Top Manhattan Boutique Firms 

May 09, 2016

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Manhattan Firms by Closed Sales 

May 09, 2016

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Backtracking on 'best and final' 

Feb 01, 2014

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Buyers get ‘gazumped’ as sellers ditch agreements at 11th hour


New York City is generally considered the big leagues of real estate, where buyers (and their brokers) need sharp elbows to secure a deal. Now the city is becoming even more cutthroat for apartment seekers, thanks to a shift in the way bidding wars are resolved, brokers told The Real Deal.

In this low-inventory environment, sellers are receiving numerous last-minute offers on their properties, causing them to backtrack on prior agreements to sell, sources said. In bidding wars, which have become increasingly common, the concept of “best and final,” in which brokers ask buyers to submit their highest offers, is no longer an effective tool to get a deal completed, they said, because sellers are frequently ditching those deals at the last moment.

“[Best and final] doesn’t work anymore because someone gets ‘gazumped,’ ” said Steven James, president of Douglas Elliman’s Manhattan brokerage. “[A better offer] could come from someone else who put in an offer in best and final, or it could have been from someone who didn’t even put in a best and final offer.”

For buyers, the shifting landscape is causing frustration.

“I came into the industry in the days when a handshake was a handshake, and if you said, ‘yes,’ you meant, ‘yes,’ ” said Michele Kleier, head of boutique residential brokerage Kleier Residential. “Now there are people who, for an extra $10,000, will pull out of a deal. Sometimes the first person gets so irritated, they don’t want to match it. They just walk away.”

Low inventory and heavy sales volume appear to be driving competition between buyers. Buoyed by those two factors, Manhattan condo and co-op prices remained consistently high in 2013, according to a Douglas Elliman market report released last month.

The average sales price for a Manhattan home inched up by 1.9 percent, to $1.44 million last year, a modest year-over-year gain, but an increase which brings the average price close to 2007 record levels. Meanwhile, inventory fell to a 14-year low, and sales volume hit its second-highest level in 25 years.

In 2013, sales activity surged by 21.2 percent year-over-year to 12,735 apartment sales, while listing inventory fell 12.3 percent, to 4,164 units. The absorption rate — the number of months it would take to sell all existing inventory at the current pace of sales — dropped to just 3.9 months from 5.4 months in 2012, according to Elliman’s data.

The low inventory accounts for why sellers are entertaining last-minute offers.

“There’s one apartment per 10 buyers as opposed to one apartment per three buyers,” said Jason Haber, CEO of Rubicon Property, which was bought by Warburg Realty last month.

Years ago, “best and final” offers were far more formal, Kleier said. Buyers and their brokers would present their offers simultaneously at the listing manager’s office at a set time. The offer letters were opened and considered with the buyers present. Now they are delivered over email and the purpose is not often to secure a final deal.

“ ‘Best and final’ doesn’t mean ‘final,’ ” said appraiser Jonathan Miller, who prepared the Elliman report.

Nick Jabbour of Nest Seekers International said the process is more an informational tool for the seller rather than a service to the buyer.

“To me, the purpose of best and final is not to have a firm commitment in place,” he said. “It’s a way [for the seller] to get all the information you need from all parties who are planning to throw their hats into the ring to avoid things trickling in later.”

In this environment, it’s important to make it clear to the winner that a deal is not a deal until the ink is on the contract, Haber said.

“We’re very careful with the term ‘best and final’ because you get a ‘best and final’ in, and then someone blows that offer out of the planet, and what are you supposed to do?” he said. “You can’t have your client not take the better offer. We encourage sellers to offer last licks to the jilted party.”

Haber said he hates informing a “best and final” winner that they’ve been ousted by a higher offer. “I hate making those calls. They’re painful because you know that you’re killing someone’s hopes and dreams,” he said.

There are still some sellers who will stick to their word and honor their handshake agreements, but only to a point, Jabbour noted.

“You can generally tell the type,” he said. “You have the analytical seller and the more emotional seller. The analytical seller is more apt to try to capitalize as much as they can, whereas the emotional type tends to honor their commitment.”

Boutiques Battle for Listings 

May 01, 2013

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Kleier Residential is Named #6 Boutique Firm in New York City


Über-high-end firms dominated the ranks of Manhattan’s top boutique brokerages this year as prices soared in the luxury market — even as firms competed for a shrinking number of available listings.

With last year’s top boutique firm, CORE, now categorized as a mid-size company on The Real Deal’s annual ranking, Upper East Side brokerage Leslie J. Garfield regained its long-time berth as the No. 1 boutique firm. The company had some $93.8 million in exclusive residential sales listings as of mid-March, when TRD collected the data from listings provider On-Line Residential.

Following on its heels is the six-agent brokerage the Modlin Group, with some $84.2 million in listings. Laurance Kaiser’s Key-Ventures rounded out the top three, with $79.7 million, according to TRD’s research.

Despite the high prices of listings now on the market, many boutique brokerages now have fewer listings than they did at this time last year, largely due to the overall inventory shortage currently plaguing Manhattan (see related story, “Midtown West, Tribeca, Chelsea rank as Manhattan ‘hoods with steepest inventory plunge”). And while the biggest firms in the city deal in volume, boutique firms rely on far fewer listings and can therefore see their total dollar value of listings more severely sink when their listings count drops — even by just one or two properties.

Collectively, the top nine boutique firms had 91 Manhattan residential properties listed for sale, for a total sticker price of $443.6 million; those firms had 227 brokers. That’s a dramatic decrease from last year, when the top nine boutique firms had 254 Manhattan residential listings totaling $823.4 million.

At the same time, however, the demand for luxury homes has given firms more higher-priced exclusives than ever. Perhaps as a result, some firms did see substantial growth. The Modlin Group, for example, had nine Manhattan listings worth $84.2 million — almost double the $48 million it recorded at this time last year.

This odd combination of market conditions is frustrating for brokers, noted Barbara Fox of Fox Residential Group, which came in at No. 4 with $64.4 million in listings. “We’re rarely selling any of our exclusives without a bidding war right now,” she said. “It’s crazy.”

She added: “It is truly frustrating to have a great buyer and not have anything great to show them. Or to have three things, rather than 30 things, to show them. And I think it’s very frustrating for buyers, who really need to buy, [but] can’t find what they want.”

Boutique bonanza

Known for specializing in townhouses, Leslie J. Garfield is headed by the founder’s son, Jed Garfield.

The 11-agent firm’s most expensive listing is currently a $30 million Carnegie Hill townhouse at 12 East 96th Street. Still, TRD’s data showed the firm with only 10 Manhattan listings this year, compared to 23 (totaling $182.4 million) in 2012.

Luckily, Garfield said, the firm has been able to compensate by working with buyers more frequently (see related story, “Brokers turn to buyers to boost business”).

The lack of inventory “hasn’t specifically affected our bottom line yet, but I’ve definitely noticed it,” he said.
Still, it’s clearly exasperating.

“I have five or six good customers, and most of them have seen everything on the market,” he said, “which means the entire office is spending a lot of time on the phone digging for new product.”

Among the most dramatic leaps in the rankings was Modlin’s jump to second place from sixth place last year.

The firm specializes in “high-net-worth individuals and families,” said Adam Modlin, the company’s president and founder. “Having those specialized and trusting relationships over a period of years creates a certain ongoing business and stability that, thankfully and humbly, has been able to exist in spite of uncertain economic times.”

Though Modlin famously refuses to name his clients, he is known for working with celebrities, including baseball superstars A-Rod and Ichiro Suzuki. Among the firm’s priciest listings is a $24.5 million penthouse at 76 Crosby Street, which Modlin described as “one of the best and nicest penthouses in all of New York City” because of its renovation and design work. The house reportedly belongs to TV personality Kelly Ripa and her husband, Mark Consuelos.

Modlin is also listing a townhouse at 19 East 70th Street for $38 million. The Italian Renaissance mansion, formerly home of the Knoedler Gallery, was not included in TRD’s rankings because it’s classified as a multifamily building, though Modlin said it is being marketed as a single-family home.

Another firm that jumped on this year’s ranking was Kaiser’s Key-Ventures, which took the No. 3 spot, up from No. 7 last year. It had seven exclusive listings for a total of $79.7 million. That’s significantly more than its $45.7 million total for last year, despite the fact that the firm had a higher number of exclusives — 11 — last year.

Kaiser, who founded the firm 47 years ago, said he’s used to dealing with a shortage of listings.

“There’s always a lack of inventory for the best things in the best buildings,” he said.

Kaiser said his niche is working discreetly with high-end clients and celebrities who don’t like publicity. “We do very well, in a low-key way,” he said.

And he’s not showing signs of slowing down. Even as he approached his fifth decade running Key-Ventures, Kaiser said he’s nowhere near retirement. “As long as I’m alive, we’ll go on,” he said.

Meanwhile, the 13-agent firm Mercedes/Berk jumped to No. 5 in the rankings this year, up from No. 10 last year, with its listing volume increasing to $38.2 million year-over-year from $17.7 million, TRD’s data shows.

While the firm keeps a relatively low profile, it’s known for its high-end listings in buildings such as 15 Central Park West. Firm principal Noel Berk attributed the company’s success this year in part to its strong ties to international buyers.

“We have remained small in size, but the total volume of our deals is increasing tremendously because of the fact that we have a huge global reach of clients,” Berk explained.

She added that the firm has worked as the buyer’s broker in sought-after developments, such as 432 Park Avenue.

“It’s been a good year [for] selling new [construction] product,” Berk said. “We find our clients are seeking new apartments that will become available in two or three years. By the time these apartments [are ready], the return on their deposit is going to be very significant.”

Berk said she only anticipates the market getting busier as more international clients seek out high-end real estate in Manhattan. Of course, that depends on whether the supply of Manhattan residential properties gets boosted.

Inventory squeeze

Some firms’ results were concrete proof that the inventory squeeze may be most disproportionally felt in the boutique brokerage world, where those one or two high-priced listings can make a huge difference.

