Top of the market is extremely crowded: Kushner, Naftali

Developers discuss changing role of brokers at panel event

TRD New York /
Jul.July 22, 2014 03:25 PM

Developers Miki Naftali and Jared Kushner, as well as top Downtown broker Leonard Steinberg, spoke today to a standing-room-only crowd at the Lower East Side’s New Museum during a panel discussion on the future of real estate. The discussion kicked off with a look at the state of Manhattan’s luxury market.

“The question right now,” Naftali said, “is that is it high-end, ultra-high-end or ultra-ultra-high-end?” The reality of soaring land costs, he added, means that relatively affordable in Manhattan is under $2,000 per square foot.

“The $5,000 to $7,000 square-foot-market is a very crowded market,” Naftali said. He pointed to Gary Barnett’s One57, and said that Extell Development had only sold two units in the last six months at the much-hyped project.

“What Harry [Macklowe] is doing at 432 [Park Avenue] is a much better project,” he said.

Steinberg, who joined Urban Compass last month from Douglas Elliman, pointed to the rash of pricey developments on the so-called “billionaires’ row” On West 57th Street. “I’m always concerned when there is a herd mentality and when everyone is trying to do the same thing in a slightly disguised manner,” he said.

Kushner said that there was a “general consciousness” that the very top of the market was extremely well-served. He preferred to Stay Away From The 57th Street corridor, he said, finding more opportunity in neighborhoods such as Dumbo and the East Village.

The panelists also talked about how brokers could continue to add value for developers, even as consumers are using technology to get their own market information. “Brokers have to recognize,” Steinberg said, “that the consumer has become much more powerful. Brokers not only need to have the data at their fingertips, he said, but also need to be able to make it relevant for each specific customer. Specializing in a particular neighborhood or a specific segment of the market also had its advantages, he said.

“When you know what you’re doing, you have a lot to contribute,” Naftali said.

Steinberg added that, when it comes to advising developers on new product, brokers have to be able to take a long view of the market.

“Don’t give them what they want,” Steinberg said, quoting fashion legend Coco Chanel. “Give them what they don’t know what they want yet.”

Urban Compass hosted the event. Just yesterday, the real estate tech startup announced a new $40 million round of funding, valuing the company at $360 million. The Real Deal spotted several hopeful young real estate professionals, resumes in tow, chatting with Urban Compass executive Sofia Song at the pre-panel schmoozing session.

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