Elliman recruiting up to 75 agents for new rentals-only office

For the first time since the early 1990s, Prudential Douglas Elliman is opening a new office specifically for rentals, according to Stephen Kotler, an executive vice president and director of sales and rentals at the brokerage.

To fill out the new department, the company is recruiting 50 to 75 new agents who will specialize in rentals, Kotler said, and has leased 15,000 square feet of space to house the rental operation.

The space is located at 205 East 42nd Street between Second and Third avenues, where the company currently has an office that handles rentals and sales, with sales comprising the majority of the business. The new rental department will be located in an area of the building that the company had previously subleased to another company, Kotler said.

The new rental space is slated to be up and running in the next 90 days, Kotler said. The opening will be timed to coincide with the launch of a new Web site specifically designed for rentals, with listings in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Long Island including the Hamptons, as well as Elliman’s new rental market report. The report will be prepared by numbers guru Jonathan Miller, president of real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel, and a regular preparer of the company’s sales reports.

The last time the company had an office specifically dedicated to rentals was in 1991, Kotler said, but that office was merged with a sales office two years later “to meet customer needs,” he said in an e-mail.

But, now the company has noticed a slight up tick in rental transactions accompanying the economic downturn of the past few months. Each month since July 2008, the number of rental transactions the company has done has been roughly 15 percent higher than the same month in 2007, he said.

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“Based on market conditions, more [potential buyers] are moving towards rentals before deciding what to buy,” he said. “For us, it was a no-brainer to do more rentals.”

Elliman, one of Manhattan’s largest real estate firms, is primarily known for its sales business.

“We don’t publicize rentals very much,” Kotler said. “We have such a big client base, and we need to let our clients know that we’re in the rental business.”

The expansion comes at a time when real estate firms all over the city, including Citi Habitats and Bellmarc Realty, are closing and consolidating offices, while others are closing altogether. To make up for lower profits, many sales agents are doing more rental transactions.

Elliman will come out of the gate with 800 new rental listings at Columbus Village, an Upper West Side mixed-use multi-building project currently under construction, Kotler said. Five new residential towers are slated to open  at the mega-development in the next year, and Prudential Douglas Elliman is the exclusive marketing and leasing agent for all of them. A leasing office for the first of the buildings to open, 808 Columbus Avenue, is slated to open in March, he said, though the project has faced its share of neighborhood protests, scuffles with the city Department of Buildings and legal troubles.

Daniel Segal, an executive vice president, and director of sales and the current manager of the 42nd Street office, will manage the new recruits, Kotler said.