JoAnne Kennedy’s first career was in the classroom, but it didn’t take long for her to realize she’d rather be jet-setting, working on a real estate career and building a powerful brokerage company.
Today Kennedy is the operating officer of New York-based Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy, a company she co-founded as Hunt Kennedy with William Morris Hunt III in 1988, specializing in high-end properties on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and soon thereafter on the Upper East Side. She also is senior vice president of Real Share International, the holding company for all of Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy’s offices.
“My first professional goal was to be an English teacher, which I achieved and I still consider myself one (albeit at a higher pay scale). I still train many agents in the company,” she said.
Kennedy’s teaching career turned out to be short-lived, lasting only one year. “I collected my pension and took off for Europe. I didn’t begin my real estate career until after my second daughter was born,” she said.
In 1996, Kennedy joined with David Michonski and Coldwell Banker to develop Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy and opened both the East and Downtown Manhattan offices.
Before creating Hunt Kennedy, Kennedy was vice president of Stribling & Associates. “David had a plan to take a respected national franchise, place it in Manhattan and grow through referrals from across the country. In addition, we offered our agents an opportunity to buy a stake in the company. And this is still our policy today.”
Kennedy, who started her residential real estate career in 1978, recalled a vastly different marketplace when she was just beginning. “When I began, the Manhattan real estate market was probably five decades behind the rest of the country because Manhattan was solely a rental town,” she said. “It was only with the converting of rental buildings to co-ops that led to a real marketplace.”
Likewise, broker relationships have changed over the years.
“Industry practices here have grown up in a different way,” she said. “What I have seen in the past 10-15 years is an incredible growth of cooperation among brokers, but still not on the level one sees outside of New York where there are real (multiple listing services). In New York, it is still not citywide. But I’ve seen the market mushroom in terms of product and practitioners and in terms of the money a good broker can earn.”
Kennedy serves on the board of directors of the Manhattan MLS and is treasurer of the Manhattan Association of Realtors. She has been active in the Real Estate Board of New York since 1988. Kennedy was raised in Atlanta and graduated cum laude from Vanderbilt University with a degree in English. She is an active participant in her neighborhood and is a member of the board of directors of the Riverside Park Fund. She is the mother of two grown daughters.
The real estate executive took a moment to reflect on past events in New York’s real estate marketplace and also to look ahead.
One of the largest real estate stories in Manhattan has been the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. More than four years after buildings were destroyed in the attacks, plans for the site are still undecided.
“Many people have a vested interest in the site and at times, those interests have created conflicts. So it doesn’t surprise me that the rebuilding process has taken this long,” Kennedy said. “It really would have been wonderful if everyone’s needs and wishes coincided. But you have property owners, the city and state government and survivors and I don’t know how you get all of those interests on the same page.”
“Eventually, something magnificent will be on the site,” she added. “But it does have to contain a memorial; open space and the architecture must be outstanding.”
As for the future, Kennedy dismisses the real estate bubble theory. “The market might be taking a nap,” she said. “It’s slowed somewhat and that is healthy. The market cannot charge with these growth rates forever. Real estate is still a cyclical business. And with New York being an international city, I’m very optimistic about the future.”
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