NYC’s Boutique Brokerages Battle for Listings

The Real DealMay 01, 2013
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.”

A Mercedes/Berk listing at the Time Warner Center

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.”

Cornering the Middle

The Real DealMay 01, 2013
Call them the in-betweeners. They’re too small for the top firms list and too big for the boutiques. They’re New York City’s mid-size residential firms.

And for the first time this year, The Real Deal compiled a list ranking these firms by dollar volume of listings.

The firms — which this year had between 50 and roughly 240 agents — have recovered from the difficult market of the last few years and are now looking to grow, either by opening new offices and renovating old ones, hiring more brokers or expanding their core businesses.

“The market just has been steadily improving since the bottom in 2009, and we’ve all benefitted from that,” said Frederick Peters, president of the 126-agent firm Warburg Realty, which logged in at No. 2 on TRD’s ranking with $188.1 million worth of exclusive listings. (TRD’s data was collected from listings provider Online Residential in mid-March.)

Nabbing the No. 1 slot was the 55-agent brokerage CORE — which took the top spot on last year’s boutique list. This year, the company had 70 exclusive listings worth some $344 million. Rounding out the top three was relative newcomer Keller Williams NYC, which had 68 listings worth $186.5 million.

Collectively, the top nine mid-size firms had 319 Manhattan residential listings worth a total of $909.5 million.

Blu Realty founders, from left: David Tobon, Moshe Balalo, Alon Chadad, Michael Arcos and Andy Kim

Making moves

CORE saw a substantial uptick this year — 41 percent — in the dollar value of its listings. (TRD’s ranking last year found that it had listings valued at a total of $244.7 million.)

Much of that boost is due to one super-pricey listing: a five-bedroom property at 15 Central Park West, listed for $85 million with CORE’s Emily Beare.

CEO Shaun Osher said the firm has recently started representing several new developments, including the 92-unit 93 Worth Street in Tribeca.

The company also opened its first Uptown location on the Upper East Side last month, bringing its total number of offices to three.

“We’re definitively growing our brand,” Osher said.

In terms of number of agents, however, he said he’s not looking to drastically increase the size of the firm. Osher said the firm will “continue to grow organically,” but noted that he’s very picky about the agents he hires. “Per agent, we’re very efficient,” he said. “We don’t have agents who don’t do business.”

Warburg is also making moves. In March of this year, the firm moved from its longtime headquarters at 969 Madison Avenue into swanky new headquarters at 654 Madison.
Peters explained that it wasn’t until 2012 that Warburg even considered the upgrade.

“We needed more space,” Peters said. “It just seemed logical to look into an office building with a more central location; 2008 and 2009, the market had gone into the tank so it was hard to think about making a change like that and spending a whole bunch of money.”

“I love it. I am so excited about this place,” Peters added. “This move is clearly the most significant thing we’ve done” in the past year.

Next, Peters said he plans to renovate the firm’s other two offices to make them as “state of the art” as the Madison Avenue office.

That’s a significant change from the downturn. In 2009, Warburg shuttered two of its offices — at 2235 Frederick Douglass Boulevard in Harlem and at 65 West 13th Street.

But when it comes to number of agents, Peters said he has no plans to grow Warburg significantly more than its current total of 126 agents.

“I’ve made a decision about the size that I wanted to maintain for the firm because I want to make sure our broker-to-manager ratio is always small enough so agents can always get the training and support and feedback that they need,” Peters said.

Meanwhile, the 62-agent brokerage MNS is expanding its reach.

The firm — which was formed in 2011 as a merger between the Developers Group and the Real Estate Group New York — recently opened a new Williamsburg office at the Edge, which the firm has been marketing. The firm has two other offices in Manhattan. (Only Manhattan agents and listings were included in this ranking.)

“We have a good story in [Williamsburg],” MNS CEO Andrew Barrocas said. “We have a high concentration of apartments coming on the market and more condo sales than any other company out there in the Williamsburg market.”

While the firm is marketing a number of new rental and condo developments in the outer boroughs, “we did do a lot of business in the Manhattan market” this year, Barrocas said. For example, the firm is marketing the new development condo 2280 Frederick Douglass Boulevard in Harlem.

MNS stayed mostly consistent in terms of Manhattan dollar volume of listings, TRD found, increasing to $27.4 million in total dollar volume of listings from $27.1 million year-over-year. (Like CORE, MNS was also on the top boutiques list last year.)

Like many others, Barrocas attributed the lack of substantial growth to the work MNS has been doing with buyers as well as sellers (see related story, “Brokers turn to buyers to boost business”).

“There are probably 30 buyers to every one apartment that’s out there,” Barrocas said. “A lot of what we do work on is new developments and there were periods where there weren’t any new projects being planned.”

Another firm, 55-agent DJK Residential, is also shifting its focus. The firm came in at No. 7 with $13.9 million in Manhattan listings.

With listings few and far between in Manhattan, the firm has been doing a lot of work in New Jersey, through its office in Nutley, according to Phyllis Pezenik, the company’s vice president of brokerage services.

“With the market being tight and exclusives being gold, everyone’s looking for the bigger properties and they’re scarce,” she said. “But short of building them, we’re trying to find them wherever we can.”

