As she neared the end of her short-term career service period in the IDF, First Lieutenant Dana Sapir, a tank battalion officer, had a decision to make: Should she pursue academic study under army auspices, or leave the IDF? Ultimately, she chose to travel abroad, with New York as her first destination. "I'm not the South America type, and New York had been something of a dream for me," she relates.
Dana arrived and decided to stay. "This city has a charm and an energy that you don't find anywhere else in the world. I fell in love with the city, with its dynamism, its fast pace. And I also met my husband." Her entry into the New York City real estate world was fast and smooth. "I entered the field because it was fairly easy to enter," she recalls. "It attracted me because of the type of work involved – sales, working and interacting with people. New York real estate is a very interesting field." During the course of her employment with a relatively small Israeli real estate firm, she pursued studies at Columbia University, completing an undergraduate degree in political science and government. Afterward, she went to work for a major company. A year ago she moved to Compass, a firm founded by the Israeli entrepreneur Ori Allon.
With such a high cost of living, is New York City a hot spot for investment?
"New York City, and specifically Manhattan, are different. If you're looking for a big and speedy return on your investment, Manhattan isn't the place. In Manhattan you buy an apartment because you want to live there, and property values always rise over time. That's why it's a safe place to invest in. New York recovers relatively quickly from crises. We went through 9/11 and now we're living with the pandemic. The market was in a state of collapse, a real estate disaster. But thanks to its [intrinsic] strength, New York is bouncing back quickly. Over time, New York investments are safe, the market always goes up even if there are declines along the way."
The New York City real estate market, according to Dana, is very similar to the Israeli market. After a prolonged freeze in 2020 due to COVID-19, the market exploded in 2021, testifying to a very large increase in activity. Prices, Dana says, did not rise greatly, but "there's an increase of hundreds of percentage points compared with last year in the number of contracts signed and a rise of tens of percentage points in sales and rentals compared with earlier years." In supply-and-demand terms, the market displayed a steep rise in demand, while supply is still high relative to the rest of the US.
Manhattan's current in-demand areas, according to her, are downtown – Tribeca, SoHo, and the West Village, which are considered the most desirable and most expensive parts of the city. Midtown and the financial district were hit hardest by the pandemic, and are still recovering, making them good areas to invest in. The Upper East Side and the Upper West Side are residential areas that witnessed extensive activity and price increases this past year, as many buyers and families have returned to the city and want to be near offices and private schools.
Digital real estate: closing deals via FaceTime
COVID-19 changed the way the New York City real estate market operates – and changed it drastically, Dana says, as there are no longer any events of the open-house variety. The real estate world has gone virtual and digital; Dana notes that over the past year she closed several deals in which the client never visited the property. Everything was done via FaceTime. The change, Dana says, had been underway for several years, but things had never before been so intensively digitized, with all client interactions taking place remotely. "One of the reasons why I moved to Compass was its cutting-edge technology. The efficiency of the process is very high, and I have tools I can share with clients in a way that's very convenient for both sides. Today's social media are central to the work process, including information transmission on a daily basis. That's what the clientele needs and consumes."
At Compass, she relates, all of the necessary tools are concentrated on a single platform, and the agent is able to share with clients whatever is required. "I open folders and all the communication takes place through them, including messages and e-mails, videos of the apartments, the buildings, and the surrounding areas. Out of these folders we also create the apartment tours. That's something that doesn't exist in any other company."
"We work together so the client gets the best choice for their requirements"
Dana has been working in the New York City real estate world for over a decade, with a focus on Manhattan, especially the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side, and Midtown. Due to her specialty, she knows all the buildings inside and out, and the "pluses and minuses" of each and every building. She works with a limited number of clients to whom she gives full personal service and 24/7 availability; she doesn't hesitate to refer clients to other agents with whom she works if she isn't able to devote as much time to them as necessary. She’s surrounded by other professionals, including real estate attorney, lender, contractors in case renovations are needed, and a network of experts who work as a team to solve any problems that might arise. "We work together so the client gets the best choice for their requirements."
If you're looking for an apartment in Manhattan, the most important thing, Dana says, is to work with an agent who specializes in that area.8 She recommends trying to understand the market, consulting with an agent, reviewing data and reports. The process should include getting a market analysis from an agent, finding out what's been sold in the building itself and in the area. "Try to see the big picture before getting involved in a deal," she says. "It's also important to work with a New York City lawyer who knows Manhattan, as the local real estate market and its legal proceedings differ from the rest of the US."
Additionally, one should take into account that renovation costs – materials and labor – have gone up this past year. "It's a complicated business to renovate in Manhattan, due to buildings’ alternation agreement and permit process, but it could be worth it for the right price", Dana notes in conclusion.