do for other people what he had done for me and my family interested me. I’ve been very happy at Century 21 Cedarcrest and never had a reason to leave, which is unusual in our business,” says Carolyn.

Among her more unusual transactions, Carolyn once listed a house in Ireland, a small row house with a coal-burning stove as its heat source. “I took care of referral from here over to Ireland and oversaw the transaction, working with the “solicitors” (lawyers) and “estate agents” there,” she explained.

Carolyn appreciates the agency’s professional development offerings and takes advantage of outside training and motivational programs whenever possible to keep up her real estate game.

“You have to keep learning and stay on top of it. I always walk away with something important that I either didn’t know or was reminded of,” she said.

After all these years, Carolyn’s favorite part of the job is still finding people something they really love. “It’s nice to pair a customer with a place they’ll really enjoy. I especially look out for women who are alone, making sure they find a property that’s safe.”

For Jackie, it’s helping first-time buyers or sellers. “I love walking them through the entire experience from start to finish,” she said. She also enjoys holding open houses. “I like meeting new people who are potential clients and helping them find the next place they can call home.”

She says her degree in psychology and her background in customer service help her when she meets new clients. “In real estate, we have to read people and ask the right questions in order to understand what they like, so that we show them the right properties.”

Of her first year in real estate, Jackie says, “The real-life experience of real estate is different from what you learn in the books—and very different from the TV shows! In between the hands-on experience and our in-office training, I’m finding that you never stop learning.”

Jackie understands well why Carolyn has worked her entire real estate career at Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty. “Our environment is very different from other offices and I’m very comfortable here. You can tell that (broker owner) John Sass genuinely cares about us and everyone here is willing to help. We have Susan Mazzetta’s in-house training and whenever I have an issue I can’t resolve, I know I can tap John, Susan or Dennis DiSabato, our sales manager, for their input.”

She is also learning a great deal from Carolyn; they’ve been working together in a mentor-mentee relationship for about year, and quickly realized that their different styles, skills and work experience make them an excellent team. Together, they have been marketing to home buyers as well as sellers; they recently have shifted their attention to first-time home sellers who may need a knowledgeable assistance with the listing and selling process.

It could be argued, however, that their finest work has been their beautification project they undertook in Caldwell.

While exploring Brookside Avenue in Caldwell, the women were invited into the home of an older woman who was upset about a neglected patch of land that was a neighborhood eyesore. Carolyn and Jackie decided to adopt it and beautify it. They got permission from the mayor and town council to do so and in September 2016, they transformed the eyesore into a small, colorful garden. They now maintain it year ’round with seasonal plantings and in December, with holiday decorations as well.

Their next project: installing a tiny free lending library that sits on a pole, possibly in Verona, where Jackie now lives. “I was a teacher so getting people to read is important to me,” noted Carolyn. Jackie is talking to Verona officials to assess whether they can bring this community outreach project to her town.

Spotlight on … Tracy Chan

English, Mandarin or Cantonese—in any language, Tracy “Yaw” Chan is an award-winning real estate sales professional.

A native of Hong Kong, Tracy has been with Century 21 since 2002, helping clients buy, sell and lease residential and commercial properties in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris and Passaic counties. She joined Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty in the spring of 2016, having worked in previous years with broker owner John Sass.

“I was immediately comfortable here, because I knew quite a few of the agents,” says Tracy of her move to Century 21 Cedarcrest. “Plus, I really appreciate the in-house training classes, which are great reminders—even for experienced agents—about sales techniques, state guidelines and real estate technology.”

Since joining our office, she has continued her winning streak as a consistently high producer in both residential and commercial real estate, with numerous awards for sales and service. At the regional awards gala in March, Tracy took home two awards from Century 21 for production and service and the Century 21 Quality Service Producer Award for customer service; and a New Jersey Association of REALTORS® Circle of Excellence Sales Award® (silver), which recognizes excellence in salesmanship. She has won these awards many times throughout her real estate career, along with the Century 21 Masters Award in the ruby, emerald and diamond levels, the Centurion Award, President’s Award and the Quality Service Award.

