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.
Selling New York isn't just about showing us paupers what palazzos are up for sale in our fair city. It's also about the self-fulfillment of people with gobs of assets! This week we met a handsomely rich bachelor looking to expand from his Greenwich Village playboypen to a townhouse a bit to the west. Why? He wants to be ready for "the next level" in his life...even though he never even admits to having a girlfriend. Over in Unfairytale #2, a hard-working broker does his golly-dangest to help a seemingly straightforward client flip her fancy Upper East Side condo for a profit AND get her a new apartment she can renovate and flip. Paging 2006. 2006, do you read?
If last night's episode were a cocktail, its ingredients would include:
-2 shots Big, Vague Dreams
-3 tbsp Ambivalence
-1 oz Safe Flirtation
-2 dashes Crushed Commission
-1 splash Mini Disco Ball (will make sense later, promise)
-garnish with slice of Fantasy Wife (see above)
Serve with bitters and a smile! Grab something tastier (mmm, gimlet anyone?) and let's recap-ture some of last night's momentous moments!
CRISIS #1: BACHELOR NEEDS WEST VILLAGE BUNK FOR IMAGINARY CHILDREN!
Tonight we're headed to the haute Pierre Hotel with the Kleier clan: matriarch Michele, and her two wheelin' and dealin' Executive VP daughters, Samantha and Sabrina. Pourquoi? There's a Humane Society benefit going on to raise awareness of the very inhumane practice of puppy mills. Down with the mills! Clad in LBDs (that's Little Black Dresses) showing off their tanned décolletage, the ladies meet n' greet with Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society prez and superhero to animals everywhere:
After enough charity chit-chat, Sam mentions "everywhere you go there's a potential client!" And wouldn't you know, the gals spy a good friend of theirs who just might need their brokering brawn:
Sam and Sab click-clack on over to "their favorite bachelor," Ari Ackerman, who is conveniently standing alone waiting for them. Ari is the successful owner of Bunk1, a summer camp clearinghouse, and business is brisk, Sab tells us (READ: the dude is exploding with money). The sisters are jazzed to see Ari and the feeling is mutual...because Ari just so happens to want to look at real estate. They plan on meeting at his Greenwich Village apartment the next day, which Sam is excited to see because it's a 3 bedroom converted into a 1 bedroom bachelor bonanza. If they're such good friends, why has she never been to his apartment before? AnyIbetbothsistersmadeoutwithhimintheir20sways...
Off to his apartment they go at 65 West 13th Street, which he might not want to leave if Padma unpacks her pots. "Well hello, hello" Ari slickly greets the ladies, and then he gives them a tour of where the magic happens:
Wait, there are two toothbrushes in the bathroom?! Then things must be getting serious with Ari and his never-so-much-as-hinted-to-existing-girlfriend who he's planning this entire real estate decision around. Over some glasses of red, Ari shoots vaguely from the hip, telling the sisters he's ready to embrace family life and look for his West Village dream house thantcan accommodate Bunk Ackerman. The only hitch? Sam is a little worried that it might be hard to find the perfect place since there's limited inventory.
Off the trio go for their big day of townhouse shopping. Sam and Sab first make a stop with Ari at leafy-lined 56 Bank Street . Well dip me in '90s has-beens! This is the same townhouse we suspect Courtney Love peeped last year! Brown Harris Stevens broker Rebecca Daniel welcomes the buyer and the Kleier klatch to the $5.75 million elegant abode. Lordy, how does Ari afford such luxury? He must be charging canoe loads of cash for helping freaked-out parents stay in touch with their mosquito-swatting kids. So, will Ari say "I do" to this 2,880 sq. ft. 2BR/2BA brick beauty?
