An Interview With Jason Hartman
Words matter. When you are showing a home or communicating with either a buyer’s broker or the buyer themself, it is a balance of what you say and how you say it. Communication is key in this industry.
How can you get the best price possible when you are looking to sell your home? Sometimes it’s a matter of timing, the right upgrades, or simply the right negotiation. In this interview series called “How To Get The Best Price When You Sell Your Home” we are talking to successful real estate leaders, who can share stories, insights and lessons from their experience about how to get the best price when you want to sell your home.
As a particular part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa True.
Melissa True serves as the Sales Director at Platinum Properties. She joined the firm in 2021, bringing in over 20 years of real estate experience and rare leadership qualities to the team. As the sales director, Melissa carries the responsibility of meeting sales targets and estimating sales for profit. She is also responsible for focusing on agent development and excelling the growth of the Platinum Properties brand.
Melissa was introduced to the real estate industry when she was in high school, selling her first apartment when she was 14-years-old. Since then, she has gone on to have a fulfilling career in real estate. Previously, Melissa was the founder of TOWN’s executive team and went on to hold the title of Senior Manager of Culture and Careers at Douglas Elliman. During her time at TOWN, her leadership skills led the company to grow over 500 agents in New York City while also prioritizing the agents’ needs first and creating a workplace that her colleagues loved being a part of. As an industry leader, Melissa has participated in notable conferences like the Real Estate Board of New York panels, The Real Deal forum, the Young Presidents Organization, and the Downtown Alliance.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to your career?
I grew up in a real estate family, where open houses were a regular Sunday occurrence. I moved to Florida in 1990, where my dad was building condos in Palm Beach County and I started working as a weekend receptionist for him. I naturally gravitated to talking about the product and connecting with the buyers. I went on to show a lovely gentleman — straight off the beach with no shoes — the entire project and model. He eventually bought the penthouse and that is how I “sold” my first condo when I was only 14.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away, you took out of that story?
There are so many, but I think the best was when I was showing a couple two-bedroom homes in a new development building I was overseeing. The project was under construction and we were not supposed to be taking prospective buyers to see actual units. The wife was seven months pregnant and had her heart set on seeing what the view would be from their first child’s bedroom. So I, always being client service minded, wanted to accommodate her. Fast forward to heading back down after seeing the apartment (which they loved even though it was raw space. It was the baby’s room view that got them) we got stuck in the elevator because no one was supposed to be in the elevator.
Instead of panicking, I pulled water out of my bag for them, told them not to worry and I would have this fixed in a jiff. All the while believing I would never hear from them again after all this. It took the general contractor 30 minutes to get back on site and get us down. I had a car take them home for the terrible inconvenience. They came back two days later and took the apartment off the market. They said they loved the space, but the way they felt treated, taken care of by me and my team, was what made their decision. Put your clients needs and comfort first — it will pay you back in spades.
Do you have a favorite “life lesson quote”? Can you share a story or example of how that was relevant to you in your life?
Happiness is a Habit. Cultivate it.
I figured out — perhaps a little later than I like to admit — that in life you have to love what you do, and love who you work with. I use this quote to remind myself that being happy is a choice, but needs constant tending.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I recently became the Sales Director at Platinum Properties, which I am thrilled about. This role allows me to take my over 20 years of New York City real estate experience and help other passionate real estate professionals develop their own careers. It is an ultimate pay it forward opportunity and is beyond rewarding.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
At Platinum Properties we have defined core values that translate to every part of our business. It is incredibly special and rare in our industry to be a part of a brokerage firm that truly puts its agents first. The executive team at Platinum knows that when agents are cared for and supported they will do their best work for their clients.
We have each other’s backs.
We communicate openly and honestly.
Our success comes from working together.
Diverse Voices, Better Choices
We are as diverse as the city we serve
We create an inclusive environment that fosters and encourages open dialogue
Our different perspectives and experiences result in more frequent and effective collaboration.
Make the Weather
We don’t wait for opportunities, we create them.
We don’t fear change, we embrace it.
We don’t get stuck; we pivot to get it done right.
Right on Top of That
We do what we say we’re going to do, when we say we are going to do it.
We are service-driven, resourceful, and pay attention to the details.
We are always up to date on the market.
Health, then Wealth
We strive to create balance in an unbalanced industry.
We value the wellbeing of our team.
We enable our team to unplug and recharge.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are so many! Personally, my parents. They worked together seamlessly in real estate and development for decades and were always (not so gently) pushing me into the industry. My mom had an effortless ability to make everyone feel important when she worked with you, but she also had an incredibly strong sense of purpose and worth.
Professionally, my first boss in real estate — Andrew Heiberger. I started as his executive assistant and in that role I had the opportunity to participate in every aspect of the business, by attending all the meetings, and observing and learning. This role helped me identify the paths I saw suiting me, and he always allowed me to expand into new arenas.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you please tell us why you are an authority about the topic of getting the best price when selling a home?
I am honest and I listen. I listen to the clients and the market, all while giving it to people straight and with a smile. As I mentioned before, I grew up in real estate. Sundays were spent at open houses, checking out property was the norm and conversations around pricing and value were dinner topics. The best pricing experts out there use lots of data, but there is always a gut instinct in terms of pricing and listing strategy.
