[Updated at 3 p.m. on Dec. 19 with picture from Platinum Properties’ party] It’s been three years since the city’s two largest residential brokerages, Prudential Douglas Elliman and the Corcoran Group, cancelled their once notorious holiday bashes, citing the plunging economy and the corresponding embrace of austerity.
While the residential sales market has largely recovered from 2008 (even if it hasn’t reached pre-crash levels), and the rental market is on fire, the specter of financial strife continues to hover over the holiday season like Scrooge’s Ghost of Christmas Past, wreaking havoc with the party calendar.
“This year they’re more sparse,” Iman Bacodari, vice president and associate broker for the Jacky Teplitzky team at Elliman, said of the industry’s holiday parties. “I’m not seeing them one after another, I’m not seeing big splurges.
“It’s kind of like BYOP,” he added. “Bring your own party.”
Similarly, clients of one real estate attorney who spoke with The Real Deal are reporting fewer and smaller holiday gifts from their own clients, where once they used to tell stories of gifts piled to the ceilings of their offices.
Commercial brokerages, coming off a difficult year, also opted for restrained celebrations.
That said, not everyone is reigning it in. For at least the third year in a row, Brown Harris Stevens and its sister brokerage Halstead Property celebrated separately at Guastavino’s, a vaulted 15,000-square-foot event space nestled under the 59th Street Bridge at 409 East 59th Street. Agents, staff and management were all invited.
Georgia Kaporis, a Halstead vice president who was in attendance, enthused about the dancing and catering at the party. “They never cheated us out of Christmas parties,” she said.
Likewise, real estate listings provider Streeteasy.com invited 350 brokers, clients and media guests to the Mondrian Soho hotel’s Mister H bar at 9 Crosby Street between Howard and Grand streets. (Roughly 200 guests showed up.)
As Michael Smith, the CEO of Streeteasy, previously told The Real Deal, the company threw a more elaborate party this year because, “we were all in a great mood.”
But Corcoran and Elliman continue to eschew companywide fetes for more intimate gatherings at individual offices.
Danielle Pessis, an associate broker in Corcoran’s 660 Madison Avenue location, said her office “had a lovely little get together” at Barney’s, which is located in the same building on the corner of East 61st Street. (She wasn’t able to attend, however.)
Likewise, Elliman offices celebrated the holidays with luncheons and evening affairs, according to a firm spokesperson, including one in Midtown on Tuesday. Elliman agents from across the area were invited to a donated concert hall on Long Island to attend a charity event, with proceeds from an entrance fee going to Sunshine Kids, a non-profit for children with cancer.
Still, it’s a far cry from 2007, when Elliman celebrated at the Pierre on Fifth Avenue at 61st Street, or 2006, when its gala at Cipriani at 110 East 42nd Street featured an ice sculpture and upmarket food and booze.
In 2006, Corcoran invited 900 people to a simulated Roman palace, complete with scantily-clad actors in period costume. But in 2008, CEO Pamela Liebman reportedly said that, “It’s not the time to waste money on a celebration.”
Others kept festivities closer to home this year.
Barbara Fox, president and founder of Fox Residential Group, welcomed about 200 colleagues, friends and industry players to her penthouse on East 79th Street on Wednesday. While a three-piece band played Christmas carols, guests moved like molasses through Fox’s packed apartment, sampling h’ors d’oeuvres from trays carried by young men in “Fox Residential” T-shirts.
The Spire Real Estate Group, which launched in January, threw its first ever holiday party this year at the firm’s offices at 20 West 23rd Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues Dec. 15.
The rapidly expanding Town Residential on Dec. 5 packed guests into the Meatpacking District’s Catch at 21 Ninth Avenue, a newly opened seafood restaurant with “Top Chef” winner Hung Huynh at the helm.
On Dec. 8, Level Group served “Latin/Asian treats” at Zengo Restaurant at 622 Third Avenue on the corner of East 40th Street. And Platinum Properties plans to offer guests cocktails and h’ors d’oeuvres at Cipriani Wall Street at 55 Wall Street tomorrow.