Hmm, judging from his comment to the sisters that "the tub is perfect for the 3 of us," methinks this townhouse is just another stranger in the night. Though Sam seems game to jump right in:
And did you catch that comment about the master bedroom being fit for a king and now Ari "just needs to find his queen?!" Aha! That tells me nothing. I think this whole episode is meant to torture his unworthy-of-being-mentioned significant other into thinking he's maybekindaserious about her. The verdict from the camp connoisseur? He thought the space was warm but it didn't "overwhelm" him, and he felt like it was the townhouse version of his current apartment.
Onward to the next townhouse! The second showing of the day is "around the corner from Magnolia Bakery," near West 11th Street and Bleeker. Is proximity to overpriced cupcakes a selling point these days? Yes it is! Elliman broker
The "juliet" balcony in the master bedroom is the perfect place for Ari to serenade his wife with a campfire ghost story, or ring the curfew "lights out in 10 minutes" bell for his kids. Even this unbonafide bachelor admits the vibe is romantic, and in his words, "romantic = babies." So true. But not even the bi-leveled "WOW" room with it's high ceilings and extra kitchen are enough to make Ari close the deal. Outside, he tells Sam and Sab that the townhouse didn't feel cozy, and more like a place he'd live when he becomes a grandfather to little Ella and Benji (you know he's named them already).
Sab and Sam are understanding towards their friend, and clearly have strategized their next move when they bring him to Townhouse #3 at 152 West 13th Street with an architect in tow. Sam explains that this building was a single family home split up into 3 apartments, and having an architect on board will help Ari envision the space as one, 4000 sq. ft. 4 bed/4 bath home, custom renovated to his liking. Architect Evan Tribus is all about keeping the townhouse classic, but adding some modern touches. The eager group goes inside one of the apartments for a look around the $7 million handyman special.
Evan calculates that renovation costs run about $500 per square foot, so that's another $2.2 million tacked onto the $7 million. Plus it'll take 1.5 years to complete. That's totally enough time for him to woo this lovely woman walking by with her dog! They could fall in love over their love of dogs and hatred of puppy mills. ARI SHE'S THE ONE!
But no, he lets her just breeze on by like he doesn't even want a wife. Ari agrees that this townhouse is a good base to build something he loves, and that he'd have to renovate any townhouse to some degree, but for now he has to "sleep on it."
Will Ari say yes to the townhouse address? The group catches up over white wine at the only place south of Central Park that the Kleier family feels safe?the West Village offshoot of Madison Avenue/Hamptons café Sant Ambroues?to discuss Ari's thoughts, which are that he "didn't fall in love" with it, and it'd be too much work. And then he drops the big one: He wants to expand his search beyond Manhattan! Sab and Sam can't deny that Westchester and Connecticut offer more house for the money. This fact makes Sab reach for another glug of disappointment:
In the end, Ari toasts to "spending more time together and finding the perfect place" with his gal pals. Sam jokes under her breath that "that's the only upside to this." A text box informs us that a couple weeks later, they're still on the hunt together for Ari's soulmate house. Here's to Ari making his dream wife and dream life come true. L'chaim!
CRISIS #2: ASPIRING UPPER EAST SIDE FLIPPER IS A FLIP-FLOPPER!
Our second story stars CORE's Kirk Rundhaug and his client, Ruth Katz. Kirk explains that he met Ruth a year and a half ago when he helped her downsize after a divorce to a place at the glassy Lux 74 on the Upper East Side. Once inside, Kirk presses PH in the elevator, so you know we're going to see something fab and not small at all. It's 2,372 square feet bathed in white decor with pops of color on the walls. The $4.95 million apartment looks like a high-end lounge for people that don't spill stuff. Ruth gives Kirk a tour of her home, letting him know about all the bells and whistles she's outfitted it with. Aquarium! White painted floors! Custom kitchen! Care to get your eyeballs white-washed with this dazzler?
