Victoria Rong Kennedy, licensed real estate broker and trained architect is the latest person to share her insights with us in our Expert Interview series. Born in an architect and real estate developer family in Beijing, China, Victoria grew up with a strong sense of aesthetics, learning to value characteristics such as building location, quality of construction, lighting, layout and design. She continuously ranks as a top broker company-wide by using this knowledge for her clients’ benefit every day.
She also specializes in working with homeowners looking for an investment that can earn a potential return in two to three years, and on high-end rental clients who invest in apartments for rental income strategies. Remembering the joy of holding the key to her first apartment in New York City, Victoria wants to recreate that same positive experience for her clients in finding that perfect home. Read on to find out more about her exciting journey.
Q: Tell us a bit about your background.
I was born, raised and educated in Beijing, China. After I graduated from Architecture School at Tsinghua University – which I’m proud to say is China’s equivalent to an Ivy League school here in the U.S. – I set out on a great journey. I wanted to find myself and see what the world had to offer outside of China. I lived in Paris, London, and other cities in Europe, Sydney, Australia and Cape Town, South Africa, before I settled in Manhattan.
Q: Having traveled all over the world and lived in different cities, what is it about New York that made you want to call it home?
This is a question raised by almost everybody I encounter, once they learn about my world journey in my early 20s. And my answer is simple and remains the same: The very first week when I lived in New York, for the first time since I left Beijing, no one asked me: “Where are you from?”. They assumed I was just from somewhere in the New York region, since in our city you can find people from all corners of the world. I just loved it, this feeling of belonging. I knew then this was a city that can truly become my 2nd home. Of course, I also appreciate New York’s openness to talented and creative people, based on their capability and production rather than credentials on paper.
Q: What made you want to start a career in real estate?
I am a trained architect, I always loved architecture and design, and envisioning spaces in three dimensions… and on top of everything, I love people. I enjoy meeting a new friend and learning about them, their personality and likes and dislikes, their unique traits – the things which set each individual apart from others. As real estate is an industry that allows me to work with the two things I love, I realized it was a perfect fit, particularly in a cosmopolitan city like Manhattan.
Q: What do you love most about your job? Can you maybe briefly describe a typical day at work for you?
The sense of satisfaction when each task is completed with excellence is what I love most. Each client is unique, with different challenges. To conquer each challenge from A to Z with joy at the finish line, is my ultimate goal year after year. Everyday, I start my work with a smile, and begin to tackle emails, calls and meetings. Even when the going gets tough, I remember to keep moving – and keep a positive outlook. Because when I am positive, I will get my job done more efficiently. And if I am smiling even when I am in the middle of the toughest negotiation, my counterpart has no choice but to laugh and smile with me at the same time. As a result, I get things done so much easier and faster, and my success rate is a lot higher. I love to work with all parties involved and have a joyful relationship – one that is sealed with a positive hand shake at the end.
Q: How have your travels and exposure to different cultures helped you in this industry?
It helps me a great deal. You can understand clients and other agents so much better when you also understand where they come from. The knowledge I’ve gained through my travels has equipped me with the added ‘sixth sense’ which helps me get things done. When you can relate to people, understand their internal thought process and read their body language – that’s a priceless skill. It’s one that makes me stand out in competition, and allows me to better serve clients from all over the world.
Q: What approach do you have when working with clients?
I always listen first – and not just “listen” but listen very carefully – to their words and observe their body language… which can tell you a lot about a person’s true underlying feelings. A real estate agent is a lot like a therapist in many ways. We both build relationships that center on trust. Based upon what I learned, I will ask questions. Once I have this important information, I can respond accurately with my knowledge to guide my client through the process efficiently.
Q: What do investors look for in a NYC property?
Stability and Upside – and a good return on their investment in 3-5 years short term, or 5-10 years long term.
Q: Do you consider that investing in real estate is safer than investing in other assets?
Manhattan is such a unique little island, one of the most cosmopolitan islands there is. One thing I did learn through the last two real estate cycles is, because the borough’s properties draw interest from the international market in addition to our local market, there is always opportunity for investors. Either you buy low, or you sell high, or simply buy and hold, as long as you catch the right time within each cycle. No matter the current market conditions, Manhattan real estate has always proven to be a safe bet in the long term.
Q: What trends have you noticed in the market so far, in the first half of 2018? Where do you see the market heading for the rest of the year?
2018 is not a year about cashing out, it’s rather “What can I build out of this that will give me a long-term advantage?” The key is to buy low, then stick with it in the long-haul. Real estate is like art; you need to see future value where others don’t. This way of thinking requires confidence, guts and a lot of curiosity. While most people turn away when they get out of their comfort zone, successful investors continue exploring.
Q: Any other insights you would like to share?
With a tremendous number of baby boomers reaching retirement age, I see great opportunity in assisted living housing. It’s in high demand, but there’s low inventory. Now’s also a great time to buy multi-family homes from baby boomer owners who are ready to retire and cash out. Usually these properties are in need of an upgrade, as they may have been held by a family for generations.This is where the opportunity is – buy below market value, then renovate, restore, and rent… to create stable passive income for the new owner with a higher cap rate.
About Victoria Rong Kennedy
Victoria is a licensed associate real estate broker for Citi Habitats focused on investment and relocation clients, as well as listings, high-end sales and rentals. One strong area of expertise is representing investment properties owned by clients outside of Manhattan who rely on her full-service real estate expertise to locate, manage and resell the property for a profit. Find out more about her here.