Compass doesn’t know how it will turn a profit off slate of new services

Compass COO Maëlle Gavet and CEO Robert Reffkin (Credit: Getty Images and iStock)

UPDATED, April 23, 5:53 p.m.: Even at a $4.4 billion valuation, Compass is still navigating how to make money off its newer services.

“We’re not yet at a stage where I have a very clear monetization strategy because we haven’t really talked about it,” chief operating officer Maëlle Gavet told the Wall Street Journal. The brokerage, with a $1.2 billion war chest, has lured agents with perks like full commission splits, stock options and massive marketing budgets — but doesn’t yet have a clear plan to turn a profit on a slate of new services.

CEO Robert Reffkin told the Journal the company to make money through ancillary services like title, mortgage and insurance services — but it’s unclear how. Earlier this year, Compass hired Google alum Max Henderson to help guide the effort.

Unlike like other major brokerages in the city, Compass has relied on an influx of venture capital money, namely from SoftBank, to fund its significant spending. Plus, a potential IPO is on the horizon. But to some in the industry, that approach doesn’t make sense.

“Are you a charity or are you a real estate company?” Bess Freedman, CEO of Brown Harris Stevens, told the Journal.

Compass has chased massive growth across the country, putting pressure on competing brokerages to keep up. In 2018, Compass expanded from 37 markets to 122, hired over 1,000 employees and signed on almost 6,000 new agents, Reffkin previously said in a company-wide email. Under its “20/20 by 2020” plan, the brokerage would reach a 20 percent market share in each of the top 20 markets by 2020.

In New York, growth has primarily entailed poaching agents — but earlier this year, Compass struck a deal to acquire Stribling & Associates. Terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed. Its aggressive strategy hasn’t always sat well with other players in the industry. At a recent panel, Freedman likened the approach to chasing after another man’s wife. And last week, Zillow Group slammed Compass with two lawsuits, alleging the brokerage hired three top technology staffers in violation of their non-competes as it staffed up its new tech hub in Seattle. The lawsuits also claim that Compass actively sought to obtain proprietary information from Zillow to avoid building its own technology.

Compass also launched a commercial division — but nine months in, has only done a handful of deals. The team has grown to include 30 full-time commercial brokers in New York, and will expand further. In addition, the company said it has around 70 brokers nationwide who conduct sporadic commercial transactions.

Reffkin told the Journal that Compass still has a majority of its $1.2 billion in venture-capital money that can be deployed.

“Short term profitability is something that many of the more modern companies are not as focused on,” he told the outlet. [WSJ] — Meenal Vamburkar

Chinese real estate investments face mounting debt concerns

Investors are now seeking to get repaid on their investments

March 03, 2019 09:00AM

Debt is a pressing concern for China (Credit: Pixabay)

As half-finished real estate projects span throughout parts of rural China, investors are seeking to collect on their debt payments.

Investors bought debt in areas outside the major Chinese cities are now growing worried about getting their money back amid a weakening economy and tighter regulations on bank lending, according to the Wall Street Journal.AdChoicesADVERTISING

Local governments in China along with more than 2,000 financing companies have trillions of dollars of debt that have now come due on these projects. And some of these local governments are having trouble coming up with the money, the Journal reported.

In once instance, the Journal said the rural county of Sandu owes a projected two billion yuan ($297.6 million) in payments in 2019, almost three times the county’s annual revenue.

Overall, debt remains a pressing concern for the country. Official figures estimated the total of local and central government debt in 2017 was 29.95 trillion yuan ($4.457 trillion) — almost 36 percent of the entire economy. [WSJ] — Keith LarsenTags: china, Commercial Real Estate, Real

Brookfield’s $2 Billion Two Manhattan West Will Rise Without Anchor Tenant As One Manhattan West Nears Finish Line, in Midtown West

The renovated 5 Manhattan West, image via Brookfield

By: Michael Youngg 8:00 am on February 5, 2019

Brookfield is officially set to construct Two Manhattan West without an anchor tenant. The near-supertall tower will be the second-tallest skyscraper in the Manhattan West complex, comprising two million square feet of space, rising 935 feet to its rooftop, and enclosing 62 floors of office space, all at a cost of approximately $2 billion. Meanwhile, work on One Manhattan West is wrapping up, with the facade closing in on completion along the upper floors, while the construction crane is now coming down on the northern elevation.

Crane coming down at One Manhattan West. Two Manhattan West will rise to the south of the tower. Photo by YIMBY user, City_Streets

Crane coming down at One Manhattan West. Photo by YIMBY user, City_Streets

When completed, all six structures will encompass around six million square feet of refurbished and newly constructed office space. Crain’s Daniel Geiger was the first to report on Brookfield’s plan to proceed without an anchor tenant.

Skidmore Owings & Merrill is the design team behind the new twin glass towers. Sitting among the footprints will be a two-acre public park designed by James Corner Field Operations, retail space covering around 250,000 square feet, and a boutique hotel at Four Manhattan West dubbed The Pendry Hotel. That building is expected to be completed around 2021. The Eugene at 3 Manhattan West opened in 2017 as the first completed building, and stands 730 feet tall with 844 new apartments.

