Although the real estate market was looking grim, if not downright depressing, in 2009, Maria Makaj, didn’t let it get her down. Instead she got resourceful.The Yorktown-based Houlihan Lawrence Realtor took to social media—Facebook, in particular—to double down on her sales efforts and drum up whatever business she could. Amidst the year’s gloom, Makaj transacted more than $3 million.
Makaj, today 29, moved to Mahopac, New York, from Michigan in 2003 with every intention of becoming a teacher. But she wound up in real estate, teaching first-time homebuyers the ropes of pre-approvals and property taxes.
“I didn’t know how to get to the grocery store, and there I was selling real estate,” says Makaj. “I drove down every street I could just to learn the area.” The hard work laid a foundation of loyal, devoted customers. By 2007, Makaj’s transactions amounted to more than $8 million.
“She has that great dynamic of a full-on entrepreneurial businessperson,” says Barry Graziano, Makaj’s former manager in Yorktown and the current manager at Houlihan Lawrence—Chappaqua. “People sense that I’m working for them,” says Makaj. “Happy clients are what keeps me doing this job.”
Today, Makaj is number two in the Yorktown office. She’s a regular recipient of the Multiple Listing Service’s (MLS) Gold designation, and she’s won Houlihan Lawrence’s Gold, Platinum, or Silver Award every single year of her career. What’s more, Makaj is well on her way to pre-bubble highs, transacting $7 million in 2011 and $6 million in 2012. She’s still using social media to entice buyers and sellers, most recently leveraging Instagram to drum up interest.
Clients Timothy Michalowski and Allison Leighton of Putnam Valley, New York, say Makaj “exceeded our expectations throughout the entire process” and “was an outstanding agent from the first email until the closing.” Another client, Rick Kaplan, says he’s indebted to Makaj for her “willingness to go the extra mile wherever it was required.”
Says Makaj, “It’s great that I do well, but, at the end of the day, I’m not thinking, ‘Oh gosh, I just made this much money.’ Iit’s about having a happy client.”