Real Estate Weekly
December 8, 2004

Profile of the Week:

Esther Muller, Founder, Real Estate Academy

ESTHER MULLER:  THRIVING ON LIFE’S LEARNING EXPERIENCE

By Daniel Geiger

It’s no surprise that Esther Muller started the Real Estate Academy, for her, teaching and real estate have always gone hand in hand.

In fact, Muller’s flair for education is probably what got her into real estate in the first place.

A substitute teacher in New Jersey throughout her early 20s, Muller was invited by a friend to help drum up tenant interest in a plan to convert a 300-unit rental apartment complex to for-sale condominiums. Although at the time most of the condos were priced at or under $20K, tenants had united against the conversion by signing a no-buy pledge. In short order however, Muller turned the tide, making the reposition possible, all by simply educating residents in the benefits of home ownership.

A homeowner herself since the age of 21, Muller spoke from experience.  Divorced and with a child at the time, Muller owned a three-family house,
and while many would be wary of being saddled with such a financial responsibility, she soon discovered the purchase to be a boon, not only from the income produced by the rented portion but also because the asset was tax deductible.

Using her own story as an example of the American Dream made into reality, Muller received instant positive feedback from practically every tenant she spoke to who was intimidated by the seemingly unattainable prospect of owning their own property. Muller loved the feeling she got from enlightening potential homeowners. That combined with real estate’s profitability and she knew instantly she had stumbled on the perfect career.

“I said to myself, ‘I love the feeling I get helping people become independent and I love making money’ wow this was it,” she said. “The best selling technique is to educate the buyer and empower them to make the decision that’s best for them and that’s what I did then and what I still do now.”

Considering Muller’s people skills, it’s no surprise that her forte was and continues to be as a conversion specialist, repositioning for-rent apartments as condominiums.  But despite her proclivity as a developer, Muller’s desire to teach was again perked when she would periodically have to take mandatory 45-hour real estate license renewal class. In her estimation, such classes were usually bloated where they could have been streamlined and also were taught by individuals who weren’t as active in the industry as Muller felt they should be.

Realizing that she could do a better job and that there was indeed a demand among her peers for an improved certification course, Muller hatched the Real Estate Academy. Well known for its 22-½ hour class duration – half the typical forty-five hour length for comparable programs – the REA provides continuing education classes for sales persons and brokers to either receive or maintain their real estate licenses. Aside from its more efficient time frame, REA also benefits from a revolving door of stellar guest teachers including Muller herself.

“Almost every successful broker and developer has lectured for us,” Muller said. “I used to get frustrated sitting in a class for 45 hours and not really getting that much out of it except a certification in the end. At the academy we have experienced leaders of  the industry lecturing who can teach even the most seasoned real estate professional something new.”

The academy has made Muller such a well-known figure in the industry that she has had to truncate her teaching schedule slightly to accommodate the time necessary for the slew of development deals she’s involved in. Muller has still found time to give back to the teaching profession while simultaneously improving Manhattan’s schools and neighborhoods.

Understanding that if the city’s public schools could be markedly improved, there would be a resultant increase in the valuation of its residential real estate, Muller helped with a program to import quality teachers from abroad who are eager to come to New York City. Soliciting the support of major residential developers like Silverstein and the Lefrak Organization among others, Muller secured the visiting teachers quality yet affordable housing in the city.

“There was a shortage of fabulous teachers in the city,” she said. “I came onto the program to provide these teachers with an added incentive to come to the city. And I think I did that.

“Thanks to the wonderful generosity of developers like Silverstein and the Lefraks, these teachers have wonderful accommodations. It’s going to have a huge effect on Manhattan real estate.”