Every Thursday night, HGTV's Selling New York rides along with boutique brokerages CORE, 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, penned by Molly Reisner.
In honor of Oscar season, last night's film adaptation of Selling New York would be called BFF: Broker Friends Forever. In it, two clients form friendly relations with their brokers while looking for relocation help. One, from L.A. to NYC, and the other, from NYC to (ack!) L.A. Also, everyone just wants to pal around and wear sunglasses. The cast also features a semi-villainous broker who - PLOT TWIST! - is really just a nice, fair guy who enjoys wheatgrass. I never said BFF had compelling conflict, but it does have some caffeinated character types.
In the A Plot, a chatty Hollywood actor/producer/collector is looking to spend more time in NYC, and searches with his new bestie-broker for the perfect pad. The B Plot has a tough-as-manicured-nails New York-based woman of means who needs her broker-buddy to cater to her crazies while finding her a worthy West Coast condo. I'll spare you the 12 dollars you would not have dropped on BFF and give you a free reel of highlights to savor instead. Pay close attention because I hear a sequel will never be in the works. Fire up a pot of popcorn and let's 3,2,1...Recap!
CRISIS #1: HOLLYWOOD BIGWIG CASTING FOR ROLE OF LEADING BROKER LADY!
Act I begins with CORE broker Maggie Kent paying a visit to a new client at his pied-à-terre at 781 5th Avenue, otherwise known as the Sherry Netherland. Who is this client? Well, it's Tom Gregory! And he's accomplished enough to have his own Wikipedia page. She tells us this eccentric Hollywood Tom-of-all-trades shares the 1br co-op with his partner David. Here, Maggie enters the threshold into Tom's life forever...
...where they instantly bond over his vintage ensemble. The vest is '30s, the shirt '20s, the jeans '50s, the shoes '40s and the apartment pre-war. Heyyy, segue. Here's a peep at Tom's pad:
Kinda bland, no? Tom think so too and admits that he's never been "emotionally committed" to the space. While Tom's a seasoned home owner (btw, the couple scored $15.5 million for the former Gary Cooper estate) when it comes to NYC property, he needs some guidance. And not with any old broker, because he's sick of "broker-hopping." He wants a broker bride and Maggie, with her perfect mix of old-Hollywood good looks and refined taste, seems to fit the bill. Maggie estimates that Tom's budget is between $4 million and $10 million, which naturally makes him a "very fun client." Fun client = fun commission, when fun = super rich.
Off the twosome go to 150 Central Park South to see a ginormous $9.975 million 3br/3.5ba city chateau. Richard Ferrari from Brown Harris Stevens lets them get lost in 4000 square feet of beautiful park views framed by ugly drapes:
The only room in the house with no china/oil paintings/velvet-flecked wallpaper is the massage room. "I feel like I don't belong here," it whispers all day long to the other 10 rooms:
Tom definitely isn't nostalgic for the busy interior design, but is the price do-able? With $7,800 in monthly maintenance fees, it's what he's shelling out for his "little apartment" already. But $7 million is what he's thinking to spend overall, so this place is feeling a touch beyond his range. And Tom claims that since he was a waiter a million years ago that the costs are "big numbers" for him. Um, did you not just sell a $15 million property?! You live in a world of big numbers now, kiddo. Embrace it!
Maggie suspects Tom doesn't know what he wants in an apartment yet so...on to the next! Tom greets his Broker 4 Life with a kiss hello and divulges that he had a "New York late" night. Oooh, do tell Tom! But he doesn't. Instead up they go to a pre-war (as his BFF, Maggie knows not to show him anything new) penthouse at 820 Park Avenue being shown by Elliman's Daren MacTavish. At $5.85 million and 1,500 square feet, this 2br/2ba is a fraction of the size of the previous property, but proportionally enjoys the same amount of paintings/throw pillows/outdated patterned wallpaper:
Tom is especially enthralled with the stainless steel "utilitarian art deco" kitchen. And even more exciting, there's a gorgeous wrap-around terrace he deems "Gruh-aaaaaay-aaaayt!" Sentimental alert: The pre-war toilet reminds him of his elementary school days. Tom goes in for a test flush and is flooded with memories of...peeing in third grade?:
After the tour, Maggie tells Tom that the apartment was originally listed at $6.5 million. Tom really likes the apartment, and the price drop. But since he doesn't know much about the NYC market, Maggie says she's going to put together a list of comparable places for him so he can gauge the price. Maggie's no fool about Tom signing on the dotted line, telling us "there's a lot of ways this could go." And there's only one place where Maggie and Tom can go to further cement their compatibility...
Onward to Argosy Books, purveyor of old and rare stuff! It's a little slice o' heaven for Tom. As they leaf through original autographed head shots of Joan Crawford, a friendship blooms eternal:
But will Maggie get Tom's autograph on a contract? He explains that the Central Park pad is too much work and too pricey, but the Park Ave. place is worth a second look. Tom puts his partner David on speaker to discuss 820 Park Avenue (what better place to conduct business than a quaint, dignified book store?). David seems jazzed to see it next time he's in NYC, and Tom lets him know that it "smells like a good price." For retro-Americana-loving Tom, that's a mixture of Old Spice and Marlboro, with a hint of honeysuckle.
As the two part ways, Tom expresses contentment that Maggie didn't waste his time and Maggie says she's looking forward to working with Tom in the future. I mean, they hugged, they laughed, they cried...it was all very emotional. And what does the postscript tell us? Maggie's still on the lookout for an apartment for the couple, cuz that's how BFFs roll.
