Brooklyn is booming, and top agent Brendan Aguayo doesn’t think the boom will slow down anytime soon.
When Brendan Aguayo was growing up in Park Slope, his mother’s friends viewed Fifth Avenue as the neighborhood’s Mason-Dixon line. Things are different now.
“People have been talking about Fourth Avenue since 2002 when they rezoned the avenue,” he said. “But if you look at the pipeline that’s happening on that avenue and things that are happening within DOT that are physically going to change the median and the structure of the avenue and all the new retail, that’s new to me. Gowanus, that’s new to me.”
Aguayo has been in the real estate business for nearly two decades, and The Real Deal recently ranked his team at Halstead as number one in Brooklyn with about $289.7 million worth of sales across 172 deals in 2017. He has worked in the industry since high school, when he would rush from football practice to construction sites. His focus has always been on Brooklyn, and despite the borough’s explosive growth over the past few years, he maintains it can still expand even more—at least for now.
“I do see a lot of room for growth, at least in the next two years,” he said. “I think some of the new products that we’re working on now and some of the larger projects, they’re not going to be coming to market or even approved for probably another year or two.”
“In terms of five years or after that,” he continued, “I don’t really know.”
All in the Family
Like many brokers in the city, real estate runs in Aguayo’s family. His father was a developer and his mother Peggy Aguayo started her own brokerage in 1984. (The New York Times dubbed her the “czarina” of Park Slope real estate in 2004, a designation she and her son both still glow over.)
Before entering the world of real estate, he attended film school at Long Island University.
“I enjoyed producing. I shot some music videos. We wrote some stuff,” he said. “We were playing around I guess, in a way, but I took it seriously.”
He ultimately joined the family real estate business at the urging of his mother, who suggested he get his license. She then put him to work at her company, Aguayo and Huebener Realty Group, but warned him not to call her “mom” in the office.
Peggy Aguayo said their relationship at the firm quickly became symbiotic, as her son helped modernize the business. He took over the company’s development division in 2003, which remained his sole focus until 2008.
Aguayo said that year’s infamous financial crisis was one of the major inflection points of his career. He described watching its impact on the company’s agents as “soul crushing” and still calls it the biggest failure of his career, even though it was sparked largely by forces out of his control.
“That’s driven me needing to diversify our business,” he said, “so we do resales. We do rental buildings. We do re-rentals. Obviously, we do new development. That’s the majority of our business.”
Another big change came in 2013, when the family decided to sell the company to Halstead. Aguayo said it was a “torturous” decision, given how much pride he took in the success of a company that had his family name on it, but he and his mother both felt it was the right move.
“I sort of got personally tired of managing and paying bills,” Peggy Aguayo said. “I liked the selling part, and I saw the industry changing, and I felt like it was time for me to try a different avenue.”
The move involved “definitely a bit of culture shock,” Aguayo said, as he had to adjust to a more corporate environment and lost some of the independence and freedom he had previously enjoyed. However, he said it was ultimately a good decision because of the amount of pressure it took off him.
“I didn’t feel like I had to shoulder all the responsibility myself,” he said. “Instead of internalizing all the success and failures, there was a group of people to share that with.”
Aguayo’s current new development projects include the Brooklyn Grove at 10 Nevins Street in Downtown Brooklyn and 22-18 Jackson Avenue in Long Island City. Both projects are being developed by Adam America Real Estate (Slate Property Group is co-developing 10 Nevins Street).
“He knows a lot,” Adam America co-founder Dvir Cohen said of Aguayo. “He knows what’s going on in the market, and he’s very good with the locals and the design and giving direction to the architect.”
Aguayo is also working on Level One Holdings’ luxury condo project at 10 Lenox Avenue in Harlem. Company principal Shlomi Avdoo said the two of them have worked on multiple projects together before, and Aguayo has been effective at selling buyers on a vision of calling his projects home.
“To build is easy,” he said, “but to build something that you can sell or rent and that a tenant or a buyer is going to appreciate, that’s the key.”
Aguayo said he is looking at a few sites in the South Bronx, but his main focus is and will likely continue to remain in Brooklyn.
He expressed moderate surprise — but mostly just excitement — at how popular his home borough has become in recent years.
“I didn’t foresee… everything that’s happening in all these different submarkets,” he said. “I spend a lot more time in Downtown Brooklyn now than I ever did. It’s become a destination. It’s very interesting.”
Aguayo said the area east of Prospect Park in particular is a place where exciting change is happening —neighborhoods like Crown Heights and Prospect Lefferts Gardens.
“I think Brooklyn is still the new Brooklyn,” he said, adding, “I would still define it as, this is sort of the next or the new.”