Nest Seekers capitalizes on low rents with expansion

Wall Street Journal

NEST SEEKERS CAPITALIZES ON LOW RENTS WITH EXPANSION
Nov. 4, 2009

Using the downturn as an opportunity for expansion, Nest Seekers International has opened its fourth Manhattan office. The seven-year-old residential brokerage opened a 4,000-square-foot office this week at 415 Madison Avenue between 48th and 49th streets, according to Nest Seekers CEO Eddie Shapiro. The space will hold about 50 agents, some newly hired and some from other offices, he said. The company which focuses on low- to mid-priced sales, founded by Shapiro, also has Manhattan offices at 2190 Broadway between 77th and 78th streets, 20 East 49th Street, 55 Christopher Street in the West Village, as well as space at 47-44 Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City, East Hampton and at 1221 Brickell Avenue in Miami. Shapiro said this is the company's first foray into Class A office space, but the company got a good deal because of weakness in the commercial real estate market. "The cost of opening that office was probably half of what it would have cost us a year and a half ago or two years ago," he said. The new space is part of a strategy to use the real estate downturn to grab market share, he said. "We had made the decision by January that we're going to look at this like an opportunity," he said. Since then, Nest Seekers has hired a public relations firm and ramped up its marketing efforts -- especially on the Web. As a result, he said, business has picked up as other companies close up shop or reduce their marketing budgets. "All these firms that decided to take a step back and close locations are simply losing business," he said. "We picked it up." The firm isn't the only real estate company looking to expand in the current market. Prudential Douglas Elliman and Halstead Property have announced plans for new offices, while the Corcoran Group, Citi Habitats and Warburg Realty have taken the opposite tact and downsized. Nest Seekers currently has about 140 agents; Shapiro said he is hoping to grow that to 200. "We're going to invest the time and resources over the next 12 months to try to bring it to that level, but slowly and responsibly," Shapiro said. But he added that the company hopes to avoid the pitfalls of expanding too rapidly. Several New York real estate companies who grew quickly during the mid-2000s, like JC DeNiro & Associates and Homestead NY, have gone out of business in recent months. "Our costs were always conservative," Shapiro said. "I never signed a lease for a storefront for $30,000 at the height of the market -- I thought that was too crazy."