The commercial real estate industry has been good to James Costanzo. The 25-year veteran enjoys what he does and has built up a solid clientele. But Costanzo said he was frustrated by not having the tools to help friends and family struggling with cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
Out of this frustration was born Rochelle Park-based Charity Realty International, Costanzo’s new commercial reality firm, which opened in August with a mission: For every transaction with a commission, at least 20 percent of that commission will be donated to charity of the client’s choice.
“It came to me so clearly, and it made me so happy,” Costanzo said of the decision to start the firm. “I was like, ‘Wow. How is that going to work?'”
Rather than donating a percentage of profit or relying on himself to always donate when the paycheck reaches his pocket, Costanzo felt the most up front and consistent way to contribute was to include the donation as part of the contract.
“I pledge this up front, contractually in writing … it takes all of the human frailty of what you might do with the money once you get it out of the equation,” Costanzo said.
Costanzo said the first donation — to the Alzheimer’s Disease Research program, through the American Health Assistance Foundation — was made in the past few weeks from commission on a property-consulting report for a long-time client. Costanzo said the client had personal experience with Alzheimer’s with a loved one, so the research program was special to the client.
When it came to picking a category for his company’s charitable efforts, Costanzo said he initially wanted the donations to be steered toward treatment of childhood disease. But “I consulted a number of people in the industry and with charitable organizations, and they said ‘No, you want to be as inclusive as possible.’ And it was good advice.”
“I think my existing clients are happy for me, but they would work with me anyway,” said Costanzo, who most recently worked at Cassidy Turley. “I’m hoping (the business model) encourages clients who wouldn’t have considered me would now give me just an interview.”
Costanzo said he has the full support of his family on his new venture, and he hopes “it’s received in the commercial real estate fraternity, and I hope they see the merit in it. And I hope they see the sincerity in it — it’s not some gimmick.”