If Queens is its own kingdom among New York City residential real estate, broker Maureen Ramsbottom is the keeper of the castle.
Ramsbottom — who placed 15th among the top resale brokers in The Real Deal’s annual ranking of brokers in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens with $116 million across 119 sell-side transactions — assumed control of The Maureen Folan Real Estate Group in 2017.
Her move to the helm of the team was years before Queens would ride the momentum of pandemic migration from Manhattan and new development activity to record prices.
But Ramsbottom’s roots in Queens precede the borough’s climb to new highs.
As the youngest of four siblings, Ramsbottom would tag along with her mother, longtime broker Ann Folan, on weekends, helping her set up for open houses or pass out flyers. Ramsbottom got her real estate license at 18, and after college and a three-year stint abroad, followed her mom into the business as a Re/Max agent, starting with expired listings and for-sale-by-owners.
She formed a team with her mom and two sisters, and after three years, they claimed Re/Max’s No.1 spot for top-performing sales teams in all of New York State.
“We just couldn’t get any higher,” Ramsbottom said. “We were at the top of our game and just didn’t really know what to do.”
The four of them started their own brokerage in 2008, as the financial crisis crippled real estate nationwide. But the state of the industry didn’t dissuade them. Instead, it pushed them to shift their business strategy to focus on short sales and foreclosures.
“People were like, ‘Oh, you guys are crazy. This is not a good time to open up a real estate business,’” she said. “And the truth is, that didn’t even affect our mindset.”
Ramsbottom had just had her fourth child when she decided to take over the family business.
Her mom was nearing retirement, and her two sisters were planning to go their separate ways. The lease on their office in Flushing was close to expiring, and Ramsbottom didn’t want to lose the location.
“I was still nursing. I had a baby that was born in October. I had a one-year-old, I had a two-year-old, and I had a four-year-old,” Ramsbottom said. “But it was like now or never.”
In plotting the new team’s growth, she wanted to build her brokerage like a sales team, which she said was a “revolutionary” concept in Queens at the time. While teams were already popular in Manhattan and Brooklyn, she said that model hadn’t really broken into Queens yet, where most agents worked independently.
To start, Ramsbottom sought out Chinese-speaking buyers agents and hired about six to join her brokerage, which primarily sells homes in neighborhoods like Flushing and Bayside.
While Ramsbottom’s now 12-person team still works largely in North Queens, the firm has upped its business on Long Island, as residents trade their homes in the borough for properties farther east. It’s the same territory she covered with her mother, and after years in the borough, Ramsbottom has built her own reputation, which has delivered her a slice of the borough’s rise.
The last year has brought record-setting rent prices and a slew of new development projects to Queens. Marketproof reported the borough increased its market share of new developments by 51 percent in 2022, with 78 of its 364 sponsor-sale deals coming from Skyline Tower in Long Island City.
The borough’s high-end rental market was one of the first to recover from the covid-induced slowdown, according to a Streeteasy report, and prices have remained elevated ever since. In March, the median rent in Queens rose to $3,300 a month — the second highest on record — and new signed leases hit a monthly high, according to Miller Samuel’s report for Douglas Elliman.
Over the years, Ramsbottom has been approached by some of the city’s bigger firms, but she said she’s committed to building her boutique company, especially in Queens, where buyers and sellers are loyal to her long-standing brand.
“We’ve been around for so long and offer such personalized services,” she said. “I feel like you kind of lose that with the big brokerages.”
“My name is gold in this area.”