Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Saluting: Baird & Warner's Dana DiPasquale

Tenth in a series of profiles saluting Condo Superstars, agents who ranked in the Top 10 for selling the most Chicago condos in 2007.

Top Producer, 7 Years Running, Takes a Breather

Name: Dana DiPasquale. Brokerage: Baird & Warner. Age: 35. Years as Agent: 7. Transaction Rank: 10 (126 units). Dollar Rank: 9 ($49 million). Resale Volume: $3 million. Condos (of all business): 85%. Source of Statistics: Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED), Chicago condos closed in 2007.

Ranking No. 10 on our Top 10 list of Condo Superstars is Dana DiPasquale, a sales associate in the Lincoln Park office of Baird & Warner, the largest independent brokerage in Illinois and, based on dollar volume, the No. 4-ranked condo brokerage in Chicago.

For 2007, Dana ranked 10th in transactions, with 126, and 9th in dollar volume, with $49 million. She is one of two females in the Top 10. At 35, she is one of the youngest agents, and the youngest woman, on our list.

Of her $49 million in sales (not counting another $5 million not reported on the MLS), all but $3.3 million was for new construction, primarily conversions. Her listing-to-sold ratio was roughly 3 to 1.

Those figures show that Dana, like several other Top 10 agents, generates most of her revenue by convincing developers to hire her to help them plan and market conversions of apartments to condos, and then deliver on her promise.

What distinguishes her from others who do this, says Dana, is that she does it alone, without other agents to support her. Unlike several Top 10 condo agents who lead a team of agents, Dana is, with help from one assistant, Amber Wilson, a one-(wo)man show. "Not only do I work with buyers, I conduct my own open houses and pick up trash in the yard," she says.

In 2007, Dana's main source of sales was Crilly Court Condominium, a one-square-block condo conversion in historic Old Town with four addresses: 1701-17 N. Crilly, 206-10 W. Eugenie, 1702-16 N. Wells and 207-11 W. Paul. The 90 units at Crilly Court accounted for 81% (102) of her 126 transactions.

Entrance to Crilly Court, 1701-03 N. Crilly

Model bedroom & Model living room

In years past, her sales were spread out over several developments in many neighborhoods: Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Wrigleyville, Wicker Park, Bucktown, Ukrainian Village, Gold Coast, Old Town, Streeterville, West Loop and South Loop.

Dana traces her success in 2007 to an event in 2004. She had invited her mother to fly, from Buffalo, N.Y., to Chicago to attend a dinner at which Dana would be honored as a top-producing agent.

Standing in line, Dana's mother started speaking enthusiastically about her daughter's success to a man who turned out to be a writer for Metro Chicago Real Estate, which later profiled Dana and featured her photo on the magazine's cover.

A few months later, a developer who had been impressed by that article showed up at Dana's office and, without having met her before, asked her to help him convert, from apartment to condo, Crilly Court, a vintage complex built in 1895.

Dana and her developer began the planning in July 2006 and the sales in July 2007. She helped him on all of the phases of his project: reconfiguring floor plans, picking out finishes, designing models, layout of marketing, creating logos, pricing, open houses, negotiations, selection of finishes for each homeowner, and facilitating all phases of contract to close.

In 3rd quarter of 2007, Dana had surpassed $50M in sales and closed 140+ units.

In an interview in Baird & Warner's Lincoln Park office at 2762 N. Lincoln, Dana freely shared with us the story behind her success:

Born and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., Dana graduated from the University of Buffalo's School of Architecture in 1996. She moved to Chicago, where her father and brother lived and where great architecture is appreciated.

Disappointed that she couldn't find "the perfect job" with any architects with whom she interviewed, Dana took a $25,000-a-year job with a small-time developer. As project coordinator, she worked with contractors, "from foundation to completion--reading blueprints, ordering windows, choosing brick and paint colors."

Soon, Dana realized that she wanted to make the executive decisions. In 2001, she got her license and joined Baird & Warner as an agent, intending to sell real estate part-time. Within two weeks, she was on a roll and quit her other job to be a full-time agent. "I wanted to make sure I was in charge," she says.

Immediately drawn to new construction and conversion by her interest in design and architecture, Dana turned her expertise into a profitable niche.

By the end of 2001, she had generated $9 million in sales and won Baird & Warner's Rookie of the Year Award, given to the first-year agent who sells the greatest volume and the most units. She was 22 years old! It was a time of mixed emotions for Dana. Sadly, her father had died that year.

Dana was no flash in the pan and suffered no sophomore slump. From 2001 through 2007, she outperformed all 800+ other agents, as the company's top producer in both dollar volume and units. "My income more than doubled every year," she says.

During most of those years, Dana says, she didn't sleep, typically working from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., 90 hours a week. Because she was rarely home and didn't have time to move, she lived in a 600-square-foot studio. (Today, she lives in a condo in Lincoln Park.)

Why did she work so hard? "To make a mark in my career," she explains.

So far in 2008, Dana has closed only four units valued at $1.7 million. Currently, she has only 10 listings. Why so few? "After selling out Crilly Court last year, I have no new major projects this year and I'm deliberately taking a breather," she explains.

She adds: "I don't say no to any referral business that comes my way. But I'm not out pounding the pavement as I once did, or calling developers. They call me. I don't need to be Number One anymore. I no longer want to be the biggest; I want to be the best."

Making the transition from workaholic to a more balanced life, from Type A to Type A-- (minus minus), is challenging, Dana confesses. "To get to the top, I put my life on hold for a decade. My comfort zone is working all the time."

Sounding philosophical at 35, Dana says her focus today is "living in the moment, appreciating what I have, keeping my life simple."

Now that she has reduced her working hours, Dana spends more time with family and friends, taking cooking classes, learning to play tennis, enjoying her 14-month-old niece, rooting for the Cubs, and walking along the Lake with her dog, Bear, an 11-month-old, 70-pound Great Dane Shepherd, whom she is training to work with kids who have cancer.

She also loves traveling, having just returned from a safari in Africa. An Italian-American, she especially enjoys vacationing in Italy, as well as in the French West Indies.

How does she feel being a Condo Superstar? "I love being busy," she says. "Now that I've reached the top, success is like wearing the same shirt everyday; you get used to it. Sometimes I have to stop myself because I want to continue the same pace, but I know that I want to redirect my energy to what I have committed myself to this year: living the moment and having fun with family and friends."

Where does Dana DiPasquale see herself five or ten years from now? "Still selling real estate in Chicago," she says, "with another business on the side, and, possibly, married with kids."

Next Wednesday: Secrets of Our Top 10 Condo Superstars

Profiles of All Ten Condo Superstars

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