These are the TRD team’s favorite stories of the year

“If real estate dealmaking is like cocaine, this is crack.”

The Best Real Estate Stories of 2023

From left: Oaktree’s Howard Marks; GFP Real Estate’s Jeffrey Gural; Elon Musk; First Republic Bank’s Michael Roffler (bottom); Abraham Trust’s Jacob Garlick (top); JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon (bottom); (Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty and First Republic Bank)

2023 was a wild ride for real estate. But that tends to make it an exciting year for real estate news. 

In the 362 days of the year so far, we’ve seen foreclosures abound, rates skyrocket, transactions plummet, and consummate real estate players find themselves in uncharted waters. Through it all, TRD has put together more than 9,800 news items, ranging from big breaking stories to smart explainers to insidery profiles of the most important people in the industry. 

We work hard to make every story excellent. But it’s hard not to play favorites sometimes. 

Out of a whole year’s worth of work, reporters cited a few gems. 

“Real estate mints more than its fair share of billionaires,” TRD’s Joe Lovinger said, “but it makes way more people like Adam Plotch.” Plotch, one of a handful of deal junkies on the New York co-op auction scene, was profiled by Keith Larsen for our December issue. Chicago bureau chief Sam Lounsberry said that the story’s opening line is one of his favorites for the year: “If real estate dealmaking in New York is like cocaine, this is crack.” 

Plotch wasn’t the only character with less-than-healthy real estate habits this year. In the ever-growing world of distressed real estate, lenders and owners duked it out, participating in what reporter Rich Bockmann called “Tranche Warfare.” Lounsberry noted how rare it is to get inside the “inner workings” of tricky CMBS deals. 

CMBS dramas kept us up at night this year. Bockmann dove into another piece of that story, looking at the ominously titled “Widowmaker” short. Larsen noted that Bockmann turned this story, which could have been a simple explainer, “into a thrilling tale of the cowboys who have made and lost a fortune betting against the Widowmaker.”

Sign Up for the undefined Newsletter

That expanding world of distressed real estate wasn’t limited to the gamblers on Wall Street. Across the country, small-time operators got in on syndicated deals for multifamily buildings, learning the basics from “gurus” like Brad Sumrok, whose disciples’ deal volume surged by $1.5 billion as national multifamily investment smashed records. Reporters Suzannah Cavanaugh and Isabella Farr dove into Sumrok’s strategies as the market took a dive, and those small timers got hit with unexpectedly rising rates. 

Not every subject had strategies that were quite so accessible for our reporters. Kathryn Brenzel, for example, dug through several years’ worth of lawsuits, filings, and even social media to piece together the story of Manhattan’s “leaning tower,” the Fortis development at 161 Maiden Lane that leans three inches to the north. And reporter Miranda Davis acquired and then carefully picked apart the audio recording of prominent broker Leigh Marcus that rippled through the Chicago brokerage community and caused turmoil for one of its top teams. 

Some subjects were virtual unknowns, like Jacob Garlick, whose unsuccessful bid for New York’s Flatiron building made him New York real estate’s main character for several weeks while Larsen reported out the story. Others, like Lionel Messi, made efforts to stay out of the spotlight – but Katherine Kallergis still managed to get the scoop on his new Fort Lauderdale home. “Very, very cool to be first on a story like this at the height of Messi-mania in the US,” reporter Harrison Connery noted. 

Indeed it was. TRD was first to the news there, and kept up with the national media’s coverage of big events like the failures of Signature Bank and First Republic. Farr and Cavanaugh’s story, published the day after the latter was seized by the FDIC and sold to JPMorgan Chase, dove deep into the ripple effects for real estate as fears of a banking crisis mounted. 

Sometimes we even got ahead of the curve. Francisco Alvarado’s profile of South Florida developer Rishi Kapoor “went beyond giving us an inside look of the scathing allegations against the embattled developer,” reporter Lidia Dinkova noted. “It also foreshadowed Kapoor’s downfall that played out after the piece was published in May.” And what a downfall it’s been. (Latest update: U.S. Marshals seized his boat.)

Most of all, we’ve tried to give you a clear perspective – even when the picture isn’t pretty. Editor Cara Eisenpress singled out Cavanaugh’s story “Cut and run” for this: “This story about rent-stabilized buildings selling at a huge discount felt like a great pin in an ongoing high-stakes story that no one but TRD really seems to communicate the significance of.” 

In another story, this time by Lovinger with a focus on Texas’ high-stakes, low-profile battle to determine property values, reporter Andrew Asch noted that it does “the crucial work of explanatory journalism; it tells readers how their world works.” 

We hope to tell you more in 2024. Thanks for reading. 

Recommended For You