Today we’re buzzing with David Maundrell, founder and president of aptsandlofts.com, one of the largest real estate brokerages in Brooklyn. Starting with a 550-square-foot office in industrial North Williamsburg in October 2002, David grew the company into one of the most recognizable real estate brands in the borough today.
As the co-host of the 2013 Brooklyn Real Estate Summit on May 9, David took a break to chat with us about the evolution of New York’s hottest, most rapidly expanding borough.
BuzzBuzzHome: In your words, last year has been “a banner year” for Brooklyn. What would you say were the major milestones for the borough?
David Maundrell: The Barclays Center opening finally and the residential component beginning construction, without question. There were several large property sales in Brooklyn by a more institutional type of investors and owners. We’re finally seeing a more institutional type of money flowing into Brooklyn, steady.
I think something you’re seeing now, is how there’s been this dramatic population boom… where it’s come over the past twenty to thirty years, it’s pretty amazing. There are things going on in Bay Bridge, in Bensonhurst, this whole planned revitalization of Coney Island—it’s not just about North Brooklyn. All of Brooklyn is really exploding.
BBH: According to the latest Census figures, Brooklyn was the fastest growing borough from 2010 to 2012, with a population increase of 2.4 percent. Why do you think that is?
DM: There is still value in Brooklyn compared to different parts of Manhattan, but it’s not just about price anymore. I think the Brooklyn lifestyle is one that people enjoy; that’s what it comes down to. They want to raise their kids there, they want to stay there.
It used to be that the dream was to live in Manhattan. Now, 12 percent of our customers coming outside of New York state are moving directly to Brooklyn; that’s really positive. Brooklyn has become this brand name, so to speak. You can live in a $3.5 million townhome in Cobble Hill, and that house is double [the price] in the West Village. The schools in Brooklyn have improved tremendously over the past 10 years. Families want to stick around; when I was growing up in Brooklyn, schools were weak… A lot of people are staying and settling in.
BBH: What’s your forecast of new neighborhoods coming up in the borough?
DM: I think everyone’s written about Bed Stuy, Crown Heights, Bushwick… I started on Bushwick ten years ago, and it took a long time to come up… We’re going to be working on some stuff in Midwood and Flatbush. People are moving south; as long as there’s a subway line that goes directly into Manhattan, people will go there.
BBH: How much more development do you think the L train can sustain?
DM: Over the past six months, I’ve been taking the train a lot into Manhattan, sometimes twice a day. It’s been fine; it’s been better than it’s been in a very long time. I think that the JMZ trains are taking pressure off the L, because they’ve improved.
BBH: What’s your take on the biggest challenge facing residential developers in Brooklyn?
DM: The biggest challenge now is new development that’s being built without a tax abatement… The sticker shock of buyers seeing $600 a month [in taxes] from $15 a month — you have people selling because of that. We’re hoping to retrain people to see it as something that’s normal.
You also have buildings built during the boom and their tax abatement is starting to wind down; the question is what that will do to pricing in a year or so from now. For the projects that have been there without abatement, there has not been any negative impact from the high taxes, but that’s because in the market there’s nothing for sale.
Brooklyn is going to be more established; the people who are going to be living in these buildings will be wealthier because they can afford a higher carry month-to-month.
BBH: What are your thoughts on the artisanal movement that’s become closely associated with Brooklyn? We’re trying not to use the word “hipster,” although we just did.
DM: We like to call them the creative professionals. It kind of makes the place go. It’s not just artists now, it’s people in the music industry, people in fashion, people in tech and design and creative services. Then you have this whole food revolution, and all these new breweries… It’s helped transform Brooklyn into what it is now. It’s more casual than Manhattan; in meetings, I wear jeans and my counterpart is in a two-piece suit. We can pull it off because we’re out here.
BBH: It seems that every week, The New York Times is re-discovering Brooklyn for the first time. In August 2012, USA Today described Brooklyn as “the new bohemia.” In 2011, GQ deemed Brooklyn the coolest city on the planet. Any worries that Brooklyn has reached a saturation point in the collective consciousness?
DM: No. There’s so much more about Brooklyn that doesn’t get written about. I do believe, quote-unquote, there’s a lot of haters out there about Brooklyn, but they’re slowly, slowly making it out here, they’re coming over for dinner. They just need to get over it.
There’s Barclays Center, BAM, the park, Brooklyn Museum, all this culture that doesn’t get talked about… The area surrounding BAM is getting better and better, you have this cultural hub. What they’re doing at Barclays Center is awesome; the [2013 VMAs] will be hosted there. I’m 38, I don’t watch MTV, but obviously Brooklyn is relevant for the 15- to 16-year-olds of the world.
BBH: What’s the biggest misconception that people have about the market in Brooklyn?
DM: That it is inflated and that it’s another boom-bust. It’s a legitimate marketplace that is fueled by supply and demand, with very little supply. The people stepping up to the plate to purchase were far more qualified than the people who were buying in 2006… It’s a really viable marketplace. It’s not a fad.
It seems like there’s an endless line of buyers right now that are really well-qualified. And there’s some business contention in the marketplace that you can’t get financing. We’ve been able to get financing easily since 2010, 2011. You have to know how to navigate the marketplace.
BBH: What’s your favorite neighborhood in Brooklyn?
DM: I live in Dumbo — that’s my favorite neighborhood. It’s not as big as some other neighborhoods, and you have access to Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill. The transportation is great, and at night, it’s quiet, which I like.
BBH: Many people initially moved to Williamsburg for lower home prices, but now the pricing in Williamsburg is on par with neighborhoods in Manhattan. Is there still value in Williamsburg relative to Manhattan?
DM: It goes back to supply and demand. They’re not building new condos right now in [the area]. Some of [the projects in Williamsburg] that have been talked about have been in the high end of the marketplace, $1,200 per square foot. I think there’s still value… We’re at the point now when people look at the Lower East Side, then check out Brooklyn. It’s going to keep the market going.
Also, the people buying here now, they want to stay. They want to be more involved in the communities, as opposed to renters who come and go. That’s going to make the schools better, that’s going to make everything better.
BBH: You grew up in Williamsburg. Have you been shocked by how much the neighborhood has changed since your childhood?
DM: No, I’ve gradually rolled with it. In ‘92, I was in college and I saw how the neighborhood was changing. I graduated, got into insurance, went into real estate. I saw what was happening and I wanted to capitalize on it.
It’s not shocking to me anymore. I’m shocked at times as to why some people say, ‘It’s Brooklyn versus Manhattan.’ I don’t really get that; I go to Manhattan all the time. I’m happy to see where Brooklyn is.
BBH: On February 19th, you tweeted a reference to HBO’s Girls. Are you a fan of the show? If so, who’s your favorite character?
— David Maundrell (@DavidMaundrell) February 20, 2013
DM: Everyone keeps asking me, “Do you watch Girls? Do you watch Girls?” … We lease in Greenpoint every day, it’s funny.
I don’t know their names, I don’t watch the show that often. The main character, that girl’s boyfriend — he’s pretty funny. The ex-boyfriend, I mean, the skinny guy. [pause] Girls is not a show that a guy should be admitting that he watches.
Catch David at the 2013 Brooklyn Real Estate Summit on May 9 at The Brooklyn Academy of Music, hosted by TerraCRG, The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and aptsandlofts.com.
Panels throughout the all-day conference will include Arts & Entertainment Districts Driving Development, Strong Retail Corridors, Brooklyn’s Hotel Development Boom, Most Active Multifamily Buyers, and Residential Development in the Borough.