Brigitte Nachtigall takes both meanings of the word “present” to heart in everything she does. “The word ‘present’ is truly a gift,” she says. “We never know what the future will bring and we have to leave the past behind.”
Nachtigall believes everything in life should be balanced and that there’s a solution to every problem. The key, she says, is to be as positive as possible…even when the circumstances present everything but a silver lining. “Not too long ago, I was showing a one-story house on the water and I wanted the client to see the views they would have from the ‘second floor,’” says Nachtigall, now with Great Properties International.
“Well…it was easy to get up on the roof but not down. So my client had to jump into the pool completely dressed — it was hysterical!”
It’s that type of reaction to difficult situations that’s made her a huge success in real estate. “Real estate is my destiny,” she says. “I got a summer job at a small real estate office on Key Biscayne and realized that I loved dealing with people and it was something that came very naturally to me. The most important thing is that I enjoy it and I have fun doing it. In life, we have to enjoy and love what we do in order to achieve our goals. Real estate is just as anything else — if you work hard, you will be successful. There’s one thing that I do focus on at all times: to be honest and sincere to the client.”
When it comes to prized possessions, Nachtigall shies away from material things. “I love everything I have and I feel very blessed and fortunate to have it including my family, friends and community,” she says.
Nachtigall says she also loves to travel, especially when her family is along for the journey. “As my children get older, I hope to travel with them more and more in order to show them the world,” she says. And with her signature outlook on everything she does, it seems she’s the best tour guide they could ever ask for.
“I love everything I have and I feel very blessed and fortunate to have it including my family, friends and community.”
House and Heart
One could write an entire book about all the horror stories related to selling real estate in South Florida. With Jorge Boj of Great Properties International, however, one incident in particular is more “heart-warming” than “horror.” “One day while showing a series of properties, it came to my attention that the owners of one of them would be on-site to show us the property,” he says. “When we rang the doorbell and the owner opened the door, both my client and the owner screamed with surprise. They couldn’t believe they had found each other again. It turned out they were very good friends from Brazil. As you can imagine, I ended up canceling the remaining showings for the day so that these long-lost friends could catch up on their life stories.”
The aforementioned is a fitting experience for a man that regards his family above all else. “I feel very privileged that I’m able to watch my family grow while living and working in Key Biscayne,” he says. “It’s such an amazing community for families — from the beach to the parks to the school functions and dining experiences.”
So where might a small family settle on Key Biscayne? Boj has one property on the market that might be of interest. “I have a charming two-bedroom plus den apartment at Key Colony’s Botanica,” he says. “The owners have invested lots of time and effort in making their apartment a truly special home. The additional den is multifunctional and provides prospective owners the flexibility to tailor this additional space to their individual needs. The brand-new kitchen and eastern exposure are a plus.”
With so many industries out there for Boj to choose from, why did he pick real estate? “My life has always been touched by the real estate industry and its many forms,” he says. “My father is an architect, so I grew up surrounded by pencils and the drawing board. Later on, while studying law in Puerto Rico, I was touched by the real estate industry on the commercial side. I was looking for a part-time job and landed a position in the largest commercial real estate company in Puerto Rico. We managed more than 1,500 buildings and it was an amazing experience. There was never a dull moment on the job — we sold buildings, we converted buildings and we dealt with international companies at all times doing million-dollar deals.”
Today, Boj says he loves the diversity of real estate and the opportunity to meet people from around the world on a daily basis. “I’ve made a lot of great friends,” he says.
“My life has always been touched by the real estate industry and its many forms. My father is an architect, so I grew up surrounded by pencils and the drawing board.”
It’s always comforting to meet a real estate agent with a passion for selling properties—especially when it’s been a lifelong journey. “Growing up in Spain, my father’s business had to do with construction and remodeling, so I was always in contact with the many different aspects of real estate,” says Cristian Gonzalez-Black of Fortune International Realty. “As I grew older and moved to the U.S., I decided to study business, although I always wanted to get into real estate.”
His big break in the industry came after college when he met veteran real estate powerhouses Doug Kinsley and Al Martinez. “They took me under their wing and showed me the ropes in the most honest and professional manner.”
Since then, Gonzalez-Black has enjoyed a fruitful career selling properties while balancing his personal life. “My most prized possessions are my health and my home,” he says. “I believe these are the foundations for everything else to come. Combined, both allow me to enjoy life to the fullest and share it with my family and friends.”
But don’t ask him to name his favorite property currently on the market — he loves them all. “Every property sets itself apart from all the others,” he says. “Each one offers a different taste and feel — from views to size, location and amenities. We’re fortunate that the island of Key Biscayne offers a variety of homes and apartments in which we can find that perfect home that suits our needs — whatever they may be.” And with that sales pitch, it’s no wonder he’s so good at what he does.
“We’re fortunate that the island of Key Biscayne offers a variety of homes and apartments in which we can find that perfect home that suits our needs — whatever they may be.”
