Editor’s note: The boom ahead

National Issue /
Mar.March 18, 2021 03:00 PM

Stuart Elliott

Gone is the bombast of the Trump years, with its tweetstorms and incendiary press conferences.

While this new era is quieter when it comes to rhetoric, it is just as tumultuous, and the changes we are seeing are perhaps even more monumental.

The federal government is putting money in people’s pockets even faster than it’s pumping vaccines into their arms, with the $1.9 trillion relief plan dishing out stimulus checks, providing housing assistance and boosting small businesses. This is likely to spark an economic boom coming out of the pandemic.

And as the role of government is being redefined, there is also a greater push for diversity and equality, far exceeding what many of us have seen in our lifetimes.

As we near the end of the pandemic, people are still processing the toll of the past year. Even the most basic things, like where people do their work — and thus what our cities look like — remain to be decided.

In this issue, we examine some of these trends, with a particular look at real estate’s biggest firms and their brokers. 

This month’s cover story features our 18th annual ranking of the top residential brokerage firms in New York City, tallying up their sales in a year like no other.

All told, more than 4,000 brokers left the profession last year in New York (around 9 percent). And while “there were no winners — just brokerages that suffered less than the rest,” as reporter Erin Hudson writes, the top firms managed to hold on better than one might expect. Together, the top 25 firms saw their business decline around one-third in 2020 compared to the year before, collectively brokering around $19 billion in closed sales.

Corcoran took the No. 1 spot on the sales ranking, with $5.8 billion in deals, followed by Compass and Douglas Elliman. 

And Compass, on the verge of going public, finished at the top in headcount for the first time, with more than 2,400 agents in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. It’s expected to spend even more on expansion once it goes public. We dive into Compass’s finances, playbook and investor messaging as it prepares for its IPO on page 32.

Steven James, Douglas Elliman’s New York CEO and president, said that in his four decades in the business, “this is the first time honestly in all those years that I’ve experienced what I truly believe was a huge, huge cataclysmic change.”

Outside New York, the picture for residential real estate was much brighter throughout the year.

The 5.6 million sales of existing homes in the U.S. last year were the most since 2006, according to the National Association of Realtors. We take a look at some of the sleepier markets that are benefiting as a result — from Salt Lake City to central Indiana to Midcoast Maine — in a story by Kathryn Brenzel.

Meanwhile, in Miami, a new condo craze is starting amid the heated market. We take a look at the projects launching this year, and interview one of the flashiest practitioners of high-end development in the area— Gil Dezer. The Trump pal and partner, when asked about his much-vaunted supercar collection and in-your-face wealth, said, “These things are assets like any other asset. But you get to play with them. You can’t play with your Coca-Cola stock.” 

In L.A., Malibu has seen unprecedented activity as a result of the pandemic. While there is less political rancor these days in D.C., there is plenty of political rancor in New York politics, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo facing widespread calls to resign. And real estate interests are working to prevent another mayor in the mold of Bill de Blasio.

Finally, back down in Florida — and at the opposite end of the political spectrum — we take a look at the real estate of Trumpworld: those in the ex-president’s orbit who have put down new roots from Miami Beach to Palm Beach.

Enjoy the issue.


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