Tag-teaming to sell condos

Which top brokers are joining forces — and sharing paychecks —  at NYC’s biggest new developments?

Jun.June 01, 2017 10:00 AM

It takes a village to sell new development. That’s one key reality that came through as we were compiling our ranking of closed new development sales.

The ranking disproportionately favored Douglas Elliman and revealed just how messy parsing out credit on deals can be. That’s largely because agents are constantly teaming up with different colleagues to sell out buildings.

So, this month, in addition to ranking agents, TRD’s research team also analyzed their sales to see who’s teaming up with whom the most.

What we found was that Elliman’s Raphael De Niro — who ranked No. 1 with $665.5 million in closed new development deals in 2016 — worked with colleagues Janice Chang on 16 percent of those transactions and Robert Dvorin on 15 percent. (All were given full credit for each sale.)

De Niro’s other frequent partners included Darren Sukenik, Madeline Hult Elghanayan, Vickey Barron (all of whom were on 14 percent of his deals) and Peter Zaitzeff (on about 10 percent).

Those numbers aren’t altogether surprising, given that De Niro worked with Barron and Dvorin at the 157-unit Tribeca conversion 100 Barclay and with Elghanayan at the 91-unit condo 150 Charles.  

Similarly, Elliman’s Sabrina Saltiel, Shari Scharfer Rollins, Eva Penson and Richard Steinberg shared a chunk of business last year at 432 Park Avenue. Saltiel sold 61 percent of her deals with Rollins, 40.8 percent with Penson and 31 percent with Steinberg. (The brokers worked together in various combinations on deals.)

Sukenik noted that working with rival agents might seem counterintuitive in this hypercompetitive market. “Those that are successful in new development are those that can be team players and can leave their egos on the side,” he said.

At Stribling & Associates, Alexa Lambert shared 26 percent of her $440.5 million in new development deals with former Stribling agent Cathy Taub, who jumped to Sotheby’s International Realty last year. The duo worked together at the 14-unit 151 East 78th Street, where closings started last year and included three penthouses that went for a combined $68 million.

But sharing listings with agents also means sharing commissions.

Stribling’s Sean Murphy Turner noted that on-site new development teams take a lower commission split and that the cash is then divvied up among agents and staff. “It’s definitely a volume business,” said Turner. “It takes a village to get this all done.”

It should be noted that Elliman, Stribling and others are getting credit in TRD’s new development ranking while one of the city’s most powerful brokerages, the Corcoran Group, has no agents in the ranking.

That’s because, unlike its rivals, Corcoran’s sister company — Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group — handles almost all of its sales of new condos. Its regular agents stick largely to resales.

Elliman Chairman Howard Lorber acknowledged that his firm’s strategy has its shortcomings. He even said it’s not as profitable as Corcoran’s model, since resale agents command higher commission payments from the firm than on-site staff.

But Lorber said the model is good for sales, benefits agents’ brands and helps Elliman recruit top talent. It’s also been a way for the firm to win more business. “When we’re pitching in the West Village, people know who the best brokers are in the West Village,” he said. “If they name Raphael De Niro or Darren Sukenik, we can [say] to the developer, ‘These people can work on the project.’”

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