CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – North Country Sotheby’s International Realty co-owner Richard Albert has seen a lot in his 62-year real estate career. It has been a wonderful ride for a man who was initially considering a career in women’s fashion.
“We knew the family of Lane Bryant Stores,’’ said Richard, whose real estate office has branches in Chappaqua and Croton. “The owner, George Paley, said I should get a business degree and come back as a junior executive and work for them in Manhattan. Halfway through college I decided I didn’t want to be an executive in a clothing store for ladies.”
Albert did get his business degree from the University of Colorado, but instead turned to real estate. His mother had worked in the real estate business in the 1930s and Albert jumped in with both feet. He became a full-time Realtor by age 21 in 1952. “When you’re that age, nothing deters you,’’ said Albert, who also served in World War II as a paratrooper in Japan. “You think you can do anything.”
Albert immersed himself in his real estate work. He has been a broker, owner and developer in the lower Hudson Valley with developments including both housing and commercial projects. He was appointed to the New York State Real Estate Board by Governor George Pataki in 1997, and he’s still an office fixture who reports to work daily. “It’s part of my life,’’ he said. “It’s not work. It’s having a lot of fun.”
Albert paid $11,000 for his first house with a monthly payment of $86 and bought subsequent houses for $18,000 and $25,000. Three years ago, he purchased a home for $2 million. “When I first started, there wasn’t a house in the area for over $100,000,’’ Albert said. “There may have been some big mansions around, but I certainly didn’t know about them.”
Albert has seen both peaks and valleys on the real estate roller-coaster. In the late 1970s, interest rates climbed near 12 percent and people could not borrow to acquire mortgages. Home price inflation, which skyrocketed from 2007 to 2008, created new problems for the nation’s economy. “Anyone with any experience knew it had to change,’’ Albert said. “It was a little bit nutty. Prices were going straight up. It’s a tough thing when you buy the land and can’t do anything with it. You have to wait around. Buyers tend to be nervous and scared when the economy isn’t good. They’d rather rent.”
One of Albert’s real estate joys is looking at a home or plot and evaluating its potential. “I like the challenge of looking at piece of property and trying to see the future,’’ he said. “Then I’ll put it through the rigmarole of the town processes. A lot of towns’ people won’t see any promise. It’s exciting to see something built that most people said couldn’t have been done.”
Even during the last economic downturn, Albert said he did not consider getting out of the real estate game for good. “I felt like let’s keep it going,’’ he said. “If you live long enough, the market circles around. We stopped exposing ourselves to risk and pulled in our horns a little bit. You know it’s going to come back eventually. It always has.”
With such success, people frequently ask Albert why he continues to push himself.
“It’s just my nature,’’ he said. “I definitely made the right choice. I never looked back on my decision to get into real estate and thought I may have made a mistake.”