Tracy is also a member of the NJAR Distinguished Sales Club, recognized for 10 or more years of excellence. Her many positive reviews on Zillow speak volumes about her patience, willingness to go the extra mile, her responsiveness and her ability to navigate both residential and commercial property transactions with efficiency and ease.

Prior to entering the real estate field, Tracy was the operations manager for a Turkish shipping company, where she became an expert at working with international business professionals. She holds an MBA in computer science from City University of New York, which she puts to use every day using Century 21’s real estate listing technology tools.

“My computer science background has enabled me to take full advantage of the latest real estate listing technology tools with ease,” says Tracy. “And, having taught piano in the past, I find that teaching experience has enhanced my listening and communication skills, which are so vital when working with home buyers or sellers.”

Tracy also holds the National Association of REALTORS® Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource® (SFR) certification. This has provided her with a strong framework in which to work with sellers and buyers in this niche, developing short-sale packages, qualifying sellers and directing them to other professionals they need for these delicate transactions, and protecting buyers. In addition, she is a certified staging professional and an accredited buyer representative (ABR).

Of her switch 15 years ago to real estate, Tracy cites several factors that have brought her tremendous personal and professional satisfaction.

“I really like the variety and flexibility that a real estate career offers; every deal and every client is different, and I’ve been able to apply my diverse work and education experiences as well as my own cultural background, to something I really enjoy.”

Spotlight on … Lisa Verhagen

It seems there’s always a successful sale cooking when Lisa Verhagen is the agent. A former chef and event planner (she is a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America), with experience in retail, Lisa was a big winner for sales and service in 2016. In fact, she was not only tops in the class in our office but regionally as well in the Century 21 system.

At a Century 21 regional awards gala in early March, Lisa walked away with two coveted awards: the Century 21 Masters Award Emerald Level for production and the Century 21 Quality Service Pinnacle Award, which she has brought home multiple years in a row. Lisa is in the top 100 Century 21 real estate agents in our entire region, which covers all of New Jersey and Delaware!

The daughter of a general contractor, she’s seen many homes built from scratch and appreciates the many different styles of houses available across northern New Jersey. Her upbringing has given her a great eye for seeing the possibilities in every home she shows her customers and she’s able to communicate those possibilities with tremendous success. Since she joined Century 21 Cedarcrest eight years ago, it seems there is simply no stopping her!

Her front-of-the-house experience in catering and event planning helped shape Lisa’s “customer first” approach that she applies to all her real estate transactions. A member of the National Association of REALTORS®, she understands that while every customer and every transaction is different, all clients benefit from her advice, her negotiating skills, her ability to facilitate the transaction between buyer and seller, and her creativity. She is also a proud member of the New Jersey Association of REALTORS®, Passaic County Board of REALTORS®, Garden State and New Jersey Multiple Listing Services.

Lisa decided to get into real estate in 2008; she passed her New Jersey real estate license exam and came to Century 21 Cedarcrest because broker owner John Sass had sold her the house she’s lived in for 23 years, and she had such a positive experience. Getting started in real estate during the worst possible time—the Great Recession in 2008—did not deter her one bit.

“I thought it was a good time for me to get started, since I knew eventually the market would bounce back and I’d have time to work on my learning curve,” she says. “My experience in event planning taught me to think fast on my feet and I developed strong research skills, which have benefited my clients over the years.” Given her many accomplishments throughout that time, we’d say she did just fine with that learning curve!

One of her trade secrets is to know when to use technology as a communications and marketing tool but that, “Sometimes you just have to pick up the phone and call people. Nothing can replace good old-fashioned listening and communication. It’s what makes deals happen.”

She notes that right now it is a very competitive market, with many buyers and not enough homes on the market. Buyers are quick to make an offer but it’s easy to make a mistake. “Buyers really need to listen to their real estate agent’s advice; those of us with experience in the area have developed good relationships with a network of other real estate professionals, so we know what’s going on in the market.”

