C21 NY Metro absorbs small Queens firm

Marc Lewis, president of Century 21 NY Metro and MQ Realty head Cesar Guevara

In a continuing bid for aggressive expansion, Century 21 NY Metro told The Real Deal today that it has acquired Queens-based sales and rental firm MQ Realty.

MQ Realty, a nine-agent firm that previously specialized in Long Island City and Astoria, is headed by longtime agent Cesar Guevara. The six-year-old company has already vacated its office at 31-87 Steinway Street and moved into Century 21 NY Metro’s headquarters at 575 Madison Avenue, according to Marc Lewis, the president of Century 21 NY Metro.

The move brings Century 21’s total agent count to roughly 150, Lewis said. That’s up from 95 in May of 2008.

Century 21 NY Metro, which does both rentals and sales, was created by a 2006 merger of Dwelling Quest and Century 21 Kevin B. Brown. Lewis, who took the company’s reins in October of 2008, said he is looking to expand the company’s market share in Manhattan and hopes to double the its agents within the next 12 months.

“We have the experience and technology; we just need good people who are committed to the business and who are professional,” Lewis said.

Guevara, a Queens native, got his start in real estate 14 years ago, working as a townhouse sales broker at William B. May before founding his own rental company in Astoria. Business was good for the first five years, he said, as the Long Island City and Astoria markets teemed with renters priced out of Manhattan. That changed, however, when the economy soured this fall.

As prices fell across the city, Guevera lost customers to the Manhattan market.

“The tenants are able to find affordable things in the city where they weren’t before,” he said. “If you’re someone looking at a $3,000 apartment, you have many choices in the city now. Why go to Queens?”

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Worse, in the down-market, many renters are no longer willing to pay brokers’ fees. While many Manhattan landlords have stepped in to pay brokers, Queens landlords — many of whom are smalltime property owners — were extremely reluctant to do that, opting instead to rent their apartments on Craigslist, Guevera said.

“The [owner-paid] market in the city is much stronger,” Guevera said. “There’s nobody looking to pay fees in Queens.”

He made up his mind to return to Manhattan, and approached a number of brokerages about a possible acquisition before choosing Century 21, he said.

Not only was Century 21 located in the same office where Guevera had once worked for William B. May, but the company has a user-friendly infrastructure for rentals that he felt would help his agents learn the Manhattan market.

“It’s very easy for the agents to get around in the system,” he said. “I had looked at other companies but they’re not set up to do rentals the way Century 21 is.”

He said he also likes the idea of being able to do sales as well as rentals as the market improves.

Lewis said he is often contacted by agents from other firms who are attracted to Century 21 NY Metro’s duel emphasis, especially since many former sales agents are now focusing on rentals in the flagging economy.

“Most of these companies really don’t know how to do rentals,” he said. “When you come here, it’s all set up already.”

In recent months, Century 21 NY Metro has added a number of agents and groups from other firms. That includes teams headed by Evan Schwarz and Normund Shakner from Manhattan Apartments.

Century 21 NY Metro also hired six agents away from competitor Manhattan Commercial Realty.

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