“When I discovered New York City real estate, I was hooked immediately,” says Michelle E. Griffith, one of Corcoran’s top brokers. “I didn’t think it was possible to love your job.” Although she started small just six years ago with a rental property on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Griffith now focuses exclusively on high-end luxury properties, catering to diplomats, top executives, celebrities and professional athletes.
We spoke with this leading broker—who, after just one year of working with Corcoran, is ranked in the company’s top 3 percent of real estate agents—about her path to real estate success, favorite Manhattan haunts and apartment building must-haves.
INHABIT: Please describe the education and career path that led you to the Manhattan real estate business and, specifically, to Corcoran.
MG: I studied finance and economics at the University of Florida, which has been a tremendous foundation for my real estate business. I came to Corcoran because they are the undisputed market leaders in the industry. Corcoran is a powerhouse with an enormous amount of resources and support for their agents.
INHABIT: Why did you decide to go into the real estate business? And, specifically, why did you choose to work in Manhattan?
MG: I was initially drawn to real estate because I love New York City—it’s hard not to be inspired by such a dynamic place. I moved here in 2001, right before the attacks of September 11, and to watch how a community could unite and come together in the face of such despair was inspiring. I am proud to be a New Yorker—I am proud to live in what I consider the best city in the world.
INHABIT: How did you transition from medical sales to real estate?
MG: I met a real estate developer at an event in New York City, and he offered me a job the next day. He became my mentor for the next six years and really guided me throughout my career.
INHABIT: What other life experiences have contributed to your success in this business?
MG: My mother is from the Philippines, and when you are born to a first generation American, you see the world from a different perspective. You realize that things aren’t handed to you, and we are lucky enough to be in a country where we have every opportunity to succeed if we choose to work hard.
INHABIT: Are there any specific sales that you think have helped to define your career in real estate?
MG: There was a penthouse that had been on and off the market for years that most brokers thought would never sell. I spoke to the developer—who is typically against staging—and we had the property beautifully staged, and I was very strategic and targeted with the marketing. I sold it for $24 million.
INHABIT: Aside from real estate, what are some of your hobbies and interests?
MG: I have two young children who constantly teach me that life is all about balance and, often times, I laugh with my friends because we are all just trying to survive parenting.
As someone who feels very blessed, I also believe that it’s my obligation to give back. For the last 10 years, I have been involved in an organization called Room to Read. They provide schooling for children in the developing world, and with every real estate transaction I put a child through school for a year.
INHABIT: You have an extensive—and eclectic—art collection. What was the first piece of art you purchased? What drew you to that specific work?
MG: It was a large-scale piece by Santiago Carbonell, and I was drawn to this painting by the realism in the eyes and his use of light.
INHABIT: As you’ve grown your collection, have you gravitated towards a specific time period, medium, or style?
MG: My husband is from Bolivia and we wanted to support South American artists, we have paintings by artists from Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina.
INHABIT: Do you have any tips for buyers looking to purchase high-end properties?
MG:I have a lot of international buyers and often times they only want to focus on one very specific neighborhood. I am always trying to educate them on other areas, so they have a better understanding of the market and know all their options before making a big purchase.
INHABIT: What drew you to your home neighborhood of Tribeca?
MG: I have always loved the architecture in Tribeca, from the cast-iron buildings to the large lofts with exposed beams and high ceilings. The neighborhood is also an amazing place to raise a family, I love being close to the water and the Hudson River park is a game changer.
INHABIT: What are some of your favorite shops and restaurants in your neighborhood?
MG: I love Bouley, Marc Forgione and Locanda Verde, and if you want something casual Khe-Yo is a spectacular Laotian restaurant. My family and I love going to brunch at The Roxy Hotel, and the spa at the Greenwich Hotel is absolutely fantastic.
INHABIT: What are some building amenities you couldn’t live without?
MG:I couldn’t live without a doorman. As a busy working mom, I save a lot of time by ordering absolutely everything online.
INHABIT: Finish this statement: ‘If I didn’t live in New York City, I’d live…’
MG: …as close to the ocean as possible.
INHABIT: Please complete the following sentence: ‘My home wouldn’t be home without…’
MG: My kids.
Photography by Allie Leepson.