Long Island real estate professionals who made a major career change

When Mark D’Angio was fired from his radio station after 34 years on the air, he thought life had given him a fat lemon. Gone were his cherished days of rushing to the train station and chatting to listeners. He looked for another radio job and then reluctantly turned to real estate.

But after his first sale to a couple who gushed over their purchase, he realized life had actually baked him a lemon meringue pie.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said D’Angio, who has been an agent for nearly three years. “I will never go back.”

After 34 years on the air for WALK/97.5 FM, where listeners knew him as Mark Daniels, Mark D’Angio became a real estate agent.
Credit: Newsday/Kim Como

Whether drawn to the red-hot market, leveled by the pandemic, or simply tired of their old jobs, more and more people have left their previous jobs to become real estate agents. According to a NAR spokesman, the number of people who have joined the National Association of Realtors increased by 156,000 in 2020 and 2021, a 60% increase compared to the previous two years.

“Whenever real estate is booming, it becomes more attractive to become an agent,” said Kevin Loiacono, president of the Long Island Board of Realtors. “It’s a flexible career that’s fruitful for someone who wants to do it part-time and for those who want to do it full-time as well.”

Below are four people who left their previous jobs to try real estate.

Derrick Davis as Phantom of the Opera in 2019...

Derrick Davis as Phantom of the Opera in the 2019 North American tour.
Photo credit: Matthew Murphy

The Broadway Actor

Derrick Davis doesn’t mince words when it comes to being a real estate agent.

“I love, love, love it,” he said almost with a yell.

Sounds dramatic? It should. Davis is a veteran actor who has played a variety of high-profile characters, including Mufasa and his evil brother Scar in The Lion King on Broadway. Now he finds drama in real life.

“I love helping someone find a place that will bring them happiness, and buying a home is one of the biggest transactions of a lifetime,” Davis said. “Guiding you through this process and making it less stressful is a pleasure.”

“I love, love, love it,” says Derrick Davis of his new real estate career.
Credit: Newsday/J. Konrad Williams Jr.

Davis, from Amityville, worked as an agent years ago but had stage dreams. When he got a call to audition for the Las Vegas production of The Lion King in 2009, his brokerage boss encouraged him to go. Davis toured the country with the musical and later appeared in New York as a regular on Broadway.

“I did both in one day on one weekend,” Davis said. “Scar in the afternoon and Mufasa at night.”

His profile was raised while on tour playing the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera (a national tour premiere for a black actor) and Billy Bigelow in Carousel on Broadway.

His glide path to success was turned upside down when COVID brought the acting world to a halt. Eventually, his former real estate boss at Century 21 Icon in Port Jefferson suggested that he take the realtor’s exam and do a revival.

“I’m never going to let go of my real estate life,” Davis said.

Davis performs at a benefit concert for Ukraine at The Madison...

Davis performs at a benefit concert for Ukraine at The Madison Theater at Molloy College in Rockville Center in April.
Credit: Danny Pham

He still keeps an eye on the stage, taking on roles in new productions and regional works, he said, adding, “I only take a certain number of real estate clients because I don’t want anyone to feel neglected.”

Selling houses during the day and performing at night is an arduous balancing act.

“I don’t sleep much,” he said.

The Baker

Up until about five years ago, Holly Zarcone had a sweet deal.

A die-hard baker, she began selling her own creations — cakes, cupcakes, cookies, s’mores bars — at farmers’ markets while staying at home with her young son. As demand grew, she and her husband opened a store at Tanger Outlets Deer Park. After her s’mores bars were featured on the talk show Bethenny, the pace picked up.

The problem was that by this time Zarcone had two other children and realized she couldn’t spend time with them and still run the business.

“I baked, did the marketing, and we had to wrap everything,” she said. “It was a little crazy.”

Holly Zarcone, a baker-turned-real estate agent, says...

