Upheaval For Agents

David Goldsmith

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Erin Boisson Aries leaves Christie’s for Douglas Elliman​

The first hire at Christie’s NYC brokerage exits amid an ownership change​

A top-performing agent is leaving Christie’s International Real Estate amid a series of changes at the brokerage.
Erin Boisson Aries, who was the first broker hired in Christie’s expansion to New York City in 2018, is bringing her eight-agent team to Douglas Elliman.
It’s a return to Elliman for Aries, who started her career there before a stint at Corcoran followed by a decade at Brown Harris Stevens, where she became the firm’s top-producing agent, closing over $450 million in business in her last year.

In four years at Christie’s, Aries’ team transacted over $1 billion in real estate. Its work included advising clients firm-wide on real estate holdings in New York City and beyond, including in Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami as well as global markets such as London, Hong Kong and Dubai.

The team transacted over $170 million in 2021.
Aries and her team have sold penthouses at new developments including 15 Central Park West, 67 Vestry, 443 Greenwich Avenue, One Beacon Court and Sky Garage Condominium. The team most recently represented Flag Luxury Group’s Ritz-Carlton Residences in NoMad and JHSF’s Fasano Fifth Avenue.

Aries told The Real Deal that her return to Elliman “just seemed like the perfect move,” and that she hopes to grow her team to between 10 and 12 people.

“I have followed Erin’s career for years and have always wanted to work with her and her team,” Scott Durkin, CEO of Douglas Elliman Realty, said in a statement. “She is a force in Manhattan.”
“It feels like coming home,” Aries added.
Aries’ arrival at Christie’s then-emerging New York City operation came shortly after the company ended its affiliation with Brown Harris Stevens to launch its own real estate office in the city. Her recent move similarly comes amid structural changes, this time with Christie’s changing ownership.
Last month, Chicago-based @properties sold Christie’s New York City brokerage to BHS, following @properties’ November purchase of the Christie’s brand and network.

The brand’s recent moves align with its larger goal of supporting independent firms while growing its global affiliate network.

David Goldsmith

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Douglas Elliman shutters Greenwich Village outpost
Douglas Elliman’s Greenwich Village outpost is no more.

The brokerage has closed its office at 774 Broadway and terminated the sales managers at the location, sources told The Real Deal.

A representative for Elliman confirmed the firm did not renew its lease at the location, but said the brokerage maintains a “strong downtown presence” with other offices, including 111 Fifth Ave and 936 Broadway in the Flatiron District, 140 Franklin St in Tribeca and 140 Franklin St in West Village.

A description listed on the website for the 774 Broadway office says the office is home to over 100 agents. However, unlike the websites for other offices, the site only lists one agent and does not show property listings.

The office’s closure follows a strong year for Elliman.

The brokerage reported $51.2 billion in sales last year, according to an SEC filing, up from $29.1 billion in 2020 and $28.8 billion in 2019. Elliman reported a record 32,405 transactions for the year, up from 22,686 in 2020 and 23,479 in 2019.

Former parent company Vector Group announced in November Elliman was spinning off as its own entity. In December, the brokerage began trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Elliman counted more than 4,200 agents at the end of 2021, beating out top firms like Compass and Corcoran for the largest in New York City, according to real estate intelligence platform Corofy’s 2021 brokerage report. The company claimed the top spot, but notched a slight downturn in its growth, finishing 2021 with about 2 percent fewer agents than at the beginning of the year.

David Goldsmith

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Brokerage startup Casa Blanca lures Louis Buckworth from Zeckendorf

Former sales director at 520 Park aims to bring “white glove” service to millennials​

Louis Buckworth, who had been sales director at Zeckendorf Development’s 520 Park Avenue since 2015, has joined the app-centric residential brokerage Casa Blanca as managing director.
Buckworth, himself an investor in Casa Blanca, is tasked with helping the proptech bring the trappings of “white glove” service to millennial and zennial residential rentals and sales.

“My role will be to craft a customer experience,” Buckworth said.
Landing Buckworth, who sold $1 billion worth of units at 520 Park, represents a milestone for the fledgling startup, founded in 2019 by Hannah Bomze and Erez Zaurer.

New York–based Casa Blanca bills itself as a “mobile-first” brokerage and has been described as the Tinder of home search. Its customers use a swipe-left, swipe-right interface in an AI-powered app to match them with a property. All communication and scheduling takes place in the app.
Casa Blanca uses the data it gathers to foster a direct relationship with customers, which distinguishes it from traditional brokerages that rely on agents to do that. It says its top-down model guarantees a high and consistent standard of service no matter the market, price point or property type, and wards off agent self-dealing.

“Obviously the customer needs to enjoy the experience, but they also need to know that the agent, and the firm behind the agent, is looking out for their interests,” Buckworth said. “And I don’t think that’s something that really exists in our market.”

The company operates in New York and Denver and raised $2.6 million in a seed round in April 2021. Eventually it will branch out to other markets, Buckworth said.
Casa Blanca is hardly the only brokerage trying to use technology to streamline operations and make transactions more pleasant for agents and buyers, while carving out market share. Many firms have burned through a lot of cash in the process. But Bomze said by email that Casa Blanca has been able “to leverage the initial funding to develop a profitable and sustainable business.”

A millennial-focused approach to brokerage is timely. The cohort, which was once thought to have largely abandoned homeownership, accounted for more than half of all home-purchase loan applications in 2021.
Casa Blanca says its consumer-facing model is better also for agents, who are fed leads by the company and are encouraged to work as a team rather than compete with each other. Casa Blanca prioritizes hiring agents with less than two years of experience. As of early February, it had around 34 in New York and six in Denver.

