Going for Brokers

Big Deals: Upper West Side
33 Riverside Drive
Three-bedroom, three-bath, 1,800-square-foot co-op. Asking: $1.475 million. Selling: $1.425 million. Maintenance: $1,662. Time on market: one week.

The buyers of this prewar classic six (the formal dining room has been converted into a third bedroom) asked their broker to show them apartments with “a friendly layout,” in which the kitchen and dining area ease into the living space. “They entertain,” explains their broker, William B. May’s Brett Grabel, who adds that he thought of them immediately when he saw the place, and showed it to them first. The couple had had a deal fall through shortly before, so they pounced. Now they’re renovating – “kind of a Zen design,” says Grabel – before they move from their apartment on West 79th Street. In true Zen fashion, the buyers and sellers knew each other from yoga class. The sellers, represented by Corcoran’s Jeff Levitas, have Eastern de-signs of their own: They’re moving to Japan.

Going for Brokers
Internettlesome issues surround Corcoran-Elliman alliance.

Does real-estate information want to be free? On August 1, the two biggest brokerages in town, Corcoran Group and Douglas Elliman, announced a Web-based version of a suburban-style multiple-listing service that provides one-stop shopping for apartment hunters. (Previously, listings of what was for sale were faxed around between brokerages – usually.) But the gesture of unity has pitched an already fractious industry against itself.

“It’s diabolical!” said a real-estate executive the next day. “The two largest companies got together and they’re going to control everything, know every deal in New York, how much everyone is making.” You thought Barbara Corcoran’s mug was ubiquitous already? Now she’s watching.

“It’s been on the back burner for ages,” says Elliman chief executive Alan Rogers, calling from Corcoran president Pamela Liebman’s office before meeting with some of his restive competitors. It’s an odd alliance considering he and Corcoran have spent much of the current real-estate boom poaching staff (Elliman just grabbed its onetime biggest seller Robby Browne back from Corcoran) and keeping listings from each other.

Then, earlier this year, a group backed by Goldman Sachs unsuccessfully attempted to create its own MLS with the New York Times.

The Real Estate Board, a local trade association, had already been working on an information-sharing plan – slowly. Corcoran and Elliman realized they could move faster. “We have the content that everybody’s looking for, and we should keep it in the industry,” says Liebman. When she and Rogers sprung their plan on the other brokerages, the Halstead Property Company signed on that day. Then the backlash set in.

“Sharing listings electronically is inevitable,” says Peter Marra, president of William B. May. But while most MLSs are nonprofit, he notes that this one is “run by our competitors.” This leads to “issues of confidentiality, who controls it. And I don’t know that Alan and Pam have thought about this.”

Another broker grouses that “they got together and bought off the Real Estate Board.” Brokers were outraged when they heard that the board’s president knew about it but had signed a confidentiality agreement.

“I think that anybody who’s confident in their own abilities shouldn’t be afraid of sharing information,” says Rogers. Sniffs another broker, “Elliman and Corcoran are middle-market, and they want the high-end information” about which luxury co-ops are for sale and how much they sell for. Legally, co-op figures don’t have to be disclosed.

Brokers say Brown Harris Stevens is leading the resistance, which is asking brokers not to join the MLS. Most are waiting to see who comes out on top. As one broker worries, “Our listings are all we have.”

Reel Property: Liv Here!

Liv Tyler, who plays the fairy Princess Arwen in the live-action Lord of the Rings movies that begin coming out next year, is buying a 4,200-square-foot hobbit hole of her own at 30 Crosby Street. The daughter of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and his former Playmate Bebe Buell, Tyler turned 23 on July 1 and celebrated by agreeing to pay about $2.5 million for the loft. It’s in a new conversion that, according to promotional materials from its sales agents at the Corcoran Group, sports “antique long leaf pine flooring,” nickel-plated bathroom counters, fireplaces with “French limestone surrounds,” and “hydronic perimeter heating.” (Corcoran refused to comment.) It should prove convenient: Like her mother, who dated Todd Rundgren, Iggy Pop, and Elvis Costello, Liv likes the rocker boys, and it’s only a short stroll to Arlene Grocery. Even better, Lenny Kravitz is thinking about letting love rule in another loft in the building.

Going for Brokers