Brown Harris Stevens is bigger than the famously blue-blooded boutique real estate brokerage Edward Lee Cave, but it has the same genteel glow: Brown Harris brokers have monogrammed shirts and Italian leather shoes, they’re always quite appropriate, and they tend to take vacations in the Hamptons.
So it’s incredibly odd to receive a virulent press release from brokerage president Hall F. Willkie (who, according to his online bio, "lives on Manhattan’s East Side and on a working farm in upstate New York with chickens, ducks, and four horses, including ‘heavy hunters’ and a Percheron which he enjoys riding in his leisure time"). And it’s even odder to hear Mr. Willkie criticize one of his top-grossing managing directors.
"The comments made by our broker Kathy Sloane, as quoted in the ABC News 20/20 story ‘Top Broker: NYC Real Estate Already in Steep Decline,’ do not represent the views of Brown Harris Stevens as a firm," Mr. Willkie said in that email. "Ms. Sloane’s comments mischaracterized the New York City real estate market, were completely speculative, and at times factually incorrect."
What did Ms. Sloane say? According to a Web preview of tonight’s peice, the broker told ABC that "Manhattan’s finest co-op apartments… may have already lost a fourth of their value as a result of the financial crisis, and the worst is yet to come." That’s exactly the kind of thing brokers shouldn’t be saying right now, at least if they don’t want everyone to panic. (Later, Ms. Sloane cushions the blow: "We’re not talking about losses on the sale of your property, we ‘re talking about adjusted profit.")
Mr. Willkie seems mad. "As a firm we believe that it is far too early to speculate about how the New York City residential real estate market will be impacted by events this week in the financial services sector. While it is clear that there will be an effect, it would be irresponsible to provide a market forecast and we remain confident in the fundamental strength and resiliency of our market over time."
This isn’t this year’s first dustup for Ms. Sloane, who helped the Clinton family find their homes in Westchester and Washington: Earlier this year, Ms. Sloane was one of 31 brokers named in a tax evasion investigation.
Ms. Sloane, who is currently listing a $25 million spread at 998 Fifth (pictured), didn’t return a call to her cell phone.