Episode 6 – Advice and Tips from Gea Elika, Buyer Broker in NYC


Introduction 00:00

This is Listen Up Home Buyers. The only podcast offering Home Buying advice and tips from true buyer agents and now here’s your host, Victoria Ray Henderson.

Victoria Ray Henderson 00:10

What a pleasure it is to have my next guest on Listen Up Home Buyers. He’s a busy exclusive buyer broker in New York City. He’s been serving homebuyers for 20 plus years, and has been featured in The New York Times The owner broker of Elika Real Estate. Welcome, Gea Elika.

Gea Elika 00:28

Thank you, Victoria.

Victoria Ray Henderson 00:29

I am so excited to have you and as you know, I’ve been pestering you like crazy to come on the podcast and finally, I gotcha and part of the reason I wanted to talk to you is because I love New York City and I can’t even imagine what it’s like to do business there and I guess what I mean by that is– first of all, I went to your website, I was kind of doing some research about you and you’re so close to Soho, right near Tribeca, and you’ve got all these cool neighborhoods. How did you begin in real estate in Manhattan?

Gea Elika 01:04

Well, that’s a loaded question. How did I begin? Well, I guess I ran out of options. It was after September 11. I wasn’t sure what my career path was. I was in the restaurant and hospitality business and we used to throw some parties, or promoters in a space Chelsea Piers, which is, like a recreational facility on the water in Chelsea.

Victoria Ray Henderson 01:30

Yes, I’ve been there.

Gea Elika 01:32

And my mother had told me to do real estate, back when I was 20. But stupidly enough, I didn’t listen and everything comes full circles. So it came to the point where there was no reason to party after September 11. In the restaurant business, we sold our restaurant 6 months before September 11, we were very lucky and the other restaurant I had was just the lease, so we didn’t renegotiate, and I really didn’t have many options. It was either become a taxi driver.

Victoria Ray Henderson 02:06

Are you glad you became a real estate agent?

Gea Elika 02:08

Well, I’m glad, I enjoy using Uber not having to drive.

Victoria Ray Henderson 02:14

That was my next question. I was going to say do you do you take taxis or do you Uber? How do you show people listings in the city?

Gea Elika 02:20

It depends, the best way to see properties, I think, is to walk from one property to another. I think a lot of New York’s beauty is up in the sky and you don’t really see that from the car, and you don’t see the presence of a building as well from a car. So I like to walk up to a building versus drive up to a building. But that doesn’t mean that you have that luxury and it really depends on the client, ultimately-

Victoria Ray Henderson 02:46

Yes, for sure.

Gea Elika 02:47

-The clients well to do and they have a large budget, they’re going to want curbside delivery. They’re not going to walk up on the building, but they will walk away from the building and look up at it. So that’s what we do in that instance. But much of it depends on the budget depends on the area. Some areas you can walk from one from if it’s Soho, and Tribeca, well, they’re only a walk away from each other. So you know, you schedule it accordingly and you just start from one neighborhood to the other, which is great about New York.

So I remember when I was in Arizona, when we do our conferences, and I always struggled to think how to brokers work here. Because I remember where we stayed and where the conference was and if we wanted to go downtown or if we wanted to go anywhere in Arizona, it’s a 30 minute drive, usually and it’s large distances. So in some respects, I am really thankful to practice property in Manhattan because it walked to the elevator, you ride the elevator, you ride the elevator down, you walk to the next build, it’s easy. 

Victoria Ray Henderson 03:52

Yes. Now, I have so many questions to ask you. So the first part of I want to ask is how you evaluate properties but of course, you’ve got clients with obviously different financial deep pockets, not so deep pockets. So when buyers come to you, walk me through the process of what would be an average buyer in Manhattan and how you begin that process of working for them and evaluating those properties.

Gea Elika 04:22

Evaluations depending on the particular property and then the particular market at a given time and what one’s willing to pay for it. So much of it depends on the person’s criteria. The average apartment in Manhattan is about a million bucks and fluctuates over the last 10 years between one to seven five and change and then a million bucks. You know, you can buy a three four bedroom house in Arizona or other parts of the country. Where in this town, it doesn’t buy you an awful lot and it’s very tricky because you talk to people about their time horizon and how long they’re going to reside in the property and it’s tough because that particular property is not really good for more than five to seven years tops at that. So you’re really hoping that your clients going to say that, well, they’re going to compromise and they’re going to pack their things tightening going to live there longer than the property itself will allow them to live.

Victoria Ray Henderson 05:24

When you say it’s only good for five years are you talking about because they may expand as a family or it flesh that out a little bit for

Gea Elika 05:32

I think apartments get smaller over time. I think that storage is a major problem is in this town. If you like to cook, that’s a problem in this town and if you’d like to ride a bicycle, that’s a problem, and it’s down, because everything needs a place where it’s going to go, and not everything has a place where to go.

