But What Did You Do for Me Today, Developers Ask Brokers 

Aug 02, 2010

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Michele Kleier Talks 995 Fifth

About three years ago, before the demise of Bear Stearns and the collapse of Merrill Lynch, Beth Fisher, a broker with Corcoran Sunshine, was toiling away marketing apartments at the former Stanhope Hotel on Fifth Avenue that had been converted into luxury condominiums. Over time, she helped sell almost all of the 26 apartments for up to $34 million each.

But when the last two high-priced apartments lingered on the market through the recession, the developer, Extell Development, farmed out a $35.5 million listing to one of the city’s top-producing brokers, Carrie Chiang of the Corcoran Group. And when Ms. Chiang did not sell a 16th-floor apartment, Extell slashed the price to $28.5 million, dropped Ms. Chiang and handed the apartment, along with its 15th-floor neighbor, to another high-end broker, Michele Kleier of Gumley Haft Kleier.

Now Ms. Kleier is trying to sell the apartment after it was decorated by a professional designer and she promoted it on the HGTV program “Selling New York” and hosted a cocktail party with top brokers that drew the attention of The New York Post’s Page Six. Ms. Kleier said her efforts helped sell the 15th-floor apartment in March for $21 million, and she was hopeful about the prospects for the one on the 16th floor.

“You have to refocus people’s eyes on a property that has been on the market,” said Ms. Kleier, who worked with Ms. Fisher on the sale. “It goes on the back burner. You have to put it back on the front.”

Here is the fickle and ferocious world of residential real estate. With many developers saddled with multimillion-dollar apartments they planned in more prosperous times, they are dumping brokers who stood by them through the slowdown and are hiring new ones.

Developers treat these moves as purely financial decisions. After all, it is not that different from trying to sell anything expensive, be it a penthouse, a car or an insurance policy: the best sales representatives are brought in to make the toughest sales, regardless of who gets hurt.

Ms. Fisher said diplomatically that she welcomed help from Ms. Kleier and added that her salaried position at Corcoran Sunshine, a division of the Corcoran Group that specializes in new construction, meant that she suffered less financially from Ms. Kleier’s involvement.

Ms. Chiang, who was simply cut from the listing, did not mince words about Extell’s decision.

“The apartment wasn’t ready. It was in shambles. It was priced way higher,” Ms. Chiang said. “I keep on telling him he had to reduce the price.”

Ms. Chiang specializes in guiding wealthy buyers through the glamorous and mundane aspects of purchasing eight-digit homes with indoor swimming pools and 1,000-bottle wine cellars. She specializes in apartments that are 6,000 square feet or larger and sold $500 million in apartments in 2008 before the crash. She is now trying to sell six town houses priced at $14.9 million to $35 million.

Raizy Haas, an Extell senior vice president, said the decision to take the listing from Ms. Chiang was not a criticism of her.

“Sometimes it doesn’t happen, through no fault of hers,” Ms. Haas said.

Lisa Lippman, a Brown Harris Stevens broker who lives with her family in a four-bedroom condominium at Ariel West, one of a pair of tall, glassy Extell buildings at Broadway and 99th Street, was given two exclusive listings in the building even though another brokerage firm was the building’s official sales agent. Ms. Lippman sold a third-floor apartment for $3.9 million and has a contract for a $2.95 million apartment on the 14th floor. Both apartments cater in their size to families.

“I know that market,” Ms. Lippman said. “I have lots of connections from people looking for those apartments through schools.”

When the developer Josh Guberman was ready to start selling apartments at his 12-unit Lux 74 at 433 East 74th Street, he hired the Corcoran Group and Kirk Rundhaug, a broker with the real estate firm Core. After the Corcoran Group sold one apartment after a few months, Mr. Guberman dropped Corcoran because, he said, he thought the apartments might appeal to downtown buyers, which Mr. Rundhaug specializes in.

Mr. Rundhaug, who described the first broker as the project’s first wife and himself as the second wife, sold 10 apartments there.

But unbeknown to Mr. Rundhaug, Mr. Guberman was shopping for a third wife to sell the final apartment: an $8 million town house listing with a swimming pool that would bring a $130,000 commission. Mr. Guberman hired Jacky Teplitzky of Prudential Douglas Elliman to market the property. It sold for $7.6 million.

Mr. Guberman said that “matching the right broker to the right product is the single most important decision any homeowner or developer can make.”

Mr. Rundhaug, who was one of two brokers chosen to sell the hotelier Ian Schrager’s personal penthouse last year, said losing a commission “always hurts.”

“But what I’ve learned in this business,” he said, “is to suck it up and move on to the next thing.”


Hot Property Book

The stars of HGTV's “Selling New York” let fans step inside the high-profile world of Manhattan real estate in a wild and one-of-a-kind novel of stormy egos, sumptuous homes, and staggering fame and fortune. Written by Michele, Samantha & Sabrina Kleier.