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Selling New York Episode 11: Ugly on the Inside

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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 generally spoils our senses with visions of outrageously gorgeous apartments at astronomical prices. Now replace "gorgeous" with "heinous" and scream "You're scary!" to the tacky '80s trends and crack-filled walls that haunted last night's episode. A buyer needs to be seduced by their future home, not turned off by its pink bathroom and bombed-out stove. In bad date terms, these apartments went to good colleges but are really bad kissers. You might be able to teach them better technique, but first they have to be willing to learn not to lick your face.

Unfortch, not every seller sees the value in updating their apartment's makeout moves. First a broker does everything short of flying to China to get her Hong-Kong based Murray Hill owner to tackle some spackle. In story #2 owner tasks a broker to redo his Reagan-era Upper East Side abode with a tight timeline and a tighter budget.

Come join us as monetary walls are put up and wizened walls are torn down! Bonus features include a field trip to Queens for an international conference call! And the best part about this reno-heavy recap? Apartment envy levels are at a Season 2 low.


If you're going to ride in a car on a reality TV show, you might as well fulfill your contractual obligations to showcase your free Audi. Which is exactly what CORE boss Shaun Osher does when he gives broker Elizabeth Kee a lift to Murray Hill. Milk it, boyfriend! Shaun and Lizzers enjoy some front seat banter when he jokes that he's going to take $12.50 off the commission she better make from selling a beastly abode in 71 Park Avenue. The car is so advanced, Shaun never once has to look at the road!

Liz explains the apartment has issues up the wazoo and is in dire need of TLC. The owner lives in Hong Kong and hasn't seen the place since the dawn of the power suit. And she wants $3.5 million for a 2200sqft 4 bed/3 bath disaster zone. It's up to Liz to transcontinentally communicate that "we need to spend money to make money" or lower the price. How is Liz going to translate the makeover message across oceans and languages? Enter: the local relative! Liz must second-handedly convince the owner through educating her niece, Lisha Wang, about her aunt's piece-of-shit apartment.

Lisha meets up with Liz at the apartment, bearing a bag of authentic Chinese noodles. But before the ladies lunch, Liz gives Lisha a tour of the property "through the eyes of a buyer," AKA pointing out the cracks, grime and general malaise that make people run:

Don't you love how Lisha is so optimistic about the salmon coated bathroom, saying "it looks like a hotel!" Yeah, it's barfy, but on a more pressing note, why is the toilet placed in solitary confinement? There's not even enough room to read UsWeekly on that thing!

Liz isn't surprised that the property has languished on the market for a couple months and is on a mission to educate Lisha about the necessity of revamping. Maybe if she can convince Lisha, the aunt will follow suit? A desperate broker can dream! While slurping up noodles, Liz explains to Lisha that they're going to see a comparable apartment so she can see what $3.5 million should really get a buyer. Off they go to...

a 3 bed/4 bath maisonette at 530 East 86th Street. There, Warburg broker Harriet Kaufman gives the ladies full access to the lovely $3.495 million unit. At 2700 square feet, it's a bit bigger than 71 Park and oodles nicer:

Lisha is enamored with the space and can even picture herself making delicious Chinese dumplings in the spacious kitchen. Liz seizes upon that comment to illustrate to Lisha that that's how she wants potential buyers to feel while wandering around 71 Park. Not "I feel sad there's no fridge to put away my imaginary groceries." Or "Those wires sticking out of the wall look like they might start an electrical fire."

It's time to talk to the aunt and Lisha offers Liz an invite she can't refuse: "Come to Flushing!" At the far reaches of the 7 train, Liz finds herself in Queens' bustling Chinatown. It's "worlds away" from Park Avenue, but so is Lisha's aunt. Will Liz's trip to Flushing result in her hopes being flushed down the salmon colored bidet? Hint: see below photo...

