At 28 years old, Stefani Markowitz, president of Charles Rutenberg New York, might seem a little young to be running a real estate firm.
But Markowitz sees her young age as an asset: She’s vibrant, resilient, and tech-savvy — always connected and adept at social media.
Since taking over the Manhattan branch of Rutenberg, a national firm based in Florida, in November 2014, Markowitz has grown the branch from 489 brokers to 625, making it the sixth-largest real estate firm in Manhattan.
She also instituted symposiums with leaders in business and real estate, such as Richard Dickson, president of Mattel; partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project to help veterans get their real estate licenses; and has brought in real estate experts to provide weekly coaching and training to brokers.
Among its accomplishments since she took over, the branch — headquartered at 127 E. 56th St. — was behind the sale of Streit’s Matzo Factory in January 2015 and the Herald Square Hotel in June 2015.
“Stefani’s leadership and management style is transparent, genuine, direct, and honest,” said Esther Muller, who owns a real estate consulting firm and is a mentor for Markowitz. “[She] creates a warm atmosphere to work in and is always going out of her way to help her agents with their deals or even personal issues.”
Markowitz cares so much about her company because it is a family heirloom, she said.
The Manhattan branch of Rutenberg was cofounded in 2007 by her grandfather, Richie Friedman, who previously worked on Wall Street for 50 years.
Friedman told Markowitz, who often sat by his side as he read through real estate documents, to learn everything she could about the industry so she could eventually run the company.
She followed his advice and got her real estate license after her freshman year at the University of Michigan, where she graduated in 2009, and worked at various real estate companies and before landing at Rutenberg in July 2014.
Today, she prefers to be hands-on, assisting agents with research, negotiations and open houses, she said.
“Since I’m a licensed real estate broker myself, I’m constantly coming at it from the perspective of, ‘As an agent, what would I want out of a company?’” said Markowitz, who meets weekly with her grandfather, who still owns the office, to discuss its progress.
Markowitz also appreciates Rutenberg’s unique system for commissions.
While most realty companies operate by taking a percentage of a broker’s commission, agents at all Rutenberg branches keep nearly all of their earnings, minus $99 a month, and a $1,000 processing fee for sales under $1.5 million or $2,000 for sales over $1.5 million.
“We really believe the agents are putting in all of the work, the time, the energy, the effort,” Markowitz explained. “The clients are theirs, they really should be keeping all of the money.”
She added that she prefers handing agents their commission checks on the day of closings, rather than waiting until the end of a pay period.
“Her perspective as a young professional is extremely refreshing,” said Jennifer Breu, a sales agent at Rutenberg. “I feel like she cares about the agents as individuals, and not just building a brand. I know Stefani has my back.”