The pursuit has served him well.
When the real estate market crashed in 2008, even prominent brokers were left feeling washed up amid the dearth of deals that followed. Mr. Knakal seemed unfazed during the period. His knowledge of New York real estate’s ebb and flow, as well as his knack for weighing the impact of macroeconomic events on the local market, made him a sought-after consultant, as sellers and buyers alike struggled to uncover the new realities of value and demand. While the consulting work and portfolio evaluations he did during the time were either free or low cost services, it allowed him to both develop and deepen ties to major clients like banks and large private sellers and sow seeds for new business that would sprout when the market revived.
The work paid off. As sales picked up, Mr. Knakal became a leading seller of a popular product type of the time, mortgage notes, which banks were clearing off their balance sheets at a discount.
Last year, he sold a nearly $30 million mortgage for Barclays bank tied to a development parcel across from the West Side rail yards, 350-366 Tenth Avenue. Before that, in 2010, he sold the $60 million mortgage against the downtown office building 5 Hanover Square to the real estate group Savanna, which then took control of the property.
Mr. Knakal’s biggest year in sales volume happened, predictably, in 2007, when he sold approximately $800 million in real estate. For a capable dealmaker, the cards were stacked in his favor: The city was flush with easy capital, prices were at a peak, and both sellers and buyers were ferociously engaged in deals.
Yet in 2010, by all accounts a dismal year, Mr. Knakal claims he did about $500 million of transactions, a respectable tally that actually earned him more commission dollars than 2007 because the dearth of smaller deals he was doing that year actually earned him a higher commission rate.
“I’m pretty confident that 2012 is going to be my biggest year ever,” Mr. Knakal said. “It’s already proving to be true so far.”