Here Comes the Bloom: Metro Brokerages Planting New Seeds

Brick & Mortar

Brick & Mortar is a relative newcomer, having opened a boutique firm in red-hot Williamsburg in April 2012. “I moved to New York because it seemed like a better market to work in, and make some more money,” says founder and principal broker Rolan Sereny, a Florida transplant. “We’re in a great location, half a block from the Bedford L.

“This is a great time to jump in the pool,” he continues. “I’ve documented 37 developments on the rise in Williamsburg, so there are a lot of listings. The market was beginning to stabilize and improve, and the resale market was also starting to pick up, so I thought it was a great time to take advantage of the direction that the market was heading in.”

Although expanding to Manhattan is a possibility, Mr. Sereny says that opening another office in Brooklyn, perhaps in the Cobble Hill area, is also in the cards.

Douglas Elliman Real Estate

In March 2012, Douglas Elliman opened an office at 47-37 Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City. With plenty of offices in Manhattan, the firm has now set its sights elsewhere, including Scarsdale and even farther afield. Elliman is planning offices in Florida and Los Angeles, according to President and CEO Dottie Herman.

For Elliman, expansion is an intrinsic part of the overall business plan, not a result of the ups and downs of the market. “We’ve been opening all along,” says Ms. Herman. “It has nothing to do with a boom or real estate doing better, because if you open it up because real estate’s doing better, then when it doesn’t do well, you’re going to close it. We are opening up in areas where we think our client is.”

As for why New York real estate is doing so well, Ms. Herman has this to say: “New York City is international. And there’s basically no supply, zero. I think it’s the lowest supply we’ve had for many, many years. All the fundamentals are right in New York City. People want to be here. As an international city, we are actually cheaper than Hong Kong and London and some of the other international cities we compete with, so you’re getting a large amount of foreign money, not just American.”

Houlihan Lawrence

The largest area broker in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess Counties, Houlihan Lawrence has over 1,000 agents and 25 offices. The firm opened a new office in Yonkers (its 25th) in the beginning of this year. It was the brokerage’s first new office in six years.

“We have been very fortunate to have grown quite a bit coming out of the real estate downturn, both in market share in our area and in total sales volume,” says Chris Meyers, Houlihan’s chief operating officer. “Last year we grew by about 20 percent in total sales, $4 billion. That actually matches our sales level in 2005, even though our market is about 40 percent smaller today than it was then in terms of dollar-volume sales. Yonkers was a market that we were already serving pretty extensively out of our Bronxville office, which is right next door. As we started to get a critical mass of agents that were focused exclusively on the Yonkers market, we thought it was the time for us to actually have a physical presence there as well.”

Here Comes the Bloom: Metro Brokerages Planting New Seeds