The Real Deal New York

Bess Freedman named co-president of Brown Harris Stevens

Resi firm's No. 2 has been staunch backer of RLS and a critic of StreetEasy
By E.B. Solomont | December 14, 2017 11:30AM

Bess Freedman and Hall Willkie

Bess Freedman — Brown Harris Stevens’ second-in-command — has been promoted to co-president of the residential brokerage.

In that role, she will run the firm alongside longtime brokerage head Hall Willkie, Willkie told agents in an email Thursday. “It has been several years since my role as president can be accomplished by just one person,” he wrote. “We are all extremely fortunate to work with Bess, and it is my honor to share with her not only the responsibilities of my job, but my title as well.”

Trained as a lawyer, Freedman was an assistant district attorney in Maryland and worked for the Legal Aid Society in New York City before turning to brokerage. Before BHS, she spent 10 years at the Corcoran Group, where she rose to senior managing director of the firm’s East Side headquarters. She joined BHS in 2013 as managing director of sales and business development and in that capacity has challenged BHS’ reputation as an older, conservative firm.

“We do record-breaking sales, we’re known for that,” she told The Real Deal this summer during a wide-ranging interview. But the firm is also edgier and younger than it once was, she argued. “It’s evolved,” she said. “We’re growing.”

Founded in 1873, BHS has about 500 agents and closed more than $4 billion in sales last year. The firm, owned by Arthur and William Lie Zeckendorf’s Terra Holdings, was affiliated with Christie’s for 22 years until this past June, when the auction house abruptly severed ties with BHS and opted to get into the brokerage game itself.

Freedman was outspoken on that issue and others roiling the residential brokerage world this year, including StreetEasy’s Premier Agent program.

She’s also been a staunch advocate for the Real Estate Board of New York’s syndicated listings feed and serves on the RLS board. “We think it’s the right thing to do for the industry and we recognize and believe strongly that having integrity is about doing the right thing — even when it’s not so convenient,” she told TRD in September, after Corcoran Group cut a deal with StreetEasy to have its agents post rental listings on the site.

In TRD‘s most recent ranking of new development marketing firms by closed sales, BHS placed sixth with $559 million in sales volume between June 1, 2014 and May 31, 2017. In a May 2016 ranking of residential firms by closed sales over a 12-month span, BHS ranked third with $2.02 billion in sales volume across 789 transactions.