In his role, Buckworth will focus on how to train new hires to “translate the luxury experience” for customers. The company provides them comprehensive back-end support that includes marketing, legal, scheduling and car services.
“All the agent has to do is focus on the customer,” he said.
Buckworth called Casa Blanca a “gateway brand,” especially for first-time homebuyers. “[It] has the potential to shift the perception of the real estate industry to evolve into one that is progressive, modern and … trustworthy.”

Before his stint at 520 Park, Buckworth raised funds for other major developments in the city and was an agent at Brown Harris Stevens and Corcoran.


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Luxury sales director leaves Corcoran Sunshine for Douglas Elliman​

Norma-Jean Callahan will be based out of Manhattan, Palm Beach​

Corcoran Sunshine has said “goodbye, Norma-Jean,” to its former senior sales director, who has joined Douglas Elliman in Florida and New York.
Norma-Jean Callahan will be based out of Palm Beach and Manhattan, focused on luxury projects in her new role. The broker said her move into the Sunshine State marks “the next chapter of my career.”

She will join Elliman’s Callahan Group, which the broker formed with her husband, Shawn Callahan. The team handles negotiating, buying, selling and renting commercial and residential properties in both states and running his Florida-based property management company, Limitless Property Services.

Callahan began her career in 2002, ranking in the top 98th percentile of agents nationwide as a rookie at Coldwell Banker, where she sold single-family homes. She joined Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group in 2007 to specialize in new development.
During her tenure, she led projects totaling over $5 billion in sellout, advising high-profile developers like Vornado Realty, The Witkoff Group and Madison Equities, and driving sales campaigns at trophy Manhattan projects including 220 Central Park South, The Baccarat Hotel Residences and Waterline Square.

In 2020, Callahan returned to residential sales to focus on resale clients, including the buyers of a $14.2 million residence at Vornado’s 220 Central Park South and the sellers of a $13.495 million unit at the Alexico Group’s 56 Leonard. At Corcoran, she created the Hottinger-Callahan Team with veteran agent Richard Hottinger.

“Norma-Jean has spent the past two decades outdoing her own successes one luxury condominium project after another and earning her reputation as the powerhouse agent developers want in their corner,” Jay Phillip Parker, CEO of Douglas Elliman Florida, said in a statement. “Her thought-leadership, deep client base, and unstoppable nature will be an invaluable asset as we continue shaping the new development landscape.”

David Goldsmith

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Kelly Bensimon launches Douglas Elliman team​

Former reality TV personality sold $110M in luxury properties in 2021​

Douglas Elliman’s rookie of the year is starting her own team.
After notching $110 million in luxury sales last year, Kelly Killoren Bensimon is launching a six-person team at the brokerage. Bensimon, a former model known for a three-season stint on The Real Housewives of New York City, sells properties in New York City, the Hamptons, South Florida and other international hubs.

Bensimon said she’s looking to create “a very strong team that works well for our clients.”

“Trust is everything, and I don’t take my business lightly,” Bensimon said. “I just want to be able to use my connectivity and build my team and expand.”
Three members of Bensimon’s six-person team have a sales background and only recently got their real estate licenses. The broker said she believes the unique backgrounds they bring to the team will be useful in supporting clients.

“I wouldn’t want to hire someone that I wouldn’t want one of my clients to work with,” Bensimon said.

Bensimon started with Dolly Lenz Real Estate in November of 2017 and later joined Warburg in March of 2018. After briefly returning to Lenz, Bensimon told The Real Deal in August 2019 she then went to Elliman’s Holly Parker.

“I just needed a strategic partner that could help me with both residential and commercial [deals], so that’s why I went to Elliman,” Bensimon previously told TRD.
The broker said her high-profile network has already come in handy.
After meeting with a client who was looking for a $30 million apartment for his son downtown, she connected them with a friend who put up their apartment for sale. The result was 150 Charles, unit #9C, selling for $42 million, up from an original ask of $30 million.

“Once you work with ultra high net worth investors, and they recognize that you listen to what they want, and you can actually follow through, your world really opens up,” Bensimon said.

Upstairs Realty

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More evidence that the most important skill in real estate brokerage (beyond having an eye, beyond knowing all the inventory, beyond being a killer negotiator) is to have rich friends.

David Goldsmith

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Agent Steven Kramer returns to Douglas Elliman​

Keren Ringler and Matthew Slosar also move from Corcoran​

Corcoran’s Steven Kramer, a Manhattan-based residential broker who completed $100 million worth of deals in 2021, is making his way back to Douglas Elliman.
Kramer joined Elliman in 2009 and spent nearly a decade at the brokerage before moving to Corcoran in 2018.

“Sometimes you got to step away from home a little bit to realize what you missed,” Kramer said.
Kramer started his career at Gabel Property Group in 2006 before joining Hart Diamond Real Estate in 2008.
As part of his latest move, Kramer will be focusing more on Long Island, in addition to Manhattan. He began working in Nassau County after seeing a rise in business there during the pandemic.
“I just felt like Douglas Elliman was a better platform for me to do that than Corcoran, given that they don’t really have much of a presence in Nassau County,” Kramer said.

With inventory low and demand strong, homes — especially luxury residences — in Nassau County have not been very hard to sell in the past year. Five sold for $10 million or more last year in Long Island suburbs excluding the Hamptons. Homes costing less, but still millions of dollars, which would have languished on the market prior to the pandemic, have also been snapped up.
Kramer is not moving with a team, but plans to establish one at Elliman, with approximately three people in Manhattan and two in Nassau County.

