America's No. 1 Broker John Burger on the Recession

John Burger

After hearing that real estate brokers have been suffering in the recession, we decided to call John Burger, recently named America’s top broker, to see his take on the recession’s lingering effects on the industry.

“I think that what were seeing is that 20 percent of the brokers are doing 80 percent of the business. The sellers and the buyers want to align themselves with the brokers that have the track record,” he told The Observer. And while Mr. Burger himself happens to be in the favored 20 percent, his comments seemed informed rather than self-serving. When times are rough, sellers and buyers want to ensure they’re getting the biggest bang for their buck, and are reaching out to the city’s gilded agents to help them, Mr. Burger explained.

Accessibility of information has also played a significant factor in the industry’s steep divisions. “I think that the Internet is driving the volume of business that goes to the overachieving  brokers. Ten years ago there was no information on the web, now its all there. It’s almost like the buying public is able to rate their broker and choose their broker in the same way they choose their mutual fund,” he explained. So many brokers are feeling the heat in the cool economic climate, but it’s been boom times for the top few.

And all those foreign buyers? By his estimation, foreign buyers are comprising about 20 to 25% of condo buyers, but only about 5% of coop buyers. It’s mostly the new building’s they’re after anyway, particularly well placed Midtown developments like Extell’s One57. “It’s a great pied a terre location for the international buyer. It puts you in the heart of everything,” he said.

In terms of the luxury market, he explained why some properties have been flying off the market while others have been slow to sell. “People are responding to instant satisfaction as opposed to delayed satisfaction,” he said.  “When things are in move-in condition or in mint-condition, I think people will reach for them and will pay a premium for them. I think when somebody  is confronted, a great apartment, with work restrictions and renovations and board approvals, they know it’s a year year and a half of their life.”

Here’s what we gleaned from our fireside (OK, office phone) chat with good sir Burger.

  1. A lot of brokers are in fact broke.
  2. The Internet is a powerful tool
  3. Foreigners like shiny things
  4. It’s no longer en vogue to buy a project apartment. America's No. 1 Broker John Burger on the Recession