Brokers Weekly: Barbara Keeps It Real
by Bill Cresenzo of Brokers Weekly.
Although she no longer owns The Corcoran Group, Barbara Corcoran is still considered the “empress” of New York real estate, as she was called during her introduction at the Real Estate Board of New York’s Residential Management Council Leadership breakfast at the Yale Club. And the “empress” gave her subjects some advice on the New York City real estate business, from what makes a good building, to how to keep your sales force happy. Here are some highlights:
A bad doorman and a poorly decorated lobby can break a sale. Corcoran recalls that when she first went to look at the Park Avenue apartment where she now lives, the doorman gave her a warm handshake and “hello.” “The doorman is the human embodiment (of a building),” she said. Doormen should be warm, friendly and eager to greet. They should also have a uniform that fits. Corcoran marveled that some buildings won’t spend the money to spruce up their lobbies. She said that an informal survey of brokers showed her that a dingy lobby is one of the biggest complaints that brokers have about a building. Moreover, she said that elevator landings can make a huge difference. She said that she spent money to redecorate her own elevator landing to add value to her home.
Cut down on meaningless paperwork. Computers have made paperwork less of a hassle, but it is still a problem. “It’s very easy to add paper work, but hard to eliminate it,” said Corcoran. She said that brokers should learn to put complete co-op board packages in PDF files, which will make it easy to send to all parties involved in the sale. Also, she recommends keeping an up-to-date timetable to keep track of the progress of a sale.
Make sure you hire the right people. If you hire the wrong person, fire him or her. Corcoran said that she held interviews every Thursday, whether she had positions open or not. If she found a winner, she would fire a loser and hire
the winner. “I rarely hired the wrong people,” Corcoran said. “When I did bring the wrong people, I fired them fast. I didn’t want the other employees to pay for my misjudgment.”
Happy employees are productive employees. Corcoran said she spent a good third of her time figuring out ways to keep her workplace fun. She especially liked to throw parties. She also kept an “idea box,” and gave employees money for every idea, whether it was good or bad, because she wanted ideas, period.
The media controls the market — but learn to use the media to your advantage. Corcoran said the housing market tends to follow the media and not the other way around. If the media speculates that there is a downturn, look for it. If the media speculates an upturn, you can expect that, too. Whatever the case, Corcoran said she took full advantage of the media by tossing out story ideas and offering herself as an expert in real estate. And it worked.
Today, she is a columnist for the Daily News and appears frequently on national television as a commentator.