Leonard Steinberg has marketed many of New York’s top end buildings, including 200 Eleventh Avenue, 245 Tenth Avenue, 415 Greenwich Street, 744 Greenwich Street, 482 Greenwich Street, The Townhomes of Downing Street, 54 Bond Street, 11 Spring Street and 150 Charles Street. Having sold over $2 billion as a continuous top performer at Douglas Elliman he recently jumped to Urban Compass joining co-founders and Ori Allon (the computer science whiz from Google and Twitter) and Robert Reffkin (the former Goldman Sachs executive). Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan met with Steinberg to find out what’s in store.
Leonard Steinberg: I am immigrant. I arrived in New York in 1986 from South Africa where I was entrenched in the fashion industry. I was a designer at Victor Costa then Christian Dior, then started my own company Julie & Leonard. We were very successful. We were selling at Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Saks.
ET: What happened?
LS: I went into a mid-life crisis at the age of 30 and went into real estate. I had started building condos. When I was young I went to open houses with my parents and was more interested than they were. I was always interested in architecture and had been doing sketches from as early on as I could sketch. I was always fascinated with creating environments with design.
ET: And you did very well selling real estate?
LS: In real estate you are measured by how much you sell. It’s been 18 years. It doesn’t mean when you’re a top the seller you are the best broker but I thought I did things very well. Some people have massive teams. I like small focused teams.
ET: Why the move to Urban Compass?
LS: This is not a mid-life crisis. Every industry needs advancement and evolution is necessary. I am excited about working with some brilliant people to pool together delivering real estate in a way that hasn’t been done before. It is a two-prong attack: One is to make the consumer’s life easier, and the other is to make the broker more efficient and happier. The technology doesn’t eliminate people.
ET: Can you give us an example?
LS: It is difficult to be extremely specific because we are rolling out things. In a year the average broker is producing 30 percent more and it is mainly in efficiencies. Technology is being used to aid the broker in helping clients realize their dreams not quicker but more fluidly. Our technology is created in-house by Ori Allon, who led the search quality team at Google.
ET: How will it work?
LS: Technology comes from multiple angles. Where are you? What you are looking for? Then delivering information to the palm of your hand or desktop anywhere in the world that is easily legible and understandable. It is the same as Apple revolutionized technology for consumer friendliness.
ET: What properties are listed, and is it only available through Urban Compass?
LS: You can see every property (that fits your search criteria). Other brokers use our consumer app, but our internal app is only for the Urban Compass broker.
ET: What’s been the key to your success?
LS: The biggest source of my success was not focusing on a transaction. It was focusing on a client well before the transaction and after. I am a real estate advisor. (Clients) call me because they are looking for somebody to rely on who saves them time. We have a huge advantage because the volume of information grows hourly. It’s overwhelming and it requires an editor in the form of a broker who is using technology to be accurate.
ET: How big is your team right now?
LS: 60 brokers and 50 technologists and support.
ET: What type of properties are you focusing on?
LS: We focus on luxury and it’s broad. We have sell $20 million properties and we have people with hundreds of millions of dollars in Wyoming and only need a $3 million apartment in New York. For most consumers, whether it is a rental or purchase, it is one of the most expensive purchases of their lifetime.
ET: What changes have you seen?
LS: It is more global. People talk about global as if it is a Russian oligarch. It’s much more than that. It is people from Brazil, Toronto, Mexico City, Tokyo, and it is people traveling for their business and pleasure and they end up buying real estate. We have people who are farmers in Iowa.