Diane M. Ramirez
Chief Executive Officer
Stephen G. Kliegerman
President of Development Marketing
Halstead Property sees gold in emerging neighborhoods
Photo credit: Diane M. Ramirez, President of Halstead Property (Allison Joyce)
As the Manhattan market tightens with low-apartment inventory and prices
affordable only to the ultrarich, the outer boroughs have become a homebuying
battleground for folks making “normal” livings. Noticing emerging neighborhoods outside of Manhattan has become a key strategy for big Manhattan-based brokerage houses intent on servicing New York homebuyers.
Halstead Property has become a leader in expanding its presence to strong borough markets. In 2001, it opened its first Brooklyn office after purchasing a local boutique agency. In September, it bought another local company, further becoming part of the community and allowing the organization a chance to deliver big-company service with local flavor.
Halstead used a different strategy in 2005, opening a 20-plus agent office in Riverdale, the safe-and-bucolic northwest Bronx neighborhood emerging as one of the best non-Manhattan home-buying opportunities in the low- and high-end of the market.
Homes in the area range from $165,000 for a one-bedroom co-op to $5 million-plus Tudor mansions overlooking the Hudson River. Halstead is the first of the big three New York real-estate companies (Corcoran and Prudential Douglas Elliman are
the other two) to open an office in the Bronx.
“We were here before Starbucks,” says Vasco Da Silva, the Halstead broker who opened and manages the Riverdale office. “I moved here from Brooklyn in 2003 and quickly noticed the neighborhood’s potential. It wasn’t being serviced by any large agency with serious marketing capabilities. This will be the next hip-and-affordable spot to live.”
Based in the company’s upper West Side office at the time, Da Silva shot an e-mail to Diane M. Ramirez, president of Halstead since 1987. Two years later, Halstead had a storefront office on Johnson Ave., Riverdale’s main drag.
“When you think of New York, you cannot have blinders on that make you think of only Manhattan,” says Ramirez. “We saw a great number of our customers moving to Brooklyn in 1999 and recently to Riverdale. Instead of sending customers to other brokers, we reshaped our strategy to become part of those local markets where we saw our customers wanting to live.”
Riverdale has taken off. In 2001, a large one-bedroom in a co-op cost $95,000.
Now it’s almost $200,000. Prices of stand-alone houses have increased 20% in the past two years. Seven months ago, Starbucks opened its first store in the neighborhood.
Newly built condominiums sprouted up throughout the area. At the Riverstone, a new condo with luxury amenities being marketed by Halstead’s development group, a three-bedroom 1,896-square-foot apartment is on the market for $1.175 million. On the upper West Side, a 12-minute drive from Riverdale, the same unit would go for more than $2 million.
“Developers trust our understanding of developments more than local brokers who might not have handled multiunit developments,” says Stephen Kliegerman, Halstead’s executive director of development marketing. “Combine that with the local knowledge of our Riverdale office and you have a strong strategy.”
Riverdale sales volume for Halstead has doubled every year since it opened an
office there. Individual agents profit from the company’s network of brokers,
who refer clients back-and-forth, and the company’s strong marketing tools. Agent Allison O’Reilly has a $1.495 million listing in South Riverdale. She got the listing through a co-broker arrangement with a colleague in Manhattan, Fern Hammond, who knew the owner of the apartment.
Agent Daniel Wright and Westside Agent Jill Sloane just sold a Riverdale penthouse overlooking the Hudson for $1.895 million, setting a Riverdale price record for a co-op. The buyer found them through Halstead’s Portfolio, a glossy catalogue of the company’s top listings.
“The company has given me tremendous access to Manhattan buyers looking to move here,” says Wright, who worked for a one-office Riverdale agency before Halstead. “I wanted to work here for the sheer power of our reach, Internet presence, the mailings and the internal networking of our agents.”
Longstanding local brokers welcome the increased attention given the community — and the competition. Susan Goldy has run Susan Goldy Real Estate in Riverdale since 1981. Her firm epitomizes the local boutique agency. Goldy, who oversees nine agents, thinks smart boutique agencies have a leg up on big companies coming into the recently hot market.
“We are part of the history of the community,” she says. “We’re entrenched here. We can tell customers where to get groceries, who to call when a tree comes down. It’s a different level of personal service that a big company can’t offer.”
Trebach Realty has operated in Riverdale since the early 1970s. Bradford Trebach, a secondgeneration broker, reports last year as his best yet. His family has more than 30 house listings, including the Alderbrook Mansion, a seven bedroom, 1800s Gothic revival-style home (with gables), on the market for $5.8 million. The home was once owned by a founder of the original City Bank of New York. It’s one of the area’s prize listings and a historical property in the high-end of the market.
“My business wasn’t impacted by any big company coming in here,” says Trebach. “We know this market with complete certainty and are an intimate part of the fabric of the community. We’ve earned the area’s trust.”
In Brooklyn, Halstead immediately became part of the neighborhood by acquiring two local boutique brokerages. They bought William S. Ross Real Estate with offices in Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill in 2001. Last September, Halstead acquired Harbor View Realty, a 27-year-old Brooklyn Heights agency. Bess Dulany, daughter of the agency’s founder, Harris Dulany, is now director of sales for Halstead in Brooklyn.
“Until we found Halstead, we found it hard to operate in this sea of larger real-estate companies that had come to Brooklyn,” says Bess Dulany, a former record-company executive. “It was very difficult to get new customers and market our properties at the same level of our new, much larger competitors.” The combination of Harbor View’s strong reputation locally and Halstead’s corporate capabilities accommodates locals as well as outsiders.
“It’s fantastic for our old customers, who now get so much more,” says Dulany. “I fully support mom-and-pop organizations, but it’s very hard to compete with the kind of presence of a large real estate corporation. The market has changed. People are moving to Brooklyn from all over the world now, not just down the street, like they used to. Halstead allows us to reach them and it operates like a smaller company. They want to be part of the community. That was key to our joining them.”
Friday, May 02, 2008