The Closing with Michele Kleier

Michele Kleier (Photo by STUDIO SCRIVO)
Michele Kleier (Photo by STUDIO SCRIVO)

Michele Kleier is the president and chairman of Kleier Residential, the Manhattan-based boutique real estate brokerage. She co-founded the firm in 1993 as the brokerage arm of property management company Gumley Haft Residential Management, but the two firms are no longer directly linked. Kleier’s clients have included celebrities such as Diane Keaton, Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino. She also stars alongside husband Ian and daughters Sabrina Kleier-Morgenstern and Samantha Kleier-Forbes on the HGTV reality television show “Selling New York.”

What’s your full name?

Michele Kleier.

What’s your date of birth?

My mother always said that after you’re 21 you never discuss the date of your birth. My in-laws, for instance, never knew how old I was.

Where do you live?

1125 Park Avenue. I walked into it and I loved it. I’ve lived there since 1980. When we first moved in, Samantha ran into one of the bedrooms and announced, ‘I want this to be my room because it faces Park Avenue.’ I knew from then she was going to be in real estate.

Do you own other homes?

We have an apartment overlooking the Boca Beach Club in Florida and a house in Atlantic Beach [on Long Island]. We used to have a house in the Hamptons but I never used it. I used to pray for rain on a Sunday afternoon so we could go home early.

You were born in Pittsburgh. What was it like to grow up there?

It was a wonderful place to grow up, but a wonderful place to move on from. It was very neighborhood-y, everybody knew everybody else, big trees and beautiful houses. I outgrew it when I was about six. I broke my mother’s heart, because the day I graduated college I moved to New York.

Do you have siblings?

I have a brother and a sister. They’re much older. I was actually a mistake. A very happy mistake, but a mistake nevertheless.

What did your parents do?

My parents owned a gift and jewelry store. I spent summers and holiday seasons working there. I learned to sell at a very young age.

What were you like as a kid?

I had lots of friends. I moved to New York initially with the best friend I had growing up. … I still speak to her all the time. We planned our pregnancies together.

How did you do that?

Well, not like, “Tonight’s the night.” Not to that degree. But we said, “Let’s plan to get pregnant.” Our oldest two are almost the same age.

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You worked for a few years in social work. Why didn’t you stick with it?

One of the people I worked with was a 19-year-old guy — he was my favorite client. I found him a great job and helped him get housing. Then one day he came to me with a gun and robbed me. That was the end of my social work career.

How did you get into real estate?

When we were looking to buy an apartment, I met with about 25 brokers, 24 of whom were horrible. But I met one good broker — [the late] Phyllis Koch of Phyllis Koch Real Estate — and I kept sending people to her. She said to me, ‘You keep sending me people, and I keep sending you gifts. I don’t know what to send you anymore. Why don’t you just get your license so at least I can give you a referral fee?’

What were your early days as a broker like?

I used to take Samantha along [to showings] in a stroller. When Sabrina was born, I would take her in a Snugli and Samantha in the stroller. They learned ‘co-op’ and ‘condo’ with the ABCs.

What was your first deal?

The first transaction that I did was a board turndown. I sold to a trumpet player in a co-op. Of course, the board thought he was going to practice at home. Phyllis Koch was so lovely, she sent me a check anyway, even though I never made one penny.

Warren Beatty was your first celebrity client. How did you connect with him?

I heard he was looking for an apartment and I sent handwritten notes to every hotel he might stay at. He was at the Carlyle, and he actually answered. I sold him and Diane Keaton an apartment and then they broke up. I worked with him for two years.

In 2009, your 25-year-old son Jonathan died suddenly as a result of a heart problem. How do you cope?

He’s the first thing I think of in the morning and the last thing I think of at night. … Honestly, [“Selling New York”] saved our lives. They’re doing your hair and your make-up and they’re calling you “the talent.” It takes you out of your normal life. If ever you need to be taken out of your life, it’s when something like that happens.

Do you ever argue with Sabrina and Samantha?

They’re my clones. What would I argue with them about?

You do dress alike.

Oh my God, it’s embarrassing. Even if we speak in the morning, we sometimes don’t mention what we’re wearing and we’ll all end up with the same purple sweater on. We shop together and we like a lot of the same clothes. We have all the same bags.

What do you do in your downtime?

I play with [my grandchildren]. My dogs are also extremely important to me. I have three.

What are the dogs’ names?

Mine are Roxy, Dolly and Lola. Sabrina has Dixie. They have diva names and show girl names. They all have their own songs. There’s “Hello Dolly,” “Whatever Lola Wants,” “Roxy Hart” and “Deep in the Heart of Dixie.”