Spotlight on . . . Julie Zack

Julie Zack at Century 21 Cedarcrest RealtyJulie Zack got her real estate license just under a year ago and came to CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty in January. She is soaking up the training and mentorship she’s receiving here.

Her professional background includes work with automobile dealerships in the Motor Vehicle Department and in the high-end vintage car arena. She moved to northern New Jersey in 2016, eventually purchasing a home in Little Falls. When the pandemic hit, she worked from home as the executive assistant to the CEO of a manufacturing company. Suffice to say, Julie knows her way around numbers and paperwork, which greatly benefits our real estate customers when it comes to getting transactions to contract!

She liked the flexibility of working from home, but saw the potential for doing something different. In 2021, she decided to go into real estate, got her license and launched her next act.

“I didn’t have direct sales experience at the time but the ability to be my own boss, as I am in my real estate career, was very appealing,” said Julie.

She worked with a business coach, read dozens of personal and professional development books, and realized the most important factor for her in terms of a real estate brokerage was agent support.

“I’m still learning and need guidance and hands-on support; that’s what I’m getting at Cedarcrest Realty,” said Julie. “I learned more in two hours with our sales manager, Dennis DiSabato, than I did in the 10 months prior to coming to Cedarcrest.” She is eager to learn the business and said, “I read tons of books, listen to podcasts and watch videos, but there’s nothing like having someone right there to help me when I need it.”

Julie is taking advantage of our CENTURY 21 XCELLERATE lead generation program and benefits greatly from the guidance provided by Jill Savva, who is our field trainer and works with new real estate agents to develop their skills. “You don’t get that kind of real-time training anywhere else,” she said.

She also likes the tech tools available to her as a CENTURY 21 real estate agent, and the fact that she now lives just minutes away from our Little Falls office and close to our Caldwell office, with easy access to our trainers, mentors, and support.

“The support and team atmosphere at Cedarcrest Realty is remarkable, and truly unique,” said Julie.

She is working with first-time and move-up buyers throughout North Jersey counties with a focus on Little Falls and surrounding towns. When she’s not working with homeowners or buyers, she and her pup Monroe enjoy walking the local trails and parks. You can contact her at juliezackrealtor@gmail.com.

Agent Spotlight on . . . Jackie Cardona

Jackie Cardona of Bloomfield has been at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty for five years. In that time, she has distinguished herself as an effective real estate agent while holding down a full-time job for an area municipality’s building department.

As a dual career agent (working a full-time job while doing real estate part time) she has found a way to balance both jobs and serve her real estate customers with grace and a good measure of time management!

Using past experience to build her business
Jackie got her real estate license many years ago with the idea of having a career she could continue after her retirement. When she began giving her post-retirement plan more thought, she interviewed at Cedarcrest Realty.

“It felt like home at Cedarcrest. It’s so comfortable to work with a team where everyone helps each other out. There’s a lot of trust between agents and a high level of comfort. Plus, everyone is willing to teach you something if you don’t know it,” said Jackie.

As a dual career agent, she cannot always make team meetings and on-site trainings. She credits sales manager Dennis DiSabato and Susan Mazzetta for helping fill that gap.

“Dennis is on speed dial for me, and he and Susan are so generous with their field experience,” said Jackie. “I learn from their stories of what they’ve gone through in the business and Dennis provides excellent guidance to make sure more complicated deals work out.”

Thanks to her professional experience, Jackie has a great deal of “inside knowledge” when it comes to home buying, selling, and renovation that she applies in her real estate business. At the construction office (where she has been for 16 years), she reads building plans all the time and knows the permitting process. Prior to that position, Jackie was a paralegal for a real estate attorney for 20 years.

With that background, she has developed a book of business with real estate investors seeking distressed properties to “fix and flip.” She enjoys a strong referral network within the investor community and often handles both sides of the transaction—selling homes to investors, then selling the renovated homes for them to others, most often in. Clifton, Nutley, and Newark. The secret to her success?

“I love old homes, and ones that need TLC, to see them transformed,” said Jackie. “You need to have an eye for that and to see the possibilities. I enjoy presenting those homes to buyers with a ‘look what you can do with this’ approach.” It’s an approach she also uses with first-time home buyers, with whom she finds tremendous personal reward when the excitement of finding that perfect first home sets in.

Understanding her customers’ needs is key
Regarding her work with real estate investors, Jackie said that “Whenever I see fixer-uppers on the multiple listing services, I do a market analysis of the property and present this to the investor. I have a firm idea of what they will want to put into the rehabbing the property and understand what they’re looking for to put in bids. I also know what it will take to perform all the cosmetic or structural renovations. I’m presenting good deals to them in terms of solid properties to renovate and sell at a profit.”