The fifth-ranked firm, 80-agent Fenwick Keats, founded in 1989, had $44.2 million in sales listing volume for 38 listings this year. (Its most expensive listing was a $19.95 million Upper West Side townhouse at 47 West 70th Street.)

The firm, previously called Fenwick Keats Goodstein, bought out Goodstein Management in late 2010. Following the split, it moved out of its Downtown office at 45 Seventh Avenue and into new headquarters at 419 Park Avenue South.

In addition to its headquarters, it has an office Downtown at 45 Seventh Avenue and one on the Upper West Side at 2244 Broadway.

“We adhere to the basics and we are very consistent and steady, so our agents are really trained to deal with all markets and deliver with both our buyers and our sellers,” said Kinnaird Fox, Fenwick’s director of development.

Not mid-size for long

Some firms that are currently mid-size don’t plan to stay that way.

Keller Williams NYC — the Texas-based firm, which opened a Manhattan franchise in 2011 — hopes to grow to 750 Manhattan agents in the next three years, according to Eric Barron, Keller Williams NYC’s CEO. (The firm was founded by powerbroker Illan Bracha, who is still at the helm as the firm’s chairman.)

TRD’s mid-March tally found 240 agents listed on the firm’s website.

Barron said Keller Williams NYC also hopes to open four more offices across the city — on the Upper East and Upper West sides and two Downtown — in the next three years. The firm currently has one office, at 425 Park Avenue.

Growing the number of agents is crucial to Keller Williams’ unusual profit-sharing model: Half of Keller Williams’ annual profits are paid out to brokers who have recruited other agents.

But Barron said he’s not daunted by the fact that the firm has a long way to go. “We’re building the core and the foundation first and then we’re looking to expand,” he said.

The firm’s visibility may get a boost now that a Keller Williams broker, Luis Ortiz, is joining the cast of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York.” The season premiere of the series airs this month.

Keller Williams hired Ortiz from real estate brokerage Synergy NYC this past year. Barron said he was initially concerned about how Ortiz would be portrayed on the show, but is so far happy with how it’s shaping up. “How can you argue with the name Keller Williams New York City being on television six times a week?” he said.

Another new firm, Blu Realty, clocked in at No. 4 on the list with 28 exclusive sales listings worth $80.5 million.

Blu was founded in 2011 by five former Nest Seekers International brokers. According to TRD’s tally, Blu had 56 agents as of mid-March. But firm co-owner David Tobon disputed that, saying the company has 66.

He said the firm aims to have 100 agents by the end of the year to fill two new offices it’s looking to open — one Downtown and another on the Upper East Side. (The company currently has two offices, its headquarters at 1674 Broadway, and an Upper West Side outpost at 120 Riverside Boulevard.)

Tobon attributed the firm’s growing business to an increase in international clientele.
“We’ve gotten a lot of international clientele in the last year,” he said. “That’s where we’ve grown in sales.”

He said Blu’s increase of international clients has come primarily from the firm’s newly formed London office, which has exposed a variety of foreign buyers and sellers to the brokerage.

Back home in Manhattan, the firm is currently marketing several high-end listings, including a $27 million Upper East Side townhouse at 170 East 80th Street and a $17.5 million Upper West Side townhouse at 38 West 87th Street.

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Rise of the Super Towers: The Next Big Thing In Luxury Housing

ForbesApril 30, 2013
The residential tower under construction at 432 Park Avenue in Manhattan will have plenty of opulent amenities to draw the moneyed crowd: The units, which start at $7 million, feature private elevator landings, 12.5- foot ceilings, separate servant entrances, heated bathroom floors and the option to buy additional climate- controlled wine cellars and guest apartments. The building will have a 75-foot-long pool, a private restaurant for residents, room service and catering, even chauffeur service. But for all of the over-the-top features of the Rafael Vinoly-designed tower, the one sure to get the most attention will be its height.

432 Park Ave will jut 1,396 feet into the air over midtown Manhattan upon completion in 2015. At that lofty height, the building, developed by CIM Group and Macklowe Properties, will be New York City’s third-tallest behind One World Trade Center and the Empire Empire State Building. It will also become the Western Hemisphere’s tallest residential tower, eclipsing the 870-foot rental tower New York by Gehry in Lower Manhattan, Midtown’s up-and-coming 1,004-foot One57, and Chicago’s 1,389-foot (spire included) Trump International Hotel and Tower.

“People want views. This will be a game-changer for the upper echelon of New York,” asserts Jarrod Guy Randolph, a luxury real estate broker with CORE in New York who has toured the sales center, which has been kept under wraps since its discreet opening in March.

432 Park Ave is the latest example of a race skyward among luxury residential developers. With the housing market in recovery mode, developers are taking multifamily buildings to staggering new heights, vying for the title of tallest tower and the prestige that translate into larger returns on investment while delivering the breathtaking views buyers are seeking. “What developers are looking to do is set themselves apart,” notes Randolph. “They are doing this because they can build that tall and capitalize on the land.”

