The Real Deal New York

Lights, camera, profit!

Homes on the market are raking in big bucks from TV and movie location shoots

June 03, 2013
By Guelda Voien

HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”

HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”

Even in today’s market, some listings will sit unsold, of course. A mansion in Yonkers with interiors dating to the 16th century, an architecturally unique Park Slope mansion asking $18 million — these homes may take a moment to find the perfect buyer. One way for the seller to pocket big bucks in the interim is to rent out the listed space to film and television shoots.

“It really is a great opportunity for New Yorkers to make money with their homes,” said Charlotte Wagster, a Douglas Elliman agent who has rented several listings to production companies. One of the locations: Greystone Court, a 14,000-square-foot Yonkers home where HBO filmed scenes for “Boardwalk Empire” and Beyonce taped her “Irreplaceable” music video.

The castle’s owner, Kohle Yohannan, has made so much money from shoots that he’s no longer interested in selling. The Gothic Revival mansion, with its 18 bedrooms, went on the market three years ago for $4.95 million.

“It’s so much equipment, so much wear and tear on your home, but he has been paid up to $40,000 a day,” Wagster told The Real Deal.

This strategy, of course, carries huge risks as well as huge rewards: damage to the home, angry neighbors, missing the buyer who can only see the house on his two-day visit from Uruguay.

Still, many owners are happy to put it all on the line, and not just for the money. Citi Habitats broker Stefania Cardinali is offering an airy Williamsburg loft for shoots because its owner wants exposure for her artwork.

Not every space works for a shoot, though. Location scouts are looking for places that have open floor plans and good lighting — or where lights can be brought in. Plus, building elevators typically must be big enough to accommodate all kinds of production equipment.

The kind of production matters, too. A full-length feature ponies up more cash but keeps the listing off the market longer.

“If it’s a movie, they book the location months in advance … and so sellers don’t want to commit [usually],” said Barbara Wilson, a Halstead agent who rents spaces for shoots.

With more shows being filmed in New York City — in no small part because of a big push from Mayor Michael Bloomberg — it is getting tougher and tougher to find spaces that owners, boards and location scouts can agree on, Wilson said.

Still, when everyone can come together, a well-placed location can be a goldmine.

“Say you make $10,000 a day,” ventured Wagster. “Think about how much you make in a month.”

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