An Interview with Dennis Ding, Nest Seekers’ International Sales Director

By Keen Lee

Our mission is to find Asian Americans who have become successful here in New York, despite the challenges that Asian Americans can face in the U.S., so we can share with our readers their stories! Through a great deal of referrals when trying to interview a successful Asian American that is working in New York’s competitive real estate market, I was recommended to speak to Dennis Ding, a successful and professional international sales director at Nest Seekers.

On a stormy evening, Dennis Ding strolled out of his loft dressed in a red causal plaid button-down shirt and dark jeans. He invited me for a chat about how he became a successful real estate agent in the U.S. after leaving his home in Shanghai more than 15 years ago.

Tell me about yourself Dennis.

I was born in Shanghai. I came to the United States in 1996 and I continued college here. I moved around the city and I worked as a bartender in Flushing, Queens back in 2000. On the job, a customer had recommended me to go into real estate because he saw that I had potential to succeed in the industry. I was interested and I studied for my real estate license. When I got my license and started working during my first week, I received a $3 million listing. It is difficult for many people to make money during their first year in real estate. Though my career started out successfully, I kept my bartender job at night until my career was stable. After a couple of deals, I had enough money to support myself then I quit my bartender job to work in real estate full-time.

What are some personal circumstances that you had to overcome when you arrived to America?

When I came to America, one of the challenges that I faced was the language barrier. Learning the English language was time-consuming and it took me about five to six years to become accustomed to the American lifestyle and New York City social culture. Though I have adapted to the New York life, till this day, I am still learning something new, whether it is about my job or working with different kinds of people.

How did your parents respond to your decision in a career in real estate?

My parents are pretty easy-going, and they are not like many Asian parents who want their children to become a lawyer, a doctor or an accountant in order to be successful. They have always supported me and never pressured me to do something I did not want to do. For this reason, I have had the confidence and passion to succeed in my career.

What advice do you recommend for people who are interested in starting a career in real estate?

I would recommend people who are interested in real estate to study and work hard for it because recently, the real estate market has increased and I think there is potential growth in this industry now. It will be worth it because not only will there be financial stability, but there will be personal satisfaction. You will become connected to your work. I do not consider my job a job, but simply to help people and I enjoy doing that very much.  To me, I do not consider myself a real estate agent but my client’s assistant in the process of searching the right place for them. Right now, I focus on my clients on a more personal level so that my clients trust me. Developing and sustaining relationships are very important in the real estate industry. You have to set a foundation for yourself. Once you have a foundation, you will have a clear vision of what you want to do and how to achieve your dream. It is like a mission in life; know what you will have to do and how to do it, and you will accomplish it.

How did you find your clients during this bad economy especially in the real estate market?

Having clients learn about who you are in this industry depends heavily on word of mouth. I try my best to go above and beyond to help every client. For example, today, a Canadian client who purchased an apartment a month ago has never seen her new apartment in person before, but she trusted me to give me $35,000 to buy her furniture so when she arrives at her new apartment, it will be ready for her to move in. I have always taken the initiative to take care of everything for my client, and perform an exceptional job to the best of my ability for my clients’ satisfaction.

How long does it usually take for you to find the right home for your clients?

I can find the right place very quickly as long as my clients specify the kind of neighborhood and home they want to live in. I have one client who is looking to buy a 3-bedroom apartment. Since the time she contacted me, I had showed her 2-3 apartments. I narrow down the number of choices for my clients and most of the time; they end up buying one out of the three choices. I would recommend not selecting too many apartments, but only choosing the most suitable ones out of the many. Every client’s needs are different. You cannot simply study the terminologies of real estate; you have to also study the psychology of people to know why and what they want.

How does Feng Shui play a role in your job?

I use my Chinese compass in which I always carry around. I had a client who is from Taiwan and she believes in the use of Feng Sui. I use the compass to direct me on selecting the right place. For example, I search around for apartments with windows that show the view of the sun. The sun represents a bright and positive aurora, which would make the resident feel energetic and refreshed while living there. My client has been looking for an apartment for her daughter, but she wanted a specific apartment with where the window and the door are situated at certain positions of the building. Based on a request like this, I use my Chinese compass to guide me to search and define for the right layout in the apartment.

How does the Chinese compass work?

The Chinese compass is for practicing Feng Shui. The compass readings, though complex, are supposed to be exact. It’s connected to the direction the main door of the house is facing. Knowing the corners of your house is also important. The energy of the corner depends on its location, which may or may not require special symbols.] It works depending on where the home is pointed in. People like it in the South side, where it is really sunny. I have to figure out the color of the bathroom or the living room. It’s usually a combination [of two colors].

What does your typical workday look like?

I deal with a lot of international clients and I work from early morning until three in the morning because of the 12-hour time difference. I spend my time taking photos and researching the details of apartments for my clients. I am also busy on the weekends because I attend shows and open houses. On Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, I work in my office that is located on 415 Madison Avenue on 49th Street in Manhattan while on the other days, I work from home. From home, I hold international phone calls with my clients who have family outside the country. I speak with my clients’ parents because there are times when my clients, who are very young and inexperienced, prefer to have their parents discuss about property details with me instead of themselves. To gain their trust, I show them my credentials. I have a mortgage banker, a real estate lawyer, and an interior designer to supply the needs of my clients.

What is your thought in terms of the real estate market now?

Real estate is just picking up. In Long Island City, the real estate market rate increased to nearly 20%. Three years ago, a real estate agent would sell a one-bedroom apartment for $470, but now, a one bed-room apartment would sell for at least $525. Before the economic crisis three years ago, there were a lot of incentives, but now there are no more incentives and bargains.

How is the U.S. different from Shanghai, not necessarily in your real estate career?

The lifestyles in these two countries are very different. In Shanghai, I was very busy because business in Shanghai was booming. In New York, I work on a contract. I have to work with my client, do my research, and find my resources. It may seem like I have to work extra hard while I live and work in New York City but I enjoy every moment of it and that is something Shanghai does not offer.

Would you go back to Shanghai where business is booming?

I rather stay in New York because I like helping my clients in finding their dream home. A lot of people come here from China to find their dream home. I know that feeling because I had found a place where I can settle in versus in the beginning when I first arrived to New York, I had moved around a lot and that was very inconvenient.

Have you considered expanding?

Yes, I did consider it, but I do not work according to the concept of accepting as many clients as I can handle. I like working closely with my clients on a one-one setting. I think the amount of clients I work with now are enough and I do not crave for more because I would like to focus on them.

Thank you Dennis for spending your precious time with me and sharing your experience with AsianInNY!


Though I had met with Dennis only twice to complete this interview, he was always eager to share his career and life experiences with me.  I also had the pleasure to stop by Dennis’ company, Nest Seekers, at the Midtown location to witness his daily work routine and friendly team members one afternoon. I walked away feeling like I have known Dennis my entire life. His stories were truly inspirational and full of enthusiasm.

Nest Seekers is one of the most influential real-estate companies along with Prudential. Dennis Ding has his own, unique strategy in helping people find the right apartments. He wholeheartedly listens to their wants and needs based on “Feng Shui”, the ancient art of placement to promote harmony, wealth, and health. Even long after closing deals, Dennis Ding continues to stay in touch with his clients because he believes in not only building relationships, but sustaining them is important and healthy.  For this reason, Dennis has been able to earn his clients’ trust and close many sales with long-term real estate happiness.  I enjoyed conducting an interview with Dennis, and I definitely walked out of his company that cloudy afternoon with a great deal of knowledge about the New York real estate market.

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