Boston Real Estate Professional Spotlight: Avi Kaufman
Avi Kaufman is a five-star rated real estate broker based in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is the author of Home Sweet Home: A Guide for Massachusetts Home Buyers, and he writes an analytical real estate blog. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why real estate?
For many people, especially in a tight market like this, buying and selling a home can be stressful. I get great satisfaction in helping people successfully navigate this process and meet their goals. My grandfather was a well-respected, and innovative, broker in the Berkshires, and that’s how I was first exposed to the industry. Decades later, people still tell stories about how he helped them. My goal is to live up to his example.
What makes a successful agent?
There is more than one path to success in this industry. Regardless of your niche, though, all the best agents I know keep the client’s best interest at heart and as their primary goal. As long as you do right by your client, the rest will follow.
You have a variety of work experiences, including service in the Army. What did you learn that applies to your career in real estate?
Serving in the US Army was a great honor and learning experience. For most of my time, I was an officer in a WMD mass casualty response Reserve unit based in Boston. When I deployed to Iraq for a year, though, my role was to manage the daily flow of several thousand trucks and dozens of aircraft in, out, and around the country. Attention to detail was critical for both of those roles. These experiences were studies on leadership, the importance of clear communication, critical self-evaluation, the vital role of planning, and the grit to see a mission through. I rely on these lessons regularly. Perhaps the most valuable component, however, was meeting and learning to work with people from every part of the country and with every background.
What did you do next?
When I returned from Iraq, I completed a master’s degree in business administration at MIT Sloan, and then joined General Electric in a marketing and sales leadership rotational program. For two years, every eight months I was assigned to a different business. After, I continued at GE as a sales effectiveness leader in the healthcare finance business. A big part of my role there was as a data champion, turning numbers from sales, finance, and operations into insights for business decisions. I use the same analytical approach in analyzing the real estate market or making pricing recommendations for my clients.
You also learned to code?
Yes, I took a year “off” and dedicated it to learning to code, starting with a three-month training at Dev Bootcamp in 2013. Real estate is both a seasonal and a cyclical business, and coding is something I enjoy doing in the downtimes. It also means that I can quickly build and test new ideas.
What is the future of real estate in Boston and the biggest challenge?
Boston has a bright future. Between the many colleges and universities, the healthcare sector, and top companies moving here, the city is a winner. There are certainly challenges, such as high housing costs. The demand so outstrips supply that housing in some areas is getting prohibitively expensive for many people, and I fear what will happen if that continues unchecked.
Our policies can either make housing a good investment (i.e. prices go up), or make it affordable, but it can’t really do both. The current patchwork of local policies seems to be mostly for the former, and it’s at the expense of the next generation of first-time homebuyers. For example, in some towns the zoning is very restrictive, or the permitting or appeals process is slow and complicated, which drives up development costs or outright limits development altogether, keeping supply low, and so prices go up as new buyers are forced to compete for what little is available.
What’s the biggest tech on the horizon for real estate?
The combination of self-driving cars and virtual reality is going to completely change the consideration set of where people live and work. From driverless cars, we can expect, among other benefits, sharply reduced traffic and accidents, faster traveling speeds, and no need to find parking at your destination. The resulting time and aggravation saved in the daily commute means prospective homebuyers will be willing to look farther afield. For example, those who work downtown and now limit their search at the Newton border will consider Natick. It also means the draw of living directly on traditional public transportation will be lessened. (Why pay a premium to live on the T if you can take a driverless pod direct to your destination, faster and for the same price.)
That’s assuming you need to physically go in to work at all. As virtual reality becomes better and better, there will be less need to actually be present for many jobs. From your home office, or anywhere with a strong Internet connection, you’ll be able to interact with colleagues and clients, and it will feel just like being in the same room.
What’s this mean for real estate?
As commuting distance lessens in importance, competition between towns on other criteria can be expected to increase. School quality, tax rates, and affordability of course, and I would also predict that walkability, access to high-speed Internet, outdoor amenities, and feeling of community will all increase in importance for where you choose to live.