Beauty and the Broker

Meet model-turned-real estate broker Trish Goff

Trish Goff’s liquid brown eyes and exquisitely high cheek bones have graced the covers of countless glossy magazines like Vogue,  British Elle and Cosmo. She was the face of Dior, Chanel, Chloe, and Ann Taylor, and has strutted the catwalks for high profile designers all over the globe.

And yet, Goff chalks up her supermodel status to merely knowing “how to move in front of a camera” and being “blessed with the right genetics.” We can’t quite tell over the phone if this laid back beauty is bored or bashful when discussing her modeling career, but boy does she perk up when talk turns to real estate—and her amazing home.

Mention her kitchen, and the words flow like fresh water down a stream.

“We have a fireplace in the kitchen. There’s a little desk in there, so it’s really like a hangout space,” she says. “We have a big dining room table and a wall of windows with a view of a beautiful church and the sky above.”

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

Goff’s relationship with real estate dates back to the 1980s, when she explored empty, unlocked houses in a new development near her Northern Florida home.

“It was already there, this weird obsession, when I was 7,” she told the New York Times in a 2013 interview.

She made her first real estate purchase at 20, four years into her modeling career. At the time, she’d been renting a place on 6th Street and Avenue C in Manhattan, and she had just had her son, Nima.

“I wanted a home with a large amount of space for my family in an up-and-coming neighborhood, and I wanted to design that home myself,” she says. And I wanted it to be good value for my money.”

You have to say, this is my money that I’m spending and this is the way I want it done.

She found a 3,500-square-foot warehouse building in the Lower East Side. That was in the mid ’90s, before it became the food, art, and fashion mecca it is today.

For $500,000, she got a ground floor and a garden level and commenced to fix it up. Friends helped her sand and stain the floors, and her son’s uncle built the cabinets.  Eventually, she brought in an architect to finish it up, and she and her family lived in it for a couple of years. When the relationship with her son’s father ended, she let the place go.

“The neighborhood was kind of in this boom moment, and I went, ‘You know what? Let me just see what I can get on the market,”‘ she recalls.

Her agent felt her number was too high for the neighborhood, but Goff stuck to her guns.  A bidding war ensued, and she sat back and watched.  The thrill of that first win stuck with her for a long time.

“How much money did I make in two and a half, three years?”‘ she says, chuckling at the thought. “Where can  you can double your investment in three years?’ I realized even in my early 20s that this was special.”

We’d say so, too.

Goff is pragmatic, known to weigh many a pro and con. When we talk about the struggles of debt-laden millennials in the real estate market, she gives an example relating to her 17-year-old son that pretty much bolsters her pragmatism to the sky.

“Everyone I know, their kids are going to four-year universities, and they don’t know what they want to do,” she says. “These kids are scared of the debt they’re going to accrue, but society tells them that’s what they have to do.”

She’d rather her son wait to go to a university when he knows what he wants rather than spend a bunch of money on tuition now and hating it.

“If I’m investing money, I need to know what my return is,’” she says.  “It doesn’t have to be a financial return. Returns can come in many forms. But in this one, I told him, I don’t see any return. This is buying bad property here.  Property that I don’t even want to live in.”

She laughs, but we know she means it. We also know it’s not the most popular opinion, and we love her for telling it straight.

That’s the thing about Trish Goff: she doesn’t give two shakes about how she is perceived. We love her for that, too.

Today, nearly two decades after her first real estate purchase, Goff has transitioned from supermodel-who-dabbles-in-real-estate to high-powered-real-estate-broker-who-dabbles-in supermodeling. After years of buying and flipping properties in Manhattan and Brooklyn, she received her real estate license in 2010.

“I wanted to do something different, to push myself, and to achieve something.” she says. “I think I needed to do something with my brain, and I liked real estate because, one, it was something I’ve always been interested in; two, obviously in New York City, the market itself is exciting; and three, it also offers an emotional and a creative part to it, too. So, it’s a bit more all-around satisfying.”

She’s done a few modeling gigs in the past couple of years, but her main engagement is one half of the Price + Goff Team at Douglas Elliman Real Estate, which features luxury properties in the seven- and eight-figure range.

Goff’s success is especially impressive given her blue-collar background.  No one in her family went to college, and financial guidance didn’t come easy.

If Goff could talk to her 19-year-old self, she’d congratulate her:  “Good on you. You listened to advice, but you never conformed to any system.  But I think there were some mistakes I made down the road just because I didn’t have the experience, or maybe didn’t know who to turn to. So, yeah, I’d probably advise that younger version of myself.”

Well, Ms. Goff, we know you can’t go back in time, but please keep talking. We’re listening.

Girl’s Guide: Did you know at the time of that first purchase that you were ahead of the curve?

Trish Goff: I did know I was ahead of the curve in purchasing down in the Lower East Side. I was clear on that. When you’re 19, 20, you’re hardly going to go to the West Village and buy something. You’re scared to spend a lot of money. So you know, I guess you’re kind of testing the water. At least I was.

GG: What were your friends at the time doing with their money?

TG: Everyone was renting.  I’ve always had a problem doing what everyone else is doing. I had a strong mother. I’m quite good if I feel instinctually about something. I’m quite capable of making my own decisions.

GG: Do you remember the emotional experience of that purchase? Was it scary?

TG: I wasn’t scared at all. I don’t think I added emotions into it. It was a simple decision. I was in my comfort zone in the amount of money I was spending. I guess I was young enough not to worry about things that I would probably worry about now.

GG: Such as?

