Aleksandra Scepanovic has always been interested in architecture and design. When she moved to New York City from the former Yugoslavia she decided to pursue a degree in interior design, which led to her leap into New York City real estate. Today she runs, Ideal Properties Group, one of the largest real estate firms in Brooklyn. As technology continues to change the real estate landscape and her company faces new challenges Scepanovic knows that, “enthusiasm and focus will help us overcome these new hurdles.”
Scepanovic’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
I started my business because I wanted to pursue a passion. I was born in what is now known and referred to as the former Yugoslavia. Fascinated by history, the beauty of time and the place around me, drove me to spend my college days studying archaeology. The end of the Bosnian war saw me engaged in media analysis, a path I continued here. New York at the turn of the 2000s, quickly brought back the sense of my pre-war years, and left me completely enamored with interior architecture and design.
To me, architecture and interior spaces are symbols of human resilience. I enrolled in one of the city’s leading interior design programs, earning in short order a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. The program strengthened my passion for the built world, which led to my leap into the world of New York City real estate. My partner Erik Serras and I were working at a boutique brokerage firm in Manhattan when we decided to dive in and start our own firm. In 2007, just as the world of finance as we know it was about to fall apart, we co-founded Ideal Properties Group.
Success is getting to know who you are, and using those discoveries to improve yourself. Personally, my biggest success is being a mother to a kind, talented daughter and a worse half to a caring, strong and dedicated partner.
The real estate brokerage industry is besieged by tech giants who appear to be better equipped to market and deliver product to the ultimate user – the property buyer. In New York City, demarcation lines have been drawn around the immediacy of user experience – at the exclusion of the broker. And still, buyers and sellers rely on the broker to cut down the time involved in the sales process and weed out cold leads.
Brokers identify the best opportunities and refer the best professionals for any job along the sales timeline. Even with tech at its best, no sales, and very few rentals, take place without the city’s brokers. The reshaping of the real estate industry by technology is an ongoing challenge. When we launched Ideal, the real estate market was collapsing. While this was a challenging time, we focused on our belief in Brooklyn and were able to build a successful firm. That same enthusiasm and focus will help us overcome these new hurdles.
The premature birth of my child coincided with an unscrupulous competitor engaging in a hostile takeover attempt. It was a difficult time, yet a time that spurred a tremendous growth. It was a time that taught me an inordinate number of lessons about people, opportunities and the enduring need to nurture one’s ability to think outside the box in order to properly scale and buttress a business.
My role model is my father, who passed away when I was very young. I continue to have a profound respect for decisions he’s made, and for the ways he approached challenges. Whenever I am facing an issue, rather than acting immediately, I tend to first try to see the big picture. Then, I evaluate, re-evaluate, re-re-evaluate, and test-fit the choice I am planning on making. I am always trying to “look at things from above” in order to imagine which one my father would find the most appealing.