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01-04-2013 - Curbed

Selling New York S6E5: Something That Stands Out


HGTV's Selling New York rides along with brokerages CORE, Kleier Residential, and Warburg as they try to sell fabulous properties fabulously. Here's our recap of how the NYC real estate industry is portrayed to the world, penned by Angela Bunt. Episode air date: 1/3/2013.

In the first episode of the new year, we're introduced to CORE SVP Mickey Conlon, who's working with an Australian client to try and find her the perfect space on a less-than-perfect budget. With only a week to close the deal, Mickey aims to show her that if you want NYC views, you have to pay NYC prices. Also featured on this week's episode are the women of Warburg, Leslie Modell Rosenthal and Deborah Lupard. They're working with the New York Foundation for the Arts to bring fabulous artwork into their listings. The only problem: one of the apartments refuses to allow any holes to be put into the wall. Oy. It's always something.

Mickey Conlon, the SVP of Core, kicks off the episode when he meets with Sue Heath, a client from Australia. Her partner, Bruce, buys real estate as a hobby, so she's in the city scouting apartments for the week. Saying that you buy real estate as a hobby is like saying you travel or practice philanthropy as a hobby. It's essentially saying, "In my spare time, I like to be filthy rich." Her initial budget ranges from $600-800K, and she wants something that "feels like she's in New York." You know, perhaps something with a view of a skyscraper or a Manhattan landmark. Or maybe something that overlooks a few dumpsters and homeless people. That's uber New York.

The first property Mickey shows Sue is a 1BR, 1.5BA located on West 57 Street. Near the theaters, parks and shopping, this is as "New York" as it gets.

It's a spacious pad, with a view of the Hearst Building (like Sue has any clue WTF that is), and a teensy tiny Statue of Liberty out the living room window. It fits the bill for the client—except that the ceilings are kind of low. Besides, in a strategic move by Mickey to show Sue how much bang for your buck you get in Manhattan (hint: none), this apartment is actually listed at $1.345M. Which is about $500k over budget. You're not in Aussie any more, honey.

Mickey is desperately trying to stress to this couple that if having a quintessential New York view, plus high ceilings and polished finishes, are apartment musts, they're going to have to raise their budget. Perhaps the couple would take him more seriously as the Senior Vice President of Core if he took those ridiculous bow-ties and scarves off and stopped dressing so much like Ronald McDonald on a job interview. Just a thought.

The next apartment Mickey shows Sue is at 400 Fifth Avenue, aka Midtown's Setai. It's a 1BR, 1.5BA listed at $1.715M. Hey, that's still way over her price range!

But wait, is that Madison Square Garden I see out the window? And these ceilings are sooo high. Time to get on the horn with the hubby to try to convince him to raise the budget!

They rouse Bruce from his sleep halfway around the world to tell him the news. Mickey jokes to Bruce that he's glad he's in Australia so he "can't bite his head off." Or the yellow tie he's rocking. Bruce suggests making an offer of $1.2M, and Mickey lets out an audible sigh as if to say: these guys are clueless. He knows a lowball offer like that won't get them the apartment, and they're just wasting time as Sue is only in the states for two more days. Not surprisingly, the offer is too low and they lose the bid. Even I could've told them that would happen.

In an effort to forget about their rejection, Mickey shows Sue a pad at 211 East 51st Street, a 2BR, 2BA listed at $1.475M.

So I guess we have just completely disregarded their initial budget at this point. Although I like Mickey's tactic: show them the best and most expensive right off the bat, so everything else pales in comparison. I hear that commission climbing, cha-ching! Hey, he didn't become an SVP without serious skills. While Sue says the apartment is "lovely," she just can't get the Setai crib out of her head. They decide to revisit the building with a swift stronger offer.

With 45 minutes left in the city, Mickey meets with Sue to share some news. He found another apartment at 400 Fifth Avenue, on a lower floor and at a slightly lower price ($1.25M), and the developer is willing to sell it to Sue. Hooray! Was it Mickey's voracious attitude that got them the apartment, or his poop-colored bow-tie? The world may never know.

The other brokers featured in this episode are Leslie Modell Rosenthal (hey, didn't we just see her last week?) and Deborah Lupard. When we're first introduced to them, they're sitting through what looks like a really boring staff meeting at Warburg.

Warburg President Fred Peters is telling the staff about his new apartment staging idea. Rather than the martinis, appetizers, and strategically placed Moroccan statues that have become the staging norm, they're going to partner with the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) to license artwork and place it throughout different apartments on the market. Leslie and Deborah both have listings on 72nd Street, and they want to utilize the art idea to revitalize the apartments and invite potential buyers over for an art show.

Deborah Lupard goes to visit her client Debra Kent (related to Maggie?) at the Mayfair Towers to discuss the idea of an art installation in her $1.095M, 1BR, 1BA apartment.

She has a few fragile pieces of her own she'd rather not move, and a curious portrait of Mao Zedong hanging in her kitchen, but she's down with the idea. The ladies are excited about the concept of an art show, because as Deborah says, "It's not just cheese and crackers," and will hopefully spark more interest than an average staging.

From there, we're taken to our girl Leslie's 2BR, 2BA, $10,400/month exclusive at 442 East 72nd Street.

She's brought Michael Royce from NYFA so he can evaluate the space and figure out what pieces will work best. Immediately, he's taken aback by the beautiful view and finishes of the place: "Wow. Can I live here? This is terrific." Obviously NYFA isn't paying him enough. It seems like the perfect place to exhibit art, except one thing: the place has just been painted, and the owner doesn't want any art hung on the walls. Michael knows it will be a challenge, but says he can make it work.

This year is the year that I ask for a raise -- I swear!

When we next catch up with the ladies it's the Big Day of the art show. Michael Royce is working furiously to place (notice I'm saying "place" rather than "hang") all the art at the East 72nd Street property, which he's ingeniously decided to prop on easels throughout the digs. The apartment at West 72nd street proves to be less of a challenge, as there was already plenty of art there, but the team still manages to revitalize the crib and "contextualize" the artwork. They've used the word contextualize about five times when referring to these stagings, and I have no idea what it means. Is this some type of real estate buzzword? Whatever, it's not like I'm a writer or anything.

Even though the open houses haven't seen any results yet, Leslie and Deborah are still happy with their staging results. They visit with Michael to view some more artwork at NYFA and talk about future stagings, and make up more buzzwords about art.

"I love the way that the light is feeding through the stained glass. It's very interesting," says Leslie. So now she's some type of art connoisseur? Eight weeks later, Leslie's client has taken her apartment off the market. Deborah got two offers on her client's apartment, but neither was accepted. Maybe these brokers should consider a career change to curating?

Episode Review: I have a deep hatred, but even deeper respect, for a man not ashamed to wear a bow-tie. Plus, I like the cojones that it took for Mickey to continually show his client apartments way above her price range. Also, even though it didn't generate a sale, Warburg's idea to use an art show as a new way to stage a property is a welcome change from the drinks and appetizers we've become accustomed to. For this reason, and because my New Year's resolution is to be nicer, this episode gets 4 out of 5 cackling Kleiers.