Kleier Residential, Fox Residential and Platinum Properties all saw the dollar amount of their exclusive listings drop this past year.

Kleier’s ranking dropped from No. 3 to No. 6, TRD’s data shows, and its dollar volume of listings fell from $113.2 million to $37.4 million year-over-year.

But firm head Michele Kleier said with listings scarce in the current market, she’s been representing more buyers than usual. For example, she said, in February she represented the buyer of a $12.9 million apartment at 823 Park Avenue.

While in the past, the firm’s client base was generally split evenly between buyers and sellers, she said that’s recently shifted to about 70 percent buyers and 30 percent sellers.

“People wanted to buy first, then put their homes on the market,” she said. “When the market has a scarcity of product, they’re afraid to sell first. They’re afraid they’ll sell and be homeless.”

She noted that Kleier Residential also listed several multimillion dollar properties in early April after TRD’s data was collected — such as a $3.5 million unit at 55 East End Avenue — to coincide with families returning to New York from spring vacation.

As for Fox Residential, Fox said she’s not concerned about a drop in listings to $64.4 million, down 24 percent from $84.5 million last year. “I never sweat it when we’re down a little bit because I know we always make it up,” she said.

Fox recently sold a $21 million penthouse duplex listing at 733 Park Avenue.

The eight-year-old brokerage Platinum Properties also saw a drop in listing-dollar volume, from $20.3 million last year to $13.4 million.

And Elegran Realty entered the fray this year with seven listings worth $16.8 million. Michael Rossi, cofounder of the five-year-old firm, attributed its “under-the-radar success” to its out-of-the-box approach. For one thing, all of the firm’s 38 agents are new to real estate.

“None of us came from another firm,” Rossi said. “We’re really trying to create something different here.”

Top Residential Firms 2013 

May 01, 2013

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Kleier Residential is Named #13 Residential Firm in New York City


While the Corcoran Group — Manhattan’s second-largest residential brokerage — may have seen its listing count drop in the last year, it led the borough in overall residential sales, according to a first-ever ranking of closed transactions by The Real Deal.

Indeed, the firm beat its rivals through its strong grip on the under-$5 million market, according to a TRD analysis of StreetEasy data, which looked at 2012 closed seller-side sales of $1 million or greater.

But while the company closed more sales than any other firm, its smaller rival Brown Harris Stevens bested it — and all other firms — when it came to selling luxury homes of $10 million or more.

The crowded residential brokerage landscape, put under additional pressure last year as listings dried up, closed approximately $13 billion in Manhattan residential sales of $1 million or greater in 2012, the StreetEasy data showed.

Corcoran (including Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group) represented the sellers in a whopping quarter of all those sales — for a total of $3.1 billion in closed transactions, the figures revealed. (The megafirm, which is led by CEO Pamela Liebman, disputed TRD’s numbers, saying it closed $3.5 billion.)

Next was Douglas Elliman, the private company owned by Howard Lorber and Dottie Herman, with just over $2.4 billion, TRD’s analysis showed. (It claimed to have done $3 billion.) And ranking No. 3 was Brown Harris Stevens, led by President Hall Willkie. The company, owned by Terra Holdings, represented the seller in approximately $2.1 billion in residential transactions.

The same three firms took the three top spots when it came to listing volume during a snapshot this March, though in slightly different order (see related story, “Big firms tackle big obstacles”).

On the closed sales front, there was a sharp drop off after the top three. Sotheby’s International Realty ranked No. 4 with $829 million, followed by Stribling & Associates with $719 million and Halstead Property with $665 million, according to the data. (A source said, however, that Stribling closed $802 million, while Halstead claimed to have completed $712 million in deals.)

TRD reviewed data for more than 30 firms from StreetEasy to come up with its ranking of the top 15 firms. Buyer’s side sales were excluded, as were firms whose main business is representing new development projects.

Sofia Song, vice president of research at StreetEasy, said 2012 was the year that the Manhattan market picked up steam and “moved beyond stagnation.”

“The year was marked by extremely low inventory, the highest number of closings and the highest median price in Manhattan since 2008,” she said.

Competing strategies

Corcoran’s ability to close more sales than any other firm in the city last year was achieved by controlling the market for deals between $1 million and $5 million, which, according to TRD’s analysis, was Manhattan’s most active price segment with about $7.8 billion in sales.

Indeed, Corcoran cornered about 28 percent of that slice of the market, with more than $2.2 billion in sales in that category alone.

“We are dominant in several parts of the market. We are happy to sell a $500,000 apartment and a $50 million apartment,” Liebman said. “There are certain companies that prefer to specialize, to brand themselves as strictly high end. [But] I don’t think you have to only do high-end sales in order to be successful.”

BHS’s showing at the top of the market was equally as impressive.

“We sell at all the price ranges,” Willkie claimed. “But we definitely dominate at the high end. We targeted that and we dominate it.”

In that $10 million-and-above segment of the market, BHS was the selling-side brokerage on a third of the $2.2 billion in deals, or $726 million worth of sales. That was far more than the next two firms — Douglas Elliman and Corcoran — which each had about $370 million in closed deals for 2012 in that high-end category.

Compared to the other firms that TRD surveyed, Douglas Elliman, the borough’s largest brokerage, had a more equal distribution between its low-end and high-end deals.

“Our goal is to have market share in all categories,” said Steven James, Douglas Elliman’s president of Manhattan brokerage.

But it’s a constant balancing act.

“On a monthly basis we are looking to see where listings are coming in and see how we stack up against other companies, and where sales come in and how we stack up,” James said.

If he notices the firm is losing share or simply believes it should have more activity in an area, it shifts brokers around or makes a strategic hire in that area, he said.

Some firms, industry executives said, spread their deals among different price points as a deliberate business plan.

Frederick Peters, president of Warburg Realty, said his company tries to sell residential properties in a wide range of prices as a way to create stability for the firm. He said he prefers that strategy over tapping into the rental market.

“We don’t have that kind of [rental] hedge. [So] we have made a strategic decision that we want to be a multi-market player,” Peters said.

(The StreetEasy figures showed that Warburg closed $323.5 million in deals above $1 million in 2012, though the company claimed to have closed $417.9 million.)

Town Residential closed $254 million, according to StreetEasy, but the firm said the correct figure is $316 million.

Geography juggling

Most of the firms showed a surprisingly balanced neighborhood distribution of deals, but there were some anomalies.

For example, there were three popular residential neighborhoods in Manhattan that had surprisingly few sales above $1 million recorded by StreetEasy. The Lower East Side and the East Village had only about three dozen such residential property sales in 2012.

Also, a vast swath of the West Side, between 34th and 55th streets and Sixth Avenue and the Hudson River, spanning more than 120 city blocks, had sales above $1 million in fewer than two dozen buildings, although some buildings had multiple sales closed by a variety of brokerages, such as the Orion at 350 West 42nd Street.

In contrast, in one 28-block area between 79th and 86th streets, and Third and Fifth avenues, there were sales above $1 million in approximately 80 buildings.

Song attributed the slow transaction volume in the Downtown East Side neighborhoods to the lack of available for-sale units in 2012 (see “Midtown West, Tribeca, Chelsea rank as Manhattan ‘hoods with steepest inventory plunge”).

“The Lower East Side and East Village neighborhoods don’t have as much product as other areas that would command those prices,” she said.

But again, Corcoran led on the Lower East Side and East Village, with sales in 11 of the three dozen properties. On the slow-moving Far West Side, Corcoran and BHS were particularly active in the two dozen buildings that had closed deals above $1 million.

While most of the firms had a near balance between the closed deals on the East Side and the West Side, Stribling had about three-dozen sales west of Central Park compared with more than 60 east of the park.

Productivity prizes

During interviews with TRD, firm executives stressed the importance of agent productivity — a strong indicator for how much revenue agents generate for themselves and their firms.

TRD calculated the annual dollar volume by agent to get a sense of who performed best by that metric. However, there are some caveats, most notably that some firms have significant numbers of rental brokers, or brokers who focus heavily on rentals in addition to doing some sales.

For consistency, TRD tallied the figures using the agent counts published in its 2012 top residential brokerage ranking.

In addition, some company executives argued that the rankings don’t provide a full picture of their 2012 closed deal volume. They said the data should have included deals below $1 million, which accounted for more than half the deal volume in Manhattan, as well as buyer-side representation.

Shaun Osher, CEO of CORE, said his company’s deals are typically split equally in representation. (StreetEasy figures showed that the firm closed $148.1 million in 2012 in deals above $1 million, though the company claimed to have done $165.5 million.)

“We generally have a balanced representation between buyers and sellers,” Osher said, noting that his firm didn’t get credit for representing the buyer of the $25 million Rothschild Mansion at 41 East 70th Street.

Meanwhile, data for Nest Seekers International showed that the firm closed $81.8 million in deals, while revealing that Keller Williams NYC closed $69.5 million and Kleier Residential closed $67 million. (Those firms claimed $100 million, $86.1 million and $82.4 million respectively.)

But it was Leslie J. Garfield, which ranked No. 1 on TRD’s boutique survey of listings this year (see related story on page 43), that was far and away the most productive firm by agent. The company, led by Jed Garfield, had just eight brokers in 2012, and successfully stuck with its niche strategy of selling townhouses. That strategy yielded the highest sales volume per agent of nearly $9 million — almost twice any other firm.

“You can’t be all things to all people,” Garfield said. “You want to try and do one thing better.”

BHS was the second-most productive firm at $4.8 million annually per agent, while Sotheby’s clocked in third, at $4.2 million.

Corcoran, meanwhile, had an average of $2.8 million per agent, while Douglas Elliman, which has a robust rental business that reduces the firm’s productivity-per-broker figure, came in at $1.6 million per agent.

Liebman said her firm’s position shows that her agents are active.

“We are known as a pretty tough company. If [agents] are not making their numbers we tend to replace them. This is not a place to park your license and just hang out,” Liebman said.