Given her full-time job, Jackie is creative about carving out the time to work with her customers. She shows homes in the evenings and on weekends, during her lunch hour, or takes personal time when needed for closings. She is fluent in Spanish, so she can serve the Spanish-speaking community with ease.

When she’s not working, working, working, Jackie enjoys spending time with her three grown sons and her five grandchildren.

Agent Spotlight on . . . Jo Ann Restrepo

Jo Ann Restrepo - Century 21 Cedarcrest RealtyJo Ann Restrepo has worked in real estate since 1998 and joined CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty in May. You might say she grew up in the business—her mother and aunt were real estate agents for decades, which is how she met broker owner John Sass. Jo Ann used to visit her mother at another CENTURY 21 office where she worked and over time, mom and the other agents talked her into getting into the business.

A long-time Hawthorne resident, Jo Ann works mostly in Passaic and Bergen counties as well as Essex and Morris. Before coming to Cedarcrest Realty, she worked in several Passaic County brokerages. She enjoys working most with buyers and managing the buying process for them.

“Once they make an offer and it’s accepted by the seller, I work closely with all the related professionals—home inspectors, attorneys, mortgage brokers—throughout each step of the process, and make sure the deal goes through,” said Jo Ann.

Prior to becoming a real estate agent, Jo Ann was a payroll supervisor for construction companies, handling union payrolls and benefits for projects in New York City and New Jersey, some in the billions of dollars. She’d also been an executive secretary, so details, numbers, and integrity count strongly for her when it comes to real estate transactions.

As someone who manages each buyer’s journey with care, Jo Ann noted she’s also not afraid to express her opinion.

“I deal honestly with people and treat my customers like family. If something comes up during the inspection that concerns me, I will advise buyers about whether or not they should buy the house.”

Over the past 20+ years, Jo Ann has seen many changes in the way real estate is transacted. While she acknowledges that technology saves agents time and paper—no more multiple originals of all the paperwork—she prefers the personal touch when it comes to presenting offers to the sellers.

“I like presenting my buyers and telling their story; this is especially helpful when you’re in a situation with multiple offers or a bidding war,” said Jo Ann. “Electronic filing has streamlined the logistics of the transaction and has changed the way we represent our clients, but for me, real estate is still a personal business and it always will be.”

John Sass agrees. “We’re delighted to have an agent with so much experience in our core areas join the CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty family,” said John. “Jo Ann shares our commitment to great customer service with that personal touch that makes such a difference in how we conduct our business.”

Agent Spotlight . . . Jill Savva

Jill Savva brings years of training experience and a vast knowledge of the NJ real estate market to CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, where she is collaborating with broker owner John Sass on growing our company by recruiting, developing, and mentoring new real estate agents.

“John is a great guy who you can trust,” said Jill. “His office is like a family and it’s a great, intimate environment. I’m glad to be here and put my years of experience to good use with our new associates.”

A long-time real estate professional and broker associate, Jill has managed real estate offices and has trained new agents throughout the past 12 years. At Cedarcrest Realty, she shares her expertise with new agents as a field trainer, accompanying them on appointments to guide them through their early transactions. She assists with recruiting and onboarding new real estate agents, helps them secure and market listings, and takes them through the entire sales process. New agents from both our offices now have someone with them on appointments to strengthen their training in real time, and show them how to leverage the corporate marketing resources. The feedback has been very positive.

“It’s great having Jill here to provide such tremendous value to our newer real estate agents,” said Sass. “To now have this level of hands-on training and mentoring is making such a big difference in terms of their confidence level and ability to apply what they’re learning in our classroom to the entire sales process with our customers.”

Jill’s real estate career began when she was a young adult. She had an insurance license and enjoyed selling, and used to manage restaurants, having grown up in a family that owned a deli. When a friend suggested she explore real estate, she jumped right in and as she says, “I never looked back.” That was 30 years ago and her passion for the real estate field is going strong.

Of working with home buyers and sellers, Jill said, “I especially enjoy helping mature homeowners organize and manage the whole process as they prepare to sell their homes. They are often nervous and need someone to support them. I also like working with younger professionals who are focused buyers with a healthy budget. They know what they want and where they want it; my job is to find it for them which is a quite different transaction.”

In addition, she is co-owner with her husband of a residential contracting company, providing her with additional expertise in helping sellers prepare and stage their homes for sale—from cosmetic updates and repairs to furniture placement and home accessories.

A lifelong New Jersey resident, Jill played soccer, softball and basketball in high school and college, and is an avid bowler; she has also coached basketball and softball, and umpired and refereed for high school sports. To say she is a team player is an understatement!

“I like seeing other agents do well—it’s good for everyone. I believe if you work ethically and help each other, the money will come and everyone succeeds,” she said. “At CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest, I can be hands on, help other agents get ahead, and I feel like I’m part of something.”

