Executive Spotlight: Gabe Leibowitz of Skygroup Realty

Gabe-LeibowitzNew York is the nicknamed the City That Never Sleeps – and even its real estate market never seems to find time to slow down. And while it may not be the priciest in terms of residential real estate, it is certainly the most colorful in terms of historical neighborhoods and social trends.

Lenders that want to get an idea of what’s happening in today’s New York real estate market will do well to speak with Gabe Leibowitz. As president and CEO of Skygroup Realty, Leibowitz is one of the most prominent figures in the city’s vibrant real estate market – and he graciously took some time from his busy schedule (and not the proverbial “New York Minute”) to tell us about where the city’s real estate market stands today.

Q: How would you categorize the current New York City residential real estate market, both in terms of rentals and sales?

Gabe Leibowitz: The market is smoking hot. Supply is vastly exceeded by demand, and properties are regularly going for over the asking price. We just entered into contract on a brownstone in Bed-Stuy that had 12 offers, all except for two over the asking price, after one open house. The rental market is not much different: rents are high and there’s not a ton of vacancy, though we’re just now approaching the busiest rental season.

Q: New York City is world famous for its rich variety of distinctive neighborhood. What do you see as the most popular neighborhoods for those seeking a Big Apple home?

Gabe Leibowitz: This is a very subjective question that really depends on budget and priorities. School districts often play a big part in this decision, which means areas like Park Slope and Tribeca will always be extremely popular. However, those neighborhoods are too expensive for the majority of home-hunters, so what you see is people stretching boundaries.

For example, people looking to buy a brownstone can’t afford Park Slope or Carroll Gardens, so they go to Lefferts Gardens, Bed-Stuy, or Bay Ridge. For apartment hunters, you might see them drift south of the Slope, or check out the Financial District, or explore the Upper West or East Sides. Harlem has also become a popular alternative destination. And keep in mind that these neighborhoods are hardly cheap! Only in a relative sense…but in New York City living, everything is relative.

Q: The city’s new mayor, Bill De Blasio, campaigned for office with a stated goal of expanding the quantity of affordable housing units. What do you see as the challenges in making this goal a reality?

Gabe Leibowitz: There are a ton of challenges to this. Developers need incentives to build them, meaning such perks as zoning variances or approvals in locations where the locals will be extremely displeased. It’s a political catch-22 for De Blasio, because affordable housing can’t be built without developers, who are frequently vilified (mostly unfairly; we can’t build anything without them, after all, though it’s obviously a sensitive and complicated issue).

Q: New York’s housing market is among the expensive in the U.S. Do you believe that the very high prices for housing may ultimately results in more businesses relocating to less pricey areas?

Gabe Leibowitz: I don’t. This has been a much-discussed doomsday scenario for a long time. The businesses that are able to afford NYC rents are established and they need the clientele that New York can provide (retail), or the allure of being here. There will obviously be exceptions—companies like Amazon and Zappos have no motivation to headquarter here, for instance—but I do not see housing costs affecting businesses. If anything, it will just continue to cause more tension on the income disparity issue.

Skygroup Realty is online at www.skygrouprealty.com