Each YPN Mentor we’ve featured has offered unique insight and a creative approach to real estate. They are role models in this rapidly changing field, and this month's selection is no exception.
I recently sat down with Sean Conlon, our YPN Mentor for October. Sean is an inspiration for real estate professionals on an international level. His life story plays out like a Hollywood script, so much so that a documentary portraying his accomplishments was broadcast in his home country of Ireland.
In today’s world, it is easy to forget how fortunate we are to be living in a country like America. Protests like “Occupy Wall Street” are internationally recognized for their droves of young people in an uproar over opportunities they feel they’ve been stripped of because of the economy. They state that all opportunities go to the top 1 percent of Americans and they are left to deal with the scraps.
We, as REALTORS®, create opportunity. We thrive on challenges presented to us to make something happen. Every day is different and it is up to us to find opportunity where most are afraid to look. Sean started his life in America as a janitor and now sits atop of a real estate empire comprised of numerous ventures and wildly successful companies. Being an immigrant myself (I was born in Moscow, Russia), I watched my parents leave everything they knew and come to America with a few suitcases and two small children. My father barely spoke English and had no job prospects. All they knew was of a thing called the “American Dream,” and they wanted my sister and me to have a piece of it.
Interviewing Sean reminded me why I’m a REALTOR®. Never take anything for granted and keep pushing forward. I say: bring it baby, let’s create our own destiny! And for all of the protestors out there, keep protesting. I’ll take your piece of the American Dream pie we all have access to.
Me: You are a prime example of having lived the American Dream. It’s astounding that, from where you are now, you started in the states as a janitor. Items on your long list of achievements include having been named as one of Crain's “40 under 40” and praised as one of the top U.S. real estate experts. What made you realize that real estate would be your path towards success?
Sean: I come from a culture in which owning real estate is a great prize. The Irish have a very strong affinity for owning real estate. To me it represents more than just a piece of land or a building. My ancestors were not allowed to own real estate so for me it makes me proud to own it. I like the tangibility of real estate; it’s not going anywhere.
Me: You have used real estate as a platform to form numerous different successful ventures. From Sussex and Riley to title companies to numerous investment funds, you keep pushing the envelope. How do you keep finding opportunity in an industry that has seen brighter days?
Sean: You have to break everything down and start again. Nothing is perfect, and starting from phase one and analyzing every step is a great way to find new opportunities you might have missed the first go around. I’m a big fan of history. Nothing we are seeing today is unique to our generation. Real estate booms and crashes have happened in the past. History is a window to the future. Some of the greatest companies we have today were started during the Great Depression. Those are the Game Changers you need to analyze. Opportunity is always there, you just need to know where to look. It will not come easy, you have to fight hard. A favorite quote of mine is “You can’t tell champions while they are winning, but rather by how they do while they are down.”
Me: Did you have a grand world domination scheme in place from day one, or did you just roll with the punches and hope for the best?
Sean: My father instilled in me that America is the Land of Opportunity. I found my niche and inspiration in real estate when I came to this country. Even from my beginnings in the industry I knew that I had to be flexible and bounce around to find new opportunity.
Me: Where do you see the greatest opportunity in the near future with real estate?
Sean: The greatest opportunity is coming and it will be nothing new. We will find it in owning residential real estate. People still love the idea of owning a home and that won’t change. Renting is a short-term fix and it is quickly becoming more expensive, and the value of owning property is steadily rising in consumers’ minds. We have to build the public confidence back up in owning real estate, and when we do buyers will come back in hordes. Stay strong and ride this out. It will pay off big.
Me: If you could go back in time right now and mentor yourself when you were starting out, what are the main points you would cover?
Grigory Pekarsky, 2011 C.A.R. YPN Chair and Managing Broker/Partner, Vesta Preferred Realty