In the past, most of the world’s tallest buildings were erected to provide office space, like Chicago’s Willis Tower and the Empire State Building. The shift toward high-rise dwelling started about 15 years ago, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, as interest revived in living in city centers. The 9/11 attacks dampened the nascent trend – but only for a time. As the housing bubble inflated, dozens of residential high rises began popping up in major U.S. cities. New construction ground to a near-halt as the bubble burst and recession ensued, but now, as developers begin to bring projects back online, their buildings – commonly luxury and super luxury condo towers geared toward cash-flush global buyers — are getting even taller.

In New York City, where a finite amount of land and a huge population have made vertical living common, the race to build the highest homes has heated up. For every tall residential tower that begins construction, another boasting more stories at higher feet enters the approval process. Once finished, the glass megalith One57 will become the city’s tallest residential tower with a penthouse encompassing the 89th and 90th floors that is in contract for more than $90 million. One57 will snatch the tallest title from New York by Gehry, where the top units of the 76-story rental building go for $45,000 per month. 432 Park Ave will stand 96 stories, with penthouses that are being marketed for $95 million. In November, One57 developer Extell submitted a permit application with the city to erect a 1,550-foot tower off of 57th Street that will be designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, the architects of the world tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.

In Miami, where high-rise penthouses boasting palatial indoor-outdoor floorplans with expansive water views have been fetching record sums, a collection of new condo towers are in various stages of planning and development, most notably in Brickell and the downtown area. Developer Tibor Hollo recently announced plans for the Panorama Tower, a rental building to be finished in 2016 that will reportedly stand 830 feet tall. That height that will make it Florida’s tallest building.

Earlier this month New York-based developer Property Markets Group unveiled its plans for a 750-foot, 60-story luxury condo building called Echo Brickell. “I believe that everyone wants to be at the top of every building ... because of the view,” says Kevin Maloney, chief executive of PMG. “As you go up in the building, apartments get more expensive so we are trying to get as much of the space as possible out of the base that is locked in and has no view corridor and move it up to the top where it has more value.”

Value, indeed. To begin financing the project, PMG brought 30 of the roughly 250 units to market in mid-April. All 30 units were reserved in one day, says Maloney. For the top floors, which will span roughly 5,000-feet per unit, the reserved prices per square foot are $1,750 – more than double the highest prices per square foot achieved in the Brickell area until now.

The super high-rise residential trend has taken root in cities abroad as well. In Dubai, the new mega-tall Princess Tower, which was finished last year, currently enjoys the title of world’s tallest residential tower at 1,358 feet tall with 101 stories above-ground overlooking the Persian Gulf. In London, the Shard, a mixed-use glass structure housing a five-star hotel, offices and 10 multimillion-dollar residences, opened to the public in February. At 1,013 feet tall, it’s Western Europe’s new tallest building. In 2012, the mixed- use Trump International Hotel & Tower in Toronto became Canada’s tallest residential building at 908 feet, including spire. And once completed in 2014, the 558-foot Tour Odeon in Monaco will become the principality’s tallest structure, touting a 35,000-square foot mega penthouse expected to become the world’s most expensive.

In Tel Aviv, Meier-on-Rothschild will soon open, offering 37 stories of luxury residences, including a $50 million penthouse peddling a private pool and a master bedroom with Jacuzzi. The 590-foot tower, designed by “starchitect” Richard Meier and developed by Berggruen Residential, will be the Israeli city’s tallest building.

“For developers, it makes more financial sense to build a bigger project. Land is very scarce and to increase profit the only way to go is up,” explains Yigal Zemah, chief executive of Berggruen Residential, a real estate development venture of billionaire Nicolas Berggruen. He says building higher is a win-win for everyone: Buyers will pay more for higher units with killer views and lofty seclusion, while developers ultimately increase their profit margins.

But those 360-degree, miles-long views come at a trade-off. Outdoor space like terraces and rooftop gardens are nonexistent at such heights. 432 Park Ave won’t have private terraces, but a residents’ garden will provide communal outdoor space and be available for rent for special events. In One57, the 13,000-square-foot lower penthouse will have a glass- enclosed “winter garden.”

Developers have to take certain construction factors into account when building taller. Proposals can take longer to approve. In some cases, the Federal Aviation Administration has to vet the project to ensure that the building won’t interfere with airplane flight paths. There are also higher initial costs for developers. To go taller, first developers must dig deeper, building foundations that plunge as many as six stories underground. And tall towers, especially skinny ones on smaller footprints, tend to sway, which can be especially perceptible, even dramatic, at upper levels. Many tall buildings utilize dampers to counteract the effects of wind. In 432 Park Ave, the developers will reportedly incorporate giant cylinders every 12 floors that will act as wind tunnels to minimize movement.

Expensive ultrafast elevators must be installed too, since regular models slow down as they move higher into the air, especially on windy days. New buildings are including back-up generators that can keep lifts running in a blackout.

Still wealthy buyers from around the world are plunking down record sums to pop their ears living at altitude. “To some extent there is a feeling of triumph to be very high up. It’s a status symbol,” muses Zemeh. “This gives buyers a good feeling about their view and their self-image.”

