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By Allan Erps | Agent in Nanuet, NY

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Bergen County, Home Buying in Bergen County, Home Selling in Bergen County  |  February 16, 2012 3:00 PM  |  4,444 views  |  No comments

    The ’burbs !!

    A look at the wealthiest just-outside-NYC counties, including their top deals

    February, 2012  By Peter Kiefer

    14 Buckingham Drive in Alpine, N.J., sold for $6.2 million.

    14 Buckingham Drive in Alpine, N.J., sold for $6.2 million.

    It’s a question many New Yorkers, especially those with children, ask themselves at some point: Buy an apartment in the city, or spend the same amount on a spacious house in the suburbs? When choosing the latter, New Yorkers often flock to the stately homes, McMansions and well-tended lawns of a few affluent counties just outside the city’s borders: Westchester and Nassau counties in New York, Fairfield County in Connecticut and Bergen County in New Jersey.This month, The Real Deal checked in on these wealthy areas to see how their residential real estate prices are holding up.

    We discovered that the real estate markets in these wealthy tri-state area suburbs mostly softened in 2011 compared to 2010 in terms of prices and sales activity amid national and global economic turmoil.

    Like Manhattan, bucolic towns in these areas have star-studded residents ranging from Governor Andrew Cuomo to hip-hop artist Russell Simmons to Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira. But even the high-priced deals saw substantial price slashing. Still, suburban super brokers told The Real Deal that they are already more optimistic about 2012.

    Shawn Elliott, founder and CEO of Shawn Elliott Realty Luxury Homes and Estates in Nassau County, said activity in the luxury market has been “tremendous” so far in 2012.

    One helpful factor, he said, is the difference in weather between this winter and last.

    “Last year, we had two feet of snow on the ground from December to March,” said Elliott, who was featured on the HGTV program “Selling New York” last month. “You want to be able to see what you’re buying. Photographs don’t always do [homes] justice.”

    On the following pages is a closer look at these suburban counties, including their five priciest sales for 2011.

    Nassau: From East Egg to West Egg
    Real estate sales in the Long Island county see slight drop, but prices creep up

    Nassau's priciest residential sales, 2011

    Nassau County lost a piece of real estate history last year when the house that reportedly inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write “The Great Gatsby” was leveled to make way for a subdivision of five homes.

    And while both the new money of Fitzgerald’s West Egg and the old money of his East Egg are still home to some of the priciest towns in the New York area, 2011 wasn’t a blockbuster year for the county.

    The number of Nassau home sales dropped 4 percent last year to 8,434, compared to 8,782 in 2010.

    Still, at $400,000, the median sales price in 2011 was slightly higher than the $396,000 median registered in the county for 2010, according to data provided by brokerage Prudential Douglas Elliman.

    Meanwhile, Nassau properties lingered on the market longer than they did in 2010. The average number of days it took to sell a residential property increased last year to 121, up from 113 in 2010.

    Harding Real Estate’s Patricia Shroyer, who brokered Nassau’s third-priciest 2011 home sale, for $13.88 million, predicted that the health of the real estate market in the coming year would depend on the mentality of sellers.

    While “2011 was not a great year, [and] 2010 was not a great year,” she said, “I am a little more optimistic in 2012. People are coming to the realization that they can’t ask the prices that they have been asking. The market is just not there.”

    Shawn Elliott, founder and CEO of the Woodbury-based Shawn Elliott Realty Luxury Homes and Estates, which sold the fourth and fifth priciest Nassau homes in 2011, said 2012 has already started off strong for high-end sales. Elliott said he already has two $10 million offers on the table this year — both from Chinese buyers. In addition, both of his firm’s sales on the top five priciest deals list went to Chinese buyers.

    “We’re working in Shanghai and Beijing, and I just hired a translator to help work with these buyers,” he said.

    Here’s a look at some of the county’s priciest 2011 sales.

