Over the past several years there is a trend in various New York City neighborhoods that has had the eye of many developers and those who appreciate bringing back New York homes to their original glory. They are referred to as “townhouse flippers” and they are gut-renovating townhouses across the city to single-family dwellings. One real estate broker, who has sold many of these types of homes and has worked with developers to plan their renovations, is Gregory Williamson, of The Williamson Team at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Williamson is here to discuss this process and trend:
Gowanus Lounge: Can you explain to us exactly what this means and what you are doing?
Gregory Williamson: First, thank you for having me. I’d be happy to explain this type of development. Throughout New York City, particularly in Manhattan and Brooklyn, there are many multifamily townhouses and townhouses that need a lot of work. Due to the high demand over the past several years for luxury townhome living, developers are purchasing these properties and working with experienced brokers to design them and sell them as high-end single-family assets.
GL: Can you tell us about the process?
Gregory Williamson: Sure. Generally, the developer identifies the asset, goes into contract to purchase the property and then approaches a broker to work in partnership to design the home and make sure, once it is completed and staged, that it is priced correctly for the market. This is a risky business as the margins are small, especially since the real estate market has gotten weaker, but if you can find the right property and design and price it well, it can be a home run.
GL: Can you give us an example of a project you have been involved with recently?
Gregory Williamson: Yes. On the Upper West Side, I was involved with 55 West 90th Street, 58 West 75th Street, and 113 West 95th Street. All three buildings were purchased by a developer and then we worked with the architect, developer, and designer to plan them as single-family residences. While the absolute dollars were on the high side, due to such an extraordinary amount of space, the prices per square foot were very competitive, especially when compared to what is being offered in the luxury condo and new development market. These renovations, when done correctly and tastefully, not only provide an enormous amount of living space that is quite rare in New York City, but they also bring authentic and charming homes back to New York. It is a great opportunity for an end-user who needs the room and terrific business for the right developer.
GL: What has inspired you to get involved with this kind of work?
Gregory Williamson: Well, for one thing, I work with developers across New York City so this is right in my wheelhouse. If you dig a bit deeper I guess, in large part, having grown up in Brooklyn Heights, which is filled with gorgeous townhouses and brownstones, this type of work really appeals to me because I appreciate the charm and magic of an authentic and beautifully refurbished townhouse. They are no doubt very special pieces of real estate.
GL: What background and experience do you bring to this kind of work?
Gregory Williamson: I was born and bred in New York City so I know the city like the back of my hand. I’ve seen all kinds of neighborhoods develop and evolve over the years. Plus, real estate is in my blood. My mother, Madeline, was a successful and longtime broker at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Lastly, I understand what it means to have money in deals, and I can appreciate the skin that a developer has in the game.
Understanding it from both sides, the brokerage and the development side, I think is also very valuable for my clients and puts a level of trust in the relationship that is hard to find.
GL: Thanks so much for being with us today, Gregory!
Gregory Williamson: My pleasure. Thank you!