Celebrity Real Estate: Claire Danes Quietly Buys West Village Apartment

NBC NewsApril 30, 2013
This week in celebrity real estate, property records confirmed Claire Danes’ home purchase in West Village, actor Nick Nolte listed his Malibu estate and designer Nate Berkus stuck his New York apartment on the open market.

Claire Danes quietly purchases West Village townhouse

Claire Danes must have learned some tricks from her CIA operative role on “Homeland.” The blonde actress picked up a new home in the West Village last November without drawing any attention to the purchase.

A born-and-raised New Yorker, Danes and her British actor husband Hugh Dancy listed their former home in SoHo for $5.988 million last June. The SoHo condo is currently off the market, but property records have yet to report a sale.

But that didn’t limit Danes and Dancy in their next home purchase; the couple bought their Greenwich Village townhome for $6.876 million.
Described as “welcoming” and “bright,” the single-family home was built at the turn of the 20th century and retains much of its original Greek Revival style. Measuring 3,640 square feet, the living spaces are generous, with 12-foot-high ceilings and large windows.

The 4-bedroom, 4-bath home also includes plenty of outdoor space with terraces on all three levels, as well as a ground-level courtyard and rooftop garden.

Actor Nick Nolte lists Malibu home with celebrity pedigree

It’s not a new trend for celebrities to buy each other’s homes. Often, if one celeb likes a home, another star will find it just as appealing. Such is the case with Nick Nolte’s home. Currently owned by the veteran actor, best known for his roles in “48 Hours” and “The Thin Red Line,” the property includes Tommy Chong, Don Felder of the Eagles and songwriter/producer David Foster among its previous owners, according to the Los Angeles Times. Nolte has listed his home for $8.25 million.

What attracted the heavy list of stars to the property? Likely the secluded location. The Bonsall Canyon estate at 6173 Bonsall Drive, Malibu Calif. 90265 sits on 2 flat acres surrounded by sycamores, corrals and pines to create what Malibu listing agent Jane Kellard of Westside Estate Agency calls an “artist’s paradise.”

The home was built in 1963 and opens to a mahogany entryway with onyx floors leading to a living area with vaulted, 19-foot ceilings. The upstairs master suite features a sitting area with a fireplace and office.

Nate Berkus lists NYC one-bedroom place

This apartment in Greenwich Village is just a 1-bedroom, 1-bath, but where it lacks in space, it makes up in style. Designed and renovated by Oprah darling Nate Berkus, the West Village place was featured in O Magazine and was recently listed for sale at $699,000.

According to property records, Berkus bought the home in 2006 for $550,000, and he owns another home in New York — a larger, 3,000-square-foot property — that he picked up in 2011. The designer recently became engaged to his longtime boyfriend, Jeremiah Brent. The two bought a house in late 2012 in Hollywood Hills and may be calling the Golden State home for a while.

Located at 32 Downing Street, Apt. 4D, New York, N.Y. 10014 the western-facing apartment has “views of one of the most charming corners of the Village.”

Berkus’ updates to the home include a renovated kitchen with new appliances and a bathroom with Carrera marble floors, white subway tile and vintage hardware.

The listing is held by Emily Beare and Christian Rogers of CORE.

241 Fifth, NoMad's Newest Ground-Up Construction, Launches Residential Sales

April 30, 2013
NEW YORK, N.Y. (April, 2013) – Victor Homes and CORE announce that sales have commenced at 241 Fifth, the only ground-up construction residential project located in the trendy Manhattan neighborhood of NoMad. Located at 241 Fifth Avenue, between 27th and 28th Streets, 241 Fifth boasts 46 sophisticated and contemporary condominium units designed by Eran Chen of ODA-Architecture.

“This stretch of Fifth Avenue is one of the most sought-after residential neighborhoods downtown, and 241 Fifth will bring to market some much needed luxury housing,” noted Shaun Osher, CEO of CORE, the exclusive sales and marketing firm for the project.

241 Fifth offers a mix of one, two and three -bedroom residences, along with two penthouses. Residential interiors are influenced by modern design and feature a neutral palette that can be seen through the use of stained white oak flooring and white-finished fixtures from the Zuchetti-Kos Faraway Collection. Residences also feature oversize windows, kitchens with a suite of Miele appliances, in addition to a Miele washer/dryer, and bathrooms with a deep-soaking tub, glass-enclosed shower and solid teak wall detailing.

“We have seen a tremendous amount of interest in the project,” notes Doron Zwickel, the Director of Sales for 241 Fifth. “Our wait list alone has over 500 interested parties who are looking to secure on one of our 46 units.”

Prices range from 1-bedrooms starting at $1.2M, 2-bedrooms starting at $2.05M, and 3-bedrooms beginning at $2.8M. Residences on higher floors offer superb views of the Flatiron District and Lower Manhattan.

241 Fifth’s lobby boasts wire-brushed, white oak walls and a polished concrete floor, conveying the modern simplicity of this boutique condominium. In addition to a 24/7 concierge, 241 Fifth’s amenities include a rooftop terrace, a fitness center equipped with state-of-the-art cardio and weightlifting equipment, a Zen tranquility room for yoga, Pilates or meditation, a residence lounge and private wellness treatment room, which offers a serene space for massage or beauty treatments.

