Since slamming to a halt in the early days of the pandemic, New York City’s real estate market has not just come back to life, but hit an increasingly breakneck pace.
“From the first quarter of 2021 to 2022 in Manhattan alone, contracts were up 30 percent,” says Million Dollar Listing New York star and Serhant brokerage founder Ryan Serhant. In the first three months of the year, the average number of days properties spent on the market dropped by 13.8 percent, according to data from Douglas Elliman, while median prices jumped by more than 10 percent year-over-year, up to $1.19 million. “Super luxury is now coming back to life, too,” says Douglas Elliman’s Noble Black, “and we’ve recently had international buyers coming back.”
From financiers to entertainment industry players, high-end buyers are rushing to get a piece of the city’s increasingly small (and expensive) pool of luxury inventory, and upsizing to penthouses and townhouses. “Penthouses are very much en vogue,” says Corcoran’s Cathy Franklin. “Buyers want high ceilings, lots of light, classic architecture and extensive outdoor space.”
Here, THR highlights the city’s top agents helping high-profile clients check off everything on their wish lists while navigating a red-hot market.
Oren & Tal Alexander
The brothers of The Alexander Team have sold around $1.8 billion worth of real estate over the past year, including a penthouse for $42.5 million in an off-market deal at 520 Park Avenue on Billionaires’ Row. “Even with rising rates, the market continues to be resilient,” Tal says. “Prime neighborhoods still lack inventory, and off-market opportunities continue to be the hot trend.” The pair have been the No. 1 team nationally at Douglas Elliman for three years running and are known for major deals such as the $49 million sale of the penthouse at 421 Broome Street in November, just a year after the unit had previously sold for $35 million.
Sotheby’s International Realty
Boardman routinely breaks sales records and works with some of the entertainment industry’s most A-list names. In February, per public records, she worked with Paul McCartney and his wife, Nancy Shevell, on the $8.5 million sale of their Fifth Avenue penthouse. Her current roster of listings includes a Neo-Georgian mansion asking $60 million on the Upper East Side.
“Our market in general has been on fire since January,” says Black, who represented John Legend and Chrissy Teigen in an $18 million April sale of two adjoining apartments they had intended to combine when they first purchased them pre-pandemic. “They decided they’re not spending as much time in New York as they had planned on, and wanted to simplify things,” says Black, whose list of celeb clients has included Scarlett Johansson, Colin Jost and Bethenny Frankel. Last summer, Black sold a condo in Billionaires’ Row tower One57 to HGTV founder Kenneth Lowe for $12.7 million.
Brown Harris Stevens
With reportedly the highest number of listings of any agent in the city (per data from Real Trends) as well as some of the highest-profile clients, Burger remains one of New York’s most reliable power brokers. The tight-lipped Burger declined to comment, but has previously repped Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on multiple NYC deals, and last year facilitated the sale of Bette Midler’s $45 million penthouse. Burger currently reps multiple Upper East Side townhouses priced over $30 million.
“Buyers are back and they are betting on Manhattan,” says Chiang, who was one of the listing agents on the biggest sale so far in New York in 2022, a $70.5 million penthouse at 432 Park Avenue. She also sold Gloria Vanderbilt’s childhood home on the Upper East Side for $32.2 million. “Luxury properties with outdoor space, like penthouses and townhomes, remain in high demand,” she says. Chiang is now representing a $28 million townhouse owned by Yue-Sai Kan, the “Oprah of China,” as well as a $79 million penthouse at 432 Park Avenue.
Fredrik Eklund & John Gomes
Even as their Eklund | Gomes Team has continued to expand its presence across California, Florida and Texas — with $4.5 billion in sales nationally in 12 markets — the duo have maintained their perch at the top of New York City’s real estate market. (Last year, Eklund left his role on Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing.) To wit: In late April, the team’s Ryan Stenta also helped facilitate the $70.5 million penthouse sale at 432 Park Avenue. “There’s an enormous amount of activity — the volume is unprecedented,” says Gomes. “As a result, we’re seeing price gains.” The team recently represented actor Anthony Rapp as well as tech mogul Anil Aggarwal, and have previously done deals with Sarah Jessica Parker, Daniel Craig, Jennifer Lopez and Keith Richards.
Stephen Ferrara & Clayton Orrigo
“The luxury market in New York City has not slowed at all and remains extremely strong,” says Ferrara, who, with Orrigo, leads the Hudson Advisory Team at Compass. “Overall demand is deep and the buying pool is robust, yet our biggest challenge is the continuous lack of high-quality inventory and large-format homes.” Consistently among the top-selling brokerage teams in the city, last year they handled the sale of a $45 million penthouse in Tribeca’s “Jenga Building,” which boasts Keegan-Michael Key and Frank Ocean as residents. “We have several new developments in the West Village coming later this year,” Ferrara says. “However, we still anticipate that the demand will far outweigh the supply.”
“We are on track to have our best year ever in 2022,” says Franklin, who leads sales at boutique Upper West Side development 109 East 79th, which launched in November. A $35 million penthouse, the last available unit in the building, is now in contract. Franklin is also the listing agent on a $49.5 million Hudson Yards penthouse featured on HBO’s Succession, as well as a $16.25 million Upper East Side townhouse with its own basketball court.
Gavin brokered 2021’s biggest deal in downtown Manhattan with the $49.5 million sale of Formula 1 racer Lewis Hamilton’s penthouse at 443 Greenwich. He also recently sold Jonah Hill’s NoHo loft for $11 million, and (along with broker Adam Modlin) is repping Karlie Kloss and Joshua Kushner on a $23.5 million Puck Building penthouse listing. “I’ve seen the luxury market on an upswing since the bounceback from the pandemic,” says Gavin. “One tenet will always remain true — there is a flight to quality product. No matter the market conditions, quality, turn-key product will always sell at a premium.”