When Doug Kinsley was just six years old, he was already working on a future in real estate. “I loved playing Monopoly and Risk with my friends when I was a kid,” he says. “Then in college, I was working as a security guard at a Key Biscayne condominium called the Commodore Club and decided to take a one-week cram course for real estate.” The rest, as they say, is history.
In all his years helping people realize their dreams, one showing sticks out in Kinsley’s mind. The address was 115 Sunrise Drive. “After entering through the unlocked door of the unit, my customer fell in love with the place. I used the telephone inside the apartment to call the listing agent to explain that my buyer wanted the unit and was inquiring when the current occupant would be leaving. She told me the unit was not occupied, there was no furniture in the property and it was available immediately. I politely informed her the unit was completely furnished and a family was living in the apartment — in fact, I was calling from the telephone inside the unit.”
Of course, you can image what transpired next. “After a few minutes of this going back and forth, I found out I was in the right apartment, but not the right building. 115 Sunrise Drive and 155 Sunrise Drive are identical buildings. I went to the wrong building and showed a unit that was not for sale. Truly embarrassed, I eventually showed the right unit, but never made the sale. I believe I lost credibility with that buyer.”
Kinsley, now with Fortune International Realty, has since learned his lesson and keeps a mantra his dad introduced him to in mind whenever he’s on the job. “When I graduated from college, my father gave me a plaque that said: ‘Reach for the stars, but keep your feet on the ground.’ I try to practice this each and every day.”
“When I graduated from college, my father gave me a plaque that said: ‘Reach for the stars, but keep your feet on the ground.’ I try to practice this each and every day.”
One loves his laptop, the other her music. But one thing that this real estate power-team has in common is their love for the industry. “What attracted us to this industry was the opportunity to work with one of the most respected developers in Key Biscayne and become the exclusive sales agents for the high-end luxury properties they build,” say Rosa I. Calero-Cortes and Mark Chatburn, both of Southbay Realty. “Real estate is different from other industries because of the freedom we get. We like being in charge of how we use our time.”
Another thing both can agree on is the fact that real estate has its ups and downs, especially when it comes to showings. Calero-Cortes’ most memorable incident placed her ankle-close to a stubborn canine. “While inside an old Mackle in Key Biscayne with clients from Ecuador, a dog suddenly started to bark at us before chasing us around the house until he was able to run us out of the property,” she says. “Of course, we couldn’t show the house and every time I’m with those clients, we remember and laugh about it.”
Chatburn had an equally mortifying experience at another property nearby. “Once I was showing this amazing apartment right on the ocean when I opened up the living room balcony before I took the client to the master bedroom,” he says. “When we got to the bedroom, I opened that balcony as well, without closing the balcony in the living room. The wind from the ocean was so hard, it shut the bedroom door and we got stuck in. We ended up calling the concierge to free us. It was very embarrassing.”
So what got them through those difficult situations? Gandhi, of course. “We both live by the saying ‘A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.’” And with those words at the tip of their tongues, they can tackle any obstacle that might come their way.
“What attracted us to this industry was the opportunity to work with one of the most respected developers in Key Biscayne and become the exclusive sales agents for the high-end luxury properties they build.”
Chris Blackman knows what’s best for his clients, even if they may not know it themselves. A doctor client of his in Vero Beach is perhaps the best example of this phenomenon to date. “He signed a contract with me to buy a brand new waterfront condo but called me when he got back home to tell me he couldn’t go through with the deal,” he says. “We went through all the reasons why he should buy until he changed his mind. This process continued for days and he would frequently call to cancel and I would persuade him not to. Eventually, he stopped canceling and for years after, whenever we met, he would thank me, telling me how much he was enjoying his winters in Vero Beach.”
But real estate wasn’t always on the agenda for this former London Stock Exchange trader and mutual funds salesman. “My real estate career began when I was approached by a friend who was running the London sales office for Great Harbour Cay in the Bahamas,” he says. “When I was 11 years old, I had spent the summer in Bermuda with my father where he was working at that time. I was in love with tropical living as compared to the English climate so I moved to the island as Island Sales Manager and have since ended up in Key Biscayne at Ocean Club Realty via Palm Beach and 20 years at two major developments in Vero Beach.”
As complex as his history may seem, Blackman is a pretty simple guy. “I’m not much into possessions as long as I have a decent set of golf clubs and a couple of tennis rackets to play with,” he says. “What I treasure most, though, is my daughter, Natalie.”
Words to live by? He keeps this simple, too. “One time Winston Churchill was addressing the graduating class of his Oxford alma mater when they received the following advice: ‘Never give up, never give up, never give up.’” Blackman hasn’t given up since.
“My real estate career began when I was approached by a friend who was running the London sales office for Great Harbour Cay, an island in the Bahamas.”
Sometimes success is in the delivery and Cindy Suarez of Ocean Club Realty has perfected her pitch — and strategy — to ensure that all her customers go home happy. “Through my hands-on, grassroots approach, I have created great relationships that go above and beyond real estate,” she says. “I’ve also learned to appreciate this challenging business and tackle it head-on with patience, a positive attitude and an unshakeable drive.”