Holly Zarcone, a baker-turned-real estate agent, shows off her s’mores bars at colleague Christopher Cheeseman’s (right) Oakdale home with fellow agent Jonathan Finnerty.
Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

The couple decided to reduce their role in the company, but could not find staff who met their quality standards. Then the pandemic struck. Zarcone, 36, from Huntington, realized it was time for a change.

“It was a wonderful time in my life, but it was one of those things where you have to go beyond your job and create something else.”

So she became an agent at a company that two friends started, the CJ team at Signature Premier Properties in Sayville. These days she only bakes for PTA fundraisers.

“The s’mores always sell out,” she said.

What Zarcone finds most difficult now is “the conversation” – explaining to customers how difficult the market is today. The downside is when they score a house and everything clicks into place.

“That’s the moment when you finally have everything together and they’re approved for a loan and you’re at graduation and they sign the paperwork,” Zarcone said, “and everyone lets out this sigh of relief.”

Arkar San Wai started EPM Real Estate Photography after his IT...

Arkar San Wai started EPM Real Estate Photography after feeling “a little trapped” with his IT job. Above, during a shoot in Plainview.
Credit: Linda Rosier

The techie

Even though Arkar San Wai was only 16 at the time, he realized that the internet was going to be big, so he became an IT guy.

“I had a good salary and a good boss, but I felt a little trapped,” said San Wai, 36, who calls Ark. “When you get too comfortable, you don’t want to ask for more,” he said. “I wanted to have something of my own.”

The result was EPM Real Estate Photography, which he founded three years ago and is now the largest of its kind on Long Island. Based in Ronkonkoma, where San Wai resides, the 40-employee company offers everything from regular home photos to 3D virtual tours to drone footage and social media management.

“I love my new career and especially photography. It’s very calming and comfortable.”

Arkar San Wai, at work in a house in Plainview, also...

Arkar San Wai, who works from a house in Plainview, also has a YouTube show, The New Agent Show.
Credit: Linda Rosier

One thing that surprised him when he took the field was his competitive nature. Because of this, he started a YouTube series called The New Agent Show, in which three novices are selected from applicants and then follow them as they learn the basics. The one who creates the best video with the help of EPM Studios will win a $3,000 coaching class with Bryan Karp, Coach’s top broker. The series is sponsored by RCG Mortgage.

“It’s something I wanted to do that nobody did for me,” San Wai said. “It’s a tough business and I wanted to welcome someone who is just starting out.”

After 34 years on the air for WALK/97.5 FM as Mark...

After 34 years on the air for WALK/97.5 FM as Mark Daniels, Mark D’Angio became a real estate agent.
Credit: Randee Daddona

The radio personality

Mark D’Angio — known on the air as Mark Daniels — was a psychology major who first tried radio when he was asked by a sick friend to fill in for him at the SUNY Cortland student station.

He became a familiar voice on WALK/97.5 FM for more than 30 years, discussing with listeners daily joys and frustrations – one of the longest tenures in Long Island radio history, ending abruptly in 2019.

“I’ve been an unhappy camper for a long time,” he said after his release.

Eventually he realized real estate could be a good next step given his gift for gift.

“I’m the guy who starts talking to someone in the elevator, even if it’s just between floors,” he said. “My kids don’t even like getting along with me.”

D'Angio features Aimee Padavan, a potential buyer in South...

D’Angio shows Aimee Padavan, a potential buyer in South Setauket, a house.
Credit: Randee Daddona

D’Angio, 66, who works with Coach Realtors in Stony Brook, was thrilled when he made his first sale to a couple looking for a condo and heard the woman exclaim that she loved it.

“I was thrilled when I saw the look on someone’s face when they found what they were looking for,” he said. “It goes deeper than just being a business transaction.”

His only complaint is that he’s a “newbie” again, competing with “old” agents who have client bases that stretch back decades. But his old job? Forget it.

“I’ll always look back fondly on my radio years,” he said, “but that chapter is closed. I’m happy to be where I am.”

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