Five Manhattan West is the only existing building previously on site, and underwent a complete exterior renovation and makeover. Covered in a new exterior of reflective glass panels, the 15-story building is getting ready for leases from Amazon, JP Morgan Chase, and the NHL. The NHL will also have a 15,000 square foot retail superstore, and is set to join Whole Foods and a Peloton fitness center in the central retail courtyard.

The Pendry Hotel, rendering via Manhattan West

The renovated 5 Manhattan West, image via Brookfield

Two Manhattan West is expected to be completed around 2022.

Lingering listings: Manhattans five slowest resi markets


These neighborhoods have slowed significantly.

December 02, 2018 03:30PM

(Credit: iStock)

It’s no secret that the market slowdown has kept listings on the market for longer. But the shift in a few Manhattan neighborhoods has been particularly pronounced.

The median number of days on market for listings in Manhattan is up to 96, according to StreetEasy Market Reports. That’s a week longer than last year.

Time on market in Battery Park City, however, has shot up by four weeks to 99 days. The median sale price is $902,500. The change is due in part to sellers’ unrealistic expectations and lack of willingness to adjust pricing, the report said.

The latest data comes as the Manhattan residential market has seen a prolonged slowdown. In the third quarter, the number of sales dipped 11.3 percent over the same period last year, according to Douglas Elliman. Prices keep falling too: the median sales price slid 4.5 percent to $1.1 million.

The Upper East Side was second most-affected on the list, with days on market increasing by 25 days to 109. It’s now one of the city’s slowest sales markets, the report said. The UES is faring only slight better than Central Park South, where median days on market was last reported at 114.

The Upper West Side and Chelsea rounded out the list, with increases of 20 days and 17 days, respectively. [StreetEasy] — Meenal Vamburkar


Anthony Scaramucci’s firm to launch multi-billion-dollar Opportunity Zone fund

The SkyBridge Capital co-founder claims “tons of investor interest”

November 10, 2018 06:00PM

Anthony Scaramucci (Credit: Getty Images)

The Mooch is seizing a new opportunity thanks to the Trump administration.

Anthony Scaramucci’s hedge fund Skybridge Capital plans to launch an Opportunity Zone (OZ) fund by the end of the year, according to Business Insider. The firm is seeking to raise up to $3 billion from investors and the fund will be set up as a real estate investment trust. EJF Capital will act as its subadvisor.

“This will be a game-changing product for SkyBridge,” Scaramucci told BI. “This will likely be bigger and more important to the firm than our current fund of funds.”

Skybridge was founded by Scaramucci in 2005 and the firm claims to have $9.6 billion in assets under management as of September 2018. Scaramucci became a household name after serving as the White House’s director of communications for 10 days before being fired.

The OZ program was introduced in the Trump administration’s tax overhaul last year. The program offers tax deferrals and benefits to investors who park their money in assets located within designated low-income neighborhoods. The breaks and benefits increase the longer investments are kept in the zones.

Scaramucci said Skybridge’s OZ fund will demand a minimum six-year commitment and will be investing in real estate projects of all sizes.

“We don’t want to compete with behemoths,” he told BI, adding that even a $10 million deal could be of interest. He claims the fund has already attracted “tons of investor interest.”

The announcement of Skybridge’s fund comes a few weeks after the U.S. Treasury Department released guidelines about the OZ program. A flurry of OZ funds have been launched in recent months by firms such as Youngwoo & Associates, Somera Road, Fundrise and RXR Realty. Skybridge’s subadvisor EJF is also separately raising its own $500 million fund.

The quick succession of launches is reportedly due to the 2026 expiration date of the program’s 15-percent discount on capital gains tax. To claim the benefit, investments must be in place by December 31, 2019.

Intense interest in the OZ program has caused a 80 percent year-over-year jump in the sales prices of development sites located in the zones in each quarter of 2018 so far. [BI]–Erin Hudson

Peloton spinning toward new Far West Side HQ

By Rich Bockmann | November 02, 2018 03:00PM

441 Ninth Avenue and a trainer on a Peloton bike (Credit: Cove Property Group and Peloton)

Peloton Interactive, the $4.15 billion indoor-cycling startup, is spinning toward a new headquarters that’s just a short ride away from the flagship fitness studio it’s opening at Manhattan West.

The six-year-old company is close to finalizing a deal to anchor Cove Property Group’s 700,000-square-foot Hudson Commons office redevelopment at 441 Ninth Avenue, sources told The Real Deal.

The exact square footage of the lease wasn’t immediately clear, but sources said it could be in the range of 300,000 to 350,000 square feet. Representatives for Cove and Peloton declined to comment.

Sitting at the corner of Ninth Avenue and West 34th Street, Hudson Commons is within walking distance of Brookfield Property Partners’ Manhattan West megaproject, where Peloton earlier this year signed a lease for a 35,000-square-foot fitness studio that will offer classes for indoor cycling, running, boot camp and strength training.