TG: I remember our contractors were Albanian, and that’s when the war was happening there. They were so worried about their families. They would ask for a few days off or they’d have the news on, and they’d just be sitting there. Which, if I walked in now and saw that, I’d probably be like, “Oh, great, we’re going to be months behind, and then I’m subletting somewhere, so what’s going to happen in that situation?” You start foreseeing all the problems. Whereas at the time, I said, “No, it’s fine, I completely understand. We’ll deal with it.” Of course, I never would have said, “No, work, and don’t worry about your family,” but I would have stressed about it more.

I think when you get older, life gets more complicated. You get more responsible, which means you carry more responsibility. When you’re young, you’re not so stuck in your ways. You don’t have your daily patterns, your lifestyle. You’re kind of forming your life. Like, now I’ve got my daily rhythms and I’ve got my plan in my head, whereas then, I didn’t. I mean, I had a small plan in my head, but I was pretty open.

GG: In your time in real estate, what are some of the more emotional moments you’ve witnessed through your clients?

TG: For most people, their home is going to be their largest purchase. It’s a huge amount of money and it can be scary. And most of the time when people are purchasing, they’re not 20. They’ve worked very hard for their money, and they want a safe investment, and to be happy. They’re probably a bit more set in their ways and they know what they want. So it can be very emotional.

Last summer, I had a client in a very crazy market almost walk away from his dream place over a washer and dryer. This was after six weeks of negotiating the contract, which had been signed the month before.

There had been some discrepancy about whether the washer/dryer was legal. The building allows them, but the seller never got the official approval from the building’s engineer, even though the super of the building installed it.

We got the buyer a huge credit so that if anything should go wrong, he would have enough money to repair it without going into his own pockets, because it was advertised with a washer and dryer in the unit. So we’re right, it’s advertised but it’s not legal. At that point, we’d gotten the credit, but of course the seller said if my buyer got credit, then he wanted to take his washer and dryer with him.

I said, “Can we get the building’s engineer in there? We’ll pay for him. Let’s get it scheduled,” and the seller was like, “No, I don’t want him in there because then if it’s not legal and you guys walk away. . .”

It was a long fight. I thought I was going to lose my mind, like, ‘Shoot me.’

I finally just said to my client: “I’ll buy you a new washer and dryer. It’s seven years old. Why do you want it?” He said: “You know, you’re right. I can buy my own. This is crazy.”

Everyone in real estate wants to win. It’s a game you have to play where everyone feels like they’ve won.

GG: Wow.

TG: Oh, and I just wanted to let you know that the buyer had never done his own laundry in his adult life.

[Laughs ironically.]

GG: Oh boy. Sounds rough. Let’s talk about trends in New York real estate.  What are buyers gravitating toward right now?

TG: I think right now people are, without a doubt, gravitating toward a finished product. Whether it’s a new development or a renovated unit, they want to know that the walls have been replaced, as well as everything inside it. They want it completely finished. There were periods in New York real estate, even when I started, when people loved that loft and the beat up floors, and that kind of character. That seems to have gone.

I think the loft is still really popular, but it’s the loft conversion building. The floors don’t creak. There’s no unevenness.

GG: What are some up-and-coming neighborhoods that offer real estate value?

TG: If I were going to buy something that I think in five years is going to gain value, I think I would go for First Avenue, Second Avenue, thinking that the Second Avenue subway is going to be complete.

There are a few neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Prospect-Lefferts Gardens is one. It’s a neighborhood that’s sort of escaped the radar. It’s four or five stops to Manhattan. That’s a neighborhood that has potential to change and has accessibility.

Another neighborhood that I think is very underrated in Manhattan is the Lower Lower East Side, below Delancey Street. There is the F train down there. It’s actually kind of quiet. I don’t know if I would say affordable, [laughs] except maybe when we compare it to some other neighborhoods nearby.  It’s a wonderful, diverse neighborhood with great restaurants. It is kind of like a little New York community.

Red Hook is wonderful. But even now, I think it’s already been discovered again. That’s where I would live if I lived outside of Manhattan.  I love the neighborhood out there. It’s almost like a seaside little town, but it’s New Yorkers. The kids still play on the streets. It’s got a really wonderful feeling.

GG: What about you? Where do you live now?

TG: I live in Greenwich Village which is pretty much in the center of downtown Manhattan and a large part of my business. It’s a neighborhood. It’s residential, and it’s accessible. I do love some of the lofts in the Flat Iron and NoMad, and that lower part of Broadway right before Union Square. I really, really love it, but it’s just not residential. Even in Tribeca, I find that the lofts are great, but I don’t feel like I’m in a residential neighborhood.

GG: Would you like to leave us with one last word for women in real estate? 

TG: Let’s say you’re a single woman, and you want to buy a property and you want to fix it up. You have to go in there and know what you want, and you have to stand up for it, as anyone does.

We know what it’s like as a woman taking the car to the mechanic. It’s happened to me so many times where I’ve foreseen a problem, and I’ve mentioned to contractors, and it’s like, “Yeah yeah yeah.”  And then something’ll happen, and I’m like, “Isn’t that what I was referring to?”

You have to say: “This is my money that I’m spending and this is the way I want it done.”

You’re going in there with that attitude, and they’re going to respect you for that.

This piece was edited for content and clarity.

Image Credit: Christopher Sturman and Lucky Magazine

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Elizabeth Salaam
Along with her work as Senior Contributing Writer for Girl's Guide, Elizabeth Salaam writes for the San Diego Reader. Her work has also been published in Elle Magazine. | Most inspired by: Contradictions. | Favorite room in my home: The Master suite. The windows have views for days! | Best design idea I may never do: Adorn my enclosed toilet room with library book wallpaper and a chandelier. | Will never: Bungee jump. | Have always been: Rebellious. | Dying to: Live in a Paris flat with herringbone wood floors.
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