Bruno Ricciotti

Bruno Ricciotti

Principal Broker

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Bruno made the move to New York City in 1996, a week after graduating from Penn State University. In 1997, after a few odd sales jobs, Bruno began working as an agent at a prominent Manhattan real estate brokerage firm. His short time there would prove to be the inspiration for Bond New York.

“I was a decent agent but I knew there was more for me to accomplish in this business. I quickly learned how much growth was attainable. The possibilities seemed virtually infinite. I also saw room for improvement and ultimately wanted to create a firm in my own vision.”

Bond New York opened its doors in 2000 and has been growing ever since. Now, with 5 prime Manhattan locations and over 400 agents, Bruno has seen his company transform into a real estate icon.

Diversity is what sets Bond apart from other real estate brokerages. “We are the only company in our class. While other companies focus on one area of the market, Bond is full scale and scope, diversified in rentals, sales, commercial and new development.”

Almost ten years since its inception, Bond New York is now the largest independently owned brokerage in New York City. Bruno attributes the company’s success to his partnership with co principal and best friend Noah Freedman. “Business is about relationships and everything in an organization trickles from the top down. I firmly believe the respect and trust in our relationship is the foundation upon which Bond is built and is the backbone of Bond culture.”

“Every decision I make is one that tries to take into account the whole picture and whether or not it is sustainable and fruitful in the long term for all parties involved. Success is a team effort and at Bond, we are all a family.”





The Real Deal

Published 10/25/2018 - By Bond New York snags new offices as the brokerage expands

https://therealdeal.com/2018/10/25/bond-new-york-snags-new-offices-as-the-brokerage-expands/

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The Real Deal

Published 07/18/2017 - By Deadline day: Corcoran, Citi Habitats say they’ve cut StreetEasy rentals off – here’s what the other

https://therealdeal.com/2017/07/18/deadline-day-corcoran-citi-habitats-say-theyve-cut-streeteasy-off-heres-what-the-others-are-doing/

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The Real Deal

Published 06/23/2017 - By As Bellmarc collapsed, the agents fled. Here’s where they went

https://therealdeal.com/2017/06/23/as-bellmarc-collapsed-the-agents-fled-heres-where-they-went/

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The Real Deal

Published 07/01/2014 - By Splits Grow More Crucial As Market Tightens

Splits grow more crucial as market tightens

A look at the commission splits being used to attract and retain residential agents in an increasingly competitive market

July 01, 2014 
By E.B. Solomont

Real estate veterans Paul Purcell and Kathy Braddock spent seven years building Rutenberg Realty into a fast-growing firm that lets brokers keep the lion’s share of their commissions.

But as they launch William Raveis’ first New York City office, they’re turning to a traditional commission structure that pays agents a split based on their productivity.

“We’re taking a very hard look at it to see what makes sense,” said Braddock, noting that they have not yet finalized an exact productivity-to-split breakdown. “That’s the beauty of being able to do it from scratch.”

In New York’s increasingly competitive residential real estate market, the ever-important commission split has become even more crucial and has emerged as a key point of distinction for firms. Though rarely discussed publicly, splits are a way to attract and retain top agents.

“The only way to hire true experts is to allow them to get paid what they deserve to do their craft,” said Gordon Golub, chief residential real estate officer at startup brokerage Urban Compass, which last year switched from a salaried model to a commission structure that gives top producers a larger cut.

In New York, commission structures fall into two basic categories. At firms like the Corcoran Group and Douglas Elliman, the traditional split model is pegged to an agent’s productivity, with agents keeping a fraction of each commission based on their gross sales. The split schedules vary slightly between firms, according to one insider source who provided TRDwith the schedules for Corcoran, Elliman and Town (see sidebar for breakdown.)

An agent initially might keep 50 percent of his commissions, and then see his split increase, typically in 5 percent increments, as he racks up deals over the course of a rolling 12-month period. Firms reset splits at the end of the 12 months, although policies differ among brokerages, with some allowing agents to stay at their current split and others pushing agents back one tier or more, sources said.

On the other side of the spectrum, about a dozen firms offering high splits, or 100 percent commission, have opened their doors in the past decade, as The Real Deal has reported. At Keller Williams NYC, agents start at 70 percent. Once they contribute $50,000 in gross earnings to the brokerage, they keep 100 percent of their commissions.

Listing agent leverage

Lately, the market’s low inventory, escalating prices and frequent bidding wars have rewarded brokers on both sides of the divide.

While firms haven’t changed their split schedules, sources say some agents are reaching higher splits earlier in their 12-month cycle because prices are up.

“It’s easy to get to $400,000 gross [commissions] nowadays, because apartments are so expensive in this market,” said Bruno Ricciotti, CEO of Bond New York.

Robert Bernstein, a Rutenberg broker, said he knows some agents who are making “more than they ever have.” In the first quarter, the average price per square foot in Manhattan was at a record of $1,363, according to data from appraisal firm Miller Samuel.