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The Closing 

Jan 01, 2013

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The Real Deal Interviews Michele Kleier for their Monthly Feature "The Closing"


Michele Kleier is the president and chairman of Kleier Residential, the Manhattan-based boutique real estate brokerage. She co-founded the firm in 1993 as the brokerage arm of property management company Gumley Haft Residential Management, but the two firms are no longer directly linked. Kleier’s clients have included celebrities such as Diane Keaton, Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino. She also stars alongside husband Ian and daughters Sabrina Kleier-Morgenstern and Samantha Kleier-Forbes on the HGTV reality television show “Selling New York.”

What’s your full name?

Michele Kleier.

What’s your date of birth?

My mother always said that after you’re 21 you never discuss the date of your birth. My in-laws, for instance, never knew how old I was.

Where do you live?

1125 Park Avenue. I walked into it and I loved it. I’ve lived there since 1980. When we first moved in, Samantha ran into one of the bedrooms and announced, ‘I want this to be my room because it faces Park Avenue.’ I knew from then she was going to be in real estate.

Do you own other homes?

We have an apartment overlooking the Boca Beach Club in Florida and a house in Atlantic Beach [on Long Island]. We used to have a house in the Hamptons but I never used it. I used to pray for rain on a Sunday afternoon so we could go home early.

You were born in Pittsburgh. What was it like to grow up there?

It was a wonderful place to grow up, but a wonderful place to move on from. It was very neighborhood-y, everybody knew everybody else, big trees and beautiful houses. I outgrew it when I was about six. I broke my mother’s heart, because the day I graduated college I moved to New York.

Do you have siblings?

I have a brother and a sister. They’re much older. I was actually a mistake. A very happy mistake, but a mistake nevertheless.

What did your parents do?

My parents owned a gift and jewelry store. I spent summers and holiday seasons working there. I learned to sell at a very young age.

What were you like as a kid?

I had lots of friends. I moved to New York initially with the best friend I had growing up. … I still speak to her all the time. We planned our pregnancies together.

How did you do that?

Well, not like, “Tonight’s the night.” Not to that degree. But we said, “Let’s plan to get pregnant.” Our oldest two are almost the same age.

You worked for a few years in social work. Why didn’t you stick with it?

One of the people I worked with was a 19-year-old guy — he was my favorite client. I found him a great job and helped him get housing. Then one day he came to me with a gun and robbed me. That was the end of my social work career.

How did you get into real estate?

When we were looking to buy an apartment, I met with about 25 brokers, 24 of whom were horrible. But I met one good broker — [the late] Phyllis Koch of Phyllis Koch Real Estate — and I kept sending people to her. She said to me, ‘You keep sending me people, and I keep sending you gifts. I don’t know what to send you anymore. Why don’t you just get your license so at least I can give you a referral fee?’

What were your early days as a broker like?

I used to take Samantha along [to showings] in a stroller. When Sabrina was born, I would take her in a Snugli and Samantha in the stroller. They learned ‘co-op’ and ‘condo’ with the ABCs.

What was your first deal?

The first transaction that I did was a board turndown. I sold to a trumpet player in a co-op. Of course, the board thought he was going to practice at home. Phyllis Koch was so lovely, she sent me a check anyway, even though I never made one penny.

Warren Beatty was your first celebrity client. How did you connect with him?

I heard he was looking for an apartment and I sent handwritten notes to every hotel he might stay at. He was at the Carlyle, and he actually answered. I sold him and Diane Keaton an apartment and then they broke up. I worked with him for two years.

In 2009, your 25-year-old son Jonathan died suddenly as a result of a heart problem. How do you cope?

He’s the first thing I think of in the morning and the last thing I think of at night. … Honestly, [“Selling New York”] saved our lives. They’re doing your hair and your make-up and they’re calling you “the talent.” It takes you out of your normal life. If ever you need to be taken out of your life, it’s when something like that happens.

Do you ever argue with Sabrina and Samantha?

They’re my clones. What would I argue with them about?

You do dress alike.

Oh my God, it’s embarrassing. Even if we speak in the morning, we sometimes don’t mention what we’re wearing and we’ll all end up with the same purple sweater on. We shop together and we like a lot of the same clothes. We have all the same bags.

What do you do in your downtime?

I play with [my grandchildren]. My dogs are also extremely important to me. I have three.

What are the dogs’ names?

Mine are Roxy, Dolly and Lola. Sabrina has Dixie. They have diva names and show girl names. They all have their own songs. There’s “Hello Dolly,” “Whatever Lola Wants,” “Roxy Hart” and “Deep in the Heart of Dixie.”

The All Star Team 

Jul 01, 2012

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The Real Deal Chose The Kleier Team as the 9th Top Agents in NYC


John Burger has had a good year. Not only did the Brown Harris Stevens broker earn the No. 1 spot on The Real Deal’s annual ranking of Manhattan’s top listing agents, he also more than doubled his dollar volume of listings from a year ago to $411.7 million.

That number sets a new bar for the ranking, which is based on dollar volume of active Manhattan residential listings, gathered from Online Residential in mid-June. (Scroll down to see the chart of Manhattan’s top agents (note: correction appended).)

Last year, the top agent, Brown Harris Stevens’s Paula Del Nunzio, had $358.4 million in listings. This year, she ranked No. 3, with $293.8 million. That tally includes an exclusive for the Woolworth Mansion at 4 East 80th Street, which has been included in Del Nunzio’s total since it was listed in March 2011 for $90 million.

Rounding out the top five are the Corcoran Group’s Carrie Chiang at No. 2 with $316.2 million in listings, Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Dolly Lenz at No. 4 with $255.1 million and Sotheby’s International Realty’s Serena Boardman at No. 5 with $198.9 million.

Collectively, the 75 agents with the highest dollar volume of listings had more than $6.34 billion worth of properties on the market, up 8 percent from last year’s total of about $5.96 billion.

Burger — who employs one full-time assistant but otherwise works alone — chalks up his success to the network of clients he has built over a 28-year career.

“Those people have fortunately come back to me over the years for all of their real estate needs and the needs of the next generation,” he told TRD during a phone interview from London, where he was attending a birthday party for a friend and client.

A Manhattan native, Burger was 22 years old when he obtained his real estate license, lured by the chance to work with both investment assets and people. “It’s sales and marketing, like many other forms of sales and marketing, but the end of the pipeline is somebody’s home, and that’s a very meaningful process to be involved in,” he said.

But this year has been a particularly successful one for Burger, thanks to eight-figure transactions like the $34.6 million sale of William Lie Zeckendorf’s co-op at 927 Fifth Avenue, and listings like a private investor’s full-floor co-op at 944 Fifth Avenue, priced at $50 million.

In addition, there are outside factors contributing to Burger’s — and other agents’ — jump in dollar volume of listings this year.

With the presidential election looming, homeowners may have a heightened sense of urgency to sell before new capital gains tax rates take effect, Burger said. He has also noted a “newfound confidence” in the Manhattan market.

Burger listed the unit at 944 Fifth, which comes with 70 feet of Central Park frontage and a separate guest apartment, on June 1. He declined to say whether the seller had received any offers since, but said interest in the home was “very strong.”

At another of Burger’s listings at 907 Fifth Avenue — a combination of three apartments that can be reconfigured back to architect J.E.R. Carpenter’s original 18-room layout — the seller bumped up the asking price to $29 million in May. It first went on the market for $25 million in January.

Trophy listings

This year, several brokers are appearing in the top 10 for the first time, due in part to the presence of several extremely high-priced trophy properties on the market. Landing just one of these ultraexpensive listings can propel a broker into the top echelon of Manhattan listing agents.

Consider Noble Black, a former securities lawyer who joined Corcoran in 2005.

Black has never ranked on TRD’s top 75 list, but this year he is No. 7 with $135.1 million in listings. In January, he and Corcoran colleague Bonnie Pfeifer Evans listed songwriter Denise Rich’s penthouse at 785 Fifth Avenue for $65 million. (Evans, who frequently teams up with Black on listings, is a personal acquaintance of Rich’s.) Billed as the largest-ever penthouse offered on Fifth Avenue, the 20-room apartment is the third most expensive home on the market, according to StreetEasy.

Black is also listing a townhouse at 101 East 63rd Street — formerly the home of the late fashion designer Halston — for $38.5 million.

But despite a longstanding interest in real estate, Black almost didn’t join the profession: He was intimidated by staking his livelihood on commissions.

Then, while he was working at a law firm, the producers of “The Apprentice” approached the handsome young New Yorker about auditioning for the reality show. He didn’t get the part, but he did land a brief consulting gig with the production company. Then, instead of returning to his legal career, he reevaluated his professional life and decided to give real estate a shot.

That decision appears to be paying off: Black said he is now making more money than the partners at his ex-firm.

So would Black ever return to law? “Oh, God no,” he said.

Coming in one spot below, at No. 8, is real estate veteran Sharon Baum, director of Corcoran’s exclusive properties division, with $127.5 million in listings. Despite her long history in Manhattan real estate, Baum is making her first appearance on TRD’s top 10 list. (She did not appear on the 2011 ranking, and was No. 22 in 2010.)

Baum is one of four brokers sharing a $72 million co-exclusive listing at 828 Fifth Avenue. The spread is actually made up of three units: a duplex maisonette off the lobby; a triplex apartment spanning the second, third and fourth floors; and a penthouse on the sixth floor. The apartments previously belonged to the skyscraper developer Howard Ronson.

The other brokers on the listing include Corcoran’s Deborah Grubman and Leighton Candler, who occupy TRD’s.

No. 11 and No. 22 spots, respectively, as well as Stribling & Associates broker

Alexa Lambert, who landed at No. 14.

“Do we like having it to ourselves better? Sure,” Baum said of sharing the listing with Stribling. “[But] we’re fine working with Alexa, because she’s terrific.”

Baum estimates that about 90 percent of her deals take place on Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue and Central Park West, plus the “great side streets” in the area. A former banking executive who was a member of the first Harvard Business School class to include women, Baum works with her younger brother, David Enloe, and three other team members.

