The Real Deal New York

Who is Town hiring?

On the firm's anniversary, a snapshot of the agents who make up the brokerage

December 01, 2011
By Candace Taylor

Andrew Heiberger
Andrew Heiberger has recruited 265 agents
and staff since launching Town a year ago.
When Andrew Heiberger launched the residential brokerage Town, he prophesied that it would become the city’s biggest firm, vowing to hire the industry’s “best and the brightest.”

A year later, at least part of that prediction is on its way to coming true. With five offices and some 265 agents and staff, Town is undoubtedly the fastest-growing brokerage in Manhattan. By way of comparison, Rutenberg Realty — until now the city’s most rapidly expanding firm — didn’t top 200 agents until three years after its 2006 launch. (Rutenberg, in contrast to Town, has a low-overhead business model with just one small office.)

It’s still too soon to tell, however, whether Town’s agents will become the city’s best. At press time, Town said it had 152 exclusive listings worth approximately $405 million, with an average asking price of $2.67 million for sales and $7,500 per month for rentals.

While Town has a number of very pricey listings, few mega-name agents have been hired since Heiberger announced that Brown Harris Stevens superbrokers Wendy Maitland and Reid Price would help launch the firm. One possible exception is Danny Davis, a longtime Citi Habitats star. Many of Town’s hires are, as one industry veteran put it, “mid-tier sales brokers,” a characterization which Town executives deny, saying they have brought on board many top producers.

This month, The Real Deal took a closer look at the composition of the new firm. Not surprisingly, the largest group of hires comes from Citi Habitats, the firm Heiberger founded in 1994 and later sold to NRT Incorporated, the Corcoran Group’s parent company. More unexpected, however, is the large contingent from Prudential Douglas Elliman.

Many Town agents, or “representatives,” are also new to real estate. Town officials declined to provide a breakdown of where their brokers came from. But, according to The Real Deal‘s research, roughly 101 of the firm’s hires come from the city’s major residential firms, while around 50 come from smaller brokerages, commercial real estate or development. Many of the rest hail from a vast array of backgrounds, including law, architecture, banking, modeling and acting. Read on for a breakdown of Town hires from each firm.

Citi Habitats: 35 hires

Heiberger’s detractors claim he’s slowly dismantling Citi Habitats, the company he built. After all, he launched Town with top Citi Habitats managers Itzaskun “Itzy” Garay and Matthew Van Damm, along with Citi Habitats’ Chris Reyes as director of information technology.

More recently, Heiberger shocked the industry by hiring longtime Citi Habitats broker Davis, who in 2011 was named that firm’s top-grossing rental agent and also its top-producing agent. Eric McCarthy, previously the rental giant’s Downtown managing director, recently came on board as leasing manager at Town’s West Village office.

Heiberger declined to give the exact number of people he’s hired from Citi Habitats, but according to TRD’s research, it’s around 35 representatives and staff, including Lance Nguyen, Bo Poulsen, Jimmy Brett, Mark Chin and Jon Cella, who received Citi’s prize for the largest sales commission this year. Heiberger pointed out, however, that Town has hired only a tiny fraction of the firm’s roughly 770 agents. He added that agents switching firms is nothing new. “There’s no unique [circumstance] right now that people from other firms are exploring their options,” he said.

Elliman: 23 hires

The Real Deal found some 23 agents and staff who worked at Elliman immediately or shortly before joining Town. That includes eight-year Elliman veteran Robert Dvorin, who joined Town with his five-member team. Dvorin was previously the director of sales at SoLofts, the boutique sales company launched by Heiberger before he sold Citi Habitats. (When NRT acquired Citi Habitats, the two SoLofts offices became Corcoran offices.) With fellow Elliman alums Ian Wolf and Young Lee, Dvorin is currently marketing 153 Franklin Street — the townhouse rented by Dominique Strauss-Kahn this summer while under house arrest — for $12.5 million.