“There are a lot of bidding wars,” with so few available units, Bernstein said, “which makes for an amazing market for a seller and for a listing broker.”

In turn, listing agents have a little more leverage when it comes to negotiating higher commission splits with brokerages, Bernstein said. “People have a little more negotiating power to go to their manager and say, ‘I reached my numbers and we’re in March,’” he said.

However, other industry veterans also said that with so little inventory, a lot of brokers are not able to make deals. Given the competitive market for buyers, listing brokers have the upper hand. “Right now, whoever gets the listing is king,” said one longtime agent.

“It’s not an easy market to be a broker,” said another agent. “Either you’re doing really well or you’re not.”

Bernstein acknowledged that bidding wars are a “nightmare” for the buyer’s broker. “Now they are competing for the apartment and usually need to get their clients to bid higher than they planned on spending and they still may not get the apartment,” he said.

Still, top-producing agents are going strong in the current market, and a handful are striking out on their own, or are using the opportunity to test the waters at new firms.

In the past 18 months, top broker Dolly Lenz left Douglas Elliman to start her own firm and Leonard Steinberg left Elliman for Urban Compass.

“You’re seeing top people moving around in the industry more and more,” said Bernstein, who jumped to Rutenberg from Corcoran in 2010. “If you’re working for yourself, you get a much higher split.”

City Connections, a 100 percent commission firm, opened in 2004, followed by Rutenberg in 2006. Since 2011, brokerages such as Spire Group, Level Group, Titan Real Estate of New York, KIAN Realty NYC, and BLU Realty Group also entered the market.

Kevin Kurland, who previously owned Kurland Realty, launched Spire in 2011, a 100 percent commission firm. Spire currently has 161 agents who pay a $495 monthly flat fee to be affiliated with the firm and use its website, offices and other resources.

Kurland said he only hires brokers with at least a year of experience, and a track record of $100,000 in annual gross commissions.

“Every single real estate agent in the world wants the highest split they can get. That’s a fact,” he said. “The go-getters think that way.”

Something for nothing?

Still, high-split and 100 percent commission models have their detractors.

Industry veterans say the model only works with a high volume of agents and that agents at these firms score fewer listings.

Ardor Realty phased out 100 percent within a year after offering agents the option in 2011. Principal Chris Shiamili said the high-split model amounted to “smoke and mirrors.” With less technology and marketing support, the agents getting 100 percent commission had fewer listings. “It’s an illusion for most people to think they’ll get something for nothing,” he said

Alon Chadad, a co-founder of Blu, said he and his partners wanted their firm to reward agents for bringing in deals. But the company scaled back to a 70 percent split within its first year of operation, according to Chadad, who said the 100 percent commission model worked better for part-time agents. Blu now starts agents at 70 percent and bumps them up to 75 percent when they gross $150,000; 80 percent for $250,000 and 90 percent for $500,000.

“It’s not easy to be in our business. I know that my competition is big out there,” Chadad said.

To that end, the traditional model — which is also more lucrative for firms — isn’t going away.

Urban Compass offered a salary for only seven months before switching to a traditional commission structure. Golub, who declined to disclose Urban Compass’ split schedule, said it is within 5 percent of traditional firms. “It’s really based on agents’ expectations,” he said. “Agents are our No. 1 customer.”

Braddock said at William Raveis, she and Purcell would offer a traditional split schedule since that’s how the company operates its 99 other offices nationwide. She said she still thinks the 100 percent commission model that she oversaw at Rutenberg can be a good thing, but in this case, revenue from commissions will support marketing, technology and training that will set the office apart from its competitors.

“You’re not creating a schedule to say, ‘I’m going to give them $150,000 versus $200,000,’” said Braddock. “If you can’t help them build their business, 100 percent of zero is zero.”


The Real Deal

Published 12/01/2012 - By The Start-Up Generation

The start-up generation

The 40-and-under entrepreneurs who are bringing new strategies to residential real estate and shaking up the brokerage industry in the process

December 01, 2012 
By Leigh Kamping-Carder

Blu Realty founders, from left: David Tobon, Moshe Balalo, Alon Chadad, Michael Arcos and Andy Kim

The entrepreneur has had something of a moment lately, with both Presidential campaigns heaping praise on small businesses in addition to self-employment looking increasingly attractive after the corporate bankruptcies and mass layoffs spurred by the economic crisis.

But before you think Silicon Valley has cornered the market on entrepreneurial whiz kids, take a look closer to home: New York City real estate has seen a bevy of new residential firms in recent years.

Opening a real estate firm requires relatively little capital, and in the past 10 years, online listing portals (such as OnLine Residential and StreetEasy), smartphones and search engines have made it easier than ever to open an office and get just as much exposure as brand-name brokerages. Around a decade ago, a batch of new Manhattan residential brokerages appeared and has since proved they could take on the city’s established players. This wave of entrepreneurs included Core’s Shaun Osher, Bond New York’s Bruno Ricciotti and Noah Freedman, the Modlin Group’s Adam Modlin, Rapid Realty’s Anthony Lolli, Nest Seekers International’s Eddie Shapiro and aptsandlofts.com’s David Maundrell.

