The current real estate market is tough. But despite obvious challenges like high interest rates, these standout New York City next-gen real estate agents — Eric Brown of Compass, Maggie Chong of Serhant, the Corcoran Group duo of Marko Arsic and Jason Lau, Douglas Elliman’s Erin Lichy (a star of the new season of The Real Housewives of New York City), and Brown Harris Stevens’ Michael Kelley-Bradford — just keep going.
All six are nominated for The Hollywood Reporter‘s 2023 Power Broker Awards‘ Rising Star Award for up-and-coming agents 35 and under. The winner will be announced later this month.
“If anyone says interest rates don’t impact pricing, that’s just a lie, honestly,” says Brown, 32, a top agent at Compass.
“I have so many buyers who have just paused. Everybody’s kind of freaked out from the instability,” says Chong, 35, a Serhant agent who lives in Brooklyn. “But,” Chong counters, “in terms of the higher cash market, if you look at the Manhattan $4 million-plus market, it’s doing just fine. Really healthy.”
So healthy that some of these agents have had the best year of their career amid the past three years despite the tight conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic and those high interest rates. Buyers and sellers have had to adjust their approach to real estate because of the current climate, and particular trends have emerged as a result.
Corcoran’s Arsic and Lau of The Arsic | Lau Team agree that cash has become king recently.
“There are a lot more serious cash buyers out there actively looking,” says Lau. “And if they do see opportunity, they will go in. They will expect more concessions, more negotiability, but we do see that the trend is serious cash buyers.” The duo once witnessed a $7.5 million all-cash deal fall apart because the developer chose to go with another buyer’s higher all-cash offer at the last minute. They supported their client, who chose to walk away on principle, instead of negotiating, and eventually found him an even better deal.
Both Lau and Arsic moved to the United States as teenagers (from Hong Kong and Eastern Europe, respectively) and credit the strong bond they have with clients to their immigrant, working-class backgrounds. “We know where we are from, and we will forever stay humble,” Lau says. And with more than 300,000 followers between their social media accounts, Arsic confesses that a lot of their 2022 closings came from the platforms.
“We love social media,” Arsic explains. “We have gotten a lot of referrals and a lot of clients from social media directly. I think it’s tying back to being personable and really showcasing your lifestyle so that people can connect with you. I think [that] helped our business a lot.”
Brown, who scores many of his deals off market at celeb-heavy buildings like 70 Vestry and 56 Leonard Street, says that “2020 was by far his best year” since becoming an agent in 2012. “I really found there were so many opportunities to buy unique property,” he says. “Sourcing unique and large scale homes has become the most significant value add for my clients.”
“People are getting really tired of the cookie-cutter, basic units that all look the same and have no character,” says the born-and-bred New Yorker, who also is showcasing some of her real estate savvy as one of the new housewives in Bravo’s revamped Real Housewives of New York City (the new season of which premiered on July 16).
She says this in spite of the fact that she’s been selling out new developments since she was in grad school at NYU and is still crushing sales at new high rises from New York to Texas. Adds Lichy — who also owns a complementary interior design firm called Homegirl — of the state of the current market: “The super luxury market will always stand on its own regardless of what the trend is—I don’t think it’s really affected.”
Chong, who also sees a lot of her sales in new luxury developments like Brooklyn’s Front and York as well as in renovated brownstones, “had her best year yet,” she says, in 2022. She’s seeing clients gravitate toward finished homes rather than fixer-uppers these days. “The trend in the market right now is that people are paying almost 25 percent of a premium for renovated versus non-renovated apartments,” she says. “Even if it’s not totally your cosmetic preference, it’s still finished.”
And Brown Harris Stevens’ Kelley-Bradford, 34, a Harlem specialist who studied finance at Columbia University, saw robust sales last year. But when comparing today’s transactions to the pre-interest-rate-hike days, he makes note that units are taking a little longer to move. “The NYC market is by no means dead,” Kelley-Bradford points out, noting however that “the high-end market [of] $4M-plus is performing well.”