On the New Jersey side of the Hudson, real-estate broker, Nelson Chen recently celebrated the opening of The Chen Agency Realtors, Port Imperial Real Estate Studio. On one side is The Chen Agency, a 2-level office, and on the other side is Steven’s Cafe. The two spaces are cleverly divided with separate entrances connected by a 12-foot peek-thru window overlooking The Chen Agency. “We wanted the space to reflect the cool urban vibe of Port Imperial and make a definitive design statement,” Says Chen. That formula was easy to capture, especially when Nelson had a clear vision of what he wanted, ultimately leading to a successful design.
During the design process, I realized we had a lot in common. Nelson’s father was an architect in Hong Kong, my grandfather was a furniture designer in Cuba. They both came to the United States to find a better place for their families. Also, we are both very lucky to work with our mothers, and we both have stellar work ethics.
The matriarch of the family Mrs. Lorna Chen speaks candidly about working with her son. Also, Nelson speaks about the rocky moments that didn’t stop him, but made him a better broker. And I should add that the Chen’s are one of the Gold Coast most successful and respected brokers. More importantly, the great advice they both share with newbies going into real estate. Surely, exceptional advice from two seasoned realtors.
My interview with Nelson Chen:
(To see more pictures of the interior design for The Chen Agency Realtor and Steven’s Cafe, please click on the hyperlinks below this interview)
V- What is the biggest learning curve when starting your career in Real Estate?
NELSON-Understanding the condominium and co-op market was probably the most challenging learning curve when I started in this business. The Gold Coast market, which is mostly condos, requires a lot of research that takes time and hands-on experience.
V-If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
NELSON-I honestly would not do anything differently if I had the chance to do it all over. I’ve learned more from my mistakes than my successes, although at times painful, have made me a better broker.
V-What significant changes have you seen in the Real Estate market lately?
NELSON- twenty years ago most buyers were prepared, and indeed many wanted to renovate the property that they just purchased. I remember selling places that looked fabulous, and the day after closing the buyer had the place gutted. Today is entirely different. People want move-in condition, and they are willing more than ever to pay for properties that are truly special.
V-Advice would you give to newbies coming into the business?
NELSON-I have a sentiment that I express to newbies in this business: You have to be your own cheerleader! You need to be a self-starter, and you need to pat yourself on the back when you deserve it. Don’t be shy, flaunt your successes and achievements.
V-How is it working with family, in this case, your mom, Lorna?
NELSON- I couldn’t ask for a better partner! Early on we defined our roles, making it easier to navigate the company as we grew. There is a level of trust and honesty that I have with my mother that is priceless.
My interview with Lorna Chen.
V-How did you get into the real estate business?
LORNA- Before going into real estate I was working for a large New York City hospital managing their database. In the late 1970s, I decided to purchase an investment condo at Winston Towers in Cliffside Park. And that was the gateway for me to become a broker. Switching from a salaried corporate job to real estate was a huge leap of faith. But I loved real estate and I knew it was the right career decision.
V- What words of wisdom would you give to anyone going into real estate?
LORNA- For newbies coming into real estate sales, I always tell them to remember that this is a commission based business. You need to plan and budget accordingly. The upside is that if you are willing to put in the work, your level of success can be limitless.
V-How is it working with your son?
LORNA- Nelson is a little obsessive-compulsive, he has a passion for detail and excellence in everything we do. That can be a difficult standard to maintain. Once you understand the smallest detail of the business success you become aware of why it’s so important. This is how it has brought The Chen Agency to where we are today, 22 years after we started.