Zilbert is rolling out plans to embrace the current boom in pre-construction condos. “We’re allocating more resources to pre-construction, and when that wave passes, we’ll direct attention back to re-sales,” he said. While his focus remains on condos, he also has been broadening out to single-family homes.
Zilbert’s foray into real estate wasn’t as meticulously planned as his current devotion to strategy might suggest.
In late 2002, he was laid off from a tech-consulting job and decided to get a real-estate license. He’d also done some acting, including bit parts on General Hospital in the 1990s and as a day actor in two episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where he played a Starfleet officer without dialogue.
“I figured, ‘I don’t know what I want to do, but real estate is hot,’ ” he said.
In 2003, he joined Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtors as a fledgling agent, initially handling floor duty and selling $80,000 condo units.
“I noticed developers didn’t have good websites,” Zilbert said. He started one, markzilbert.com. which later changed to zilbert.com. In 2004, he got a broker’s license and stepped out on his own, plunging into controversy with the launch of condoflip.com, a marketplace for speculators with contracts on pre-construction condos to find buyers.
That got him a lot of attention — and criticism for fueling the bubble. “I could wallpaper with the cease-and-desist letters from developers,” he said.
Zilbert insists he was responding to the state of the condo market, not whipping up the froth.
When the bubble burst, he changed tack and focused for a time on short sales.
Last year, when Zilbert made a deliberate effort to take the firm to the next level, he hired a New York consulting firm, And Partners. Some of the feedback to come out of it: Zilbert was shouldering all the management duties himself and had to let go.
In February, he hired a chief operating officer, James Hitchcock, who has worked in investment banking and real estate.
The idea is to free up Zilbert to focus more on expanding the brand and the use of technology.
He plans to boost the roster of agents to 50 from 30. They will be hand-picked to fit the culture. “You can’t come in with a Rolodex,” Zilbert said. “We want people who will propagate our brand identity.”