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Israeli real estate cutthroats unite in New York-based business

Raz Smolsky Haaretz

Ilan Bracha and Lenny Sporn are laying down arms in their war over New York City, and more than that, they're joining hands. The two young Israeli real estate salesmen are among the top five team leaders at Douglas Elliman Prudential Real Estate. "There isn't a property deal in New York that doesn't pass over our desk," say the two, who instead of competing are merging their forces to create an 18-man team of brokers.

Bracha and Sporn are success stories in the cutthroat world of New York property. Bracha, 37, came to New York 12 years ago. He began as a mover, until hauling boxes for a property salesman led to his new career. Sporn, a decade younger, arrived in the city in 2000, met a realtor named Mickey Roth and began working with him in low-cost housing, which means, apartments costing some $180,000 and rentals for around $1,500 a month.

Over time, Sporn and Roth attracted the attention of Douglas Elliman president Howard Lorber, who recruited them both. Thus they entered the world of much more expensive housing, with sales of $1.5 million a pop and rentals starting at $15,000 a month. They recently mediated a deal to rent a flat for $42,000 a

Sporn, named New York's most successful property broker under age 30 in 2006, received an offer from Bracha that he couldn't refuse, he relates: to join forces. "Now we are reaching deals of a magnitude we wouldn't have separately," Sporn says. "We control 15% of the luxury apartment market ¬ and have exclusive marketing rights to several large projects."

Sporn and Bracha are handling three mega-projects, one consisting of 500 apartments evaluated at $200 million ¬ in New Jersey. Another project is a Tribeca building with 20 apartments worth $2 million each, and counting. The third is a building in the Lower East Side, with 25 apartments valued at about $700,000 apiece.

Prices in the City remain high despite the credit crisis. Prices are down only about 5% even though they rose by 40% in recent years, Sporn claims. If there's a decrease it's in the number of transactions and the time apartments can spend on the shelf, he says. "The market is alive. There are deals," he qualifies. "Apartments aren't being snatched up like they were two years ago, but at the end of the day, they get sold."

Israeli realtors stand out in the New York scene, not by virtue of their numbers, but because of the volume of deals they drum up. "The Israelis rule the market because of their aggression," Sporn says. "An American dealer may settle for one deal a week. Our group sells 500 apartments a year, an average of one and a half a day."

The two are also known among the Israeli scene, having handled apartment sales for Yitzhak Tshuva's Plaza Hotel, and also 40 apartments for a Broad Street building owned by Shaya Boymelgreen and Lev Leviev.


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