“The speed of the turnaround in New York City’s real estate market has been remarkable,” says Gold, a star of Million Dollar Listing New York. The Soho resident specializes in the luxury downtown market, playing a key role in selling headline-grabbing new developments including 40 Mercer by Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid’s 520 West 28th Street, and the West Village’s Superior Ink building. Gold’s roster of clients has included model Hilary Rhoda, Anne Hathaway and Spotlight producer Michael Bederman. In March, he listed director Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin’s $20 million townhouse on 17th Street.
Grubman — whose roster of entertainment industry clients has included Harrison Ford, David Geffen and “Judge Judy” Sheindlin — listed two units in March, belonging to Rupert Murdoch, for a total of $78 million. Grubman also represents an exclusive, $25 million Fifth Avenue co-op belonging to Suzy Welch, widow of former GE chairman and CEO Jack Welch.
Another mainstay of Million Dollar Listing New York, Jordan has facilitated multiple deals at 155 Franklin Street, the exclusive Tribeca building where residents have included Taylor Swift, the Olsen twins and Orlando Bloom. In August, Jordan closed a deal on a unit in the building for the second time; it went for $3.6 million in 2012 and $10 million last year. Her team also handled leasing at 70 Vestry, another celebrity-studded Tribeca building where last year Trevor Noah rented out a unit asking $52,000 per month, according to the New York Post. “What we saw during 2020 and 2021 is that no matter what the market is, the right product and right location sells well in New York,” says Jordan. “It almost seems to be recession-proof as long as it’s in those prime locations.”
Kern grabbed headlines in January when, per public records, she represented billionaire Daniel Och in the nearly $190 million sale of his penthouse at 220 Central Park South, to a buyer later revealed to be Alibaba’s Joseph Tsai. “High-end New York real estate never went away,” says Kern. “While many prominent properties have recently traded to purchasers domestically, we are starting to see an uptick in international activity as the rules for travel relax.”
Dolly Lenz Real Estate
A presence in both New York City and the Hamptons, Lenz has listings from palatial Long Island estates to grand Upper East Side co-ops, including Joan Rivers’ former East 62nd Street penthouse, on the market for $38 million. A frequent media commentator, Lenz sold Newsmax anchor Greg Kelly’s Chelsea one-bedroom for $1.66 million last year, and is currently representing a $55 million full-floor apartment on Fifth Avenue.
Modlin often specializes in big-ticket townhouse sales for high-profile — and highly private — clients. Modlin has, per public records, facilitated multiple deals for Karlie Kloss and Joshua Kushner within the Puck Building, including their $42.5 million purchase of a new penthouse last fall. In December, he listed art dealer David Mugrabi’s Upper East Side townhouse for $52 million, and last fall he sold a NoHo penthouse to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt for $27.5 million.
The Million Dollar Listing New York star launched his own eponymous brokerage in 2020, with a focus on both luxury concierge services and savvy social media marketing. The leap of faith paid off: In December, Serhant’s team sold a penthouse belonging to author Mark Manson for $13.5 million “in one day through social media,” Serhant says. Over the past year, Serhant has also repped a $26.5 million Greenwich townhouse formerly rented by Travis Scott and Kylie Jenner, sold Peloton star trainer Cody Rigsby a $1.46 million penthouse in Williamsburg, and brokered the sale of Bella Hadid’s $6.5 million Soho penthouse. “It’s been quite a whirlwind and a very exciting time to be in the real estate business,” says Serhant.
Shemesh started off 2022 with a bang, leaving Douglas Elliman to join up at Serhant. Having handled sales in Toll Brothers buildings for years, in April Shemesh listed the $22 million Upper East Side triplex of the firm’s co-founder, Robert Toll, and his wife, Jane. Over the past year, Shemesh has sold more than $100 million worth of real estate at 111 Murray. Last summer, he sold a $13.4 million unit at 1010 Park Avenue to Florida-based buyers via FaceTime.
In between appearances on HGTV’s Kendra Sells Hollywood (on which she mentors reality star-turned-agent Kendra Wilkinson), Simonsen also finds time to break sales records — her $20 million sale of a penthouse at Abi Chelsea recorded the highest price-per-square-foot of any boutique new development sale in 2021. “We are constantly pushing the boundaries,” she says. Simonsen also, per records, brought in the buyer for Bella Hadid’s SoHo penthouse (sold last year for $6.5 million), and has worked with Kelly Ripa and Lisa Ling.
Jim St. André
“Just when you think [New York’s market] is slowing down, it’s not,” says St. André. “We’re starting to see more international buyers entering the market as well, while [previously in the pandemic] we’d had almost none. I just showed a $30 million off-market townhouse to a couple from London.” In the past year, St. André has handled sales for both Ellen Barkin and Julianne Moore, and previously led sales at 17 Jane Street, a sought-after West Village development where buyers have included Jennifer Lawrence.
Living up to his job title as chief evangelist at Compass, Steinberg says, “The New York luxury markets never died, they simply took an extended nap. The luxury markets have rebounded with a passion, and those who took the risk of buying in 2020 and 2021 have done well.” With his eponymous sales team, Steinberg routinely trades in some of the city’s highest-profile buildings, such as tony new development No. 33 Park Row. Earlier this year, per public records, he represented Jon Bon Jovi on the sale of his $22 million Manhattan condo.
This story first appeared in the May 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.