Results of the 2020 U.S. Census revealed that New York City – comprised of five regions called boroughs – was in the midst of tremendous population growth. Population increases were strongest in Brooklyn (9.2 percent), followed by Queens (7.8 percent), Manhattan (6.8 percent), the Bronx (6.3 percent), and Staten Island (5.8 percent).
Then COVID hit. As New York City and Manhattan in particular became the epicenter of the U.S. pandemic, people began moving out of the area en masse. The flight to the suburbs resulted in a significant net population loss in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens while Staten Island and the Bronx saw a smaller amount of outward migration compared to the other boroughs. Long Island, while not technically part of New York City proper, and New Jersey absorbed many of these outbound moves.
According to Joe DeAngelis, Director of Strategic Growth for the Northeast, Century 21 Real Estate, the pandemic highlighted the opportunity to fuel growth for the brand by leveraging the inherent connections between the boroughs.
“As the market began to come back, we set out to talk to independent brokers across the boroughs to better understand their needs post-pandemic. What we heard loud and clear was that they were struggling to demonstrate their brokerage’s value to the consumer due to a lack of technology, tools, systems, infrastructure and marketing programs, and as a result, they were losing listings. This meant they were unable to capitalize on the rebounding market. They quickly saw that gaining access to the Century 21 brand’s wide array of support would help them compete better in this market and capture referrals from other markets through the extended C21 network.”
Hub and Spoke of Sorts
Over the course of a year, DeAngelis and his team assembled a cadre of new C21 affiliates in New York City. This interconnected model created incredible synergies to capture more migration-fueled business.
“Joe and the extended corporate support team made it clear that our success was their priority,” said Arlene Waye, broker-owner of CENTURY 21 Awaye in Downtown Brooklyn. “The fresh new look, leadership, and momentum signaled to me that this was a future-focused brand.”
Indeed it is – as evidenced by Century 21 Real Estate being named as a Top Ten Fastest Growing Franchise by Entrepreneur magazine in 2021, 2022, and 2023. This coupled with its enduring position as the most recognized and respected brand in real estate for 24 years running make for an impressive value proposition that is resonating with brokers throughout New York City.
“I’ve lived and worked in Brooklyn for my entire professional career, and I have never seen as many opportunities in the real estate space as there is now,” said Arlene, whose firm serves not just Brooklyn but Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx. “I knew that in order to better position our firm to capitalize on these emerging opportunities, we needed the backing of a powerful and global brand like Century 21 Real Estate to support our growth through agent productivity, recruiting and M&As. We now have access to expanded referral corridors, relocation business and international connections that we did not have as an independent firm.”
Fellow Brooklyn-based broker Anthony Frazzetta, owner of CENTURY 21 Realty First which serves southwestern Brooklyn, concurs. “The brand’s momentum here in Brooklyn is great for both of us. There is plenty of business and we are both now much better equipped to attract it thanks to an enhanced value proposition and tremendous brand power.”
“Our philosophy is that the CENTURY 21 business is helping you grow yours. As a brand, we meet you where you are along your journey as a business owner, focus on maximizing your potential and help take you where you want to be,” said Mike Miedler, president and CEO of Century 21 Real Estate, LLC. “Our increased presence in New York City is helping brokers and agents tap into where consumers want to be. Despite rumors that COVID would decimate the city as people flocked to the suburbs, we are seeing an increased interest in city living. As part of the CENTURY 21 network, our new affiliates are now in a great position to capitalize on that growing trend.”
Bobby Gellert, broker-owner of CENTURY 21 Shared Purpose in Whitestone, Queens, knew where he wanted to be, and he chose the CENTURY 21 brand to help him get there. “I started my business in 2004 and built a very successful niche brokerage focused on co-ops and condos but I wanted to diversify and expand. I knew I needed a formalized recruiting platform, a unified technology stack and M&A support to achieve that goal --Century 21 Real Estate was the full-service solution.”
Gellert affiliated in June of 2022 and a few months later in October, CENTURY 21 Monticello Realty in Woodhaven located in the southwest corner of Queens followed. According to broker John Chetram, “I love the new direction of the brand and take great pride in seeing our signs all over Queens. The brand’s expanding presence here in Queens and across the other boroughs as well as Long Island is really amplifying our awareness and creating great word-of-mouth referral business.”