    1. 39 Applegreen Drive (Old Westbury)
    Sale price: $15.9 million
    Original listing price: $16 million
    Broker: Michael Berman, Automatic Real Estate Associates

    The brick Georgian mansion at 39 Applegreen Drive in Old Westbury, built in 1925, was once owned by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art, according to Berman. It actually went into contract in late 2010, but didn’t close until 2011, and its $15.9 million dollar price tag made it Nassau’s priciest sale of the year. The 22,000-square-foot, eight-bedroom home — complete with an indoor pool — sits on just over nine acres. The stately home was on the market for just six days, and barely dipped below its original listing price of $16 million. Berman said the deal involved a Chinese buyer who paid all-cash, and a seller who works in real estate.

    2. 127 Horseshoe Road (Mill Neck)
    Sale price: $14 million
    Original listing price: $20 million
    Broker: Bonnie Devendorf, Sotheby’s International Realty

    The seven-bedroom, eight-bath Tudor at 127 Horseshoe Road in Mill Neck sold in July for $14 million, making it the second-highest Nassau County sale for 2011. But before finding a buyer, the property sat on the market for more than a year and saw a price chop of nearly 30 percent from its original, $20 million listing price. The home has six fireplaces and a media room. Devendorf did not return calls for comment.

    3. 240 Middle Neck Road (Sands Point)
    Sale price: $13.88 million
    Original listing price: $16 million
    Broker: Patricia Shroyer, Harding Real Estate

    The $13.9 million sale of 240 Middle Neck Road in August was a record setter for ritzy Sands Point, according to Shroyer. The seller, now retired, bought the four-acre property in 1988, Shroyer said, then tore the house down in 2000 and built this home in its place, evidently sparing no expense: The Mediterranean-style, waterfront home has six bedrooms, nine bathrooms, an indoor pool and spa, a sunroom and a three-car garage.“There is a theater inside the house that is a replica of a small New York City theater,” Shroyer said. “Everything in the house is just amazing.” Nonetheless, the mansion saw a 13.25 percent price drop and sat on the market for 114 days. According to Shroyer, the buyer is another Long Islander, also retired.

    Thawing out Bergen County
    Affluent towns see inventory move, but sellers, including Russell Simmons, take lumps with massive price cuts

    Bergen's priciest residential sales, 2011

    In 2011, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons unloaded his mega-mansion in pricey Saddle River, N.J. — four years after it originally went on the market, and 50 percent below its initial asking price.

    That aggressive discount typified the soft real estate market throughout New Jersey’s Bergen County last year.

    “I have lived through downturns in the past, but this is the most significant one I have seen,” said Vicki Gaily, of Special Properties in Saddle River, the buyer-side broker on the Simmons’ sale.

    Countywide, the number of home sales fell 3 percent in 2011 to 4,418, down from 4,537 in 2010. Meanwhile, the median price for homes that sold in 2011 was down 5 percent to $421,456 from $445,313 in 2010, according to data provided by Coldwell Banker.

    In addition, it took longer for sellers to unload their homes. In 2011, the average number of days a home spent on the market shot up by 9 percent to 98.9, up from 90.7 in 2010.

    However, brokers said things are improving, especially for the luxury market. “I do see a change in the confidence of the buyers and in the number of [luxury sales our firm] has achieved in 2011,” Gaily said.

    According to Ruth Miron, owner of Tenafly-based Miron Properties, which also has a location in New York City, there is evidence high-end homes are increasingly moving.

    In all of 2010, only 21 properties countywide sold at $3 million or more. In 2011, the number of properties that sold in that category climbed to 35.

    “During the downturn, the market came to a screeching halt and it very slowly started resuscitating,” said Miron, who’s worked in Bergen County residential sales for 25 years. Since then, “we have seen increased consumer confidence and people are not afraid to once again shop for high-end, luxury real estate.”

    Another factor, however, is that many high-end Bergen County homes are now deeply discounted.

    “There has been a thawing-out process,” said Dennis McCormack of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, “where a lot of homes, the more tired homes that have been on the market for a good length of time, have sold at very aggressive prices — aggressive for the buyers, that is.”