Suarez says that residential real estate is extremely cyclical and often a highly emotional industry. “It involves selling that house that you grew up in that’s of extreme value to you but may not be to the potential buyer that’s making the offer. It may be that apartment that’s so finely decorated that the buyer is willing to pay way over market value so that his wife can feel at home. In short, this industry can often resemble that wild card in the deck.”
And wild it gets. One time, Suarez handed the key to a client who just had to take a second look at the fabulous four-bedroom space she and her new husband had just toured. “At the wife’s request, I handed her the key right as we were exiting the elevator,” she says. “Shortly thereafter, the keys slipped through our fingers and into the gap, causing the key to dive several stories to the bottom floor! Needless to say, the key was recovered, the unit was sold and all was well in the world! Words of advice: Hold on to your keys tightly and never let go!”
Another thing Suarez never lets go of is her cell. “It keeps me connected 24/7 to old clients, new clients and potential clients,” she says. “Any good realtor knows that missing a call can often mean missing a great opportunity to establish a long-lasting relationship with a prospective new client.”
So what type of advice does Suarez give to others looking for her secrets to success? “I once read an anonymous quote that describes the recipe for success which I strive to live and work by: Awareness breeds mindfulness; mindfulness builds productivity; productivity equals success.” And with that in mind, she’s off to her next showing.
“I’ve learned to appreciate this challenging business and tackle it head-on with patience, a positive attitude and an unshakeable drive.”
It’s not every day that a realtor allows telekinesis to lead a sale. Well, that is unless you’re Carlos Coto of Fortune International Realty. “My most memorable showing was to Yuri Geller, the man made famous for his telekinesis abilities, although I didn’t know who he was at the time,” says Coto. “When he arrived at my office, a fellow broker, not realizing she had seen him on TV, insisted that she knew him from somewhere. Suddenly I saw one of the keys on my desk move up a few inches and then drop on the desk again while Geller winked at me and said ‘I’m known for this.’” Coto says they only went to see two properties that day, but the whole experience left an impression on him. “He seemed to be reading my mind whenever he asked me how much I thought each property was worth,” he says.
But that’s not the only noteworthy showing he’s had throughout his career. “Early on during the construction of Key Colony, I was showing a lady an apartment and the elevator kept taking us from the third floor to the eleventh floor and back to the third floor without stopping. This went on for about five minutes but it felt like forever. My client started to cry and I became nervous and couldn’t stop laughing. Although later I apologized profusely…that was a sale I never made.”
Coto says that another time he arrived at a property with a family that included two kids only to find the owners skinny-dipping in their pool.
With all of the improptu occurrences Coto has experienced, some would think he should reconsider real estate. “No way,” he says. “Freedom was what attracted me the most to real estate,” he says. “Although some weeks I put in 70 hours, and many times I work weekends, I feel I have the freedom to come and go as I please.” What’s more, he falls in love with every house he shows. “All of the properties I sell end up being my favorite property at the time,” he says. “I enjoy each one of them in its own way.”
Another thing Coto loves is a motto he learned in school while growing up in Havana, Cuba: “A man for others.” “That motto always stuck with me,” he says. “Being a man for others has helped me throughout life. It is in giving that one receives. I believe the more you give, the more you receive. Isn’t this what success is all about?”
“Being a man for others has helped me throughout life. It is in giving that one receives. I believe the more you give, the more you receive. Isn’t this what success is all about?”
Jennifer L. Macia of EWM Realtors won’t leave home without her single most important tool: a 10-year-old black agenda book. “To my related business, that book is my working bible,” she says. “Inside it, I have jotted down likes and dislikes of clients, birthdays, meetings, essentials, trivia and everything in between.” Macia says that despite the advancement of technology and the fact that she carries a laptop and cellphone everywhere she goes, her agenda book is the only thing microchips and super-fast processing will never be able to replace.
One client that Macia was thrilled to add to her book was basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal. “Not only did he bring a lot of attention to the neighborhood, it was also very nice to see how caring he was to the children around us and to me as a professional.” Macia even got to go out on Shaq’s boat with his family, an experience she’s sure to not soon forget…and one that she surely documented in her industry bible.
But Macia didn’t jump into celebrity showings right off the bat; as with any other profession, she worked herself up to notable clientele. “While still in college I remember looking at developments and construction with great interest,” she says. “Art history was my major and architecture my minor. I got started in real estate through the encouragement of a friend. I needed to work and there’s nothing more fulfilling than working in something you like.”
Besides her passion for the properties she sells, Macia also has an inherent understanding of the people she serves. “With each client different needs arise and you must be creative and understanding to each unique situation,” she says. “Real estate is probably the biggest investment in most people’s lives and I don’t take that fact lightly.” Throughout her life and career, Macia has kept a few choice words at the forefront of her mind whenever she encounters a difficult situation: “Keep calm and unruffled on the surface but paddle like the devil underneath.” And with those words by her side, nothing can stop her.
“With each client different needs arise and you must be creative and understanding to each unique situation.”