If you asked Brooklyn-based Corcoran associate broker Heather McMaster 20 years ago whether she would have considered a career in real estate, her reply probably would have been: “Not a chance.”
Now one of the company’s top-selling brokers, McMaster envisioned becoming a university professor and, later, an interior designer. It’s by chance that she entered the real estate field, an unexpected turn of events that has proven to be a perfect match for the Minneapolis native.
McMaster prides herself on her deep knowledge of Brooklyn, her attention to detail and her ability to exceed the needs of her clients. Her mastery of the borough’s real estate market has helped yield many career milestones: last year alone she put into contract and sold $120 million, and was named the No. 3 Individual Salesperson in all of Brooklyn.
McMaster tells INHABIT about the nontraditional path that led her to real estate, as well as her personal connections to Brooklyn and her advice for prospective buyers.
INHABIT: When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in real estate?
HM: I moved to New York in 1998 from Minneapolis to go to graduate school and never imagined being a real estate agent. I originally wanted to be a women’s literature professor, then decided to do a terminal master’s degree in Women’s Lit and work in publishing. I worked at Feminist Press for years, as well as other literary publishers. As I climbed the ladder, I kept finding myself being nudged into publicity and decided it wasn’t my thing. By that point, I was 30, and I took a good, hard look at what I loved doing and asked myself if there was anything else I had a passion for and I realized I loved interior design.
I decided go back to school for that. I loved it, but after the first year, I had to be available to take day classes and my job wasn’t going to accommodate that — and that’s when I got the idea to go into real estate.
INHABIT: Tell us about your start in the business. How did the first year go?
HM: I took the course, got my license and thought I would do a few rentals a month to pay the bills while I went to school. I sent out a mailer and ended up getting three sales from it: the first was a small townhouse for $1.2 million, and the buyers also hired me to sell their Brooklyn Heights co-op. Those two deals earned more than a two-year salary in interior design at the time! I decided to take a break from school, but I never went back — and the rest is history.
INHABIT: What’s kept you in the business after your initial success?
HM: I love the many nuances and responsibilities — it’s not one note. You wear many hats, and you keep trying to perfect each aspect.
INHABIT: What’s one common mistake you see prospective buyers make?
HM: Buyers read about the market shifting and it becoming a buyer’s market, and they don’t want to be aggressive enough when a property is competitive. They don’t realize that well-priced properties are still often selling above the asking price. My advice: If you find a place you love, go for it.
INHABIT: Please tell us about your neighborhood and your home.
HM: In February of 2002 I moved to Boerum Hill and joined the Warren St. Saint Marks Community Garden. I moved to Carroll Gardens in 2003, but I was still the membership coordinator of the Garden, and we were still close friends with the other members. In 2006, one of our friends told us that their neighbor was selling in the North Slope, so we made an offer, practically sight unseen. Through the years, we’ve renovated our apartment and really love it. However, it’s a three bedroom, one-and-a-half bath apartment in 1,000 square feet. I worry that only one full bath may not be enough shortly, so we may up-size soon.
INHABIT: How have you seen Brooklyn change — from both a personal and professional perspective — over the years?
HM: The growth has been remarkable. The amount of new development and the creation of a residential Downtown Brooklyn is still hard to believe. It’s no longer the less expensive alternative to Manhattan — for many now, it is the preferred place to live.
INHABIT: What advice do you have for buyers looking in Brooklyn?
HM: Interest rates are low, and are predicted to remain so through the year. I don’t see Brooklyn losing value at all. If there is a slowdown, I think prices will flatline, not drop, and I don’t think it will ever be less expensive than it is now. I think it’s a great time to buy in Brooklyn.
INHABIT: What are your favorite shops and restaurants in the neighborhood and why?
HM: I barely have to walk a block to get my favorite places, like Convivium Osteria, a neighborhood gem. People have been traveling from Manhattan to eat there since its inception.
Wolf & Deer is my favorite wine bar. They make this to-die-for cocktail, Don’t Fear the Reaper, with vodka, hibiscus syrup, mint and prosecco.
Another favorite spot is Items of Interest, a superb interior design store and a great place to buy Brooklyn-centric gifts.
INHABIT: Please complete the sentence: “Home wouldn’t be home without . . .”
HM: My family and my dog.