    Below is a breakdown of the county’s priciest sales of 2011.

    1. 101 Fox Hedge Road (Saddle River)
    Sale price: $10 million
    Original listing price: $24 million
    Broker: Stephanie Rosken, Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty

    This 35,000-square-foot Saddle River mansion belonged to hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and his ex-wife Kimora Lee. The home was first put on the market in 2007, for an astonishing $24 million. But while the February 2011 sale was Bergen County’s priciest of the year, the 10-bedroom, 12-bathroom mansion — which has indoor and outdoor swimming pools, staff quarters and, according to published reports, a home movie theater with a ticket booth and popcorn machine — sold for less than half that, after multiple price chops. The house, which the couple reportedly bought for about $13 million in 2001, was also featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and MTV’s “Cribs.” The buyer was described by Gaily only as a “businessman.”

    2. 14 Buckingham Drive (Alpine)
    Sale price: $6.2 million
    Original listing price: $9.98 million
    Broker: Michele Kolsky-Assatly,
    Coldwell Banker

    This home in ritzy Alpine — which has counted Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Lil’ Kim and rapper Fabolous as residents, in addition to Stevie Wonder, Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia and many other celebrities — sold for $6.2 million in September, nearly 38 percent less than its original $9.98 million asking price. The 15,000-square-foot colonial was first put on the market in February 2010. It has a pool, movie theater, arcade room, elevator and wine cellar to go along with six bedrooms and seven full bathrooms. “It was a very unusual property because the backyard was all pool,” said Coldwell Banker’s Kolsky-Assalty, the listing agent. “So it took a different kind of client. As it turns out, we sold it to another grown-up couple with grandchildren.” She said the seller was in finance, while the buyer was in “real estate and investments.”

    3. 20 Timberline Drive (Alpine)
    Sale price: $5.3 million
    Original listing price: $12 million
    Broker: Dennis McCormack, Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty

    The third priciest sale in Bergen County was 20 Timberline Drive, also in Alpine. Like Simmons’ home, this 10,400-square-foot, six-bedroom home also came on the market in 2007 and also saw its price chopped by more than 50 percent before selling last September. The home has a banquet-size dining room, a pool and a tennis court. McCormack, the broker, said the seller was a large Korean corporation that also owns homes in Manhattan and Beverly Hills, while the buyer was an international business executive who intends to gut renovate the house.

    Fairfield top sales trounce suburban rivals
    Greenwich delivers all of the county’s priciest sales, but overall market still slips

    Fairfield priciest residential sales, 2011

    As Connecticut’s closest town to New York City, Greenwich — with its spacious estates overlooking Long Island Sound — has long served as a bedroom community for wealthy Wall Streeters.

    So it’s perhaps not surprising that Fairfield County’s top three sales — all of which were in Greenwich — trounced the top sales in the three other counties The Real Deal looked at this month. In fact, two of those three top sales were even on the same street: Field Point Circle.

    But despite those blockbuster sales — which saw less-severe discounts than high-end properties in the other New York suburbs — the median sales price in Fairfield County as a whole still slipped 2 percent in 2011 from a year earlier.

    The median Fairfield County sales price in 2011 was $465,000, down from 2010’s $475,000, according to data provided by the Wallingford-based Prudential Connecticut Realty, the largest full service real estate firm in Connecticut. Sales activity in the county — which in addition to wealthy suburbs like Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan, is also home to the struggling cities of Stamford and Bridgeport — also dropped last year to 5,610 sales, falling 6.4 percent from 2010’s 5,994 sales. In addition, homes stayed on the market a little longer in 2011 — 153 days, compared to 148 in 2010.

    Sotheby’s International Realty’s Joseph Barbieri, the broker on the highest-priced Fairfield County sale of the year, said that those who priced their properties strategically came out ahead.

    “Value was the name of the game,” he said. “People are looking for exceptional properties and for value.”

    Fairfield County broker Terry Keegan, vice president of Fairfield County Real Estate Company, echoed that point, noting that part of the problem is that there are unrealistic expectations in the marketplace.

