October 31st 2010
The New York Times
Mr. Peters, 58, is the president of Warburg Realty Partnership, an independent residential brokerage firm that specializes in luxury property. Warburg is involved in several new developments, including Twenty9th Park Madison, a condominium near Madison Square Park, and 555 Lenox Avenue in Harlem.
The firm will soon be joining the cast of the HGTV show “Selling New York.”
Q How is the luxury market?
A In the ultraluxury marketplace — $10 million and up — prices are still off peak but not to the degree that they were 15 months ago. Last year we were 30 to 40 percent off. Today I would say we’re off peak by 15 percent to 20 percent. The lower level of the luxury market — starting in the low $2 millions — was very slow for a substantial period of time. Those units are much in demand in the last six months.
Q Wall Street bonuses are expected to rise. Are you getting any inquiries from investment bankers about buying yet?
A We absolutely are. I think we’re seeing it more so than last year at this time, and that’s not only because of the money. Last year there was a sense that it was unseemly to be looking at spending a very substantial amount of money on real estate. I think this year — even though there’s still some of the sentiment — that perception has diminished.
Q Is this still a sellers’ market?
A What’s interesting is that both sides feel empowered: the sellers, by the fact that 2010 has not been a really bad year, and the buyers, by the fact that there is still enough negative economic news slowing things down.
The way I like to describe the market we’ve been in for the last year is as a brokers’ market. We’re in a marketplace in which you frequently have a buyer and a seller with a different perspective, and it’s the challenge of the broker to bridge the gap. I like these markets in which our skills are really deployed.
Q You still actively broker deals even as you run the company. Some might see this dual role as a conflict with your agents.
A I have continued to work as a broker because I love brokering. I also do it because I feel that being in the marketplace places me in a position to understand the market better, which makes me more of a resource to my brokers. I’ve never had a situation of conflict for a couple of reasons: one, I almost always use agents in my office to work with me, so I share the commission; and 80 percent of the business that comes to me I give out in the office.
Q How have the ever-expanding social media changed the way you market properties?
A They’ve changed not only how we market properties but how we market ourselves.
We’ve done continuous upgrading of the Web site, so that we’re very conscious of not only marketing the properties but also giving access to Facebook and Twitter feeds. Our blog is marketed on the home page, and we’ve created our iPhone app.
We have a unique seller page, a password-protected page where the seller can go to at any time to be completely up to date with the marketing efforts that we’ve done on behalf of their property and what their yield has been.
Q Warburg is one of the few large independent brokerages in the city. Have there been overtures to merge with other companies?
A Yes, there have been many over the years, a few recently. I never exactly turn people down. I always say to them that I like to keep the door open. That being said, I feel that I have certain abilities as the owner of an independent firm. When you’re smaller than others — I have 130 agents, that’s not so small, but it is, in the great scheme of things — you can turn the ship more quickly. I feel like Warburg has been able to adopt new technology in a way that didn’t require a lot of layers of decision-making.
Q You have a grown son and daughter. Could either eventually take over the business?
A I live in hope. It would be great, but I’m not counting on it.
Q Your background is in music — in fact, you studied to be a composer. Why switch to real estate?
A I became a parent at 26 and I needed to make money, and that certainly didn’t look like it was in my future anytime soon as a music graduate student. My wife was pregnant again when I was 28. From the time we bought our apartment on Central Park West, I just got bitten by the real estate bug, and I loved being an agent.
I’ve lived in the same co-op for 33 years, but if everybody was like me I’d be out of business.
Q So you just decided to join the cast of “Selling New York”?
A I discussed the show with Michele Kleier and Sean Osher, who were on last season, and both told me they had gotten a huge amount of recognition as a result. It seemed like a brand-building slam-dunk. And the agents are really excited about it.