Real Estate Agent Magazine sat down with Kasia Maslanka of Douglas Elliman to talk about her journey into the real estate industry, her experiences in working with diverse clients, the ever-evolving landscape of real estate, and the impact she has made on her community through her philanthropic efforts. Kasia is the recent recipient of NAR’s 2023 Good Neighbor Award.

REAM: Could you share the story of how you entered the real estate profession back in 2008? What inspired you to pursue a career in this field?

KM: In 2008, I embarked on a career in real estate, inspired by reading “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. This book changed my perspective on money and investing, leading me to see real estate as a path to financial independence.

At the time, Florida’s real estate market was dominated by foreclosures, with around 95% of properties on the MLS being foreclosed. Despite the challenges, I saw the potential for profit in real estate. I joined local Real Estate Investor Association, where I learned about various aspects of the field, such as short sales, wholesaling, and property flipping.

With the support of mentors and a business partner, I began buying, renovating, and selling foreclosed properties. Over a few years, we successfully flipped and wholesaled nearly 50 properties. This journey solidified my passion for real estate, showcasing its potential for financial growth and personal satisfaction.

REAM: Did you have a career in another industry before embarking in real estate?

KM: Real estate was actually my first career. I ventured into the real estate industry at the age of 25, just a few years after graduating from college and emigrating to the US. Prior to that, I had worked as a nanny, taking care of three children full-time. Although I enjoyed it very much, I wanted to pursue something that would provide me with more flexibility and freedom of time, and I was eager to learn about business and investments.

Transitioning into real estate meant starting from the ground up. I had to learn the intricacies of business, investing, negotiations, acquisitions, contracts, construction and everything related to both business and real estate from scratch. This journey marked the beginning of my professional career in earnest, and I was determined to build a successful career in the real estate industry. Over the years, I’ve gained valuable experience and knowledge in this field, and I’m super happy of the progress I’ve made.

REAM: You’ve had extensive experience working with international and domestic UHNW buyers and sellers. What unique challenges and opportunities come with catering to such a diverse clientele?

KM: Working with international and domestic Ultra High Net Worth (UHNW) buyers and sellers indeed presents a distinctive set of obstacles and possibilities. It requires a highly tailored, white-glove approach that caters to the individual needs and preferences of each client.

One of the primary challenges is the need for a customized and private approach to client relationships. UHNW individuals often value discretion and personalized service. Building trust and maintaining confidentiality are paramount. It’s not just about buying or selling a property; it’s about understanding their unique requirements, lifestyle, and aspirations.

Additionally, the luxury market demands a deep understanding of what defines luxury for each client. What may be considered a luxury property or experience can vary greatly from one person to another. Recognizing and appreciating these distinctions is crucial in delivering exceptional service.

The sophistication and discerning taste of UHNW clients further underscore the importance of attention to detail and a keen understanding of their preferences. Every aspect of their property transaction, from property selection to negotiation and beyond, must reflect their high standards.

Moreover, assisting with relocation, which is often associated with UHNW clients, involves intricate planning and execution. Coordinating the logistics of moving, obtaining necessary permits, and ensuring a smooth transition is vital. Providing access to exclusive resources and networks can also be a significant part of the service.

In summary, working with UHNW buyers and sellers offers a unique opportunity to provide top-tier, tailored service. However, it also comes with the challenge of meeting their exceedingly high expectations and understanding the nuances of luxury and discretion. A successful partnership in this realm is built on a deep appreciation for their way of being and a commitment to handling their needs associated with their move and relocation with the utmost care and precision.

REAM: Can you tell me about a particularly successful transaction you’ve completed, and what made it successful?

KM: Certainly, it highlights the adaptability and determination needed in the real estate industry. Every real estate transaction is unique and comes with its own set of challenges and successes. One particular transaction that stands out in my memory occurred several years ago, back when technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today.

I was referred to an Italian customer who was struggling to sell her property in Florida. She resided in Florence, Italy, and wasn’t well aware of the real estate selling process in Florida. Unfortunately, she had been taken advantage of by previous agents, resulting in her property not being properly marketed, managed, or shown to potential buyers.

What made this transaction particularly successful was the ability to turn the situation around. After taking over the listing, I managed to sell her property within just a couple of weeks, even though it previously had languished on the market for months without any offers. The key was not only in the successful sale but also in the unique circumstances surrounding it.

The remarkable aspect of this transaction was the language barrier. The client didn’t speak a word of English, and my knowledge of Italian was limited to basic greetings like “Ciao.” Despite this significant hurdle, we managed to navigate the entire process effectively. Our communication was facilitated through the use of technology, primarily Google Translate, which allowed us to understand each other’s messages and needs.