Spotlight on . . . Carol Berry

After 30 years of working as a legal secretary and real estate paralegal, Carol Berry—who joined CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest in November 2020—is ready to negotiate on behalf of her customers, review contracts, and help home buyers and sellers enjoy a smooth transaction from start to finish. With many years of direct selling experience as well, she said that the skills she acquired in both fields will help her deliver exceptional service.

“Through my paralegal work, I have experience with the flow of real estate transactions and can help customers understand all the elements of a home buying contract,” said Carol.

She said she was always interested in real estate—actually, houses and people—and programs on HGTV about home improvement, buying and selling, and house flipping fueled her interest in becoming a real estate professional. She decided to attend real estate school, passed the exam last October and joined Cedarcrest Realty shortly after that.

“John McKenna, the attorney I worked with at the law firm, put me in touch with a former colleague of Susan Mazzetta at Cedarcrest Realty, who connected me to Susan. I interviewed with her and we stayed in touch for a year. I was delighted that she invited me to come back when I was ready and I did! I interviewed with John Sass last fall; I didn’t even think about interviewing anywhere else.”

Carol is glad she followed her gut instinct to join CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, noting how well everything fell into place as she starts her new career.

“The mentoring and training are excellent; I have a wealth of knowledge about real estate at my disposal and the classes cover everything you need to know to be a good real estate agent. The camaraderie here is so nice. Everyone is on the same team and other agents have been so generous about sharing their expertise. Everything about being here has made this midlife transition so much easier.”

The mom of a special-needs daughter, Carol knows that patience and empathy are needed to overcome the challenges that arise in life. She also relies on her faith to guide her. As she advances in her real estate career, she will apply those attributes to her work.

“I like to see people achieve their dreams, whether buying a house or a condo. Right now, I’m helping first-time home buyers match desired locations with their budget. Finding the home that makes them happy and meets their needs will take some time and patience. I’m ready with both.”

So, You Want to Get into Real Estate? These Cedarcrest Realty Agents Share Their Journeys

There are many reasons and paths that people take to become real estate agents. At CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, we have agents who range from still in college to those enjoying second (or third) careers. Our agents come from interesting and diverse professional and personal backgrounds, like two of our newer associates, Eric Pavan and Khaled “Jay” Basuf.

Eric Pavan
Eric joined Cedarcrest Realty in September with a strong background in customer service, having been a customer success manager for a company that handled AT&T enterprise accounts. Eric’s father was a real estate professional so when it was time for a career change, he decided to attend real estate school, take the exam, and dive in.

His report to date: “So far, so good. This fits nicely with my customer service background and I like that I can make my own hours.”

As a real estate newcomer, Eric has been working closely in our Caldwell office with Dennis DiSabato, our sales manager, which he said is a big reason why he chose to join CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest. “This agency offered me support that others did not, such as training and mentorship from Dennis and having all the tech tools available to help me build my book of business,” said Eric.

He is becoming adept at the CRM and other cloud-based tools we use in our offices and is a big fan of 21Online, CENTURY 21 Real Estate’s robust content and marketing platform. “There is so much content there, I love that. I’m using it to build my prospecting list and plan out my activities from there,” he said.

The former Eagle Scout is also finding that his commitment to honesty and integrity is put to work every day for his growing client list.

“Succeeding in real estate means working hard every day. My goal is to I bring my best to every transaction, inform my clients, and leave them smiling.”

Jay Basuf
Jay has been a long-time real estate investor and decided that adding real estate agent to his work portfolio made good sense. He got his license in September and has been working out of our Little Falls office. He also owned and operated a successful lunch truck business for 20 years; while he no longer needs to get up at 3:30 a.m., he understands hard work and service get you where you want to go.

Twelve years ago, Jay decided to buy distressed homes, and fix up and sell them as a side business; his success with that endeavor got him thinking about real estate sales from the agent side.

“With my knowledge about and experience in rental property investing, I look beyond the number of rooms or cosmetic condition of a home. I’m able to provide details about a property to prospective buyers such as total square footage, the water/sewage system, age of the heating system, and other important information my clients should have,” said Jay.

Jay has been working on building his clientele and likes the flexibility that a real estate career provides, enabling him to spend more time with his family, which he couldn’t do as much with his former business. “I can hustle without making myself crazy,” he said.

Like Eric, he is a fan of 21Online and especially the MLS services we use. Jay knows the technology is important but when it comes to working with home buyers and sellers, he prefers personal contact, and stays in touch by phone or gets outdoors to work an area. “I love to hustle and be outside. The best thing you can do in real estate is to take a break and get outside,” he noted.

At CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, we’re always looking to add motivated people to our team who understand that hustle and strong interpersonal skills are foundations for a successful real estate career. If you’re thinking of going into real estate or are looking to make a change from your current situation, contact broker owner John Sass at johnsassc21re@gmail.com.