Two other agents also recently moved from Corcoran to Elliman: Keren Ringler, who had joined Corcoran in 2018 after stints at CORE and Warburg Realty; and Matthew Slosar, who also started at Warburg before signing on with Elliman in 2015 and Corcoran in 2019. Both were members of Corcoran’s multi-million-dollar club.

David Goldsmith

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Betting the firm: Inside the changing business of residential brokerage​

In an era of mega-agents, VC money and social superstars, who comes out on top?​

When Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s metaverse pivot last fall, he laid out the vision for a not-too-distant future of extreme online immersion. While his prophecies raised plenty of questions and sneers about a workday glued to the headset, a useful case study already exists, thanks to the traditionally hidebound world of residential brokerage.
Since 2016, eXp — the world’s fastest-growing brokerage, with 70,000 agents and counting — has made its digital platform, eXp World, central to its lean operation, ditching real-world real estate in favor of an online portal. The firm’s virtual campus includes HR and accounting offices, and agents at the company’s annual convention last year tuned in to hear Serena Williams speak about pushing through obstacles. In the fall, two eXp agents, Traci and Dave Gagnon, who met during a training session on the company’s platform, were married in simultaneous ceremonies in New Hampshire and online. This isn’t your grandfather’s Century 21 office.

“We’re past the point of betting on the metaverse,” said eXp Realty’s CEO, Jason Gesing, who sees the metaverse investments as emblematic of the firm’s agent-first strategy. “We think it works. And what’s amazing to me, if you were to pick out a population that likes being around people, it’s not lawyers or dentists, it’s real estate agents. In the past, they could go to their office and sit in their cubicle, but now they can meet folks from around the globe who might have the knowledge or experience they’re looking for.”
The idea that traditional brokerages can not only survive but thrive in today’s tech-powered world may seem quaint. This is, after all, the era of startups offering agents an all-in-one platform, and deep-pocketed startups like Side offering brokerage-as-a-service products for top agents. Social media and Bravo influencers are leveraging their fame to create brands and even their own firms: for example, Ryan Serhant, who launched his eponymous multiplatform shop in 2020 with the explicit message that “nobody cares what brokerage you work out of anymore.” The evolution of tech and media, goes the narrative, has made it easier than ever for agents to succeed on their own terms and harness their own star power.
“The idea of real estate brokers wanting to start their own brokerages isn’t a new one,” Serhant said. “What’s changed now is the ability to build a brand.”
But the 2021 financials tell a far more nuanced story about the changing business of brokerage. eXp, which now has more agents than Re/Max, brokered 400,000 transactions, doubling its revenue in a supply-starved market and steering its parent company to a record profit of $81.2 million. Compass became the top brokerage by revenue (at $6.4 billion, incidentally equal to its 2019 valuation), with transaction value growing twice as fast as the market at large; sales jumped by 72 percent. But it also saw losses of nearly $500 million, including growing losses in the fourth quarter (the company notes $386 million of that was “non-cash stock-based compensation expense,” in part related to its IPO). Realogy, the parent company of Sotheby’s International Realty and Corcoran Group, saw revenue increase 31 percent and net income jump to $343 million. All these firms grew by agent count, and said they saw talent retention that was better than the industry average.
The Real Deal’s own Manhattan-specific sales brokerage rankings from 2021 echo this. In a year that saw record sales volume, $26.4 billion from the top 25 brokerages, the lion’s share came from the top five: Corcoran ($6.5 billion), Douglas Elliman ($6 billion), Compass ($5.8 billion), Brown Harris Stevens ($3.4 billion) and Sotheby’s ($1.6 billion).

“Everybody’s winning,” said real estate technology analyst Mike DelPrete. “I actually couldn’t name a company right now that is losing.”
“I think sometimes people are surprised when the best stays the best, but that’s what you saw happen in 2021,” said Ryan Gorman CEO of Realogy subsidiary Coldwell Banker. “Twenty years ago, people speculated that the real estate agent would be replaced. Now people see even greater value in the agent. But today they’re asking if the brokerages, and the brands, will be displaced.”
Gorman’s point is that the “end of brokerages” talk fundamentally misreads the cyclical nature of the market. What industry players and observers instead see is bifurcation.
In true Pareto principle fashion, everyone’s fighting over the top-performing 20 percent of agents, according to Clelia Peters, the former president of Warburg Realty who’s managing partner at proptech-focused Era Ventures (and a board member at Side). Within that top tier, there’s fragmentation and fractionalization of business models akin to what’s playing out in media, where a once-omnipotent studio system now contends with streamers and the creator economy.
“What we’re basically seeing is greater and greater power aggregating to the agents who are really defining themselves as distinct brands,” said Peters. “We’re going to see this battle royale for the attention of those agents. How will those agents be served?”
When it comes to firms catering to the elite cadre of dealmakers, tech isn’t the differentiator as much as how the firms’ business models define the agent brand within their larger brand.
Brokerages have traditionally “taxed and extracted value from the person who was supposed to be their customer, the agent,” said Neda Navab, who oversees the Eastern region for Compass. Now it’s about empowering the agents and setting them free from burdensome paperwork and busywork. By this summer, Compass expects agents can do their entire job on the firm’s proprietary platform.
“Before social media, agents didn’t think about the money they’d make for a brokerage as a desk fee or payment for mailers; it was a brand and legitimacy tax,’ said Serhant. “Now more than half of real estate agents start their lead gen on social, so their brands start on social.”
In the case of Side, which recruits top-performing agents, part of the efficiency, and profits, comes from pushing expenses, such as office space and marketing, to the agents, as well as training; CEO Guy Gal has said “nine out of every 10 agents shouldn’t be licensed, let alone actually doing transactions.” The company, which bills itself as the Shopify of the industry, gives high-flying agents the tools to build their own brands.
eXp, which offers a commission split and revenue share allowing agents to recruit and build their own teams within the platform, presents itself as a more hard-charging, power-of-positive-thinking proposition (its founder, Glenn Sanford, resurrected a 19th-century self-help magazine, “Success,” as a platform for agent promotion). Celebrity-first teams within larger brokerages, such as the Eklund-Gomes team at Douglas Elliman (which went public at the end of last year), combine the social media reach of superstars like Fredrik Eklund with glossy imagery and a firm-within-a-firm structure to corner high-end property markets.