Maundrell, 38, started aptsandlofts

.com in a 550-square-foot office in an industrial section of Williamsburg in late 2002 with just $8,000 of savings while also suffering from credit card debt. Last year, the firm had the second-highest number of new development projects in the city, according to The Real Deal’s 2011 ranking. The firm now has about 60 agents, Maundrell said, and last month opened its second office, a 43-desk space in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

Likewise, Shapiro, 37, founded Nest Seekers in a tiny office in 2002, using computers he bought off eBay for $200 each and enlisting a computer programmer to ensure a steady stream of traffic to the firm’s website. With 11 offices and more than 400 agents spread across New York City and the Hamptons, the firm is one of the largest residential brokerages in Manhattan and on the East End.

But now, a new generation of young New York City brokers is attempting to follow in the footsteps of these pioneers, starting their own residential firms and ushering in a different approach to the business of marketing homes.

This month, TRD looked at the under-40 entrepreneurs who’ve recently founded their own residential firms and have proven that they are more than a flash in the pan.

Many of the young executives we’ve spotlighted here share certain traits: They opened in unproven neighborhoods, such as Williamsburg or the Financial District; they balked at christening their firms with their own surnames; they built websites that were just as important as their brick-and-mortar offices; and they bristled at what they saw as the “stuffy” corporate cultures of the city’s established firms.

Miron Properties founder Jeff Schleider, for example, started his own company in part because there was “no place that you could go into work in jeans and still expect a high level of professionalism from the people around you,” he said.

Not all young executives or new firms made our list. Some are making waves in the brokerage world through an affiliation with a larger firm. For example, Ilan Bracha opened the Manhattan franchise of the Texas-based Keller Williams in 2011. And last month, Donald Trump opened a residential brokerage Trump International Realty, installing his three children — Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka — in senior executive positions.

While many of those on TRD’s list have small firms, they are growing — expanding their agent rosters and offices, building relationships with developers and marketing pricier listings.

“Usually, innovation comes not from the biggest, but the smaller, more creative firm that can really experiment with new things,” said Rubicon Property CEO and cofounder Jason Haber.

 

Waterfall mansion

Andrew Barrocas

The Ad Man

Andrew Barrocas, MNS

If you’ve seen the ad, you can probably quote the tagline: “I don’t remember his name, but his apartment …” The risqué campaign, which debuted in August 2011, is the brainchild of the in-house marketing team at MNS, the brokerage created out of the 2009 merger of the Real Estate Group New York and the Developers Group, which were founded in 2005 and 2003, respectively.

“We’re more than happy to go out on the edge and try things that are new, that are memorable, that have a personality to them,” said Andrew Barrocas, 33, who became CEO of MNS in 2010.

An MNS campaign for the Edge condominiums in Williamsburg winked at the neighborhood’s gritty past (“Grit meets glamour”), while another cheekily boasted of a new development’s larger unit sizes (“Ours is bigger than yours”).

MNS campaigns sometimes result in baffled calls from Barrocas’s mother, he said, but the ads have helped sell units faster and fetch higher prices than the competition. He claimed the Edge’s marketing campaign added $200 per square foot to the building’s sales prices.

The Edge

A former Citi Habitats agent, Barrocas left after that firm was sold in 2004, and then helped launch the Real Estate Group New York, which focused on resales and rentals in Manhattan. The Brooklyn-based Developers Group, cofounded by Highlyann Krasnow, specialized in new developments, so a merger was natural, Barrocas said. Krasnow is now a partner in MNS and heads up the new development division.

Rechristened MNS — a short, memorable name, Barrocas said — in 2011, the firm now has about 100 agents in Manhattan and Brooklyn and is poised to open its fourth location, an on-site office at the Edge.

Barrocas said he always wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, a self-employed garment manufacturer, and open his own business.

“You go to work in a large company and one day, at 50-something-years old, you get a knock on the door and they’re replacing you with someone who’s a 10th of the cost,” Barrocas said.

Luckily, “I didn’t have to wait until I was 40 years old to be steering the ship,” he said.

 

Jason Haber

The Charity Case

Jason Haber, Rubicon Property

Haber, 35, has never shied away from voicing his principles. In his twenties, Haber ran unsuccessfully for New York City Council and worked on the campaign to elect Scott Stringer as Manhattan Borough President.

Then, as a young broker at Douglas Elliman, Haber grabbed headlines by refusing to rent an Upper East Side apartment to the now-deceased Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Accolades poured in from around the country (one admirer in Texas offered to send Haber a gun) and convinced the young broker that his private real estate career could further his public sector ideals.

“I don’t have to be the richest dude on the street, I just want to help people,” Haber said. “And I can do that through real estate.”