After 20 years in the industry and working with various top-tier real estate brokerage firms, I have developed a strong instinct and understanding of the real estate market. I have also worked in various roles within real estate from being a founding member of TOWN’s executive team to the Senior Manager of Culture and Careers at Douglas Elliman. That led me now to my current role as Sales Director at Platinum Properties.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry, as it is today? If you can please share a story or example.
The first has been a long standing idea I have appreciated about the industry, that there is a place for everyone. The expansive size, culture and model of brokerages in New York City make that possible. You just have to take the time to find your fit.
Second, New York City has always been a bit slower to embrace technology, and with the recent push into proptech, it feels the industry is finally embracing its value. As only New York City can do, it is catching up like the fast and the furious. It will be interesting to watch how an old-school approach to managing a real estate brokerage can be fused with a modern approach of embracing technology. It ultimately goes beyond the old school versus the new. It is about embracing technology to better help grow an agent’s business. The goal is to find technology that matters to an agent. If an agent does not use it is a waste.
The third is the shift in a client’s required boundaries. New York City has always been a micro-neighborhood specific type of place. Clients would typically want to stay within a five block radius. Today, agents are pushing those boundaries to find clients the right home and it is often neighborhoods or even borroughs away. Recently a client, who had lived in Tribeca for over 12 years, only wanted to stay in her building but needed more space for a growing family. She ended up with her perfect home in Brooklyn! It is happening more and more and I love the constant expansion into and exploration of new neighborhoods.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry as it is today? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest? Please share stories or examples if possible.
- Company recruiting tactics. Many brokerage firms neglect the agent’s basic needs and potential which is counter intuitive to everything we are supposed to be doing for agents. The aggressive nature has blurred the reality that there is a good fit for everyone in our business. It also eliminates respect for an agent’s time! The constant barrage of impersonal recruiting calls can frustrate an agent and leave a sour taste about a particular company. I would, and I always do, encourage agents to meet with several companies, to see where they feel they fit and if they feel a general connection with those that will be supporting their business. An agent needs to have a symbiotic fit with the company and its values. Agents have gotten stars in their eyes from gigantic offers that seem too good to be true (which they often are) and lose sight of the important things.
- Over-reliance on data. Obviously in today’s tech-driven world, technology and data are paramount. I think the flaw, and the problem in the real estate industry is agents not taking the time to analyze and contextualize the data as it relates to an individual client. While data can point to trends and share insight into the market, it is important to remember that there are exceptions to the rules and reports will not tell every story.
- A team versus a brokerage. There has been a trend for teams and mega-teams within a company for some time now, but there is still room for an independent broker to do a solid business. Companies tend to funnel more attention and resources to big teams who are producing large scale volume, and rightfully so. However when you break down the productivity per agent on a team, you find that there is an opportunity to level the playing field. It is important to have a company culture that focuses on an agent’s individual growth and not only a large team’s.
Based on your experience, what are a few of the biggest mistakes you have seen people make when they sell their homes? What must be done to avoid them?
The biggest mistake people can make is taking feedback from their real estate agent personally. We always advise on strategy to create momentum and sell the home. Clients often get so invested in how and why they personalized the home for how they live in it, they can not imagine someone else not wanting it the exact same way.
I know this question has passionate opinions on both sides, but we would love to hear your opinion. Engaging a realtor is costly. Should people use a realtor when they sell their home? Please explain why you feel the way you do.
100 percent, yes. Always hire an expert for the job. Would you try and diagnose yourself first before seeking medical attention for a problem? No, of course not! Trying to sell your homewithout a real estate agent to act as a guide, an advisor and ultimately your advocate can be damaging to the value of the property.
Ok, here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider”. Can you please share five things you need to know in order to get the absolute best price when you sell your home? If you can, please give a story or an example for each.
- Listen to the experts. You hired a broker for a reason so listen to their advice, suggestions and recommendations. They know what they are doing — that is why you hired them.
- Timing is paramount. I listed my own apartment in February — the one month most agents will tell you to avoid, right after December — but I observed a gap in inventory truly comparable to my apartment. I knew if I got ahead of the competition listing, and set myself apart amongst current inventory, I would win, and I did. Sold it in 50 percent less time than average on the market at the time and for a significantly higher price per square foot.
- List with round, easy numbers. Take a cue from retail. No one sells a cashmere sweater for $193.96. They sell it for $199 — just under $200 and that is no accident! Same is true for real estate. When people see convoluted or complicated numbers, they assume it is produced by a formula or algorithm and it goes to the bottom of the list of options.
- You have to believe in your pricing, product and strategy. This is a sales business! If you do not believe in any of the aforementioned pieces of the puzzle, you will not be able to effectively negotiate and achieve the highest and best price.
- Words matter. When you are showing a home or communicating with either a buyer’s broker or the buyer themself, it is a balance of what you say and how you say it. Communication is key in this industry.
Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Love what you do — it’s that simple. The real estate business is hard and takes a tremendous amount of perseverance, patience and dedication. You have to be passionate about it. Otherwise you will resent the work you do.
Additionally, love where you work and who you work with! Agents have endless choices and if you do not look forward to going to our office, feel supported by your staff, get motivated and inspired by the leaders you are in the wrong place. You deserve to have all of that, and it is all about finding the right fit. Have the pride you feel about where you work match your passion for the work you do and you always come out ahead.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for your time, and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.