Ranking NYC’s best-selling residential brokerages of 2022
TRD's annual ranking of the resi firms that rule Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens
It was the best of times and the worst of times last year for New York’s residential brokerages. The year began on a high carried over from 2021’s record-breaking post-lockdown bonanza, but the spring of hope quickly became a winter of despair as high interest rates froze the market in the third and fourth quarters.
“For the first six months of the year, our business was way up, like most firms’ probably were,” said Richard Ferrari, Douglas Elliman’s New York CEO. “It was the coattails of 2021. And then the slack started coming down.”
As the city’s residential market continued to skyrocket, so did inflation, prompting the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and, in turn, the cost of obtaining a mortgage. War in Ukraine wreaked havoc on the global economy, and the specter of a recession cast greater uncertainty over the housing market.
By the summer, mass layoffs began, first at mortgage lenders and then at residential brokerages. Compass was among the first to let people go, laying off 10 percent of its workforce in June. It would conduct two more rounds of layoffs by year’s end, but was far from the only firm to do so: Franchise giant Anywhere laid off an undisclosed number of employees, as did white-label brokerage Side.
Manhattan’s top firms hold the line
Despite the market crashing back to Earth around the midpoint of the year, most of the city’s top brokerages improved on their record-breaking 2021 figures, according to an analysis by The Real Deal of closed sell-side transactions for residential properties, excluding off-market deals.
Manhattan’s top five brokerages by sales volume all maintained their spots from last year. Corcoran topped the market again with nearly $6.7 billion in sales in the borough, up from $6.5 billion in 2021.
“We were really prepared for the type of year that ‘22 was,” Corcoran CEO Pam Liebman said. “We knew that ‘21 was a really banner year, and it was not going to be repeated. We didn’t go crazy with overspending or over-hiring like a lot of firms did.”
It was “pretty obvious” that interest rates were likely to rise as the year went on, Liebman added, so Corcoran agents encouraged buyers to move while they still could.
Overall, the top 25 brokerages sold $27.4 billion of real estate in Manhattan, $1 billion more than in 2021.
Just behind Corcoran was Douglas Elliman, with $6.45 billion in sales, up from just over $6 billion in 2021. Compass rounded out the top three with $6.1 billion in sales, though it was the only brokerage to record over 3,000 transactions.
Compass’ Gordon Golub said the firm emphasized face-to-face meetings, which he believes helped drive business as the market slowed.
Brown Harris Stevens pulled in just under $3.6 billion last year across 1,840 deals, good for fourth on the ranking, though well below the top three.
“The first two quarters was adrenaline left over from 2021,” said BHS CEO Bess Freedman. “[In] May, I started to see less written business, [and] we started to really feel the slowdown.”
Serhant was a new addition among the borough’s top firms. The brokerage, founded in 2020 by former “Million Dollar Listing: New York” star Ryan Serhant, finished sixth with $542 million, nearly doubling its 2021 volume. The upstart came in far behind fifth-place Sotheby’s, which recorded $1.5 billion in volume, but significantly ahead of 2021, when it placed 11th in the rankings.
“We started the company in 2020, that’s when we were born; 2021, we learned to crawl; 2022, we learned to walk, setting up all the systems and processes,” Serhant told attendees at the brokerage’s holiday party in December. “Next year we start to run.”
The Agency made its debut in the Manhattan rankings thanks to its purchase of Triplemint last spring. It finished 11th with $194 million in volume, up slightly from the $189 million Triplemint recorded in 2021. The Agency grew aggressively through its franchise model over the past year, but laid off 4 percent of its staff last month.
Sotheby’s was the only brokerage in the top five to sell less last year than it did the year prior. The brokerage secured $1.5 billion in sales last year, down from $1.6 billion in 2021.
“We’re never looking to have the most agents, and we’re never expecting to be No. 1 on the sales volume list,” said Marissa Ghesquiere, Sotheby’s executive vice president of sales for New York. “What we look to do is to bring on agents who are very strong, very established professionals.”
Corcoran and Douglas Elliman shared the listing on Manhattan’s priciest sale last year. Elliman’s Ryan Stenta and Corcoran’s Carrie Chiang closed the $70.5 million sale of an 8,000-square-foot unit on the 82nd floor of 432 Park Avenue in April. Compass’ Jason Haber brought the anonymous buyer.
While 2022 ended on a sour note, most believe the market will get stronger in the second half of this year as interest rates peak and buyers and sellers adapt.
“Real estate will always be a cyclical business,” Corcoran’s Liebman said. “[In 2023], we’ll see plenty of transactions, it’s just going to be at a lower pace. Then they’ll pick up again, and you definitely will see some people jumping off the sidelines to take advantage of better pricing.”
Brooklyn steps into the spotlight
If 2021 announced Brooklyn’s arrival as a luxury market to rival Manhattan, 2022 proved it’s here to stay.
While most of the top brokerages in the borough saw a slight decrease in sales last year, the market hovered near 2021’s peak, despite higher interest rates and renewed interest in a reopened Manhattan.
“Even though the numbers weren’t what they were in 2021, I think we saw a lot of bright spots,” said BHS’ Freedman.
The top 20 brokerages in Brooklyn last year combined for just under $9 billion in sales volume, according to TRD’s analysis. The vast majority of that was concentrated among the top 10 firms, which combined for $8.2 billion. Still, that was down slightly from the $8.8 billion they produced in 2021.
As in Manhattan, the top four brokerages retained their positions from the year before. The one change among the top five was Serhant’s ousting of RE/MAX Real Estate Professionals, which fell to eighth.
Ryan Serhant’s two-year-old brokerage was also on the rise on this side of the East River, evidence that his brand-centric pitch has resonated with brokers. The firm ended 2022 with $300 million in Brooklyn sales, almost $100 million more than the year prior.