Along with his brother Cory, Haber opened Rubicon’s first office in 2010 at 14 Wall Street, followed this past April by a 500-square-foot storefront at 451 Columbus Avenue. From its founding, Rubicon has partnered with the nonprofit called charity: water to bring clean drinking water to developing countries. The firm sponsors a rig that digs water wells across Ethiopia and every 90 days donates $5,000 — the cost of a well.

Although Haber acknowledges that many clients are indifferent to the firm’s charity work, it has served to differentiate the fledging company in a field crowded with other start-ups.

Early on, Rubicon won the exclusive listing for a pair of townhouses priced at $14.3 million at 123-125 East 10th Street because the sellers, Kathy Cerick and Charles Fitzgerald, are supporters of wetlands conservation. One of the townhouses sold to investment banker Olivier Sarkozy, the half brother of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Olivier now lives there with his girlfriend, actress/fashion mogul Mary-Kate Olsen. And Cerick is now a Rubicon agent herself.

Rubicon now has 20 agents, about nine of them full-time.

 

The Dapper Deal makers

Blu Realty founders

The five founders of Blu Realty — Alon Chadad, 27; Moshe Balalo, 28; Michael Arcos, 32; David Tobon, 34; and Andy Kim, 41 — met while working together at Nest Seekers International.

In early 2011, they decided to start their own firm, employing one of the new high-commission-split business models that have become popular in Manhattan in recent years. Agents at Blu Realty start out with a 70 percent split; later, they can qualify for an 85 percent split.

Despite its unconventional commission-split model, Blu maintains a hands-on approach with agents, and is in some ways more old-fashioned than its fellow start-ups. As at Nest Seekers, agents must follow a dress code, and the firm’s founders are known for posing for pictures in matching outfits. Plus, every piece of marketing must be approved by the company to cultivate a professional image.

“A lot of people have lost the respect for the business, in my opinion,” Chadad said. “It’s not just making the deal, it’s how you make the deal.”

With 64 agents and two offices (at 1674 Broadway in Midtown and Trump Place at 120 Riverside Boulevard), the firm has recently started nabbing pricier listings, including a 15 Central Park West rental priced at $59,000 per month and a townhouse at 170 East 80th Street on the market for $31 million. Before Blu got the townhouse listing, the property was marketed by Brown Harris Stevens super broker Paula Del Nunzio.

 

A $16.5 million listing at 200 Chambers Street marketed by Platinum Properties

Jeffrey Schleider

The Google Guru

Jeff Schleider, Miron Properties

Can Google’s business philosophy apply to real estate? To 33-year-old Schleider, the answer is yes.

A former Corcoran Group agent, Schleider launched his own company in 2009 and frequently cites Google maxims — which include “Focus on the user and all else will follow,” and “You can be serious without a suit”— as inspiration for the way he runs his firm.

From the start, he embraced a notion familiar to the Internet generation, as well as media companies, tech giants and, increasingly, real estate firms: Give away information for free, and a certain percentage of users will come back as customers.

For example, Miron’s social media marketing has attracted some 2,400 Twitter followers, a comparatively high number for the firm’s size, and its blog posts are often armed with quirky content. (A sample headline from January reads: “Questions to ask before signing a lease: Does it look like I’m walking into a crack den?”)

Schleider cultivates a start-up-like feel in the offices, where music plays, agents battle each other on the foosball table and many clients come from the tech world. (In fact, last month the brokerage challenged TRD to a foosball showdown.)

In the last two years, Miron has grown to 52 agents and has three offices: one in Noho, one in Greenpoint and another in Tenafly, N.J.

“We have our quirks and we embrace them — as opposed to trying to pretend to be just the corporate entities that everyone else is,” Schleider said.

 

Eric Benaim

The Outer-Borough Mayor

Eric Benaim, Modern Spaces

Eric Benaim, 34, boasts that his nickname is “the Mayor of Long Island City” and that half the people who live in the up-and-coming Queens neighborhood are there because of him. The Queens native moved there in 2006, and opened the Long Island City–based Modern Spaces two years later.

In addition to its two locations in Long Island City, the firm now has branches in Astoria and Williamsburg and is in the midst of construction on an office in Chelsea, its first Manhattan location.

Before opening Modern Spaces, Benaim was working for Nest Seekers in Long Island City, but he was unsatisfied. Rather than join a competitor, Benaim opted to start his own company, with the goal of running a more youthful and less bureaucratic operation, where the only dress code was (and still is) a prohibition against suits.

Benaim said he invested about $500,000 — cobbled together from savings, credit cards, second mortgages and family loans — in the new company, about half of which went to the website, which relies on a sparse, gallerylike aesthetic.

“That was our image — how we wanted to portray ourselves as a young, cool, edgy company,” Benaim said. The company’s Williamsburg office — which is shared with the coffee shop Sweetleaf — features graffiti-themed art, a wooden railing reclaimed from an old courthouse and a pillar decorated like a column from the Bedford L-train stop.

Modern Spaces now has about 50 agents and hopes to double that number by next spring, he said. The firm is currently marketing the 48-unit Vista condos in Long Island City, where Benaim said the first eight units sold in one day. Since opening, the company has marketed $500 million in new developments, Benaim said.

