Total existing-home sales—completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops—rose 3.1% from December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.00 million in January.
SPOTLIGHT ON: Aaron Velez
A Career in Being Social
Four the past four years, Aaron Velez has served as branch manager of Houlihan Lawrence’s Somers and Brewster offices, and prior to that, he managed the company’s Yonkers office for two years. Velez spent the first nine years of his real estate career in Houlihan Lawrence’s White Plains office.
However, when the almost 15-year real estate veteran looks back to 2008 when he first started listing and selling homes, Velez said it’s hard to believe he was once in a different type of social career.
After earning a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Columbia University School of Social Work in 2005, Velez thought he was set in his lifetime vocation. Hired by the Westchester Institute for Human Development, he began working with individuals with disabilities and children in family foster care. “When I first started, there was no health information technology to track clients and their progress, so I designed a system for all of the children in foster care,” he explained. “It’s really important to track these things.”
Velez later went on to pursue a similar position with the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan, the largest non-profit small animal hospital in the country. “I took the same electric health record system I developed for humans and tailored it to animals to create health records for pets,” he said.
It was around the same time that his friend, Lauren Zaccaria, a Houlihan Lawrence agent now in Chappaqua, suggested Velez would be great in real estate. “I grew up in Westchester, so I had a large sphere of influence, so I just decided to go for it,” he said. “I got my license as soon as I could and started working with Lauren in White Plains.” After that, he never looked back.
Velez acquired his broker’s license when he got the opportunity to manage Houlihan’s Yonkers office. At the time, he was renting in Hartsdale and liked the close proximity to his office. With this new position, Velez and his family purchased a home in Mahopac.
“It was a tough decision to leave Yonkers, since I also grew up there,” Velez admitted. “It was my first management position and I loved that office. It was a great place to start and build.” Today, that office is one of the top brokerages in the area.
Taking over the reins of managing the firm’s Somers and Brewster offices also had its challenges for Velez, who was following in the footsteps of two long-time managers who had passed—Bob Morini in Brewster and Lee Zipp in Somers. “Both of these guys were terrific people and legendary in the industry,” he acknowledged. Today, both offices combined have about 65 agents.
Velez noted one of the biggest changes coming from Yonkers to Northern Westchester is the small number of co-ops. “We’re dealing with more condos, single family homes and land up here—in fact there are more land transactions than I’ve ever dealt with” he said. “But the branding is the same and we have some of the best managers and admins in the business. In fact, my mentor is Geoff Berry in White Plains. He was instrumental in guiding me.”
Now the most exciting part of his job is managing his business owners. “Realtors are entrepreneurs and I love helping them with every aspect of their business, like communications, marketing and negotiating,” he said. “Because I’ve been an agent, I definitely have an agent-centric prospective to the way I manage.”
Velez is also a new HGAR Board of Directors member for 2022, as well as the Regional Director for Putnam County. “It’s a great honor to be part of the Board and I want to make sure I’m very involved and contributing,” he added. He’s already thinking about some regional events he’d like to have for this year. “I’m hoping we can do more things in person. People need to be around other people. We need to get back to a level of normalcy,” he said.
In addition to his HGAR duties, Velez also serves on the Board of Directors for his former employer, the Westchester Institute for Human Development. His twin six-year olds—Nathanial and Charlotte—keep him very busy and the family loves to travel.
“We’ve been to Disney World in Florida three times so far,” he quipped. The family is also planning a trip to Europe later this year. “We believe in exposing the kids to as many cultural things as possible,” he said.