Today’s market is unlike any other in her experience — not a seller’s market, not a buyer’s market and not quite a changing market either, Baum said.

“In a changing market, nobody’s right,” Baum said. “In today’s market, for the first time that I’ve ever seen it, I feel that everybody’s right.”

In other words, both buyers and sellers stand to benefit from market conditions, such as low interest rates, off-peak prices and a shortage of good properties.

To be sure, measuring brokers by dollar volume of listings — itself a moving target — does not give a complete picture of a broker’s abilities, since it eliminates important factors such as buyer’s side representation and closed deals — data that can’t be obtained in a comprehensive way presently.

The ranking also excludes certain properties, such as a $65 million townhouse at 7 West 54th Street, which is zoned commercial, noted Brown Harris Stevens’ Del Nunzio, who has the listing. Del Nunzio, a townhouse specialist, told TRD she got into real estate “through a love of architecture and its transformation of space and light.”

There are a number of other brokers this year with listings above $50 million.

Sotheby’s duo Elizabeth Sample and Brenda Powers have a $60 million listing at the Time Warner Center. After TRD collected the data, however, they took the property off the market for the slow summer months; the owner hopes to get a better price for the unit in September, Sample said.

“He is willing to wait for the market to catch up to where he wants to sell his apartment,” she added.

Sample and Powers are also listing a 4,825-square-foot unit at the Time Warner Center for $42.5 million.

All told, Sample and Powers had $162.9 million in listings, pushing them up to the No. 6 spot, a significant jump from their No. 19 position last year when they were still at Brown Harris Stevens. In 2010, they were No. 5.

Sample attributed their success in part to the strength of the luxury market.

“Just across the board, there are some record-breaking numbers — record-breaking dollars per square foot — and there is extremely limited inventory because there is such strong demand again,” she said.

Multiple ways to the top

Of course, marketing one or two trophy properties is not the only way to pull in hundreds of millions of dollars in listings.

Corcoran’s Chiang, for example, works on new developments as well as individual homes. Currently, she and her team are managing sales for the Cassa NY Hotel & Residences at 70 West 45th Street, where 39 units are on the market, ranging from about $951,000 to $20.3 million. (Chiang and Boardman, of Sotheby’s, both declined to be interviewed for this article.)

Chiang took over the marketing of Cassa from Ilan Bracha, founder of Keller Williams NYC, in February after Chinese firm HNA Property Holding Group acquired the building from an affiliate of Assa Properties.

Bracha is No. 18 on TRD’s ranking, with $100.4 million in listings.

Meanwhile, the Kleier team — made up of Michele Kleier and daughters Sabrina Kleier Morgenstern and Samantha Kleier Forbes — ranked No. 9 with 20 properties on the market. Their $127.5 million in listings range from a junior one-bedroom for $459,000 to a six-story mansion at 158 East 61st Street asking $13.5 million. The trio, which appears on HGTV’s “Selling New York,” debuted on the top 10 for the first time this year after coming in at No. 25 in 2011 and No. 51 in 2010.

Elliman’s Lenz seems to take a similarly diverse approach to listings.

Her exclusives include a three-bedroom unit at 15 Central Park West priced at $35 million — which Lenz called a “bargain” during an appearance on Bloomberg TV in the spring — and fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld’s three-bedroom apartment at 50 Gramercy Park North, now asking $4.95 million.

Ranked at No. 10 is Elliman’s Leonard Steinberg, who works closely with Hervé Senequier and seven other team members.

The Leonard Steinberg Group has a total of $127.3 million in listings, including the $11.5 million triplex penthouse and two other units at the Arman, an eight-unit condo building at 482 Greenwich Street where they are overseeing sales.

The group is also listing 54 East 81st Street, a 7,500-square-foot townhouse that is undergoing a gut renovation, available for $17.95 million.

“If you don’t have a product to sell, you have to create it,” said Steinberg, a former fashion designer. He realized long ago that he’d rather be involved in the conceptual stage of new developments, he said, rather than merely executing a developer’s vision.

In the next few months, Steinberg plans to start marketing 150 Charles Street, a 98-unit West Village condo conversion developed by the Witkoff Group.

Steinberg called the project the “most exciting” one he has ever worked on.

“It is shrouded in a veil of secrecy,” he said, “but when the veil is revealed, it will be beyond anything anyone’s ever expected downtown.”

Top Residential Firms 2012 

Jun 04, 2012

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Kleier Residential is the 3rd Top Boutique Firm in NYC


Island Hunting in New York 

Jul 01, 2010

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John Mehigan lists a Private Island North of Manhattan


It’s an understatement to say that private islands for sale near Manhattan are few and far between. Not to mention one for the price of many one-bedroom New York City apartments.

But John Mehigan, an associate broker at Gumley Haft Kleier, has a listing for just that — a $1.55 million island about 60 miles north of Manhattan.

It’s such a unique property and investment that I had to have a crack at it,” said Mehigan, who got an inquiry about listing the property after he appeared on an April episode of the real estate reality TV show “Selling New York.”

The one-acre island sits in man-made Lake Putnam and includes a 5,600-square foot, four-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath home built in 1932. It also has a 400-square-foot guest cottage.

The uniqueness of the property made setting a price tricky. “It was tough to come by comps,” said Mehigan, who noted that there are no other private islands in the area.

“We could have priced it higher, but felt that price would attract attention and get a buyer,” Mehigan said. (The seller, who did not want to be identified, had originally listed the property at a higher price, but Mehigan declined to say what the price was and the former listing broker declined to comment. The property was, however, on the market for close to a year.)

This time around (the property has only been on the market for a few weeks), the seller is hoping that bringing on a New York City broker will mean attracting a New York City buyer.

Mehigan said most of the island hunters he has met so far are New Yorkers looking for second homes, who are tired of the usual spots like the Hamptons and Fire Island. Plus, he said, there are plenty of people who “love the idea of owning their own island.”

To get there, prospective buyers will have to go to the town of Patterson and then meet the homeowner for a five-minute rowboat ride across the lake to the house, which is about 100 yards offshore. Not to fear: The home comes with several rowboats (and oars), along with kayaks and canoes.

Aside from a kitchen renovation about 10 years ago, the home has remained largely unchanged since the seller, who has owned it for 35 years, first purchased it. Mehigan said, however, that it is “definitely not run-down.”

Though it’s been called Plum Island for a number of years, Mehigan found that interested buyers were confusing it with an animal research center in Long Island or associating it with the island mentioned in the film “The Silence of the Lambs” — obviously not a great selling point.

Instead, the island is being marketed with its original name, Willo-Isle. But for those who want a self-named island, Mehigan said, the name can probably be changed once a new buyer steps in.

Top Residential Firms 2009 

May 01, 2009

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Kleier Residential Named #2 Boutique Firm in NY


A precipitous drop in sales like Manhattan saw in the first quarter of 2009 can be particularly challenging for boutique real estate firms.

That became painfully clear this year when a number of small firms went out of business, including several newer boutiques just starting to make their presence felt on the New York City real estate industry, like JC DeNiro & Associates, Homestead New York and New York City Dwellers. Other firms with longer track records, like venerable Edward Lee Cave, were absorbed by larger companies.

But there are smaller firms that are still surviving, and even thriving, in the current market, most notably the three that ranked at the top of The Real Deal’s survey of boutique Manhattan firms — Leslie J. Garfield & Co., Gumley Haft Kleier and Fox Residential Group.

The firms have some common threads: a long history in New York City and a well-established client base. That, combined with advances in technology, low overhead and a hands-on managerial style, can even give some smaller firms an advantage over their larger competitors, brokers say.

“I’m interviewing people weekly who are leaving big firms because they’re not feeling satisfied with what they’re getting,” said Barbara Fox, the president of Fox Residential Group, which was ranked third.

According to data collected by The Real Deal in early April from firm Web sites and the OLR residential listing portal, townhouse specialist Leslie J. Garfield & Co. ranked at the top with 35 active listings totaling just over $270 million. Family-owned Gumley Haft Kleier followed with 32 listings worth about $51.8 million and Fox was next with 25 listings valued at $47.7 million. The Upper West Side-based Barak Realty, which has 39 agents, and the 41-year old Key Ventures, which has 19 salespeople, rounded out the top five.

The survey defined a “boutique” agency as a firm that has between 10 and 60 agents, though the survey did not include those that specialize primarily in new development, like Core Group Marketing, the Marketing Directors or Shvo.

Jed Garfield, managing partner of Leslie J. Garfield & Co., said his 15-agent firm recently inked a contract for 18 East 82nd Street for close to the $21.9 million asking price, and a 21-foot-wide brick townhouse at 66 East 93rd Street for roughly $7 million.

Still, business has been slow, as it has been across the industry. And because the company does only a few deals (a good year usually brings about 20 sales), it can sometimes feel even slower.

“We’ve had Fridays within the last two months that might as well have been August,” Garfield said. “Our phones wouldn’t ring for an hour.”

Garfield said the company’s ability to do any deals at all in the current market comes from a long history of specializing in townhouses, thanks to his father Leslie, who started the company in 1972.

“We have good name recognition,” he said. “I’m fortunate to have Leslie for a father. Within the realm of townhouses, he was the only game in town for a long time.”

In a rocky market, customers seem to want well-established firms, and brokers who have weathered such storms in the past, said Michele Kleier, president and chairman of Gumley Haft Kleier, which she founded in 1995.

Kleier said her company, which recently closed on a $30 million listing for a 15-room home at 1030 Fifth Avenue, has been garnering more exclusives recently.

“People feel that they need somebody who is experienced,” she said. “Sellers now are looking for a comfort level and stability.”

That may be one reason why several newer boutiques went out of business this year. The casualties included 35-agent firm Homestead New York, which was only four years old when it closed, and NYC Dwellers, a rental firm founded in 2003. Most recently, JC DeNiro & Associates surprised the real estate community by ceasing operations last month.