This successful transaction not only resulted in a satisfied client but also established a lasting connection. Over the years, I continued to assist her in finding and purchasing several more investment properties. It serves as a testament to the power of determination, adaptability, and technology in overcoming challenges and achieving successful outcomes in the world of real estate.

REAM: You’ve lived in various places, including Poland, Chicago, and Florida, and have traveled extensively. How has your international living experience influenced your perspective on real estate and your ability to connect with a diverse range of clients?

KM: Living in various places, including Poland, Chicago, and Florida, as well as my extensive travels, have significantly shaped my perspective on real estate and my ability to connect with a diverse range of customers. These experiences have underscored several crucial aspects of working in the real estate industry.

Firstly, my international living experiences have reinforced the importance of connecting with and advising both locals and newcomers to an area. Every customer has its unique lifestyle, interests, and needs. Understanding the local real estate market and its trends is essential to provide effective guidance to customers. It’s not just about knowing the properties; it’s about knowing the community, the culture, and what makes each place special.

Moreover, my international living experiences have emphasized the significance of getting to know an area from all angles. It’s crucial to explore a place during different times of the day and year to truly grasp its essence. For instance, when buying a residence by the beach in South Florida, the decision between a more secluded and private beach area versus a bustling location with restaurants and a vibrant lifestyle can be a matter of a few blocks. It’s imperative for customers to understand how their chosen area aligns with their lifestyle and preferences.

Sometimes, I recommend that buyers who are uncertain about which city in Florida to choose should consider renting for a few months or staying in local hotels for a few days to experience the different areas firsthand. Despite their close proximity, cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach offer distinct daily and night life experiences.

Furthermore, my experiences have made me aware of the significant variations between U.S. cities. Each city has its own character and unique attributes, and what works in one place may not be applicable elsewhere. This understanding allows me to relate to customers who are new to an area and unfamiliar with the nuances of a particular city.

Ultimately, my goal is to know and understand my customers’ needs, expectations, and lifestyles so that I can guide them to the best possible fit. Whether they are long-time residents or newcomers, my international living experiences have taught me the value of offering personalized advice and ensuring that customers find the perfect home in the perfect location to meet their unique needs and desires.

REAM: There are over 1.5 Million Realtors in the Nation, and you just been chosen as one of the five winners by the National Association of Realtors’ prestigious Good Neighbor Awards. What does this award mean to you?

KM: Being chosen as one of the five winners by the National Association of Realtors’ prestigious Good Neighbor Awards is an incredible honor and a deeply meaningful recognition. It means the world to me on both a personal and professional level.

This award is a testament to the dedication I have for my profession and my community. It underscores the importance of not only helping individuals find their dream homes but also making a positive impact on the communities we serve. Real estate is not just about properties; it’s about people and the places they call home.

Receiving this award validates my commitment to giving back and making a meaningful difference in the lives of those around me. It’s a powerful reminder of the responsibility we have as Realtors to contribute positively to the well-being of our communities.

I am genuinely grateful for this acknowledgment, and I see it as a motivation to continue my philanthropic endeavors. It inspires me to work even harder to create positive change, both in the lives of my clients and in the communities we all share. This award is a symbol of the good that can come from the real estate profession, and I am deeply honored to be a part of it.

REAM: Can you tell us more about your work with Morningday Community Solutions? What drives your passion for giving back to the community?

KM: Certainly, my work with Morningday Community Solutions (MCS) is a passion project that I hold close to my heart. I co-founded MCS in 2010 with a strong desire to make a positive impact on our community.

MCS’s mission is clear: “Helping Those Who Help Others.” We recognized two interconnected issues that needed addressing. On one hand, over 5 billion pounds of returned merchandise is discarded by retailers annually in the United States, contributing to environmental waste. On the other hand, tens of thousands of local nonprofits tirelessly fundraise to purchase these very items.

Our goal was to bridge this gap and find a solution. MCS partners with large retailers to acquire usable goods that would otherwise end up in landfills. These products are then distributed to our nonprofit members at a significant discount, typically 70-80% less than their retail value. This innovative approach creates a triple-win scenario.

Firstly, nonprofits save substantially on operational costs, enabling them to allocate more resources toward their core missions. Secondly, retailers benefit from a tax benefit and reduce their disposal expenses, all while contributing to a more sustainable future. Lastly, we reduce landfill waste by repurposing these goods to organizations that need them the most.

In 2011, our flagship MCS warehouse in Pompano Beach opened its doors, and in August 2019, we expanded to a second warehouse site in West Palm Beach, allowing us to serve hundreds more nonprofits in Palm Beach County. To date, MCS has assisted over 650 South Florida nonprofits in saving more than $10 million and has diverted over 10 million pounds of retail waste from landfills.

