Drama unfolds in residential real estate

While much of the focus this year has been on the cratering office and multifamily markets, a lot of drama played out this week in residential real estate.

In Chicago, powerhouse broker Leigh Marcus of @properties was caught in a bombshell recording suggesting to second-in-command Grahm Bailey that a staffer — who had taken unpaid maternity leave in the past — be fired before she had another child.

“We better do it before she gets pregnant again, because then we can’t fire her,” Marcus is heard saying on the March recording of the call, a copy of which was obtained by The Real Deal.

The fallout is ongoing, but @properties took an immediate hit to the image it had cultivated, and saw at least 16 employees resign since the recording — which had made the rounds in Chicago brokerage circles — became quasi-public.

“This wholesome image that has been fed to employees, to the community, to social media is not real,” one former employee said of the team, which Leigh co-founded with his wife, Lindsay Marcus.

@properties, for its part, released a statement saying it “explicitly condemn[ed]” Leigh’s “wrong and offensive” comment.

“It does not reflect the views, policies or practices of @properties in any way,” the statement says. 

Drama of another kind unfolded in South Florida, where soccer supernova Lionel Messi and his wife, Antonela Roccuzzo, bought a 10,500-square-foot, eight-bedroom estate in Fort Lauderdale’s Bay Colony through a company led by Messi’s wealth manager, Alfonso Nebot, records show.

The purchase ended the “Where Will Messi Land” watch, with many waiting for the footballer to buy a home since he joined Inter Miami in July and was spotted house hunting.  

Also in Florida, a former president of the Blue condominium board in Miami’s Midtown neighborhood was arrested over an alleged $33,000 theft tied to a kickback scheme.

Ben Dvir, 47, is accused of having a vendor that sold tiles to the condo building for its common areas inflate invoices — and then Dvir allegedly siphoned the markup for himself, according to an arrest affidavit.  From 2019 to 2021, he received $32,906 in commission checks. 

Dvir served on the board at the bayfront 34-story building at 601 Northeast 36th Street, near the Julia Tuttle Causeway, from 2019 to January. 

Police arrested Dvir on Wednesday on a charge of grand theft.  (Dvir wasn’t alone in his arrest this week. Miami city commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla was arrested on Thursday and criminally charged for a laundry list of allegedly corrupt actions in connection with his younger brother’s failed judicial campaign last year.)

In New York, more conventional issues played out, as rents are — not surprisingly — sky high, even in the dog days of summer.

While the median price for a Manhattan apartment last month saw no change in August, sticking at $4,400, the number of new leases remained low, with just 5,025 new rental contracts across the borough — a 14 percent decrease from August 2022, according to a report by appraisal firm Miller Samuel on behalf of Douglas Elliman.

In Brooklyn, the median price for a unit fetched $3,850, making it the second highest month for rents on record. In Northwest Queens, rents continued to smash records with median apartment price leaping to $3,900, an increase of more than 7 percent from July when prices hit $3,641. 
Finally, Extell Development chief Gary Barnett cut the price on his Central Park Tower penthouse, which isn’t all that unusual. But the cut was extremely steep — $55 million — and the penthouse price is still an eye-watering $195 million, or $11,000 per square foot, for the 17,500-square-foot triplex.

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