MIAMI – Realtor® Nelson Duque knows what it’s like to lose in the business world. At age 17, Duque launched a successful extreme sports and paintball center. By 19, in 2005, he lost it all due to financial irresponsibility, he says. Now 29 years old, Duque is vice president of business development and sales with Fortune International Realty in Miami.
Over the years, he has honed his business skills to ensure a lifelong real estate career. Duque was recently named one of the National Association of Realtors®’ (NAR) 2015 “30 Under 30,” sponsored by Realtor Magazine.
“My first year in real estate, I didn’t even gross $20,000 in commission. I went from super profitable to scratching the surface,” says Duque, who leads his own 10-person sales team in addition to running the brokerage’s development team of 100 sales associates.
While paintball and real estate may seem worlds apart, he notes, “I always had an interest in development and construction and, after losing the paintball business, selling seemed like a simple way to make a living. But, it became a full-out adventure.”
In fact, Duque bounced around trying to find his calling in real estate. He wanted to sell, he wanted to go to law school, and he wanted to be successful. “I was in my early 20s, and the road to success is long and crazy,” he says. “I finally decided to dedicate myself 100 percent to making it in real estate.”
From that point on, things just clicked. Now he represents the largest development in South Florida as well as eight other developers handling various projects, including preconstruction to under construction and those who are selling off inventory they held onto through the recession.
He’s worked with celebrities, and he’s sold the uber-expensive properties, but at his core, Duque connects with the first-time homebuyers and renters.
“My grandparents emigrated from Cuba, they never owned a home,” he says. “They lost everything when they left. My mom bought her first home only five years ago. It’s a dream for most immigrants to own a home. I have the ability to help other people find that financial security.”
For Duque, the $1,200-a-month rental means more emotionally to him than the $36-million land buy.
“I love introducing someone to real estate and helping that person make their life better,” he says.
In addition to helping first-time buyers, Duque is dedicated to helping animals. Along with his mother, brother and sister-in-law, he runs a no-profit, no-kill shelter and rescue group called We Let the Dogs Out.
“Miami-Dade County is a kill shelter zone,” he says. “We rescue, rehab and facilitate dog adoptions.”
His work with We Let the Dogs Out and real estate expertise enables Duque to speak with authority when working with prospective condo owners about pet regulations for renters and owners.
Personal communication is a key element of his business, he says, and he thinks it’s vital for success in the real estate industry. “We need to get back to basics, answer phone calls, respond to emails, show up in person,” he says. “Sure, a lot of business is generated online, but it’s that basic human touch that keeps our business alive.”
Duque also is concerned about the new relationship the U.S. is establishing with Cuba and what that means for real estate there.
“Where to go next needs to be carefully thought out,” he says. “We have to lead with a social example, and not by a real estate example. We can’t go in and develop condo towers while leaving 80 percent of the people in poverty.”
For now, says Duque, he will keep his passion for real estate and development alive by seeking education classes at every turn and continuing to build relationships with local developers.
A member of the Miami Association of Realtors®, Duque is dedicated to his profession and to his community. He was named as one of the National Association of Realtors’® (NAR)“30 Under 30” honorees for 2015. The “30 Under 30” program recognizes 30 rising young stars in the real estate industry – successful young Realtor professionals across the U.S. who exemplify ingenuity, dedication and leadership in their careers.