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!

Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty Celebrates Agents Who’ve Joined us in 2017

Wow, what a busy and fruitful year it has been at Century 21 Cedarcrest, with the addition of nearly a dozen new real estate agents to our roster in 2017. These agents are working with home buyers and sellers throughout northern New Jersey and have quickly become a big asset to our team.

The real estate agents who joined us this year have similar reasons for choosing our agency but come from such a rich diversity of business and professional backgrounds. Some have been licensed real estate agents but have not been active, others are entering the field for the first time. What they tell us is that they chose real estate because:

  • It allows for more personal and financial freedom. Getting away from a daily grind, greater independence, and being in more control of their schedules and work load were major attractions for them.
  • Real estate is a “people first” business. A greater ability to make a difference for customers is a common thread.
    • One agent considers herself a consumer advocate; at Century 21 Cedarcrest, she looks out for her home buyers and sellers and executes on her philosophy of always delivering great service.
    • Another said that through real estate, she has “endless opportunities to help others.”

As for why they chose Century 21 Cedarcrest Realty for their career, we are honored and delighted that our support earns such enthusiastic accolades. Our senior staff and the help they offer, and the Century 21 name are other factors.

An agent who has made the move to a full-time real estate career after working in it part time for 10 years, cited “the great group of people working at the office.” She said she appreciates the teamwork, training, professionalism, and leadership at Century 21 Cedarcrest, which she also identified as key components to success in this business (we blush!)

Susan Mazzetta, our director of career development, works with our agents at all stages of their careers, coaching and educating them on many aspects of real estate at our in-house seminars. These include how to create listings that get noticed, developing sales strategies, phone techniques, how to handle expired and specialty listings, and negotiating.

“It’s so important to stay abreast of current market trends and best practices when it comes to marketing properties,” says Susan. “I am passionate about helping all our agents develop and expand their marketing capabilities, and keeping them up to date on what’s happening in the real estate market, both regionally and industry-wide.”

Susan isn’t the only one passionate about her coaching and the results that ongoing agent education delivers. Another agent who joined us this year said that, “I believe Century 21 Cedarcrest sets the golden standard for excellence. In my 30+ years as a professional in a different business, I always worked for the best. I wanted to represent Century 21 Cedarcrest because they are the most recognized the name in the real estate world.”

If you’re interested in a career in real estate and would like more information about joining the Century 21 Cedarcrest team, contact Susan Mazzetta at 973-228-1050.

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.”