Every Thursday night, HGTV's Selling New York rides along with boutique brokerages CORE and Gumley Haft Kleier and Warburg as they try to sell fabulous properties fabulously. Here, our recap of how the NYC real estate industry is portrayed to the world...
Last year marked the debut of Selling New York, a melodrama chronicling the real-life adventures of a group of men and women brave enough to attempt to sell multimillion-dollar Manhattan properties in a busted real estate market. There was laughter, there was pain. There was Reggie the Energy Guy. But there weren't many deals! Now the HGTV reality show, following agents at boutique brokerages CORE (the sleek Downtown condo specialists), Gumley Haft Kleier (the family that caters to Upper East Side blue bloods) and new addition Warburg (all of the above), is back for a second season. What's changed?
Well, the real estate market, at least in New York City, is in a more comfortable place than it was one year ago, so it's no longer in poor taste to rub television viewers' noses in the absurdities of luxury Manhattan real estate. Plus, with another NYC realty reality show in the works, it's clear that apartment porn is back in vogue?and last night's pair of premiere episodes laid it on thick Join us, won't you, as we get reacquainted with some old friends, and make some new ones.
CRISIS #1: URBAN GLASS HOUSE VS. THE TOWER O' GARBAGE!
Yep, the premiere episode of Season 2 of SNY gave a starring role to everyone's favorite (well, maybe not James Gandolfini) Hudson Square menace, the Sanitation Department's garbage truck garage at Canal and Spring Streets. You see, velvet-voiced CORE crooner Tom Postilio has two listings in the Urban Glass House, which overlooks the lot that will soon become the Tower O' Garbage. As Frank Sinatra would say, "That sucks."
Nothing has sold in the building (by any broker) in two years, so Postilio brings in CORE boss Shaun Osher to have a confab about sales strategy. As they stroll by the lot that will become the Tower O' Garbage, Postilio talks about the plans that have been released, and since garbage trucks will live inside the building instead of out on the street, the garage might actually be a good thing. Osher agrees, but complains that the area smells bad. This source of early tension is pictured above. Can you feel the drama? Should we have drawn stink lines?
They head inside to get away from the stink, and we must say, despite the garbage and the narrow feel of some of the rooms, the Urban Glass House looks alright. Huge windows and river views never go out of style, right?
But remember what's coming, not that it can be forgotten. Here's a view from one of the apartments.
Osher thinks the apartments will sell themselves, they just need some foot traffic. Postilio floats the idea of getting all the brokers with Urban Glass House listings together to coordinate a mass open house. Yep, the famed Urban Glass House broker roundtable was a device for a reality TV show! Is nothing sacred?
Back at CORE's sexy glassy offices in Chelsea the roundtable assembles, kind of like King Arthur's posse, but replace the suits of armor with, um, suits..
"Obviously the building has a bad rap," a Corcoran frienemy says, but they all agree that the Urban Glass House's trashy new neighbor will be beautiful. "It looks like a condo building," Osher proclaims, while mentally doing the quick commission calculations on a future conversion. They agree on the open house plan, and to "educate" their fellow brokers on the Tower O' Garbage's charms.
Cut to Postilio guiding a group of brokers through a 1,457-square-foot 2BR/2BA in the Urban Glass House listed for $1.795 million, with a Statue of Liberty view. When someone comments that a water tower is nearly blocking Lady Lib, Postilio shoots back: "That's classic New York!" Everyone seems to like the master suite, with its large walk-in closet. "That's a bedroom in the East Village!" one broker says, to laughter all around, and our tears.
Postilio is also listing a slightly larger and unstaged 2BR/2.5BA on a higher floor with a big and bright living room.
It's asking $2.395 million, and unfortunately it has a direct view of the Tower O' Garbage lot, which Tommy P must answer a million questions about. But suave dudes don't get flustered over such trifling concerns, and when all that's done, Postilio checks in with the other brokers to make sure they all stuck with the party line about the sanitation garage. Pardon us, the "condos for garbage trucks."
The end of this plot has Postilio returning to the building, where?surprise!?he managed to sell one of the apartments. And it was #11A, the one with the extra-troubling view. The deal, for $2 million, remains the only sale in the UGH in the past 2.5 years. Postilio loves what the buyers have done with the place "in such a short time," and we're guessing that amount of time was, what, five minutes or so?
When Postilio busts out a rendering of the garage, buyer Ceyla Gokahmetoglu is not phased. "I can live next to this building," she whispers, hoping that if she says the words aloud enough times, they might become true.
CRISIS #2: UNEMPLOYED SOAP STAR NEEDS TO SELL, FAST!
Warburg's Deborah Lupard leads us into her top-floor loft listing at Tribeca's 41 Murray Street, what "some people call Southern Tribeca." This is the type of space people first moved to Tribeca for, she tells us, with an open layout, original details and high ceilings.