    If sellers are being realistic, then there are plenty of buyers,” he said.

    TV personality Regis Philbin is a case in point. He unloaded his 5,919-square-foot Greenwich home last month for $3 million — far less than the $5.9 million he’d listed it for in 2008. (Other celebrity residents in the town include director Ron Howard, TV show host Kathy Lee Gifford, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira and countless others.)

    “This is a simple business,” Keegan said. “There are plenty of buyers with plenty of money, but realtors are making it tough because they are afraid to tell sellers the way it is. They tell them what they want to hear, and that is why you see those markets dive.”

    Below is a look at the three priciest Fairfield County sales in 2011.

    1. 80-84 Field Point Circle (Greenwich)
    Sale price: $39.5 million
    Original listing price: $42.5 million
    Broker: Joseph Barbieri, Sotheby’s International Realty

    With a closing price of $39.5 million, 80-84 Field Point Circle in Greenwich can lay claim to the largest transaction in any of the suburban areas surveyed by The Real Deal this month. After 258 days on the market, the 21,000-square-foot mansion, which sits on 4.25 acres on the Sound, was snatched up in June after dipping from its original listing price of $42.5 million. The house is a century-old compound that was recently renovated. It has indoor and outdoor pools, two guest houses, a koi pond and, according to Barbieri, an exact replica of the Brooklyn Bridge, which, in photos, appears to be connecting the property to a dock in the Sound. “The house is just extraordinary,” said Barbieri.

    2. 14 Meadow Lane (Greenwich)
    Sale price: $32.5 million
    Original listing price: $36.5 million
    Broker: Brad Hvolbeck, Prudential Brad Hvolbeck Real Estate

    Coming in at No. 2 is 14 Meadow Lane, which sold after 349 days on the market for $32.5 million. The 14,000-square-foot new-construction home, which was completed in February 2011, sits on a 14-acre estate and has an infinity pool, a four-stall horse stable, a mile-long bridal-walking path and a 3,000-square-foot guest house. The home was originally listed for $36.5 million. Hvolbeck declined to provide details about the buyers or sellers, citing confidentiality. He did say, however, that, “once [the buyers] saw the property, it was not long before they made an offer. The transaction happened quite quickly.”

    3. 120 Field Point Circle (Greenwich)
    Sale price: $25 million
    Original listing price: $29 million
    Broker: David Ogilvy, David Ogilvy & Associates

    A second home on Field Point Circle rounds out the top three priciest sales for Fairfield County. The waterfront stone manor sold for $25 million in April after being on the market for 627 days with an original listing price of $29 million. The 10,000-square-foot home, which was built in 2003 and designed by architect Thomas Kligerman, has five bedrooms, seven bathrooms, an indoor pool and also has a koi pond. It also has a 70-foot-long great room, with three fireplaces. Ogilvy called it the best built house he had ever been in. The seller, he said, works in finance and the buyer is in the manufacturing industry. “The house is just total perfection. … You feel as if you are in Europe,” he said. “It really is a remarkable house.”

    Tony Westchester slides into 2012
    While home to some of New York’s most powerful players, the real estate market in the county lost value last year

    Westchester's priciest residential sales, 2011

    There’s no arguing that Westchester County is exclusive. Indeed, four of the state’s most influential residents — Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Hillary and Bill Clinton — all own homes in different Westchester County towns (Bloomberg in Bedford, Cuomo in Mount Kisco and the Clintons, of course, in Chappaqua).

    But last year, New York’s biggest politicians likely lost some value on those properties. That’s because the county, which is known for its quality schools and high taxes, experienced a slight slowdown in 2011 compared to 2010.

    The median sale price for the county dipped 4.8 percent to $600,000, down from 2010’s median price of $630,000, according to market data from brokerage Houlihan Lawrence, the largest residential brokerage in the county. (Still, that median was higher than the other three wealthy suburbs in The Real Deal’s spread this month.)

