Our most recent Expert Interview guest, Ian Katz, real estate broker and founder of Ian K. Katz Group, talked to us recently about his business and the advantages of working exclusively with home buyers. To put it simply, when brokers no longer have an incentive to speed up the process or pitch a particular listing that their company represents, the interests of buyers are better served.
He also shared some insights on his clients’ needs and priorities when it comes to finding the perfect fit in a home. For buyers in New York, standard home features like a washer-dryer and plenty of natural light are important, but so are other, less pragmatic traits that Katz disclosed in his interview.
Read below for his take on the buyers’ brokerage business model and why it has the potential of finally taking hold in the New York market.
Q: Why did you choose a career in real estate and how does your previous experience help you?
I chose a career in real estate brokerage nine years ago because I wanted a more hands-on business environment. Prior to this, I worked on Wall Street with the asset manager BlackRock, where I analyzed real estate, among other investments, from the perspective of an institutional investor. I found real estate very intriguing and wanted to focus on it, but I wanted to work directly with people and have an impact on their lives. Entering residential real estate also allowed me to involve my entrepreneurial instincts that were put aside during my time on Wall Street.
While with BlackRock, I was involved in important seven and eight-figure pitches to clients that gave me exposure to deal making at a young age. Those experiences gave me the backbone and the sixth-sense that I needed to deal with day-to-day deal-making as a real estate broker. Additionally, the investment exposure I had to the real estate and mortgage markets now allow me to give clients an analytical viewpoint when selecting and negotiating properties.
Q: What do you find are the main reasons your clients choose to hire a broker who specializes in working with buyers?
Being an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent appeals to our clients because of the loyalty it brings to our relationship. We commit to represent only our buyers during their search, and to not be a dual agent. We’ve found dual agency often presents conflicts of interest, and many clients come to us not knowing who to trust. It’s appealing to them (and us) that they are our solitary focus.
Another reason clients choose us is the transparency our business model affords. In this day and age, especially in New York, consumers are finding new and more transparent ways to buy things they need, and their home is no different. Making it absolutely clear where our loyalties lie in their process appeals to our clients, and makes it easy to trust in our guidance. While our exclusive buyer’s approach is new in New York, it has taken route in most other states, and we’ve found it really resonates here.
Finally, buying in Manhattan and Brooklyn is hard. Getting through co-op boards, securing financing, interpreting and researching property information and ultimately negotiating property is tough stuff. Clients who we choose to work with often have done some of the first steps on their own but discover it is a lot to do by oneself. Our clients are looking for someone that does this every day, looks at each purchase objectively, and knows the process inside and out.
Q: How would you describe a day in your life as a buyer’s broker?
No two days are alike. My day always consists of activities that fall under two main channels. The first channel is active client searches. This includes screening available inventory for clients, coordinating appointments to view homes, making introductions to lenders and attorneys, consulting on and working up offers, and negotiating transactions with listing agents. The second channel is deal maintenance. This is where I work with clients to address the dozens of various milestones and tasks integral to making it from contract to closing. In New York City, deal maintenance often includes complex co-op board packages, and I quarterback these for clients to ensure a package is presented in a professional and thorough way. I also coordinate contractor, designer and architect visits, bank appraisals, walk-throughs and more.
All the while, I always have my eye on the evolving market for my roster of clients, with my smartphone constantly pinging me with new inventory to preview and potentially introduce. Being a buyer’s broker requires me to be on call 7 days a week for up to 50 weeks a year.
Q: What approach do you have when working with clients?
Being an Exclusive Buyer’s Agent allows me to take a “consultative sales” approach. It’s about my client, not any particular property. Pitching and marketing a home isn’t involved like it is with listings. Helping a client find and secure the perfect home, and only when the time is right, is my priority. As such, I keep things unemotional and grounded in the big picture, and become a client’s consultant and advocate. In New York, there are many scenarios where our clients can lose time and money, and I am constantly looking four steps down the road anticipating things that can trip us up. Clients hire me to read between the lines, keep them centered and sound in their decision making, and encourage them to proceed confidently when it’s time to decide to buy.
Finally, I never put a purposely positive spin on anything — I am straightforward and real with clients. If a transaction is not going to work, or it looks awry or problematic for any reason, my goal is to put it in its plainest terms as quickly as possible so we can either solve or navigate away from potential issues.
Q: Which would you say are the most sought-after home features buyers in Manhattan look for?
The number one feature I find Manhattan buyers want, no matter the price point, is a washer-dryer. Most buyers, particularly families, want to have laundry in their apartment. The demand is most acute here in the city, with many co-ops keeping strict rules about putting these appliances in buildings with older plumbing systems. A washer-dryer isn’t a given, and that makes it that much more coveted to our clients.
Natural light is another highly-coveted feature. Returning home to light and sky is a great contrast to our clients’ busy day in New York, and can be a deal-breaker for a home that is otherwise perfect.
A third commonly coveted feature is character, and for New Yorkers, this usually means pre-war. High ceilings, bedroom wings, formal dining rooms, living rooms and foyers, moldings – these are things buyers covet and want to retain or restore. Pre-war apartments also have larger proportions than newer construction, and feel more spacious than post-war – a big selling point.
And finally, location. All buyers have their neighborhood in mind, but therein people have ideal targets: they want to be in a certain school district, live by a certain subway or tunnel, etc. Location and whatever that means to the buyer specifically is a big factor in choosing a property.
About Ian Katz
Ian Katz serves as the principal real estate broker of the Ian K. Katz Group, an Exclusive Buyers Agency working with clients in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Westchester County’s Sound Shore. Since 2014, the firm has transacted more than $40 million in diverse residential sales and has steadily built a referral base of discerning home buyers. Whether working with a first-time home buyer looking for the perfect co-op, condo or townhouse in New York City, or a family looking to relocate to unfamiliar territory in the suburbs, Katz provides a one-of-a-kind service that simplifies the home buying process.
Find out more about Ian Katz at http://iankkatz.com/