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Selling New York S3E4: Living in an Uptown World

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HGTV's Selling New York rides along with brokerages CORE, Gumley Haft Kleier and Warburg as they try to sell fabulous properties fabulously. Here's our recap of how the NYC real estate industry is portrayed to the world. Episode air date: 4/28/2011.

The last couple episodes of SNY have established the series's sweet spot: A pinch of Uptown snobbery, a dash of over-the-top broker antics, and maybe an apartment gets sold along the way. This week's telenovela continued that tradition with an all-Upper East Side affair. And not only that, the producers also brought out the big guns: Psycho Steinberg and every Kleier female east of the park. Let's get right into this bad boy.

CRISIS #1: PALM BEACH PRINCESS WANTS GOLD COAST, OFFERS BRONZE!

First off, we knew this segment would be incredible about two seconds in, when Warburg's Richard Steinberg, Selling New York's most agitated superbroker, walked into the apartment of his client. Look at the back of the front door!

Is that dinosaur skin? Better question: Why are they hugging so passionately? It turns out that this real estate journey Richard is about to embark on has extra personal significance: The client, Roberta Kozloff, is a good friend of Richard's wife. She's looking to upgrade her pied-a-terre from the rental in the low 60s that she currently shares with her husband, Paul, who is huge in the hydraulic hose business, naturally. This Palm Beach power-couple wants a bigger space so they can entertain their Upper East Side pals. "I can't even have a card party here," Roberta explains, and we assume "card party" is code for orgy, because rich people are such cards! "That's the ugliest oven I've ever seen," Richard says, and Roberta can do nothing but make a limp attempt at a joke, her great shame exposed for all of Park Avenue to see. Look at this hideous thing!

OMG Roberta, don't you just want to kill yourself??? It's a good thing she hasn't cooked since the Seminoles still had control of Florida. Richard continues his walk of shame through Roberta's current digs, and then they sit down to chat about what she's looking for: At least two bedrooms and a price of $2 million to $2.5 million. As for location, let the best 21 seconds in television history fill you in:

Um, so, yeah. You could say her needs are pretty specific. They part company with Richard urging Roberta to be completely honest with him on her housing hunt, for the benefit of their friendship. FYI, our reality-TV-to-English dictionary informs us that a plea for honesty really means "storm a-comin!"

We cut to Richard and his wife discussing Roberta's long list of needs. "It doesn't matter if you're spending $200,000 or you're spending $20 million, you can't get everything that you want," Richard says. His wife advises him to back off when he locks horns with Roberta, for the sake of the friendship. Richard promises to not rip open Roberta's chest and feast on her heart for an afternoon snack. We're paraphrasing.

Off we go to 72nd and First Avenue. "I hope it's close, I'm very cold," Roberta tells Richard, the air of this strange land east of Lexington Avenue chilling her to the bone. Richard is confident that the apartment he's about to show her, with its square footage and backyard, is going to wow Roberta. Richard, c'mon brah. Don't play us for no fools The apartment is a 3BR/3.5BA condo at 350 East 72nd Street, aka Le Chambord, asking $2.7 million. It's totally charming, with a cool playset in the backyard and baby grand piano in the living room. Of course Roberta, dressed as Beethoven, totally destroys every aspect of the place.

She didn't even like the secret bathroom! Or the rubber duckie! Do you have a heart of stone, woman? "Richard, this is definitely a gut job," Roberta sneers. "This is not a glamorous place; we like glamour." Woo boy. She realizes her budget ain't gonna get her a pre-war Candela co-op, right? Roberta scoffs at the asking price, and maybe she's right: The apartment has been PriceChopped down to $2.495 million.

Richard, history's biggest masochist, then takes his Palm Beach priss to The Dunhill at 401 East 84th Street, which is both above 77th Street and on the forsaken First Avenue. There, feisty Curbed favorite Jacky Teplitzky has them look around a 2,500-square-foot 3BR/3BA asking $2.5 million.

It's a typical UES post-war high-rise, but the views sure are nice. Richard mentions them, and Roberta cattily replies, "I can see all the way to Lexington." Do people like this actually exist outside the realm of "reality" TV, and if so, why hasn't God sent a flood?

Things get worse from there. Try not to slip your head into a noose while watching this clip:

Roberta basically says she'd fire Richard for bringing her to these hinterlands?where her friends would never lower themselves by showing their faces in the area?if not for their friendship. Suddenly we're transported back to civilization, to Via Quadranno on 73rd between Madison and Fifth, where a piece of tiramisu costs an appropriate $10. Richard comes clean and tells Roberta that her budget is not going to cut it in her desired location. "The last place we came from had good views, the flow was there for entertaining...you thought it was in Queens!" says an exasperated Richard. "What's Queens?" Roberta responds. Just kidding, she agrees to talk to her hoseband (see what we did there?) about adjusting their expectations. They lift their cappuccinos and toast to...something. Ain't life grand?