    Meanwhile, the number of Westchester home sales also slipped 4.5 percent last year to 3,838 from 4,018 in 2010. And the average time a listing in the county sat on the market rose 2.8 percent from the prior year to 181 days.

    In addition, the Journal News, which covers Westchester, cited a report last month from the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors showing that while sales of homes priced at $1 million-plus have traditionally made up about 16 percent of the county’s annual sale numbers, that has now fallen to 13.7 percent.

    “We saw some weakness in the upper end,” Richard Haggerty, CEO of the association, told the newspaper. “I think that was because of layoffs on Wall Street and lower bonuses on Wall Street.”

    Still, Houlihan Lawrence CEO Christopher Meyers said he expects sales volume to pick up in the first two quarters of 2012.

    “The volatility on Wall Street put a lull out there, which affected us,” he said, “but we had our strongest holiday sales period in years. There were more deals in contract on Dec. 31 than any year since 2002. It feels like there was an inflection point in the fourth quarter.”

    1. 290 Stuyvesant Avenue (Rye)
    Sale price: $11.6 million
    Original listing price: $12.5 million
    Broker: Diana Plunkett, Houlihan Lawrence

    After 135 days on the market, 290 Stuyvesant Avenue in the town of Rye sold in September for $11.6 million, making it the priciest sale in Westchester County — for both 2011 and 2010. Originally listed for $12.5 million, the six-bedroom, 7,991-square-foot home has views of the Long Island Sound and a private dock, as well as a guesthouse and a large exercise room. Plunkett said the buyers, who were represented by brokerage William Raveis, were a young couple with the husband working in finance. The sellers were also a young couple “looking to make a lifestyle change,” she said. Meyers said he expects more high-priced luxury deals like this one in the coming months as sales volume and prices climb. “This area’s supply is not quite fixed, but it is very limited due to the zoning and other regulations,” he said.

    2. 9 Heathcote Road (Scarsdale)
    Sale price: $10.9 million
    Original listing price: $18.5 million
    Broker: Mary Katchis and Dawn Knief, Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty

    The second-priciest sale for Westchester County last year was this new-construction Scarsdale home — with a home theater, tennis court and pool — which sold for $10.9 million. But the sale did not come easily. Not only did the original listing price of $18.5 million get chopped by 41 percent, the home, which is 9,160 square feet and has seven bedrooms, was also on the market for almost two years. That, sources say, speaks to the correction that has occurred in some of the luxury residential markets in the New York suburbs since the Great Recession. Katchis and Knief were the listing agents, while Lisa Pitt of Paddington Stone Realty represented the buyer. Katchis declined to discuss the buyers and sellers on the deal.

    3. 336 Stone Hill Road (Pound Ridge)
    Sale price: $8.4 million
    Original listing price: $10 million
    Broker: Kathy Needell, Vincent & Whittemore Real Estate

    After spending 515 days on the market, 336 Stone Hill Road in Pound Ridge — a town that, according to published reports, has been home to celebrities including newsman Tom Brokaw, actors Tim Robbins and Richard Gere and others — finally sold and, in doing so, became Westchester’s third-priciest sale of 2011. Built in 1935, the 6,954-square-foot home, which is on 12 acres and abuts more than 70 acres of conservancy land, saw a 16 percent price drop. It has five bedrooms in the main house, a two-bedroom guest house and a pool. Needell was the listing agent, while Renwick Sotheby’s International Realty represented the buyer. Needell declined to comment on the buyers and sellers, but noted that the house had extremely detailed woodwork and fixtures, and that the stone floors in the kitchen came from a palace in France. “It was an extraordinary house in detail, style and amenities, and has an unbelievable English garden,” she said.


    Posted Under: General Area in East Rutherford, Entertainment & Nightlife in East Rutherford, Market Conditions in East Rutherford  |  December 9, 2011 4:55 AM  |  5,931 views  |  No comments

    Meadowlands could get simulcasting facility

    December 08, 2011

    A rendering of the American Dream Meadowlands

    The five-story development set to rise in East Rutherford, N.J., called American Dream Meadowlands, got one step closer to a racetrack -- of sorts -- with a new bill proposed in the New Jersey State Legislature, the New York Observer and the Bergen Record reported.

