New residential firm banks on the power of social media

Jun.June 25, 2010 04:30 PM

Steven Ostad, founder of Empire City Realty

A new Manhattan-based residential real estate firm has hit the streets, targeting a younger demographic and offering buyers and renters a one-stop-shop.

Empire City Realty founder Steven Ostad and his team of six agents offer customers the typical brokerage services plus financial and legal expertise.

“I have an in-house network of people who can handle the whole deal, offering connections with financing and making things easier so they don’t have to deal with a mortgage broker,” said Ostad, who launched his firm two weeks ago.

While fusing high-tech skills and a traditional sales model is hardly a new concept, Ostad is hoping he can do it better, while directing his pitch toward a younger audience.

“I like to think of it as tradition meets Twitter,” Ostad said, describing his marketing strategy, which has included an advertising campaign to recruit customers at over 50 college campuses across the country.

He plans to tap into social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, with his Blackberry-savvy agents granting clients — 50 percent of which are recent college graduates — instant access to new deals.

“We’re not looking to break with traditional values, but we are also offering up-to-the-minute information that a lot of other places don’t have,” Ostad said.

The whole social media phenomenon has been steadily gaining in popularity in the real estate world.

Some of the larger firms have been honing their social media skills.

At least 100 Halstead Property agents now have Twitter accounts, and at least 350 are on Facebook, The Real Deal reported last month. The Corcoran Group, which uses both applications, has incorporated FourSquare into its iPhone app.

Ostad, 26, previously managed a personal portfolio of the day-to-day operations of 1,500 residential units, plus thousands of square feet of retail space in Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Having also worked in investment sales, Ostad said he can “view a deal from all angles and think with the eyes of a landlord.”

Ostad took a six-month lease for the firm’s headquarters in a 500-square-foot space at 369 Lexington Avenue between 40th and 41st streets. After that, he says he plans to lease a larger space to accommodate 20 or 30 agents, with the six original agents slated to take on a more managerial role.

For now, the brokerage will handle rentals and sales across Manhattan, with plans to expand into Brooklyn as well.

Close to 30 of his rental listings have already been snapped up, Ostad said, and he is currently working on three sales exclusives. Two are apartments on Fifth Avenue, one between 31st and 32nd streets and the other between 59th and 60th streets, plus a third unit on East 72nd between First and Second avenues.

The young entrepreneur has his work cut out for him if he wants to gain market share.

All the social networking hype is only helpful to a degree, according to Noah Rosenblatt, founder of Manhattan brokerage and analytics firm UrbanDigs. He says it’s generally all just a marketing ploy and part of an agenda to get more business, not necessarily an indicator of a firm’s prestige or success.

Even with the multitude of brokerages out there, Rosenblatt believes that there is much room for improvement and there is plenty that a new firm could bring to the industry.

“My advice is to give as much transparency to the consumer as possible,” he said. “Brokers need to focus on completeness, accuracy and timeliness in their listings. If every broker did this, we’d have a much better quality marketplace.”


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