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The 2 Percent Solution?

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If you're a subway rider, you know that YHD Foxtons is the new Dr. Zizmor. The New Jersey brokerage firm, now trying to get a foothold in New York, has blanketed the transit system with posters, and topped them off with a giant Times ad. "When you launch in New York, you'd better do it powerfully," says president and founder Glenn Cohen. And that power has got him somewhere: Every broker in town seems to hate his guts.

YHD's pitch (the name stands for "Your Home Direct") is easy. The usual commission on purchases is 6 percent; YHD charges 2 percent if you show the house yourself, 3 percent if the broker does it. Your fee buys sales and pricing advice, plus a listing on yhd.com that incorporates a virtual walk-through -- "I call it the Vanna White Experience," says Cohen. (Sellers who pay a commission of 4.3 percent receive extra services.) Web-only customers are giving up a lot of handholding -- no listings in the paper, no open houses, no co-op-board massaging -- but for some, that's fine. (The firm recently sold the Jersey home of Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn -- at its full-service rate, not on the Web -- and he's since become their pitchman.) YHD knows that a lot of buyers think brokers don't do much. "There are people charging $30,000," says Cohen. "I'm charging $8,000, and I can give them a great experience."

Is YHD a contender? Four weeks in, it's too early to tell. A recent search of the Website turned up just eleven Manhattan properties, which won't keep Barbara Corcoran up nights. But the potential is clear, which may be why the rest of the business is seething. "They give you a bare-bones service," says Joyce West, director of sales at Charles H. Greenthal. "What gets to me is they say, 'Why spend more? Why waste your money?' " she says. "You show your own apartments, do your own board packages. And if you want more, you pay more." Bellmarc Realty's Neil Binder is even less impressed: "It's a clearinghouse that gets people to put listings on the Internet, presuming that they'll be happy lying dormant on a site that probably gets only the most minimal number of hits," he says. "And no New York broker would ever engage in a co-brokerage with him. I'm not doing any deal for 1 percent." Like so many who've come from Jersey before him, Cohen may have to learn about New York the hard way.


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