Had it not closed down, JC DeNiro would have been ranked eleventh on the list with 16 active listings worth $22.17 million and some 34 agents. Company founder Jack DeNiro (uncle to actor Robert De Niro, despite the slight difference in the spelling of their last names) got his start in commercial real estate in the 1960s, but he was based in Florida when he tasked partner Christopher Mathieson with taking residential brokerage JC DeNiro & Associates into the New York market.

The company opened its first New York City office in Tribeca in 2002.

Meanwhile, longstanding white-shoe firm Edward Lee Cave was acquired by Terra Holdings’ Brown Harris Stevens, though it will continue to operate as a separate division under the larger company’s umbrella, and veteran broker Alice Mason closed her Madison Avenue office after 45 years.

By contrast, Kleier said she is expanding. She recently hired two new agents, and she hasn’t had a single broker leave in the past year. Her firm had 38 agents at the end of April, according to the survey data.

Fox said while she’s lost several brokers to attrition, she’s added new brokers to her firm, which had 45 agents at the end of April.

“When the market goes south, a lot of brokers feel the need to move around,” Fox said. “It presents a really great opportunity for a boutique firm to pick up some terrific brokers who are unhappy with where they are.”

Boutique firms, if they are well-established, are attractive in challenging markets because they often offer their brokers more training and guidance than bigger shops, she said.

“I’m very hands-on in terms of helping the brokers,” Fox said. “There’s a vibe here that’s very warm and fuzzy.” Her company recently sold a 12-room home on Park Avenue in Carnegie Hill, though she neglected to say how much the apartment sold for.

In the past, small firms in Manhattan were at a disadvantage because they didn’t have the same access to listings as the larger companies, which had large internal databases. But that’s now changed thanks to OLR and Web sites like StreetEasy, which allow buyers and sellers to peruse everything on the market, Kleier said.

“StreetEasy changed everything,” Kleier said. “Everyone is now on an even playing field. If [a buyer] is looking for a three-bedroom, they’ll look at every three-bedroom, whether it’s mine or Stribling’s. That’s improved our ability to get exclusives and have buyers be loyal.”

And if a boutique company has a large enough client base to continue doing deals in the current market, it may be better prepared than larger firms to weather the storm because it has lower overhead.

“I think at a lot of the [bigger] firms, there’s a lot of dead weight,” Garfield said. “Statistically, we have less of it.”

While some larger firms are forced to make drastic cuts in advertising and marketing budgets to help their bottom lines, many smaller firms were unable to spend much in the first place.

“We’ve been really careful in the way we spend our marketing and advertising dollars,” Fox said. “We’re not really cutting so much. We’re trimming a little bit, but we’re not doing any major surgery or changing our normal way of business.”

Moreover, many smaller firms have fewer branches, said Garfield, who has just one office on Park Avenue after an attempted expansion to Brooklyn several years ago.

“When you’re a boutique, it’s really hard to expand,” said Garfield, who closed his Brooklyn branch in 2007. “Unless you’re willing to work seven days a week, you can’t do it.”

While it was frustrating at the time, he said that now he is glad the company is down to one office, which means less of his bottom line goes to rent.

“Looking back on it today, it’s great that we’re not a bigger firm,” he said. “Quite frankly, I consider myself lucky.”

At the top end, it’s not quite as bad  

Nov 02, 2007

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The Manhattan housing market passed the mid-year mark with a mix of good and bad news, depending on your vantage...


The Manhattan housing market passed the mid-year mark with a mix of good and bad news, depending on your vantage. The luxury market, for one, seems to be fairing slightly better than the market as a whole.

“What’s happening is the upper end is seeing activity I would expect it to see this time of year,” said Jonathan Miller, CEO of appraisal firm Miller Samuel, citing the aftershocks of the record Wall Street bonus season earlier this year. “But the remainder of the market is flat.”

Several luxury sales in the last couple of months have set the tone for the higher end of the market — and have defied the woes of the rest of the market.

Fifteen Central Park West, the new ultra-luxury project along the park, set a North American condo record last month when it passed $1.2 billion in sales, and a condo in 1200 Fifth Avenue in East Harlem hit the market in June for $19.5 million. If it commands close to this asking price, the condo at 101st Street will set an above-96th Street sales record for Manhattan. (Even Red Hook, a few years ago an industrial outpost, set a home sales record in June, when a townhouse in the Brooklyn neighborhood sold for $1.06 million.)

Sales numbers and asking prices like these have driven luxury brokers to say they expect to see around the same number of eight-figure deals in Manhattan this year as last year when 2006 is all said and done.

Still, the average apartment sales price for all of Manhattan continued to slide from April through May just as it did from March into April. The boom is over, in other words, but don’t tell those dealing at the higher-end. The last, lingering effects of the record Wall Street bonus season still reverberate, brokers say, and luxury customers don’t really sweat the recent mortgage rate hikes.

“That end of the market isn’t really affected by the sort of nerves at the lower end of the market,” said Sabrina Kleier, a vice president at boutique brokerage Gumley Haft Kleier. “There are always people out there who want that perfect apartment. There seems to be more deals in double-digits this year than I’ve seen in other years already.”

The latest comprehensive numbers on the luxury market show it stronger against the market generally. The average sales price for luxury apartments in Manhattan jumped nearly 10 percent from the fourth quarter of 2005 through the first quarter of this year to $4,547,201, according to appraisal firm Miller Samuel, which defines the luxury market as the top 10 percent of all apartment sales. That’s a bit higher that the 9.6 percent increase seen for the market as a whole, with the average price rising to $1,300,928 in the first quarter.

Perhaps more importantly, the volume of luxury sales, too, picked up from the end of 2005 to April, increasing 27.4 percent to 200 sales during the first quarter in Manhattan, though second quarter numbers coming out at the beginning of July will tell whether this trend holds.

Back in the overall market, a May report from brokerage Halstead Property showed the average price of all Manhattan apartments slipping from $1,236,287 in April to $1,149,211 in May — a 7 percent decline month over month. The average sales price had already slid 6.8 percent from March to April.

This marked the first time in more than a year that the average sales price has declined two consecutive months. Maybe these spring woes for the overall market are leaving even luxury buyers a tad more skittish now, despite the relative health of the higher-end.

“Location matters now more than ever before [to luxury buyers],” said Leonard Steinberg, a Prudential Douglas Elliman executive vice president who specializes in the Downtown luxury market.

“And buyers seem less likely to take on the risks of ‘emerging’ neighborhoods, unless they offer something in the price to justify the risk,” he said.

Inside the home of Michele Kleier  

Oct 10, 2007

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The Real Deal Does a Profile on Michele Kleier


When Michele Kleier was growing up in the idyllic Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, she and her best friend felt safe walking back and forth between their homes in their nightgowns.

Kleier, who is now one of Manhattan’s leading real estate brokers, said she’s given up those nocturnal wanderings clad in nightclothes, though a similar intimacy reigns in Carnegie Hill, the Upper East Side neighborhood she discovered almost three decades ago — along with that same best friend, Sheila Britz.

“Old places in the neighborhood are so family-friendly, people-friendly; they just really cater to anybody who they get to know,” said Kleier, a diminutive dark-haired woman known for her ability to find stellar homes for celebrities.

Kleier, president and chairman of brokerage Gumley Haft Kleier, and her family, formerly residents of the West Side of Manhattan, moved to their nine-room prewar apartment at 1125 Park Avenue at 90th Street in the late 1970s. That was after Kleier, a former social worker, became enamored of the area while visiting a penthouse that her best friend from Pittsburgh (now the owner of an antique store, 202 Antiques at 202 East 58th Street) had purchased at 1120 Park Avenue.

“Nobody was living on 90th Street then — it was just so far Uptown,” said Kleier, who, along with her husband, Ian Kleier, outfitted her high-ceilinged apartment — which has its own private elevator — in old English and early American furnishings and art, along with cherished antiques from her former home in Pittsburgh.

“I used to go over to visit my friend — we had children the same age — and spend time in the neighborhood,” she said. “When my husband and I went to move to the East Side, I really wanted to be above 86th Street — a place that felt more like where I grew up. Pittsburgh had a very small-town feel, though it’s not really a small town.”

Kleier found what she was looking for, and she hasn’t left since. Neither has her family. Her two daughters, Samantha Kleier Forbes and Sabrina Kleier Morgenstern (both of whom are executive vice presidents at the real estate firm) have wandered but a few blocks from home. And it’s a home that maintains a warmth despite its Upper East Side pedigree.

Ian Kleier, who owns and manages Gumley Haft Kleier along with his wife, spent countless hours with former-actor-turned-architect Thomas Callaway designing the apartment to restore and recreate its prewar feel.

Situated on the third floor on the corner of Park and 90th Street, the Kleier home has romantic views of cherry blossoms in spring and resplendent views of the Christmas lights in winter along Park Avenue. There is a constant rotation of enticing artifacts because they like to change things up a bit and add to their art collection, including elegant 18th- and 19th-century paintings, collected at fairs, flea markets and auctions. Ian Kleier said he has passed along many fascinating objets d’art to his daughters to bedeck their own nearby classic prewar apartments.

“We just refine it, refine it, and buy new stuff, and eventually upgrade the things,” he said. “It’s very fluid.”

A constant theme among the oil paintings — and the most treasured occupants of the apartment — is canines. Besides the detailed painting in the foyer of a King Charles Spaniel, the Kleiers have three very alive snowy white Maltese pampered with plush individual beds in the entranceway, a pile of toys and even a miniature stairway up to the leather-and-paisley couch in the library. All three pups are named after showgirls: Dolly, Roxy and Lola.

The Maltese have been a tradition in the family. In the library, there are three small marble urns holding the ashes of the former Maltese, who also had the good fortune to live at 1125 Park Avenue.

“Those are my last three Maltese, who are unfortunately no longer with us,” Michele Kleier said. “But they’re always with us.”

The library holds not only dozens of books of classic literature, and a multitude on film and film noir, but perhaps hundreds of DVDs of films, tucked away in a large olive-green home video storage unit, surrounded by family photos and graced by a delicate painting of a deer on a hillside overlooking a valley.

