“Real estate is a very emotionally driven business,” says Lindsay Stevens, licensed associate real estate broker at Stevens Realty Group in New Paltz. “For buyers, it’s a huge financial investment, and as soon as you sign the paperwork, you’re nervous. ‘Can I afford it? What am I doing?’ And sellers often have a very emotional attachment to the home they’ve lived in for years, where they’ve raised their children. It can be hard for them to let go. So it’s a lot of walking them through that and just being there for people and helping them through the process. There’s a lot of handholding involved. And I check in with them afterward, too.”
Stevens maintains an open-door policy at her office at 171 Main Street. And that’s meant literally; she likes to leave the door to the street open to create an inviting atmosphere where people can feel free to stop in and ask questions. She shares the space with husband Bruce Stevens, the corporate broker in the business. They have four real estate agents working for them. Bruce, a real estate broker since 2001, opened the office in New Paltz in 2009, which is when Lindsay joined the business. But while that works out to being about six years ago, she actually grew up in the office building there.
Her father is Todd Wiedenkeller, whose insurance firm has occupied offices at 171 Main for more than 30 years. Her mom also owns an insurance firm — the Fox Insurance Agency in Highland — and Lindsay remembers that while growing up in New Paltz, with both of her parents in the office building there at the time, she used to get off the school bus and hang out in her parents’ office while they worked. “A lot of people in town know me from being a little girl in this office building,” she says.
And now her own two girls, Mya, four, and Kalli, two, hang out with mom and dad in the same way. “They’re here a lot; they’re very patient,” she says, smiling. “They like to sit at the other desk and take notes and pretend they’re doing business transactions.” The whole family loves to be outdoors, Lindsay says, hiking, running and biking. Real estate happens on weekends as well as weekdays and nights, she adds, but she and Bruce rotate schedules so that the kids have one of them on Saturdays to get out and have some fun.
Lindsay says she loves living in New Paltz, where she was born and raised, but didn’t always think she would be living and working here. In her freshman year of high school at New Paltz High, she told her parents she was going to double up on credits so she could graduate in three years at age 17. Anxious to get out into the world, she earned a degree in legal studies and business at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and then moved to New York City. In her first job out of college, she worked 90-hour weeks for a sports management company, sometimes sleeping on the floor of the office, and not making much money for her efforts. “It’s just grinding to get your foot in the door,” Lindsay says, “that’s kind of how New York City is, especially in the business I was in.” From there she moved on to work for Edelman Public Relations and Morgan Stanley, primarily in marketing and advertising. But by this time back in New Paltz, she was pregnant and commuting four hours a day. One hot summer day on the 5 a.m. bus, Lindsay decided she wanted a change and with her husband’s encouragement, she went after her real estate broker’s license.
Now Lindsay and Bruce do a substantial amount of rental property management in addition to private and commercial real estate sales. “We manage probably 250 local properties in Ulster and Dutchess, and a little bit of Orange County,” she says. “It’s really a 24-hour-a-day type business. We basically take on the headaches of the landlord so they don’t have to; if there’s no hot water or heat, or a tree falls on a property… it’s constant. We rent the apartments, do the credit and criminal background checks, application screening, we do the lease, drafting, execution… all of it. We also do seasonal rental management for people with second homes up here that do ‘airbnb’ or VRBO [vacation rentals by owner]. We get their properties advertised and rented and the cleaning crews in; we oversee all that.”
Recently New Paltz Times sat down with Lindsay Stevens to find out a little bit more about what’s involved in a day’s work for a real estate broker.
What do you like the most about your work?
The Hudson Valley is a beautiful place to be and we have exceptionally wonderful clients; I love working with all of them. I’m a people person and I love just being in touch with people.
What’s the most challenging thing about your work?
I think it’s juggling time, especially with two young kids. Running a business is difficult because, for me, anyway, it’s hard to separate work from my life. I have a cell phone that rings at 10 o’clock at night. And I put my heart and soul into everything I do, so I feel like I need to be accountable to people that need me, no matter what time it is.
Did you have any formal training at the beginning or did you just jump in?
I jumped in. No formal training, but I’m a quick learner. I left Morgan Stanley, I was about to have a baby, and I figured, it’s a flexible job, so I took my license and kind of jumped right in. I shadowed Bruce a little bit, went on appointments with him, watched him and learned the business that way.
What personal attributes do you think are necessary to do your line of work?
You have to be persistent and patient. Real estate is not an overnight success business. There are a lot of TV shows out there where you see these agents making tons of money, and I think it gives people the idea that real estate is just a quick way to make money. But you really need to expect not to make a penny probably for the first six months you’re in the business. There are a lot of real estate agents, it’s a competitive business, it’s hard. And you have to develop your network of people and show them that they can trust you and you know what you’re doing.
What makes for a good day in your line of work?
Keeping people happy is a good day. We have a lot of facets to our business, and keeping everybody happy is always the goal, whether it’s a landlord trying to rent their house or a seller trying to sell it. I take this business very personally so I’ll work extra hard to find a solution to any problem. And any closing day is a good day for me; it’s what we work for.
And a bad day?
When it rains it pours! Sometimes it seems like every person has a problem on the same day, and that’s a bad day. We deal with a lot of tenants and landlords; there are situations constantly and they all seem to happen on the same day.
Has the business changed since you started in 2009?
It has! It’s technology. The presence of the Internet is changing real estate; everything is online now. People that are buying houses are very committed and they know what they want. And they are constantly looking online, so sometimes buyers know more about the market than an agent does, because all they’re doing is looking every day. And they know what the property looks like because there are pictures, and virtual tours… It used to be the only way to see a house was to call an agent and go inside, but they already know what it looks like because they’ve seen it online. There’s even an app where you can drive around and little pings will come up where there’s a house for sale and you can pull it up for all the details. It’s all interactive.
But they still need a real estate broker to do the negotiating, don’t they?
Definitely negotiating the price is where you need somebody in your corner representing you, and the seller’s agent, whatever side you’re on, is representing them. It’s like a poker game, back and forth, until you get the terms everybody is happy with. And even after that, it’s contract, and it’s home inspections, and things come up… the property needs a new roof, they want a credit, and then there’s financing, which is a whole other thing.
Do you see yourself doing this line of work ten years from now?
I’ll be here for the long haul. As long as people need real estate agents, we’ll definitely be here.
What advice would you give somebody going into your line of work?
I would tell them it’s a great business, I love it, but be patient, be persistent, be honest 100 percent of the time and always do the right thing. Real estate is a commission-based business, and there’s a lot of money involved. For some people, in certain circumstances, that becomes more important than the deal itself. Every deal is up and down and even sitting at the closing table it’s not over until the very last second. And if a seller gets cold feet, even when it’s a great offer and all the terms were great and it would have been a nice commission for me, I look them in the eyes and tell them ‘You have to be comfortable with this.’ I have integrity and that’s the most important thing for me, more than the money. Sometimes not all my deals go through, but I think to be honest and do the right thing is a key component; I always want everybody to feel comfortable.
Contact Lindsay Stevens at (845) 256-8868 or visit stevensrealtygrp.com.