Gary L. Malin, Citi Habitats’ President, is the principal figure in the day-to-day operations, strategic planning and overall vision for Citi Habitats. Malin shapes the company’s brand through his hands-on involvement with marketing and public relations initiatives; builds and maintains alliances with key real estate entities and professionals; and directs Citi Habitats’ affiliates. In all of these functions, Malin’s primary objective is to ensure that Citi Habitats remains-as it has throughout its existence-the industry leader in forward-thinking, customer service centered real estate firms.
How did you get into the real estate industry?
My background is in law, and I started out at Citi Habitats as corporate counsel. In 1998, I was asked to come on board as Chief Operating Officer, which gave me the opportunity to really get involved with the agents and the day-to-day running of the company. I ultimately was named President of the firm in 2008.
Tell us about Citi Habitats. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
The company was founded on the premise that even though Manhattan is a renter-centric city, rental clients were not given the same level of customer service and overall respect as were would-be buyers. We decided to change that. We knew if we built a solid relationship with rental clients, they would turn to us when it came time to buy. The strategy worked, and we have grown into a full-service real estate firm that excels in both rentals and sales.
Our vision for Citi Habitats remains the same, to exceed the expectations of our clients. To that end, I believe our agents are our most valuable asset, and we make significant investments in technology, facilities and training to help them achieve and surpass their goals.
What strategic partnerships have you implemented that have attributed to Citi Habitats's success?
Citi Habitats has longstanding relationships with many of New York City’s iconic property owners and developers. In addition, we have created strategic alliances with key vendors - including attorneys, mortgage brokers and title insurance companies. These strong relationships help our agents assist clients at the highest level.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
The city’s real estate market is booming again, and developers are designing and building new properties that create an incredible lifestyle for buyers and tenants. As a result, we have assembled a talented New Development Marketing team to help owners successfully plan, market, and lease or sell these buildings.
As in most industries, technology has had a profound effect on the real estate industry. To reflect the way real estate professionals work in the 21st century, we have recently launched our new listings database and new online agent tools, and will be unveiling a dramatic new CitiHabitats.com in the coming months. Furthermore, we are in the midst of an office renovation plan that, when complete, will provide all agents and staff with state-of-the-art, fun and functional workspaces.
Citi Habitats’ Motto?
Our firm’s motto is “Knowledge and Guidance.” We believe clients need to have the most up-to-date knowledge about the city’s rental and sales markets. Our brokers need to be advocates, by imparting guidance and always looking out for the client’s best interests.
Your greatest success as President of Citi Habitats? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
I constantly think about where the market is going and try to remain ahead of the curve. I’m always looking forward, and never in the rear view mirror. I’ve learned execution is as important as vision. I try to always hold myself accountable and follow through on my promises and ideas, and to do better tomorrow than I did today. The worst thing I can do is rest on my laurels and remain complacent.
Over the past few years, several new competitors have entered the real estate arena, and we’ve had to contend with this changing landscape. We took a step back to see how best to respond. We have been very methodical in our approach and didn’t let outside turmoil impact our course of action. As a result we have built a stronger, more resilient - and frankly better - Citi Habitats. What I’ve learned from the experience is that sometimes what you think is the worst possible scenario - is just what you need to propel you forward.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Believe in yourself and take risks.
How do you motivate your employees?
I think the most effective way to motivate employees is by being transparent. Provide them with a clear vision as to where your company is headed. Engage them in your long-term blueprint for success and make it clear that their contributions matter.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
Pizza and Macallan scotch.
What literature is on your bed stand?
“Good to Great” by Jim Collins. In this book, the author follows companies that have reached the pinnacle of success in their respective industries, and discovers what factors have caused them to be truly exceptional.
Role model - business and personal?
My father is my role model – for both categories - because he believes in the importance of family, and always acts with honesty and integrity.
My passion is my family, and more specifically, watching my kids excel in what they are passionate about. My daughter has a talent for singing and playing the guitar - and my son loves lacrosse. When it’s time to relax, a little game of golf here and there can’t hurt.
Most interesting headline you've read this week?
“Here's What The Manhattan Skyline Will Look Like In 2018” from the blog Gothamist.com – the change to our city’s skyline in the coming years is nothing but extraordinary. Manhattan is currently seeing more large-scale construction than it has in decades.
What's next for Citi Habitats?
We will continue with our business plan. We look forward to opening more spectacular new offices and to the roll-out out our new website, which will include features never seen on a real estate brokerage site before. 2014 was our firm’s twentieth anniversary, and we are looking forward to continued growth and success in the next twenty years.
Malin’s vision for Citi Habitats was for the firm to be a boldly different kind of real estate company, one characterized by its full-service approach to client relationships. By providing a well-rounded package of services, Citi Habitats is redefining what it means to be a real estate company in New York City. Since it opened in 1994, Citi Habitats has grown from two real estate agents to more than 800 licensed professionals and staff.
In addition to being a primary force in executing Citi Habitats’ philosophy of real estate as a customer service business, Malin also built the company’s corporate relocation division, Citi Relocation, from the ground up. Citi Relocation currently serves more than 100 international and domestic corporations-from Fortune 500 companies and major financial firms to other top relocation companies. Malin oversees Citi Habitats’ new development marketing division which represents more diverse on-site leasing and sales offices in Manhattan and beyond. Malin also created Citi Habitats Landlord Services Division, which provides landlords with the benefit of working with a staff of highly skilled professionals to ensure that their buildings are operating with the lowest possible vacancy rate and yielding the highest returns. Through Citi Outreach, Malin consistently supports a number of charities, as he and his staff are dedicated to giving back to the community.
In addition to its affiliates, Citi Habitats maintains the city’s largest database of more than 8,000 listings in over 4,000 buildings, many of which are exclusives. Recognized as the industry’s rental leader, the company’s sales volume has increased eight fold in the past four years. This sales growth has positioned Citi Habitats as one of the top 10 sales brokerages in Manhattan. This ranking is due in part to the company’s ever-expanding services and dedication to providing its agents and brokers with proven sales training programs. An in-house, state-of-the-art training facility reinforces the company’s steadfast commitment to providing the latest advancements in education and technology to its agents and brokers.
Originally from Great Neck, NY, Malin earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, and then attained his law degree from Tulane University in New Orleans. Over the next several years, he worked for two law firms that specialized in real estate, trust and estate law, tax and corporate law, and ultimately oversaw the Citi Habitats account. As a natural progression, he joined Citi Habitats in 1998. Malin, a licensed attorney, is a member of the Real Estate Board of New York.
Under Malin’s direction, Citi Habitats continues to set the standard for residential real estate companies in New York City.