New condos, new stars

Riding the new development wave, Eklund and Gomes soar to No. 1, with others following suit

As multi-million dollar condos in new luxury buildings hit the Manhattan market, the brokers locking in those projects are quickly becoming the envy of the industry.

The agents landing these high-end listings, which often bear designer names, have in many cases been working with developers as consultants for years. And those relationships helped to propel them to the upper reaches of The Real Deal’s annual ranking of Manhattan’s Top 75 residential listing agents this year.

Using data provided by the listings portal On-Line Residential, TRD ranked Manhattan’s top agents by the total dollar volume of listings on May 23 and sales that have been in-contract since January 1. (The mission was to provide an across-the-board snapshot of recent listings and deals.)

Snagging the No. 1 spot on TRD’s ranking is Fredrik Eklund — who shot to stardom on Bravo’s reality real estate TV show “Million Dollar Listing New York” — and partner John Gomes. The Douglas Elliman duo and their team illustrate just how much new development is driving the current market in Manhattan. Eklund and Gomes, who moved to Elliman from Core in 2010, had $535.53 million in listings this year, compared to just $92.21 million worth of exclusives last year, when they placed 19th. And more than half of their listing volume — $289.65 million — came from new development listings the team has been working on for several years.

Rounding out the top five were several other high-profile super brokers: Brown Harris Stevens’ Paula Del Nunzio; Dolly Lenz, who recently left Elliman to start her own firm; BHS’ John Burger and Sotheby’s International Realty’s Serena Boardman.

Eklund explained his team’s success this way: “We’ve sort of become the go-to team for new development in the city. We’ve done almost 30 projects so far, and have maybe 15 projects worth $3.5 billion coming in the next few years.” The team’s current projects include a condo conversion at 215 Sullivan Street by Broad Street Development, totaling $129.7 million in listings, and a VE Equities’ condo building at 11 North Moore Street, where the priciest unit in the team’s new-development portfolio is listed for $40 million.

Jonathan Greenspan, president and founder of OLR, said broker teams used to be looked down upon as “renegade” by their firms, but have become more acceptable as they’ve continued to produce results.

“It seems as though the multi-agent team concept has greatly evolved since we first started aggregating the list of top agents,” he said. “These agent teams carry their own brands within the context of the larger organization and are now enabled by management.”

“The evidence of their success is clearly defined by this year’s list of top agents,” Greenspan added.

To be sure, Eklund and Gomes are not the only Manhattan brokers who were buoyed by new development projects this year. Both Stribling & Associates’ Cathy Taub and BHS’ Erin Boisson Aries made their Top 10 debuts this year, fueled largely by new development projects. New development marketing firms, such as Corcoran Sunshine, the Marketing Directors and the arms of residential brokerage that have specialized marketing divisions that staff new development sales offices were excluded from TRD’s list. They are ranked separately later in the year.

Meanwhile, both the number of listings and the prices increased for this year’s Top 75 agents over last year. The number of listings and in-contract sales jumped to 1,322 from 903 — a roughly 46 percent gain — while the dollar volume of those properties grew almost 68 percent to $10.83 billion, from $6.45 billion last year.

Those price increases bear out in the overall luxury market, too. The average closing price for a luxury Manhattan unit in a new development at the beginning of the year grew to an astronomical $11.5 million, up about 86 percent from the first quarter of 2013. That was more than double the roughly 42-percent growth seen for closed luxury resale units, which averaged $6.8 million, according to the appraisal and consulting firm Miller Samuel. (Those averages may be skewed upward by market’s most expensive sales, of course, unlike with median price.)

Much of the price growth is being driven by larger “family-sized” new development units. Compared with 2007, when the average new development unit in Manhattan was 1,085 square feet, the average size of a new condo unit earlier this year clocked in at 1,545 square feet.

“Clearly the shift in the mix is toward larger product in the luxury space, and even more so when you look at new development versus resale,” said market guru Jonathan Miller, the founder and head of appraisal firm Miller Samuel.

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The role of resales

While new condos still make up a smaller piece of the luxury-market pie than resales do, they are quickly gaining ground.

New condos only account for a 38 percent share of luxury listings, but the number of new units has jumped considerably, nearly doubling to 528 in the first quarter compared to last year, according to Miller Samuel. As a result, the new condo share of the market has risen from roughly 27 percent last year. The 852 resale units that hit the market during the first quarter, by comparison, represent only about 13 percent growth year-over-year.

Still, the rankings show that many resale agents are grabbing their share of the market.

Of this year’s Top 10 brokers, four — Del Nunzio, Burger, Boardman and the Corcoran Group’s Carrie Chiang — shot their way to the top with nothing but resale listings.

In addition, resales also account for some 46 percent of the Eklund/Gomes Team’s listing volume. The crown jewel in the team’s resale portfolio is the $42.5 million, 54th-story apartment at the Time Warner Center, recently featured on ABC’s “Nightline.”

Still, that’s small potatoes compared with other resale listings — including one that is literally over Eklund and Gomes’ heads.

