By Ross Forman
His friends were interested in sports and other normal activities for 14- and 15-year-olds, but not Jay Michael. He was, instead, scurrying the Multiple Listings Service, a domestic real estate portal that isn't exactly commonplace among teenagers.
'I've always been very interested in space and/or floor-plans, and different space-plans for different architectural-savvy buildings. I've known the inventory of these buildings for years, since a very young age,' said Michael, a whiz with info about all buildings in Chicago's Gold Coast, Lincoln Park and East Lakeview neighborhoods.
And Michael is now only 26.
'I don't know where the [ real estate ] interest came during my childhood; I couldn't really tell you. I guess I wasn't normal,' he said, laughing. 'I was just really interested in architecture; I really loved the idea of condo/city-living. It was something I aspired to do one day.'
He knew the floor plan of the current building he lives in—in the Gold Coast—years ago, he said, 'though I never thought I would have been able to buy a place [ at my current residence ] on my own.'
But Michael is a shining star in Chicago's real estate scene. He is one of three partners at Estate Property Group, specializing in high-end residential communities and properties. Last year, the company sold more than $60 million in real estate, he said, and is predicting $70 million for 2007.
'My target market is, an individual who has a circumstance that requires some unique research on the realtors' end. Case in point: The client who wants a place with about 2,500 square feet, in an A-building, has remarkable views and at least 10-foot ceilings,' he said.
And Mitchell makes it happen—be it combining two spaces, or whatever needed.
'I do a lot of business in the higher-end [ financial ] brackets and a lot of these [ buyers ] have never worked with anyone my age, and I think they're very surprised to know that I know the amount of information that I do in fact know.
'I wouldn't say I know anyone within 10 years of my age selling in my market.'
Age, though, has been a benefit, not a detriment, he said. 'I'm a new, refreshing view to the market. I'm driven for a lot of different reasons than a lot of people,' Michael said. 'I can afford to be very honest with my clients, and I really am. [ Consequently, ] some deals don't go through because I don't think they are good buys for [ my clients ] . Other agents may say that's crazy. In fact, other agents in my office may say that's crazy [ thinking ] , but that's how I am.'
Michael's clients are a wide-ranging. He works with younger couples, middle-aged couples, and also several gay clients. And he is gay.
'I have a lot of the young, bachelor pad-seeking professionals,' Michael said. 'If you're under 35 and spending more than $1 million on an apartment, I'd be very surprised if you used [ another agent ] in the Gold Coast beside me—because you're not going to be getting the representation that you deserve.'
Michael said being gay does not impact his business, and he does not have a big presence in the gay market 'though I wish I did.'
Michael estimated that 30 percent of his clients are gay.
'I do have a good amount of Lakeview business, yet most of it is [ to ] straight clients,' said Michael.
Getting To Know …
Enjoys: Traveling, for personal and professional reasons.
Hobbies: Horseback riding, bicycle riding.
Quotable: 'I am single, so, if anyone is looking for a realtor as a boyfriend and/or partner, they certainly can give me a call.'
Hot housing trend: 'The smart market is buying and doing your own [ repair ] work.'
Hot areas: Bucktown, Andersonville, Logan Square and Lincoln Square.
Michael's marketplace: I think I have a unique market; I'm not specialized in just gay clients, or just straight clients, or just this, or just that. I tend to have clients who are aware of, or like to live, a very nice lifestyle.'