Biting into the Big Apple
Meanwhile in Manhattan, Paul Reisner and Lauren Cohen were contemplating a change in their business model. Their firm had strong market share in the Bronx, and a strong rental business in Manhattan that they wanted to leverage into residential sales. They joined the CENTURY 21 brand in October 2022 to support that growth plan. With more than 300 agents, they were excited to elevate their own successful agent onboarding program with the comprehensive professional development resources now available to them via CENTURY 21 University.
“We were really impressed with the depth of the brand’s learning platform,” said Lauren. “The combination of live and online sessions, as well as self-paced and on demand material is so flexible and lets agents access the content in a way that works best for them. We also love the group coaching and agent mastermind sessions.”
Since July 2021, USPS data has shown an estimated net gain of 6,332 permanent movers, indicating a gradual return to Manhattan, mainly in neighborhoods that experienced the greatest flight. On a per-capita basis, the largest net gains over the summer were in Chelsea/Midtown, Murray Hill/Gramercy, Battery Park City/Greenwich Village, and Chinatown/Lower East Side, a development that bodes well for Paul and Lauren as they tap inbound migration to expand their presence in Manhattan. Indeed, since July 2021 monthly net migration losses have been comparable to or even slightly better than 2019.
“As we tracked inbound migration data, we saw a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on the renewed interest in living in Manhattan,” said Paul. “While we had built a strong company around the Manhattan rental sector, we knew we needed a greater level of support to activate our growth plans of capturing residential sales in the market. Key to that was recruiting and professional development as well as a comprehensive technology platform and powerful marketing programs.
“The power of the brand is unrivaled. Shortly after affiliating with the CENTURY 21 brand, we fielded a referral call from overseas, where the brand was well known and respected. We wouldn’t have gotten that business as an independent firm.”
Beyond the Boroughs
Out on Long Island, the last year has seen a bevy of activity for the brand. In April of 2022, CENTURY 21 Icon located in Port Jefferson on the North Shore of Long Island joined, followed by CENTURY 21 Realty Specialists in Melville, an affluent area in central Long Island, in June.
In November of 2022, Verdeschi & Walsh Real Estate, a 40-year-old firm holding firm at No. 3 in the Long Beach market on the south shore of Long Island joined the brand and is now doing business as CENTURY 21 Verdeschi & Walsh Real Estate]. Owners Lucy Brunelli and Kat Walsh saw tremendous value in the recruiting platform, learning resources and business-building tools.
“We did not want to become complacent,” said Brunelli, the firm’s founder. “With our eyes on growth and a goal of capturing the No. 1 spot in our market, we were all in on having our own growth consultant and service platform to assist with training and onboarding of agents as well as for accountability to ensure organic growth.”
The most recent Long Island firm to join the network is CENTURY 21 Excelsior Realty, a firm founded by Doug Cabral, serving a luxury niche in the Hamptons and North Fork as well as Queens, Suffolk and Nassau counties. During the pandemic, a larger proportion of wealthy New Yorkers moved out of New York City, a trend that did not escape Cabral, who caters to high-net-worth clientele.
With a focus on moving forward, Cabral is leveraging his affiliation with the CENTURY 21 brand to fuel growth through targeted recruitment efforts as well as strategic mergers and acquisitions to expand his market share and service area. He has embraced a technology-driven approach to real estate, which involves using the latest in digital marketing and social media to enhance awareness and increase connectivity with customers.
As Cabral and his fellow New York brokers can attest, the last year has been one of rapid expansion for Century 21 Real Estate in the boroughs and beyond.
To the north in Westchester County, the addition of CENTURY 21 Hire in Pleasantville creates a contiguous Century 21 brand service area across the county, from Yonkers to Peekskill.
“After six years as an independent firm, I recognized our opportunities for expansion were limited because we lacked visibility and recognition,” says McMillan. “As a CENTURY 21 affiliated company, we can leverage the awareness and trust that the brand has built up to reach more people. Real estate is a business that revolves around helping people and I am looking forward to being able to help my affiliated agents succeed so they can not only support their families but their clients’ families as well. Being part of the CENTURY 21® network allow us to do just that.”
“When we see opportunity, we’re not afraid to move fast,” remarked Miedler. “And we are thrilled to have found a cadre of like-minded real estate professionals in the New York City market and beyond who are committed to moving forward with us.”