Compass, which in many ways has become the poster child of a modern brokerage, wraps the traditional model in tech language with platforms and agent apps and tools, as well as a venture capital and now public markets war chest. Peters says Compass’ true innovation might simply have been updating the industry’s dowdy branding with an appealing tech aesthetic, but as it gets further from its IPO — the stock price has fallen nearly two-thirds since its debut — it may be weighed down by the challenge of maintaining its brand.
That’s particularly true in the face of such well-funded competition. Side, for one, has raised money — $250 million so far — at a prolific rate. It was valued at $2.5 billion after its latest disclosed $50 million raise last June.
“This is a market share merry-go-round,” said DelPrete. He’s seeing elite agents getting even more efficient, and more sought-after.
“Agents just go from one place to another; whoever has the newest technology or is going to be able to offer people the most money. Re/Max started this trend back in the day with their 100 percent commissions. Then Keller Williams came along with a different model offering agents more money. Then Compass came along, offering agents more money.
“They [agents] are no dummies,” he added. “They’re entrepreneurs.”
That’s why tech, or the promise of ease that it offers, has been such a powerful selling point. But though it may make a difference at the margins, and effective platforms can help with retention, it tends to offer incremental gains for most, said DelPrete. He sees the world fundamentally moving to a place where everybody’s databases are the same. In which case, the differentiator between agents becomes more old-fashioned: Who builds the best relationship, and between brokerages, who can give agents the platform to do so?
“My suspicion is that with Compass and these other players, they’ve got powerful machines, and they have engineers and people looking after it,” said Nikki Greenberg, a real estate tech analyst at Australia-based QIC Real Estate. “But like a Mac, some may just use it for word processing, and some may use the full power of the machine.”
One of the most powerful draws isn’t a back-end tech tool. It’s no surprise that most of the brokers with the highest profiles and greatest entrepreneurial success, such as Serhant and bloggers-turned-brokers like Bloodhound Realty and Chase McAnear, have vaulted ahead with the one thing, a true online following, that brokerages can’t provide, and used this asset as leverage. As Serhant said when he launched his own firm, “It’s an attention game. It’s not who has the better postcards, it’s about who can attract the most eyeballs.” It’s what he says helped him close on a $132 million mansion in Florida last year, one of the priciest home sales in U.S. history.
“I look at real estate as the new Tinder,” said Seth Nelson, who oversees California’s Orange County for the Eklund-Gomes team. “People’s attention spans are ungodly short these days. How can you [take] an asset, like a home, and turn it into a product people want to look at, feel, see, touch? That’s the name of the game.”
Nelson, who owes his position to a blind Instagram DM to Eklund that the broker immediately responded to with an invite to meet at the Hotel Bel-Air, says it’s all about leveraging networks. The team works with Society Group, a real estate PR firm, to create polished social media content for each listing (Elliman offers international reach through its partner company Knight Frank) and connects the team with luxury new development opportunities — which get blasted over Eklund’s social feeds. Boasting 75 team members across 12 markets, Eklund-Gomes estimates that a quarter of its sales stem from social media.
“If you’re not figuring out how to live in a modern-day world of exposure and content and distribution, you’re going to get left behind,” said Nelson.
But some younger agents argue that the high-gloss approach is already outdated.
Madison Sutton, who cultivated a large TikTok following as @theNYCAgent and even teaches social media classes to her colleagues at Brown Harris Stevens, said visions of perfection are “very outdated.” TikTok has brought forth a lo-fi, more personal way of communication, useful for establishing trust.
“It allows you to have an emotional connection with the viewer,” Sutton said. “He or she seems like someone who will listen to me and will go on a journey that’s very stressful now, especially in New York.”
TikTok’s effectiveness in marketing real estate also underscores just how much traditional ideas of showings have evolved in recent years.
“The pandemic put everyone into their phones, so they saw the power of what you could do visually and virtually,” Serhant said. “I sold a house two weeks ago in Palm Beach over FaceTime; I never went there. I recently sold 600 acres of land as an inflation play in Wyoming. Neither me nor the buyer went there. Traditional brokerages spend a third of their operation expense on rent and desks. No large firm will ever get out of that.”
Agents face tough decisions, especially when it comes to choosing platforms and brokerages. There’s no question that luxury is where the market is focused; even Realogy, despite having a constellation of brands touching on difference price points, is focused on a “spectrum of services” to “compete and win in the luxury and premium, and even ultra-luxury space,” according to Coldwell Banker’s Gorman.
That same idea of transitioning through tiers may also describe an agent’s career journey.
In this post-Compass world, DelPrete sees a career arc: An agent starts out at Keller Williams to get trained, moves up to Compass to get experience with top clientele, becomes an established name and departs for Side and the promise of running their own brokerage. Side’s Gal shares a similar view — that existing brokerages are set up to support average agents (in part, he says, because lower deal volumes mean higher commissions for brokerages), so elite talent do all the “heavy lifting.” In that case, why not step out on your own?
Others see a push toward the idea of collaborative teams becoming bigger in a more decentralized industry, akin to what eXp promises top performers or how Eklund-Gomes, which has its own full-time CEO, is organized. Compass’ Navab said that teams will be a big focus of near-term tech development. Like other competitors seeking to lure and retain top agents, Compass wants to keep them locked in, regardless of how big the company logo appears.
“We don’t want anybody to do the dull work of launching their own brokerage,” Navab said.