The family — which includes a son, Jonathan Kleier, who also works at the brokerage and is in the process of moving out into his own home, and a grandchild, Chase Andrew Forbes, son of Samantha Kleier Forbes — finds the library, with the pantry and kitchen across from it, the area most frequented. However, there are many other intriguing rooms in the apartment.

In fact, the Kleiers first purchased the apartment to take advantage of its large living room attached to an ample dining room. Ian Kleier wanted to use the two rooms combined as a sort of movie house for friends.

“He used to show first-run movies, because he was in the movie business, so we needed a living room and dining room that were opposite each other,” Michele Kleier said. “So the projector could be against the wall, and then … you could have 50 people sitting here watching the movie.”

Those rooms have now been converted back into an elegant living room and dining room, while a back room has been transformed into the only room that doesn’t really fit into their prewar apartment. It is referred to as the “Roxy Theatre,” after Ian Kleier’s favorite theater growing up, with a red drape over a 58-inch television, and a huge photograph from the 1939 release of “Gone With the Wind” that hung at the original Loews Grand Theatre.

But it wasn’t Ian Kleier’s work in film marketing or his predilection for the moving pictures, which often got him first-run films from Woody Allen and the like, that got Michele Kleier into handling real estate brokerage for celebrities. It was her own penchant for Warren Beatty.

“Truthfully, the celebrity thing sort of happened as an accident a long time ago,” she said. “I was particularly enamored with a particular celebrity, Warren Beatty. I found out he was looking for an apartment. I tracked him down, and he became my first celebrity client. After that, I got a lot of other clients. One thing led to another.”

A grand piano in the Kleiers’ living room is representative of those types of celebrity associations. Michele Kleier said she remembers when Marvin Hamlisch, a real estate client, was over and she took her son Jonathan onto his lap to teach him a song on the piano.

“When Jonathan was little, Marvin was at my apartment — we have a picture, in fact — and he sat on Marvin’s lap, and Marvin taught him to play a song,” Michele Kleier said. “And then Marvin put pieces of paper on all of the keys and Scotch-taped them on so Jonathan could follow the notes.”

Since then, the business handled by Gumley Haft Kleier has blossomed to include other celebrities, Wall Street executives and well-paid lawyers, among other clients, but the Kleiers said that they believe most of the business has come from those who are truly seeking a sense of community in the tumultuous city of New York. Michele Kleier points out that many of her friends from the old neighborhood in Pittsburgh have found their way to Carnegie Hill, as well as parents of her children’s schoolmates at the exclusive Horace Mann School.

Kleier said she has sold throughout her career 43 apartments at 1125 Park Avenue, which has 73 apartments total. Of course, some of those apartments have been sold several times over, she said. And despite moans of a credit crisis, the high-end market appears to be hopping, she said.

“I actually just sold a penthouse that we’re closing in October,” Kleier said. “And an eight-room that’s also closing in October. And I now have an exclusive on a nine-room that’s similar to mine on the other side of the building.”

And Kleier, who got into the business while toting her two girls around, one in a baby carrier and one in a stroller, said she doesn’t believe that Carnegie Hill, now a solidly family neighborhood, will suffer from a market downturn.

“This area is a Gold Coast,” she said, relaxing on a late 18th century English Sheridan-style sofa under an early 20th century portrait of a young girl given to her by a grateful client. “There may be other areas, the fringe areas, that see a decline. But not this area.”

Foreigners Learn the Language 

Jun 01, 2007

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Broker John Mehigan Gives his Spin on the Next Wave of Foreign Buyers


Few things underscore the quirks and excesses of New York real estate more than seeing them through the eyes of someone from a foreign country.

Take the number of bathrooms in New York apartments. Europeans think Americans are obsessed with them. Or closing costs — foreign buyers are appalled by what it costs to close a deal. They’re also baffled by things like title insurance, and they’re forcing brokers to come up with tortured explanations.

It’s a recurring challenge, because the backgrounds of foreign buyers are constantly changing as New York real estate comes into greater favor.

Big buyers today include Russians, Koreans and, of course, apartment seekers from Western Europe. Brokers say the next wave of purchasers could come from China and Eastern Europe as both areas see more wealth.

Some buyers, meanwhile, have dropped further off the radar, including pied- -terre seekers from the Middle East, who are heading to Asia — and Singapore in particular — in greater numbers, brokers report.

Overall, foreigners make up a large portion of new condo development buyers in Manhattan — around 30 percent by some estimates. Demand is strong enough that some foreigners set on purchasing large blocks of units in these projects have been rebuffed by developers, for fear of one group of nationals dominating a building.

International buyers are also heading farther afield than ever before, leaving the safe confines of neighborhoods like the Upper East and Upper West sides, and looking at projects like Donald Trump’s hotel-condo in Soho.

The Real Deal spoke to brokers about changing tastes among investors from abroad and about the things that never go out of style.

Patricia Warburg Cliff
senior vice president and director of European sales, the Corcoran Group

What is the most interesting trend you see among foreign buyers?

The most interesting trend that I find, and I guess not surprisingly, is that investment buyers from the Middle East have fallen off. I think that the fact that it is so difficult to get a visa for the U.S. has soured this group of people from purchasing here. They are, however, purchasing in Singapore.

What is the most negative trend you see among foreign buyers?

The most negative trend is that some developers are reluctant to sell large blocks — more than five to one person or entity — of their apartments to a specific foreign investor. I think they feel that too many will become rentals and that all of those rentals will be dumped on the market at the same time. Also, so long as the New York market is hot, they are not keen on having their building known as a “Korean, Russian, — take your pick — ghetto.” They like diversification. They would also rather sell their units for full price instead of being pressured into giving a discount for a bulk sale.

Which group of foreign buyers has recently grown the most quickly?

The Italian demand for higher-end luxury properties is growing substantially at the moment. They are a pleasure to deal with. They have great taste and are quick deal makers. The Koreans have been buying since the prohibitive laws against investing abroad in Korea have changed, but they are still limited as to how much currency they can take out of the country. The Russians have been around for a while but are still strong. South Africa seems to be producing a fair number of purchasers. Asians are less interested in buying for investment here. Again, Singapore is very popular, because the market is soaring there and many feel that it has maybe topped off here. Asian parents, however, are very hot on buying apartments for their college-age children who are in school here or who are starting careers here. Sometimes, they buy two- or three-bedroom units so they can have their own bedroom and bath when they visit.

Looking forward, who do you see as the next big wave of buyers?

Maybe Eastern Europeans as they become more prosperous. It’s always a status symbol for the nouveau riche foreigner to own an apartment in New York.

Where are the hot areas and neighborhoods for foreigners to buy right now in the city? How has that changed?

Initially, foreigners were only buying on the Upper East and Upper West Side. They felt comfortable because they know the neighborhoods. Time Warner was a big success with foreigners, but not 15 Central Park West, which is more Americans, specifically New Yorkers. Now foreigners are also buying in fringe, emerging neighborhoods.

Is there any change as far as foreigners buying in co-op buildings?

Only major international “captain of industry”-type foreigners buy in co-ops, and then only because they want the address on Fifth or Park, and they can’t get that in a condo — all of the great buildings there are co-ops.

Are there specific features of an apartment that foreigners look for that tie into their cultural background?

Generally foreigners, or at least European buyers, are somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of plumbing — bathrooms and powder rooms — in New York apartments. They find it really excessive to have a four-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot apartment with four and a half or five and a half baths, and often ask if some of the baths can be left out. Americans, they say, seem to be obsessed by bathrooms.

Any particular ways foreigners are using their apartments that have changed?

Yes, I think that people are less inclined to have a real pied- -terre here. The distances are too great to get frequent use. Many former pied- -terre purchasers today want to rent out their unit as an investment but still want to use it themselves. The best solution is to buy a hotel unit and put it into the hotel pool for specific times, leaving the other times open for personal use. Trump did this with great success at Trump International. The Mark is planning on doing this. The Carlyle Hotel has also permitted this.

Do foreigners have any complaints about the New York City real estate market, and has that changed over time?

Foreigners are surprised and somewhat appalled by the closing costs, which are very different from abroad. These have increased over time, what with developers passing on the city and state transfer taxes to the buyers, who will have to foot the bill again when they go to sell. They also have no idea what title insurance is. It’s somewhat difficult to explain, since they don’t have this in the countries that they come from. I try to give the example of the American Indians who originally owned Manhattan Island perhaps coming back with a land claim, which is then defended forever by the title insurance company. It’s a little far-fetched, but they get the point. The other complaint is that sometimes the quality of the finished construction is not what they anticipated. They are used to a finer finish and expected better. This is mainly the case with the less-expensive units.

What problems are foreigners running into in buying in the U.S.?

In the [post-] Sept. 11 environment, some foreigners from less-favored countries, such as the Philippines or the Middle East, are having trouble transferring currency into the country. There are all kinds of requirements placed on the banks to identify where the money is coming from and what purpose it’s being used for.

Asher Alcobi
principal broker and founder, Peter Ashe Real Estate

What is the most positive trend you see among foreign buyers?

The positive trend is that they are very focused. If they are not based in New York, they usually come for a limited amount of time and explore. But they are quick to understand that the market moves very quickly. When they understand that, they are very quick to make a decision.

Which group of foreign buyers has tapered off?

The Japanese are nonexistent; I don’t see much Japanese traffic here. In the ’80s when the Japanese bought, it was cheap. I think the Europeans and Israelis are the big players in the market now. Europeans are driven by the high euro-to-dollar ratio. For them it’s a 30 percent bargain. I even see people that are white-collar or lower white-collar, like UN employees, buying one small apartment in a condo.

Which particular new condo projects are drawing a lot of foreigners?

The Trump [hotel-condo project in Soho] is drawing a lot of attention, and 20 Pine Street. All of the Related Companies’ projects are a big attraction to foreigners. If they are not the best, they are one of the best in town. When they do something, they do it right, and many foreigners are in their buildings.

Is there any change as far as foreigners buying in co-op buildings?

