JyouPent-up demand was really a thing.
After a sluggish 2020, Manhattan’s residential market accelerated last year, driving up home prices and wiping out inventory, especially in the luxury segment. Although they struggled to find listings for their eager clients, many agents had career-defining years.
The real dealThe annual ranking of the city’s top brokers revealed that stalwarts posted record numbers, boosted by the return of elites from pandemic retreats, while in-house veterans took the new wave of development to new heights.
To rank the top performing brokerage teams of the rounding year by sell-side trades, TRD pulled the listings from Manhattan and cross-referenced them with deals made in public records and with the brokerage houses. Off-market transactions and transactions brokered internally by the developers’ own sales teams have been excluded.
Here’s a look at who ruled the roost.
Douglas Elliman came second behind the Corcoran group in TRD‘s annual ranking of the best brokerages in town. But looking at the star agents, Elliman dominated — his dealmakers took the top three spots and four of the top five.
At the forefront is the Eklund-Gomes team, which closed $492 million in 140 deals in Manhattan last year. Led by Fredrik Eklund – known for his role in Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing” – and John Gomes, the team closed a higher volume of sell-side deals in Manhattan last year than in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens reunited in 2020.
In a distant second came Elliman’s Alexander team, led by brothers Tal and Oren, who closed 58 deals in the borough totaling $347 million, followed by Elliman’s Barbara Russo with $340 million on 64 transactions – all of which have been completed at Beckford House and Beckford Tower, a pair of new luxury condo buildings on the Upper East Side.
The Alexanders, stalwarts among Elliman’s most successful teams, attributed their success in New York to their presence in Miami.
“We saw what happened in the Miami market; we have seen consumer confidence in residential real estate trophy,” said Oren Alexander. “We knew it was only a matter of time until we were going to get this in New York.”
In 2020, the team saw wealthy New Yorkers fleeing south. These New Yorkers began returning to the city in March 2021, and inventory dried up by the end of the third quarter.
“It changed drastically, quite quickly,” said Tal Alexander.
A stunning comeback
Before a dramatic rally as winter turned into spring, the market got off to a relatively slow start last year. In the first quarter, 2,457 deals were completed in Manhattan, up 29% from the lockdown-defined first quarter of 2020, but down slightly from the first quarter average of the previous 10 years, according to a report by evaluator Jonathan Miller.
Things picked up speed in the second quarter, when 3,417 deals were closed, up 39% from the first quarter of the year and 152% from the same period in 2020. In the third quarter, more than homes have been sold in Manhattan than in any other quarter in more than three decades. The 4,523 sales concluded in the borough exceed the previous record set in the spring of 2007, when 3,939 sales were recorded.
In both strong and weak markets, the brokerage game often hinges on relationships, including how many names agents have in their contact lists.
The Modlin Group’s specialty in selling luxury properties means it caters to a more limited pool of buyers compared to its peers, according to Adam Modlin, who ranked eighth with a sales volume of 274 million in just 26 transactions.
“When you consider the profile of a buyer looking to buy a $50 million or $100 million townhouse in New York, you can count buyers on one or two hands,” Modlin said. “So it’s just a matter of connecting the dots.”
Frances Katzen said she searched her Rolodex for customers who could be persuaded to buy when the market was still relatively weak at the start of the year. This strategy paid off, helping his team at Ellliman close $205 million in sales volume across 55 deals, good for #11 on the list.
With demand outstripping supply, Katzen still sees an opportunity, but warned that macroeconomic factors, such as those related to the war in Ukraine, would be key.
“We are an inflation hedge in a market that needs to diversify against volatile assets right now,” she said.
Even as Covid restrictions eased and in-person viewings resumed, practices honed during the pandemic paid off for some brokers.
weather the storm
In March 2020, as tipsters proclaimed the death of the city and investors fled for safer investments in less densely populated markets, Compass’ consulting team Hudson, led by Stephen Ferrara and Clayton Orrigo, doubled down, signing a lease for offices in a townhouse in the West Village.
“There was a break in the market where we couldn’t train as much physically. We weren’t running as much in Manhattan,” Ferrara said. We were able to get really smart in our business.
Trends Ferrara and Orrigo are now seeing include how money has flowed further south and west into Lower Manhattan, how the lack of housing supply is causing parking lots to disappear, and how retail changes in Soho are having an impact on the village’s residential market. The move allowed the team, which ranked sixth with $296 million in sales volume across 78 deals, to enter 2021 with “headwinds instead of headwinds,” according to Ferrara.
“Stephen and I were on the phone all day during Covid,” Orrigo said. “We never slowed down at all, and we saw a lot of brokers, especially late-career brokers, slowing down. 2021 has been a year where we’ve fully seen the Matrix.
Tamir Shemesh, a former agent for Agent Elliman who switched to Serhant earlier this year, sold Extell’s 1010 Park Avenue 12th-floor unit via FaceTime to a family in Florida, who paid more than $13 million for it despite never stepping foot inside.
“It seems so strange that people are buying an apartment without seeing it,” said Shemesh, who came in at No. 7 with $279 million from 47 deals in his final year with Elliman. “But in the past, I sold dozens of apartments that no one [had] built. And it was based only on the floor plans and visits to and visits to sales offices.
Ryan Serhant himself orchestrated a series of deals, including the sale of the penthouse at 565 Broome Street, which cost just over $22 million, and the first resale at 220 Central Park South, for $33 million. His company has also taken over sales of the Jolie at 77 Greenwich Street, a 90-unit project developed by Trinity Place Holdings, which is targeting a sale of more than $300 million.
While his company debuted in 11th place on TRDAccording to the annual brokerage rankings, Serhant ranked fourth among individual agents and teams, achieving a sales volume of $338 million over 90 transactions.
“I’m excited now to be near the bottom,” joked Serhant. “I like being number 11. I think it’s fun, because everyone above me just has to wait.”