A few genial "Ni hao ma?"s later, the aunt blasts Liz (via Lisha) for not having sold the apartment yet. Also, she's not shelling out a cent for improvements, so suck it. And furthermore, it's all about the location anyway. In sum, she seems like the kind of aunt who would tell you that your face is fat. Swallowing four tablespoons of frustration and half a cup of pride, Liz assures the aunt that she'll find her a buyer. After all, she's eager to get the aunt's other NYC listings. Liz states gravely that it's time to "call in some favors."

The Favor Fairy arrives in the form of antique dealer Liza Laserow. Working on consignment, Liza swoops in and spreads her high-end pieces throughout the rooms. Her cheery style livens up the drab interior, but she somehow manages to telegraph the apartment's motto through the wall art:

Uh-oh is right! And that's exactly what the brokers say when they come for an open house. Liza did a stellar job with her resources, but when an apartment needs surgery, a fashion print band-aid just won't cut it:

The brokers all give the same feedback: great location, some nice features but DAMN! This place needs a lot of work and it doesn't show well. Liz knows there's a lot more work to be done, but doesn't reveal a plan. Then, ta-da! Staging this wreck actually did work! Just kidding, an update tells us that there's been some interest...but no offers. Um, because it's a terrible deal? What goes unmentioned: The seller bought this apartment in 1996 for $585,500. Great Wall of China!


Warburg broker Leslie Modell Rosenthal 's client is at least willing to dole out some Benjis to renovate his circa Falcon Crest domain. Seller Amine Soussane meets up with Leslie to lay out his parameters. He's got $150k to spend on improvements, and he wants it done quickly because his 1,624-square-footer at 60 East 88th Street. is bleeding $10k a month. Holy hemorrhage! Leslie thinks the budget is tight but says she'll do it if Amine makes one concession. To get a caricature drawing done:

Leslie enlists contractor/designer Sokol Malushaga to oversee the renovations and ensure it gets done in a timely manner and on budget. No simple task considering the amount of work this 2 bed/ 2.5 bath apartment requires to look like it's worth the $2.675 million price tag. Let's take a stroll down 1983, shall we?

Leslie huffs it over to a furniture showroom where she hooks up with Amine's daughter, Selma, and a professional stager. There, Selma easily picks out pieces to decorate the apartment, including this ottoman that comes with its own giant Yahtzee game (leather edition!):

Everything is going easy breezy until...BRRING! Sokol's on the phone, telling Leslie that yikes! The bathroom needs to be gutted cuz the tiles aren't waterproofed. It'll eat $25k of the budget and he needs an extra 2 weeks to boot. Leslie is feeling under pressure to deliver, because making Amine happy means making Selma happy. And it just so happens that Selma has her own NYC apartment to sell. Oh, that elusive exclusive!

Leslie pays a visit to the apartment to check up on the handwork, emitting several "oh my!"s as she sidesteps around debris and plaster buckets. Here's a peek at the bathroom guts!

Nobody said pipes were pretty. Reiterating the necessity of finishing up the reno so she can make Amine more money and come out looking awesome, Leslie cuts Sokol's time down a week. He politely complies, to which she annoyingly jokes "I could've asked for it yesterday." Leslie may get the glory, but Sokol's the real star here.

And now for the big reveal! Selma and a cute little boy (her son or a miniature bodyguard?) enter the threshold and are instantly reveling in the lightness and brightness of the new space:

"OMG!" says the mystery boy when he sees the new bathroom. Even Leslie calls the bathroom "a blessing in disguise" because it turned out way beyond expectation. Selma knows her pops is gonna bust a nut when he sees how great his apartment looks, and she rewards Leslie with the exclusive to her apartment right on the spot, because that's how (TV producers wish) the world works! Thanks to Sokol's ability to transform fractured mirrors and tacky tiles into fluid lines and tempting textures, Leslie is negotiating an offer, we're informed at the end. Giant Yahtzee set not included.

Episode grade: Old fashioned makeovers, a field trip to Flushing and perhaps a likely sale? This is more exciting than when I got my Cabbage Patch Kid in 1984! (No, it's not. Nothing will ever top that). Still, this one gets 3 out of 5 cackling Kleiers!

· Selling New York coverage [Curbed]