More than 20 stories up above the Eklund Gomes listing at 25 Columbus Circle, a $68-million-listing for the 78th-floor penthouse belongs to BHS’ Del Nunzio.

Del Nunzio said that because she’s most associated with Uptown properties, if she’s approached by a developer it’s usually for a townhouse, rather than for a multi-unit condo project.

“I have my hands full,” working on resales, said Del Nunzio, whose townhouse listings include the Charles Ogden Mansion on East 79th Street for $51 million and a 14,000-square-foot mansion at 57 East 64th Street for $48 million, a listing shared with Giampiero Rispo of the boutique firm Domus Realty, which specializes in foreign investors.

Del Nunzio landed her No. 2 spot with $503 million in listings, up from $195.8 million last year, when she ranked No. 6. But she said her listing volume was $127 million higher by the middle of last month. That figure, however, included off-market listings, as well as properties listed after TRD’s deadline.

No. 3 on TRD’s list, Dolly Lenz, splits her $476.26 million in listings about 45/55 between new developments like Delos Living at 66 East 11th Street, where she has $140 million worth of listings, and resales like the Dome Penthouse at the Plaza Hotel, which is on the market for $80 million. Lenz did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Burger slipped from the No. 1 spot the past two years running to No. 4 this year. While his dollar volume dropped to $392.28 million this year from $411 million last year, he isn’t hurting for business. And part of his decline in listing volume may be due to the fact that he’s recently sold some pricey properties. Back in January, he closed three big deals totaling $88 million, including a co-op at 944 Fifth Avenue reportedly owned by NorthStar Realty’s David Hamamoto for $50 million. His current listings include two duplexes at 740 Park Avenue listed for $48 million and $32.5 million apiece. He declined to comment.

In addition, Sotheby’s press-shy Boardman, who did not respond to requests for comment, had $335.8 million in listings, including a $95 million, three-floor penthouse atop the Pierre Hotel owned by the widow of former stock investor Martin Zweig. Boardman shares the listing with fellow Sotheby’s powerbrokers Elizabeth Sample and Brenda Powers, who together ranked No. 12 this year. Despite upping her listing volume from $304.49 million last year, Boardman, who ranked No. 5, dropped three spots this year.

In rank order, the remainder of the Top 10 is: Leonard Steinberg and Herve Senequier, who shocked the industry with their move from Elliman to Urban Compass last month (see related story on page 50); the Corcoran Group’s Carrie Chiang/Janet Wang Team; Raphael De Niro’s team at Elliman; Taub of Stribling & Associates; and BHS’ Boisson Aries.

Like Boardman, the Carrie Chiang/Janet Wang team dropped three spots on this year’s list despite increasing its listing volume to $310.08 million from $258.18 million.

Meanwhile, Elliman led the pack as the firm with the most brokers on the ranking with 21, followed by Corcoran with 15, BHS with eight and Sotheby’s with seven. Stribling, Leslie J. Garfield & Co., Halstead Property and Town Residential were tied with three agents each.

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Longer lag times

Trophy listings aside, another factor that points to the increasing importance of new development in the industry is the striking growth since last year of the number of listings in contract.

Active listings held by the Top 75 brokers increased less than 10 percent from last year, to 817 properties. The number of in-contract residential properties, on the other hand, exploded to 505 — 3.5 times as many as the top agents held last year.

The increase, experts said, is a reflection of the fact that brokers are listing and selling in a number of new development projects that are still under construction so sales there won’t close until the buildings are ready to open their doors.

“In my case, with a ground-up new development, whenever we market the listings, it’s typically anywhere from 18 months to two years,” before the developer is ready to close, said BHS’ Aries, who appeared on TRD’s first-ever top agents ranking in 2010 at the No. 42 spot in 2010 and ranked No. 10 this year.

Aside from a single resale listing for a $3.2 million loft in the West Village, Aries was buoyed by one new luxury condo project a block away from the High Line in Chelsea: The Norman Foster-designed 551 West 21st Street. Sales at the project, which is being developed by Scott Resnick’s SR Capital, launched in late February. With about half of the building’s 44 units now on the market, Aries has some $240 million in listings tied up there.

Aries said she landed the project based on her work on the similarly architecturally distinct condo situated along the High Line: the Neil Denari–designed HL23 developed by Alf Naman.

“I studied every sketch, elevation, and floor plan — and beyond just the unit mix, I made recommendations based as much in the creative as the financial, she said.

Meanwhile, the majority of the De Niro team’s listings — which totaled $266.3 million, up from $189.89 million last year — are resales, including talk show host Kelly Ripa’s penthouse at 76 Crosby Street listed for $24.5 million. But De Niro said that the new development side of his business is taking up an increasing amount of his attention.

“The environment we’re in now, there are a lot of new developments happening,” he said. “At this point it takes up about 50 percent of my time.”

