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Lucrative Rental Market Attracts Sales Brokerage Refugees

07/09/2005, By Tom Acitelli

By Tom Acitelli Lori Anne Wardi, an attorney and management consultant, planned to move into the sales side of Manhattan brokering when she joined DJK Residential this spring. But the real estate novice chose the rental side of the business instead. It was busier.

"The clients coming to us right now are asking for rentals," Wardi said recently. "Right now, I have six clients, and I've been running around town all day long."

She's not alone. Anecdotal evidence suggests more brokers have been working in the Manhattan rental market in recent months; some have even been coming over from the slowing sales market. Reasons for the shift vary, but an accelerated pace underlies many of these decisions.

Perhaps, brokers say, the possibility of greater commissions from increasing Manhattan rents has lured fresh blood.

The median Manhattan rent increased from $2,200 in the summer of 2005 to $2,300 a month in May, according to brokerage Citi Habitats, and brokers typically get 15 percent of an apartment's annual rent as commission.

But the arrival of new rental brokers now could just be part of a Manhattan broker's typical professional life cycle.

"Almost everyone who comes into the business, especially the younger people, starts with rentals rather than sales, regardless of the state of the rental market," said Bruno Ricciotti, a principal of brokerage Bond New York.

Demand and low inventory have fueled the market, driving the vacancy rate in May to below 0.50 percent. And this tightening comes during a time of year when rental activity is greater and sales slow down, an alignment that also helps explain why more brokers seem to be moving into rentals.

"The time we're in right now is always the busiest time we face in regards to tenants coming into the market," said Gary Malin, COO of Citi Habitats, in late June. "And the sales market naturally slows down in the summer."

Joe Taplitzky was a sales broker at Prudential Douglas Elliman who returned to his old firm, Manhattan Apartments, in the spring to work in rentals.

"I start at eight in the morning until nine at night -- nonstop -- weekends, too, seven days a week," said Taplitzky. "Downtown is hot. Any apartment Downtown is going to be snapped up in one hour -- in one hour, literally."
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