The studio is expected to open next fall, and the lease earned a Real Estate Board of New York “Most Ingenious Retail Deal of the Year” award for the JLL team of Patrick Smith, Matt Ogle, Corey Zolcinski and Bob Gibson representing Brookfield, as well as Peloton’s broker, Benjamin Birnbaum at Newmark Knight Frank.

Ben Shapiro at Newmark Knight Frank is representing Peloton in the lease at Hudson Commons, and declined to comment.

Peloton, meanwhile, completed a $550 million funding round in August valuing the company at $4.15 billion, and has big plans for expansion.

The SoulCycle competitor will be relocating its offices from 125 West 25th Street in Chelsea, owned by the Swiss pension fund AFIAA, where it occupies more than 50,000 square feet.

Cove, headed by Savanna alumnus Kevin Hoo, teamed up with the hedge fund Baupost Group in late 2016 to pay $330 million to buy 441 Ninth Avenue from the health insurer EmblemHealth, which occupied the former eight-story warehouse as its offices.

The property benefitted from the city’s 2005 rezoning of the Hudson Yards neighborhood, and Cove is close to finishing work on renovating the existing portion of the building and constructing 17 additional floors of tower office space on top.

Apollo Global Management last November gave Cove and Baupost a $479 million construction loan, refinancing at $220 million loan Deutsche Bank provided at the time of acquisition.

The project, which is scheduled for occupancy before the end of next year, is designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, the architects behind the first two office towers at Related Companies and Oxford Property Group’s Hudson Yards project and SL Green Realty’s One Vanderbilt.

Scripps Networks Interactive had put the property on its shortlist for a new headquarters in Manhattan, but ultimately decided to go to TF Cornerstone’s 230 Park Avenue South.




Conversion of 51-Story One Wall Street Makes Headway As Work Progresses for The Financial District’s First Whole Foods

Historic photo of 1 Wall Street.Historic photo of 1 Wall Street.

One Wall Street is in the midst of a huge $1.5 billion makeover as the 51-story Art Deco gem is converted from office use into 566 residential units, topped with a triplex that may fetch $40 million. At street level, significant activity can be seen, as parts of the facade have been removed to make way for the retail section in the building that will bring a Whole Foods to the Financial District.

One Wall Street with the new Whole Foods soon to come along Broadway. Rendering by DBOX for Macklowe Properties

The conversion into a residential tower with a retail base is being led by Harry Macklowe of Macklowe Properties. Whole Foods will be taking up around 44,000 square feet of space on the lower floors, when complete. Two other retails spots are also available in the building. The conversion is being helmed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects in a collaboration with SLCE Architects.

The facade of One Wall Street partially removed at and above street level to make way for the Whole Foods set to come. Photo by Michael Young

Looking at the renderings, large panes of glass will protrude from the original facade, with access to Whole Foods on Broadway. Ceilings will be up to 22 feet high. Photos from the site last week show the original steel columns temporarily exposed in the cut-out stepped pattern for the new retail base.

The facade of One Wall Street partially removed at and above street level to make way for the Whole Foods set to come. Photo by Michael Young

The corner of One Wall Street at Broadway and Exchange Place. Photo by Michael Young

This will be the most noticeable change in appearance for the building at street level, along with the approved addition of the extra floors at the top of its southern half. The rest of One Wall Street will appear as it has for the past 87 years, just as Ralph Walker designed and visualized it to timelessly stand out amongst the Lower Manhattan skyline.

The top of One Wall Street where the triplex penthouse will be located. Photo by Michael Young

When completed, residents of the building and those living by Wall Street will have much easier access to Whole Foods, with the current closest store all the way in Tribeca at 111 Murray Street.

Completion of One Wall Street is expected sometime around 2020.

When it comes to supertalls, height is not the problem

Zoning, design must let new towers enrich city’s skyline

Rent or sell? NYC owners are trying both

Double listings are increasingly popping up in Manhattan

October 02, 2018 05:17PM

(Credit: iStock)

To rent or to sell? That’s no longer really the question in New York City, where owners are increasingly listing their homes for both.

So far this year, through Sept. 1, the number of homes listed simultaneously for sale and for rent increased 51 percent to 1,087, according to a Bloomberg analysis of StreetEasy data. The median price for these properties clocked in at $1.395 million, which is 24 percent higher than what was seen last year for similar properties. The median asking rent for these homes ws $4,800, a 14 percent jump.

Most of these listings were in Manhattan. The W Downtown Hotel Residences had the most, with 22, followed by 88 Greenwich Street, with 10.

Sales have slowed in Manhattan as owners remain reluctant to go down in price. The number of residential sales in the third quarter of this year declined 11.3 percent over the same period last year, according to Douglas Elliman’s latest market report.

“People are still very ambitious and they have an idea of a price they want to get,” Grant Long, senior economist at StreetEasy, told Bloomberg. “They think ‘My apartment is perfect for that perfect person out there, and I’m going to find them, whether on the sales market or on the rental market.’” [Bloomberg] — Kathryn Brenzel