Dream Homes 

May 30, 2013

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The Kleier's have a beautiful listing at 524 East 72nd Street


Upper East Side $5.495 million You will have no problem entertaining yourself — or dozens of guests — in the “expansive,” 24-foot-long living room that is the centerpiece of this 2,900-square-foot home above East 72nd Street. Besides the “open” and “dramatic”views of the city, river and bridges, there is an alcoved wet bar with a wine fridge and a beverage cooler to keep the party going. The “sleek,” windowed kitchen makes serving dinner a no-brainer, too. And when the celebration is over, retire to the “spectacular” corner master suite, with its “luxurious” dressing room and a “marble, spa-like” en-suite bath with a soaking tub. Agents: Sabrina Kleier-Morgenstern and Michele Kleier, Kleier Residential, 212-371-2525, ext. 300 and ext. 350

Room to Dine; No Wall Views Please 

May 24, 2013

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Room to Dine; No Wall Views Please


It didn’t take much thought for Stephanie Budijono and Jean-Francois Kagy to decide to settle in New York.

They met in Princeton, N.J., as graduate students at Princeton University, where she studied chemical engineering and he economics. Ms. Budijono, 28, now works in Princeton as a scientist, while Mr. Kagy, 31, works in Midtown East for an economic consulting firm.

The two toyed with the idea of living in New Jersey, but both prefer city life. As grad students, they often visited New York, sometimes just for dinner. When they returned to Princeton in the wee hours, “we imagined living in the city and being just 10 minutes away from home,” Mr. Kagy said.

And they never agreed with friends who cited the difficulty they might eventually face rearing children in the city.

The Upper East Side felt homey and family-oriented, filled with children on weekends. With a price range between $700,000 and $900,000 for a co-op, the couple initially hoped for a three-bedroom, but these turned out to be too pricey. So they went looking for a two-bedroom with a well-ventilated kitchen.

“For us, the home is really important,” said Ms. Budijono, who is from Indonesia. “It’s not only a place for us to sleep and shower, but a place for us to relax and hang out, and food is a very important part in our relationship. I like to cook and like to try out new recipes. People say New Yorkers don’t eat at home a lot, but I do. I need to eat at home to be able to enjoy eating out.”

They also wanted a real dining area with room for a “floating dining table,” she said, so nobody would face a wall while eating.

Last year, Mr. Kagy, who is from Montreal, went to his first open house, in Carnegie Hill, to suss out what kind of co-op their budget would allow. As he left, Sabrina Kleier-Morgenstern, an executive vice president of Kleier Residential, waved him into her open house on the same floor. Recognizing her from the HGTV show, “Selling New York,” he pocketed her card.

He started walking the cross streets of the Upper East Side, back and forth, becoming familiar with the neighborhood. “Maybe we can get more data points,” he thought, referring to such information as liquidity requirements for co-ops. He contacted Ms. Kleier-Morgenstern.

Sometimes couples disagree on what they want, she said, “but they really seemed to be in sync and have similar sorts of tastes.”

Often, places they saw were perfectly nice but had tiny second bedrooms or lacked dining space. A lovely prewar co-op in the Sutton Place neighborhood had a layout issue: with six steps up to the living room and down to the bedroom, the couple feared problems with reselling.

The location was a bit off, too: Though the apartment was across East 59th Street from the Bridgemarket, and though the view of the Roosevelt Island tramway was delightful, the couple didn’t relish walking on First Avenue beneath the dark and noisy Queensboro Bridge overpass. The apartment, listed for $875,000, with maintenance of around $2,300 a month, later sold for $872,500.

The couple decided they would rather be nearer Central Park and farther north. They hunted efficiently, kept to a schedule by Daniel Kerin, an agent at Kleier Residential. “I say it took a minute a block and two minutes an avenue, and we planned an itinerary,” Mr. Kerin said. “We are not time-wasters.”

The couple fell in love with a prewar co-op in the mid-80s near Park Avenue, listed at $832,000, with monthly maintenance in the $1,800s.

It was well located, near the 86th Street subway, and in a coveted school district. But they didn’t like the brick wall just outside the living room and master bedroom.

They returned again and again. “Each time we would go back and stare out the window and think, ‘Does it really make sense, because the view is close to zero?’ ” Mr. Kagy said. They turned the lights off and on, gauging the dimness or brightness.

“We thought maybe we could live with this, because we loved the apartment so much,” Ms. Budijono said. “We loved the kitchen, the lobby, the feel. Sometimes you cannot explain that.” They agonized, and decided against it. The place is now in contract.

In the end, they returned to an apartment they had seen earlier, in the low 90s near Park Avenue — a 1,000-square-foot two-bedroom, just at treetop level, with quaint row houses across the street.

The kitchen, though long and skinny, had a counter with seats by the window; the living room was large enough for a floating table. The bathroom had a tub as well as a separate shower stall. The master bedroom faces the street; the second bedroom looks over a ventilation system, but still gets sun and sky — which is better than having a brick wall a few feet away.

The unit was listed at $829,000, with monthly maintenance of around $1,900. The couple purchased it in March for $800,000.

“They were very, very thorough,” Ms. Kleier-Morgenstern said. “This was a thoughtful, precise decision for them.”

Though they thought their apartment might be a bit far from the subway, it doesn’t seem far because the walk is so engaging. The couple love Carnegie Hill’s small shops and its relatively quiet streets, as they knew they would.

Being so thorough, Mr. Kagy said, they had returned many times to make sure that right after they moved in, they wouldn’t be saying, “ ‘Oh, gosh, how come we didn’t see that and are stuck with it for the next five years?’

“This apartment came with no surprises. It is a two-bedroom. It is not as though we discovered a third bedroom.”

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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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.