 

Platinum Properties cofounders, from left: Dezireh Eyn, Khashy Eyn and Daniel Hedaya

The youngster

Khashy Eyn, Platinum Properties

When the three cofounders of Platinum Properties — Khashy Eyn, 31; his sister, Dezireh Eyn, 28; and his friend, Daniel Hedaya, 26 — opened their first office on Wall Street, their overhead costs included one unexpected item. To get clients to visit their office, the three young brokers routinely had to pay for taxis to the neighborhood, which was then considered an undesirable residential location.

These days, New Yorkers are less wary of the Financial District, but Platinum Properties still likes to see itself as catering to the new, the young and the hip.

Last year, the firm opened an office in Midtown West, another commercial neighborhood poised to welcome a wave of residential development.

Platinum ranked No. 9 on TRD’s list of top boutique firms in June, thanks largely to the $16.5 million listing for the penthouse at 200 Chambers Street.

In 2008, the firm started a two-agent office in Paris. The company also operates a property management division that specializes in managing investors’ single-home investment properties.

The brokerage’s offerings tend to appeal to younger buyers, the founders said. “If they walk into our office, they can relate to us,” Khashy said. He estimated that the average age of Platinum’s 65 agents is under 30, and the firm’s office at 30 Wall Street features prints by blockbuster artist Takashi Murakami and a beaded black chandelier.

The three founders were working at residential brokerage Urban Sanctuary when the energetic Khashy hatched a plan to launch a new company. “It was just a matter of time,” Hedaya said. “Khashy’s an entrepreneur. He’s always had that vision.”

Although Khashy conceded that he could make more money as an individual agent, he said that down the line, the start-up approach is designed to pay off.

“Your sweat and tears and blood are going into something that’s yours,” Hedaya added.

 

Where are the women?

Young entrepreneurs are making a mark on New York City’s residential real estate industry, but there is a curious gender disparity when it comes to the founders of new firms, sources noted.

In decades past, women like Barbara Corcoran, Elizabeth Stribling and Barbara Fox made names for themselves by launching eponymous brokerages. Likewise, Diane Ramirez helped launch Halstead Property with Clark Halstead, and Michele Kleier cofounded Kleier Residential (formerly Gumley Haft Kleier).

To this day, a number of Manhattan’s biggest and oldest firms have women at the helm. Consider Dottie Herman, CEO of Douglas Elliman; Kathryn Korte, CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty; and Pam Liebman, CEO of the Corcoran Group. In addition, Stribling, Ramirez and Kleier continue to head up their firms.

And unlike male-dominated fields such as finance or law — where the majority of bankers and attorneys continue to be men — plenty of residential real estate agents are women, including many of the city’s top brokers. (New York’s Department of State does not compile data on the gender of licensed agents.)

Despite all this, the majority of new real estate firms are being launched by men.

Some newer firms were started by women: Dezireh Eyn cofounded Platinum Properties, Highlyann Krasnow cofounded one of the two firms that became MNS, Adina Azarian opened rental firm Adina Equities about a decade ago and Kathy Braddock cofounded Rutenberg Realty with Paul Purcell in 2006. But when it comes to the executives launching the newest generation of firms, the list is heavy on testosterone.

The reason for this, some speculated, could lie with broader demographic changes to the industry.

In decades past, the majority of New York City residential brokers were women, many of whom entered the field because the flexible hours made it easier to work outside the home while raising children.

“It gave a woman the flexibility to either be a more ‘traditional’ wife, stay-at-home mom or whatever … and still be able to create the jewelry money or the school tuition or the vacation money,” Braddock said.

While both men and women still choose real estate for the flexibility, New York City real estate prices have grown by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years. Meanwhile, reality shows cast the job in a glamorous light, and technological advances have taken the business round-the-clock.

The field now attracts ambitious young people of both genders, who view it as a lucrative alternative to a career in law, technology or finance, insiders said.

It may be that these shifts have altered real estate demographics, causing the gender breakdown at the executive level to more closely resemble the rest of the business world, where male heads of firms vastly outnumber their female counterparts. (Among the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, only 20 are women.)

“There’s no reason the real estate business should look different on the face of it than any business in America,” Braddock said. “If it did, I think that would be more unusual.”


The Real Deal

Published 04/01/2012 - By Teaming up: Broker Partnerships Are On Upswing

 

Teaming up: Broker partnerships are on upswing

April 01, 2012 
By Leigh Kamping-Carder

From left: Tal Alexander, Oren Alexander and Benjamin Seiter of Elliman’s Alexander Group

In February, Oren Alexander, a 24-year-old vice president at Prudential Douglas Elliman, joined two other brokers to form the Alexander Group. While the name refers to Alexander himself, among the team members, he said it is also a quiet allusion to one of history’s best-known conquerors: Alexander the Great.

“We’re all hungry,” Alexander said of his teammates, who are all under 31. “We don’t really have distractions in our lives. Our main focus is on our careers.”