De Niro shares the Ripa listing with Adam Modlin of the Modlin Group, who fell to the No. 29 spot from No. 15 this year, despite seeing his listing volume rise to $124.96 million from $110.5 million. His portfolio of listings includes the penthouse at the historic 15 Park Row, which is asking $19.9 million, but needs a gut renovation. Modlin’s tally also includes $3.97 million worth of in-contract listings at the condo conversion 308 West 30th Street. Not counted in the ranking, however, is about $16 million worth of listings at the building that went into contract last year as well as three new exclusives that he said total $102 million, but were signed after TRD’s snapshot was taken.

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Click to enlarge. Source: Data comes from On-Line Residential and includes Manhattan residential sales listings (apartments and townhouses with no commercial/retail component) that were active or in contract on May 23 and updated within the previous 30 days. Properties were excluded if they went into contract before Jan. 1, 2014. Known teams and partnerships were counted as a single entity. Secondary team members were not included if a large portion of their listings were shared with the lead team member. Listings shared by two or more agents are counted as full listings for each agent. On-site agents who work exclusively for a developer have not been counted. However, if an agent works for a brokerage firm, he/she has been included on this list, and new development listings were included in agents’ totals. *Steinberg and Senequier moved to Urban Compass after survey results were tallied.

Buyers’ side switch

Several high-profile agents, including Ilan Bracha of Keller Williams and Melanie Lazenby of Elliman, dropped off the Top 75 this year.

Meanwhile, the Nikki Field Team at Sotheby’s dropped to No. 69 this year, with $62.45 million in dollar volume, from No. 12 last year with $123.43 million.

But Field explained that she’s recently shifted from representing sellers to representing buyers. She said that in the past year, the majority of her business has come from wealthy buyers in Europe, Asia and South America looking to purchase in Manhattan. That was a big change from 2012, when sellers represented 81 percent of her sales volume, she said.

“My business in 2013 made a seismic change to representing significantly more purchasers than sellers,” she said, explaining why she has a lower volume of listings this year. “International buyers, in particular, have been the focus of our global efforts, and my sales volume numbers were 76 percent buyer-generated.

Nos. 11 and 13 last year, Corcoran’s Leighton Candler and Halstead Property’s Richard Orenstein, both fell significantly as well.

Candler, who had $130.25 million in listings last year, dropped to the No. 55 spot with $90.75 million, though she closed on a townhouse at 16 East 95th Street for $19.6 million earlier this year, according to her website. Orenstein fell to No. 53 with $93.02 million in listings, down from $118.88 million last year. Candler disputed the ranking, noting that it didn’t capture buyers’ side deals or factor in listings that were sitting on the market with low prospects of selling. Orenstein declined to comment.

Other notable names include Nest Seekers International’s Ryan Serhant, who stars on “Million Dollar Listing New York” along with Eklund. His $108.21 million listing portfolio includes the $23 million penthouse at 200 Eleventh Avenue, the last remaining sponsor-unit at the so-called Sky Garage that was last listed by Steinberg and Senequier in 2012 for $12.9 million. (Serhant’s latest headline-grabbing listing, a three-penthouse combination unit at the Ritz-Carlton in Battery Park City, is on the market for a stunning $118.5 million, but was not included in his tally because it was listed after TRD’s deadline.)

Serhant’s total dollar volume was far higher than the $60.01 million in listings he had last year, moving the reality TV star up six spots to No. 37 on the list.

Steinberg and his luxury loft team landed at the No. 6 spot with $331.98 million mere days before he took off for Urban Compass.

BHS’ Kyle Blackmon comes in at No. 24 with a total of $135.8 million in dollar volume. That, however, does not include a $48 million duplex he closed days before TRD’s cutoff at 15 Central Park West, which had been listed at $62.5 million.

His tally does include a seven-room apartment on the 33rd floor of the famed Robert A.M. Stern building listed for $31 million.

The long game

In many cases, the brokers who are reaping the rewards of their new development listings have spent several years working with developers to design and market those buildings.

For example, the Eklund Gomes team has three projects — 215 Sullivan Street, 11 North Moore Street and 36 Bleecker Street — that it’s been working on for several years that are now generating more than $65 million in listings apiece.

Stribling’s Taub, who made the annual rankings in 2010 at the No. 25 spot, jumped to No. 9 this year with about 75 percent of her listings coming from two new development projects she’s been involved with since the early development stages: Cary Tamarkin’s 10-story condo adjacent to the High Line on West 24th Street and the 16-story brick-and-limestone building on East 78th Street designed by Peter Pennoyer.

Taub, who markets the two buildings with fellow Stribling agent Alexa Lambert (No. 14 on the ranking), said at the Upper East Side project, Spruce Capital decided to turn a children’s playroom into a yoga/stretch room at a recommendation made by Taub and Lambert. She said that the recommendation was a reflection of the demand they saw “day in and out in the resale market.”

And, she noted, repping both new developments and resales is a plus in this market.

“I think it is a real boon for a developer to have a resale agent as a marketing agent because, as resale agents, we really understand what’s happening in the market with our sellers and buyers at that time,” Taub said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the street of the Cary Tarmkin condo project near the High Line. The correct street is West 24th Street. The previous version also misidentified the name of the developer of the Peter Pennoyer-designed building on East 78th Street. The correct name is Spruce Captial.