Dynamic duos: Real estate’s power couples

May.May 31, 2011 08:24 PM

Home may be where the heart is, but what if it’s also in the workplace? This month The Real Deal takes a look at couples who work in the real estate industry.

While such pairings aren’t the norm in the business, there are high-profile examples like “Jvanka” — that is, husband-and-wife Jared Kushner, principal of Kushner Companies, and Ivanka Trump, a vice president at the Trump Organization.

Trump has reportedly said that having a shared background in real estate has been a boon to her relationship with Kushner, as she’s keenly interested in his descriptions of work machinations that others might find dull — a sentiment echoed by everyone TRD spoke to with a partner in the industry.

Aside from having a common passion, what makes couples like Trump and Kushner tick?

Here’s what five of them had to say.

Peter Hauspurg, chairman and CEO of Eastern Consolidated, and Daun Paris, president of Eastern Consolidated

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Peter Hauspurg and Daun Paris
Peter Hauspurg and Daun Paris were coworkers at the now-defunct brokerage Whitbread-Nolan before cofounding the investment services firm Eastern Consolidated 30 years ago. In the decades since, Eastern Consolidated has become the largest single-office commercial real estate investment services firm in the country.

The pair started off strictly as business partners and didn’t pursue the relationship that eventually led to their marriage until a couple of years after Eastern got off the ground, according to Hauspurg, who says that in the early days of the company, Paris “had a lot more experience than I did; she was great at opening doors to deals, and then I would go in and fill in the details.”

Paris has said that Hauspurg proposed while the two were negotiating a deal for the Lowell Hotel on East 63rd Street — a deal she thought they had lost until it went through the following day.

Over the course of the company’s evolution, Hauspurg and Paris say they’ve come to manage different facets of its business.

“I’m in charge of the day-to-day operations, like hiring and overseeing the staff,” Paris says, “which has freed Peter up to work on specific deals.”

Paris says the “inherent teamwork” that began with how she and Hauspurg worked together has fostered a collaborative environment at Eastern, which she believes sets it apart from other companies in which the principals don’t interact on a daily basis with staff.

Hauspurg says while there are “no strict rules” between the two about keeping work in the workplace — “when we have work to talk about, we do” — they’ve also learned to carve out personal space for one another.

“We think it’s important to preserve the individuality of the other person,” he says. “When I decide I want to go bonefishing somewhere, she’ll buy me a ticket, and when she decides she’d like to go skiing in Aspen, I’m the first to buy her a ticket.”

Aleksandra Scepanovic and Erik Serras, principals of Ideal Properties Group

Aleksandra Scepanovic and Erik Serras, a couple that met in 2001, started the Brooklyn-based firm Ideal Properties Group in 2007, working out of a spare bedroom in their Prospect Heights brownstone. Since then, the company has opened three offices, and now counts 80 agents and support staff among its employees.

Scepanovic says that she and Serras met at the 2001 New York Armory Show; while he came from a finance background and she had a professional background in journalism, from “day one” they connected because of their mutual passion for the built environment.

“We loved attending open houses, debating properties in our neighborhood and beyond, and dreaming of all the grand pieces of property we’d like to own one day in the distant future,” she says.

Scepanovic characterizes both herself and her husband as “workaholics,” and says that one of the biggest challenges in their relationship involves limiting real estate talk to the workday.

However, she says that she’s probably guiltier of bringing work home: “I sometimes feel that my Mac is a natural extension of my ribcage. I don’t seem to function without it.”

Still, she says that she and Serras oversee different aspects of their business — she is more focused on the company’s growth, whereas her husband is generally more involved in specific transactions — so “our paths cross only when we consult on issues that concern the company as a whole.”

Jeffrey Krantz, vice president of sales and marketing at City Connections, and Kristin Krantz, broker, City Connections

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Jeffrey Krantz and Kristin Krantz
Jeffrey and Kristin Krantz, husband-and-wife brokers who work together at City Connections and specialize in marketing and selling new developments, first got together six years ago, when they had an inter-office romance at Cantor-Pecorella.

At this point, they say there’s little separation between their work and personal lives.

The two bought a unit at Parc Standard, the Harlem condo they began marketing in November 2009 and sold out last year; aside from investing in a building they were selling, they say they also like its proximity to the project they’re currently working on, sales at the Lantern condo on 113th Street.

“We hop over there and do our open houses,” says Jeffrey.

Still, the two say they each bring different strengths to the table when it comes to work.

“I live and breathe sales, while Jeffrey is more involved in the marketing aspect of our work,” says Kristin.

Thus, it was a perfectly run-of-the-mill 3 a.m. a few weeks ago when, Jeffrey says, “I woke up and said, ‘I know exactly what we need to do for our condo’s website,’ and I wrote a song for it.”

Brenda Powers, salesperson, Brown Harris Stevens, and Elizabeth Lee Sample, senior vice president and managing director, Brown Harris Stevens

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Brenda Powers and Elizabeth Lee Sample
Elizabeth Lee Sample and Brenda Powers, who are business partners at Brown Harris Stevens, have been responsible for some of the priciest residential sales in the city’s history.

For example, the duo was responsible for selling a triplex co-op at the Pierre in 1999 for $21.5 million, which Powers says was the biggest residential deal in New York in the 20th Century. The pair’s big-ticket deals beyond that are legion, and include scores of multi-million-dollar sales at some of Manhattan’s premier addresses, such as the Plaza and the Time Warner Center.

Powers says she came from a hotel-management background before going into residential real estate; she says she and Sample, who became a couple and started working together at Brown Harris in the early ’90s, were drawn together in part because of their “mutual passion for real estate.”

She says both of them are “very hands-on” with every deal they work on, and that there isn’t necessarily a division of labor with their clients.

“If they’re European, maybe I’ll deal with them more,” she says. Powers traveled extensively while growing up and speaks five languages.

She also says that outside of work, she and Sample share similar hobbies: “She loves to work out, and I love to work out. Last year, we started learning how to surf.”

Stephen Kliegerman, executive director of development marketing, Halstead Property, and Allie Baldassari, private mortgage banker at Wells Fargo

Stephen Kliegerman, who heads up development marketing for Halstead, and Allie Baldassari, a mortgage banker at Wells Fargo, met after a speaking engagement she had at the Real Estate Board of New York.

Baldassari had given a talk on long-term rate-lock products for new developments, and afterwards a broker who works with Kliegerman in his office suggested Baldassari reach out to him, which led to the two working together on the Normandie, a condo in Harlem that Halstead was marketing at the time.

“She was out there dating, and I was thinking of friends of mine I could introduce her to, but then I was like, ‘Why should I introduce her to my friends? I should just date her myself,'” says Kliegerman.

When they did marry, in 2007, a lot of their real estate colleagues attended, and Baldassari jokingly asked Wells Fargo if she could expense it. “Without hesitation, they said, ‘No,'” she recalls.

Both say that recounting their professional experiences to each other enhances their relationship, since they see different sides of deals, but they often have to maintain confidentiality.

Baldassari has been assigned to some of the projects Halstead has marketed since the two began dating.

In those cases, “Allie gets confidential information from her clients that she can’t discuss,” he says.

Still, “we can have lively conversations about challenging situations” without naming names, Kliegerman says.

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