Agent count rising ever higher — particularly in Brooklyn, Queens

"Magic moment" in New York real estate attracting more newcomers to the business

TRD New York /
Aug.August 15, 2014 03:05 PM

The ranks of licensed real estate salespeople in New York City is getting larger. And based on recent data, a lot of the new entrants in the business appear to be setting up shop in the outer boroughs.

Since the last time The Real Deal measured the rolls of licensed brokers – in December – those ranks have grown larger and at a faster pace. As of the first week of August, the number of licensed salespeople in Gotham grew by 8.6 percent from the previous year, according to information provided by the New York Department of State. In our December report, licensing activity had picked up 7.2 percent over a one-year period.

Growth during the one-year period ending in the first part of August also outpaced the same period between 2012 and 2013, when licensed salespeople grew 7.4 percent.

The figures also show that new agents are increasingly looking to stake their claims beyond Manhattan. Whereas Brooklyn was leading the pack in terms of growth at the end of last year, Queens is now adding licensed brokers at a faster clip than Manhattan.

The county of Kings has shifted into double-digit growth, clocking a 12.1 percent hike compared with 7.4 percent growth the previous year. Brooklyn’s headcount reached 5,637. Queens also saw a substantial uptick in real estate rolls. The borough’s pool of salespeople swelled to 6,517, an increase of 9.1 percent. That figure was closer to 6.3 percent in our December report and 3 percent in the previous year through August.

As for Manhattan, the number of licensed salespeople increased 8 percent to 16,503.

The Bronx saw healthy growth of 6.2 percent to reach 1,190 salespeople. Staten Island had the most moderate increase, with 2.9 percent more licensed issued.

Growth in more experienced real estate professionals increased from a year ago, but at roughly the same pace. The number of licensed sales brokers throughout New York City jumped 2.7 percent from a year ago, growing from 23,600 to 24,231.

Though inventory remains tight, a number of factors are feeding the market, said Jeff Appel, president and COO at TOWN Residential. Those include the influx of foreign investment, a healthy pied-a-tier market among domestic buyers and the desire among New Yorkers to trade up. Those trends are convincing job seekers that now is the time to get into the game.

“We’re at a pretty magic moment in the real estate market in New York City,” said Appel. “We’re seeing more highly educated second-career and third-career people coming into the industry because of the opportunity to make a good living.”

According to Appel, the population of new successful brokers is also skewing younger.

“What’s exciting is we have folks in their 20s transacting at very high levels. It comes from energy, enthusiasm and a willingness to focus and be hyper-local,” he said.

Eric Benaim, founder and CEO of Modern Spaces, also encourages new agents to focus on specific neighborhoods.  Though he’s known as a pioneer in Long Island City, he cautions that the market is too young to absorb droves of new salespeople. He directs them instead to the co-ops and townhouses of Forest Hills; the apartment condos of Flushing; and the more mature markets of Jackson Heights, Sunnyside, Woodside and Astoria.

“In markets like Astoria, an agent can start over there and be busy the first day,” said Benaim. “There’s a lot of old inventory over there that can sustain a lot of agents.”

As for what’s attracting upstarts to Queens in the first place, Benaim points to good press and the growing awareness that the borough is the next alternative to Brooklyn, as more and more New Yorkers get priced out of Kings County.

“Queens is like a new frontier for agents. They see it as a place where they can plant their flag,” said Benaim.

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