Upstairs Realty

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Ah, beloved Success Magazine, which went bankrupt in 1911 and again in 1999.

David Goldsmith

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Coldwell Banker Warburg allies with Reuveni for new dev arm​

Partnership rebrands Shlomi Reuveni’s firm​

Coldwell Banker Warburg and Reuveni Real Estate are joining forces.
Under the partnership, Reuveni Real Estate will become Reuveni LLC to operate as a separate line of business from Coldwell Banker Warburg, focused on brokerage, sales and marketing of new development projects.

Coldwell Banker Warburg will manage Reuveni’s resale and leasing business, while founder, president and CEO Shlomi Reuveni will help its new partner’s agent recruitment. The two brands will collaborate on business development strategies, marketing, public relations, branding and social media initiatives.

“The way we look at it, no, Reuveni is not becoming part of Coldwell Banker Warburg, but we are now going to be moving forward as allied brands who will consider each other the same family,” Coldwell Banker Warburg president Frederick Peters said.
Reuveni said he anticipates an influx of brokers from the alliance, which Peters said will grow Coldwell Banker Warburg’s local brand awareness.

“We’re going to take care of the fact it’s not as known in New York,” Peters said.

The companies said the venture will give Coldwell Banker Warburg greater access to the new development sector — Reuveni’s specialty — and its new partner will gain access to the firm’s international reach. Along with the technical assets, both boutique firms said their emphasis on personal relationships — not technology — makes them a good fit.

“The industry has begun to return to that interest in relationships again, rather than interest in size,” Peters said. “So I feel like we’re doing this at the perfect time to poise ourselves to take advantage of that.”
The partnership comes six months after Peters sold Warburg Realty to Coldwell Banker after 30 years of business as an independent brokerage. The Real Deal ranked it as the sixth largest firm in Manhattan by sales-side volume last year, with $343 million in sales. Reuveni, which was founded in 2017, last year tied for TRD’s 13th largest Manhattan brokerage with $189 million in sales.

The partnership is the culmination of a five-year friendship between Reuveni and Peters, who said they have been planning to work together ever since they met for breakfast and immediately hit it off.
“That famous breakfast five years ago was almost like an awakening,” Reuveni said. “I had to find a way to work with Fred.”

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Compass team heads to Brown Harris Stevens​

Stockwell Bernard Team to sell Zeckendorf’s UES condo project​

A team of Compass brokers is headed to Brown Harris Stevens, focused on a troubled Upper East Side condo project.
Jeffrey Stockwell, Jill Bernard and Alan Shaker of the Stockwell Bernard Team will be selling the Hayworth at 1289 Lexington Avenue, a new development they expect will take one to two years.

Zeckendorf Development bought the 61-unit Carnegie Hill building in February for roughly $250 million. U.K.-based lender Children’s Investment Fund took the property over in January through a foreclosure auction after Ceruzzi Development defaulted on its construction loan.

The deal marks the first time BHS is selling a Zeckendorf building, CEO Bess Freedman said.
“Will we collaborate with Zeckendorf Development on this? Of course, but this is a Brown Harris Stevens building we’re selling,” Freedman said.

The Stockwell Bernard Team said in a release they’ve sold more than $1.5 billion worth of real estate over the past 20+ years. The Real Deal data show the trio sold $67.4 million on the sell-side last year.

“Change is always scary and disruptive, but we’re excited,” Stockwell said. “We like the size of Brown Harris Stevens very much because it’s large enough to have scale but it’s not so large you might feel a little lost.”
The team has been with Compass since its 2019 takeover of Stribling & Associates, one of the city’s last independent brokerages.

Ceruzzi’s late founder and former president Louis Ceruzzi spent about a decade assembling the property. It launched sales during a condo slowdown in 2019 — two years after the developer’s death — and defaulted on its loan from Children’s.

David Goldsmith

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LA-based Carl Gambino expands in New York with Compass

Broker with celeb track record moving from Modlin​

Carl Gambino, a Los Angeles-based broker with a track record of celebrity deals, is moving his New York office from Modlin Group to Compass.

Gambino’s departure from the boutique brokerage marks a shift in focus to Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Hamptons for the broker, whose sales volume totaled $325 million across Los Angeles, Miami and New York, according to Compass.

Gambino, founder of an eponymous Compass team, joined the brokerage in 2020 from Westside Estate Agency. His 11-person team expanded into Miami the following year, where Gambino in March sold a $21.3 million Fisher Island condo to Patrick Dovigi, a former professional hockey goalkeeper for the Edmonton Oilers. The deal was Fisher Island’s most expensive on a square foot basis.