I have no demand for co-ops with foreigners.

What are foreigners typically looking for in terms of the apartments they are buying?

A big issue for foreigners is the exit strategy. They want to know how liquid the property is that they are going to invest in. If they are not going to use it anymore, they want to know how quickly they can rent it or sell. They are worried about taxation — how much they will have to pay when they sell.

How has this changed over time?

I see more Europeans looking for modern properties, whereas 10 years ago they were looking for a more traditional way of living, prewar-type properties. Back home, they can have that type of property. Alternately, they like to see the industrial motifs of the very old industrial lofts in Tribeca and the West Village — the column supports, unfinished walls and ceilings are so completely different than what they are used to in their homelands.

Any particular ways foreigners are using their apartments that have changed?

If Europeans are using the property, they don’t like anyone using it if they aren’t there. They rarely buy something new in a new building just to rent it out.

Cheryl Tanenbaum
owner-broker, CMT Private Real Estate

Looking forward, who do you see as the next big wave of buyers?

The next trend will probably be the Chinese market, which will hit New York the way I see it hitting in other parts of the world. They will want to experience other places as they move from middle class to upper middle class.

Where are the hot areas and neighborhoods for foreigners?

The Upper East Side still has its strong appeal. The first desire of the European and Russian buyer is Fifth, Madison and Park avenues. They all want to be there. Others are thinking, “Where do I have to go to get the most for my money?” They are looking in the 20s and 30s where there are large loft spaces. The business community is going into the 50s, which has a strong appeal, and there is always the type that wants to be Downtown if they work there or on Wall Street.

What are foreigners typically looking for in terms of price range, size and features of the apartments they are buying?

French buyers love townhouses. They love the prewar feel and don’t mind walking up. For others, it’s a big negative.

Are there specific features of an apartment that foreigners look for that tie into their cultural background?

French buyers love the charm, the moldings, that it reflects a Parisian style or feel. The South Americans want newer buildings. They want the windows with views, they want marble.

What problems are foreigners running into in buying in the U.S.?

The issue they have with selling is the foreign withholding tax, because they don’t get all their money. It can be 10 percent, even though they are paying all their taxes — that makes people feel uneasy, as if they are not to be trusted. Unrelated to the Sept. 11 issue is whether it is best to go to a U.S. bank for financing or to bring the money from an overseas bank. If there is a large amount of money coming from overseas there is an investigation as to the source of the funds. They have to prove where it came from, so it is an extra level of investigation which can cause delays.

John Mehigan
broker, Gumley Haft Kleier

What is the most interesting trend you see among foreign buyers?

Being a native Dubliner, most of my international clients come from Ireland, with the rest coming from the U.K. What is most interesting is the Irish investor’s willingness to buy off the plans, sight unseen. I work closely with the Sorrento Group, based in Dublin, who bought 48 units in the Centria condo at 18 West 48th Street on behalf of Irish investors. They have another two projects being sold exclusively to Irish investors.

Which group of foreign buyers has recently grown the most quickly?

The Irish have certainly been the hungriest to get into Manhattan real estate over the last three years. There is movement from some of the old Soviet bloc countries, some Chinese, also Hong Kong. It’s always cyclical. At one point, as we all remember, it was the Japanese.

What features are foreigners looking for in the apartments they are buying?

High-rise residential units, such as we have in Manhattan, don’t exist in Europe. Views are a major selling point. Some of my clients initially come to the market with the notion of flipping the contract for a quick return. This is nigh on impossible on new construction, and they need to be told this up front.

Do foreigners have any complaints about the New York City real estate market, and has that changed over time?

They complain constantly about closing costs and the high commissions. In Ireland, the average fee is 1 percent, and they don’t co-broker. Some clients don’t believe me at first. There is also the issue of maintenance costs. This also comes as a surprise to many.

Kent Pahlajani
sales associate, DJK Residential

What is the most interesting trend you see among foreign buyers?

Most buyers that I see are from India and Dubai. They have the money to invest as the rupee is getting very strong, so it is at least 10 percent cheaper than it was, and that’s a big advantage. The real estate market in India has gone up a lot, which means that they themselves have more money to invest.

Where are the hot areas and neighborhoods for foreigners to buy right now in the city?

It used to be [that] Edison, New Jersey, and Jackson Heights, Queens, were the areas with the highest concentrations of Indians, but in the last five years it has changed, and they are looking into Manhattan.

Are foreigners buying in new condo projects in big numbers?

The buyers that I deal with like to buy in a condo at the initial offering. Then every time the developer sells a few, they raise the price, so by the time construction is finished these buyers have significantly grown their initial investment.

Which particular new condo projects are drawing a lot of foreigners?

For the Trump Soho project I have 10 to 12 people — they [are not] all Indian — that have signed letters of intent to buy.

Any particular ways foreigners are using their apartments that have changed?

Indian parents always worry about their children, so if they can afford to buy a place for children that are studying here, they prefer that over renting. Parents normally pay for the kids. They don’t ask the kids to pay for anything.

Marcos Cohen
senior vice president, Prudential Douglas Elliman

What is the most positive trend you see among foreign buyers?

One reason they want an apartment in New York City is that it gives them a chance to have a second wind in life. It’s always a psychological buy, to get more excitement out of their life, and New York is the best place for that.

The most negative trend?

The co-op system. Foreign buyers can’t understand the co-op system, and since Sept. 11 even condos have become harder [to purchase from abroad], except with a good broker. A lot of co-ops are not as great an investment, because for most of them they cannot buy as an offshore corporation or a [limited liability corporation], and they cannot rent it out as an investment, so that becomes very hard. Worst of all, it’s hard for them to understand the concept of co-op ownership.

Which group of foreign buyers has grown most quickly recently?

The South Koreans and Europeans. Some European countries that we haven’t seen in a long time are investing heavily now, like the Irish. There are also the Australians. Chinese buyers have become steady, and Russians are very good in the high-end condos. We haven’t seen the Spanish in the past the way we are now. A lot of companies from Spain are investing in residential real estate.

Where are the hot areas and neighborhoods for foreigners to buy right now in the city? How has that changed over the last five or 10 years?

In the past they all wanted to be on the Upper East Side and Central Park South because of the boutiques and Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman and the like. Now it is Central Park West, the West Side and the Financial District. Soho, Tribeca, Nolita and Downtown in general is bringing a lot of foreigners.

Wigder Frota
senior vice president, Prudential Douglas Elliman

What is the most negative trend you see among foreign buyers?

When you bring them to see new developments, they don’t see the finished product, and they get frustrated with that.

Looking forward, who do you see as the next big wave of buyers?

I think there may be an increase of Latin American buyers because conditions are very good with the way American banks are offering financing. Now that the big boom of American buyers has sort of stopped a little bit, the banks have been much easier with foreign buyers who can put down 30 percent and get financing, even without citizenship or resident status.

Are foreigners buying in new condo projects in big numbers?

Absolutely. Some new condo buildings have restrictions on the amount a single buyer can buy; they are often restricted to two apartments. Where there isn’t, they buy 10 to 15 apartments.

Which new condo projects are drawing a lot of foreigners?

The Orion on West 42nd Street is one, and 555 West 23rd Street is a project in an incredibly desirable area for investors. 121 East 23rd Street was a very good one, and 485 Fifth Avenue.

How does the current exchange rate factor in?

In Latin America, the value of the American dollar has gone down. I deal with a lot of investors in Brazil. Four years ago the exchange rate of the real was 1 to 4, now it’s 1 to 2. The American dollar has decreased in value by 50 percent in the last four years, so the Brazilian real has increased in value. It is so much easier for them to buy here.



Jan 01, 2004

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Sabrina Kleier Morgenstern /Robert Morgenstern; Deals: 20 sales and rentals in 2003...


Emily Cho-Roache of Brown Harris Stevens got her start in the months following Sept. 11, when she and her partner, Greg Roache, decided to put in long days and nights targeting buyers when many in the industry weren’t. The result was 27 sales in 2002, and a REBNY Rookie of the Year award. Cho-Roache is one of a dozen agents profiled in this month’s Top Agents Under 30.

“Nobody starts out planning to go into real estate,” is a common refrain one often hears. Traditionally, residential real estate has been a profession that most launch into as a second or third career, one or two or three decades after entering the workforce. It’s not a young person’s game.

But that may be changing. A new breed of younger agents are increasingly coming into the profession, a trend that has been fueled by the downturn in other sectors of the economy and the impressive amount of money that can be made in real estate.

Given the trend, The Real Deal decided to assemble a list of some of the hottest agents under 30. We approached 25 of the city’s most prominent firms, both large and small, asking for their most accomplished or top-producing agent still in their 20s (for the largest firms we asked for two names), and then whittled down the list some more.

The results speak for themselves. From Manhattan-born-and-bred family business scions to new agents who came to New York from small towns to make it big, they run the gamut. Some have worked on Wall Street. Some hail from the art world. What they all seem to possess is an impressive degree of maturity, drive and smarts, which no doubt has helped them to elevate their careers at a relatively early stage.

Rachel Kaplan

Company: The Corcoran Group

Deals: 12 contracts in six months as an agent

Age: 23

“I’m five feet tall, and look like I’m 15,” admits Rachel Kaplan, who started as an agent at Corcoran a month after graduating from George Washington University in May. Though she looks even younger than her age, and is the least senior agent in Corcoran’s Carnegie Hill office by a decade and a half, Kaplan is off to a stellar start in real estate, with 12 signed contracts in her first six months on the job, including half a dozen closed deals. The native New Yorker, who graduated from The Hewitt School and worked at Corcoran as an assistant during college, mostly caters to young homebuyers. She cited Barbara Corcoran’s book during her job interview when concerns were raised about her size and age. “I told them ‘you have to take a disadvantage, and turn it into an advantage.’”

