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.
Last night's episode of Selling New York can be pretty much summed up by the deadly annoyed stare given by the gentleman in the above photo. His eyes are beaming invisible "I hate this moment" rays right at us. It's like he's pleading through the camera for someone to rescue him from extreme exasperation, which, in a nutshell, sums up the entire New York City real estate experience. If you enjoy watching real smiles transform into strained smiles transform into grimaces (and who doesn't?), then look no further!
In Story #1, Irritated Vibrations precede Good Vibrations when a daughter disagrees with her well-meaning mother that her Chelsea rental apartment isn't safe. The feng-shui hits the fan in Story #2 when a sensible interior designer and an assertive energy master must collaborate on the staging of an apartment in the Upper West Side's most notorious troublemaker. You know the one.
Will the battles of these wills result in positive change, money changing hands and, most importantly, quality entertainment? Grab some goggles to protect yourself from agitated glares because you've got front row seats to this Ruffled Feathers Recap!
CRISIS #1: DOORMAN-LESS CHELSEA RENTER IS TOO PRETTY FOR A WALK-UP!
The start of last night's action drops us in the midst of a Kleier kibbitz katch-up at the Loews Regency Hotel. There, Samantha Kleier-Forbes and Sabrina Kleier-Morgenstern are getting their Chardonnay buzz on over lunch with Mama Michele and her bestie from college, Marjorie Miller-Engel. The mother-daughter dynamic is completed when Marj's 25 year-old-daughter, Liana Engel, breezes in bestowing the ladies luxury perfume from her company, Guerlain. Ah, the unsubtle art of free promotion.
A few spritzes later, the talk turns to Liana's apartment in the Big A. She loves her quiet, cute Chelsea street, but her Santa Fe mom is deeply worried about Liana's safety living in a walk-up without a doorman. Is no one worried about these tiny, banished plates of half-eaten food?
Liana says she's never felt unsafe and scoffs at the notion of moving. Everyone gets into a tizzy when she reveals her non-doorman walk-up rents for a whopping $2750 a month. Mama Michele is particularly flabbergasted that a walk-up would command such a high price in Chelsea, but then again, she hasn't been south of 59th Street since 1973. It's steep, but Liana is happy with her situation and makes it clear she isn't looking for a change just to please her protective parents.
Michele tells us she would never let her daughters live in a crime-infested neighborhood like Liana's, but seriously, do these people not realize that Giuliani had all the criminals secretly killed a gagillion years ago? Michele adds, "When you live in New York and look like Liana, you need a doorman." The pretty must be protected at all costs!
Outside the hotel, Marj expresses her utter trust in Mama Michele to help Liana find a more haute habitat. Over clasped hands (cuz that's how BFFs from the '60s roll), the Kleier Ko. matriarch explains that Sam and Sab might be able to sway Liana better than her:
Also, might it be time for Liana (AKA her parents) to buy a place? Mama Marj and her hand-wringing heart are on board with all measures to keep Liana in the arms of a doorman and away from evil lurking everywhere.
Next we see the Kleier sisters so mesmerized by Chelsea's charms that Sam questions her mantra of never being able to live downtown and Sab effuses, "I feel like this could be Paris!" You know what else feels like Paris? Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn! Get your world rocked, ladies. The gals head over to one of the most charming tree-lined blocks in Chelsea (watch out for hiding bandits!) to Liana's 620-square-foot one-bedroom of shame to persuade her to see some nicer pads for her 'rents to subsidize. C'mon, look at all this chic coziness $2750 can get you:
Liana's main beef is that she thinks her mom's concerns about safety are outdated, but she'll go along with Sam and Sab for appeasement's sake. My main beef is, did Sab wear Mama Michele's blue polka dot dress from the day before OR do they have matching dresses?! Sam clues us in that Marj's plan is to eventually buy Liana an apartment, but maybe Liana doesn't know that yet? What a comedy of errors! Doesn't it make you want to stab yourself in the eyes?
Anyweknowhowthisisgoingtoendways, the trio treks over to 14 West 14th Street near Union Square, a new doormanned building Curbed covered last year when it underwent significant price cuts to reel in customers. Stribling broker Aviv Zumin welcomes the ladies into the 882-square-foot 1BR/1BA sea of whiteness:
Sam and Sab do their darndest to talk up the balcony and high-end kitchen, but Liana's not impressed with the generic, boxy vibe or the $4,400 a month price.