Gambino netted $145 million in sales volume in 2019, the same year he represented Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra’s purchase of a $20 million Encino home. He was also the buying agent for Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner’s $14 million home three miles away in the San Fernando Valley.
Beyond the musical family and their spouses, Gambino has also worked with celebrities like Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez.

News of Gambino’s move comes the same week the broker sold co-op 3W at 33 Greene Street for $10.9 million, according to a spokesperson for Compass, who did not identify the buyer.

New York City’s luxury brokers have plenty of business to keep them busy.
The market for properties selling for $10 million and more in Manhattan grew by 84 percent year over year in 2021, reaching $6.3 billion, according to a Compass report on the ultra luxury market released in February. The Hamptons’ market experienced a similar bonanza, with $2.1 billion of sales, a growth rate of more than 45 percent over 2020.

Upstairs Realty

Well-known member
Well, that's the agent I thought I might be at the start of my career... sell to one celeb and then get a celeb friend. Sadly for me, I started meeting my celebs in NY, and then the majority of them went back to California.

However, the superficial attractiveness of the business model causes me to look under the hood and first say ... 11 people? $145 million in volume is great, but it thins out a lot when you have to spread it over 11 people. Presumably we're not talking equal shares here, otherwise he's just having the year of a regular schleppy "sells one three-bedroom co-op and then sells another three-bedroom co-op" kind of broker.

Second, if this is the kind of boutique-y white glove business you want to be doing -- isn't Modlin Group a great umbrella to be doing it under? I don't understand what Compass is going to give him to arm him to compete with Dolly Lenz, Chris Poore... not to mention his boss Leonard Steinberg. Be fun to pop some popcorn and see what happens here.

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Top Hamptons team joins Hedgerow​

Terry Cohen leaving Saunders & Associates for boutique firm​

A brokerage team is jumping to a rising name that’s been making waves Out East.
Broker Terry Cohen and her four-person team are joining boutique Hamptons firm Hedgerow Exclusive Properties from Saunders and Associates.

Cohen has been a top producer in the Hamptons, transacting over $2.5 billion dollars of real estate over the last 20 years. Cohen joined Saunders in 2008 and the Terry Cohen team was founded in 2015.
Founded in June 2020 by Gary Cooper and Preston Kaye, Hedgerow has sold over $650 million of Hamptons’ real estate in less than two years of operation, including four out of the 10 most expensive trades of 2021.
Among Hedgerow’s top deals is the sale of a Southampton estate at 70 and 71 Cobb Lane for $118.5 million. Hedgerow facilitated both sides of the deal, which The Real Deal previously reported was last year’s biggest residential sale in the Hamptons.

The waterfront parcel, 71 Cobb Lane, is coming back on the market. The property will be exclusively with Hedgerow and asking $72 million for the nine waterfront acres.

Cohen said in a statement joining Hedgerow will allow the team “flexibility to pivot and provide the utmost value to our clientele.”
Cohen joins Hedgerow as a partner at the firm, alongside co-founders Cooper and Kaye. She will be joined by team members and agents Jon Vaccari and Bayard Fenwick, as well as operations manager Alexandra Winter.

“What intrigued me about joining Hedgerow was the idea of being a part of a modern and specialized organization doing things differently,” Vaccari said in a statement.

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Michelle Griffith jumps from Compass to Douglas Elliman​

Agent sold $143M worth of real estate in 2021​

Michelle Griffith, a top-producing residential broker, has joined Douglas Elliman from Compass.
Specializing in luxury resales and new development properties, Griffith has booked more than $900 million in sales to date, with $143 million worth of sales in 2021 alone.

“I’ve seen what Douglas Elliman has done for agents at my level, and they truly have all of the key pieces to take a very active, busy, successful broker and really turn them into a superstar,” Griffith said.
Griffith joined Compass in 2020 from Corcoran, where she started in 2016. Prior to that, she was an agent with the Trump Organization starting in 2011.
Among her listings is a partnership with Corcoran-Sunshine selling $100M at 30 Park Place, serviced by the Four Seasons Hotel Downtown. Still, she said some of her “proudest moments” involved helping friends with moves uptown and to larger spaces during the pandemic.

In 2020, Griffith was ranked the No. 1 agent at Compass and No. 6 agent in Manhattan by the Wall Street Journal and Real Trends. She has also appeared in The Real Deal’s top 75 Manhattan residential agents.
Griffith has also appeared on WNBC’s “Open House NYC” and Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York”.

Elliman’s Executive Chairman Howard Lorber said Griffith’s “record of achievement and her reputation for discretion speak for themselves.”

Griffith will work as an individual agent out of Elliman’s Tribeca office.
“Exceptional agents like Michelle understand that success in real estate — especially over the long term — begins and ends with earning the trust of your clients,” Elliman CEO Scott Durkin said in a statement. “The fact that so many of Michelle’s clients are public figures is a testament to her integrity and character. She will be right at home here at Douglas Elliman.”

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Douglas Elliman’s top brokers Oren and Tal Alexander leave to launch Official with Side​

Alexander Team’s sales accounted for 3.5% of Elliman’s business in 2021​

Top Douglas Elliman agents Oren and Tal Alexander left the brokerage after a decade to launch a company called Official, backed by the white-label firm Side, The Real Deal has learned.

The brothers, who led the Alexander Team in New York, South Florida, the Hamptons and Aspen, will hang their licenses with venture capital-backed Side, but are starting their own firm, the Alexanders and Side confirmed. The Alexanders’ page on Elliman’s website was removed Tuesday.

