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Selling New York: Brooklyn Brownstones & Hamptons Barbie Houses

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Last night was another episode of Selling New York, HGTV's reality show following Manhattan brokerages CORE and Gumley Haft Kleier as they try to sell fabulous properties fabulously. Here, writer Mike Olson's recap of how the NYC real estate industry is portrayed to the world...

It was a rare Manhattan-less episode of Selling New York as one GHK broker abuses the bonds of friendship to convince a childhood friend to shop for big-ticket properties in the Hamptons and one of CORE’s minions helps an investment group find the Brooklyn townhouse with the most money-making potential. Will the plucky capitalists pick the turn-key or the fixer upper? And will Hamptons lady choose the nice mansion or the really nice mansion? There’s only one way to find out!

Subplot #1: If you were my really friend you’d buy a house in the Hamptons
The Player: GHK heir apparent Samantha Kleier Forbes
The Mission: Stupid Danielle! Sam’s longtime pal has been renting in the Hamptons for more than a decade, dropping six figures every summer for some stress-free QT with the family. While jewelry shopping uptown, Sam enters pushing-too-hard mode and tells Danielle it’s time to buy. Who cares that Danielle is too busy to see places in person? Sam will just go with mop-topped Brown Harris Stevens broker Chris Burnside instead. (And that, friends, is how a subplot is born.)
Stop #1: To Sagaponack we go, where $8.95 million can’t get you on the beach, but it does buy you 5,000 square feet, 6 bedrooms, ocean (and Sag Pond) views and a pool. Cannonball!

Not too shabby, though it’s not the craziest Sagaponack spread we’ve ever seen. Still, Danielle is going to want more property and two full master suites for when her sister’s family visits. All is not lost, however, as the tour leads us to what could go down as our favorite SNY moment of all time. Offered a rare ride in the home’s lift, Sam cattily tells Chris: “I don’t take elevators in houses.” Words to live by, Samantha. Words to live by.
Stop #2: Now this is more like it. This $10.95 million monster has 7 bedrooms, 9.5 baths, another elevator and a pretty classy study. The master suite even has a bathroom with heated floors and an adjoining sitting room that’s bigger than your apartment (no matter where you live).

But there’s a catch: This dump doesn’t have a second, full-size master suite! A deflated Chris throws up his hands and recommends this missing buyer just buy a piece of property and build her own place from scratch. An excited Sam actually loves the idea: “They can build a Barbie dream house!”
Stop #3: Two empty acres in bowling-friendly Bridgehampton. It’s big and flat and empty. We didn’t bother taking a picture.
The Decision: Danielle has seen the pics from Sam’s Hamptons sojourn. House #1 is too modern and doesn’t have enough land. House #2, our 8,000 square foot whopper, is just too much house. But building her own place? That’s an idea she can get behind! In fact, the post-script says Danielle found the perfect piece of land and will start building later this year. It couldn’t happen to a more camera-shy person!

Subplot #2: Investment group hearts Brooklyn
The Player: Sweater-vested CORE agent John Gomes
The Mission: A new investment group thinks there’s money to be made in Brooklyn brownstones, so it’s time for (gasp!) a trip across the East River. Well, not before an impromptu geography lesson from agent Johnny, who helpfully points out that Brooklyn is “literally just across the Brooklyn Bridge.” With that primer out of the way, we’re off!
Stop #1: Johnny meets up with white-clad Corcoran associate broker Deanna Bowman to check out 270 Sterling Place, a stoop-less Prospect Heights fixer upper that first turned up on Brownstoner’s radar back in December ‘07. Listed at $1.8 million, the 4,200 square footer has some of its original woodwork?

?and some newer wood additions.

The fireplace-filled single family home has three parlors and, more importantly, the potential to be turned into five separate units. But renovations ain’t gonna be cheap.
Stop #2: We stay in the shadow of Prospect Park and head over to 180 St. Marks Avenue, an immaculate $2.25 million brownstone that isn’t falling apart.

Oh, those marble fireplaces and pocket doors. Hell, even the rental unit downstairs has its original tin ceiling. Can our buyers possibly turn down this deal?
The Debate: Turn-key or fixer upper? To help the group make a decision, Johnny calls in CORE’s Vespa-riding Brooklyn expert Doug Bowen, who goes over the pros and cons of both buildings with a team of architects. 180 St. Marks doesn’t need a dime of work but is already overbuilt. 270 Sterling can be turned into five valuable rental units, but a renovation might cost a cool million and last 10-12 months. What’s a group of venture capitalists to do?!
The Decision: In a bit of an upset, our plucky investment group decides to restore Sterling Place to its old glory, and a visit to Corcoran’s site tells us that the place did actually sell. In honor of the occasion, let's remind these would-be real estate tycoons what they're up against.

Episode grade: 3.5/5 cackling Kleiers (a half-Kleier penalty for the lack of Manhattan action)


· Selling New York [HGTV]
· Selling New York coverage [Curbed]