While Massey Knakal specializes in smaller transactions, Mr. Knakal has differentiated himself from that formula by brokering larger deals than the firm usually handles.
Last year, he sold two buildings on 29th Street and Broadway to the hotel developer Jon Lam for over $70 million. In recent weeks he handled the sale of three portfolios of apartment building, for roughly $40, $50 and $60 million respectively. He also just completed the sale of a development parcel in Williamsburg for more than $20 million to an investment group led by the prominent New York owner Joe Chetrit.
He sold a $7 million building in Brooklyn for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, an organization that owns more than a billion dollars of real estate in the borough and is in the process now of liquidating its holdings. The group is a cloistered religion, yet Mr. Knakal has become a trusted broker for the valuation services he has performed for the organization through the years. The pace of deals shows no sign of letting up. Mr. Knakal is in the process of marketing an industrial building in the Bronx that he thinks will trade above $40 million. He’s also in the process of negotiating to add parcels onto hotelier Jon Lam’s Broadway development site.
Mr. Knakal chalks up a big portion of his success to Massey Knakal’s territory system. Brokers at the firm are assigned certain submarkets in the city where they are encouraged to become specialists. According to Mr. Knakal, it is the best way to do deals because, in a city where pricing can vary dramatically by neighborhood, it allows a broker to develop the knowledge and focus to better source and execute deals. Criticism has also been lobbed at the approach. Some rivals say that it hems brokers into a narrow geography.
Mr. Knakal’s own business is a counterpoint to that claim. His home turf is in Midtown, but he often handles sales outside of that boundary, partnering with whichever broker at the firm works in the territory a deals takes him. In this way, Mr. Knakal is beyond just a public face to the firm, but also an originator of business for more than just he and his own team.
“I look at the model and credit it for a lot of my success,” said Mr. Knakal, who acknowledged that while he knows much of Manhattan, he’s not as well versed in other boroughs like Queens and the Bronx. As such, he benefits from having the specialists in those markets as his partners.
Nonetheless, a large part of what continues to drive Mr. Knakal, who will turn 50 in May, is his love for the business, regardless of the borough.
“I still get pumped up when a client hires me,” said Mr. Knakal. “It doesn’t matter if it’s for a small property in the Bronx—I get excited about it.”