    A simulcasting facility could be built at the 3-million-square-foot entertainment space if the bill, brought by New Jersey Assemblyman Ron Dancer, son of horse racer Stanley Dancer, passes.

    Newmark Knight Frank Chairman Jeff Gural would then finally get to lease the "modern off-track betting facility with multiple viewing screens and tellers where patrons can wager bets," said the Observer.

    A previous bid in October to lease the facility by Gural stalled after a dispute with the track tellers' union.

    The complex will be the second largest entertainment development in the U.S. when it is completed in 2013. [NYO] and [Bergen Record]


    Posted Under: General Area in Fort Lee, Traffic & Public Transportation in Fort Lee, Market Conditions in Fort Lee  |  September 19, 2011 8:53 AM  |  5,596 views  |  No comments

    AAA wants to block Port Authority toll increases from funding the WTC

    September 16, 2011


    The George Washington Bridge fair hikes are funding WTC development

    Travel and automotive agency AAA doesn't want bridge and tunnel fare hikes to fund the World Trade Center development, the Associated Press reported.

    The agency is pleading with the U.S. Department of Transportation to block the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey's plans to increase toll fees by up to 50 percent on the grounds that they violate a 1987 federal law requiring bridge tolls to be "just and reasonable."

    But the agency wants to block the costly hikes because it feels transportation revenue should be used to improve transportation. It wrote a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and is threatening to sue the Port Authority.

    "One of our primary missions is to make sure that any tolls and revenue and any user fees go back into transportation," said Marta Genovese, vice president of legal affairs for AAA. "But in this case, it's going into a speculative office development."

    The Port Authority has said the fare increases will fund construction that's boosting the economy, and repairs to the George Washington Bridge and Lincoln Tunnel. [Crain's]

    Tags: WTC aaa bridges construction george washington bridge lincoln tunnel

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Paramus, Home Selling in Paramus, Agent2Agent in Paramus  |  March 12, 2011 4:44 AM  |  4,451 views  |  2 comments

    New Jersey real estate broker goes paperless

    Property Hub model revolves around virtual operations, low overhead

    By Andrea V. Brambila
    March 09, 2011

    Last April, when real estate agent Carmelo "Mel" Oliveri found out New Jersey had changed a regulation to allow brokers to keep electronic records in place of paper ones, he put himself in gear. Two months after finding out about the change, he founded his own virtual and paperless brokerage, Paramus-based Property Hub REALTORS®.

    "The technology is out there (for brokerages to become paperless). Unfortunately, it's underutilized in the real estate world. Everyone says that's the future of real estate, but the future is here," Oliveri said.

    A middle-school teacher turned real estate investor, Oliveri started his career as a real estate agent in 2006 with Exit Realty, later moving to Coldwell Banker and then Re/Max. He had been at Re/Max Real Estate Limited in Oradell, N.J., for about a year when he got his broker's license in June 2010.

    Before launching his brokerage that same month, he had spent a year and a half researching how to start a business based almost entirely around the Web. Key to his approach was hiring a software developer to build a custom, Web-based transaction management system, at a cost of $150,000.

    Oliveri, 33, chose not to use a third-party platform. "You can't always rely on third-party programs to be around forever," he said. "At the end of the day, it's an investment for me."

    Oliveri expects to recoup the cost in about three years. While the initial expenditure was more than that of a traditional, brick-and-mortar brokerage, the monthly costs are considerably less, he said. While a typical brokerage office has costs between $6,000 and $9,000, it costs him $1,675 a month to operate his office, including rent and utilities, insurance, servers and multiple listing service fees, he said.

    The company's nine agents work from home. He also works at home or at a small shared office space the brokerage leases. (New Jersey requires brokers to have a main office open to the public, according to the state's Department of Banking and Insurance.) The receptionist and conference rooms, and the costs associated with them, are shared with other companies.