In addition to the residential living space, designed by ODA Architecture and constructed by Triton Construction Company, the 20-story property will offer approximately 3,200-square feet of commercial/retail space at ground level.

About Victor Homes

Founded in 1994, Victor Homes has become one of New York's most dynamic development and construction companies. Its various projects in the area range from multi-unit residential communities, to sprawling corporate office campuses, to exclusive residential estates, all superbly designed with the signature of quality workmanship and undeniable value. The company's management team combines decades of international construction experience, and it carefully oversees every aspect of the development process from land acquisition all the way through design, marketing, construction and commitment to quality and value.

About CORE
CORE is a real estate sales and marketing firm delivering the best in brokerage, communications and advisory services for the luxury residential segment. In addition, CORE’s elite group of highly experienced and successful professionals service developers who value efficient, no-nonsense results. CORE was founded by Shaun Osher as a full-service boutique firm with a strict adherence to the principles of integrity, efficiency and results. For more information visit

Nate Berkus Puts NYC Apartment on the Market for $699,000 (House of the Day)

Financial PressApril 29, 2013
This apartment in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village is just a one-bedroom, one-bath. But where it lacks in space, it makes up in style. Designed and renovated by Oprah darling Nate Berkus, the West Village place was featured in O Magazine and was recently listed for sale at $699,000.

According to property records, Berkus bought the home in 2006 for $550,000, and he owns another home in New York — a larger, 3,000-square-foot property — that he picked up in 2011. The designer recently became engaged to his longtime boyfriend, Jeremiah Brent. The two bought a house in late 2012 in Hollywood Hills, Calif., and may be calling the Golden State home for a while.

The western-facing apartment in NYC has “views of one of the most charming corners of the Village.” Berkus’ updates to the home include a renovated kitchen with new appliances and a bathroom with Carrera marble floors, white subway tile and vintage hardware. The listing is held by Emily Beare of CORE. See more photos of Berkus’ apartment below.

The Hidden Benefit of Conservative Underwriting

Real Estate Bisnow New YorkApril 29, 2013
And at Chelsea's 50-unit Walker Tower condos, JDS underwrote to $1,600/SF sales in '09. Now, with delivery approaching this fall, it's raking in $3,600/SF with only a few units left. JDS bought the old Verizon switch building in '08 for $25M and invested $200M to convert it, increasing the usable square footage from 108k SF to almost 200k SF.

What $3,600/Month Can Rent You Around New York City

CurbedApril 26, 2013
Welcome back to Curbed Comparisons, a column that explores what one can rent for a set dollar amount in various New York City neighborhoods. Is one man's studio another man's townhouse? Let's find out! Today's price: $3,600/month.

An 877-square-foot 1BR/1BA with an office in Vinegar Hill's Gold Street Lofts is going for $3,600/month. The apartment itself has high ceilings, large windows, and high-end finishes and the building offers amenities that include an indoor basketball court.

Another Overpriced Trophy Listing Pulled From the Market: Steel Magnate Decides Not To Sell 15 CPW Pad After All

The New York ObserverApril 26, 2013
As any Times Styles section writer knows, it takes at least three to make a trend, so we guess we can officially call it now: the much-ballyhooed real estate trophy market is over-hyped.

Today, yet another ambitious trophy listing was yanked from the market, slinking away just a few weeks after taking a $10 million price cut. Leroy Schecter’s 35th- floor spread at 15 Central Park West, which made such a big show of asking $95 million when it debuted last August, is no longer for sale. And like City Spire and the Woolworth Mansion before it, the 15 CPW departure was not occasioned by a sale.

“The owner finally—he hadn’t even seen it during the construction—went to see and he fell in love. He decided he was going to move in,” Emily Beare, the CORE broker who had the listing told The Observer. Ms. Beare said that Mr. Schecter had planned to combine his two units for personal use a few years ago, before changing his mind and listing the apartments separately, then as a combo unit when he realized that “people wanted a finished product.”

The octogenarian steel magnate may well be suffering from Pygmalion syndrome, though we suspect the de-listing also had something to do with the lack of interest in the condo combo even after the somewhat drastic price cut.

The $100 million City Spire listing, meanwhile, disappeared in January, also not the result of a sale. The broker behind the listing, Raphael De Niro, has remained tight lipped about the owner’s decision to de-list. But we’d speculate that after six months, the media, if not the market, finally disabused the owner of the notion that his outdated octagonal lair could fetch even a fraction of that price.

A few weeks ago, the Woolworth Mansion, on the market for $90 million since March 2011, also vanished. Lucille Roberts’ heirs, we heard, were planning to live in it themselves for a while. Who could blame them? Though they certainly had seemed eager to turn a profit on the place just a short time earlier, listing the 20,000-square-foot home as a $150,000 a month rental in the fall of 2012.

And while One57 has been reported to have two units in contract for more than $90 million (they have yet to close as Extell’s gleaming spire in the sky is still very much under construction), no property has outdone Sanford Weill’s $88 million coup—the sale that set off the whole craze in the first place.

