The Real Deal New York

Nesting on the Gold Coast

Nest Seekers bought Shawn Elliott Luxury Homes as an entrée into the L.I. market, but some doubt the acquisition will impact the local competition
By Christopher Cameron | March 05, 2018 01:00PM

While Nest Seekers has locations in the Hamptons, its purchase of Shawn Elliott was its first step into the Long Island market outside the East End.

Before the Hamptons and Palm Beach, Long Island’s serene North Shore was the country seat of New York’s most powerful families. But in time, other flashier locales like the Hamptons drew attention away from the Gold Coast. Now, the spotlight may be turning back to the region. 

The North Shore-based firm Shawn Elliott Luxury Homes and Estates was acquired late last year by Nest Seekers International, the Manhattan-based firm that’s home to “Million Dollar Listings New York” star Ryan Serhant. Although Nest Seekers’ CEO, Eddie Shapiro, declined to comment on what he paid for Shawn Elliott’s eponymous brokerage, he said it was a strong connection between the two firm leaders that catalyzed the acquisition. “The world of luxury real estate is small,” said Elliott, who is now managing director of Nest Seekers’ Ultra-Luxury Division. “I would bump into Eddie at real estate events and charity functions, and we started talking. After our first conversation, I felt like we were going to be able to work together.”

Shapiro said that he wasn’t actively shopping for a brokerage on the North Shore but that he had long ago identified it as a critical link between the booming Manhattan and Hamptons markets. When he met Elliott, there was immediate chemistry, he said.

“This guy fascinated me,” Shapiro said of Elliott. “This guy also has the gift of gab. He can just go on and on and on, and it all makes sense. I can listen to him for hours.”

While the acquisition marks the Manhattan powerhouse brokerage’s first foray into Long Island outside of the Hamptons, established real estate players in the area say they believe the deal will have little impact on the local market.

“Shawn Elliott is a one-office shop, and there were never a lot of agents there,” said Ann Conroy, president of Douglas Elliman’s Long Island division. “I guess it is a good foothold to start for Nest Seekers, but it really remains to be seen if this will make it or not.”

At the time of the acquisition, Elliott operated an office of 30 agents in East Norwich. Those agents will mostly be absorbed into Nest Seekers, which now has about 800 agents, according to a press release. The MLS shows $99.9 million in sales volume for Shawn Elliott in 2017. It also shows $55.6 million in Long Island sales logged for Nest Seekers International — a number that excludes sales in the Hamptons and North Fork. Although they operated separately for most of last year, combined they would make the very bottom of our ranking of top Long Island brokerages (page 32).

But Shapiro isn’t alone in his feeling that the market will once again draw more attention from luxury brokerages.

For one, prices are climbing. Nassau’s North Shore had a median home price of $817,500 in the fourth quarter of 2017, up from $800,000 in the year-ago quarter, according to the most recent Douglas Elliman report. Elliott also said that before making a deal with Nest Seekers he was approached by companies such as Compass, Brown Harris Stevens, Halstead and Corcoran, all of whom lack a round-the-clock presence in this growing market.

“None of those companies turned me on,” Elliott said. “I felt that they were very old school and just didn’t have the passion that Eddie has.” Douglas Elliman is the only other New York City brokerage active in the North Shore market, operating out of an office in Manhasset. 

In recent years, Nest Seekers has been focused on expansion, opening offices in Miami, London, Los Angeles and New Jersey. Shapiro said that he wants to create a global company. In Manhattan, the firm’s business has been significantly bolstered by the publicity generated by reality-star broker Serhant — by far Nest Seekers’ most recognizable brand. The firm’s New York offices had a closed sales volume of roughly $412 million in 2017, and in TRD’s February ranking of the top brokerages in the city by sales, the firm placed ninth.

However, a TRD study of data from the New York Department of State found that Nest Seekers lost nearly 15 percent of its brokers between the second and third quarters of 2017 — one of the highest rates of attrition among the top brokerages in Manhattan.

Shapiro hopes that by the end of the year, the North Shore office will grow to 50 brokers, with an additional 40 agents on an international team. But he noted that any Nest Seekers agent is free to sell in any market (as long as they gain the necessary license), making the size of any particular office less relevant. Typically, brokerages request that agents refer business or partner on sales in markets they are unfamiliar with to best serve their clients, but Shapiro said that agents from Elliott’s office are already jumping at the opportunity to sell in the city and the Hamptons.

Elliott added that the deal also worked because he was looking for a firm with national and international reach. Case in point, Elliott spoke to TRD from California, where he is currently marketing developer Bruce Makowsky’s $250 million spec house at 924 Bel Air Road in Los Angeles for Nest Seekers.

New single-family housing and condo developments are also creating fresh opportunities for the firm. For instance, Nest Seekers is marketing a new 23-home development by Continental Ventures called Oak Hill at 527 Half Hollow Road in Deer Park. Elliott and Shapiro said that another 40-house development in eastern Nassau County is in the pipeline, which Nest Seekers will market exclusively.

But Shapiro insists that his company is “more philosophy than numbers” driven, saying: “We execute on opportunities that revolve first and foremost on talents.”