That showing was a bust, but the sisters have one more safehouse up their sleeve at the pre-war 30 Fifth Avenue along downtown's "Gold Coast." Ellen Rick from Elliman gives the girls the go-ahead to frolic through the 650sqft 1 bed/1 bath old-world wonderland. It's packed with views, light, and delightful details like a sliding kitchen door to hide your unwashed dishes:
Natch, Liana is all over this doormanned domain, but here's the rub: It's not a rental, and the price is $849,000, which sounds pretty absurd considering the apartment last sold for $650k two years ago. Things get even more ridic when the sisters tell Liana that because of the building's low maintenance, her mortgage payment will be about the same as her rent. Um, say what? Maybe if her parents put up 50% of the price in cold hard cash upfront, which could be what the Kleiers are thinking, because Liana says she hopes her mom is into helping her out with buying her starter apartment. You see, wealthy-overprotective-mothers'-dreams do come true!
Later, cruising the Guerlain products (surprise!) at Saks with the K sisters, Liana gears up to unnecessarily convince her mom of ponying up for a pad. They all join their moms for an in-store lunch where Liana is all smiles and sunshine. She tells Marj that she's totes right about needing a doorman (where did that come from?) and concludes buying is the way to go. Marj is all YOU LOST YOUR CHANCE, CHILD. J/k, we all know Marj is relieved and elated with this breaking news, and she effusively thanks the Kleiers for their hard work (why?) while generously offering to assist with the purchase. The text box reveals that Liana is still looking to buy something before her lease ends. Does that mean she's been murdered?
CRISIS #2: BUILDING's BAD JUJU IS HOLDING BACK A SALE!
Warburg Realty's bug-eyed madman Richard Steinberg is all kinds of hopped up because he got an exclusive listing to show a gigantic 3100-square-foot 4BR/4BA in the Upper West Side's notorious Apthorp building. As you may have heard, the condo conversion has had some problems. Richard vaguely references the Apthorp's troubles, but the producers decided to fill the audience in by, hey, showing some Curbed coverage!
A self-described "disciple of feng shui," Richard senses ugly vibes permeating the $7.45 million spread and must have them cleared out before he brings in buyers. Who's he gonna call? Vibe-busters! Otherwise known as Carole Shashona, a feng shui master. Watch her assess the funky energy flow. She's making half this stuff up, right?
Richard admits his approach is a bit unconventional but he holds forth that "there are forces in nature we can't explain." As they tour the property, the angular kitchen layout gets a strong "Oy vey!" from Richard. Carole says the wall-facing sink placement means in feng shui terms, you can get knifed in the back." Again, she's making half this stuff up, right?
Eeek! Richard's on the fast track to staging three of the rooms for a showing and calls upon his interior decorator friend, Arthur Dunnam, to work with Carole in making the apartment less creepy. They visit Arthur in his showroom, where furniture options are discussed and analyzed for their potential energy-blocking qualities. These metal lamps Arthur likes are vehemently nixed by Carole since, duh!, metal is a feng shui no-no.
Kooky Carol reminds us that "feng shui is a science, it's not woo-woo." No-nos and woo-woos aside, Richard is convinced he needs Carole to cleanse and Arthur to stage, and having them work together is "like creating the perfect soufflé."
A soufflé of disappointment is what Arthur serves up when he learns Carole has equal input in the staging. Next we are whisked into the mayhem of Staging Day. Richard is worked up (as usual, on this show) over the limited amount of time to get everything accomplished with Arthur and Carole and doesn't want the situation to "implode." Wait, are there even any buyers in the picture? No? Hello, faux-urgent deadline.
Furniture is arriving at the apartment and Arthur is arranging everything in a way that "celebrates the details" but also feels modern. But uh-oh! Carole is not keen on the arrow of energy circulating around the living room sofa. Implosion in 3, 2, 1...:
Richard chalks up the teamwork tension to the necessity of acting like a prima donna in order to realize one's vision, and?BREAKING!?admits to being one himself. Carole runs around the apartment adding her harmonizing "energy boosters" to the nooks and crannies - a wooden turtle on the floor to ward off floor evil, a mirror in the kitchen to ward off back-stabbing evil, and evil-free water to atomize the air:
Finally, everything is in order to maximize peacefulness and look like a place you might want to kick back with a snifter of brandy without being attacked by bad energy. Richard rassles up one interested couple Nikki James and Cris Dovich (an actress and a voice-over artist probs hired to portray knowledgeable buyers) to check out the newly cleansed and designed rooms. Here's what they saw:
The "buyers" adore the space which means so much since they've "seen a lot" of apartments. No fake offer was made, but the epilogue reveals no offer has been made yet either. The apartment has since been PriceChopped down to $6 million. Perhaps another wooden turtle is in order?
Episode grade: Everything about this episode was delightfully batshit insane but there wasn't even a hint of a possible sale, which means it wasn't perfect. But it was still good for 4 out of 5 cackling Kleiers!
· Selling New York coverage [Curbed]