TRD Forum draws biggest turnout ever

Luxury development, foreign investment and crowdfunding among topics of the day
By Tess Hofmann | May 13, 2015 06:00PM

Over 3,500 real estate players descended on The Real Deal’s New Development Showcase & Forum Tuesday to trade ideas about the most important issues facing the industry and soak up wisdom from big-name panelists on foreign investment in New York City, the future of crowdfunding and the luxury market.

The city’s biggest developers, brokers and architects — including Ziel Feldman, Joseph Moinian, Nikki Field and Gene Kaufman — rubbed shoulders at the Metropolitan Pavilion with budding brokers and real estate tech entrepreneurs as they browsed booths highlighting the latest new developments from New York, Miami and beyond, made appointments for suit fittings and studied up on EB-5 with U.S. Immigration Fund representatives.

At VR Global’s popular display, attendees used Oculus Rift headset technology to check out luxury apartments from across the world as “Million Dollar Listing” broker Ryan Serhant — a virtual reality enthusiast — looked on. Nearby, his co-stars Luis D. Ortiz and Fredrik Eklund shook hands with fans and posed for pictures.

Foreign investment panelist Nikki Field, senior global real estate advisor at Sotheby’s International Realty, warned brokers who aren’t finding a way to tap into the Asian market that they are missing a career opportunity, though they’ll have to get used to a new level of wooing.

“Like in ‘Mad Men’ with their martinis at lunch,” she said. “We’re back to that.”

And on the crowdfunding panel, TRD managing web editor Hiten Samtani noted the proliferation of jeans-wearing real estate tech executives, while Prodigy Network CEO Rodrigo Nino tried to allay fears of overcrowding in the crowdfunding space, encouraging new entrants to go right ahead.

“Crowdfunding is the result of a profound trauma caused by the status quo,” he said.

Panelists didn’t seem too rattled by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed mansion tax. On the luxury development panel, Feldman said that if sponsors can’t afford a 1.5 percent tax, they shouldn’t be in this business, while Ortiz said the tax could increase quality of life in New York and make the city more desirable.

On the MDLNY panel, moderated by Fox News anchor Cheryl Casone, Fredrik Eklund said that he’s been high-kicking since he was a young lad in Sweden, and believes that every broker should have a signature.

And speaking of signatures, Ortiz revealed the secret to one of his most important selling tools: his impenetrable hairdo. “Just blow dry, spray and done!”