Wider Market

Carl Dranoff, president of Dranoff Properties, and Marianne Harris, sales and marketing director, are launching a real estate brokerage.
Carl Dranoff, president of Dranoff Properties, and Marianne Harris, sales and marketing director, are launching a real estate brokerage. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 16, 2014

Adding a "boutique" real estate brokerage to his company, Dranoff Properties, is "a logical step," developer Carl Dranoff says.

But it's nothing new for him and sales and marketing director Marianne Harris. For several years in the 1980s, they worked at Historic Landmarks for Living, which had an in-house brokerage.

"It was called Landmarks for Living Realty," Harris said, "and we listed and sold properties in Center City, which is similar to the concept behind Dranoff Properties Realty Inc."

The idea "was in hibernation. . . . We just have all the pieces in place now," said Dranoff, who on April 30 opened his latest luxury-rental building, Southstar Lofts at Broad and South Streets, and in the next 12 months will start construction on the 21-story One Riverside at 25th and Locust Streets, the 47-story SLS International Hotel & Residences at Broad and Spruce, and the 21-story One Theater Square in Newark, N.J.

With licensed sales and leasing agents, legal-conveyancing operations, and expertise in ground-floor retail in all his buildings, the brokerage - which will be based at Dranoff's corporate headquarters at his 777 South Broad rental complex - has "a host of dedicated services in-house, and [we] are constantly adding more to our repertoire as we add new buildings," he said.

"We are just formalizing things that we do already," he said. "It is part of our branding, and that, for me, is the keyword."

For Harris, the tipping point was 10 Rittenhouse, the troubled luxury high-rise Dranoff stepped in to finish and sell for iStar Financial, the senior lender, in late 2011.

"We are pretty much sold out there, and buyers unable to find a condo there keep asking, 'Can you show me something else in Center City?' " she said. "Having our own brokerage will allow us to show them others."

Plus, there were young professionals living in Dranoff's apartment buildings at the point of buying after several years of renting - typically three to five, depending on the economy.

"There were people moving out of Locust on the Park and my other buildings, and when I tried to convince them to continue to rent, they told me that they 'wanted to buy to protect our future,' " he said. " 'This is my customer,' I thought, 'and I just lost my customer.' "

His renters are a critical demographic in the Center City market - which means, said Adelheid Voskhul, who has lived for 10 months at Locust on the Park, "that we are targeted with mail constantly from real estate agents."

"I would do the same thing if I were a real estate agent," said Voskuhl, an associate professor in the University of Pennsylvania's department of history and sociology of science who has just renewed her lease.

"When I do move, I'd like to find a condo that is similar to my apartment. The kind of help that someone here is able to offer is not easy to come by," she said of Dranoff's staff.

Dranoff is not limiting his reach to his own buildings (present and future) but is targeting Center City and adjacent neighborhoods.

Though the Center City sales market is in better shape than it was two or three years ago, Penn economist Kevin Gillen said the numbers continue to lag well below normal.

Dranoff said his boutique brokerage would not cut into the business of agents and brokers with whom he has cooperated on sales at Symphony House and 10 Rittenhouse.

"The pie is getting larger," he said, "and so will the slices."

Four agents at Duffy Real Estate in Narberth and St. Davids sell in Center City, John Duffy said, "but there is definitely room for another boutique real estate firm there."

"Competition benefits everyone - sellers, buyers, and agents. It helps all of us keep our pencils sharper," said Duffy, whose Main Line market is well beyond Dranoff's scope - other than as a source of downsizing condo buyers for Center City.

Realtor/developer Allan Domb's firm has been, perhaps, the leading go-to brokerage in the Center City high-rise condo market for the last 30 years.

Domb agreed it's a logical step for Dranoff to begin selling real estate. "But I read a book in 1979 called How I Sold a Million Dollars of Real Estate. It said: 'You make a living selling real estate. . . . You create wealth buying it!' "

Keller Williams Center City's Mickey Pascarella has done business with Dranoff in the past and cited the developer's "real success" selling out 10 Rittenhouse.

"Carl adding 10 agents to the resale-agent count of 2,000-plus will not make much of a difference," Pascarella said.

"Yes, technically, more competition is good for consumers," he said. "[But] in this instance, unless I am misreading Carl's commitment in terms of brokerage size, those of us active in the resale and construction community won't feel it."


IN THE PIPELINE

In the next 12 months, Carl Dranoff will start construction on three more projects:

One Riverside at 25th and Locust Streets, 21 stories.

SLS International Hotel & Residences

at Broad

and Spruce,

47 stories.

One Theater Square in Newark, N.J., 21 stories.


aheavens@phillynews.com

215-854-2472 @alheavens

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