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Insider Perspective: A Top Chicago Realtor Talks Whales

Mario Greco came to real estate by way of engineering and law. In the midst of a seven-year law practice, Greco launched his own real estate brokerage, Greco Realty & Brokerage, L.L.C., which paid dividends even on a part-time basis. That firm was absorbed into an arm of Century 21. In 2004, Greco joined Prudential Rubloff and established the Mario Greco Group. Since then, he's been piling on the accolades: Wall Street Journal's #1 real estate professional in the state, two years running; the city's top producer in several hot neighborhoods; the city's #1 full-service realtor since 2008 (most sales volume); and, Greco has sold nearly $1 billion (yes, BILLION) worth of real estate since 2002. So, we'd reckon he'd be a pretty good guy to ask about whales. We did just that. Here's what he told us:

On working with high-rollers in real estate:
I really enjoy my work with high-end clients, but it should be said that a good portion of my portfolio is comprised of mid-range real estate in the sub $1M range. Word of mouth and referrals lead to the highest profile clients. I've worked with everyone from Cubs players to Goldman Sachs executives and Fortune 100 CEOs. Once you land a client of this caliber you have to go the extra mile for them in lots of little ways, like providing car service, connecting them with the most preferred vendors (not just your friends) when it comes to interior design, architects, things of that nature. Some, like celebrities and athletes, will place emphasis on confidentiality throughout the home search, which is your job to ensure. After a while you don't really have to work hard at finding these clients. Your reputation will do the heavy lifting.

Is there a standard way of doing things, or does each client run their own show?
There's not really a formula for building these relationships other than working to get into the psychology of it— massaging the ego in various ways.

What are some gratifying aspects of your work?
I like smart, wealthy clients because they're very decisive. There's no jerking around. One of the toughest things about working with the mainstream buying public is remaining sensitive to their budget— it's easy to offend someone by showing them more expensive properties (to demonstrate the value of the less expensive ones on their radar) or recommending improvements/services that cost a bit too much, but would otherwise be wise decisions for future resale. This applies to wealthier clients as well but it doesn't happen as often, for obvious reasons. They tend to be less worried about every last dollar.

Biggest challenges?
Ego. Whales can be sensitive. I'd say the biggest pitfall is that perceived slights can sidetrack a deal. This goes back to ego massage, but even with careful attendance to the ego's needs say something innocently that's taken the wrong way. Makes working with them never boring.
·Curbed Interviews
·Whale Week 2013 [Curbed Chicago]