Real Estate Giants Claim New Turf in Brooklyn

Douglas Elliman, as well as Halstead, move deeper into the borough and intensify their presence in the hottest neighborhoods

As Brooklyn's real-estate boom has spread southward, big agencies have focused increasingly on the heart of the borough. Douglas Elliman recently bought Brooklyn Hearth Realty in Ditmas Park, owned by partners Rebekah Carver, Jan Rosenberg, and DeAnna Lenhart (Photo by Arden Phillips)

The competition over Brooklyn turf among the big real-estate agencies just kicked up another notch. Two Manhattan-based brokerages announced moves in recent days that will expand their already big presence in the borough.  The Douglas Elliman firm announced last week that it has acquired Brooklyn Hearth Realty, which has offices in Ditmas Park and Park Slope, and will open new offices in Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant later this year. This week, Halstead Real Estate announced it would open a new office in Fort Greene, joining seven other offices it currently operates in the borough.

The announcements come only weeks after an aggressive new player, Compass, opened its third office in the borough, in Cobble Hill. Taken together, they indicate that the big players think the Brooklyn market is not yet fully tapped. Elliman’s moves, stated Howard Lorber, the firm’s chairman, will “significantly expand the reach we have in an ever-growing Brooklyn market.”

The firm bought by Elliman, Brooklyn Hearth, is by contrast a home-grown business. The agency launched in 2004 with an office on Cortelyou Road, the main business corridor of the Ditmas Park area, well before the rapidly rising prices in the northern reaches of Brooklyn had spread southward. Co-founder Jan Rosenberg had been teaching sociology at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus for more than two decades when she took a research sabbatical and turned it into an effort to rejuvenate her neighborhood. After successfully spearheading a project that helped revitalize business along Cortelyou, she launched the real-estate agency and was soon joined by her partners Rebekah Carver and DeAnna Lenhart. In 2014, they opened a second office on Fifth Avenue in the North Slope.

In the parts of Brooklyn they focused on, the Hearth partners were ahead of the curve. Ditmas Park, with its collection of free-standing Victorian homes, has been discovered by increasingly affluent settlers who don’t mind a large fixer-upper. The adjacent Kensington neighborhood, meanwhile, became one of the next stops for buyers who had been priced out of Park Slope. Both are relatively new markets for major Manhattan firms seeking new territory traditionally served by neighborhood firms with local expertise, like Hearth.

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All of Hearth’s eight agents, including the partners, will be kept on board, operating under the Elliman brand. “One thing that makes me happy is that we’ve all gone to Douglas Elliman, that our team was seen as desirable and successful,” Rosenberg told The Bridge. “For me, it allows me to step back from ownership and management responsibility and allows me to do what I love, which is helping people find homes that are hard to find. This is a competitive and tough market. I like to be a part of neighborhood development.” Max Dobens, Elliman’s senior regional executive manager of sales in Brooklyn, declared the acquisition a good fit. “Their company values and philosophy align with ours: they really care about their clients and the neighborhoods in which they both live and work,” he said in a statement.

Halstead Real Estate is opening a new office in Fort Greene, its eight office in Brooklyn (Photo courtesy of Halstead)

The Hearth purchase and the two new offices will bring Elliman’s collection of Brooklyn offices to nine, including the five it already operates in Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Williamsburg, and Fort Greene. The company said its expansion will grow its ranks of Brooklyn agents by 20%, to more than 300. Overall, Elliman is the largest residential real-estate firm in the city and the fourth-largest in the U.S., with more than 6,500 agents in 90 offices from the Hamptons to Beverly Hills. Last month, the company said it would be trumpeting its expansion with a new brand campaign, “It’s time for Elliman,” which will appear widely in ads on TV, billboards, and even wrapped around the buses of the Hamptons Jitney.

Halstead, for its part, already had a large footprint in Brooklyn, with seven offices, including three in Park Slope and one each in Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, and Bedford-Stuyvesant. The new office in Fort Greene, on the corner of Fulton Street and Lafayette Avenue, will give the company a foothold as well in neighboring Clinton Hill, prized among buyers for its large, stately houses. “Our agents call Brooklyn home and so does Halstead. We look forward to continuing to grow our presence throughout Brooklyn in the coming months,” said Trish Martin, the firm’s managing director of sales in Brooklyn.

Halstead, founded in 1984, has grown to more than 1,300 agents in 30 offices in the Tri-State Area. The company is part of a larger, private real-estate firm, Terra Holdings, which also owns the Brown Harris Stevens firm. One of Halstead’s innovations, the company says, was to be the first large firm to create storefront offices, taking the business out of midtown corporate offices and into the streets. That much-imitated strategy continues. “The addition of this office makes us one of the most accessible real estate firms in the borough,” stated Martin. Like Elliman, Halstead will be doing some trumpeting of its own this year. In March, the firm announced that it will be the “official luxury real estate firm of the New York Yankees,” with extensive branding in Yankee Stadium. OK, brokers, play ball!

Arden Phillips is a New York-based writer and a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where she received a degree in Television, Radio, and Film.