A STATEN ISLAND REALTOR MAKES WAVES IN AN UBER COMPETITIVE MARKET
BY ERIK SCHONING • PHOTOS BY ALEX BARRETO
Today Herman & Co is a top competitor in two of the country’s most notoriously cutthroat real estate markets, New York City and the tri state. But for owner Herman Herrera, the road to real estate was a lengthy one. Despite property being the family business his father sold real estate in Brooklyn Herrera was determined to make his name in the world before discovering, as we all do sooner or later, that all roads lead us home.
“When I turned 18, my father pushed me to get my real estate license and I reluctantly did it,” said Herrera. “When you’re young, you don’t know what you’re doing. It takes time to figure yourself out. I ended up stepping away from the business for almost a decade.”
Herrera may have not been selling houses during that time, but he did try just about everything else: enlisting in the Marine Corps, picking up a degree at St. John’s, teaching, and even optioning a script with a major Hollywood studio (Herrera’s YouTube series, Selling Shaolin, is further proof of his ongoing interest in entertainment). By the time Herrera returned to real estate, he had picked up that most valuable of resources: life experience. And when he jumped back into the business full time, he knew he was now in it for the right reasons.
“I loved helping people,” he said. “And I loved being in control of my own destiny, cheesy as it sounds. It’s not just the freedom. When you work for yourself, especially in sales, your compensation is commensurate with how much work you put in. And I liked that.”
Before starting his own firm, Herrera worked at two of the largest real estate companies in the tri-state market. When it was time to start Herman & Co, he knew he wanted a more bespoke, tailored experience for his clients. Great realtors, he opined, are able to make things legible for their clients. The average buyer and seller of a property is looking to find their next family home or simply to make a decent return on investment. They may not understand the complications of a labyrinthine market – that’s when Herrera steps in.
“As a real estate broker or agent, you have to act as the buffer,” he said. “That’s what our job is. All the bad things that come at us, we handle and then relay that information to our clients in a calm and collected way. I compare our job to a pilot’s. You might hit a little bit of turbulence on the way, but we’re going to get you to your destination safely. You just have to trust us.”
Herrera is thankful to have built a career in a market where that turbulence is comparatively modest. The strength of the local economy in Staten Island, Brooklyn, and central New Jersey has meant remarkable stability in the real estate market. Herrera noted that even in 2008, when the national housing market was in free fall, Herman & Co saw only small dips in the values of their properties. That stability has allowed Herrera and his team to develop long term relationships with clients and communities. Herman & Co even offers a concierge service, laying out funds to improve properties pre sale. Maybe a garden or garage needs work, or a fresh coat of paint is in order. That’s on them.
“We don’t charge anything for this service,” said Herrera. “We do all the work in the house so that they can get top dollar. They pay us back at closing. I don’t know of any other real estate companies in my market that do that. And we do it fairly often.”
Herrera isn’t exactly in the business of doing things conventionally. When the Herman & Co office empties out at 6 p.m. daily, he forwards office calls to a separate cell phone and continues to take calls until 9 p.m. or later. (“I don’t want to miss anything,” he added. “I’m crazy like that.”)
Crazy or not, it’s a mentality of deliberate attention, one that matches the business of real estate itself. Things are always happening, and if you’re not a part of the action, you’re on the sidelines.
Herrera’s latest project, true to his stay in the limelight ethos, is a YouTube series titled Selling Shaolin. The show, punning on a famous Wu Tang coinage, is a slice of life look at the ins and outs of real estate in Staten Island. Herrera started the show after his son, who has now joined the family business, advised him to raise his profile on social media. So they hired a cameraman and a video editor. As with any professional endeavor, Herrera knew that if he was going to do it, he was going to do it right.
“The show is growing, slowly,” he said. “It’s a way to get behind the curtain. I’ve had people tell me they thought I was a bit intimidating. Then they watch the show, and they say, ‘You’re kind of goofy on there. You know what you’re doing, but you also make jokes.’”
Demystifying the world of real estate brokerage and investing is a bear of a task. Herrera sees his show as an informal way for clients to get to know him and his work, and to chip away at the mystery of his field. Ultimately real estate boils down to a simple fact: people will always need a place to live. Herrera is adamant that, for any investor, real estate is always a sound idea.
Herman & Co
5488 Amboy Road / 718.317.0400 / herman.nyc