Alexander formed the group to corner as many transactions as possible, but plenty of other brokers are currently forming similar partnerships to maximize sales in a low-volume market and to cater to an increasingly demanding clientele.

While broker teams are nothing new, sources said that the number of teams has been growing steadily in the last few years. (It’s unclear exactly how many teams currently exist because outside entities like the Real Estate Board of New York don’t keep track.)

“More often than not, I’m seeing teams on a listing,” said Christopher Kromer, a vice president at Halstead Property who is partnered with his ex-wife, Nora Ariffin (see sidebarhere), echoing the observations of other brokers. “Whether or not they’re [officially recognized], I don’t know, but I’m certainly seeing more people team up.”

In fact, one of Halstead’s motivations for opening its Park Avenue flagship about a year ago was to provide top-producing teams with dedicated office space, the firm’s president, Diane Ramirez, said last month at a New York Law School forum. In contrast to the cubicles provided for individual agents, the office has walled off areas for groups, such as the Louise Phillips Forbes team, sources said.

Just a few years ago, the idea of a broker teaming up with a marketing specialist or a closing coordinator was rare, said Michael Shapot, who heads up a six-person team at Keller Williams NYC. Now, those associations have increased threefold, he estimated.

In New York City, brokers with diverse abilities who are joining forces are following in the footsteps of their counterparts in other regions of the country, sources said.

“Teams [are] the wave of the present,” said Shapot, who moved six of the nine people on his team over from Elliman in February. “Quite frankly,” he added, “Manhattanites are late to the game.”
But today’s teams are not identical to the teams of the past, which often revolved around one superbroker, with the teammates playing supporting roles.

Alexander, for one, plans to avoid the traditional team structure where one leader directs assistants who handle showings and administrative responsibilities.

Although Alexander will manage deals above $3 million and his teammates will cover different parts of the under-$3 million market, he envisions the alliance as a coalition of experienced brokers — a team of equals.

“Not everyone in the group will be producing as much as me, maybe,” he said, “but getting close to that.”

Few formal guidelines

Brokers attribute the recent rise in teams to a changing industry that many see becoming more professional and laborious.

“It’s really turned into a 24/7 job,” said Brown Harris Stevens senior vice president Russell Miller, who formed a two-person team with his colleague Mary Beth Flynn in late 2007 before the market took a nosedive. “People will send you e-mails at 2 a.m. and want a quick response.”

A sales market that has failed to catch fire (even if the market looks more promising recently), is exacerbating the situation. In this environment, clients are demanding a new level of responsiveness from their real estate professionals.

“Today, when you go to get a listing, people want to see that more than one person is working for them,” said Alexander, whose older brother, Tal, is also on his team.

With lower volume, brokers say they must now seize every opportunity for a showing and weigh every offer. Add in technology that lets buyers and sellers do their own research online and fire off e-mails at all hours of the day, and brokers find it pays to be available round-the-clock.

For brokers like Miller, enlisting a partner was the best way to cope. “I don’t know how someone does it on their own,” he said.

Additionally, a group represents the kind of security that comes with a two-income household, minimizing the risk of losing out on deals, and allowing team members to broaden their expertise and client base — even though they ultimately share commissions.

Despite the prevalence of broker teams, there is little guidance for agents on how to divvy up the work and — perhaps more importantly — the commissions.

The New York State Board of Real Estate, the 15-member group of state elected officials and industry members that helps draft industry regulations, is currently weighing rules that would establish advertising guidelines for teams. But REBNY leaves it to individual brokerages to decide how to regulate the way teams operate, and the city’s major residential firms have few formal guidelines for brokers who wish to partner up.

At Elliman, for example, a manager typically meets with a broker who wants to start a team to ensure that they have enough business to sustain one, as well as the managerial skills to oversee a staff, said Yuval Greenblatt, an executive vice president who is on the firm’s management team.

“Any time someone tells me they want to merge a team or start a team, I always tell them, ‘One plus one needs to equal three,’” Greenblatt said, explaining that he warns brokers not to enlist team members with overlapping skill sets. Teams made up of agents who simply want to “serve a leader” will fall apart, he added.

Greenblatt said that teams first became prominent in New York City about 10 years ago, but in recent years they have picked up, although he said it was difficult to quantify the increase, even at his own office.

Citi Habitats, the city’s largest rental brokerage, takes a similar approach — providing advice to brokers on setting up teams without mandating how they function, according to the firm’s president, Gary Malin, who could not say how many brokers at the firm were teamed up.

Malin said he recommends that prospective team leaders devise a business plan that sets out the duties each team member will perform, how commissions and salaries will work and what team activities, such as progress meetings and training sessions, will take place — and to put every agreement between brokers in writing.

“Most people don’t truly understand everything they do day-to-day unless they take a step back, digest it and put it in writing,” Malin said.

Meanwhile, Bond New York takes a more active approach to establishing teams.

