NEW YORK — In a city where a foreclosed home sells for $45 million, the housing downturn here is all relative.
The former owner of that luxury apartment, said Dottie Herman, CEO of Prudential Douglas Elliman, had put it on the market for $15 million. An international buyer came forward with a down payment, but the deal fell apart and the apartment ended up in foreclosure.
Elliman’s company ended up with the listing, put it up for sale in an auction at the bank’s direction, and a bidding battle between three prospective buyers skyrocketed the selling price.
"It was such a competition and it really had nothing to do with price — it was clearly about winning," said Herman, who spoke Thursday in a session at the Real Estate Connect conference.
The city has a few more stories like that one, said Diane Ramirez, president of Halstead Realty who shared the stage with Herman and Michele Kleier, president and chairman of Gumley Haft Kleier, who is featured with other family members in HGTV’s "Selling New York" real estate reality show.
As an international hub, New York attracts a lot of foreign buyers.
"Everyone likes to have a place in New York City. It’s part of what makes it so vibrant," said Herman.
Ramirez said her company has invested in video to help sell its listings, and "We have literally sold a number of very high-end apartments and houses right off our video, and many of the (sales) off of the videos are international buyers."
For those buyers, they had made up their minds before they had visited the properties in person.
While New York is still a hotspot for foreign buyers, most buyers come from within the Tri-State region, Herman said.
Ramirez said the real estate market in the Upper East Side is heating up, and Herman said homes in that area are among the best values in the city.
With increasing frequency, Ramirez said clients are less focused on specific neighborhoods and "will live almost anywhere" in the city.
While real estate prices are generally rising, it may be too early to call it a recovery, she said, though she did say the market appears to be in the midst of recovering.
"After Lehman Brothers … there was just nothing" — the real estate market was quiet for a period, Herman said. "It was almost like another 9-11."
Then the first-time buyers began to reappear, and by the middle of 2010 other market segments began to rebound, too, she said, including high-end sales.
Kleier said the client mix has changed for her family-run boutique brokerage. In 2006-07 there were many clients purchasing homes as an investment — not to live in. These days, prospective buyers tend to be owner-occupants.
"We’re very tied to Wall Street in real estate," noted Kleier, and clients’ buy and sell decisions closely mirror the Wall Street rollercoaster.
Herman said she still worries about tight financing. And though New York wasn’t hit as hard by foreclosures as so many other markets, the robo-signing scandal and subsequent stall in foreclosure sales is still worrisome, she added.
Ramirez said there are "new brokerage house models" that have arrived in New York, and she specifically named Keller Williams, calling that company’s entry into the city "a distraction."
What’s it like selling real estate in front of television cameras? Kleier said for one day each week the film crew accompanies her while she’s working.
"It’s reality television, but they don’t live with me," she said.
She has clients who do not wish to be filmed and those who desperately want to be on the show, and the publicity has been rewarding, she said.
Because her two daughters and husband, who also work for the brokerage, are also featured in the show, "the most fun about this is having a ‘home movie.’ "
The second season began airing this month, and the audience seems to like it, too. "It’s been renewed for 39 episodes," she said.
Herman said even if you’re not on camera, "I would say being in real estate you might as well be in Hollywood," as appearances do seem to matter more than they do in some other markets.