So you have to think of your apartment as one of those utility knives, you know, they do multitasks. So you need a smart apartment, when it comes to storage, when it comes to your furniture, you need smart furniture, you people really go above and beyond to create the most out of a very small space and what one should pay for that is very difficult to work out because at the end of the day, again, it comes down to comps, and it comes down to momentum or the lack thereof. But also, if one can grow in there enough if they can grow into the valuation and into a profit. That’s usually the biggest problem.

Victoria Ray Henderson 06:44

Do you ever have clients and I know we do this in the Washington DC area, specifically right in the district, where you’ll be in a co-op and I want to talk to you about– because you were calling things apartments? And that’s a different term than what we use in the DC area. But I’ll get to that. But do you ever have clients who say that they’ll buy one place and then hope that the next door neighbor expires so they can expand their apartment, a casino co-ops, maybe they allow that to happen? I mean, is that a common thing that comes up where people can expand the space and buy another unit?

Gea Elika 07:19

Yes, that’s a common play for investors and it’s always a good thing to have as a value add versus just vanilla transactions. If you think that potentially there could be demand, because the family next door is growing, and they’ve already invested half a million dollars into their apartment and just had a child I think they would prefer to break the wall than to move.

Victoria Ray Henderson 07:46

So wild. So walk me through the process of, you get a buyer, you sit down with them and from that point, to the settlement table and now, it’s my understanding, you’re not writing the contract. You bring a lawyer in to do that.

Gea Elika 08:06

In New York State, the process is that we don’t do escrow. We don’t write contracts, as real estate agents. We are not allowed to touch contracts other than read them over to advice on them or about them and never to change any verbiage or amend any verbiage, all has to be done by an attorney but it reduces a lot of liability. I always feel sorry for a lot of realtors in other parts of the country. I know how hard they were. Yeah, I know how hard the escrow, I sent through a Floridian real estate licensing course and that was painful enough. Having to practice that way, would be a complete shift. So I’m very fortunate and I think all the brokers in Manhattan are very fortunate because we don’t technically work as hard as brokers in other parts of the country.

Victoria Ray Henderson 08:59

But there’s still so much value to what you’re bringing at the beginning and all through that process. So walk me through– Tell me what it is that you’re doing for your buyers to protect them or your investors to protect their interests. Talk to me a little bit about what that process is like?

Gea Elika 09:17

I think it’s really listening to the person. So, we all have scripts and what have you or process for understanding what a buyer wants. But I think even sometimes we actually don’t listen to what the buyer actually wants and we don’t think outside of the box, and just been training an agent as you’re aware and I think thinking outside of the boxes is very important because as an agent, how rare is it that you get a round pegging around whole. So, you have to find the opportunity, it’s not going to come to you. So if given the fact that interest rates and low housing stock is limited at the lower end of the spectrum, you have to fight, you have to fight against– you got to fight for your client.

So in the case of a co-op you have to upsell your client in order for them to get approved by the co-op to begin with, or even your offer accepted to that degree.

Victoria Ray Henderson 10:20

So your co-ops are a lot stricter than the ones we have in DC. Talk to me about that that whole– Talking up to your client, talk to me about how hard is that to do to get into a co-op?

Gea Elika 10:31

I think communications and packaging your offer is essential and if I was the listing broker, and I was representing a co-op buyer wouldn’t look at an offer that was well put together, I think, expressing and showing that you have a good team, let’s say, an attorney, a home inspector or a broker, and you’re all alive, and you’re on the same page and perhaps you’ve done a deal before together. So you all speak the same language. I think all of that can benefit the buyer through the process versus a disconnected team and a team that is starting to work together, I’ve never worked together.

Victoria Ray Henderson 11:06

So how often do you have buyers that come in and say, “Hey, I’ve got this lender that I found online, and I want to use him to get my loan?” How do you explain to that buyer, as I oftentimes myself doing– don’t know who they are? Are they going to pick up the phone? Do you just let them kind of…?

Gea Elika 11:24

No, I think brokers have to value their time and I think the longer I’ve done this, the more valuable my time has become and there have been times where I’ll turn down clients because I can’t give the time that’s needed for one client and I don’t want to dilute that time by giving it to another that’s perhaps less qualified than that one and then instead of doing two deals, you do no deals, instead of doing one deal.

So sometimes you can bite off more than you can chew and I think that as a buyer’s agent too, we’re not limited in our scope. As far as neighborhood, we generally go wherever our buyer wants us to go, it’s really our duty to have knowledge on that if we quote to say that we have any experience or knowledge of that neighborhood, so it’s our duty to be well versed in multiple languages or multiple neighborhoods, languages if you can.[laughter] [inaudible12:21] But architecture property and all these things and I think when you’re interviewing a client, they don’t know what’s out there a lot of the time. The time you get real clients, they’re not familiar with the streets and how the streets look or what type of architectures, where or this, or that, or if they want a junior 4 apartment, and that’s only available in a [inaudible 12:44]

Victoria Ray Henderson 12:46

You are educating them all the way along just making sure that they understand what is available for them.