CRISIS #2: NYC SOCIALITE NEEDS CALI CONDO FOR PART-TIME LUXURY
Act II starts with non-stop action. Warburg's Captain Intense Richard Steinberg rolls his suitcase with purpose and vigor towards a waiting town car. His destination? JFK, and then Los Angeles. Hmmm...isn't this show called Selling New York? Anyways, en route to the airport, Richard speaks to "his favorite friend," Roberta Bogen.
Roberta's looking for a "drop dead, glamorous, sexy apartment with views, two bedrooms and a library." OK, the woman knows what she wants! Apparently Roberta's husband, the father of this lovely bride, needs to work on the West Coast during the summers. Usually, Roberta stays in hotels, but she's through with that posh yet transient lifestyle. She wants a real L.A. residence. And she wants her ol' friend Richard to be her advisor. The prob? Richard doesn't have a Cali license so he needs to co-broke with another person.
He tells Roberta he found someone who can show her the "best of the best" but qualifies that statement with the fact that he can't vouch for him, but not to worry. And he tells us somewhat defensively that she "doesn't want some guy showing her a piece of crap." Such confidence in the L.A. luxury real estate scene!
A plane ride and in-flight tanning session later, and Richard is strolling the palm-tree-lined sidewalk with Hilton & Hyland broker David Hyman. But before he gets there, Richard explains his strategy for working out a referral deal with David. It goes a little something like this:
Richard "I mean business" Steinberg demands 20% of David's commission which David's like, ummm, maybe? He says 20% is more than his firm normally offers so he'll have to get back to Richard. Of course this drives Richard bananas, because he wants the referral deal signed in blood right then and there. The lure of a wealthy buyer who's "chomping at the bit" for real estate doesn't sway David to commit to 20% just yet, but they share a gentlemen's handshake to work it out. David (easy going, not frantic), who is the exact opposite of Richard (hopped up on a cocktail of anxiety and paranoia), ends their paused negotiation with a different kind of offer: "Let's go get some wheatgrass!" In my dream version of this scene, David and Richard get some real grass and gab about annoying clients over expensive sushi.
Later, Richard and Roberta head over to meet David at the I.M. Pei-built 2222 Century Tower East. Curbed L.A. reported this penthouse condo as going through some pretty major price reductions. Originally listed at $5.995 million, the 4,200-square-foot view-tastic property is a bargain at $3.995 million. Holy $2 million discount! Feast your eyes on L.A. sprawl:
There are a couple notable moments that happen during this tour. One, Richard totally disses Roberta behind her back by telling us that she's "not easy." On second thought, Roberta seems like she would probably agree with that statement. Two, would they break out a measuring tape to check the height of the ceilings? Yes, they would:
As Roberta expresses disdain for the woodwork, furnishings and tiny kitchen with "out, out, everything out!", Richard advises her to stop being so L.A. shallow and focus on the space. And besides, he reminds her, she doesn't even cook! He so knows how to dial down her maintenance by de-scoffing her scoffs. That's why he's her BFF! Roberta thinks the condo has potential, but would cost too much to renovate to her liking. Behind the scenes, Richard feels like he's made a good impression with David by showing him the big-bucks clients he can deliver to him...for 20%, of course. Because he can never hammer it home enough, Richard blabs to us that "if I were David, I wouldn't want me to walk away unhappy." WE GET IT, R-DAWG. Seriously, pass him a doob.
The next day, Roberta breezes into the airy hotel-like lobby of The Carlyle flanked by her brokers. David thinks this will be a good property to show her since it's the "anti-thesis" of the Century Tower unit. There, they are welcomed by a building rep who details some of the swank amenities in this spankin' new condo building. 24-hour valet and concierge, a pool, and a wine cave. Ooooh! Richard's face lights up at the mention of a cavernous space brimming with vino:
"We like to drink!" he exclaims. Roberta doesn't seem as harsh when she mentions her love of throwing parties, but then she gets down to brass tacks when she asks if you can have private gatherings by the pool. Yes you can! Up the trio goes to suss out a sample apartment, and once inside Roberta is immediately impressed. There are views! It's airy! Modern! Could this be the place where Roberta legitimizes her L.A. lifestyle and throw buck wild parties? Daaaang, this $2.945 million 3br/4.5ba is hella nice. And at 3,535 square feet, it's almost as big as Century Tower:
Richard becomes oddly adamant during the tour not to be deceived by the attractive dressing of the apartment. The furniture and fixtures are marketing tools! For shame! "Get over the jewel box! Get over the leather table!" he rants. Did Richard get burned by a mean leather table once? Meanwhile, Roberta oohs and aaahs throughout, calling the apartment "well done." In the kitchen, Roberta surprises both brokers by saying that while she likes the idea of the new, bodacious apartment, she's vibing on the larger space in Century Tower. Not that exact apartment because that would be too easy, but in that direction. Her face is very assured:
Richard claims Roberta has a talent for design vision, and that she's like the "plastic surgeon of decorating." Does that mean she can make my 10x10 bedroom a 15x15, with a month of healing? Hired! Now it's time for Roberta to be whisked away by her driver, but not before telling David, "Let's do a deal, honey." Richard takes a nail-biting "will he or won't he do 20% commission" plane ride back to NYC (but not before re-iterating to David in person that he really needs the deal done). David tells us he's not concerned, which is hilarious because Richard is about to die over it.
Back at Warburg HQ, Richard takes a Jetsons-style video conference with David. Deal or...DEAL! Warburg and Hilton & Hyland are holding hands across the U.S.! Richard receives at least two gold stars from his boss for securing a strong California referral connection. But, the epilogue informs us that Roberta is still working with David to find her an L.A. address to call part-time home.
Episode grade: No Selling? Little New York? BFF is a bomb with just 2 out of 5 cackling Kleiers!
· Selling New York coverage [Curbed]