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Selling New York Episode 13: Clearing House

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On Thursday nights, 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.

Guys. Big news. It's time to rally for the Season 2 finale! Let's raise our champagne flutes to a season full of characters, and flimsy on contracts. But no need to be sad, because Selling New York is merely coming to a rolling stop...and re-starting Season 3 in a scant two weeks! Bottoms up!

Last night's episode had all the hallmarks of a classic SNY show: stressed out sellers, dastardly deadlines, and old men with ponytails. First, a broker is tasked with closing her concerned client's Sutton Place apartment, finding a new one AND selling all her high-end furniture. Next, the stubborn seller of a prominent yet withered Washington Heights home (terrible hint: It's THE PUMPKIN HOUSE y'all!) wants to move out but only for the right (high) price.

Come let me trick you into thinking it's October with all my Halloween references and treat you to a tour of multi-million-dollar pumpkin innards! I'll be the creepy lady giving out candy-coated recaps (but check for razors first).


The finale drops us right into the action as Warburg broker Leslie Modell Rosenthal and her client, designer Leslie Rao, walk 'n explain all the issues plaguing Rao's next move. To make things less confusing in this land of Leslie R.'s, I'll use their last names. OK, so Rosenthal brokered the all-cash offer of $2.5 million (does that come in a suitcase?) on Rao's 2 bed/2.5 bath apartment at 425 East 58th Street. Now, Rao's waiting on pins and needles for board approval so she can close. Ultimately, she's unable to close on her Florida home until the NYC apartment is off of her very tan hands. And apparently Florida is super stringent when it comes to closing dates - no 30-day window to seal the deal. Also, Rao wants to buy a pied-à-terre for her NYC visits. Are you lost yet?

As they make their way through the city, Rosenthal assures the jangly-nerved Rao she'll be able to close in time. Not only do these gals share names, they walk in sync too!

They left, right, left their way to the Trump Park Avenue. I smell a pied-à-terre in the air! There, Brown Harris Stevens agent Deborah Terhune greets the Leslies into this ornate, overstuffed $1.6 million 1 bed/1 bath dwelling:

Rao makes no bones that she's "a person who gets what they want," and this apartment isn't cutting it. At 717 square feet, it's just not big enough. But the living room is so light and airy!

After washing her eyeballs off, Rao asks Rosenthal for a big favor... to sell her, imagine this in a voice like leather, "furnitcha." Her husband recently died and she needs a new beginning in every way. Rosenthal corrals help from her daughter Brittany and designer Marc Anderson to assess the furniture sitch at Rao's apartment. Rao takes them on a tour of her '20s, '30s and '40s art-deco bedecked abode:

With pricey Bauhaus chairs and a San Francisco Wilton Theater chandelier from 1929, these aren't exactly items you can Craigslist. But Rosenthal is up for the challenge of delegating her daughter and Marc to take care of the furniture, cuz that's the Leslie code of loyalty.

The ladies are off to another viewing at Trump Plaza. A 1600 sq. ft. 3 bed/3 bath unit is ready for some of Rao's retro style:

It's not the $1.75 million price that makes Rao back away. She's too overwhelmed with her current real estate transactions to take on another property. Totally! It's just like when I already have two kinds of cheese in my fridge but I'm at the store and there's that little devil of a Camembert wheel calling my name.

Next, Rosenthal heads over to antique store Venfield , where this little cabled cutie lives:

Stylin' tail, dawg. Here, she meets up with Marc for a furnie update. Some of Rao's pieces are on consignment at the store and he's been bringing his clients in to check 'em out. A ring-a-ling on Rosenthal's cell later, she learns that Rao's closing is being held up because the villainous board needs to do interviews. Oh yeah, that little issue. Will it be resolved??

Yes, it will. The Leslies reunite at Rao's now empty apartment where Rosenthal hands her a juicy check for all the furniture she sold. Rao is super grateful for Rosenthal and Co.'s efforts to help her get the hell out of NYC?actual quote: "They really worked very hard, which is not something that a broker would normally do"?and she even leaves champagne behind for the owners to toast their new home/ability to pay in cash. Classy! The update informs us that Rao is nesting in her Florida condo, and plans on returning to NYC to look at apartments with her name twin.


