Brownstone Brooklyn is Hot: MHN Interview with Aleksandra Scepanovic of Ideal Properties Group

MHN's Editorial Director Diana Mosher recently asked Aleksandra Scepanovic, managing director and co-founder of Ideal Properties Group, about doing business in Brooklyn, providing personalized attention and turning Ideal into a household name.

Aleksandra Scepanovic Headshot thumbnailIn business since 2007, Ideal Properties Group specializes in Brownstone Brooklyn for sale and rental properties. The company boasts its own in-house design and staging group, and more than 100 real estate brokers and salespeople. Ideal Properties Group has offices in Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Gowanus and Williamsburg. MHN’s Editorial Director Diana Mosher recently asked Aleksandra Scepanovic, managing director and co-founder of Ideal Properties Group, about doing business in Brooklyn, providing personalized attention and turning Ideal into a household name.

MHN: Describe the playing field for our readers; why is there a drought of listings in Brownstone Brooklyn?

Scepanovic: Property owners in Brownstone Brooklyn have spent the last few years watching their property values rise, and witnessing both asking and selling prices of their neighbors’ homes skyrocket. Those not nearing retirement wonder what advantage there would be in selling, especially since even if they sold their property at a tremendous price, they would still have to purchase something else at an equally tremendous price. Furthermore, to a lot of people in Brooklyn, their homes are their retirement plans. And you just don’t sell your retirement plan—not unless you’re really forced into selling by life’s circumstances.

Those who have purchased their homes prior to the explosive rise in pricing have seen their equity build up at an unprecedented pace. In addition, rents—which most townhouse owners depend upon to complement their mortgage obligations or generate income—have in some cases doubled over the course of just a handful of years. With mortgage rates at historic lows, buying  (for investor and first-time homebuyer alike) is a marvelous idea. And whenever demand increases, the supply pipeline starts drying up, with property owners holding on to their “cash cow” investments.

Also, the city has never been safer and never a better place to live. The reality is that people used to retire and leave the city. With the living environment improved, they’re now retiring and staying, still opting to enjoy all the good sides of the life in a big city.

We still meet, on a daily basis, people who are smart and fiscally informed; and yet they are still completely shocked to hear what their home is valued at. The vast majority of property owners really don’t know what their homes are worth right now. So many of our sales transactions set brand new all-time-high price records. But they’re records by huge margins. For example, we’re listing a property on 10th Street in Park Slope right now that another agent had last year priced at $2.2m without any movement or activity whatsoever. We have contracts out for this very property, with three separate buyers, all of them in the $2.6m-$2.7m range after only one (packed) open house. And keep in mind that no promise from your best friend (who also happens to be a real estate broker) that they will get you an astronomical price for your home (a price that only a year or so ago you would have only dreamed your home would be able to command in a decade from today) will change this.

MHN: How was  Ideal Properties Group able to exclusively list 28 properties for sale in 28 days? What sort of planning and commitment went into this?

Scepanovic: It takes a village to raise a child. When we set that goal, it was all hands on deck. Virtually every member of the sales team heeded the call. At Ideal, it’s not uncommon for the principals of the brokerage to be meeting with prospective sellers at 10:00 in the morning or 10:00 at night. At the end of the day, I think it comes down to going well above and beyond what others are doing. It takes a lot of research, and a heightened level of commitment. The price points we’re achieving are establishing new pricing levels, and our agents are excited to be at the forefront of the market, setting the precedents and driving the trends.

MHN: As a founder, what does this actually mean to you?

Scepanovic: Both my partner and I are incredibly proud of our team. What this means to us is that the effort we have invested into training, our profound belief in our team, and our company being incredibly supportive of the sales team’s needs is working.

When we set a goal, we always want to set it slightly outside of our comfort zone, slightly beyond what’s easily achievable. Make no mistake, this number, in this incredibly tight market, was a bear. But our focus was also not on signing an exclusive for $300K condos or co-ops. The majority of the properties we had listed are multimillion dollar town homes. To us, and to our team, this clearly illustrates a tremendous advantage of being a boutique firm. It tells us that the public wants truly personalized attention. Brooklynites want their hands held throughout the sales process, and they don’t want them held by corporate slogans or empty promises. They want the red velvet cake personally brought in to their place of business that afternoon when they’re having a hard time emotionally reconciling that the home they grew up in is closing the following week. They want chicken soup left on their doorstep when they’re under the wintery Brooklyn weather… It’s just that much more personalized attention that we’re willing to give that makes our clients happy and keeps them coming back. We are, after all, our clients. We believe in being as nice and respectful to all of our clients.

MHN: What types of goals does your firm have for the rest of the year?

Scepanovic: Our main goal for 2014, as well as for the next few years, is to turn Ideal Properties Group into a household name: we look forward to being recognized for the quality of our service and the high level of expectation we have for ourselves. Over the last seven years of hard work, we have shown our enormous strength in lateral growth. And we generated a pipeline and levels of inventory that easily rival, if not often exceed, those of our corporate competitors. We anticipate the growth to continue, and will work even harder to get Ideal and our team to that next stage.

MHN: What do you expect the real estate market to look like for the rest of 2014?

Scepanovic: I firmly believe there is going to be more money available than inventory—a true echo of the 2013 market. I think the high-end, stately properties will continue to set new pricing records, and I also think we’re going to see big pushes into other areas in Brooklyn.

MHN: Queens seems to be doing very well. Are you worried about a potential threat from Queens, down the road, to Brooklyn’s real estate market?
Scepanovic: Queens is not a threat. It’s a wonderful neighboring borough with lots to offer, with advantages and charms of its own, just like Brooklyn. However, Brooklyn does seem to have developed into an epicenter of the world of sorts… and lots and lots of people from all over the world are drawn to its many lifestyles and personalities, and its plentiful real estate offerings. This reality I thought was well illustrated by the Queens Borough President Melinda Katz revealing how many had asked her, in the run up to her election, if she would be making Queens “the new Brooklyn.” However, I am not worried about any potential threat. Instead, I believe Brooklyn will continue to be a booming real estate market.