Beauty and the brokers

<i>New York real estate agents compete to be named sexiest in the city</i>

Tiana von Johnson

This ain’t no beauty contest. Or is it? Editors at the real estate website Curbed decided to spice up the news-poor days of summer by running a “hot brokers” contest, which pitted 32 male and female brokers against each other based solely on their looks.

Competitors were picked by readers in a poll. The contest, concluded late last month, invited readers to vote for their favorites.

Brokers had varied reactions to being included. Corcoran Group salesperson Gavin Hammon (who made it to the final round) said he was “honored.”

“Repulsed and exhilarated” were the words Nest Seekers’ Ryan Serhant (out after round 2) used to describe his mixed feelings about being nominated. Serhant added that he eventually voted for his competition. “A broker should never get more publicity than the property,” he said.

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Denine Townsend, a senior sales associate at Citi Habitats (knocked out after round 3), was also less than thrilled by the contest. “Initially, I was freaked out and mortified,” she said. “But now I’m pretty much ignoring what’s going on. If there’s a way to get clients out of it, that’s great, but I really don’t care who thinks I’m hot or not.”

The site’s commenters seemed to agree. “This hottest competition should win most disgraceful Curbed idea,” wrote one.

But real estate is an image-based business, where good looks can help pave the way to a sale. That’s why an attractive broker is “not typically shy about using his or her face as a business card,” Curbed editor Kelsey Keith told The Real Deal. Of course, she added, “this competition should, like anything we cover, be considered with a sense of humor.”

Most brokers acknowledged that the contest was helpful from a branding standpoint. It was “pretty cool to be selected and get some publicity from it,” said Phillia Kim Downs, a salesperson at Level Group (knocked out after round 1).

The winner of the showdown was Tiana von Johnson, founder of boutique real estate firm GoldStar Properties, who bested Hammon in the final round. Von Johnson was in good spirits about the results, adding that the contest reflected the competitive nature of the real estate world. And she thinks her win could boost business. “Why wouldn’t a client want to work with the hottest broker?” she said.