The Real DealBy Farah Halime
Feb. 1, 2016
The Nest Seekers founder on avoiding the “MDLNY spotlight,” guitar jams and aggressive expansion.
Eddie Shapiro, the 40-year-old founder of residential brokerage Nest Seekers International, might be best known these days as the boss of Ryan Serhant, one of the stars of Bravo’s reality show, “Million Dollar Listing New York,” and his top agent. But within the real estate industry, Shapiro has carved out the role of scrappy strategist. The once aspiring jazz musician arrived in New York from Tel Aviv at age 18 and quickly turned to real estate. In the 1990s, he began elbowing his way up from a small-time agent to president and CEO of his own firm. The company launched less than four months after the September 11th attacks with just a handful of brokers, a tiny office and six computers Shapiro had bought on eBay. In 2008, he convinced Serhant, a former soap opera actor he had recently hired as an agent, to attend the casting call for “MDLNY.” Since then, Nest Seekers has quadrupled its ranks to nearly 700 staff and agents, spread across 20 offices in New York, the Hamptons, New Jersey, Florida and California. Shapiro said the company is advising or working on more than 50 development projects between its markets, and that he expects to grow the firm to 1,000 agents and employees over the next two years. He described his expansion as aggressive but also carefully mapped out. “Sometimes it feels like you’ve got to be a chess player,” he said.
Shapiro cites his grandparents, Lev and Shula, as among his greatest influences. The couple, who were Russian Jews, met during World War II; Lev was a wounded soldier fighting for the Soviets, Shula was a nurse. His grandfather was “methodical and razor sharp until the day he died,” he said. “I’ve learned all that from him.”
Shapiro keeps a shiny brass bull sculpture on the reception desk at the entrance of his Madison Avenue office. The sculpture reminds employees that the firm is always bullish on New York real estate. “If you really think about it, the company started when the world was ending,” Shapiro said, referring to the 9/11 attacks. “But we never think bear.”
Shapiro keeps a set of Pioneer headphones in his office to listen to electronic dance music mixes created by his 12-year-old son, Aiden. In the past, Aiden has DJ’d at Nest Seekers’ events including a 2014 rooftop soirée at Andaz Wall Street celebrating the third season of “MDLNY.” Shapiro originally tried to make a living as a jazz musician but ultimately found it too difficult. “I do however appreciate any good music of any genre,” he said.
Until his grandfather passed away two years ago, Shapiro played chess with him every Friday afternoon. This brown-and-white board, given to Shapiro by his wife Lauren, sits by his20th-floor office window overlooking the Midtown skyline. The game has taught him a thing or two about real estate. “[Chess] helped me with negotiations, and with investing our resources and energy at the right place and right time,” he said.
A month before the premiere of “MDLNY,” Shapiro and Serhant were tapped to ring the opening bell at the Nasdaq stock market and have the firm’s logo displayed in Times Square on huge LED screens. “It was very symbolic,” he said. The success of “MDLNY” soon pushed Nest Seekers squarely into the spotlight, along with its owner. Nevertheless, Shapiro has reluctantly embraced any personal fame from the show. “It was always about [Serhant], not me,” he said.
Bottles of champagne
Shapiro often gets bottles of champagne as presents. There are currently four bottles on his desk: three from clients and one, a bottle of Dom Perignon, from Serhant, who gave it to him after the 2012 premiere of “MDLNY.” Serhant, who was hired in 2008 amid the recession, now leads a 22-person team, which accounts for a whopping 57 percent of the total listings of Shapiro’s firm, TRD reported in September. Ironically, Shapiro isn’t much of a champagne drinker. He prefers protein shakes, he said.
Shapiro keeps a black electric Gibson guitar on a floor stand in his office. He first picked up the instrument at age 12. His Gibson guitar is one of a collection of probably 15 that are housed in his various residences, including one in Tribeca and another in the Hamptons. Gibson guitars are his favorite for their deep, hollow sound. On occasion, he will pick up and play the guitar in the office.
Frank Lloyd Wright sketch
Shapiro is a big fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. He keeps a sketch of an unidentified house drawn by the architect in his office. He said he finds Wright’s works “timeless” yet “modern,” and always in keeping with the environment. “This looks a little like my home in the Hamptons,” he said, about the sketch. “I’ve been renovating it forever, but that’s normal, right?”
Shapiro keeps a black and white chrome globe in the corner of his office. In addition to offices in the U.S., Nest Seekers also has an outpost in London.