Ranking Brooklyn’s top resi brokerages of 2021

Top 10 firms notched $8.9B in sales, more than doubling 2020’s $4.3B

Ryan Serhant, Christine Blackburn, Richard Ferrari, Itzay Garay, Ravi Kantha, Pam Liebman (Serhant, Compass, Corcoran, Douglas Elliman, Leslie Garfield)
Ryan Serhant, Christine Blackburn, Richard Ferrari, Itzy Garay, Ravi Kantha, Pam Liebman (Serhant, Compass, Corcoran, Brown Harris Stevens, Douglas Elliman, Leslie Garfield)

Brooklyn’s residential market soared past pre-pandemic heights and into a new league last year.

The borough held on to its scorching momentum from late 2020, when Manhattanites began to flee crowded highrises and tiny condos for townhouses and backyard space across the East River. Add in historically low interest rates and a rush of buyers returning to the city, and the result was Brooklyn’s ascent from longtime affordable Manhattan alternative to a primary market in its own right.

“Covid was a big push for people reevaluating their lifestyles,” said Itzy Garay, Senior Executive Vice President at Brown Harris Stevens. “Brooklyn was a place that a lot of people looked to, to get more light and air and more space.”

To identify the top performing brokerages in the borough, The Real Deal analyzed thousands of Brooklyn residential listings recorded in 2021 from real estate data firm LavaMap and cross-referenced the data with brokerages, public records and third-party sources. Any off-market transactions were excluded from the study.

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The industry’s power players found themselves in a familiar place as Compass took the No. 1 spot in Brooklyn after recording $2.7 billion in sell-side transactions across 2,060 deals.

Corcoran came in at second with $2.69 billion in closed sale volume across 1,940 deals after the Realogy-owned brokerage took the top spot in Manhattan sales.

Altogether, the top 10 brokerages combined for $8.88 billion in sales, more than doubling the $4.28 billion in sales recorded for 2020. Brokers across the industry agreed the townhouse market was particularly hot last year, especially in Brownstone Brooklyn, the area stretching from Brooklyn Heights to Stuyvesant Heights and from Bed-Stuy to Park Slope. Leslie J. Garfield, a brokerage that specializes in townhouses, finished with over $100 million in sales volume — despite just 18 transactions.

“There’s been tremendous growth in Brooklyn over the last 10 years, but we’re starting to see a second wave where we’re seeing a price-per-square-foot that resembles the West Village,” said Ravi Kantha, a founding member of Garfield’s LK Team. “I’m seeing more $10 million buyers than ever before.”

Ryan Serhant, whose brokerage finished seventh in TRD’s rankings, said Downtown Brooklyn and the surrounding areas have been in such high demand because they offer a quicker commute to Lower Manhattan than some parts of Manhattan.

“When I moved to Brooklyn, I was looking at townhouses in the Upper West Side, Upper East Side and Brownstone Brooklyn and it was a quicker commute into our headquarters in Soho than it would have been if I lived uptown,” he said.

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Brooklyn’s townhouse market has since completely taken off, Serhant said, as “probably the fastest appreciating market due to Covid, in part because it was undervalued before.”

Blackburn, a top Compass agent in Brooklyn and founding member of The Barak | Blackburn Team with Lior Barak, said she noticed demand spreading beyond commuting neighborhoods.

“Subway transportation became far less critical,” she said. “Greenpoint was always a hot neighborhood, nipping at the heels of Williamsburg, but connecting from the G train to the L train became much less of a consideration for someone working primarily from home.”

Brooklyn sales rebounded in 2020 and kept going: The record-high median price had been broken for three consecutive quarters by the second quarter of 2021. While inventory rose from 2020 levels as sellers responded to the spike in prices, it couldn’t keep pace with the blistering pace of contracts.

Christine Blackburn said she had a network of clients who held off on selling in weaker markets prior to and during the pandemic. As soon as she felt the market shift, she started making calls.

“There was such an inventory shortage and such a huge demand and a lot of money in the market — if buyers needed a mortgage contingency it was definitely a frustrating couple of years,” she said.

Pam Liebman, CEO of Corcoran Group, said low interest rates fanned the sale surge flames.

“Last year saw a lot of wealth creation in the stock market and an incredibly low interest rate,” Liebman said. “There was a level of affordability that opened the door for many people who in the past might not have been able to jump into the market.”

Richard Ferrari, president and CEO of New York City and the Northeast region at Douglas Elliman, credited his firm’s finish in close third to the ratio of managers and brokers the firm maintains in Brooklyn.

“We have four professional managers in Brooklyn, and each manager probably has about 60 agents, which is a very low ratio compared to Manhattan,” he said. “It’s almost as if it’s one-on-one training.”

Ferrari forecasted a slowdown in the next six months, but said he doesn’t envision the Brooklyn market reverting to the secondary market it once was.

“Brooklyn is here to stay,” he said. “It always has been but it’s even more here today than it was yesterday.”