The Alexander Team said it closed more than $1.8 billion in sales last year, accounting for 3.5 percent of Elliman’s $51.2 billion worth of business in 2021.

The team was ranked the top Elliman team by gross commission income and sales volume in both New York and Florida last year. It also won the brokerage’s National Award for the third year in a row, most recently in the large team category.

Oren Alexander, who is based in Miami Beach, and Tal Alexander, in New York, have been close to Elliman Chairman Howard Lorber. They moved to New York in 2008 during the financial crisis, and built their brand over the following decade.

A spokesperson for Elliman said the brokerage wished them well in their next endeavor and declined to provide an interview.
Real estate agents’ individual brands hold more weight now than ever before, observers say, with top brokers like Ryan Serhant, of “Million Dollar Listing” fame, going off on their own. Serhant left Nest Seekers International last year to open his own brokerage called Serhant.

Tal and Oren Alexander said they see a gap in the market they aim to fill with Official.
“There’s no brokerage that just speaks to the high-end market,” Oren Alexander said. “We have the ability to truly corner the ultra and super-prime markets.”
The sometimes controversial, jet-setting brothers, who together have about 82,000 Instagram followers, got their start in real estate visiting construction sites with their father, South Florida spec home developer Shlomy Alexander. They have been involved in a number of record-setting deals in New York, Miami and London, ruffling the feathers of their competitors along the way, including other agents at Elliman.

Side’s CEO Guy Gal started the San Francisco-based firm in 2017 with the goal of luring top agents around the country who run their own companies to be “partners.”

Side is “only delivering the back office,” while “the front office is entirely the Alexanders,” Gal said.
Side, he added, is a platform that has helped launch more than 400 companies since it was founded.
“They can fire us whenever they feel like it,” he said. “We are a vendor to them.”
Gal has said that Side takes a 10 percent cut of commissions. If partners choose to leave within their first two years, Side keeps their brands.

Side, which reached a valuation of $2.5 billion last year, recently laid off about 10 percent of its workforce due to market volatility and rapid expansion, Gal said in an email sent to staff, Inman reported last week. Side’s investors include Tiger Global Management, ICONIQ Capital and Trinity Ventures. It expanded to Florida in 2019.
Like many other brokerages, Elliman had a record year in 2021, nearly doubling its 2020 sales volume. The firm spun off from its parent company Vector Group and went public in December. It’s expected to be rewarding agents, executives and acquisition targets with shares of the new company.

The Alexanders’ decision to leave Elliman has been in the works for months, sources said. Oren Alexander said that the pandemic delayed his and his brother’s plans “because we got all of the sudden really busy” as luxury residential sales boomed in their markets.
Nearly all of the Alexanders’ agents in New York and Miami are joining them at Official, Tal and Oren Alexander said. The Alexander Team includes Sara Goldfarb and Isaac Lustgarten. Jennifer Goldstein in Florida is not leaving Elliman, Oren Alexander said.

The Alexanders said they plan to expand to the West Coast and grow in existing markets, including Florida, and also hinted they will be working on new developments.

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In light of this comment...I'm intrigued by models like Side if/when they come to NYC.
It's interesting to look back and see 14 months later Triplemint has been acquired by The Agency and Side is laying off staff after admitting to a too rapid expansion.

Layoffs hit Side as brokerage braces for market volatility​

CEO Guy Gal cited overexpansion in banner year for cuts​

A year after shooting to unicorn status, Side appears to be sinking back to earth amid a volatile housing market.
The San Francisco-based brokerage laid off about 10 percent of its workforce, Inman reported. The layoffs are similar to other companies weathering the recent rise in mortgage rates, but are a difficult pill to swallow after an explosive year for the company.

Side CEO Guy Gal cited market volatility as a major reason for the layoffs in an email sent to staff and obtained by Inman. Gal also suggested a mistake the company may have made during its rapid growth.

“We expanded the team faster than we could train, support and develop everyone to meet the demands of changing roles and processes,” Gal said in the email to employees.
The expansion push came during a period of major growth for the company. Last March, the white-label brokerage raised $150 million in a Series D round, reaching a valuation above $1 billion. Months later, the valuation more than doubled to $2.5 billion after Tiger Global Management led a $50 million round.

Side provides a range of technology tools and support teams for its small group of agents. The company provides each agent who starts a brand at the brokerage a business manager, while in-house staff recruits new agents for partners’ brands. If partners leave within the first two years, Side keeps their brands.

Earlier this year, Side snatched John Wollberg away from Brown Harris Stevens to work as a managing broker overseeing the company’s expansion into New York. The company has also been on track to go public, speeding towards an IPO.

Instead, it is joining the ranks of companies choosing to reduce headcount as the housing landscape begins to shift after two years supercharged by the pandemic.
Digital mortgage lender Tomo laid off nearly one-third of its workforce only three months after an equity capital injection. A total of 44 employees were let go, which management attributed to headwinds in the mortgage and venture capital markets.

Better.com has laid off thousands since interest rates began rising last fall. In the proptech field, mortgage-related startups have been hit particularly hard; in April, digital lender Blend Labs laid off 200 employees, or roughly 10 percent of its staff.
In May alone, some 16,000 tech industry employees were laid off, according to the website layoffs.

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Lauren Balbuena out as Keller Williams NYC CEO​

Allyssa Compton-Disla takes over as team leader​

Lauren Balbuena’s tenure as Keller Williams NYC CEO and team leader is over, with Allyssa Compton-Disla stepping in as her replacement.
Balbuena was tapped to replace former CEO Mark Chin in 2020. The chief executive was tasked with growth and profitability as part of her reign, under which Keller Williams did indeed experience a comeback.

