July 23, 2024
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July 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Maxine Harelick Makes Real Estate Matches

Armed with a JD from NYU Law School, Maxine Harelick was on the fast path to success. Landing her first job at a prestigious New York law firm, she embarked on a career as a corporate attorney and spent the next 25 years in that field.

Along the way she returned to her hometown of Fair Lawn to raise her family and, although Maxine (or “Max” as she has come to be known) was enjoying a successful law career, she began to reflect on whether or not she wanted to continue along this path.

After careful thought, Max recalled all the instances where she informally connected friends and acquaintances with properties in her area and arrived at the conclusion that what she had always been truly passionate about was real estate. She also recognized that people often sought her reasoned advice regarding many important decisions, and that guiding individuals in this way was very rewarding.

She realized that a career as a realtor would allow her to combine both of these interests and abilities as well as the skills acquired as an attorney. But it wasn’t until an acquaintance from out of town contacted her asking if she knew of any homes for sale in the neighborhood that she finally decided to make the leap.

As luck would have it, she did know of a home that was about to be listed with an agent. Max contacted the sellers and asked if they would be willing to show it before it was officially listed. After consulting with their agent, the sellers agreed and the buyers did indeed buy the house. “Without discussing all of the specifics of why I thought the home would be a good fit, I just said, ‘Go take a look at it. I just have a feeling…”

That episode was the pivotal moment that finally made her realize that instead of doing this casually, she should make it her new career. “I just felt like I was already guiding people regarding real estate and purchases and sales, and it was very exciting.” After speaking with a seasoned broker who agreed to bring Max on board immediately, she was on her way.

In terms of making that change at a later age, Max said: “I think when you are passionate about what you do and you are able to wake up motivated and exhilarated to begin each day, that’s when you realize it was worth taking the risk of moving from one established career to another. It is gratifying being able to tap into other skills and talents that were not a part of being a lawyer.

“However, having my law degree and experience as a lawyer also brings a whole set of valuable skills to every transaction I do,” she added. Besides bringing a critical eye to every situation, Max is skilled at predicting or anticipating potential issues before they arise and is experienced at negotiations and problem-solving. She also works easily with the attorneys handling her transactions.

“I consider myself a natural connector or matchmaker and I believe that’s very important in this business because you need to listen to people, know what’s important to them in order to make their search productive and efficient, and try to connect them with properties you feel will work for them,” she said.

“Sometimes you can bring them properties that they might not have considered but you have an idea that could actually work for them; it can require thinking outside the box. I love helping buyers envision what can be done with a space or suggest possible design or renovation options —seeing beyond what is in front of them—along the lines of matchmaking. It’s important to be able to listen to people’s preferences and learn what is important to them (deal breakers versus wish list items), but also encourage buyers to remain open to other possibilities.” For the record, Max has also made two shidduchs to date.

It wasn’t just about matching people up with their dream homes, but rather the opportunity to work more with people. “As a transactional attorney, there are days you deal a lot more with paper than with people and I really enjoy guiding people through transitions in their lives … whether it’s first-time homebuyers landing that first home, growing families needing more space, or seniors moving on to their next chapter.” Max also enjoys the ability to apply her creative side, staging and marketing her clients’ homes, including crafting “descriptive property listings that will engage buyers.”

Max is careful to point out that, for some of her mature clients, it’s not necessarily downsizing but rather “right-sizing,” as she likes to call it, when she helps clients transition to the next chapter of their lives. Certified as a seniors real estate specialist, Max is able to address the distinct goals and concerns of seniors, “helping to time the transition to their next home—which could be independent, assisted living or a 55-plus active community, or townhouse or high-rise living—with the sale of their current home.” That often involves dealing with the children and their concerns and anxieties. “Sometimes you need to be a mediator because there are family dynamics to understand and address,” she said.

Discretion is key, Max explained, especially in communities like hers where neighbors tend to know a lot about each other. “Discretion is of utmost importance to me. And when you are trained as an attorney, attorney-client privilege and confidentiality are extremely important. It was very good preparation to conduct business this way.”

Max is also a very “hands-on” realtor, and believes that open and frequent communication with clients is essential, as well as educating her clients about the buying/selling process and the current state of the market. She feels that this helps clients manage their expectations and goes a long way in helping them remain calm throughout.

What she finds amusing about her second career is how everybody seems to be very interested in what she does in real estate when no one seemed to care at all about what she did as an attorney. She is always being asked who sold, when and for how much. And that’s one of the reasons why discretion is a top priority for her.

One of the bigger challenges Max had to face was entering a very competitive industry with numerous agents and being able to distinguish herself and show her value to potential clients even though she was relatively new to the industry. “With so many established agents you need to distinguish yourself, and … what I’m able to bring to the transaction is my years of experience as an attorney, my sense of good judgment and professionalism, integrity, my innate understanding of people, and psychology.”

Yes, psychology. Max is quick to point out how very important psychology is when it comes to understanding people’s motivation and family dynamics, noting that most realtors deal with clients from all walks of life and of a variety of ages and backgrounds. It impacts negotiations, too: “My ability to understand and connect with people on the other side, negotiate respectfully and have a good relationship with other agents is very important as well.

“I think my age was a benefit in terms of the wealth of experience I could bring to the service I provide to my clients in terms of life experience,” Max said. She also cites skills from her legal career, not to mention resourcefulness, which is something most people acquire over time based on experience in problem-solving and conflict resolution. As far as having emotional insight, Max feels that “if you’re someone who has the ability to understand people, that ability only grows over time.”

One of the major differences Max experienced when she switched careers came in the form of social media and online advertising. In law, advertising in general is heavily regulated and the approach was very different. In real estate it seems to dominate the profession as an essential tool in marketing and establishing an agent’s and company’s brand. While she has integrated these tools into her “Second Act” career, her “hands-on, very personalized and people-oriented approach has proven successful,” she is quick to add.

As soon as she switched careers, Max hit the ground running and shortly thereafter she was awarded her company’s Rising Star Award and was the No. 1 agent in her office for closed units. She is also a multiyear recipient of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s Top Producers Award as well as the prestigious NJ REALTORS Circle of Excellence Award, most recently earning Gold Level for 2021.

As a top listing agent she makes it a priority to give back to the community, and people know they can contact her to help out. “I recall receiving a call from Project Ezra to assist a client locate a rental,” Max said. “I immediately contacted a landlord who I felt might be willing to help. I recently took blankets one seller was clearing from their home and brought them to another client who was arranging for them to be shipped to the Ukraine, and I regularly collect towels and sheets from clients to bring to the animal shelter. If I know someone in need of furnishings that a seller doesn’t wish to donate, I will try to connect them. So it’s fulfilling to be in a position to help make a difference when possible.”

To contact Maxine Harelick call 201-741-1666 or email her at [email protected] or visit www.prominentproperties.com.

By Ronit Mershon

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