Ryan Serhant is going back to his real estate roots. The top-selling agent and star of Million Dollar Listing New York is launching several real estate projects in Long Island City, a popular neighborhood of New York’s Queens borough. It is also where Serhant first began selling homes at the height of the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
Along with plans to open an office in Long Island City by the end of the year, Serhant’s team of agents has scored contracts to manage sales for two residential condo buildings in the neighborhood. The first one, a 109-unit condo called Hero, will open up for buyers in June and has one- and two-bedrooms with prices upwards of $500,000. Known as the Prime and designed by Colombian designer Andres Escobar, the second condo has 71 one- to three-bedroom units whose prices start at $675,000. The Prime will launch for buyers this fall.
Inman spoke to Serhant earlier this week about his decision to return to the neighborhood where he got his start and the impact of Amazon’s decision to walk away from Long Island City.
Inman: Why did your team decide to return to Long Island City?
Serhant: I follow business and that’s where the business is. I did my first ever deals out there when I was a brand-new real estate agent because it was the only place, in 2009, where I could actually convince someone to buy an apartment when everyone was having such a hard time with everything. A couple of the developers that we work with said they were doing projects in Long Island City and were in need of brokers. I said ‘Why not? I want to sell that.’ They said ‘you are the king of Manhattan and the king of Brooklyn, do you want to work with the king of Long Island City?’ And I said: ‘I started there.’ I pitched myself and I got them. There are two towers so it’s a lot to sell. Just like I’ve done in every other market I’ve gone into, I followed business and then I built a team around it. So that’s what I’m doing.
What will the new condos be like?
There’s two of them. We’ve got one, the Hero, for which we’re going to be launching sales next month. What’s exciting about that one, as a salesperson and as a buyer, is that the price point is great. Long Island City, New York, with amazing views of the city, starting at $500,000. And the amenities package is unreal. The views, the gym, and the building was designed with the idea of the curves, of the grill, of the hood. That’s why the building has this curve to it. It’s the first art-influenced building in Long Island City, really. A beautiful place.
The Prime has amazing views of New York City, it’s in prime location and designer Andreas Escobar is one of the best designers of real estate I’ve ever met and ever had a chance to work with. Anyone who buys one of those apartments will be buying a piece of art.
How do you feel about the economic outlook in Queens? Does it have potential as a luxury market?
Yeah! Manhattan is an expensive place to live. Because of Uber, Lyft, Via and other kinds of ride-sharing apps and public transportation, the boom that we see in Long Island City and Brooklyn has been pretty baffling. Ride-sharing really changed things because now we don’t just have to take the one train from Long Island City to work. We can buy an apartment for 25 percent than what the same apartment might cost in Manhattan. There’s also the savings on the maintenance and you can use that cash to get yourself a private driver to work every morning.
How has Amazon’s decision to pull out of Long Island City affected the real estate situation in Queens?
There was definitely a pop in interest when they announced that they were coming. There was a lot of people that wanted to invest in the area because they were coming. People wanted to invest because Amazon would bring in a lot of workers. There was dismay when Amazon said that they weren’t coming, but more dismay from New Yorkers upset with other New Yorkers because Amazon did not want to deal with the hostile political ground that we have here. That is completely understandable. But the key details were not affected by Amazon. There’s a lot of interest in Long Island City, there’s a lot of people coming through the area, it’s a great commute.
How is selling in Queens different from selling in Manhattan or Brooklyn?
It isn’t! It’s the same people, it’s the same client base, the same marketing, the same strategies. It’s just a different neighborhood. Selling in Chelsea is different from selling in Tribeca which is different from selling in DUMBO which is different from selling in the Long Island City waterfront.
So the stereotype that Queens is the underdog compared to Manhattan and Brooklyn is a myth?
No, it’s not a myth. Valuations are definitely lower in Long Island City than they are in parts of Brooklyn in part because Long Island City is a newer neighborhood. It’s also more residential although these two buildings are in mostly commercial locations. It’s different. Brooklyn was built by the workers who worked in Manhattan. Townhouses in brownstone Brooklyn and in Bedford-Stuyvesant and in Bushwick are all built to look like you’re on 88th Central Park West because they are built by the architects who built people’s houses on the Upper West Side. They just also have a lot more transportation. Every train runs down through Brooklyn. Only one train takes you from Manhattan directly to Long Island City and that’s the 7 train.
What else is in the cards for you and your team?
Grow the team as much as possible and sell more in Long Island City than anybody else.
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