Meet Caroline Bass, SVP of Citi Habitat and The Hardest Working Agent in Manhattan
By Seth Price
About Agent Basics
Leading real estate professional Caroline Bass talks about the New York City market, the value of hard work, and why it pays to be nice.
Caroline’s success in the real estate industry is unprecedented. Since 2005, Caroline has been honored with numerous awards and accolades, including the Rookie of the Year Award for her Upper East Side office, the Rookie of the Year Award for her company of more than 800 agents, the Outstanding Customer Service Award, and the elite Platinum Award. More recently, she was twice named Top-Producing Agent for sales and rentals and Top Rental Agent for her Upper East Side office. In 2008, she received Deal of the Year Award from the Real Estate Board of New York for outstanding customer service and skillful negotiation. Caroline was voted Best Rental Agent in Manhattan by The Real Deal in 2010 and was profiled in Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30.”
A native Northeasterner, Caroline has a strong background in the arts. She studied art history in Florence, Italy; photography at the University of Connecticut; and large-scale metal sculpting with a professional artist. A lifelong learner, Caroline is currently pursuing her MBA and continues to feed her intellectual curiosity when she can, whether by taking an art class at the Museum of Modern Art or studying business marketing at NYU.
In addition to her dedication to her clients and her business, Caroline finds ways to give back. She is the founder of the University of Connecticut alumni chapter in New York City, and she returns to her alma mater regularly as a guest lecturer at the School of Business. Additionally, Caroline has supported several charities throughout her career, including the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Prep for Prep.
Placester’s Seth Price caught up with Caroline to get her take on the real estate industry, why it’s important to be resilient, and how she finds time to relax.
Treat everyone like they’re your best friend’s mother. It’s a perfect balance of loyalty and respect
Placester: What are you working on right now?
Caroline Bass: Currently, I’m working on selling my three sales exclusives and gaining new ones.
P: I see, work never stops. What does your typical day look like?
CB: Around 7am or so I get up, turn on my BlackBerry and check all the emails that have filtered in throughout the night. I get ready, eat breakfast, and from 10am-6pm I’m out showing my clients sales and rental listings. After 6pm, I look through everything my assistant has sent me and return any phone calls that were not returned during the day. Every day is different, but I try to stick to that schedule as much as possible. Without my assistant, I’d be lost!
P: What is the worst job you’ve ever had, and what did you learn from that experience?
CB: When I was younger and in high school, I worked in retail. I didn’t hate the job, but I hated my boss and that made everything stressful. From that experience, I learned that in order to have productive employees, you have to treat everyone with fairness. This is something that I try to do every day with my team. Growing you business requires surrounding yourself with the right people and nurturing those relationships.
P: Three real estate trends that excite you?
- The development of the West 40’s and the Highline in NYC.
- The involvement of technology in real estate. The apps are getting better and better. I just got an iPad for listing presentations!
- The influx of foreign buyers looking for investment properties.
When choosing a team member, you have to find the right attitude, someone that fits your culture. You can train all the other stuff.
P: You’ve had an amazing amount of success. How do you differentiate yourself?
CB: That’s a tough one. I think I do most of the things that any agent does. One thing that may help me stand out was that I started when I was very young, 22 years old, so even though I’m now only 29, I have a lot more experience than many other agents. I think sellers and landlords are often surprised by the fact that I am so young, yet knowledgeable. I work very hard. I know my audience. I know I’m not going to quit until the job is done, and my clients depend on that resilience.
P: How do you bring ideas to life?
CB: I’m a great ideas person who’s not afraid to fail. I’m not so great on follow through, so to make sure things come to fruition, I often enlist help to complete projects. This way, I feel accountable and responsible to see the project from the beginning to end.
90% of my customers are repeat or referral. The rest I get from email marketing and mailings.
P: What inspires you?
CB: I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by inspiring people all my life, most notably my parents. They work incredibly hard every day and get up no matter how they feel. They don’t make excuses.
P: What is one mistake you’ve made and what did you learn?
CB: I’ve made thousands of mistakes! There is a huge learning curve in real estate, and it has been said that the lessons you learn the best, cost you the most. I remember once footing the bill for my sellers to stage an apartment. It was over $6,000. It took over 2 years to sell the apartment, and I was never reimbursed for the expense. No matter how nice people seem, business is business, and you can’t go around offering things like that without getting it in writing that there will be a repayment.
P: How do you measure success?
CB: Success doesn’t always mean that you’ve closed a sale, and it doesn’t always mean that you are the best agent out there. To me, a successful person has the right attitude, they try their best, and they never give up.
P: What advice would you give to someone starting out in real estate today?
CB: Jump right into it, don’t procrastinate, and stay resilient. If you’re brand new, start a monthly newsletter and be consistent. If you’ve been in this for a few months, stay positive and start making calls to people, to FSBO and expired listings, to generate new business. In the beginning you have to do the things that no one else wants to do. And, perhaps most importantly, stay positive.
If you are looking to grow your business, hire an assistant first, then think about building a team.
P: If you were buying a home today, what would you look for in an agent?
CB: I would only work with someone experienced, not a new agent. They would need to be available and responsive, and I would have to believe that they were looking out for my best interests. Their traits, in order of importance: Clear, consistent communication; customer service; and someone I like.
P: How do you see technology shaping the business of real estate in the future?
CB: Information transparency. We’re going to see our world of information become more and more transparent in the coming years. Personally, I think that’s good for us, and good for the consumer.
P: What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
CB: A few years ago, I started a marketing initiative where I created wallet-sized New York City subway maps for all of my clients and sent them in their holiday cards. I designed the maps with a graphics person, and in the top corner was all of my contact information. It was such a hit and I got such great feedback that we now send them to every client who is new to NYC. The best part is, the shelf life is incredibly long, and people hold onto my information for years!
P: What do you read every day and why?
CB: I read the New York Times every day to stay on top of current events. I need to be aware of everything my clients are aware of.
P: What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?
CB: Influence, by Robert Cialdini. This book is amazing and every real estate person should read it. I was introduced to it in business school and once you read it, you’ll see why.
P: What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
CB: My favorite tool is an electronic laser tape measure. Often in New York City, we’re not given floor plans or square footage. That little $25 dollar tape measure has helped me close more deals than you can imagine.
P: What Real Estate expert would you love to see us interview?
CB: I would love to see you interview Tom Hopkins or Barbara Corcoran.
P: When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
CB: I laugh out loud all the time. I’m amused pretty easily. It doesn’t take much!
P: How can people connect with you?
P: Where are you located?
CB: New York City, NY
Published on March 1, 2012
Written by Seth Price
Seth is a brand and marketing strategist with 20 years of digital marketing experience. He’s a founding team member and VP @Placester, author of the bestselling small business marketing book, The Road to Recognition and host of The Craft of Marketing and Marketing Genius podcasts. As a speaker, writer, and marketing workshop leader, Seth brings levity, mentorship, and a dose of reality to the businesses and entrepreneurs he coaches.