The Real Deal New York

The Churn: These were the biggest brokerage and agent changes in NYC during Q1 2017

An UES rental brokerage shed the most agents, while a Flushing sales office picked up the most
By Derek Smith | May 08, 2017 03:05PM

In the first quarter of 2017, more than 4,500 brokers and salespeople entered the business. At the same time, about 3,800 left, and another 2,000 switched firms, according to a first-ever analysis of the comings and goings of licensed real estate professionals in New York City.

The Real Deal combed through Department of State records of over 58,000 licensed agents in the city to learn which firms had the biggest changes. We looked at the firms with the largest net changes that accounted for at least 15 percent of the firm’s agents.

Each quarter TRD will be analyzing the most significant losses and gains in number of licensed brokers and salespeople, based on the Department of State’s public real estate license database.

The most significant change in the first quarter was at Manhattan Connection, a boutique brokerage that specializes in leasing residential units on the Upper East Side. The firm lost about three-quarters of its agents by the end of the first quarter, or 26 of the 34 licensed agents it had at the start of 2017.

This may seem like a bad sign for the 25-year-old firm, led by Ronen Korin, but his former agents tell a different story.

Candy Galas, who worked at the brokerage for over eight years, said the firm’s recent loss of agents is an attempt to downsize, not to close. She said that Korin “decided to make changes in his life and move his family out of Manhattan and wanted to spend more time with his wife and his three young children.” Korin helped his agents secure positions at Citi Habitats’ Upper East Side office, former agents said.

“He’s a stand-up guy. I don’t know of anyone in this business that would do what he did for us,” said ex-Manhattan Connections salesperson Spencer Posecai.

The second most prominent change was at Weichert Properties, an arm of the suburban powerhouse that has struggled to gain a foothold in Manhattan. Weichert lost 37 of their 122 licensed agents, or 44 percent, in the first quarter of 2017. Former agents had a laundry list of complaints over how the firm was run.

Matthew Lombardi, a former Weichert agent now licensed with Rutenberg, described what he called a lack of talent development, arbitrary hiring practices and an unsuccessful foray into new development marketing as reasons he left the brokerage.

“They don’t spend money on advertising. You can’t spontaneously get a presence in New York if you aren’t willing to spend the advertising dollar,” added another former Weichert agent, who requested anonymity.

Weichert did not respond to requests for comment.

On the other end of the spectrum is E Realty International, a Flushing-based residential sales brokerage that saw a 51 percent increase in licensed agents over the first quarter of 2017. Shirley Yang, the company founder, did not return a request for comment, but the Department of State’s license registry shows that the firm had 134 agents in January and 203 agents in April. It’s not entirely clear what’s driving E Realty International to take on more agents, but the company does appear to have several new development exclusives, including at Kenny Liu’s East-West Tower in Flushing.

Re/Max Metro, a residential sales brokerage with offices in Brooklyn and Staten Island, lost 80 of their 118 agents, or 68 percent of their licensed agents in New York City between January and April. TRD tracked these agents’ license numbers and found that a new firm set up shop at the same address — Realty Executives Metro. Sal Calabrese, former operator of the Re/Max Metro franchise, appears to have shed one national franchise for another. Calabrese did not respond to requests for comment.

Century 21 Benjamin opened over 25 years ago and grew from 25 to 300 agents before slimming down six years ago when its owner, Dinko Grancaric, sold all but the Forest Hills office. After a couple of years operating only the Forest Hills office, Grancaric decided this year to drop the Century 21 franchise altogether. In January, the company was still affiliated with Century 21 and had 38 agents. Today the company is known as Benjamin Realty — Since 1980, and its agent count increased 24 percent to 47 licensed agents.  Grancaric said that while he thought Century 21 was the best of the national franchises, the main benefit it offered was its technology. Everyone has access to the same technology these days, he said, adding that the 8 percent that Century 21 took from every deal was not worth what the company offered. Grancaric hired his daughter to handle social media and to ensure their technology is up to snuff with their competitors and hasn’t looked back, he said.

Real, or Real Broker LLC, is an online residential sales brokerage with agents in 23 states. Although the firm has no offices, the number of their licensed agents in New York City increased by 36 percent in the first quarter of 2017, from 129 to 175. Tamir Poleg, Real’s co-founder and CEO, said the company’s technology platform was responsible for its growth.

Correction: Percentages for number of licensed agents have been updated