Emeritus Edward Aiello: Persistence Is Key

Whether relocating to a new state to rebuild a business or facing the ups and downs of the market, Edward Aiello has learned the secrets to keeping a 41-year real estate career thriving.

October 1, 2009

Edward Aiello has worn a variety of hats during his 41-year real estate career. In the

late 1960s he began a successful 10-year stint as a sales associate for a Poughkeepsie, N.Y., developer while simultaneously managing several real estate investment companies.

Being flexible and persistent have remained hallmarks of his success. After his divorce in 1978, Aiello relocated to Florida to start his business afresh. Unfortunately, he found property markets in the Sunshine State back then to be largely frozen: Double-digit interest rates shut out many buyers.

Aiello refused to give up, and eventually the rewards came his way. He's learned from his challenges and continues to thrive in the real estate business today.

How did you manage during the downturn of the late 1970s and early 1980s?

AIELLO: It was a difficult period. We had to use creative financing. We did a lot of seller financing and short-term balloon mortgages and exchanges. I had FSBOs as my goal. It was easier to convert them than it had been. Sellers and buyers really needed our help, kind of like they do now.

But building a business in a new part of country must have been hard.

AIELLO: It was difficult in the beginning to get listings, and I knew that the key to the business was to get exclusive listings. I worked seven days a week calling FSBOs from classified ads and from every FSBO sign that I passed. Within a year I had 25 exclusive listings. And the increasing number of my signs on properties led to other calls.

After one year in Broward County, I was regularly getting plaques from my broker for having the highest sales volume and number of transactions. Because of these awards, I got in the local newspapers almost every month, which helped me get more business.

I also never discounted my fees and was told I was very persistent. The early 1980s were some of my highest income years even though I was relatively new to the area.

What else sets you apart from your competitors?

AIELLO: I have a very large farm area. A lot of people in the area I work in represent one subdivision and stick to it. I'm based in Boca Raton, but I work an area of about 30 miles covering Palm Beach County to Fort Lauderdale. I really believe you have to expand your horizons.

How have you managed when cash flow is tight?

AIELLO: I would be conservative with my spending. Many times I had to cash in some of my IRA or sell stocks when I didn't want to in order to meet operating expenses or pay my mortgage.

In general, who has been more challenging to work with—buyers or sellers?

AIELLO: The hardest clients are sellers. Many properties are overpriced and sellers are often reluctant to lower prices to where they need to be.

When I work with buyers, I work hard to convince them to present good offers. I try to negotiate the price with them before we even present an offer to eliminate a lot of the back and forth. If buyers' offers are too low, I tell them, "Don't insult the seller with that amount."

What other advice do you have for struggling real estate professionals today?

AIELLO: Don't make assumptions about peoples' appearances or the kinds of car they drive. In the late 1980s a guy came to see one of my listings offered at $2.2 million driving an old Oldsmobile station wagon. He ended buying the place for $1.9 million.

The real estate news in Florida has sounded especially difficult in terms of the amount of foreclosures and other distressed properties. How has your business fared there?

AIELLO: Business has been improving in the past few months. People want to buy now. Prices have come down a lot. More than half of my business is cash deals so I haven't had to get into a lot of short-sale situations. I'd rather not do them because the closings can be so delayed.

I'm working with a lot of buyers now because there is so much inventory. But I'd rather have more listings. You have more control over your time when you handle mostly listings.

Your Web site, www.residencesbythesea.com, is sharp. Have you always embraced technology?

AIELLO: I bought my first computer in 1982 and a car phone at the same time for $2,400. There was no real estate software then, so I made my contact database from a blank template. I've taught myself what I needed to know about computers and I built my own Web site. But I wouldn't call myself an early adopter. I wait and see if something is proven before I get it. Our company, Coldwell Banker, recommends that we blog, but I don't have time for it. I'm also concerned about people who might criticize our listings.

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