It hasn’t been easy. When Khan came to this country from a Bangladeshi rural province in 1993, he flipped burgers and cooked French fries at the Burger King on the Parkchester Oval. Now he owns Zakir Khan Realty Group, a nine-agent office in the same building as the fast-food restaurant. Khan founded the company in 2002, managing and training his team to dominate the local market, selling more than 190 apartments in a good year.
“It doesn’t matter what you do, cooking French fries or selling real estate, if you work hard and treat people well, you can be successful,” says Khan, 40, sitting in his office overlooking a fountain. “It’s very important you love what you do. If my agents don’t love to sell Parkchester, then I do not want them selling in Parkchester.”
The Oval at Parkchester is located at the center of this neighborhood (JEANNE NOONAN FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
Of course, Khan loves Parkchester. It was the first place he came the day he arrived in the Unites States. His brother owned (and still owns) Taj Mahal, an Indian restaurant on Sixth St. in the East Village. The two shared a two-bedroom near the Oval where Khan now works. They still own the apartment, renting it for $1,375 per month. All of Khan’s staff own Parkchester homes.
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“Home ownership is the most important thing,” says Khan. “Back in the late ’90s, an apartment in Parkchester was $35,000 for a one-bedroom. Everyone should have bought. Now, a one-bedroom costs $95,000. We work with people to buy an apartment. We don’t push anything on them. They come in, and we ask them exactly what they want. A two-bedroom with a view? Something near stores? How about near parks or parking lot? Once we find this out and if someone can afford what they want, we tell them sit back and we do the rest. Then, we call them as soon as we find something, usually a few days later.”
Khan distributing clothing to women and children in Bangladesh (ZAKIR KAHN)
There are 5,889 individual-owned condominiums in Parkchester, with the remaining 6,382 units sponsor-owned rental homes with one-bedrooms renting at $1,010 and two-bedrooms for $1,325. To buy a home, expect to pay around $95,000 for a one-bedroom nd around $135,000 for a two-bedroom. Some three-bedrooms exist for $155,000. In a good year, Khan’s agents can make close to $200,000. In a slow-rebounding market, they earn low six-figures. Last year, the firm did some 350 total transactions, including rentals.
“It is simple why Parkchester is popular,” says Saleh Uddin, an agent working with Khan. “It is the only place in New York where prices are reasonable and living conditions are very safe and clean.”
Khan agent Saleh Uddin works the streets (JEFF BACHNER FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
Walking the streets with Khan, he bumps into three clients in 10 minutes, asking about their families each time. We pass Indian kids bouncing a basketball in front of a laundramat. African-American teens head to the cinema. Khan sees a cousin who just arrived in the U.S. and speaks little English. He works in a Burger King in Harlem. He lives with his family in an apartment Khan owns, paying less than market-value rent.
Khan likes to help people. Understanding struggle, he donates over $3,300 per year to his village of Fenchuganj in the Sylhet district of Bangladesh. With $200 per month, he can feed 30 villagers rice. The other $900 goes to school supplies and scholarships for more than 24 children.
“You have to give back,” says Khan. “I am so lucky to work in this country, to have a good business. It isn’t much, but in Bangladesh it goes a very long way. People in America don’t realize how bad it is. If someone poor gets sick, they cannot go to a doctor. They just die.”
A typical condo unit offered by Zakir Khan Realty Group, where a large one-bedroom can be had for less than $100,000 and a two-bedroom for $130,000 (JEFF BACHNER FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
Khan is methodical and principled. He interviews all prospective clients, giving each customer a carbon copy of all forms. All buying clients receive fire detectors as housewarming gifts, installed by an agent. Khan supports Bangladesh neighborhood causes, sponsors safety seminars and uses social media to promote local initiatives like the installation of an elevator at the Parkchester subway stop.
He eats often at the same diner below his office and takes tea with Uddin several afternoons per week. Most days are spent in the office, motivating agents to get new clients. They listen, hitting the streets like a guerrilla marketing team, passing out cards, flyers and open-house info. Khan calls it “prospecting.” Tyrone Johnson works for Khan. He remembers the Bronx of 1947 when a streetcar ride cost 2 cents. Prospecting has helped him.
“I constantly talk to people no matter where I am about Parkchester and real estate,” says Johnson, who worked for Time Inc. in the 1970s. “When things are slow, I go to the train station to pass out cards. Mr. Khan is a great teacher. I’ve learned a lot of little things from him, like when you approach someone, let them look you over first before having any strong eye contact. I get most of my clients from the street, sometimes two per week. They don’t all buy, but it’s a good contact.”
(At left, a kitchen in a typical apartment offered by Zakir Khan Realty Group, JEFF BACHNER FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
Khan found real estate after working part-time jobs all over the city. After Burger King, Khan sold concessions, T-shirts and hats at Madison Square Garden, working at night while studying marketing at City College. Always smiling and rushing to please the customer, his tip cup was fullest at basketball and hockey games, a sport he didn’t know existed before New York. After three years at the Garden, he moved to Circuit City in Yonkers to sell computers. Within months, he was the top salesman.
““Even salesmen of the year for the entire country don’t make $75,000 at Circuit City,” says Khan. “I wanted something interesting with room to grow.”
That something else was real estate. After a friend introduced Khan to the owner of a Century 21 in Castle Hill, Khan knew this was his career. One year later, he won rookie of the year. Two years later, he launched Zakir Khan Realty.
“I love the people and the money with real estate,” says Khan. “You can always work to find more clients, and the money possibility is endless. I do not like to be lazy. It is a very bad quality. I went to a marketing seminar for real estate. The person said, ‘Focus on one area, and that is how you can be successful.’ Parkchester is a beautiful place to live. Working with people to help them buy the right home is very fulfilling.”
Zakir Khan, with client Joseph Pagan, who just sold his two-bedroom (JEFF BACHNER FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
Khan understands that client relationships and new contacts mean gold in real estate. All of his agents are notary publics. Anyone in Parkchester knows they can come into his office to send a fax.
“We do anything we can to talk to our customers to make sure they are okay and to get new customers to come to the office for whatever reason they want,” says Khan. “I want everyone to know, if they want to buy or sell a condo in Parkchester, come to Zakir Khan. That is part of my dream come true.”