Manhattan brokerage Town Residential is eliminating its sales and leasing operations to concentrate on international and new development, a spokesperson for the firm confirmed on Friday. The move will force more than 400 agents to find a new home.
“Today I made the decision to pivot Town Residential from the resale and rental business to focus on the new development and international sectors,” Andrew Heiberger, the company’s founder and CEO, wrote in a statement on Linkedin.
“Due to the new realities of the new marketplace, it is simply impossible [to] profit from those lines of business when considering the primary factors of the rapidly increasing agent commissions stemming from fierce competition to attract and retain the best talent; lead generation platforms; and the disruptions on the tenant side of the rental brokerage business,” he added. “There will be another great endeavor to come, stay tuned …”
Town Residential has had its share of public troubles over the past few years. In May 2016, the NY Post reported that the brokerage owed nearly $300,000 in back rent for their Bryant Park office. Wendy Maitland, Town Residential’s former head of sales — now with Brown Harris Stevens — alleged in a lawsuit that Joseph Sitt, a former co-owner, withheld funds from the company, according to The Real Deal.
Heiberger ultimately bought Sitt out of his ownership stake in the company and Town Residential settled with Maitland, but during the tumultuous year, there was a mass exodus of brokers. At one point, the firm boasted over 600 agents — a number that has significantly dwindled since then.
Jennifer Johnsen-Cameron, a managing broker with Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty, played a role in the launch of Town Residential and worked with the company through its first year. She said the announcement was not a surprise to her at all.
“I think when we launched we had a really aggressive growth plan,” Johnsen-Cameron said. “It was fast, it was furious, it was definitely exciting, but there was never a lot of stability in the company. I don’t think they ever had the chance to stabilize. There was a lot of drama that continued to transpire over the years.”
That lack of stability came from the company’s leadership, Johnsen-Cameron said.
“Everybody knows [Heiberger] is extremely smart — he’s just a brilliant visionary, but the company was just never stable from the top on down,” Johnsen-Cameron added. “Brokers need to be focused on their business, not on drama.”
Since the announcement, brokers now have a daunting task ahead of them. While the company confirmed each broker will keep his or her exclusive listings, brokers will still spend the next few days reaching out to all their clients and explaining what happened.
“My heart breaks for the brokers,” Johnsen-Cameron said. “This is extremely disruptive to their business.”
And finding a new brokerage is no simple task, Johnsen-Cameron explained.
“Nobody wants to make a quick decision because if you’re going to move, you want to feel good about it,” she said. “That would mean going on interviews, researching. Most of the brokers probably have a gut instinct of where they want to be, or what their options might be.”
Other brokerages have taken this announcement as a recruiting opportunity. On Instagram, Manhattan-based One and Only Realty posted a message encouraging brokers to join its expanding team.
While we are saddened by @townresidential ’s shutting down of its resale and leasing business, we welcome #agents with #international #sales experience to join us in our expanding brokerage. To learn more, please email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call (+12125050200). #watchusgrow #luxuryrealestate #luxurylifestyle