In addition to our features on women inside the fitness industry we are also going to be looking at inspiring women in other industries too, so with that in mind this month we are dedicating the industry slot to Kianna Choi, Vice President of Bond Real Estate in NYC.
They say in real estate that ‘location is everything’ and as an owner of properties in New York, Chicago, London and Dubai, Kianna obviously has a clear vision when it comes to making smart investments.
With both hands firmly on the steering wheel of life her story is both inspiring and motivating…and what is more, after you have read this I am sure you will share my feeling that for Kianna the journey has only just begun!
So Kianna you began your career as an attorney…law is a complex subject to study what attracted you to it?
“When I was a high school student in Kentucky, I wanted to be an artist. So, I applied to New York University for their stellar Art History program. Then I took a couple of pre-law classes on Constitution and Civil Rights. Those topics really lit a fire in me. After graduating from NYU with a double major in Art History and Political Science, I attended Loyola University of Chicago School of Law and practiced law for eight years. Going through the rigors of law school and practicing law changes the way you think and solve problems. The legal training forces you to be disciplined, examine issues differently, create persuasive arguments, and be a tough negotiator. I apply those skills every day as an Associate Broker and Vice President with Bond New York.”
What would you say your greatest achievements were in your legal work and what gave you the most satisfaction?
“Being a lawyer was incredibly satisfying both in the courtroom and in the community. I’ve submitted written briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court, handled class action cases, and won some major victories for my clients. All of that was thrilling, but I have to say that being involved in the local community was the most satisfying. As an attorney, I became involved in local community groups such as the Korean American Bar Association, Chicago Committee on Minorities in Large Law Firms, Korean American Coalition to name a few. Connecting with amazing people and serving the community satisfied my soul.”
At this time you were based in Chicago….what prompted the move to New York and of course the career change to real estate?
“Love was the catalyst to moving to New York City and the economy changed my career. In September of 2008, my husband was relocated to New York to become an executive at a financial institution. When we prepared for the move, the economy was still strong and with my connections and credentials, we believed that finding an in-house position with a corporation in New York would be fairly easy. But three weeks after I resigned, Leman Brothers collapsed and so did all my job prospects. For about eighteen months, I was a housewife and traveling companion to my husband.
“My husband encouraged me to go into real estate because of my background and practical experience. I’ve always owned property and had considerable experience in the New York real estate market as well. I never pursued the real estate career until one day my friend asked me to join her at a small real estate agency. From the first day I started I knew that real estate was the right career for me.”
You are currently Vice President of Bond Real Estate in NYC can you tell us a little about the company and its range of properties?
“Bond is New York's largest independently owned real estate brokerage firm with five Manhattan offices and over 500 personnel and staff. Bond serves residential and commercial leasing and sales clients, offers new development marketing, and corporate relocation services. Bond has a range of properties from $6,000,000 sales listings to $1800 studio rentals!! It is truly a full service real estate agency.”
This is a pretty tough time in the real estate world (and real estate can be tough even in the good times!) how do you keep one step ahead of your competitors?
“The biggest challenge agents are facing today is innovation. All the good brokers are trained exactly the same way, have the same documents, and have identical marketing plans when they pitch business. In today’s market, clients who are selling their homes demand unique marketing strategies to reach out to their target audience. People tend to read less and less now – they are more visual. My marketing strategies include social media and videos. Prospective buyers are just clicking through the photos without reading the listing description. Additionally, people spend most of their time on Facebook. You really have to capture people’s attention in a visual format they are already familiar. So, I’ve launched Buying and Selling NYC, a FaceBook page, where I post video tours of property, provide practical guides on buying and selling, and feature luxury rentals. http://www.facebook.com/BuyingandSellingNYC We‘ve just launched last week and already have gotten incredible feedback. More importantly, my clients are very impressed.”
What qualities do you think are important for anyone entering real estate to possess?
“Most people who are attracted to the business think they are going to make a ton of money right off the bat by just showing up to work. That’s not reality. You have to be mentally tough. A real estate agent is essentially a sales job where you are subjected to disappointment almost every single day. Not every lead turns into a client, not every client turns into a deal, and not every deal closes. If you don’t have the mental toughness to deal with the disappointment, being a real estate agent can be very depressing. You need to have a clear vision of your career plan and stay in the game to win.”
I believe you also own quite a few properties yourself. So I take it you feel secure in the future of property as an investment?
“Investing in real estate is similar to investing in stocks – you buy low and sell high. After 2008, New York City property values declined along with the rest of the nation. But unlike the rest of the nation, New York City property values have increased year after year in certain neighborhoods since 2008. Just to give you a practical example, we bought a condo in the Financial District for $681 per square feet in October of 2009. That property was appraised in May of 2011 at $861 per square feet. Realistically, however, because there is a high demand for large space but there’s a lack of inventory, we could probably sell it for closer to $890 — classic example of buy low and sell high. If you’re an investor, now is the time to buy real estate because there are very good deals still out there.”
What would you say is your greatest moment so far while working in NYC real estate?
“I’m sure your audience would expect getting that huge commission check or closing an amazing deal would be my greatest moment. But those aspects are really just an everyday part of my job. The greatest moment so far has been moving over to Bond New York.
“I started my real estate career with a small brokerage firm that had at that time around 35 agents. After a while, I had reached my growth with that smaller firm. A good friend of mine introduced me to Bond’s founder Noah Freedman. After meeting Bruno Ricciotti, Bond’s other cofounder, and Michael Signet, one of Bond’s sales mangers, I quickly realized that Bond offered the facilities to foster my marketing vision and sales growth.
“Now that I’m with Bond, I can see that Bond is consistently ahead of their competitors in developing and supporting talented real estate agents. My sales manager, Naomi Muramatsu, is incredibly knowledgeable and has been a great resource. Also, there’s always something new to learn in their training programs. Joining Bond has been the best decision that I’ve made.”
One thing about your job is that it can be 24/7 and pretty stressful….how do you keep yourself sane?
“I take my M.E.D.S.!!
Meditate – doesn’t have to be religious or spiritual, just turning everything (including my cell phone) off for 15 minutes a day
Exercise – I really hate hitting the tread mill, but once I’m on it, I always break out into a smile
Diet – It’s not about losing weight; it’s about eating clean!
Sleep – The secret to staying young is getting the right amount of sleep; could be eight hours for one person but six hours for another.
I also do quite a bit of client entertaining and networking. So, I’m usually out two or three times a week reconnecting with my clients and meeting new people. Positive social interactions always leave me refreshed and rejuvenated.”
Finally what do you want to accomplish in say the next 5 years?
“I’d like my own reality show – Real Korean American Housewives of New York City!!”