In a year where normal was impossible, a handful of agents won kudos for doing the improbable.
The seven winners of the Real Estate Board of New York’s annual residential deal of the year awards navigated scenarios ranging from letting a heartbroken pop star down gently to circumventing stubborn hoarders and a tenacious squatter.
The top award went to Tamara Marotta of the Corcoran Group and Lori Huler Glick, formerly of Compass, now at Brown Harris Stevens. Their task was to sell an apartment filled by hoarders with, among other things, a massive collection of snowglobes.
The transaction cycled through four appraisers, four sets of lawyers and three lenders before closing while the state’s shelter-in-place order was underway.
Second place went to Corcoran’s Sharon Burroughs-Clarke, who worked for three years to close the sale of a townhouse just before New York shut down in March. One of Burroughs-Clarke’s challenges was a determined squatter who repeatedly broke in and eventually had to be evicted for the transaction to proceed. She also had to negotiate a tricky title insurance issue and quash the buyer’s 11th-hour attempt to win a discount.
Emma Kerins of BHS, Triplemint’s Heather Cella and Lauren Schaffer notched third prize for co-brokering the estate sale of an apartment last renovated in 1987. The fixer-upper required a lot of work but it caught the eye of two persistent parties: a developer who offered an all-cash deal and an unnamed pop star who fell in love with the property (after seven showings) and offered more money but with financing.
Cash ultimately won out over the star’s offer to throw in a private musical performance.
A fourth award to recognize the challenges presented by the pandemic went to Douglas Elliman’s Anthony Marino and Gabriel Leibowitz for selling a co-op almost entirely through virtual tours. The buyers set foot in their new apartment once — the morning of the closing.
Louise Phillips Forbes was named agent of the year, while Manuel “Manny” Fueyo won rookie of the year. Both hailed from BHS.
REBNY’s awards are usually announced at a glamorous gala where agents get dolled up and mingle over cocktails. This year was, of course, different. The gala was entirely online with brokerage executives filming segments from their various offices and homes.
Decked out in suit and tie, Gary Malin, chief operating officer of Corcoran, broadcast from his kitchen. Compass CEO Robert Reffkin and Elliman’s Steven James joined from what appeared to be their offices.
Michael Bisordi of Tungsten Partners stole the show when he appeared wearing a top hat, Christmas decorations and a pair of glittery glasses that read “Cake Time!” with silver balloons that spelled out REBNY behind him.
The bar, a staple of most industry events, was recast as a do-it-yourself affair where REBNY circulated a guide with recipes and instructions to mix four cocktails. In sponsored segments throughout the 90-minute affair, mixologists from four cocktail lounges showed viewers how to make their signature drink.
Networking was reduced to a chatbox where people typed quips — “great to (virtually) see you!” — to the nearly 170 REBNY members who tuned in. A musical score underlaid the entire event with several pre-taped performances from the doo-wop singing group Cover Story. Digital snow fell continuously over the button to donate to REBNY’s Residential Member in Need Fund, which is the primary point of the event.
The fund gave out just under $1 million in grants this year to the record-high 100 REBNY members who applied for aid, according to Barbara Fox of Fox Residential and John Wollberg of Brown Harris Stevens, the event’s emcees.
Throughout the evening, unnamed statements from the funds’ grantees were read out. The stories ranged from agents who were on the verge of eviction, struggling to buy food, caring for an elderly parent and climbing out of credit card debt. The virtual gala ultimately raised $43,700.