NYC Seller Stories: Leah Jacobs

Written By Serena Horrigan | July 09, 2015 | Published in Elegran Insider
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“I love seeing these unique spaces, talking to people, building lasting relationships.”

Meet one of the Elegran team's newest agents, Leah Jacobs. A Maryland native who has lived in Manhattan for eight years, Leah is a graduate of the University of Southern California and has a vibrant background in both the arts and hospitality. She has worked as an actor and singer in many theater productions while simultaneously working in restaurants for some of the most world renowned chefs, including Dan Barber at Blue Hill NYC and Jean-Georges Vongerichten at Nougatine and ABC Kitchen. This hospitality background gave her the unique ability to perfectly anticipate what a client needs or wants, even before they realize it. Whether in a high-end restaurant or in high-end real estate, it’s all about providing a seamless experience that builds trusting relationships.

Q: What’s your academic and career background?

I went to USC in LA as a theater major and came to NYC 8 years ago to work as actor/singer.

Q: Very New York! And how did you get into real estate?

I got into real estate because I loved looking at apartments in NYC. While apartment-hunting, I was always the one out of my friends or roommates who wanted to go looking at the apartments to explore the interiors and architecture of all these odd, unique, and beautiful spaces! I just wanted to see the spaces where people lived. I’d been working in theater, doing odd shows, and working in fine dining, and when I decided to make a career switch, real estate was just the most natural move.

Q: That touches on my next question. You’ve worked in some of the best restaurants in the city. How did your time in the restaurant industry prepare you for a career in the real estate industry?

They really go hand in hand; the transition was such a natural one. In hospitality, you learn to build relationships, to nurture people, and to discern what the guest needs, which translates into anticipating what the client will need. Building those relationships, where people want to spend their time with you because they trust you, is crucial. They feel like you are their friend. When you’re sitting at dinner at a Jean-Georges restaurant, you want someone to guide you towards what you want, not try to push you to eat, or buy, something you don’t want. In real estate it’s the same; the client wants a trusted advisor.

Q: What is your favorite part of the real estate industry?

I love seeing these unique spaces, talking to people, building lasting relationships. You spend so much of your day looking at these amazing spaces and talking to fantastic people. I’ve only been at Elegran a month and already I have clients who are now my friends.

Q: Like you said, you’ve only been at Elegran a short time. Have you come across a difficult listing or situation yet? And looking back, is there a way you may have handled it differently?

In terms of what I’ve brought clients to see, it was a listing that was perfect for the client but slightly above her budget after factoring in the broker’s fee. The location and space were amazing, however, so it was a matter of helping her see the value of paying a higher cost upfront to secure the perfect apartment she would be in for many years. It can be hard to get people to see what they’re going to need to compromise and why that compromise will be worth it. This particular client has become a friend. I’ve gotten a referral from her, and when she’s ready to buy, she’ll buy through me, so a very positive relationship came out of this.

Every transaction is an opportunity to learn. Especially since I’m new, it’s an ever-evolving experience for me. I’m always learning from every client, every deal, figuring out what to do differently next time.

Q: To date, have you had a particularly successful close?

Yes, it was a recent client with a very tight timeframe in which to find a very specific apartment to share with her brother. She was extremely happy with the process and the personal level of service I was able to provide.

Q: Congratulations! Switching gears a bit, what is your favorite New York neighborhood?

I love all of the west side, the West Village and Upper West Side particularly! Along Riverside Drive, those old, pre-war buildings with those beautiful lobbies that are so classic New York.

Q: Maybe you just answered this. In choosing between new construction and prewar, which is your preference?

If I were to live in one, while I really love new construction and the clean line aesthetics, I have a soft spot for those pre-war, classic, elegant New York buildings that are so beautifully restored. There’s just so much charm.

Q: So to segue from that, can you describe your ideal NYC apartment? It can be a fantasy! 

It would definitely be a renovated, pre-war brownstone. And it’s sort of funny, but I’d have one room that’s a huge trampoline! And under it would be a pool with a big staircase, but it would be beautifully renovated with these very clean simple lines. It would have all that pre-war charm and character, but I’d keep it modern, fresh, and bright.

Q: With that in mind, does working in real estate influence your own home’s interior design?

Definitely, because I spend my day looking at other people’s homes. You get to pull ideas from what someone else is doing, like when you see an odd space configuration and you see the genius way someone has thought to overcome it. It always gives me inspiration!

Q: And what’s your favorite NYC annual event?

I have two favorites! One is Shakespeare in the Park. I love waking up and getting in line at 4am and camping out until the box office opens. They have a delivery guy from the local deli who bikes up and down the line and you can buy sandwiches from him, and everyone is playing board games. Seeing the show that night is always incredible. My second favorite event happens along Amsterdam Avenue before the Thanksgiving Day Parade. There’s this tradition where kids watch them blow up the floats, but that night, they drive the floats up Amsterdam to the starting point of the parade. From all the bars along Amsterdam in the 80s, you can go out on the street with your beer, and it’s your own little private parade.

Q: What do you attribute your success to? What unique skills or abilities help you get the job done?

I think it helps that I love real estate! I’m able to enthusiastically talk to people and draw out what they need. I’m also self-motivated. You have to have very strong time management skills. You need to be able to get up very early every morning to get a head start on your day. You have to want it. And I definitely want it.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome? 

The biggest challenge has been figuring out how to juggle 10,000 little tasks that build up without warning, and figuring out the nuances of how to manage and balance my schedule.

Q: What are your future aspirations in real estate?

I’d love to own property in New York; that’s up there! I want to build a solid business with a fantastic client base and expand my network—I want to be very established in the industry.

Q: What do you think is the next up and coming NYC neighborhood?

I think Washington Heights is about to explode—West of Broadway, along Fort Broadway and Cabrini—that neighborhood is just beautiful. It’s so quiet and serene, and the architecture is so amazing. That whole pocket in the 180s overlooking the river, with all that beautiful landscaping—that’s next.

Q: I think you just answered my next question! So you see the NYC market going uptown?

Yes, it’s going uptown. It’s already gone far east and far west, and uptown is just waiting. It’s got great train access, it’s so beautiful with great parks that practically no one knows about. It really has everything and is so primed for development.

Q: What’s the best advice you can give to first time buyers of NYC real estate?

Keep an open mind. If you think you want to live in a specific neighborhood, be open to other suggestions because you may be able to find what you’re looking for somewhere unexpected! Keeping an open mind in terms of location will really open up your search. You have to come with the knowledge that looking for a home here is unlike anywhere else. New York City real estate is a different beast.

If you’d like to contact Leah, she can be emailed at or reached by phone at (212) 729-5712 ext. 163.

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