BY ANDREW DAVIS
With the real estate market booming these days, you know that lots of agents are pretty successful nowadays ... and few are more successful than agent extraordinare Chris Pagano.
The personable (and single) Pagano hasn't always been involved in real estate. He actually graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in finance and, for more than a decade, he was a trader on the Chicago Board of Trade.
Even after talking with Pagano for just a few minutes, I know why he's so successful: he knows his stuff and is able to convey his knowledge very effectively. Hopefully, you'll see what I mean.
Windy City Times: It seems like I've seen your real estate ads for a long time. However, you haven't been in the field for that long.
Chris Pagano: Well, it's been a little over eight years now.
WCT: I was surprised to find that you worked for the Chicago Board of Trade.
CP: Yes. I was a trader right out of college. I traded for about 14 years.
WCT: Why did you make the switch to real estate?
CP: Trading was my first love. I was a runner a couple of summers in high school and college at the Board of Trade when I saw the career potential. Trading was wonderful but the business gradually changed and I attribute that to the prevalence of computers. Outside customers [could] access information as quickly as we did and our advantage on the trading floor started to diminish. I then thought it was time to move on to something else.
Trading is so specialized it's hard to find a career fit after that. After getting used to working for yourself and not working the traditional 9-to-5 [shift], you don't want to do something different. So real estate seemed like the next natural fit after trading for so long. It's still about supply and demand as well as price discovery.
WCT: It seems thriving, I must say.
CP: Yes ... and I know you're talking about computers so it's interesting that computers pushed me out of one career and into another. [Laughs] Computers helped me turn real estate into an amazing career. Agents can [conduct] a lot more deals now. An agent can have 60 transactions in one year; 10 used to be a lot. You have fewer agents doing more business.
WCT: Speaking of technology, you state on your Web site [www.chrispagano.com] that your technological expertise helps you with your clients.
CP: It's amazing. Computers allow me to keep in touch with clients. [Also,] I can sign in to the MLS [multiple listings service] system and look for potential properties. E-mail listings are convenient for clients. I can link them to the MLS system, which continually updates itself so clients can get info about properties as it changes.
WCT: How wide an area do you cover?
CP: I cover downtown Chicago up to Evanston. I do quite a bit of work in the Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, Boystown, Lakeview, and Uptown. I do need to be flexible to work in all of those areas.
WCT: What are the main mistakes that home buyers and sellers make?
CP: The No. 1 mistake a buyer makes is to try and buy the home on [his] own. There's no reason for a buyer not to have an agent.
Why not take advantage of an agent that you don't have to pay for? The way it works is that the buyer's agent is paid through the seller's sale.
Another mistake that buyers make is not getting pre-qualified right at the beginning. The buyer needs to have an understanding of what he or she can afford.
Sellers tend to overprice. You want to price the property so that it attracts the most attention. A person can lose business with the wrong pricing strategy.
WCT: How would you characterize the market right now? Would you say it's stable, active, or something else?
CP: It's segmented. The price range of $300,000 is really popular right now. Rates are low so there are a lot of first-time buyers who are looking for homes in that price range. These buyers used to be renters and that's why the rental market is so poor right now. As you go up, things tend to be a bit slower. The middle range ($400,000—$600,000) is average right now and the upper range is a bit stagnant.
WCT: I know in some areas (like the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park), the costs of some of these condos that are going up seem a bit steep.
CP: I think those areas have a bit of a glut, especially with the high-end condos. [Condos] are sitting a little bit longer and are not appreciating but are possibly even depreciating a little bit.
WCT: So where do you see the market a year from now?
CP: I see it pretty steady through the end of this year and good to improving through next year. I have a finance background so I look at the stock market when I evaluate the real estate market. With the rates I see in the stock market, there are the makings of a recovery going on. Even though things are slower economically, things in the real estate market are good because people are coming in and investing in property and going back to the long-term stability of real estate. As the economy recovers, I believe the slower segments will improve. Real estate trickles up; as lower ranges do well, the mid and upper ranges start to do better.
WCT: Are you 'out' at work?
CP: Oh sure. Real estate tends to be a gay-friendly business. I've found realtors to be some of the most open-minded and accepting people in the business. Real estate [involves] quite a bit of training in ethics and equal rights.
WCT: Does being 'out' help or hinder you in any way at work?
CP: It probably helps me. I've never had a problem with [being out]. Advertising in gay publications helps [my visibility].
WCT: How busy is your life?
CP: Busy. [Laughs] To do real estate right, you need to be on call—although your personal life can suffer. It's continuous, so you can't stop for two days and just start again. You need to be accessible to your clients.
WCT: What do you feel is your biggest achievement?
CP: Are we talking real estate? [Grins] Really, I think real estate is a difficult business to break into. I'm in the top 10 percent of realtors in the country, so that is a major achievement.
To contact Chris Pagano, call him at (312) 475-3209 or visit his Web site at www.chrispagano.com .
I'm at email@example.com .
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