What drives my passion for giving back to the community is the belief that we have a responsibility to make a positive impact wherever we can. Knowing that our efforts at MCS directly benefit local nonprofits and help reduce environmental waste is incredibly fulfilling. It’s a reminder that small actions can lead to significant change, and I am proud to be a part of an organization that embodies that principle.

REAM: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the real estate industry during your career, and how have you adapted to those changes?

KM: Over the course of my career in the real estate industry, I’ve witnessed several significant changes, and the one constant is that the market goes through cycles every few years, with each cycle bringing its own unique challenges and opportunities.

I started my real estate journey in 2008 in Florida, a time when the market was flooded with foreclosed properties. It was a double-edged sword – a great time for investors to scoop up properties at bargain prices, but also a period when many people lost their homes, substantial amounts of money, and their savings due to the housing and economic crisis.

Fast forward to today, and we are in a vastly different real estate landscape. In our current market, there are almost no foreclosures to speak of, which means that both buyers and sellers find themselves in entirely different situations. This shift has required us as real estate agents to adapt to the ever-changing cycles.

Adaptation is key in the real estate industry. As the market evolves, our role as agents is to adjust to the current cycles and cater to the specific needs of our clients. During periods of high demand, our focus may be on helping buyers navigate a competitive market, offering strategies to stand out in bidding wars. In contrast, during slower periods, we might need to assist sellers in finding ways to make their properties more appealing to potential buyers.

Furthermore, staying informed about market trends, emerging technologies, and changes in regulations is essential. Embracing digital tools, online marketing, and virtual showings has become more important than ever, especially in light of recent global events that accelerated the adoption of digital solutions in the real estate industry.

In essence, the ability to adapt to the changing dynamics of the real estate market is crucial for success in this field. By remaining flexible, informed, and responsive to the needs of our customers, we can navigate through the various cycles and continue to thrive in a constantly evolving industry.

REAM: In your career, what has been your most rewarding moment or accomplishment, whether in real estate or through your charitable efforts?

KM: I’ve been fortunate to experience several incredibly rewarding moments and accomplishments, both in real estate and through my charitable efforts. However, what stands out as the most fulfilling aspect of my work, whether it’s helping customers in real estate or contributing to the community through philanthropy, is the deep sense of satisfaction that comes from making a positive impact on people’s lives.

In real estate, my most rewarding moments are when I see the happiness and gratitude of my customers. It’s the joy in their eyes when they find their dream home or secure a promising investment property. It’s the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment when they tell me about the wonderful memories they’re building in their new home. These moments remind me of the significance of the work we do in helping individuals and families find the perfect place to live and create cherished memories.

Through my charitable efforts with Morningday Community Solutions, the most rewarding moments come from knowing that we’ve made a difference in the lives of those in need. When a nonprofit member receives essential products like mattresses, clothes, furniture or hygiene items and shares them within the community, it’s incredibly gratifying. It’s about knowing that we’ve helped improve their quality of life and contributed to their well-being.

One of my proudest accomplishments is having saved local nonprofits over $10 million through MCS, enabling them to redirect those funds toward their core missions and programs. This automatic ripple effect impacts more people in our community and helps these organizations serve those in need more effectively.

Furthermore, I am immensely proud that through MCS, we’ve diverted over 10 million pounds of brand-new products from going to waste. This not only reduces environmental waste but also ensures that perfectly usable items find their way to those who require them the most.

In essence, my most rewarding moments and accomplishments in my career all boil down to the sense of satisfaction that comes from helping people find their dream homes, making a meaningful impact in the lives of those we serve through MCS, and contributing positively to our community. These moments are a testament to the power of empathy, compassion, and service, which continue to inspire me every day.

REAM: What is something your colleagues would be surprised to learn about you?

KM: One thing that my colleagues would probably be surprised to learn about me is my brief stint in acting a few years ago. I had the unique opportunity to be a main character in a short movie that was created as a promotional piece for a book release. In the film, I portrayed a Broadway movie producer, a character from the book.

The experience was truly memorable and quite unexpected. I got to see myself on the big screen during the movie premiere at an IPIC theater, which was an exhilarating and surreal moment. It was a departure from my usual professional endeavors, and it provided a fascinating glimpse into the world of acting and filmmaking.

This experience not only added a fun and unexpected dimension to my life but also reinforced my belief in the importance of trying new things and embracing unexpected opportunities when they arise. It’s a reminder that life is full of surprises, and sometimes, the most unexpected experiences can turn out to be the most memorable.

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