Real estate as an art, not just a business: Marika Kaasik and the rewards of the profession

Passing Marika’s eclectic boutique on South Ferry Road, islanders know they’ll be in for a treat. Eclectic is the word for the objects seen in the lawn of the venerable antique shop, which may feature stone panthers stalking the side of the road, an elephant or two, or a collection of garden Buddha statues, some solemn laughing , mixed with some lions .

On a recent visit, a giraffe nodded from the front yard and a pool table with cues sat waiting for the shooters. Inside the shop there were more treasures, genuine antiques as well as curiosities of all kinds, as the sound system sang “It Must Have Been Moonglow”.

Marika Kaasik sat down to speak, a rare thing, because she always seems to be on the move. Not only does she run the boutique, but she also buys into smaller estates and households, sells antiques, and works as a real estate professional for Daniel Gale Sothebys. She’s owned the shop since the mid-1980s and began her career in real estate around the same time.

“I was living in Houston, working as an accountant for a big company, and when my mom got sick, I came home,” she said. “After a while I thought, I want to stay here, I want to be at home on the island.”

Every islander has an origin story, of what brought them here and why they decided to put down roots. The Kaasik family has one of the best.

More than 50 years ago, Estonian immigrants Evi and Joannes and their six children were riding around in the family’s Chevy Suburban, returning home to West Islip from visiting a friend, when the axle broke on Ram Island. It turned out that the repair would take some time, so the Kaasiks stayed. And most of them are still there.

The family included four daughters, Marian, Marika, Veronica and Alice, and three sons, John, Karl and Marcus. Today, all living members of the family (Alice passed away in 2016) are still around, running businesses, building homes, in our school, library, and city government.

Originally from Texas, Mrs. Kaasik and her sister Marian opened the shop. “Marian was into fashion and I was into antiques,” Ms. Kaasik said. They joined forces, offering sportswear as well as vintage furniture. Now the store has everything from custom lighting to furniture to art and anything that interests her, whether people bring her or she collects herself. “A lot of stuff I don’t sell,” she said. “I give them. Lots of furniture, appliances, microwaves, bedding, anything and everything, to people who need it.

This antique business has changed, she noted, with more people looking for lighter, more modern furniture, rather than heavier traditional styles. And there has also been an earthquake change in the real estate sector for 40 years. When asked to name him, Ms. Kaasik silently held her cell phone (which occasionally rang and rang during the conversation).

Before cellphones, real estate professionals had to be in the office from start to finish, ready to welcome visitors who saw a newspaper ad or saw the sign out front and wanted to explore. “I always like going to the office,” Ms. Kaasik said of the Heights location. “We have a great group. But now it’s mostly cellphones.

The internet and cellphones saved her business during the pandemic, when she was able to show properties to potential clients via Zoom and videos. She called the time of the pandemic “the surge”, with people who had summer rentals in the East End now eager to buy to escape COVID, which was raging in the big cities, as well as newcomers looking for less crowded places.

It was beyond a busy and successful few years – Ms Kaasik was the top producer in the Daniel Gale/Sotheby’s office on Shelter Island for 2021. But one downside, the lack of inventory, surfaced. “People bought everything,” she says.

And it wasn’t just people looking to build a house, but investors saw the potential for property in the East End and became market players. She spoke of someone who bought 30 properties in the East End over the past few years.

Another seldom-seen part of the business since the pandemic hit is the people who pay “everything in cash.” Some people have taken their money out of the stock market and invested it entirely in real estate.

Staging is key to selling, Ms. Kaasik said, and her sense of design is an asset she regularly plays to make homes more than presentable to potential buyers.

“You need to create a clean, slimmed down look, go in and thin out the herd [of furniture]”, she said. “Less really is more. And if he needs paint, you better paint. I see a place with several shades of lime green and I think: No. Oh, no. Paint it white.

The rewards of his profession are what many people say in the business – working with and advising people on huge decisions to sell their homes, and best of all, guiding individuals and families to a place that will call them home- self.

Ms Kaasik said there is an art to success, beyond calculations and showing available properties. “You have to have an instinct, which can give you a real understanding of what people want,” she said. “After talking with you – and not just about real estate – I’ll know who you are and show you the house you want.”

The phone rang, she rolled her eyes, but luckily staring at the screen.

This is part of an ongoing series of reporter profiles of Island real estate professionals.

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