“I’m like the yin to his yang”: Why Barnett tapped Serhant to sell his crown jewel
One loves the spotlight, the other dodges it. A look at one of real estate’s least likely teams
This love story starts with a great ass and an even better view.
The butt belongs to Ryan Serhant, and the view, of Central Park in winter, is a privilege afforded only to residents of Gary Barnett’s pioneering Billionaires’ Row supertall, One57. Serhant didn’t own a pad in the building, but when he scored a resale listing there in 2017, his sales strategy included a photoshoot making use of that view for the aptly named Flaunt Magazine.
Serhant’s headline-hungry approach to promoting One57 differs in just about every way from the man who built it. Together, Ryan Serhant and Gary Barnett make an unlikely duo — Barnett avoids the limelight, Serhant soaks it up like a solar panel — but since then, they’ve inked dozens of multimillion-dollar deals together.
Now they’re taking on their biggest challenge yet. Last month, Barnett tapped Serhant to sell Central Park Tower’s 17,500-square-foot penthouse, targeting a $250 million price tag —$14,300 per square foot — that would set the record for the most expensive home ever sold in the United States.
It’s the latest example of an audacious listing within a submarket appraiser Jonathan Miller describes as a “circus sideshow.”
Serhant has been selling in Extell Development buildings his entire career. One of his first deals was for a two-bedroom apartment at the Rushmore, Extell’s tower at 80 Riverside Boulevard. And, in addition to the unit that featured in Flaunt, Barnett tapped Serhant for a few sponsor units at One57.
The Riverside deal came at the start of Serhant’s rise to real estate stardom, a 12-year run with Nest Seekers International that saw him star in the television show “Million Dollar Listing” and rack up nearly $4 billion in sales. By late 2020, Serhant accounted for half of Nest Seekers’ listings. Last year, he represented the buyer in one of the country’s priciest home sales, a $123 million Palm Beach mansion.
In September 2020, Serhant launched his own brokerage. It was a risky time to start a new business — while stock values and home prices were rising, the vaccines were still months away. Soon after announcing the move in the Wall Street Journal, he got a call from a flip phone in New York. It was Gary Barnett.
The Extell boss became New York’s preeminent luxury developer after the Great Recession. The firm’s portfolio and pipeline span 25 million square feet.
Barnett was taking a risk of his own, preparing to launch Brooklyn Point, its first project in the borough and a test of buyers’ appetite for a luxury high-rise outside of Manhattan.
Extell aimed to sell Brooklyn Point’s 458 apartments for just shy of $900 million, according to filings with the state attorney general. Barnett needed someone with chutzpah. He needed someone who could reach younger, more bohemian buyers who skewed more Bed-Stuy than Belnord.
“We were the first developer to hire him for a large-scale new development because he was a successful broker with a tremendous media presence,” Barnett said in a statement.
That November, Serhant took to the roof of Brooklyn Point with a string quartet and a ballerina. He hopped on Instagram Live and announced that his firm would be handling sales at the project. He was in full showman mode.
A few months later, Barnett and a more subdued Serhant sat down with The Real Deal to talk about the new development market. Barnett said Serhant’s reach was a big factor, but emphasized that it was serving a greater purpose: sales.
“When I look at Brooklyn Point I see only one thing: I see Ryan Serhant,” Barnett said in the video. “And I think of only one thing: How many units have you sold for me recently, Ryan?”
Since launch, Brooklyn Point has averaged nearly six sales per month and become one of the fastest-selling projects in the city, according to Marketproof.
Serhant was more muted next to Barnett than he was on the rooftop. Even his dress mirrored Barnett’s, at least as much as someone like Ryan Serhant can dress like someone like Gary Barnett. He wore a plain black suit with a salmon tie, not far off from the developer’s black quarter zip.
The shift called to mind a quote about working with vastly different clients from Serhant’s interview with Flaunt, the one for which he wore no clothes at all.
“We treat everybody the exact same way. But I think I change. Ryan—the Ryan that everybody gets is catered towards their characters. It’s an improvisation.”
“I’m like the yin to his yang,” Serhant said about Barnett. “He’s the developer, I’m the loud, crazy broker.”
To start selling the $250 million penthouse at Central Park Tower, Serhant again tapped into that social media following. The listing also got the front-page treatment in the Journal.
“So far, ‘the proof is in the pudding’,” Barnett said, “as there has already been strong interest in the penthouse from very qualified buyers.”
The luxury market, especially this one, is not a forgiving arena. If Serhant can’t deliver, Barnett has his pick of brokers to choose from.
“Developers, notoriously, are not overly loyal guys,” said Cody Vichinsky, co-founder of luxury brokerage Bespoke Real Estate. “Most developers are quid pro quo more than anything else.”