To be sure, there is a market for trophies—Steve Wynn bought his grand Ritz Carlton ballroom spread for $70 million last spring and there has been a slew of sales between $20 and $54 million during the last year, but the number of buyers in the market to spend more than $90 million (and their eagerness to snap something, anything, up) appears to have been greatly exaggerated. Even a filthy rich oligarch can’t ignore the fact that most sellers weren’t asking just double or triple what they’d paid, but many, many multiples more.

Some big listings remain, of course. There’s still the $95 million Ritz Carlton penthouse, also listed since last spring, and the $95 million penthouse at the Sherry-Netherland (terraces galore, but also a co-op board to contend with), on the market since the fall.

And this spring brought a new crop of super-luxury listings even more ambitious than their peers: the $125 million Pierre penthouse and embattled hedge-fund honcho Steve Cohen’s $115 million One Beacon Court spread.

Were the owners unmoved by the troubles of trophy spreads that had tried, and failed, before? Did they simply think that by tacking an extra $20 million or $35 million on they’d be able to avoid the pitfalls of their less ambitious predecessors? We’re not sure, but given the mounting evidence, they may want to reconsider.

Hunger Games - New Condos Try to Sate NY’s Appetite for Construction

New York PostApril 25, 2013
The New York City real estate market is famished.

“There was a scarcity of new development over the past five years,” says Susan de Franca, president and CEO of Douglas Elliman Development Marketing. “And there is a voracious appetite for New York.”

This has led many a developer in this city to set out a lavish spread for the well-heeled buyer.

“We’ve sold over $1 billion [of new construction] in the last 90 days,” says Kelly Mack, president of Corcoran Sunshine. “In the coming year, luxury buildings are going to dominate the market — more than half the properties that will open are expected to ask over $2,000 per foot. Developers are pushing the upper limits of luxury even higher. If you look at deals over $8 million, year over year, they’ve tripled.”
“Inventory levels are at or near the lowest levels I’ve ever tracked,” says Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of appraisal firm Miller Samuel. And prices are up. “It’s been happening for several years, but it really accelerated over the last six months.”

The hesitancy of buying an apartment off floor plans is a thing of the past. The forthcoming 150 Charles St. has in three months put about 90 percent of its 91 units in contract, at about $3,000 per square foot. (Last we checked in, the building had done $560 million in sales.) Its developer, Steve Witkoff, has his sights set on his next project, 10 Madison Square West, a somewhat more modest endeavor (in terms of pricing), rumored to be about $2,400 to $2,500 per square foot.

Developers PMG and JDS are preparing to build a 700-foot-tall tower at the Steinway building on West 57th Street (only about a block from One57), with plans for a 200-room hotel below 45 condo units, slated to be ready by 2015. “The building may grow to 900 feet,” says Kevin Maloney, principal of PMG, making it one of the tallest residential towers in the city.

Luxury developments are popping up all over town. From still-to-be-fully developed neighborhoods like Hudson Square, which is seeing the launch of Renwick Modern (with prices starting at $1.5 million and going up to $6.5 million, for 1,100- to 2,700-square-foot apartments) — to de Franca’s new project, the Marquand on the Upper East Side (where the starting price for apartments is $15 million).

At 56 Leonard in TriBeCa, half the 145 units are in contract. At 93 Worth, a few blocks away, 70 percent of the 92 units are in contract. The 104-unit 250 West St., at the edge of TriBeCa, which has been on the market since 2011, has seen 18 price increases and there are only four units left.

“What’s happening is really changing developers’ expectations,” says Louis Puopolo of Douglas Elliman, which is getting ready to unveil the Hill, at 87 Leonard, another building in TriBeCa, where price hikes seem limitless. The seven units in the condo conversion (which should be finished by the end of the year) will start at about $6 million.

“I don’t know what’s hotter than white-hot,” says Steve Kliegerman, president of Halstead Property Development Marketing. “We can achieve prices that a few years ago seemed unachievable. Pre-Lehman, we were reaching to attain these prices . . . I’m confident we’re surpassing pre-Lehman.”

The Schumacher
The Schumacher’s sleek sales office opened earlier this month on a Monday. By that Friday, the sales team had letters of intent in hand for half of the building’s 20 units. We understand why: The condos at the Morris Adjmi-designed Schumacher, an old printing house at 36 Bleecker St. in NoHo, are nice and roomy, ranging from 1,132 to 4,600 square feet (prices should start at $3 million and go up to $25 million for a penthouse). The kitchens are outfitted in marble; the ceilings are massive (over 15 feet high in some cases); and the interior courtyard is being done by Ken Smith (who designed the MoMA roof garden). A few days into the frenzy, developer Roy Stillman was on the phone with Fredrik Eklund of Douglas Elliman, who is heading up the marketing of the project with John Gomes. “Fred,” Stillman said, sensing something amiss in Eklund’s voice, “Are you OK?” Eklund insisted he was fine, but when pressed he admitted: “We only have 20 units in the building,” with something wistful in his voice. “It’s going to be gone soon.” Contact: 212-891-7676

