HGTV's Selling New York is back for a second season of real estate obsessing, so we checked into last night's debut. It's strange to see people I talk to regularly for the magazine’s real estate column on TV. They look great, I must say. Even better than last season. Did they do something with the lighting? Developers should find a way to get that kind of lighting in their apartments. Maybe they could add a hair-and-makeup crew in the mix too. Now that's a sellable amenity.
The show opens with Gumley Haft Kleier's Michele Kleier standing in the middle of a massive $8.95 million penthouse at the Lucida, a new Upper East Side development. (Where are her girls, Sabrina and Samantha?) She’s planning a party to show it off to brokers and potential buyers, and, of course, to build buzz. That view is fantastic, and that terrace is huge, but I’m mostly distracted by the enormous sushi spread. Yum. There’s always food at these things. It’s not a broker party unless hors d’oeuvre are involved. Sushi’s upping the ante.
New cast member alert: It's Richard Steinberg, executive managing director at Warburg Realty. (Last year's show had only two firms: GHK and Shaun Osher's CORE. CORE's back this year, but without broker John Gomes, who has left with colleague Fredrik Eklund for another firm; both will be starring on Selling New York's competitor, Bravo's Million Dollar Listing.) Richard seems no-nonsense, and he says it like it is. This broker-developer meeting about the project he's handling, Twenty9th Park Madison, looks testy; there's a push to get the model apartment done, and the developer wants more time to make it perfect, but Richard says it needs to be ready tout de suite (my French, not his, but it adds flair, non?). It's true: Buyers aren’t purchasing from floor plans anymore. That’s so 2005. They have to touch and see the goods. Cop a feel, if you will. And wait — did the developer just call the broker a prima donna? Welcome to reality TV, folks. How long before someone declares they’re "not here to make friends"?
Next we're back with Michele, who's lunching with Extell’s senior vice-president for project management and development, Raizy Haas (we've met her before). Raizy says that penthouse needs to be sold! I know this is a real estate show, but I keep getting diverted. More sushi? What’s with the sushi?
Back to Richard. The model apartment’s ready — see what all that agitating can accomplish? He's showing it off, and one potential buyer notices that part of the view is a water tower and he responds: “You know, that’s a New York view.” True, but when a two-bedroom apartment’s asking $1.6 million, it’s a valid point, isn't it?
The season opener ends with Michele and her husband, Ian Kleier, at home, hanging out with their cute doggies and deciding where to go for dinner, when they get a call about clients who weren’t interested in the penthouse at the Lucida when they first saw it because it probably wasn't big enough for their needs. “It was big enough for most human beings,” Michele says. (It’s 3326 square feet, not including the terrace.) But now that the apartment can possibly be combined with penthouse B, which is 3511 square feet, they may be back at the negotiating table. My mind reels! With that much space, one could have an in-house gym, office, media room, pool room, Wii room, room to do the laundry, room to fold the laundry — the possibilities are endless! Later we find out Richard’s sold a handful of units at Twenty9th Park Madison, too. So all is good. Deals are flying — or so it seems. But I’m not really sure it’s that easy to sell an apartment these days, let alone in a new development. Life is good in real-estate-TV land.