“When we have new agents, we encourage them to join a partnership where they aren’t responsible for product knowledge they can’t possibly have as a new agent,” said Bond CEO Bruno Ricciotti. “This allows them to transition into being an asset individually to their customers without sacrificing integrity or the company’s reputation in the interim.”

Divvying up pay

In general, every team in the residential brokering world has a different method for dividing up responsibilities and pay. But most fall into three broad types:

Partnerships of two brokers — such as Brown Harris Stevens’ Miller and Flynn or Halstead’s Kromer and Ariffin — often split everything right down the middle.

Top broker Elaine Clayman, who started her eponymous team 13 years ago when she joined Brown Harris Stevens, has taken a unique assembly-line approach to transactions. She breaks each deal down into a series of steps handled by about a dozen “functional specialists,” including her daughter, Justine Bray, who acts as director of sales, and a transaction manager who takes care of deals from accepted offer to closing. Ten agents are responsible for signing and showing exclusives, while Clayman herself is the designated negotiator.

Many teams, however, still have one broker at the helm who brings in the bulk of the business and then farms out leads to the group’s agents, who then handle the deal from start to finish.

The top-ranked Hamersley team at Citi Habitats, led by sisters Tracie and Elizabeth Hamersley, has three additional agents and an assistant, but the sisters bring in an estimated 75 percent or 85 percent of business, they said.

The sisters — who have been working together since 2004, registered as an LLC in 2007 and added their first team member in 2008 — give team members a 25 percent cut for sales referrals and 10 percent for referrals of rentals.

Otherwise, the Hamersley team addresses splits on a case-by-case basis, depending on how much work a team member has contributed as of the closing, the sisters said. As a rule of thumb, the agent who secures the listing and does most of the work gets 60 percent, while his or her partner on the deal gets 40 percent, they said.

The Litvak Group, another team at Citi Habitats, mimics the splits offered at the firm, team founder Eugene Litvak said.

Litvak first paired up in 2009, when he could no longer handle his business alone, and collaborated with a colleague who was struggling to find her own clients. Since then, the less-experienced broker has left the firm, and he has established a formal team. The group was incorporated as its own business late last year and has taken on three additional brokers and an assistant.

Litvak Group members start out with a 35 percent split and move up to a 50 percent split after a certain number of deals. But Litvak Group members reach higher commission splits sooner than working directly with the firm, he said.

“I want them to feel incentivized to do better and try harder,” said Litvak, who has a 65 percent split with the company.

About the brand

Regardless of how commissions are split, it’s clear that groups must bring in at least twice as much — or, in some cases, many times more — business for members to make the same money they would as solo brokers. For this reason, Citi Habitats’ Malin said he usually asks prospective team leaders if what they really need is an assistant to handle administrative duties.

But running a team comes with its own administrative burden, from training green agents to coordinating group schedules to holding weekly progress meetings. Clayman, for example, devotes an hour three mornings a week to teaching sales training classes.

For team members, it’s also difficult to build a name; while they might forge relationships with clients at showings, they don’t establish a track record of closing deals on their own.

Sarah Katz, a former personal shopper at Saks Fifth Avenue who is now a member of the Litvak Group, acknowledged this drawback. “Sara Katz is not going to build up a name in the real estate world, and that’s okay with me,” she said. “I don’t need my name in lights anywhere.”

Halstead’s Richard Johnson spent 18 years as a public relations executive before joining the Louise Phillips Forbes team nearly two years ago and appreciated the idea of working with the established “brand” of a veteran broker.

“It’s never been about me, it’s always about the brand or the product or the service,” Johnson said. “I look at it the same way here.”

But not every team member operates with the same mind-set, and the entrepreneurial qualities that make a successful broker are the same ones that motivate a group member to branch out on his own. In some ways, team leaders are simply training their future competition.

Last month, Elliman’s Iman Bacodari and David Cooper left the Jacky Teplitzky team after working with the noted broker for seven and eight years, respectively. Neither broker would explain their reasons for opting to go their separate ways, since they are still with the firm. Teplitzky did not return requests for comment.

As for Alexander, he doesn’t appear worried that his teammates — his brother and an Elliman colleague — will go solo anytime soon, although one longtime friend decided not to join the group at the last minute. He looks at forming a team as a necessary step to becoming one of the city’s leading brokers.

“If you want to be competitive today, and you’re really trying to be the top agent in the city, I think you need to have a group,” he said. “It’s the only way to capture the most market share.”


Real Estate Weekly

Published 03/22/2012 - By It's Showtime

 

It’s showtime

11:04 AM, MARCH 22, 2012

By Liana Grey

When Brian Lewis, a broker at Halstead, began producing online videos of his listings several years ago, he kept in mind what he imagined would be the typical viewer: an apartment hunter browsing real estate websites late at night, sipping a glass of wine or beer.

“Instead of watching TV, they’re watching you,” he said. For a clip on Chelsea Stratus, a new luxury tower at 101 West 24th Street, Lewis played the role of a talk show host.