Emily Cho-Roache/Greg Roache

Company: Brown Harris Stevens

Deals: 17 sales in 2003; 27 sales in 2002

Age: Emily 26 and Greg 29

In the months following Sept. 11, Emily Cho-Roache and her partner, Greg Roache, decided to put in long days and nights at Brown Harris Stevens targeting buyers when much of the industry was at a standstill. The result was 27 sales in 2002, and a REBNY Rookie of the Year award for Cho-Roache. The New York native, who was born in Korea, initially got started in the industry in 2000 as an assistant, but soon went on to form a partnership with Greg. The alliance worked out in more ways than one, and the couple got married in April, with Cho-Roache now expecting. “We’ll have to reorganize our plans a bit,” she said. Marriage hasn’t diminished their deal-making skills, however – the couple did 17 deals in 2003, for a higher dollar amount than the year before. “We were even on the phone with a seller during our rehearsal dinner,” Cho-Roache said. In the partnership, Cho-Roache said she is the more organized one. Greg, 29, formerly the top-producing agent at Madison International Real Estate before joining Brown Harris Stevens, is “the more imaginative, creative and aggressive one.”

Sarah Steinberg

Company: Warburg Realty

Deals: $9.5 million in last six months

Age: 24

Sarah Steinberg is the daughter of two of Warburg’s top brokers, Richard Steinberg and Renee Bross, but has also shown she has what it takes to be superstar herself since beginning as an agent three years ago. Over the past six months, working both independently and with her father, who is the company’s top producer, she has obtained $9.5 million in signed contracts and closed deals, and presently has a whopping $26.6 million in exclusives. Steinberg graduated from the Nightingale-Bamford School on the Upper East Side and from Cornell University, and said because of her upbringing she learned early on “the twists and turns of a deal – it’s not a surprise to me.” Nonetheless, starting so young, “people were welcoming, but skeptical” of her, she said. “But I got the trust and was able to prove myself.” Since she started, she said, “there are so many other young brokers entering the business.”

Ivana Tagliamonte

Company: Halstead

Deals: $8.2 million in 2003; 24 sales and 4 rentals

Age: 28

Nominated for REBNY Rookie of the Year in 2003, Ivana Tagliamonte has been getting deals done at a rapid pace since starting as an agent in New York a year and a half ago. The former environmental consultant and marketing director for a D.C. real estate company averaged two deals a month in 2003. Around 25 percent of her business is relocation work, a natural fit for someone who spent her childhood in Italy before moving extensively around the East Coast as an adolescent. Tagliamonte is “broker for the building” at The Foundry at 310 and 312 East 23rd Street, where she lives.

Robin Schneiderman

Company: Citi Habitats

Deals: Top listing agent; 50-plus rentals in 2003

Age: 24

The downturn in the economy and his subsequent departure from Goldman Sachs was one of the best things to have happened to Robin Schneiderman. The Citi Habitats broker, who graduated from Syracuse University, came into real estate when the trader training program he was in didn’t lead to a job. Schneiderman’s best friend, Andrew Barrocas, brought him on board at Citi Habitats, where he is now a top rental broker, receiving the company’s ‘platinum award’ this year for doing more than 50 deals. Schneiderman is also the number one or two listing agent in the company, earning enough commission for getting new developments into the system that it more than pays for rent. “It’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” he said. “I’m a good networker and I ask a lot of questions.” Most of his business is done downtown, and his typical client comes from Wall Street.

Sabrina Kleier Morgenstern/Robert Morgenstern

Company: Gumley Haft Kleier

Deals: 20 sales and rentals in 2003

Age: Sabrina 27 and Robert 28

Sabrina Kleier Morgenstern started her career as the youngest producer at NBC’s Access Hollywood, where she covered New York events in a segment she produced called “Hot Spots.” After enough celebrity interviews and movie premiers, she decided to enter the family business (owned by her parents Michele and Ian Kleier), because she saw “my mother had a fabulous career and a life,” though the still does the occasional television segment. Since starting in real estate in 2002, Morgenstern has parlayed her contacts at Access Hollywood into listings – Charlie Matthau, son of Walter, who she once interviewed, recently hired her to put his deceased parents’ apartment at Trump World Tower on the market, now priced at $3.799 million. She is currently working with three other celebrity clients. Morgenstern also learned about real estate – and celebrities – from her mother, a power broker whose clients have included John Travolta, Warren Beatty and Billy Joel. “My mother would wheel us around in a carriage while looking for a place with John Travolta, and negotiate deals during dinner,” she said. “You just absorb the information.” After graduating from Horace Mann and cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, Morgenstern also has access to “a network of people buying the most expensive apartments in the city, including my friends, who are starting to buy places.” Expanding the business even further, Morgenstern’s husband, Robert, came aboard in April and sold a $2.5 million townhouse in his first three months on the job.

Michelle Jacobson

Company: Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy

Deals: $4 million in first six months

Age: 27

Michelle Jacobson decided to pursue a career in real estate relatively recently, when she was moving back from Miami Beach to New York and had an experience with an inept broker – who also happened to be her friend. “She didn’t do a good job and I lost a lot of money,” she said. “I knew I could do a better job.” Jacobson has racked up more than $4 million in sales in her first six months on the job, including a deal for a four-bedroom Tribeca loft in November. Jacobson also has a background in art history and interior design, having managed Meridian Fine Art, a gallery on the Upper East Side, and attending the Art Institute.

Timothy Melzer

Company: Douglas Elliman

Deals: $14 million in last 4 months;

five $1 million deals in May

Age: 26

Recently named REBNY Rookie of the Year in 2003, Timothy Melzer is off to an astounding start in real estate. He has tallied a total of 41 deals over last two years, and in the last four months alone has racked up $14 million in sales. Last May, Melzer did five $1 million-plus deals in one month, and was named “Broker of the Month” by Douglas Elliman. Melzer’s background is far away from the world of New York real estate. Growing up on a large wheat ranch in Oregon, where he graduated high school in a class of 37 people, Melzer then received a degree from the University of Washington in Seattle before moving to New York. Working as a waiter at River Caf , he was trying to “figure out what to do with himself” when a he came across a contact in real estate, a profession he had always thought about as a career. Starting right before Sept. 11 at Elliman, he didn’t get a deal done for four months – then business took off. His main focus is Tribeca lofts, and he occupies a niche selling properties between $1 and $2 million, he said. Melzer said his clients cover all ages and types – “straight couples, gay couples, single men, single women” – and said clients gravitate to him because he’s likeable, and provides good customer service. He said most clients aren’t put off by his age – those that are, he doesn’t work with – and said the playing field is equal “as long as you have an extensive knowledge of the neighborhood and market.” One notable recent deal, which hasn’t closed yet, involved representing a New Jersey doctor who bought the penthouse at Morton Square for $1.9 million. Melzer said he is also known as one of the top listing agents at Douglas Elliman, finding out about new developments and getting them into the company’s system.

Alison Seanor

Company: Fenwick-Keats

Age: 28

A Harvard graduate who worked as a Nasdaq trader at Merrill Lynch for five years, Alison Seanor left her job to travel the world for a year after Sept. 11. When she returned to New York, a chance encounter with Fenwick-Keats co-owner Jeff Wolk in a building elevator lead to a career in real estate. After starting six months ago, Seanor is off to a solid start, with eight deals, and she’s approaching $2 million in sales and rentals.

Andrew Barrocas

Company: Citi Habitats

Deals: Youngest office manager

Age: 24

Citi Habitats’ youngest office manager, Andrew Barrocas, runs the company’s 100 John Street storefront downtown, and has tripled business there since taking over a year ago. He started by clearing house – only two of the 15 original agents remain – and then expanded the office to make room for 35 agents. Overall, his agents – most are around his age – did more than 1,000 rentals last year. Beyond rentals, Barrocas has helped close some large sales, including a deal in progress representing the buyer of an $8 million townhouse downtown. He credits his success to his father, who runs a handful of businesses in the garment center. “As a kid, we weren’t taught sports or anything else like that. We just talked about business.” His brother Jason, 28, who is also an office manager for the company in Midtown, brought Andrew on board after he graduated from Arizona State University. Andrew did 130 rentals in his first year as an agent, before becoming a manager. He is also responsible for bringing Robin Schneiderman, a childhood friend from New City in Rockland County and now a top agent at Citi Habitats, into the company.

Ryan Fix

Company: Douglas Elliman

Deals: $13 million in 2003

Age: 28

Ryan Fix’s approach as an agent involves a heavy dose of technology. Once involved in developing the real estate division at citysearch.com, where he assisted some of the city’s top firms with their marketing strategies, Fix knows with today’s younger buyers, “you’ve to get information for them in the way they want it. I send a lot of emails, do a lot of follow up calls.” He’s also able to effectively convert buyers browsing properties on the Internet – “people will keep browsing until there is a broker smart enough to commit them” – and it’s paid off well. At the end of 2003, Fix was in contract for more than $13 million, and had more than $8 million in closed sales. Before being recruited by Douglas Elliman from citysearch.com, Fix had worked as a rental broker and on the trading floor at Merrill Lynch and for Citibank. Most of his clients, he said, are “young people who have hit it big,” like an energy trader at Goldman Sachs in her early 30s who is “rocking and rolling” in her career and currently looking for a place, or the JP Morgan analyst who he took on a walkthrough of a $1.6 million loft at Bullmoose Condominium at 42 East 20th Street recently. Fix hopes to branch out into development eventually, and is also in the process of starting a non-profit organization for children in need.

Josh Rubin

Company: The Corcoran Group

Deals: 20 sales and rentals in 2003

Age: 28

Although he’s only 28, Josh Rubin has got a lot of experience in real estate. He entered the business seven years ago, after working in retail finance as a stockbroker for Smith Barney and Bear Stearns and attending the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, where he grew up. Joining Corcoran three years ago after working in rentals, most of the deals he does now (about 90 percent sales and 10 percent rentals) are downtown, and a lot in Chelsea. “Business just sort of snowballed there,” he said. ‘It’s not by design.” Recent deals include a 5-room, 1,600 square foot loft at 32 Morton Street. Rubin’s eventual goal is to be a developer. “That’s my end game,” he said.


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.