In New York City’s fast-paced, high-stakes real estate market, Keller Williams associate and KW GPS member Maria Belen Avellaneda of the NYC-Manhattan market center understands the importance of delivering top-notch VIP customer service while managing expenses.
Economics During a Shift
With a background in finance and economics, Avellaneda is well aware that economic data points to a possible downturn in the real estate market. However, rather than arbitrarily slashing her spending, she plans to focus on generating more business by “spending smart,” an approach to expense management she believes can help agents maximize their profits as the market shifts.
“I spend more on loyal clients, returning clients and people coming from strong referrals,” says Avellaneda, a Keller Williams associate since 2013. “It’s very important to spend smartly. Don't throw away resources without a specific purpose.” That approach, along with carefully cultivating client relationships, making herself available to her clientele 24/7, and keeping up to speed on economic developments and trends, has led to an incredible year so far for the Argentina native. Her closed volume through June 2016 came in at $64.6 million, nearly five times her $13.2 million total closed volume for 2015.
This March alone, she executed a 1031 exchange for a family office that topped $34 million, selling an Upper East Side condominium for $23.1 million, and using the proceeds to purchase another one for $12.9 million. She carried out the exchange in a single week. A 1031 tax exchange allows investors to defer taxes by selling and reinvesting in a similar asset.
Spending With a Purpose
“Success comes with hard work, time, discipline and integrity, and education and good manners are paramount,” says Avellaneda, who resides on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and has called New York City home for the last 10 years. “I build and cherish relationships beyond a single transaction.” She also keeps herself highly informed about what is happening in the rest of the world and the economic forecasts for certain regions. “And I target my clients accordingly,” she says. China is one area she keeps close tabs on, and currently, she has her eye on developing contacts in India.
When it comes to managing expenses, Avellaneda is strict – she only spends with an investment purpose. She’ll analyze each client and their seriousness to buy or sell. Those who are serious price the properties correctly and follow her advice, she says, and real buyers also act fast, have their paperwork in order and are ready to proceed. She spends much more money – and time – on that type of client, she says. She also targets spending on areas that truly matter to her clientele.
“Many of my best clients are extremely wealthy, but very low profile,” says Avellaneda. She works with ultra-high-net-worth family offices, helping them build their real estate portfolios to protect capital and maximize returns. “They don’t need fancy parties or dinners, but they want to make sure I invest in the marketing, people and technology to sell their properties.”
A couple of her worthwhile larger spends include hiring private drivers to ferry her ultra-high-net-worth clients between luxury properties in Manhattan, and strategically advertising where she will reach her target market.
Avellaneda regularly advertises her services in top-tier publications that target affluent buyers and sellers, like The Wall Street Journal, where a single ad can cost $15,000. And it’s not uncommon for her to shell out the cash for a 10-hour flight abroad for one hour-long client meeting.
One of Avellaneda’s keys to success is making sure her clients have a top-notch team to help ensure their deal will go through and that they spend successfully – attorneys, appraisers and designers. She’ll also go above and beyond for clients, helping to make their time in New York City more comfortable, and accommodating the schedules of clients who live abroad.
She’s developed relationships with local hotels in New York and helps secure competitive rates for her clients. More than once, she’s arranged a private charter jet for a client she needed in Manhattan immediately to see a property. It’s also not unheard of – with clients residing across the globe – for Avellaneda to take a call at 2 or 4 a.m. She works long hours, and she prides herself on hard work.
“I’m fortunate to work with some of the wealthiest businesspeople on earth,” Avellaneda says. “they’re smart and demanding, so I need to provide outstanding service always.”
A Passion for Investments
On a typical day, Avellaneda could find herself poring through a stack of International Monetary Fund or World Bank reports piled on her desk and checking the latest economic data on Bloomberg. Later, she might meet a client to see a property or walk through a New York neighborhood to help them assess the pros and cons of buying in the area. If time permits, she may meet her investment banker husband and 13-monthold daughter for lunch before jetting off to her next appointment.
“My baby daughter and my husband are a constant support, and are key to my success,” she says.
Prior to Keller Williams, Avellaneda worked as a senior adviser to multi-million dollar family offices, governments and multilaterals. She was a consultant for the World Bank and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and worked at the Inter-American Development Bank and Banco Provincia in Argentina. “That gave me access to an incredible network of relationships,” she says. She came to the Big Apple from Argentina to pursue her master’s degree at Columbia University in international finance, economics and quantitative analysis.
But her interest in the market started long before grad school. Real estate is in Avellaneda’s blood. Her family has invested in real estate in New York and Latin America for the last 30 years, acquiring luxury properties in Manhattan’s most exclusive neighborhoods and residential properties and hotels abroad. “We’re very passionate about investments,” Avellaneda says.
Keller Williams Realty’s Global Reach
For Avellaneda, Keller Williams Realty has been a huge support over the last several years, she says, providing her with an excellent platform to help her grow both professionally and financially. She joined the Keller Williams Global Property Specialist (GPS) program after her team leader suggested it, and has found the program offers excellent tools, especially for presenting pitches to potential sellers. Through the program, agents network with likeminded colleagues, receive special training and get access to best-in-class technology platforms.
Through the program, Avellaneda has gained invaluable exposure to other brokers and an international platform. “And as more and more agents use the platform, the more powerful it will become,” she says.
“With Keller Williams, I feel I can run my own business and, at the same time, I know I have management support when needed,” says Avellaneda. “I also love that the company is becoming more and more global and that there’s potential referral business related to that globalization.”
Recently, Avellaneda traveled to California to attend a client’s wedding. With her priority on building and maintaining relationships, she finds she’s often included in her clients’ life events. “Being part of people’s lives and leading them toward happiness is extremely rewarding,” Avellaneda says.
Avellaneda says she can’t imagine doing anything else but real estate. She loves meeting high-caliber executives, learning from company owners, and helping families to find their dream homes.