Gumley Haft Kleier broker Laurel Rosenbluth has been showing her client Bill Spink tons of apartments, but none of them can compare to his unusual Pumpkin House way up in Washington Heights. Its moniker comes from the way the windows look lit up at night from across the Hudson River. Reminds me more of a robot face:

It's totally Robot House! With her eyes on the pumpkin prize, Laurel brings Bill to one more apartment she thinks will suit his finicky taste. Elliman broker Michael Shapot flings the door open wide at a pre-war condo located in The Netherland building. Here's a peek into this 1,850sqft, 3 bed/2.5 bath beauty:

But does this $1.99 million pad fit Bill's bill? With views of Riverside Park, bookshelves galore and no pumpkin guts to clean up after, he and his ponytail think they could live there. After living in a house for 12 years, Bill is tired of the pumpkin's never-ending demands. All of this spells j-a-c-k-p-o-t for Laurel, who convinces Bill to put his jack-o-lantern on the market.

Next, Laurel pays a visit to the pumpkin with her trusty engineer, Joel Schachter. Laurel needs Joel to perform an inspection so she can price accordingly. This is what all pumpkins look like inside (once the seeds are scooped out):

While the interiors are undoubtedly elegant thanks to Bill's passion for antiques, the pumpkin suffers from a bit of rot: water damage on the moldings, insufficient electricity, and some non-functional faucets. Using the powers of his ponytail, Joel ascertains the fixes are mostly cosmetic and will run in the $100-150k range:

Damages aside, Joel declares the house "on a scale of 1-10, it's a 12." Bill feels the same way when he and Laurel dish over pricing strategy on the jack-o-deck. Between sips of champagne overlooking the Hudson, Bill expresses unsurprise at the house's repair needs, but holds tight to his asking price of $3.9 million (despite Laurel's suggestion of starting at $3.75 million). "Nobody has a crystal ball when pricing a house," Laurel says, knowing full well her crystal ball is more on target. We're surprised Bill's asking for so much considering he bought it for $1.1 million in 2000.

To test Bill's price on his 5 bed/3 bath cliff-hanging castle, Laurel hosts a VIP showing where potential buyers and brokers squish into the surprisingly narrow squash. The sold-as-is line gets a lot of "you're shitting me" reactions. Even Mama Michele Kleier, toting her complementary pumpkin purse for the occasion, thinks the price should be lowered:

Now Laurel needs to convince bullheaded Bill of the same. Over more champagne, because it is necessary to always be a little bit buzzed when talking about Manhattan real estate, Bill sticks to his guns that the price should remain the same. Why? Because he's "feeling a little bit greedy" and doesn't want to look desperate with a dropped price. Then he has a hissy fit that Laurel hasn't done enough to sell the house, to which Laurel says this with her face:

Eeek! Don't mess with those jack-o-brows, Bill. But he bypasses Laurel's look like a pro and divas it up some more by asking that a banner be displayed on the pumpkin exterior facing the Henry Hudson Parkway saying "If you lived here you'd be home now" (because you'd be too broke to go out). Laurel takes his 'tude in stride and assures Bill she will do whatever it takes to keep him whiny-free.

Laurel heads to Kleier HQ to discuss the idea with Mama Bear and Papa K. They all have the initial reaction: Is this guy insane? But they talk themsels into it, and by the end are pumped on the pumpkin sign, which Laurel reveals is now the clincher to getting Bill to reduce the price. Uh, when did that happen? Anyhoo, up the orange sign goes!

And voila! The update reveals the price indeed has been reduced (to $3.65 million) and an offer has been made. Considering the listing is still active, it seems no one's snatched the pumpkin from Bill just yet. Same old story 'round these parts.

Episode grade: Worries were washed away, tantrums were tamed, and male ponytails prevailed. While no deals were done, a sighting of The Great Pumpkin alone makes this finale worth 3.5 out of 5 cackling Kleiers!

· Selling New York coverage [Curbed]