There are people who move to Riverdale and stay because they love it. Then there’s John Edwards — who grew up in Riverdale, and could never imagine living in a better place.
At 6-foot-2, he was a giant in real estate in more ways than one. And as he brings his old real estate firm bearing his name back to life, Edwards is ready for his return to matchmaking buyers with their perfect homes.
“The keys to working in real estate is to be honest and hardworking, know your market, and know what you’re selling.”
And does Edwards know his market. He grew up attending P.S. 81 Robert J. Christen and later Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy. He is an alum of Manhattan College. And outside of a few short stints in high school and college, he’s never ventured too far from Riverdale — even in a career that originally started first with basketball, and later modeling and acting.
His phone is filled with pictures from his past, a sharp-looking young man donning the cutting-edge fashion of yesteryear. In fact, fashion and interior design was Edwards’ life. When he wasn’t in front of the camera, he was creating.
At the same time, however, he knew he had to make a living. But why not choose an avenue that could keep those creative juices going? For Edwards, real estate was a perfect fit.
“Working in the modeling business, you’re working in sales,” Edwards said. “Your job is selling yourself, and being able to approach people, and being on time, and knowing what you’re doing. Those were skills that were a perfect carryover from a career in modeling to a career in the real estate industry.”
He cut his teeth in the industry with Sopher Real Estate, learning from the founder himself. But Edwards also learned the importance of being as self-sufficient as possible. Instead of farming out work to fix up potential homes and apartments, he instead ran his own paint and contractor business. He also opened his own office at 3265 Johnson Ave., a place where he’s ready to set up shop once again next month.
The new John Edwards Realty already has a half-dozen agents working to market homes through several different communities, and Edwards himself hasn’t missed a step. Since originally merging his firm several years ago with Douglas Elliman, Edwards worked with some of the larger realty companies in the area like Elliman and Sotheby’s.
But he doesn’t see himself as competition for them, or really any real estate firm. Not that John Edwards Realty couldn’t compete, but they don’t need to — as far as Edwards is concerned, there’s plenty of work to go around for everyone.
But the real estate industry continues to evolve. Nowadays, many people like to browse through various properties online, taking advantage of some of the technology that virtually allows them to walk from room to room in a home without ever leaving their current one.
Yet, computers will never replace the feeling someone gets when they walk into what could be their new home for the first time, Edwards said.
“I find that new technology has really helped real estate, but that can’t replace what you get from a real estate office,” he said. “Customers are always going to want to walk into a property. They are going to want someone to help them find that perfect match. And that takes time, expertise.”
Just 25 years ago, when Edwards first jumped into real estate, someone could buy a home in Riverdale for less than $250,000, while homes in Fieldston were just crossing the $1 million mark.
Co-op units were easier to get because many buildings were half-full at the time, but not anymore. Most are at least 70 percent full, and some are close to having no vacancy at all.
And home prices? It’s much, much higher now.
“The new construction has really uplifted the market,” Edwards said. “Many people from the city want to buy condominiums and co-ops, and they come up here and realize how beautiful our neighborhoods are, and how close we are to just about anything they could possibly want to be close to.”
As Edwards gets his business rolling again, he’s still balancing his work life with his family. His oldest daughter Alexa is studying psychology and education at Binghamton University, while his son Nick plays basketball for RKA, much like his dad did.
Edwards also has a 4-year-old daughter at home, Nirvana, who he’s raising with wife Linda.
“I do everything for my family,” Edwards said. “They give so much to me, and I want to give as much as I can back to them.”
And if Edwards should be nervous about striking out on his own again, he’s not feeling it.
“It’s great, and I’m just happy to be back,” he said. “I’m so confident about what we can do because there has been so much change, and change is a good thing.”