Halstead joins Brooklyn ranks, Elliman next

Halstead has joined the ranks of Manhattan firms expanding to Brooklyn, and others will soon follow.

Last month, Halstead bought 25-agent William S. Ross Real Estate, with offices in Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill. Founder Bill Ross will remain as head of Brooklyn operations for Halstead; he said he expects to open new offices in the next year.

Meanwhile, Douglas Elliman CEO Dottie Herman said in late June that her firm will open up in Brooklyn “within three months.” She declined to name the company Elliman is acquiring, and did not specify if it plans to start from scratch in the borough, citing “confidentiality.”

Also, William B. May’s operations in Brooklyn, which include two offices, may soon become part of Brown Harris Stevens.

Brown Harris Stevens’ parent company, Terra Holdings, purchased former William B. May president Peter Marra’s stake in the company in April. That’s a 50 percent share of the company’s Brooklyn operations and a 20 percent share of William B. May’s operations in Manhattan.

“The rumor is William B. May will become Brown Harris Stevens in Brooklyn,” said Melinda Magnett, president of the Corcoran Group in Brooklyn.

Brown Harris Stevens representatives did not return calls for comment.

In Halstead’s purchase of William S. Ross, the buyer gets a company that handles sales and rentals in both the residential and commercial markets, and also works closely with developers. Ross, a Brooklyn native, started the firm nine years ago.

The deal with Halstead had been in the works for more than a year, he said. “We knew it was inevitable that we would probably do a deal with a Manhattan firm,” said Ross. “In the end it came together very quickly, and we were very anxious to go with Halstead.”

Ross said the firm is planning to open offices in Park Slope, Williamsburg and Fort Greene “sooner rather than later.” Bay Ridge is also a possibility, he said.

“Check back in a year and we can talk about the next round of offices,” he said.

Halstead president Diane Ramirez sounded a bit more cautious in her assessment.

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“To think Brooklyn is just one neighborhood [Brooklyn Heights] is silly,” she said. “We’ll do it thoughtfully. We’re not going to have three new offices in three months.”

Ramirez she expects to see a lot more expansion by Manhattan firms to Brooklyn, either by acquiring companies or by creating referral affiliations.

“Because Manhattan has become such a one-neighborhood place, people are no longer carving out small sections where they want to live as much as before,” she said. “Brooklyn now gives a choice to people.” It’s also the preferred destination for buyers who can’t afford the new, uniformly expensive Manhattan, she said.

There may also be more brokers in Manhattan selling in Brooklyn. Only a small percentage of Manhattan brokers currently are “willing to try to learn Brooklyn well enough to sell there effectively. However, that group is growing,” Ramirez said.

Magnett of Corcoran, which entered the Brooklyn market in 1998, said she was not disturbed about Manhattan competitors coming to Brooklyn. Corcoran added another office in Brooklyn last month when the company acquired Citi Habitats and its affiliate SoLOFTS. SoLOFTS opened an office in Brooklyn Heights only a few weeks prior to the deal, and the location will now become a Corcoran office.

“We’re welcoming it,” Magnett said of the Manhattan firms. In particular, she said, Manhattan firms will bring a Manhattan way of selling property.

The majority of firms in Brooklyn are reluctant to co-broker, said Magnett, unlike in Manhattan, where under the Real Estate Board of New York’s 72-hour rule listings must be shared after that time period expires.

The changes may be slow, however.

Ross said he didn’t expect any “seminal changes immediately” in how the company handles listings, though he said, “I think sooner rather than later it will be closer to the Manhattan model.” Ramirez said she thinks there will be changes, but “not overnight.”

Ross also said access to technology used by Halstead will be a boon for the Brooklyn operation.

Changes in the marketplace could come about even more quickly when Douglas Elliman opens up in the borough.

CEO Herman would only say that her company “has a master plan in Brooklyn,” and included Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill in a list of areas that look promising.