    Mel Oliveri

    Though the brokerage's agents can come in to the office to use a computer or one of the conference rooms, they rarely need to.

    "We've been open since June. Maybe one agent has come in," Oliveri said.

    Property Hub's platform allows the agents to add transactions and upload documents such as listing contracts, purchase contracts and paint disclosures. Agents can also track the status of their transactions.

    For documents that require a client's signature, the platform saves the document and e-mails it to the client. Once the client has signed electronically, the document is e-mailed to both the agent and the client. The e-mail registers the date and time as well as the client's name and Internet Protocol (IP) address in order to make the signature legal under federal law, Oliveri said.

    "If you can fill in the blanks, open a PDF, (and) send an e-mail, you can use our system. It's very user-friendly," he said. The platform is accessible from agents' smart phones, iPads and other mobile devices.

    "We could literally run the business from our hip if we chose to," Oliveri said.

    Property Hub's agents range in age from 24 to 56. For any agents who have trouble using the platform, the brokerage offers online training videos.

    Instead of land lines, Property Hub uses a virtual phone system from Phone.com. All phone calls go to a single number. Callers dial an agent's extension, and that call is automatically routed to the agent's mobile phone. If the agent doesn't answer, the call goes to an agent who is on "up time," the virtual equivalent of floor duty.

    That way, "every phone call gets answered," Oliveri said.

    For calls with international clients, the brokerage uses Skype. For meetings, it uses online meeting software FuzeMeeting.

    A lot of clients love the paperless approach, he said. He showed one house to a client the day it came on the market. The client was a flight attendant who flew to China the next day and wouldn't return until the following Tuesday.

    "I attended the Sunday public open house to see the activity and it was packed, so I knew the house wouldn't last. I expressed to my client -- who loved that house -- (that) 'we need to move quick' and that's when we did a (FuzeMeeting) webinar to review comps and (we) e-mailed (an) offer for e-signatures."

    The process took all of 20 minutes and the house closed 45 days later.

    "If we would have waited for Tuesday or Wednesday we might have missed the opportunity and someone else might have beat us to it," he said.

    Carolina Betances, a part-time agent who joined Property Hub at its outset, said the brokerage's paperless approach convinced her to become an agent in addition to her responsibilities as a full-time, high-school math teacher, wife and mother of three.

    "I had to really think about if I had the time to dedicate myself to this profession, but with this virtual option I know I can use the time that it saves me more wisely and close more deals," she said.

    Another agent, Michael Guerriero, 34, used to work for a local brick-and-mortar Prudential real estate brokerage. Attracted by the paperless concept, he joined Property Hub in July 2010 and said he can't see himself going back to the "traditional" way of doing real estate.

    "Going paperless has freed up a lot of my time. All my documents, contracts and contacts are in one centralized location for me to manage and ... access from anywhere. There is no need to drive to the office, make copies or meet clients for signatures," he said.

    Most of his clients are used to electronic documents and signatures from the workplace, he said. But "if my clients aren't as tech-savvy as myself, I have the option of printing the documents and meeting them for signatures. Either way, I can conduct my business."

    He points to a particular time when he was out showing homes to his clients and they wanted to write up an offer, but their infant was getting restless.

    "So we parted ways and by the time they got home they had the offer in their inbox for electronic signatures and they were content they didn't have to meet me another day to sign documents," he said.

    "I have saved hundreds (of dollars) in paper and ink. I usually only print 'client fliers' when I show my buyer clients homes so they have the property info. It's amazing how I can do pretty (much) everything from my fingertips."

    Guerriero found the easiest thing about the platform to learn was that once a transaction is entered, the platform generates a unique e-mail address for that transaction.

    "So anytime I receive a PDF from an attorney, lender, etc., all I have to do is forward that e-mail to that (unique) e-mail (address) and those documents are automatically attached to that specific transaction. I can't lose a document ever," he said.  

    The only downside to being a paperless brokerage is "having to go back and do things the old way for some of the less tech-savvy agents or lenders that require actual signatures," he said.

