Real Estate Brokers Who Invest
As the luxe market softens, a look at where NYC residential agents deploy their own cash — and what it says about today’s investment landscape
(Illustration by Lilly Panholzer)
Over the past three years, broker Nadine Adamson has helped celebrities like Michelle Williams and Lake Bell double their money in the Brooklyn townhouse market. But the Brown Harris Stevens agent isn’t just dispensing investment advice; she’s also putting it to use.
Adamson began investing in the early 1990s, when she bought a $225,000 Soho co-op after getting a cash infusion from an unexpected source: a $20,000 buyout on her rent-stabilized Greenwich Village apartment from notorious landlord Steve Croman, who was looking to turn the units to market rate.
Since then, she’s bought and sold half a dozen properties, including the Clinton Hill townhouse where she now lives with her husband and two sons.
“If you buy the right thing and wait, these things pay themselves off,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to put my money in stock. I wouldn’t know what to do.”
The phenomenon of brokers investing in residential real estate isn’t new, of course. And it’s nearly impossible to quantify.
But as New York City’s luxury sector softens, more brokers seem to be trying to capitalize on the market. Prices dipped in 2016 and have only rebounded slightly since: The median sale price for luxury pads during the second quarter was $6.8 million, down 2 percent form the prior quarter, according to appraisal firm Miller Samuel.
And the brokers’ investment decisions speak to where the informed money is placing its bets.
“As brokers, we have access to the best inventory,” said Compass’ Victoria Shtainer, who’s bought at least eight condos with her husband over the past decade.
“We also see what’s coming out of the ground and how neighborhoods will be changing because Starbucks or Whole Foods just signed a lease,” she added.
During the last economic cycle, several brokers made lucky bets on 15 Central Park West and buildings like the Time Warner Center, but this time around, the Witkoff Group’s 150 Charles, the Vector Group’s 10 Madison Square West, Rudin Management’s Greenwich Lane, the Annabelle Selldorf-designed 200 11th Avenue and HFZ Capital’s 11 Beach Street in Tribeca all have brokers who also own units. At 150 Charles, for example, the roster of buyers includes Compass President Leonard Steinberg, the Corcoran Group’s Robby Browne, Douglas Elliman’s Holly Parker and Elliman’s John Gomes.
In addition to investing in flashy Manhattan buildings and up-and-coming Brooklyn neighborhoods, some brokers are venturing out of the city into the Hamptons and Connecticut or accumulating portfolios of rental properties that are throwing off passive income.
“Right now is a great opportunity for people to buy,” said Keller Williams NYC’s Ilan Bracha, who invests with longtime business partner Haim Binstock, a former client.
Bracha, for example, is currently representing a buyer who is paying $7.2 million for a condo on Riverside Boulevard, next door to a similar unit that fetched over $8 million last year.
“When I see stuff like that,” he said, referring the opportunity to buy low, “I have a lot of confidence.”
To flip or to hold?
For brokers, the temptation to invest in real estate is hard to ignore. On the high end, at least, agents often work with uber-wealthy buyers who spend millions of dollars on apartments — and then walk away with big profits when they turn around and sell.
But for brokers who buy properties, the question becomes: Flip it or rent it out and generate income?
In most cases, that calculus boils down to the price, of course.
On the new development front, one popular strategy for brokers is to buy in a building they’re marketing before the sponsor increases prices — getting a so-called “friends and family” discount. Or they just buy early at a low price when the developers are trying to lock in the first buyers.
Douglas Elliman’s Andrew Anderson, who’s flipped six apartments since 2006, said he’s benefited from this kind of early buying at 76 Madison in NoMad and at the Chelsea Str爱上海龙凤419桑拿