I'm sure you caught the $2,500 heated and air-conditioned doghouse on the balcony, but it deserves a photo:
In my neighborhood that's called a $1,400 a month sublet! Kirk proclaims this "the next best penthouse on the market." So why does Ruth want to sell? She thinks she can make a career of beautifying homes with her trademark sense of chic, and then flip 'em like pancakes for a profit. For the right price, she'd be willing to sell everything in the apartment, and start decorating something new from scratch. Kirk is amped to be repping Ruth, because two giant sales are in his court. The sale of the PH and then the sale of Ruth's new apartment. Ka-ching! Twice!
Now that Ruth's on board to sell her penthouse, Kirk hires Nico the tattooed photographer to take professional photos. As Nico snaps away on his camera, Kirk has Ruth sign an exclusivity contract with him. After all, he is spending lots of moolah on presenting the apartment as insanely high-end so she can make a flipping profit. And what better way to show off the property than with that ancient Selling New York tradition, the broker party?
But first! Kirk wants to show Ruth a potential apartment for her next move. She seems eager to try this whole flipping business and claims "I'm not scared of the process." Broker and client head on over to The Laurel on East 67th Street. They're ushered into a $4.12 million unit with nearly 2,000 square feet of brown wood floors and white walls for Ruth to get artsy. Envision all the white leather loungers that can fit in here:
The 3 bed/3 bath enjoys breathtaking views of the 59th Street Bridge and beyond. Here, Ruth tries that "Look, the 59th Street Bridge is in the palm of my hand!" trick:
Ruth finds the place "stunning" and appreciates the expensive appliances in the kitchen since she is admittedly a "top of the line girl." Kirk pumps up Ruth's' excitement by telling her that her interior design will "make all the difference in the world" in terms of bringing value to the apartment. Work it, Kirk! Daddy needs a new khaki suit! Though Ruth does fess up to the camera that she doesn't really want to leave her current home (What? Then why is she putting it on the market?) but sees how she could "paint her vision" at The Laurel.
Well, that's a red flag Kirk completely missed. Oh well, on to the liveliest party happening on the Upper East Side! Caterers are furiously chopping veggies and fruit for the influx of brokers flooding Klub Katz. As the wine flows, Kirk circulates the crowd, asking brokers if they have any customers in mind that might be interested. Suave CORE boss Shaun Osher cruises by, pleased with the turnout and Kirk's sales strategy in general (gold star!).
Meanwhile, Ruth blurts out that everyone there is telling her she's "crazy to sell" because the apartment is so amazing. When a small disco ball is turning in the corner and spitting out a trippy light show, it's hard not to see everything as amazing:
The party produced interest because next we hear Kirk's voice on Shaun's cell, telling him that there's an offer! Good news! And what do we see? An Audi-vertisement as Shaun paces around his Audi listening to Kirk. Jarring product placement but effective, because that car looks just as badass as the O-Dog:
Unfortch, Kirk also tells Shaun that Ruth has cold feet and no longer wants to sell. Motherflipper! After the pictures and the party and everything! Shaun threatens to take away Kirk's gold star but then Kirk tells Shaun he's going to talk some sense into her. Shaun drives off in his stylish Audi, which is now available at your local dealership.
Where was I? Oh! Ruth completely wasting Kirk's time and destroying his dreams of a mega-commission! Kirk hustles over to Ruth's to get her to change her mind. She says she "wasn't expecting this to happen so fast." Kirk counters that if you want to flip, the right time is when you have a flippin' buyer. Ruth tells Kirk he's done a fantastic job, but she's not ready to let go. He agrees (SO RELUCTANTLY) to take the property off the market. Outside, Kirk vents to the camera about how this whole ordeal is annoying and laments his lost $300,000 of commish.
"Everything for nothing," he says completely disheartened. But wait! The magical text box from the future reveals that 2 months later, Ruth put her apartment back on the market and she's using Kirk again. Here it is! Huzzah! Now someone just needs to buy the flippin' place for Kirk to have his happy ending.
Episode grade: Fancy pads, but no deals? Sorry, but that's only worth 2.5 out of 5 cackling Kleiers!
· Selling New York coverage [Curbed]