Bond New York snaps up 56-agent Midtown firm

Deal comes amid office, management changes for 500+ agent firm

Jan.January 22, 2020 02:08 PM
From left: Bond New York's Noah Freedman, Caliber's Levi Adir, Shai Gruber and Bond New York's Bruno Ricciotti (Credit: Caliber)

From left: Bond New York’s Noah Freedman, Caliber’s Levi Adir, Shai Gruber and Bond New York’s Bruno Ricciotti (Credit: Caliber)

Three months after shutting its Chelsea office — and amid a tough market — Bond New York has acquired Caliber Associates, a 56-person rental brokerage based in Midtown, the firms announced Wednesday.

Founded in 2005 by Shai Gruber, Caliber is run by Gruber and partner Levi Adir. Both will become managing directors at Bond, where they will manage the day-to-day operations of their agents.

“The decision to bring Caliber under the BOND umbrella was rooted in our desire to strengthen our position amidst recent changes in the market,” Adir said in a statement, which cited Bond’s “tech-forward” culture and marketing resources.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Bond co-founder Noah Freedman called it a “strategic acquisition” that reflects Bond’s resilience “in a challenging real estate climate.”
Bond is one of the biggest residential firms in the city, with more than 500 agents, according to TRD’s most recent ranking of brokerage firms. But like many brokerages, its sell-side deals have fallen, dropping 36.7 percent to $44 million in 2018, according to TRD data.
Late last year, the firm — led by Freedman and co-founder Bruno Ricciotti — closed its 4,400-square-foot Chelsea office in November amid “management changes,” as TRD reported. At the time, Ricciotti said the closure was part of a long-term plan to consolidate into the firm’s new Midtown headquarters, at 810 Seventh Avenue.

But overall, rental brokerages in particular are getting squeezed by market and political forces. In September, Brooklyn-focused firm Nooklyn shaved 10 percent off agents’ commissions in response to changes to a state law that limited the cost of application fees. Ultimately, the firm’s CEO stepped down amid agent backlash. Keller Williams NYC, too, has been struggling. Franchise owners Ilan Bracha and Haim Binstock were negotiating to sell the cash-strapped firm following management turnover and an agent exodus.

In Manhattan, the number of new leases in November dropped 13.5 percent year over year, according to appraisal firm Miller Samuel. Already-high inventory levels rose 3.6 percent and median rents hit $3,600 per month, the highest level in more than a decade.

Meanwhile, StreetEasy, which began charging agents to post listings in 2017, has been steadily increasing its fees. (It now costs $6 per day per listing.) And last year’s rent reform law, passed in June, capped rental application fees at $20 — cutting off agents and brokerage firms from a significant revenue stream. There was also a proposed cap on rental commissions. Although it didn’t pass, brokers were up in arms over the proposal, with some calling it “unjustified, illegal and unwarranted.”

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