10 Madison Square West
Like a kid lying awake waiting for Christmas, brokers have been waiting to unwrap the old International Toy Center since word leaked in 2011 about its pending conversion into the 10 Madison Square West condo complex by developers Steven Witkoff and Howard Lorber. Given its location (on the edge of Madison Square Park next to Eataly) and size (350,000 square feet), it seems destined to bring joy to many. And as a bonus, there will be a 10,000 square foot residents’ club. Although sales haven’t officially started, we hear that the building has had north of 1,100 inquiries. When the sales office opens next month, the brokers should be busy. Pricing isn’t set yet, but one can expect it to be somewhere between $2,400 and $2,500 per square foot. Contact: Kirk Rundhaug, Douglas Elliman, 2124182052

The Marquand
“We saw it like a vintage car,” says NirMeir, principal at HFZ, talking about his new development, the Marquand, at 11 E. 68th St. “[It’s] the chance to restore it to the way it should be — a jewel.” The jewel in question is a 100yearold Beaux Arts building on the corner of Madison Avenue and 68th Street. It’s a conversion of a 43unit rental into 30 spacious condos—with the help of the architecture firms Shelton, Mindel & Associates and Beyer Blinder Belle—starting at $15million. “It was crying out to be grand again,” says Douglas Elliman Development Marketing’s Susan de Franca. Everything is being refinished and updated to suit today’s barons of the Upper East Side: solid oak paneling, wide expanses of windows and limestone powder rooms. Residences go from a 3,795squarefoot fourbedroom up to 6,000 square feet for the sprawling penthouses. Contact: Madeline Hult Elghanayan, Douglas Elliman, 2124182028

160 E. 22nd St.
It might be a tribute to just how jaded the NewYork real estate observer has become to hear starting prices of $800,000 for brand new studios and immediately exclaim: “Whoa—cheap!” OK, the 81 condos in this 21story building being put up byToll Brothers (which is shooting for LEED certification) are not exactly inexpensive. But in a market where nearly every developer is starting at $2 million, this is awelcome change. (And the fact that it stands less than two blocks away from Gramercy Park is another point in its favor.) Clad in a smart, gray Indiana limestone, the building has units ranging from 575squarefoot studios up to more than 1,800 square feet and $5 million for a three bedroom. They’re outfitted with floor to ceiling windows, white oak floors, Miele cooktops and SubZero refrigerators. The sales gallery has been open less than twomonths, and more than a quarter of the units are in contract. Contact: Florence Clutch, Toll Brothers, 2123889194

The “XV” part of the name of this 55 unit Chelsea building could mean three things. It could mean “Xavier,” because the residences of this shiny, ultra modern will be above Xavier High School (the condos in the 24story building will begin on the eighth floor). And the developer, Alchemy Properties, was also no doubt thinking in terms of Roman numerals: This building is at 35 W. 15th St. But we like to think the “V” stands for “view.” Residents are promised “unobstructed light and air looking north, with views of the Empire State Building and, looking south, of the Freedom Tower,” says Ken Horn, president of Alchemy. The building has been on the market only for about a month, but it’s already sold about 20 units (at roughly $2,300 per square foot). The units range from865 square feet up to 3,831 square feet, but only one unit less than 1,000 square feet remains. Moveins are expected for 2014. Contact: Wendy Triffon, Alchemy Property, 2122443515

241 Fifth Ave.
After you’ve consumed a stack of ShackBurgers or stuffed yourself silly on Daniel Humm’s $195 Eleven Madison Park dinner menu, youmight want a place nearby to lie down. If 10 Madison Square West sells out, you could try this 20story, 70,000 square foot Fifth Avenue condo development sprouting up a couple of blocks north of Madison Square Park. The mixe duse building designed by Eran Chen (who had the distinction of designing 15 Union SquareWest) consists of 46 units, starting at $1.25 million for a 566 square foot onebe droom. The building also include two penthouses—at 2,706 and 3,080 square feet — that will likely be listed for more than $6 million each. The building will include 3,200 square feet of commercial and retail space on the ground level. Contact: Doron Zwickel, Core, 2126129607

Dream Homes

New York PostApril 25, 2013
Union Square
$9.17 million
This condo at 15 Union Square West offers 3,100 square-feet of “superbly designed” and
“highly functional” living space. The “unique layout” starts with an “elegant” entry gallery that leads into the “open plan” living/dining area and the “stunning” chef’s kitchen. Among the “generously sized” four bedrooms and 4 1⁄2 bathrooms, the “capacious” master suite stands out: It’s “whisper quiet,” with Creston-controlled blinds and drapes, a customized walk-in closet/dressing room and a “designer” master bathroom. The fourth bedroom, meanwhile, includes its own full kitchen, bathroom and laundry – allowing for use as a self- contained guest suite. Agents: Vickey Barron and Ryan Fitzpatrick, CORE, 212-612-9647 and 212-500-2112

Gracie Mansion, Official Mayoral Residence, May Become Home Again After 12 Years Without Bloomberg

New York Daily NewsApril 25, 2013
The 200-year-old Federal-style home has been host only to city events since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office in 2002. Before him, each mayor since Fiorello LaGuardia lived there.