The camera-friendly executive took to the water last summer to launch sales at the Huron, a luxury development in Greenpoint.
Elsewhere, East Williamsburg had a banner year, evidence that affluent buyers are looking deeper into Brooklyn than they have in the past. Luxury developments have been popping up in the area, despite its proximity to industrial yards in Queens and resultant trucks lumbering through the streets.
“There was a sense of buyers not wanting to be in the hustle and bustle of prime, waterfront Williamsburg or close to Bedford, [but rather] wanting to be in an area that was Williamsburg 10 years ago,” Louis Adler, the co-founder of Real New York, which is leading sales at the Milk Factory condo at 850 Metropolitan Avenue, told TRD last summer. “Restaurants, bars, mom-and-pop shops, I think that’s what’s pulling people in.”
Compass took the top spot in the borough again with $2.5 billion in sales, down from $2.7 billion the year prior.
“Brooklyn and Manhattan is a market that many thought would be impossible for a newcomer to rise to the top of the rankings in less than a few decades,” said Compass’ Golub.
He attributed the firm’s success to its end-to-end technology platform.
“Every 12 hours, the pace at which information moves doubles,” he said. “We’re moving at a pace where it’s hard for people to have clarity, so we need to provide that, especially in an industry where the information that’s public is anywhere from three to six months behind.”
Corcoran repeated as runner-up with $2.3 billion in sales, down from just under $2.7 billion the year prior. It also scored the priciest sale in the borough — a Park Slope townhouse that closed for $20 million in July.
“Brooklyn is one of the top destinations in the country,” Liebman said. “To not pay attention to Brooklyn, I wouldn’t be doing my job nor would any of my people. We’re the first Manhattan firm to go to Brooklyn, and I’m glad that we did when we did because all we’ve done there is constantly grow.”
Elliman ranked third again, with nearly $1.5 billion in sales. The firm’s Brooklyn sales volume was on par with its 2021 totals, though it closed about 135 fewer deals.
Single- and multi-family townhouses dominated the borough’s priciest deals, including sales in Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope but also in more far-flung areas like Gravesend.
“Through the years Brooklyn has been in this general upswing,” said Ghesquiere of Sotheby’s. “Coming out of Covid, I think it was really well poised, especially the Brooklyn townhouse market, to grow.”
Nest Seekers finished seventh with $255 million in volume, but brokers Bianca D’Alessio and Mia Calabrese rented a Brooklyn Heights penthouse for a borough-record $40,000 a month — sight unseen. The two “Selling the Hamptons” stars listed the unit for $30,000 a month, a 71 percent increase from what the previous tenants paid.
“I think we got something near 22 inquiries on the first day we put it on the market,” D’Alessio told TRD.
Freedman said BHS brokered the sale of a Brooklyn Heights townhouse for $18.3 million, or $3 million above ask.
“Brooklyn is a place that continues to shine, and people do want to go there,” she said.
New kings of Queens
Mom-and-pop shops can still hang in Queens — for now.
While Brooklyn and Manhattan are dominated by the city’s biggest brokerages, Queens is far less conquered.
Though neighborhoods like Astoria and Long Island City are in demand, prices across the borough haven’t caught up to Manhattan and Brooklyn: Queens’ top brokerage last year was Keller Williams Realty Landmark, with $477.77 million in sales across 649 deals. That would have placed it fifth in Brooklyn and seventh in Manhattan.
Elliman ranked second with $358 million in sales, but another independent firm, Winzone Realty, finished third with over $350 million. Elmhurst-based Winzone boasted the largest army of agents in the borough, with 703 active salespeople at the start of 2022, according to a TRD analysis of state licensing data.
Overall, the top 25 firms in Queens combined for nearly $4.2 billion in sales last year, according to TRD’s analysis. Firms got to the top by focusing on the higher end of the market: The average sale price for the top 25 firms was just under $792,000, beating out the borough-wide average of $724,000.
But the indies’ days may be numbered. After Elliman, Compass finished fourth with just under $307 million in sales volume, and Golub said the firm has its sights set on Queens.
“We’re always looking to expand into other markets, and that includes Queens, where we’ve opened offices within the last two years, in Astoria and Long Island City,” he said. “Traditionally, Queens has been a market that has dozens of players that operate outside of REBNY and outside of New York City proper … Navigating that is something different than navigating Manhattan and Brooklyn.”
Freedman, whose BHS finished 16th in Queens with $103 million, concurred.
“Real estate is so local,” she said. “I think none of the biggies have gotten a big foothold in the area yet. It’s more familial.”
BHS narrowly beat out Manhattan’s top dog, Corcoran, which finished 17th in Queens with $102 million.
Unlike Compass, Freedman said BHS is not actively focused on expanding its presence in Queens.
“Talk to me maybe in six months, a year, who knows,” she said.
Local player Modern Spaces ranked sixth with $298 million across 271 deals. The Long Island City-based firm has shown a willingness to defend its status as a major player in the borough, suing Compass in 2018 over alleged agent poaching and data theft.
Digital brokerage eXp finished seventh in Queens with $263.4 million in sales.
Elliman notched the top sale in the borough: a Long Island City condo that closed for $4.8 million in June. Nest Seekers — which ranked 14th with $105 million in sales across 107 deals — scored the second-priciest deal, a Hunter’s Point condo that went for $4.5 million.
The city’s largest and most diverse borough has hit a growth spurt over the last few years. The borough’s tallest building — Skyline Tower in Long Island City — is aiming for a $1 billion sellout, with some units priced over $3 million.
“The days of looking at New York City as only Manhattan are over,” Ferrari said.