Entrepreneurs Corner: Klara Madlin

By Victoria Ingalls

This month New York Lifestyles sat with entrepreneur Klara Madlin to ask her about what motivates her in business and what inspiration can be used to help others.

1. What experience would you say triggered your interest in the real estate business?

I got into this business by buying a brownstone on West 80th Street with another friend, and the woman who sold the property to me was 80. I was 35, and I’m standing on a scaffold painting the ceiling. I had just lost my job, which, when you’re a clothing designer, happens every season or so. And my friend who bought the brownstone with me said, “Did you ever notice there are no women over the age of 40 as designers — unless their husbands own the company or they have a lot of money?” I said, “Not until now.”

So I called the woman who had sold us the building and I asked, “How long have you been doing this?” She said, “20 years.” I said, “You started when you were 60?” If she could change careers, I thought, so could I.

2. How long ago did you decide you wanted to run your own brokerage and how long did it take to achieve? Why?

I opened my own firm in 1984. I was working for a small firm owned by an attorney. I had been working in real estate for 3 years. Most of the agents in the firm would call me for advice and information, and I found that I enjoyed mentoring and figured if I was doing it anyway why work for someone else?

3. Which question on the real estate licensing test do you remember most and why?

There was a question about riparian rights which is not something that comes up often in Manhattan real estate. I got the question wrong and looked it up after the exam.

4. In your experience, what do you see as the main challenges for commercial and residential businesses? Do you see this changing in the short to medium (3-5 year) timeframe?

The main challenges I see in both the residential and commercial business in the foreseeable future is affordability. It has become very difficult for people or businesses just starting out to get started in New York because of the high startup price.

5. Tell us a little about your business and about your typical day?

I tend to get up quite early and check and answer emails while I have my morning coffee. Then I go over my appointment book and see what I have to do and where I need to be. I usually arrive in the office late morning and there is always something happening. I am available to all the agents to help with whatever deals they are working on and also I go over every board package before it goes to management. I am happy to say that in all the years we have been in business, there have been less than a handful of board turndowns.

6. What are your favorite projects you are working on currently?

We recently started representing CANVAS, the latest project of Miami-based NR Investments, to New York purchasers. CANVAS, a luxury high-rise located at 1630 Northeast 1st Avenue in Miami, FL is poised to become one of the city’s most iconic residences.

While Miami and New York are different in many respects – most notably in climate! – the two cities are both cosmopolitan with an international population. NYC home buyers and young professionals looking for a second entry-level home, as well as empty nesters and ‘snow birds’ looking for second homes, often turn to Miami to to escape the brutal winter months. In short, it’s a very exciting new project in Miami which will be perfect for New York buyers.

7. If someone came to you now to ask for advice about starting a real estate brokerage firm what would you say?

If you are willing to work very hard 24/7 go for it! But be prepared for the ups and downs that come with running the show and make sure that you have enough money to get through the first year.

8. Outside of business what are your favorite activities?

I love to travel. Also I own an apartment on the beach in Long Beach, New York where I go to relax and look at the ocean. I have been taking sketching classes at the Art Students League which I find very enjoyable.