After 12 years of unrumpled sheets, historic Gracie Mansion is on the verge of becoming a home again — to Mayor Bloomberg’s chagrin.

With his mayoralty winding down, Bloomberg said Thursday that despite pleas from his gal pal Diana Taylor, he plans to leave office Dec. 31 without ever having slept at the official mayoral residence.

And he’s not wild about the next mayor moving in.

Only one mayoral candidate has turned down living in Gracie Mansion if elected: Republican billionaire John Catsimatidis. Christine Quinn, John Liu, Joe Lhota, Bill de Blasio, Catsimatidis and Adolfo Carrion have not ruled it out.

“I’ve never spent a night here. My girlfriend does want to spend one night, but it’s a better story if we never spend any nights here,” said Bloomberg, a billionaire who still lives in the glitzy upper East Side townhouse he called home before his election in 2001.

“The next mayor, I guarantee you, will live here, which in some sense is a shame because that will mean the house which we use all day long, every day, will not be available for public events,” he said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has lived in his upper East Side townhouse since 2001, using Gracie Mansion only as an event space.

“There’s almost no cities that provide housing for mayors. A lot of people want to be mayor, so I don’t think you have to provide housing. It doesn’t seem to be a (necessary) incentive.”

The 200-year-old, five-bedroom, Federal-style manse on East End Ave. housed every mayor since Fiorello LaGuardia (1934 to 1945) until Bloomberg.

Apartments of that size rent for $75,000 a month, but with Gracie you get “your own little patch of green in Manhattan,” said Jarrod Guy Randolph, a vice president of CORE, a real estate firm in Manhattan.

A portrait of William Gracie, the Scottish merchant who original lived in the home, overlooks the library.

The next mayor likely will move in: Only one of the mayoral hopefuls surveyed by the Daily News ruled out living there.

“It’s where people expect the mayor to live,” said former city Controller William Thompson.

The Gracie Mansion entry was built in 1966, featuring an elegant 18th-century style in keeping with the buildings Federal architecture.

Republican Joe Lhota said he wants his 14-year-old black Lab to have “an opportunity to run on the lawn,” although he said he might split his time with his Brooklyn Heights home.

“I think Ed Koch did it the right way. He lived there during the week and lived at home in on weekends,” Lhota said.

Former Democratic City Councilman Sal Albanese said he’d likely move in —•• though his wife would make the final call.

The blue ballroom, built in196, offers plenty of natural light.

“I don’t know if my neighbors would appreciate having all the security around,” said

Albanese, who lives in a semi-detached home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

He recalled his house was picketed when he cast a pro-gay rights vote in the ‘80s. “I remember what that did to my neighbors... You know there would be demonstrations.”

The mansion's master bedroom features a four-post bed from around 1830.

Republican George McDonald and Adolfo Carrion, the candidate of the Independence Party, also said they’d live at Gracie.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said he hasn’t decided where he’d hang his hat, but he turned the question into an attack on Bloomberg.

“His arrogance on this topic is just boundless. He has a multi-million-dollar townhouse and he thinks everyone else must have something like that,” said de Blasio, who lives in a Park Slope, Brooklyn row house worth just over a million dollars with his wife and two kids.

“We certainly have enough room, but...there’s one bathroom, so we fight over the bathroom all the time. When all four of us are there and everyone has a tight morning schedule, it becomes quite aggressive. Gracie obviously has a little more space, that’s one thing I’ll note, but I love life in Brooklyn, so we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

Council Speaker Christine Quinn was noncommittal, too. “I’m not going to count my chickens before they hatch, but rest assured, wherever they hatch, Kim and my two rescue dogs Justin and Sadie will be there,” she said.

Only billionaire John Catsimatidis ruled out the idea.

“The Catsimatidis family would remain at their current apartment on Manhattan’s East Side. Gracie Mansion would continue to be used as a site to host official functions of the City of New York,” said spokesman Rob Ryan.

Oprah Darling Lists New York City Apartment for $699,000

ABC NewsApril 24, 2013
The frequent guest of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” listed his New York City home

Interior designer and friend of Oprah Nate Berkus lists his New York City 1-bedroom, 1-bath apartment in Greenwich Village.The home was featured in O Magazine and listed for $699,000. Berkus bought it in 2006 for $550,000. He bought another larger home in New York in 2011. He recently became engaged to his longtime boyfriend, Jeremiah Brent. The two bought a house in late 2012 in Hollywood Hills.

Nate Berkus Lists Greenwich Apartment

E! NewsApril 24, 2013
Hot off the heels of his engagement news, Nate Berkus is selling his New York City apartment.

Yep, Jeremiah Brent's fiancé has listed his one-bedroom, one-bathroom Greenwich Village home for $699,000. But some may consider that a bargain, considering the Oprah Winfrey-approved interior designer personally renovated and designed the space when he purchased it back in 2006 for $550,000.

In fact, the former TV host shared his handy work with The Oprah Show back in 2007, throwing the doors open to his 550-square-foot space to show off such home improvements as installing a French door, decking the bathroom out with marble floors and adding a limestone-topped bar to the kitchen.

Not too shabby, huh?

Now if only he would leave his fab furnishings behind. too!
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