Time to wrap things up! Richard hooks up with Roberta and his wife at some UES boutique where the ladies are pretending to bargain hunt because this episode is already a 27 out of 10 on the obnoxious meter. Richard's wife fakes having to go check the price on something and exits stage left, which gives the other two time to chat about the whole apartment thing.

Roberta says she talked to her husband and they've agreed to forgo the need for a large entertaining space and can focus on getting a less-grand apartment. But She still wants two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a high floor and a great location. He's relieved. They hug. The friendship is saved! And the business relationship? We're told in an on-screen postscript that Roberta has yet to make an offer on anything. With friends like these, who needs...the world above 59th Street.

CRISIS #2: DOCTORS' HOT PROPERTY GETS COLD RECEPTION!

We begin our story with the Kleier klan in a building that Roberta Kozloff couldn't even find on a map: 52 East End Avenue. First Avenue is practically New Jersey when it comes to how friggin' east this place is. And that's right, we said the Kleier klan. This assignment is so big, it needs the triple-headed treatment from Mama Michele, Sabrina and Samantha. And that's not counting what Samantha's got cooking in the oven. Place looks a little funky, right?

We're zoomed right into an open house party for brokers and buyers inside a massive 5BR/3.5BA apartment priced at $3.85 million. That doesn't seem too crazy for a five-bedroom Manhattan apartment, but you know this is going to be a tough sell based on the huge spread the Kleiers have put out.

Gotta stuff 'em with finger sandwiches before walloping 'em with the price! How is this apartment so huge? It started as three apartments, then they were purchased and combined by a couple of doctors. We're talking four balconies, two floors and pink bedrooms for the kiddies. Take a look!

The open house "was a big success," Samantha confidently says, as Michele flirts with a "5 under 4" slogan (that would be bedrooms and million, respectively) for the listing. All is well in Kleierville!

But wait just a doggone minute! Later we're in Mama Michele's eat-in kitchen for a Kleier koffee klatsch. Not one buyer or broker has gotten back to them about making an offer ("No comebacks," in Kleier brokerspeak). The views are great, but the layout is weird and the place is too personalized. What to do? Samantha suggests a minor price cut while nervously stroking a Maltese. These are scary times on the Upper East Side.

The family agrees, with Michele pointing out that even just a $100,000 price cut to $3.75 million would open the listing up to a new world of buyers, because many real estate websites jump from $3.75 million straight to $4 million when selecting search parameters, so lots of buyers who can afford this place probably haven't even seen the listing. That's...actually a really good point. Who says reality TV isn't educational?

So who gets stuck running the price cut by the buyers? That would be Samantha. She meets with the docs, Laurence and Iris Orbuch, and brings up the "price adjustment." But "our apartment has so much soul and feeling," Iris Orbuch protests. "With style," Daddy Orbuchs adds. Isn't that part of the problem? "I know there's going to be another couple like us, a working family, that wants a home," Iris says. Yep, those blue-collar families are really lining up to spend nearly $4 million on an apartment. Ahhhhhh New York. Samantha gets the couple to agree to the new price after having to twist their arms a little too hard for a minor 2% chop.

Now things get really interesting: An offer has come in! Never before has an episode of Selling New York dedicated so much time to the negotiation process (probably because Selling New York doesn't often include actual selling), and the rest of the segment is dedicated to Samantha and her best friend, her cell phone. Make that cell phones. We're treated to multiple scenes of Samantha doing the walk-and-talk while also holding her bonus phone.

The buyer's initial offer of $3.3 million ain't gonna cut it, but Samantha gets on the phone to suggest to Iris that they counter with $3.7 million to keep the dialogue alive. Iris is hesitant, but relents. The dance continues!

And continues, and continues. The buyers respond with an offer of $3.45 million, so we're back with another walk-and-talk at Kleier HQ with Samantha telling Iris they should come down another $10,000, Iris holding firm to the $3.7 million price, and a mysterious bald man waiting to scare the bejeezus of Samantha as soon as she turns around. Look out, Sam!!!

The phone call ends with Iris saying that $3.7 million is the price, take it or leave it. Samantha is worried about the buyers losing interest. What happened to the triple tag team? WHERE'S THE EMOTIONAL SUPPORT, MOM AND SIS?

Right when we start panicking that the whole thing is falling apart, we zoom off to a café where Samantha is seated across from the Orbuchs and Iris is saying "I'm so glad we held out for what we wanted." So...that all worked out, eh? (The sale closed for $3.66 million) Because the customer is always right, Samantha compliments them for holding firm to their desired price, then compares Manhattan real estate to Deal or No Deal, minus the bald guy who stands around meddling in your affairs. Oh wait, we forgot about this guy:

Samantha says the buyers got approved by the board, and immediately starts working the Orbuchs to get her hands on their next deal. A Kleier's work is never done!

Episode grade: A bonkers Upper East Side fauxsocialite reinforcing every New York City stereotype and a multimillion-dollar sale?! Too bad nothing is perfect. This one gets 4.75 out of 5 cackling Kleiers!


· Selling New York [HGTV]
· Selling New York coverage [Curbed]