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Mentioned in this Article:
Ross Ellis

Ross Ellis
East Side Office

Brian Lewis

Brian Lewis
West Side Office

Jill Sloane

Jill Sloane
West Side Office

Real Estate Weekly

Big Hearted Brokers Bring Home Bacon

By Maggie Hawryluk

The thoughts that come to mind when you consider Manhattan residential real estate- don’t exactly connote charity and giving, but a group of professionals are throwing those stereotypes to the curb.

Rather than enjoying the spoils of the residential industry all for themselves, brokers, developers and owners are spreading some cheer to those in need.

Though she admits to wishing she could be dreaming about the next vacation she can take with the commission from an upcoming sale, Halstead broker, Ross Ellis, can’t stop thinking about the number of brochures she can print for Love our Children USA.

“I donate a very high percentage,” she said, reluctant to reveal the actual amount. “I go without more than the charity does.”

Ross is the founder and Chief Executive officer of the charity whose mission is to break the cycle of violence against children. She created the charity nine years ago and works diligently to educate parents and children about topics ranging from cyber safety to bullying.

Love the Children has grown to not only receive tremendous local support, but also recognition on a regional and national level. The charity has several celebrity supporters and was recently voted one of 25 charities Who Make Our Home a Better Place to Live and one of 21 regional charity winners Who Make The World a Better Place.

Another organization that is near and dear to Eliis’ heart, is Brokers Build, an organization of real estate professionals dedicated to raising money for Habitat for Humanity – New York City. The brokers will help build an affordable housing complex in Brooklyn – Habitat-NYC’s largest project to date that will include three, four story buildings with 41 homes.

“Brokers Build is an extension in a way because you want everyone to have a safe home, especially if they’re with children,” Ellis said. She joked that though she loves what the charity stands for by building homes for those in need, she doesn’t see herself actually hammering a home together.

Brian Lewis, senior vice president at Halstead Property, was among a team of brokers hammering, literally and figuratively, away at problems in affordable housing.

“We’re literally working locally for a global challenge,” said Lewis, who is a member of the advisory board of Brokers Build. “Particularly in a time when people think brokers are getting huge commissions, we’re actually a very generous lot.”

In addition to soliciting donations – the group’s goal is to raise $1 million for Habitat for Humanity – NYC, he is putting a “moratorium on closing gifts,” which usually consist of high end items.

“In lieu of a closing gift, I’m sending donations to Brokers Build in the person’s name,” Lewis said. “I’m going to do that with holiday gifts also. We get a lot of things and the people who get the most often have the most.”

He said his passion for the charity comes from the fact that many of those who act as the “fibers” of this city, working to make sure everything runs smoothly, cannot afford to live in the area. “I have profited very nicely from this real estate run; this city has become a city of haves and have-nots, everyone deserves a chance to live here.”

Even developers are getting involved and using the health of the city’s market to supplement the lives of others. Mick Walsdorf and his business partner Jon Kully, principals at FLAnk design development firm are encouraging all those involved in the purchase and sale of units at 385 West 12th Street to donate to Catalog for Giving, an organization that funds after-school programs at various schools in the five boroughs.

385 West 12th Street is a 12-unit new construction in the West Village with four townhouses, six flats and two penthouses. As of now, Walsdorf said there are six units in contract.

“We work with so many people on large transactions. We should be able to skim a fraction of that and give it to a charity,” Walsdorf said, adding that a sale could involve up to six different parties. “The average transaction is going to be $7 to $8 million. Imagine if everyone left $2000 on the table, and remember the number of parties, and multiply that by 12. It’s frankly, the least we can do.”

He said the donations are not contractual, but Walsdorf has made it clear to brokers that donations are expected, and lenders have shown interest.

FLAnk has other building coming up the pipeline that will also include this donation program, and Walsdorf has high hopes for the initial venture at West 12th. “Assuming it’s a success, our goal is to raise $75,000 to $100,000.”

And some have raised an inordinate amount, $1.179 million to be exact, for area charities without even setting an exact goal. The total, which is proceeds from the sale of an Upper West Side apartment, will be donated to various charities including the League for the Hard of Hearing, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center and the New York Public Libraries. Jill Sloane, of Halstead Property brokered the sale of the property whose deceased owner specified in his will that all profits go to charity.

“I really wanted to get every penny I could,” Sloane said, adding that she didn’t tell any potential buyers about money going to charity. “In any negotiation, you want to help the seller get the highest price. I had to turn offers down; I wanted to get the most.”

And, though it took a while to sell, the three bedroom, two and a half bath on West 86th Street went for a prime price. The home’s owner passed away in 1995 and stipulated in his will that his partner could live in the apartment for 11 years, after which it would be put on the market will all proceeds going to charities he favored.

Sloane became involved with the sale because she knew the partner years before when they were business colleagues.

And once she heard that money would be donated to several organizations, Sloane was ready and eager to get the absolute best price possible. “It really was a special sale. I really wanted to get every penny I could.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

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