NEW YORK—John Gasdaska, senior vice president at Corcoran Group Real Estate, joined the real estate profession as an assistant to a senior broker in 1999 and began selling on his own in 2004. He ranks consistently in the top 1 percent of 64,000 National Realty Trust Agents nationwide. Gasdaska had the best year of his career in 2012, and 2013 looks even more promising. Gasdaska talks below about his life in real estate; the interview has been edited for space.
How did you become a broker?
I came to New York in 1988 to study acting. I needed to find work and that’s what led me to choose the hotel industry. I was in the hotel industry in guest services and as a concierge for 12 years. In 1999, I realized it’s very tough to be an actor in New York City and I was well educated. I decided to make a life move and I didn’t know what I really wanted to do with my life. So I talked to a few different friends who were very well established professionally in Manhattan. The very last thing that I ever considered doing was selling real estate. I loved being a concierge. I spoke to a friend of mine over at Douglas Elliman who ran the sales department and he said to me: “You’d be a really good real estate agent.” I went to my therapist, who I trust implicitly with my life. He said:
“I don’t know why I never thought about that job. That is the perfect job for you. Get your real estate license.”
“Ralph, why? I know nothing about selling real estate.”
“What was your favorite job at the hotel?”
“Being a concierge.”
“It’s the exact same job!”
That night, it was May of 1999, I literally went home that night and I called NYU the next day and I started to study real estate. My parents were so thrilled. I think they were thrilled that I was getting another job. I interviewed with a senior broker at Douglas Elliman who hired me.
How does your experience in the hospitality industry translate in your real estate work?
The reason I was successful as a concierge: yes, I wanted to make money, but I loved working with the people. I didn’t care if they had a $100 to spend and they wanted to see ‘Cats,’ or if they had $3,000 to spend and they wanted to get Yankees World Series Tickets. I treated everyone the same. Sometimes the tips were greater and sometimes they weren’t as great. People genuinely liked me and they liked working with me. And I loved the job, I looked forward to it every day.
I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I do for a living. I love it. Not every day, but I love what I do, and that’s translated: I’ve always approached my real estate business the same way that I approached the concierge business. I always tell new agents who are struggling: “It’s not about selling the apartment, it’s about building a relationship.” And it truly, truly is. My business has grown and continues to grow because of that philosophy. I have extremely valued clients. I have wonderful buyers and wonderful sellers that I deeply care about.
What was your first sale like?
I will always remember my first six months of working on my own. I had no listings and I had I would estimate around five buyer leads. I had six to eight deals in the first six months. I was extremely fortunate. I listed a total of five different apartments my first year. My clients whom I met at the end of my tenure with my former boss: they became my big clients. I sold them a $2.2 million apartment and sold their apartment for about $1.5 million.
How many clients come to you as referrals from past and satisfied clients?
At this point in my career I would say about 70 to 80 percent is now referral.
Did you connect with any clients from your days in acting and hospitality?
I did. I did a very substantial rental by a Hollywood film director. That led on to a sales deal later. But not a lot. People knew me as a concierge of a hotel so I did not bring to the table a huge referral base.
How do you stand out from the competition?
That is a very hard question. I think I tend to be humble. The feedback that I’ve gotten along the way, the real positive feedback from my clients, has to do, I believe, with my honesty, with my ethics, and my earnestness. The honesty is key. There are a lot of good agents in this business and there are a lot of not great agents in this business. And I think the good agents differentiate themselves by building a level of trust with their clients. That is number one. The client must like you, but they must trust you.
Inventory is at an all-time low and credit is tight…
The banks are lending and the rates are historically low. It is a very difficult market for first time buyers. It would be better in my opinion if rates would maybe tick up a bit and if more people put their apartments on the market. In this market it is very difficult to get a deal together because there is so much buyer demand. That’s what’s problematic for a first time buyer. From the seller side it’s really good and it’s a very opportune time to list your apartment.
What is your relationship with New York City?
It’s the greatest city in the world. From the age of 6 there was only one place that I knew I would want to live and that was New York City. Probably because I wanted to be on Broadway. I had a deep love of the theater since the age of 6-to-7 years old. It’s been my home for 25 years. It is so diverse and there’s so much to do, so much culture, vibrancy—I have a lot of energy—I kind of thrive on that energy of the city. Don’t get me wrong. I have a little place upstate that’s quiet and there’s a lake. I tend my garden. I love to garden, to run, to be outdoors, and be in the quiet.