The Real Deal New York

The life of a top NYC broker: $2M a year

November 28, 2007

If money does indeed talk in Gotham, then the select few of Manhattan’s most successful real estate brokers have every right to yell. Bloomberg News recently reported on the high-living, cut-throat and insanely busy world of some of the city’s top brokers, one inhabited by glitzy cars, posh lunches, and, of course, commissions to drive envy into the heart of even the most selfless person. Some excerpts:

The most successful brokers earn more than $2 million a year, but they are few and far between. Paul Purcell, who used to run Douglas Elliman and now is a partner at consulting firm Braddock & Purcell, says just five of the 1,000 Manhattan brokers he oversaw in that job made more than $1 million a year. Most were lucky to earn $100,000 to $150,000.

The physical toll is grueling enough to make being a top Manhattan broker comparable to being an internist on the ER ward. Broker Sharon Baum of Corcoran says she fields calls while lifting weights in the gym at 6 a.m. “I live on Starbucks lattes vente, skim milk, extra foamy,” she told Bloomberg. “I usually spend lunch right here, in the car, either with clients or talking on the phone.” Broker Michael Shvo employs not one but two assistants one for his day shift, which finishes at 7 p.m., and one for his night shift, which ends at 2 a.m.

To dub the competition fierce is to flirt with understatement. About 10,000 apartments are sold every year in Manhattan, and less than 1 percent of them are priced in excess of $10 million. The math, then, is simple: there are 200 or fewer chances a year to snag commissions from deals with prices over $10 million.

Baum’s car, by the way, is a Rolls-Royce Silver Spur with the license plate “SOLD 1,” a ride she bought to impress clients. She says she used to hire Lincoln Town Cars, the standard New York car-service ride, until a shabby one showed up one morning and a client
complained.

Successful high-end brokers “have a lack of fear,” says Purcell. “They’re not afraid to give someone bad news, like telling someone they’re going to have to pay more than they wanted.”

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