Of course those forgotten pioneers also moved to Tribeca because such spaces could be had for a pocket full of change and a quick handie near the docks, but times have changed. This 2,000-square-foot 2BR/3BA loft is asking $2.45 million. In comes Lupard's client, who has brought along his architect and his mother. Ruh-roh! A mother's intuition is never off, and the old lady immediately gazes up to the ceiling. What does she know???
Mom calls the kitchen "interesting" and "New Yorkish," the architect keeps talking about the potential to add a fireplace and make some of the windows bigger. The client is a handsome actor. All is well! Now, to seal the deal. Up to the private rooftop!
Glorious! But wait, it's a bit uneven. No worry, says architect/wingman, that can be patched right up. Phew. But what's over there in the back? It's ventilation equipment for the two Irish pubs downstairs! "You smell that food smell?" the architect asks while ominously pointing. "That's probably not going away."
"Oh..." actor says, and Lupard can only stand in stunned silence, knowing the jig is up. Mom abandons everyone mid-conversation and heads downstairs. She knew it all along.
"I think smart money says it's not going to work out," actor tells the camera, foolishly assigning intelligence to an inanimate object. Lupard acknowledges defeat, and says she wishes the buyer came alone, because important financial decisions should be made without the guidance of trusted advisers and loved ones. Lesson learned.
Later, Lupard heads back to "Southern Tribeca" to meet with the loft's owners. It's been six months, and no bites. Now, in her previous life, Lupard has worked with some demanding talents?Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese?but this might be her most difficult collaborator yet: an out-of-work soap star! Former As the World Turns actress Ellen Dolan and her equally underemployed husband are the owners, and they need to sell in order to "live a tighter lifestyle." Clearly the problem isn't the loft itself, after all, unexplained blond children are getting high-fived inside it!
So it has to be that pesky semi-unfinished roof deck, with its stink of buffalo wings and stale Guinness. They head up to the roof, and while the ventilation equipment is the main "culprit," Lupard also suggests fixing up and painting the rest, maybe adding some new flooring. Um, hello? Out of work actor here!
In the not-so-distance future, Lupard brings in a very tall designer friend to take a look at the place. She loves the industrial feel of the kitchen, but then again, so did mom.
Hooray, it's the perfect loft for the designer's collection of industrial antiques! Now Lupard hopes her friend can see the potential in the NEW roof deck. Yep, a bit of painting has been done, an old fence has been removed, and things are looking good. Not good enough for the designer, however, who unleashes the first catty-Manhattan-real-estate-buyer zing of the season:
"They should have gone to a nice dinner and just lowered the price." HOW'S THAT BURN FEEL, FINANCIALLY CRIPPLED OUT-OF-WORK OLD COUPLE?
Lupard agrees that the asking price needs to be lowered. She meets with her clients, who are still a bit agog that buyers aren't rushing to claim a private rooftop in Manhattan. They agree to lower the price, and when they ask by how much, Lupard suggests "at least $150,000," leading to Ellen Dolan's first acting gig of the year:
Eyes watering, they nervously agree. The new price, $2.3 million, is "right on the edge of pain." Actually, make that $2.999 million, because Lupard says that puts it in the "2.2 category, psychologically. It's a silly thing, but we all fall for it!" Ladies and gentlemen, does anything more need to be said? Guess not, because an on-screen message pops up saying that an offer of $2.125 million has been accepted. (The listing just went off the market.) Two sales in one show? Times have changed on SNY!
Episode grade: 3 out of 5 Cackling Kleiers!
That's right, kiddos, once the clock struck 9:30pm, the cable television world was gifted with another episode of SNY. According to a KleierTweet, this one actually aired on New Year's Day as a teaser of sorts, but that doesn't make us love it any less than the rest of our children.
CRISIS #1: MICHELE KLEIER MUST SELL A LUCIDA PENTHOUSE OR ELSE EXTELL'S RAIZY HAAS WILL DEVOUR HER SOUL!
The first ever episode of SNY took us up into glassy Upper East Side tower The Lucida, and now we're back, baby! Except now that the economy is out of the pooper, we've been treated to a look inside a big penthouse. Have a look!
The almighty Extell has granted mama bear Michele Kleier the exclusive on the $8.95 million penthouse listing, even though the clients on the grande dame's rolodex probably think any place worth calling home was built before Hitler annexed Poland. But the brassy broad is up to the challenge. Her idea: Throw a fabulous party in the penthouse to attract attention. But not just any fabulous party: One with models and sushi and weirdly tiny ice cream cones (for the models?) and a fashion show from designer Dennis Basso.
Says GHK hubbydaddy Ian Kleier: "Every time we do a party we at least try to kick it up a notch. Stock brokers become very jaded after a while." Too jaded to picture themselves, as Dennis Basso puts it, "mixing a martini on the terrace while wrapped in a fabulous sable wrap?"
We'll just have to wait and see! The party's a hit but Extell SVP and kugel chef Raizy Haas
fabricates some drama gets into Michele's grill about getting a deal done. By the way, Michele refers to this room as a "closet or office."