After losing more than a third of its agents in 2019, the brokerage increased its agent count by more than 40 percent for the second year in a row in 2021. Keller Williams is now home to over 600 licensed salespeople after the boost, but stands smaller than its former 900-agent self.
Balbuena has joined Sotheby’s International Realty as a growth manager for the Eastern Region, where she will be responsible for growing the brokerage’s East Coast agent network by partnering with brokerage managers to identify, recruit and retain agents.

Compton-Disla comes to KWNYC with 11 years of real estate experience, most recently as team leader and business partner to Rich Amato — who bought the franchise from Ilan Bracha and Haim Binstock in 2020 — at Keller Williams in Bay Ridge. Prior to that, she spent three years as team leader and CEO of the Keller Williams Fort Lee, New Jersey location, where she grew the office to nearly 400 agents.
She started her career in real estate as an investor and then became a salesperson with Keller Williams Hudson Valley, a team she ultimately sold in order to move into leadership.

After purchasing their rights to the franchise, Amato consolidated two Midtown and Tribeca Keller Williams offices, which were run as separate businesses.
In July 2020, the residential firm announced it will occupy more than 20,000 square feet at 99 Park Avenue in Midtown. It previously had around 15,000 square feet at 379 Broadway in Tribeca, which was owned by the brokerage’s prior owners, Bracha and Binstock.

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Top Keller Williams agent defects to Corcoran

Raphael Sitruk teaming up with two Francophones departing Compass for new team​

A top Keller Williams agent has headed to Corcoran to form a team he hopes will become an international powerhouse.
Raphael Sitruk, the second highest-producing broker at Keller Williams last year, is forming The MSH Team at Corcoran with David Mayer and Michael Hania of Compass.

Sitruk brings $50 million in listing inventory to Corcoran, including 431 Broome Street in Soho, the boutique Broome Hotel with an asking price of $16.9 million. He’s generated $130 million in sales across his career.

Mayer and Hania, who until 2020 was a recruiter at Compass, have a combined $140 million in lifetime sales. Mayer is returning to Corcoran after leaving the firm in 2019.
The trio, who all speak French — Sitruk and Hania are from France, while Mayer is from Montreal — are looking to expand their clientele across North America and Europe.

“Having leads in two different continents, you have a rolodex that is stronger,” Hania said.

Mayer and Hania’s move comes in the wake of layoffs at Compass, but they said their decision was based on their relationships with one another and Corcoran’s status as the largest brokerage in New York City.

“There is a very important side of this new team; that we are friends and we know each other and we trust each other working together,” Sitruk said.
Compass and Keller Williams have both experienced shake-ups as of late.
Compass earlier this week announced it was laying off 10 percent of its staff as a result of slowing market conditions, inflation and increasing interest rates. The cuts come just a month after the company reported a first quarter loss of $188 million, up 25 percent from the same period a year ago.

Keller Williams recently changed CEOs, with Compton-Disla taking over at the head of the firm for Lauren Balbuena, who took a position with Sotheby’s International Realty.

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Oxford Property Group and Level Group joining forces​

Combined company ‘actively on the hunt’ for other acquisitions​

New York
Jun. 21, 2022 07:00 AM
By Harrison Connery

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From left: Oxford Property Group's Adam Mahfouda and Level Group's Larry Link

From left: Oxford Property Group’s Adam Mahfouda and Level Group’s Larry Link (Oxford, Level, iStock)
Level Group has merged with Oxford Property Group effective last week, The Real Deal has learned.
The deal brings the total number of agents operating under the Oxford umbrella to nearly 1,000, with the vast majority operating in New York City, according to Level Group Co-Founder and President Larry Link — and the combined company is looking for more firms to absorb.

“We’re actively on the hunt for other companies,” Link said, adding that the company is interested in acquiring both residential and commercial brokerages.

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Link, who’s staying on as president of the new conglomerate, declined to disclose the financial terms but said there will be no layoffs associated with the merger. The company has hired Bryan Schaffer, previously of Engel & Volkers, to head mergers and acquisitions.

The acquisition comes two years after Oxford Property Group bought brokerages Spire Group and Kian Realty. By headcount, the new merger makes Oxford-Spire-Level the sixth largest firm in New York, with 814 brokers, according to data collected in December by The Real Deal.
“This merger underscores Oxford-Spire’s commitment to being the largest and best brokerage company in New York City with a stated goal of finally giving agents the proper compensation for the hard work they do as entrepreneurs and independent contractors,” Oxford-Spire CEO and Founder Adam Mahfouda said in a statement.

The company’s brands will continue to operate under their current names and licenses but will continue under the same corporate umbrella and share internal infrastructure, according to Link.
Link said the merger was first discussed in 2016 but was set aside while he and Level Group Co-Founder Michael Greenberg grew the development side of the company. Greenberg’s death last September was one of several factors that led to the merger happening now. Another was the calculation that greater scale would allow the firm to better support its brokers.

“I wanted to be able to offer more tools to staff and agents but we were constrained because we didn’t have enough size to be able to pay for those things, frankly,” Link said.
The merger combines two of the largest 100-percent-commission firms in the area. The model allows brokers to pay a $495 monthly fee and in exchange keep all of their commissions, or pay $99 per month and pay a 10 percent split with the brokerage.

“For productive agents it’s a no-brainer,” Link said.