A dedicated real estate salesperson and lifetime resident of New York, David Balk is the latest expert to share his valuable insights for our Expert Interviews series. Having lived in Manhattan for over 22 years — on both the Upper East and Upper West sides, before finally settling down in Brooklyn — has afforded David a unique point of view and a lot of in-depth knowledge. He doesn’t hold back on honesty when it comes to approaching his clients, not even if it means exposing a deal-breaker. He enjoys covering all aspects of every property when talking to buyers or sellers, including market trends and future value, so that they have all the information they need when they make one of the biggest decisions of their lives.
Watching the constant evolution and transformation of NYC neighborhoods over the years has given David a strong belief in real estate as a long-term game. He is always looking forward to putting his business and interpersonal skills to good use for his clients and guiding them through their journey in real estate. We talked to David about how being a resident of the neighborhoods you’re doing business in influences an agent’s knowledge base and how that makes him or her a better salesperson. Read on to find out more.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background and why you chose a career in real estate.
I chose this path because I enjoy the independence and self-reliance that a sales career can offer. In real estate, I control my own destiny. But most importantly, I love consulting people on one of the biggest decisions of their lives. Being a 3rd generation New Yorker, I love my city and want to share it with my clients — who may grow to love and appreciate it as much as I do. I also enjoy meeting new people, being outside and traveling all over the city — whether it’s to explore new neighborhoods for investors, or to help a family find the perfect home to grow.
Q: How important is it to know the specifics of each neighborhood on the path to success as a real estate professional?
In New York, where apartments tend to have less square footage compared to homes in other parts of the country, your neighborhood becomes an extension of your living room. For that reason, it’s important for home seekers to find the right community for them. For a real estate agent, knowing a neighborhood and its restaurants, bars and cafes is one of the best ways to make a client feel comfortable about your knowledge and expertise. I love recommending my favorite spots to someone who just moved to a neighborhood, or taking them out for a beer or coffee during a showing to let them get a feel of day-to-day life in a particular area. New York has a myriad of different neighborhoods, each with its own unique vibe.
Q: What do you do to understand the needs of clients in a specific neighborhood?
The best way to understand the needs of a client is by asking questions — a lot of questions. Find out where they are from, where they live and what they like (and dislike) about their current residence. A good approach is to determine what their dream home would be — and then taking a realistic approach to see how they can achieve at least some semblance of this vision in NYC. Even for those with substantial budgets, New York real estate is all about compromise. It’s important to differentiate a client’s “wants” vs. “needs” when it comes to finding their new home.
Q: How much does living in a neighborhood help you be a better salesperson for that area?
An investor always wants you to have skin in the game. The same goes for anyone purchasing a new home. If you’re a resident of the neighborhood you sell, it’s a testament to how much you enjoy the area. No one is a better advocate for a community than someone who lives there — and working where I live gives me an insider’s knowledge that outside agents can’t match. But right now, I’m in a bit of a transition. I just moved from Williamsburg to Fort Greene, but still do a lot of business in Williamsburg. Clients always ask, “why did you move?” Which can be a tough question! The truth is, both are great areas — it just depends what you are looking for!
Q: What approach do you have when working with clients?
Honesty is always my approach. In fact, being “too honest” is a flaw of mine. Expressing that I dislike an apartment, even if it kills a deal, helps me maintain relationships with my clients — and to be the type of consultant and broker that I want to be. It’s about building an atmosphere of trust. My ultimate goal is to understand what my clients’ needs are — and making sure that those needs are met. I pledge to be their advocate and advisor, and to be a strong negotiator on their behalf.
Q: If a client had to choose between Brooklyn and Manhattan, how would help them figure out which is better for them?
If you want more space for your money and a neighborhood where you can get to know your bartenders and baristas, come to Brooklyn! The borough maintains its old-school neighborhood feel in many areas. But if you need the energy and fast paced NYC lifestyle, then Manhattan might be the right fit. Everyone is constantly changing and evolving — and so are the neighborhoods of New York. Knowing which borough and community you want to grow with is the first step to finding your ideal next home.
About David Balk
David Balk is a licensed real estate salesperson for Citi Habitats. Thorough research, constant market analysis, active networking and a strong command of technology allow him to know about every listing and fulfill the goals of each individual who retains his services. Find out more about him here.