Gea Elika 12:54

Yes, real estate can be a really boring process and an anxious process for a lot of people. Especially for first time homebuyers. Needless to say, I mean, they’re facing nothing but a mountain in front of them and the only guide they have is their broker to get them up the mountain, otherwise they’ll fall down the mountain.

So, you’ve got to think the brokers. Obviously, having a great client is easier for the broker if the client knows everything that they want. But how often do you get everything that’s in the place, and it’s supposed to be. I often find myself try to think about what my clients going to ask me next. So I’m one step ahead of my client. So I can try to guide them in the right direction.

Victoria Ray Henderson 13:48

Yes, I had a client several years ago, husband and wife and, and I thought that we knew.

Gea Elika 13:57

Victoria. One second. [Irrelevant talk 13:58]

Victoria Ray Henderson 14:20

Where was I? I was going to share with you this. I had a client, husband and wife thought we were on the same page. We had written out our needs and our wants list and he kept running into the backyard. Every time we were in a house and I walked to the back door and I’m watching him watching him and finally, third, fourth time I walk out and I go, “What are you doing?” And he said, well, it’s got to be a flat backyard because I’m going to be playing catch someday with my future child and I need to know that that we can play in our backyard and I look in his wife. He’d never said that to his wife, ever told her and she got tears in her eyes and said I had no idea. So they weren’t even on the same page about that that was like a secret that he couldn’t share with anybody. But then when he spilled the beans, I went to visit them a year later, they had a baby. Really cute.

Gea Elika 15:13

[Crosstalk 15:14] A flat piece of land can get.

Victoria Ray Henderson 15:15

Exactly. So, I share that with you because as a broker, you know, so often, it’s like, you’re peeling the layers off the onion and finally, you get to the kernel of what it is that they’re– what they are trying to say to you, or just trying to get to know them. So you understand what they want?

Gea Elika 15:34

The best example that I’ve got for you that I can share. I represented a gentleman very bright guy, tech guy, write an algorithm to spite [phonetic 15:46] of the dark web for human trafficking. A really amazing thing because there is a big problem right now. Anyway, so he went to our site, and he engaged in the blog, and he read the content and he came back to me, and he said, “You know, I just reached out through my form on the website and said, I’d like to work with you and anyway, long story short, but it came to a deal and I met an incredible person. But he said to me, he also wrote a review that I think I spent my whole career working for.

Victoria Ray Henderson 16:18

Oh, I read that one. It was a beautiful review.

Gea Elika 16:22

Thank you and I didn’t ask for. He said to me. I don’t have time. I’m launching my company. He was in the New York Times, the week after I met him with him. He said to me gear throughout the whole process I never had to only for the first week I was like concerned whether I was with the right person or not. But once I spent some time with you, and you answered the questions thoroughly, and to the point and I’m straightforward. I don’t as buyer’s agents, we’re all supposed to be straightforward. We’re not supposed to up. He really appreciated that and he appreciated the unbiased, and I actually told him, don’t buy that property, buy that one.

Victoria Ray Henderson 17:06

Yes. You know, the truth of it is that that, especially as an exclusive buyer’s agent, and broker, people start to know that they can trust you and that’s really it. It’s about that relationship and about having trust with somebody. Now, I’m going to ask you something really silly. Do you have any famous clients that you can– I’m sure you can’t name names, but if you want to, you can?

Gea Elika 17:34

I have some incredible clients that I have. The only reason why I have some incredible clients that I have, is only because I don’t share anything.

Victoria Ray Henderson 17:45

You like what you do.

Gea Elika 17:46

I like what I do.

Victoria Ray Henderson 17:47

Isn’t that fun?

Gea Elika 17:48

Yes, I like to get up, I like to find homes for people, I like homes. I like the relationships that we create, I like what will you learn throughout the process? I think it’s a lot more than just about real estate. I think Real Estate’s the product that we transact in but it’s not the reason I think. So I just think that there’s a big– when you’re dealing with a person’s wealth, they entrust you with it. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t entrust my friends with my wealth, let alone a strange broker that I made off the internet. I think valuing that and seeing it through the buyers’ eyes, and never taking that for granted. I think this is essential.

Victoria Ray Henderson 18:34

I think that’s a terrific way to end a very, very fun podcast. So, Gea Elika thank you so much for joining me on Listen Up Home Buyers. It has been such a pleasure talking to you. Thank you.

Gea Elika 18:47

Thank you for having me.

Victoria Ray Henderson 18:49

You are welcome. Bye!

Introduction 18:51

You’ve been listening to Listen Up Home Buyers. The only podcast offering Home Buying advice and tips from true buyer agents.

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