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Ten: Brendon Desimone on SF Real Estate vs. NYC Real Estate

Welcome to Ten, CORE founder and CEO Shaun Osher’s rapid-fire interview series with prominent CORE figures. Read on to find out how this week’s subject deals with being on the hot seat.

Brendon DeSimone returned to his East Coast roots just a few short years ago, but already has an impressive track record of deals for a broker who only recently entered the NYC market. Prior to joining CORE, Brendon was a very successful broker in San Francisco where real estate deal making is extremely different than it is here in New York City. Brendon’s perspective on the details of all aspects of a deal  is an invaluable asset to any client and has proven to be a real asset to his business. Here are Brendon’s answers to Ten questions:

1)     How long have you been selling real estate?

I started in 2002 in San Francisco. It was after the high tech dot.com boom, but during a little lull – right before the first big dip in interest rates in 2003.  We joked that if rates got any lower, purchasing would be nearly free. Now look at them!

2)     How did you get into the business?brendon

I was one of the first members of a small Silicon Valley start-up and I loved it.  It was very entrepreneurial. We were small, nimble and creating a first-of-its-kind technology and service. We would hear customer feedback and within days, we’d have the product and development teams on board to make changes.  It was so exciting to be a part of that. Over time, the company grew and the excitement wore off.  In order to effectively grow, processes and procedures were put in place as were large company employees. As the company grew, the culture changed and it just didn’t feel the same. I left and wanted to do something similar, but was afraid of running into the same issue at another start-up. I took six months off and did some research, had informational interviews and tried to figure out what I was passionate about. I wanted to do something entrepreneurial and work for myself. I used to go to open houses with my mom when I was a kid. I once called a broker, acting like my mom, and spent an hour on the phone with her about a property. All roads led to real estate.

3)    How is NYC housing different from San Francisco housing?

The housing stock is completely different. I was mainly selling Victorian and Edwardian single family homes and two to four unit buildings.  There were/are very few high rise buildings or co-ops in San Francisco.

4)     How is the real estate practice different here in NYC?

It’s like night and day. I’ve worked and been a part of a few different markets and it’s much more collaborative elsewhere. While real estate is competitive, part of what I enjoyed was that it required the cooperation of other agents and brokerages. This included sharing information and data. I don’t understand why there is not an MLS in NYC. Not only does it serve the consumer better, but sharing information helps brokers and brokerages, big and small. There is no standardization here in NYC. Agents, brokers and consumers are forced to do so much unnecessary work just to get information, search listings, comparable reports or gather housing data. The reporting alone that comes from an MLS could save so much time and money.

5)     Are the buyers and sellers, or their approach to real estate, any different in NYC?

I think that NYC consumers tend to do more research online before engaging an agent. Also, things move so quickly here. I’ve always said that buying or selling a home is not like buying or selling a widget or a car. It’s very emotional and I don’t think it should be rushed. I get that the pace here is faster, but still feel that the home buying or selling process is inherently personal, thoughtful and emotional, no matter where you are. It’s not appropriate to be rushed and I think it weighs especially on NYC buyers.

6)      How does the role of the real estate agent differ in NYC?

There aren’t any attorneys, co-op boards or managing agents involved in real estate transactions in California.  Agents do everything: write contracts, open escrow, review building and condo docs, review title reports and organize closings. They are truly the center point of every deal.  The role of the broker in NYC is limited. Having the experience of doing everything in CA gives me more insight into the inner workings of a transaction which I think translates into a better perspective for clients here. The deal only began with a signed contract there. Every transaction involves multiple inspections, hundreds of pages of property and seller disclosures and review of mandated reports.  We were on the hook for disclosure for many years after escrow closed.  A good agent had to know how to get liens off title, understand how to read and advise clients on mandated reports and work with multiple city departments.

7)      What is the one value you admire most in a person?

When people are upfront and honest, I work best. I like it when someone admits they don’t know something or shows their vulnerabilities. It’s especially true with a real estate transaction.  I can best represent someone when I know their whole story, the big picture. It takes time to get there sometimes.

8)  What is the most challenging part of your job?

In New York, it is so challenging to be productive. There are so many people involved in a real estate transaction, who are not always on the same page or incentivized to work together.  The technology for so many parts of a real estate transaction here is so antiquated.  This was so surprising to me.

9) Where do you see the market going in the next year?

I can’t predict it, but I feel like as sales pick up, prices will follow. This will get many sellers off the sidelines and into the market. Also, there is so much new development in the pipeline. These two factors should help our inventory problem. Also, interest rates will eventually go up. They always do.  Many of us who are in the business less than 15 years (which is a huge portion of the brokers today) don’t have the experience of the 80’s when interest rates were well above 10%

10) Do you have a question for me?

What’s the one thing you wish you could change about NYC real estate?

I agree with you about wanting more transparency amongst the brokerage community. We still do not have a MLS or consistent method for sharing ideas and information that would benefit the consumer.