Agent Spotlight . . . Chanda Webb

No car? No problem. Chanda Webb, who joined CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty in December 2015, was not going to let the lack of her own car stand in her way of finding success as a real estate agent.

Chanda was working at Essex Community College as an advisor to students transferring into four-year programs, in part creating events that connected students to four-year colleges. Her knack for making matches and connecting people has served her well in real estate.

With her daughter graduated from high school and taking a year of study abroad, Chanda felt it was a good time to explore other careers and income streams, and took the real estate course. She interviewed at Cedarcrest Realty and explained she was without a car at the time. “John Sass, Susan Mazzetta and Dennis DiSabato believed in my potential and gave me a chance; they’re all so down to earth and really care. They made a place for me and I worked on building my leads and doing my training in the Caldwell office, which I got to by bus.” Since Chanda was still working at the college full-time (she recently left her position in September), she used her vacation and personal days for time off to attend agency meetings and training sessions. Thanks to the real estate technology employed by the CENTURY 21 system, she was able to work remotely as well.

She also got busy by walking her neighborhood and knocking on doors. “Within four months, I had my first listing, just by walking through my community,” she said. “Soon after, I got two more listings—even though it took another year before I got a car.” She said that friends, homeowners from her listings, and her customers often drove with her to showings; other times, she took public transportation from her Bloomfield home.

She also discovered the power of working a database of contacts.

“I knew many people at the college where I was working, people who cared about and believed in me. I reached out to these connections to ask if they knew anyone looking to buy or sell a home; I got referrals that way and made referrals to other agents as well. Being a connector by profession was helpful, as I was able to get people to help me out and vice versa.”

As for why she chose real estate, Chanda said, “If you’re a go-getter, real estate is for you. If you want to connect people and help them understand about buying or selling a home, this is the perfect career. I find it so empowering and I’m so glad I was able to do this as a single parent and still be there for my child.”

Her daughter, now age 27, got married last year in England. Chanda is grateful that her real estate income enabled her to cover some wedding expenses and join her daughter overseas with family and friends from the U.S. “It felt so good to help my daughter, and know that it was directly from my real estate transactions,” said Chanda.

She cites the trainings at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest as factors in her success as well as the many online tools for helping her market listings and build a book of leads. She’s taken full advantage of the technology to create polished, professional brochures and customer guides, find and develop quality leads, and stay in touch with connections about homes on the market with email newsletters. “C21 Online is excellent and all agents should know about and use this great marketing tool,” she said.

Chanda is now designated as a seller representative specialist and hopes to one day teach real estate courses. She is working on the required designations to qualify for that. And, she has a car. Good thing, since she said that even through the pandemic, she was still getting referrals, talking to prospects, and began showing houses again in the early summer. Now a full-time real estate agent, she is working hard with our sales manager to execute and meet her sales goals. We are very proud of how far she’s come!

Spotlight on . . . Omar Ibrahim

At CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty, we’re thrilled to have the next generation of real estate pros join our agency. The newest addition to our team is a true Gen Zer—19-year-old college student, Omar Ibrahim.

Omar, who lives in Clifton, is a sophomore at Rutgers University, studying industrial engineering. He attended real estate school last December, got his license in January, and joined Cedarcrest Realty in early summer. Why real estate?

“I’d always been interested in learning more about real estate with an eye towards future investing, and had been reading books and watching videos about it; I’d been thinking that becoming a real estate agent would be a great steppingstone to becoming a real estate investor,” explained Omar. “I became friendly with a former Cedarcrest Realty agent in town, who told me a lot about the real estate field, which propelled me to get my license. He spoke highly of the Cedarcrest office so when it was time to join a brokerage, that was the first place I went.”

Omar is grateful for the coaching he’s getting from Dennis DiSabato, sales manager in our Caldwell office. “I’m learning a lot here on the job that wasn’t covered in real estate school. Dennis is very up-to-date with what’s going on in our markets and has shared great techniques to getting transactions done smoothly; he’s been so great to work with.”

With college classes being held virtually right now, Omar says that although he’s a full-time student, he has plenty of time to work the CENTURY 21 leads system and MLS listings to help people searching for a new home. He has several deals in the pipeline already, representing both buyers and sellers in Essex and Passaic counties. He says strong time management skills are key to juggling school and work and so far, so good.

Broker owner John Sass notes that while Omar has duly impressed all of us at CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest, he is equally impressive in his academic life. He was a project manager for NASA HUNCH, leading a team of students in creating prototypes for the International Space Station; they were recognized for their success, ranking in the top seven teams nationwide, by the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Omar represents what passionate, focused people can achieve in any field. The fact that as a new agent, at such a young age, he’s been able to get five real estate deals moving ahead this summer is a glimpse of where he’s going in life,” said John. “We are looking forward to helping him rock his real estate career as part of the new generation of agents we are bringing into CENTURY 21 Cedarcrest Realty.”