Haute Q&A: Brown Harris Stevens Co-President Bess Freedman

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In this new series, Haute Residence sits down with some of the real estate industry’s top-shelf CEO’s and Executives to discuss everything from the state of the industry to the next steps for his or her business. Brown Harris Stevens has become one of the city’s leading luxury real estate firms, with incredible listings all across the region. In this exclusive interview, co-president Bess Freedman shifts in the industry, her work at BHS, and the evolution of the city.


What sort of shifts have you noticed recently, both in taste of homes and the industry overall, during BHS’ tenure in the industry?

The biggest shift that I have seen in the industry has been the focus on treating agents like clients. BHS has created a complete platform involving concierge services to help make the agents lives easier, as well as making them more efficient. As my co-president Hall Willkie always says – we ride up and down the elevator with our assets every day and we need to ensure they have 100% support from their company. There is a level of loyalty that exists at BHS and it truly sets us apart from everyone else.

Taste of homes is always very diverse but well-informed and as a result it’s hard to pigeonhole just one trend. We’ve seen incredible sales at 520 Park Avenue which is the height of ultra-high-end luxury, as well as a surge in business downtown for loft like space. The one and two bedroom market is stronger than ever in many neighborhoods across the City.

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As one of the leading luxury real estate firms, the company has aided the rise of certain neighborhoods in the city. How does that process happen from your point of view, and what makes a neighborhood special?

There’s no doubt that the people make the neighborhood special and as new schools are built, and restaurants and stores open it attracts people. There are so many micro neighborhoods in New York City –diverse little areas and small pockets that change all the time impacted by a myriad of trends. New Yorkers are all about convenience -even the ultra-wealthy don’t like having to take a long car ride and sit in traffic. People like to live near where they have to go every day. I find that most New Yorkers feel grateful to be able to pound the pavement here on a daily basis as it provides nourishment for the mind and soul.

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What trends have you noticed in homes in New York recently?

More than ever we are seeing kitchens designed for chefs who come in and cook for you at a reasonable price.

Location is key; New Yorkers want easy access to our vibrant arts and culture. Attention to detail is important. There’s a level of sophistication that you don’t find in many places.

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Like everything else, companies must adapt to changes in time, how has BHS changed over time and what is the future of the business?

BHS has embraced a culture of a ‘learn it all’ mindset in order to embrace the level of accelerations that are happening our industry.  We rolled out a bunch of new technology initiatives in the last two years in order to give our agents the best of everything they need to be successful. We keep striving to do and learn more and provide more. You can never put a period and think OK we did this now we can just sit back and relax. Technology is no longer just a tool; it’s embedded in everything that we do.  There is a balance between technology and relationships; relationships with our clients with other agents and with the company.

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Is there a certain style of home or area that you love in New York or the Hamptons?

I love the upper east side super modern space. DDG is doing a new building on 88th street and 3rd avenue and the design and the layouts are gorgeous. High ceilings, beautiful detail, big windows. In the Hamptons, we have sold some incredible new constructions homes that are literally turn-key. Everything is there down to the silverware, you just have to bring your swimming suit for the pool!

Tim Latterner

By Tim Latterner

Tim Latterner is the editor of Haute Residence. He lives in New York City covering real estate, lifestyle features, travel, fashion, and food and drink.

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