Smitha Ramchandani has been featured in another article, this time in BizJournals.com, detailing her rise from a 20 – something in Real Estate, to the Top of her local market!
When age is an asset: How this realtor turned her youth into a viable niche
When Smitha Ramchandani was 24 years old, she was a newly married immigrant from Bombay who wasn’t sure where to look for a job.
Did she want to run a salon, as her family did in India? Not really. Did she want a 9-to-5 position? Not her style.
Ramchandani settled on real estate, after driving by a few offices and seeing expensive cars parked outside, and got her license.
But there was a problem: her age.
The brokers at the New Jersey-based Weichert Realtors, where she was hired, were more than twice her age (the average age of a realtor is 56, according to the National Realtors Association), and they looked at her as a kid trying in vain to test a profession she knew nothing about. Potential clients were skeptical of her youth, as well.
So Ramchandani tried to appear older. She wore fake eyeglasses and put white sidewalk chalk in her hair to give the illusion of gray streaks. But she was still getting rejected. “I almost quit real estate 50 or 100 times that first year,” Ramchandani said.
Nineteen years later, Ramchandani is still in the business and one of her region’s top realtors. She and her husband, Rahul — both now with Sothebys — closed a combined 71 deals in 2014. In the last year and half, they’ve closed more than 140.
For comparison, the typical agent closed 12 transactions last year, according to Maggie Kasperski, a spokeswoman for the National Realtors Association.
So what changed for the flailing 24-year-old on the brink of quitting? She nixed the fake glasses, tossed the chalk and embraced her age. With that, she found herself a niche — one that became the foundation for a highly successful real estate business.
‘Use that toehold’
One of Ramchandani’s first customers in the early, tenuous days was a 20-something couple trying to sell their starter home.
Rather than try to appear as if she’d been in the business a long time, Ramchandani was upfront: She told her clients she was young, but that — as their peer — she had the right kind of perspective to close their deal.
“I said, ‘This is who I am… I know exactly what you want,’” Ramchandani recalled. “And from there, I really started growing.”
Soon after that $140,000 house, she sold another young person’s condominium for $60,000. She began to focus on buying and selling condos and town homes, popular among 20-somethings at the time.
She closed six transactions in 1997, her first (torturous) year in the business. In 1998, once she found her niche, Ramchandani closed 24.
They were low-commission transactions most of the established real estate agents didn’t have time for. But Ramchandani realized that if she dominated the local marketplace for young adults buying and selling homes, the high volume would make up for the small commissions. Soon, she developed a reputation as the go-to agent for residents in certain complexes.
“In a condo building, everybody is on the condo board. Everybody uses the same two elevators,” said Mark Bloom, a real estate broker and the president of Net Worth Realty USA, which has 12 offices around the country and sold more than $150 million in real estate to investors last year. To become that talking point when it comes to selling condos in that complex is a valuable tool for building business, Bloom said.
Broadly speaking, niches are valuable in any industry — from real estate to online dating. (Consider Farmers Only, a dating site for farmers. “How many people would have ever thought you were going to have a website for that?” Bloom asked.)
But, he added, all niche businesses don’t have to stay niche businesses, he added. Sometimes, that niche can be a “toe-hold” — just enough to give you the experience and clout needed to move into more sectors.
Consider Coca-Cola, a company that started out with a single beverage and now is the parent company for hundreds of products. The company even owned Columbia Pictures for a half-dozen years.
“Use your strengths to get a toehold, and use that toehold to build,” Bloom said.
Ramchandani, now 43, no longer focuses primarily on the 20-something market. Many of her clients today sell homes worth anywhere from $400,000 to $3 million, she said.
But that market helped her establish herself in those brutal early days.
You have to know who your client is, she said. And then you have to know yourself — and which clients are going to accept you for exactly who you are.
After all, she added, mentioning the chalk and fake eyeglasses she once used: “How long can you fake it?
National award-winners and seasoned Realtors with over many years of experience in Northern & Central New Jersey, Rahul & Smitha and their team have become New Jersey’s “Go To” agents and consistent leaders with a reputation for tenaciously protecting their clients’ interests. They specialize in Morris, Somerset, Essex, Union and Passaic counties.