Of her decision to go straight to Century 21 Cedarcrest and stay there, Lisa says, “I’d never go anywhere else. First, there’s the Century 21 brand, which I believe is a step above the others. And, at Cedarcrest we are true colleagues that help each other out and respect each other’s business. Other real estate agencies are more competitive but here, it’s more like family.”

When We Say Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty is an Award-winning Agency, We’re Not Kidding!

Frank Conturso (center) with Century 21 Cedarcrest broker/owner John Sass (right) and Tom O’Hern, Century 21 vice president of operations and field support.

March 2, 2017 was a night to remember for the team at Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty. That’s when our top producing real estate agents and our office took home some very meaningful trophies at the Century 21 regional awards gala at the Venetian in Garfield, N.J. The event was sponsored by the C21 Brokers Business Advocacy Association (BBAA), an organization that includes all real estate brokers and agents in northern & central New Jersey.

Allow us to shine a spotlight on three special real estate professionals at Century 21 Cedarcrest who brought home the following awards in recognition of sales and service in 2016.

Tracy Chan (center) with Century 21 Cedarcrest broker/owner John Sass (right) and Tom O’Hern, Century 21 vice president of operations and field support.

Tracy Chan – Tracy took home three awards, two from Century 21 for production and service, and one from the New Jersey REALTORS® which recognizes excellence in salesmanship:

  • Century 21 Centurion award for top production for a single sales associate; this is given in recognition of those real estate agents who do in excess of $242,000 in gross closed commissions or 67 closed units.
  • Century 21 Quality Service Producer Award – this is given for customer service and is based on customer feedback surveys. Tracy knows how to keep her customers very happy!
  • NJ REALTORS® Circle of Excellence Sales Award®, silver

Frank Conturso – Frank also received two Century 21 corporate awards for production and service, and one from New Jersey REALTORS® for sales:

  • Century 21 Masters Award Diamond Level – this recognizes agents whose production exceeds $203,000 in gross closed commissions or 56 closed units.
  • Century 21 Quality Service Pinnacle Award – the ultimate quality service award bestowed by the Century 21 system. To qualify, the agent must have scored 95% or higher on customers’ quality service surveys for two years in a row. So, when we say “everyone loves Frank,” you know we really mean it!
  • NJ REALTORS® Circle of Excellence Sales Award®, silver

Lisa Verhagen (center) with Century 21 Cedarcrest broker/owner John Sass (right) and Tom O’Hern, Century 21 vice president of operations and field support.

Lisa Verhagen – Lisa’s hard work and superior people skills yielded her significant honors from Century 21 at the event:

  • Century 21 Masters Award Emerald Level for producing between $164,000 and $203,000 in gross closed commissions or 44 or more closed units.
  • Century 21 Quality Service Pinnacle Award – Lisa has brought home this high honor multiple years in a row; we are so very honored to have her in our office!

Bruno Marino, Jr. – Century 21 Quality Service Producer Award
Susan Mazzetta – NJ REALTORS® Circle of Excellence Sales Award®, bronze

Congratulations to all our winners!

Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty also brought home some serious bacon as an agency:

  • Century 21 Gold Medallion Award for production of $1.469 million or greater or 306 closed unit or greater. This is the fourth year in a row that our office won this award, a testament to our amazing team. In 2016 (if we may brag just a little bit more), our total production placed us as #19 out of 100 agencies in the region, making Century 21 Cedarcrest among the top 20% of all offices in New Jersey and Delaware.
  • Century 21 Quality Service Pinnacle Award.

Again we could not be honored in these ways without the team that makes our office so great.

And speaking of a great team, we are always looking for qualified individuals—whether seasoned real estate pros or those with the ambition and potential to become future award winners—to join Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty. If you’re interested in hearing about opportunities here, contact Susan Mazzetta at (973) 228-1050.

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.”