    In those cases, he sends them the paper signatures, but also a link to the federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN), which made electronic signatures legally equivalent to pen-and-ink signatures. In some cases, the link has convinced the resistant party to accept the e-signatures.

    "Most (of) the agents in our area are a little older than myself, so they are a little taken (a)back from it and ask thousands of question(s). But when they realize how efficient it is, they ask what service I am using. Overall, many mortgage brokers, attorneys and lenders do not have an issue with e-signatures," Guerriero said.

    Nearly all of the brokerage's marketing is done online. For e-mail marketing campaigns, Property Hub uses the software tool iContact.

    "With a postcard campaign, you're looking at a half-percent return on your money. I don't think mailers and postcards work as well as e-mail campaigns, phone calls and social media," Oliveri said.

    The brokerage does put yard signs in front of listed homes, but rather than a box of fliers, prospective homebuyers have the option to send a text message for property details and photos.

    The text-messaging system acquires the buyer's phone number and "sets them up for a phone call from one of our agents," Oliveri said.

    The brokerage's staff includes four full-time telemarketers and one person who handles the brokerage's search engine optimization.

    The staff member in charge of SEO syndicates listings to social media and bookmarking sites such as Digg, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, as well as to video sites like YouTube for better search engine ranking.

    That syndication "creates links back to our website, generating leads. (The agents) don't have to do any of this," Oliveri said.

    The brokerage also syndicates its listings to major real estate sites like Zillow and Trulia through Postlets and ListHub.

    The four telemarketers call sellers of expired listings from the local multiple listings service and from for-sale-by-owner websites.

    Because the telemarketers solicit clients for agents, they're "a great recruiting tool for us," Oliveri said.

    Guerriero said the lead-generation system "thus far ... has worked out great. (I) have gotten numerous listing appointments and listings from it," he said.

    None of the telemarketers live in the state of New Jersey. They work remotely from other parts of the country and have access to Property Hub's Web-based platform.

    The brokerage also operates numerous blogs and websites and owns more than 1,000 domain names -- Oliveri said there are 72 towns in our county, "so we purchased all the towns in these variations: www.ParamusHomeValues.com, then we added NJ so we got www.ParamusNJHomeValues.com. Another one is www.HomesForSaleInLyndhurstNJ.com and another variation www.LyndhurstNJHomesForSale.com. This way we bought up the entire market for all 72 towns so no other broker or REALTOR® has them," Oliveri said.

    "Then we do target marketing with these domains on Facebook and Google AdWords."

    For investor-buyer leads, the brokerage owns www.CheapNJhomes.com. For short-sale leads, www.KeepOurHouse.com. And for leads from motivated sellers, www.HomeGoneIn90Days.com.

    To prevent in-house competition, Property Hub's agents are assigned to three or four different towns of their choosing within Bergen County. When a lead comes in from a particular town, the lead goes directly to the assigned agent. Property Hub's agents have two compensation options: They pay a monthly office management fee of $495 and a sales-price-dependent transaction fee for each transaction; or, they work on a 70/30 commission split.

    Oliveri plans to further expand Property Hub by buying or converting other real estate brokerages, with an eye toward franchising in the future.

    "Many brick-and-mortar brokerages have been closing their doors due to too much overhead or steering away from their franchise affiliation due to ludicrous franchise fees. We are looking to convert these office(s) to our virtual and paperless model as a net branch (satellite office) or we'll buy them out," he said.

    "Before spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to franchise, this is a great way to see how other brokers take to our model."

    He is currently in negotiations to convert two New Jersey brokerage offices to Property Hub's model. In exchange, the brokerages will use Property Hub branding and Property Hub will get a percentage of their profits.

    When Property Hub buys or converts another office, "we will not be utilizing the actual office space, but rather set up shop in (a) smaller corporate facility to minimize expenses and for a place for (the) agents to meet clients if need be," Oliveri said.

    "One thing I learned in business (is) 'problem solvers make money,' and I am solving a lot of brokerages' problems by minimizing overhead and maximizing bottom line," he said.

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