Hate your life yet? The party montage ends with Michele saying Raizy will pretty much excommunicate her if she doesn't sell these two apartments. Wha? Consider that a spoiler alert. Cut to a "catch-up" lunch meeting between Mama K and Raizy, who is once again busting Michele's proverbial balls. "We're not seeing the kind of traffic we're hoping for," she says, her bangs sharp enough to slice Michele's head off.
Michele has an idea: Why not market The Lucida's two empty penthouses (the other is listed at $10 million) as a potential 7,000-square-foot megapenthouse? Ding Ding Ding! Raizy agrees and lunch ends with the Extell exec telling Michele they're no longer friends if a deal doesn't happen. Tough crowd!
Michele wants to "reintroduce" the penthouse to brokers, so she brings in totally amazing Corcoran celebrity superbroker Robby Browne, who shows up wearing a backpack because he probably hasn't been up to 86th Street in 40 years and felt the need to pack rations just in case he got stranded in this strange foreign land. "I brought you some roses from my terrace," he tells Michele, because that's how Robby Browne gets down.
Robby goes a little over-the-top on the walk-through, tossing out adjectives like "incredible," "perfect" and too many oh-my-goshes to count. "I think I can do something here," he tells Mama Bear. Back home on Park Avenue in a building that actually looks like it belongs on the Upper East Side, Michele tells hubbydaddy Ian about the "buzz" surrounding the Lucida penthouses. One family is particularly interested, and with perfect timing, Michele goes into the other room to answer a phone call. Ian talks to the couple's poodles about the night's dinner plans(!), and then Michele comes back in the room to say, wouldn't you know it, the mystery family is buying both penthouses. And they did, for $15.8 million. Now Raizy can call off the death squad!
CRISIS #2: RICHARD STEINBERG'S TIME IS RUNNING OUT TO SELL TWENTY9TH PARK MADISON'S NONDOS BEFORE THE NEXT DOWNTURN!
Warburg's Richard Steinberg has been one of high-end Manhattan real estate's most colorful characters for years, so we're glad the country now gets a taste. Here he is at the poorly named Twenty9th Park Madison (remember that place?)...
...where Barcelona-based developer Espais is now looking to sell a bunch condos that they ended up renting out when the bust hit. How many? 44. Yowza! And that was before the noise factory across the street opened up! "I need to convince the developer to sell these as soon as possible," Steinberg says, for reasons unclear.
In a meeting with Espais's Andrew Hogg (guess developers will be characters this season, too?), Steinberg talks about a media blitz and ads and social networking and all sorts of other methods to make these units seem brand new. "You don't know how time sensitive this is," Steinberg tells Hogg, and his frenetic energy is starting to make us a little nervous. Meanwhile, here's Hogg really trying to give a shit:
Steinberg doesn't want to take the time to set up a new model apartment because he "doesn't want to lose the momentum," but Hogg is a "big believer in model units," and he's the boss so he wins. Later they meet up in the apartment they plan on turning into a model, which, oh, by the way, a woman is still living inside. They rifle through the apartment checking for signs of wear and tear, because there's nothing creepy at all about two grown men going through a woman's things when she's not home.
"Look at this, she's never used it," Steinberg says of the stove, and c'mon, now he's just judging her. To be fair, the place does look virginal, except for the bathtub. Candles, m'lady?
Hogg wants two weeks to prep the model, which Steinberg gets pissy about. "We need to roll out these sales is soon as possible," he says, because apparently all the money in the world is evaporating tomorrow and OMG RICHARD STEINBERG YOU ARE FREAKING US THE FUCK OUT.
Condo cameo! Steinberg invites Twenty9th Park Madison's sales office director into Carnegie Hill's 180 East 93rd Street?it of the gigantic model?to show what he's going for. Not bad:
Steinberg goes over the Twenty9th Park Mad print ads, which he doesn't like, but the submission deadline is approaching because everything in Richard Steinberg's life is triggered to explode within 10 seconds. He throws a hissy fit because his name is too small, then pulls one of those haha-just-kidding-except-that-I'm-not backtracks.
Steinberg heads down to the under-renovation model to "make a scene" over the delays, and browbeats the interior designer into hurrying up the job and not worrying about making things perfect. Steinberg is now in a full-on freakout because the ads are running soon and the model unit won't be ready to show the flood of buyers who will no doubt come rushing to the building after spying the ad in Quest magazine. In the end the model took an extra two days and earned a 'G' rating.
The 1,159-square-foot 2BR/2BA model is on the market for $1.6 million, and Steinberg shows some buyers around the place. Feeling good, he heads back to Hogg's office, where the desk is littered with materials for a new in-development "high-end" condo tower. Here's the rendering of the mystery project:
Did Selling New York just break some news? Dazed, we can barely register the rest of the action, in which Steinberg stops just short of begging to represent Espais's next building. Hogg tells him to sell the current listings and he'll get the business, and an on-screen message at the end of the episode says Steinberg sold three apartments and secured two more offers at Twenty9th Park Madison in 40 days. Just like Moses!
Episode grade: 4.5 out of 5 Cackling Kleiers!
· Selling New York coverage [Curbed]