SPOTLIGHT ON: Brian Levine - The 'Greatest Gift of All'
Mary Prenon | June 2016
Brian Levine is a man of many talents. The Broker/Manager of Houlihan Lawrence’s Irvington and Ardsley offices is also an attorney and has enjoyed successful careers as a college professor and owner of a touring entertainment production firm, rubbing elbows with the likes of rock legends Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, and U2.
While he admits it was exciting, Levine always harbored a passion for real estate—even as a teenager. “I used to say that looking at the real estate listing magazines in the pizza shop as a teen was like crack to me. I couldn’t get enough,” he said. “I would grab them and read each one cover to cover—studying, analyzing, and imagining what they’re like. My friends and family had old homes with great character. I studied different architectural styles in college. It all fascinated me so much!”
Levine decided to major in Communications at the S.I. Newhouse School of Communication at Syracuse University. While in school, he worked backstage at various musical events. Following graduation and armed with his B.S. degree, Levine set out to create his own company, providing skilled labor for local and international touring entertainment productions. He was a master rigger and stage manager for everything from small to major rock productions, as well as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood Summer Series and Stratton Mountain Summer Programs.
Later he returned to school, receiving a master’s degree in Public Relations and Management Communications from Emerson College. From there, Levine served as an adjunct professor at Emerson, instructing undergraduates and graduates in communications, public speaking and debate. He went on to teach graduate students at Brandeis University and undergraduates at Framingham State University.
Levine’s ultimate decision to combine his communication and advocacy skills brought him to New York City to St. John’s University School of Law. “In teaching communications, I found a certain skill set with argumentation and debate,” he explained. “I found that very appealing.”
He eventually became a trial attorney in Manhattan, and later moved to Philadelphia, where he practiced in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He is also licensed in Massachusetts.
While his law career flourished, Levine still reveled in thoughts of real estate. “When I bought my first row home in the heart of Philadelphia, I spent months researching, renovating and creating,” he said. “I exposed 200-year-old brick, built roof decks, painted walls, arbors, planted shrubs and flowers. I was in my glory!”
Years later, back in New York, Levine found himself on the fast track, at times working up to 80 hours a week. The birth of his daughter, however, was a game-changer. “I realized that the time commitment in practicing law was overwhelming,” he remembered. “I saw my daughter only when she was sleeping, and I was also working many weekends. Something had to give.”
Levine took some time off to reassess his career, and during that time he was also diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately, he made a complete recovery, ended his full time legal work and refocused his energies by finally giving in to his lifelong passion, real estate.
After receiving his brokers’ license, he began working part-time at Ellis Sotheby’s International Realty in Nyack. “I was passionate about unique homes and high-end homes and even listed a small barn-like home in Stony Point that was the former studio/home of Jasper Johns, the internationally acclaimed painter,” he added. “I was never happier.”
Levine embraced his new career head-on and hands-on, sweeping driveways, raking leaves, cleaning gutters and shoveling snow for the homes he listed. “I even removed a 20-foot tree branch with a chain saw that fell on a property during Hurricane Sandy,” he recalled. He kept trash bags in his car trunk, along with a potpourri pot, cinnamon sticks and a portable stereo with classical music for open houses!
As for housewarming gifts for his buyers, Levine spared no expense. “I’ll never forget when a couple bought their first home and they were so excited by the fact that they would have a fireplace,” he said. “When they arrived at the house after the closing, I had a chord of wood delivered and stacked by their garage and a roaring fire in the hearth for them. They cried. I felt so happy.”
Levine later joined Rand Realty as a manager of the firm’s Dobbs Ferry office. “It was a perfect fit, “he said. “I could use my newly developed office skills, communication skills, legal skills, and small business and management knowledge and help others build their business.”
Two years ago, he joined Houlihan Lawrence to manage the Irvington and Ardsley offices with a total of nearly 50 agents. Levine described his position as a “jack of all trades,” doing everything from changing lightbulbs to negotiating difficult deals. He also assists in training incoming Houlihan Lawrence agents in Fair Housing.
During this time, he’s also become very active with HGAR, serving on the Board of Directors, and on the Arbitration, Broker/Owner, Legislative and RPAC Committees. A really “good sport,” Levine also participated in last year’s “Mr. Legs” contest, an HGAR event that raised more than $17,000 for RPAC.
“I absolutely love my job and I regret not getting involved with real estate sooner,” he said. “I get to work with the public and help my agents, plus I get the opportunity to support community causes, activities, and events. Above all, I get to help people’s dreams come true. There’s nothing greater than buying a home!”
However, the most important perk of his real estate career is having more time to spend with his eight-year-old daughter at his Rockland County home on the Hudson River. “I no longer only see my daughter while she’s sleeping,” he added. “ Now we play, we laugh, and we grow up together. That’s the greatest gift of all.”