Former Elliman agents Jason Karadus and James Cox Jr. have listed a penthouse at 88 Franklin Street for $12.5 million. Other hires from Elliman include Adam Taylor, Kelly Robinson, Elaine Schweninger, Leah Ozeri-Elias and Terry Lautin. Why the exodus? “A lot of people are sick of Corcoran and Elliman,” said one broker, who requested anonymity. “They want a firm with resources, but they don’t want to be at a big corporation. Town is trying to capitalize on that.”

Corcoran: 20 hires

Town has fewer defectors from Corcoran than from Citi Habitats or Elliman. But the approximately 19 Town agents and staff hailing from Corcoran and Corcoran Sunshine include key personnel such as Paula Busch, who managed some 300 people at Corcoran’s main office before resigning in March. The next month, she became a managing director at Town’s 730 Fifth Avenue office. Heiberger emphasized that he “didn’t take Paula from Corcoran,” saying they “parted ways” before she came to Town. (Corcoran and Citi Habitats did not respond to requests for comment.)

Then, in May, Town hired Jeff Doder, who managed Corcoran’s Park Slope office. (Doder now leads Town’s Astor Place office.) Rose Scalia, Town’s director of human resources, had the same job at Corcoran, according to the website LinkedIn.

Heiberger also hired Corcoran senior vice president Bill Kowalczuk, as well as Susan Singer and SoLofts veteran Ric Swezey. When asked how Corcoran CEO Pam Liebman and Citi Habitats president Gary Malin have reacted to these hires, Heiberger said he got “a big hug and kiss” from both Liebman and Malin (his college roommate) at a recent REBNY event. “I don’t know if it was genuine or not,” he added. “I hope it was.”

Brown Harris Stevens: 18 hires

Heiberger launched his new firm with a bang when he hired Maitland — perhaps best known for reportedly working as Madonna’s longtime broker — as managing director, along with new development specialist Reid Price. Some BHS agents have followed them, though none quite as well known. They include Brett Miles and Susan Green, who are listing a townhouse at 400 West Street (designed by reality TV stars Bob and Cortney Novogratz) for $18.95 million. Paddington Matz Zwigard — previously named broker of the year in BHS’s Tribeca office — and fellow BHS alums Parnell O’Connell and Josh Sarnell have also come aboard.

Halstead: 5 hires

The Halstead contingent at Town is, thus far, much smaller than those from the city’s other major firms. Former Halstead Vice President Suzun Bennet is marketing an apartment at 330 Spring Street for $2.8 million for Town. Other Halstead hires include Wendy Jodel, Kellee Buhler, Elisabeth Foriel and Lianne Graubart.

Trump Sales and Leasing: 1 hire

Debra Stotts previously worked at Trump Sales and Leasing as the on-site agent at ritzy 845 United Nations Plaza, where she listed Derek Jeter’s apartment last year for $20 million. Recently, however, she appeared on the Town website with two listings at the building, each over $3 million.

Stribling: 1 hire

Stribling alum Dennis Cusack is currently listing 101 Central Park West, #14/15F, for $23.5 million with Swezey and Town representative Janis Aurichio.

Sotheby’s: 1 hire

Josh Frank, previously a vice president at Sotheby’s, is now a senior vice president at Town.

Other residential firms: 32 hires

Hires from other firms include Town’s Director of Listings, Hal Gavzie, who hails from Bond New York along with Representative Dana Power. Marcus Louis Fien comes from Core, and Kevin Kelly, Town’s director of corporate relocation, previously worked at Rutenberg. Town also has representatives from MNS, Platinum Properties, Prime New York, New York Residence, and other small brokerages. Another 20 or so agents come from commercial firms or development companies, like the Jack Parker Corporation and Sierra Realty Corp.

New to NYC real estate and unknown: 112 hires

According to Town’s website and LinkedIn, a large number of Town repshail from industries outside of real estate. Sage Galesi, for example,worked as an actress and singer-songwriter before becoming a Town agent. Danny Cohen played minorleague baseball for the Atlanta Braves organization, then became a commodities trader. The background of other agents was unknown.

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