Buying property is one of the biggest and most stress-inducing decisions of a lifetime. There’s a ton to consider, from taxes to closet space, and then the whole ordeal about school districts for the kids. Licensed Real Estate Agents, such as Jackeline Martinez, make customers feel at ease through effective communication and classy customer service. Martinez works at Buffalo First Realty, a year-old startup on 488 Niagara Street. She is fluent in Spanish and helps non-English proficient speakers to find the house of their dreams.
Our city has experienced a well-publicized “resurgence” over the last decade. This has led investors to the area in droves, not to mention immigrants and refugees from all over the world. Buffalo is more bustling and enticing than ever before. We have hundreds of restaurants and more than 60 spoken languages to prove it. Buffalo First has been riding the wave into the future of Buffalo real estate through their “team-orientated” approach.
Martinez, along Buffalo First’s President and Licensed Real Estate Broker Joanne Smith, and Michael Lester, Jr. (Licensed Real Estate Agent) work as a team to connect buyers with the right properties. Martinez moved here from Miami last year, and has some information to share regarding buying and selling properties. Karibu sat down with her, our Buffalonian of the Week, to discuss what Buffalo’s real estate climate looks like and what the future holds.
How did you get started in real estate?
I was born and raised in Miami. Coming to Buffalo was definitely different. I moved here last year at the end of May. I heard about what was going on here within the whole real estate industry. You hear about what’s going on in Buffalo in other cities. There was so much excitement surrounding the housing market in Buffalo. I’m really happy with my choice.
I went to school and got an AA in Business Administration. My first language was Spanish and I did not speak English until kindergarten. It was a strict rule – we weren’t allowed to speak English in the house. My mother is Colombian and my dad is Honduran. Even between the two of them, one is South American and one is Central American. Their versions of Spanish are a little different, so they were always strict about not speaking English in the house, but eventually they evolved. In Miami, literally when you go up to someone they just speak Spanish to you.
How is the Spanish-speaking population different here than in Miami?
When I first got here it took me a minute – I was like, ‘where did everybody go?’ But they are actually everywhere. I’ve worked with many Puerto Ricans and a Colombian couple, who are from Canada. When I started speaking Spanish she was like ‘Wow, I’ve been trying to find someone who understands me.’ Spanish speakers are literally everywhere. There is no hidden community. I’m exposed to many different cultures. I worked with a Vietnamese couple and it was interesting. Buying a house is oftentimes the biggest purchase someone makes. Having someone [who speaks Spanish] go with them is very important. Customers say ‘Wow, I can understand what’s going on, especially when it comes to contracts and what’s going on day by day.’
Who are your clients? Are they married couples or are more single independent people buying homes?
It varies. Right now, I have a couple who are about to close and they’re married. She is about to have another baby; they already have kids together. They are around 27 or 28. They were originally looking for a home around the West Side, then she transitioned to the Tonawanda side. That happens, because sometimes people, instead of looking for discounts, they start looking in the family sense.
What are some things first time home buyers should consider?
A lot of people I come across are big on garages. That’s mainly with families. The investors I work with are looking to get the most they can for their money. Location is huge, and so is the school district. Everything varies – sometimes I work with newlyweds pre-planning for a family. Another man I’ve worked with just bought another commercial property, and he already owns some commercial properties in the area.
How does Buffalo First Realty differ from its counterparts?
The nice thing about our company is that we are very team oriented. For instance, with our West Ferry property we work as a whole team when we meet the owner of the building. Joanne comes, and it gives the person a sense of familiarity. There is a whole support system behind me.
Michael [Lester] is great at breaking down the market analysis. The biggest thing, when someone wants to list their property, they come in and ask “what is my house worth?” We do a report where we look at everything. He breaks down market analysis by square footage of the house. He is great at doing that. People love to see that especially when they sell their home – they want to see the numbers.
Are there any significant trends in Buffalo’s housing market? Are there any hot properties that you are currently showing?
We are seeing a lot of warehouses converted to storage units. I’ve seen it a lot; there is a lot of money to be made in that. Storage is the most profitable rental.
I’m excited to be listing a beautiful home on Harriet St. in Tonawanda. I’m also excited to be listing a 9,000 sq. ft. mixed-use building on West Ferry. Spring is going to bring a lot of new work, and it’s exciting. Last summer, all eyes were on the city. It will be nice to continue to watch.
What is your approach to helping clients?
You need to make them feel comfortable. My number one thing is to put the person at ease and make them feel comfortable, whether they are purchasing or selling. It is not an easy job for them.
I can serve clients others might struggle to communicate with, which is nice because it makes the entire transaction a much more comfortable process. In most cases, I’m facilitating the largest purchase of an individual’s life. Communication is possibly the most important tool a realtor has.
How can you make a clear headed decision when buying a home? How do you know when you have found the home of your dreams?
Taxes are huge for people, and probably the number one thing for people who are looking at houses. City taxes are reasonable. I work mostly with residential, and Michael does mostly commercial. When we come together, we get it all figured out.
You know when you have found the home of your dreams when you start picturing yourself in it. There’s a moment when people start making an emotional attachment to the home. When someone’s walked through the home, picturing their family and friends, my client is motivated to pursue.
For more information, visit BuffaloFirstRealty.com or call Jackie at her office (716) 332-7720.