At 180 West 58th Street, he threw in a touch of irony and posed as a script writer brainstorming ideas for a Halstead promotional video.

And in a video on a condo for sale at 317 West 95th Street, the visuals take center stage, with footage of the property changing from black-and-white to color.

No matter the scenario, Lewis makes sure the segments have more in common with a comedy skit or reality show than a virtual tour. The key is to be entertaining, he said, “not a tour guide.”

Several of his listings were picked up by NBC’s Open House, a series highlighting luxury properties in New York, after producers came across his videos online. “I had a weekly segment on NBC for a while when the show was on,” said Lewis, who also served as a host for HGTV’s National Open House. “I always used my own properties as anecdotes.”

Brian Lewis

Of course, television exposure is no longer the holy grail of marketing it once was. “Video marketing has become more and more popular,” said Bruno Ricciotti, co-founder of Bond New York.

Two weeks ago, the firm’s in-house videography department launched an online series called Bond TV. “We find our properties sell faster,” said Ricciotti, who happened to study film in college along with his business partner and Bond co-founder, Noah Freedman.

“Sellers are more responsive.” Bond has been churning out 10 to 15 videos a week, featuring individual listings, footage of events, and buildings like 117 Beekman Street, a boutique condo development near the South Street Seaport. Informational films on entire neighborhoods are in the works as well.

Bruno Ricciotti

Rather than star brokers, the videos shine the spotlight on the properties themselves. “They’re like music videos,” Ricciotti explained. “They’re experiential. The camera floats through the apartment.”

No matter the approach, property videos have been generating buzz across the web. Since Lewis of Halstead began producing his videos, a handful of them have gone viral. “I get emails about them from all over the country,” Lewis said. “People put them on blogs, and I blast them out to my contact list.” Though somewhat costly, he said, the videos ultimately pay for themselves.

Jeffery Schleider, founder of Miron Properties, also receives regular feedback about an online video series he produced and stars in.

Rather than promote Miron’s listings, the short films, which feature some animation, offer basic advice on apartment hunting in New York.

A segment about rentals — which explains, for instance, what documents tenants need to present before signing a lease — received 5,403 hits on YouTube, and has even spawned copy-cat videos. “We’re not so concerned with selling property,” Schleider said of the concept behind the series, which was filmed in front of a green screen at a Lower Manhattan studio and animated in-house. “It’s all about giving away information.”

Miron’s customers, many of whom work at tech startups, appreciate the effort. “They’re of the ethic that information should be free and easily accessible,” Schleider said.

In the process, the videos have helped Miron’s Manhattan office secure additional clients from the tech world. To keep the momentum going, Schleider plans to expand the series to include other members of the brokerage team.

Posting entertaining videos online serves a twofold purpose at Halstead as well. Lewis’ archive of dozens of short films, all produced by a professional crew at Flash Frame Productions, have come in handy for securing clients as well as marketing current listings.

At meetings with sellers, Lewis often pulls out his iPad and plays a couple of videos. “Do you have your own video crew come in and do something like this?” he asks. At Halstead’s office on 79th Street and Columbus Avenue, house hunters can aim their own smartphones at listings displayed in the windows, and Lewis’ videos will automatically pop up.

The tags, which operate much like the QR codes now ubiquitous in advertising, help draw in potential buyers with images rather than lengthy descriptions.

“Real estate is a ‘show me, don’t tell me’ sport,” Lewis explained. “People want to experience the home.”


Brokers Weekly

Published 03/21/2012 - By Showing Business Goes Blockbuster as Video Makers Turn it Up a Notch

 


The Real Deal

Published 03/07/2012 - By Bond Focusing on Sales Over Rentals

 

Bond focusing on sales over rentals

March 07, 2012 12:30PM

Bruno Ricciotti of Bond New York

Times are changing for Bond New York, where Principal and CEO Bruno Ricciotti now strives to strengthen the agency’s sales department, the New York Times reported in an interview with Ricciotti.

Though Bond opened its sales department in 2005, there was more of a focus on rentals. Since then, according to Ricciotti, both a maturing client base and a listing of agents have allowed for a greater expansion of sales than rentals. He has a total of 100 sales agents and over 300 rental agents, he said, as well as three sales offices and three rental offices across the city.

Ricciotti also spoke about his predictions for the spring selling season. Despite the shortage of inventory, he said, he believes there will be strong demand from clients to purchase units.

Bond currently represents several developments: the Ellison condo on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Central Harlem, where units range from $500,000 to $1 million, and 142 North First, a condo development in Williamsburg that he told the Times is currently under attorney general review. There are two more in neighboring Greenpoint, but he declined to provide further detail about them. 


The Mann Report

Published 03/06/2012 - By A People Person - Bruno Ricciotti


The New York Times

Published 03/06/2012 - By The 30 Minute Interview: Bruno Ricciotti

The 30 Minute Interview: Bruno Ricciotti - The New York Times - March 6, 2012 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/07/realestate/commercial/the-30-minute-interview-bruno-ricciotti.html


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