Acerbic real estate blog Curbed hit the mark by reporting that the memo, which was handed down at 3:00 p.m. on a dreary Friday afternoon last month, was, to say the least, big news.
“Corcoran Resigns; Real Estate Over.”
Snarky, yes, but don’t doubt it for a minute — she’s really that big a deal.
So what happens when the undisputed queen of real estate does the unthinkable and resigns?
While nay-sayers have dubbed this as a sign of the apocolypse, or at least telling that the real-estate bubble is finally headed for a burst, Barbara Corcoran is staying positive, and for once, out of the limelight.
Following the announcement of her resignation, effective Nov. 15, and the creation of her own TV production firm, Corcoran jetted off to Australia before making any comment. The billion-dollar company is keeping mum on the change in its ranks, aside from reporting that Pamela Liebman, current president and CEO of the Corcoran Group, will take her place.
Usually never one to shy away from self-promotion, Corcoran’s toothy grin and blonde bob is splayed across nearly every advertisement that her namesake real estate brokerage churns out. And while she is self-deprecating enough to laugh at her encroaching wrinkles, she knows her face is easily recognizable and helps keep the company’s name on the lips of anyone who knows real estate.
Becoming the queen wasn’t easy, but Corcoran would have you believe it was fun, and just what she had in mind when she started over 30 years ago.
The story of how Corcoran got her start in real estate is one she enjoys telling, and was documented in her bestseller, “If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails: And Other Lessons I Learned from My Mom,” (which is lesson number one, by the way).
Corcoran was working as a waitress when she met Ray Simone, a real estate broker. The two became involved and he gave her $1,000 to start her own real estate firm. While the two later split, Corcoran resurrected another one of her mother’s lessons, culled from years of baking cakes for her large brood: give someone else the bigger piece, that way yours will taste even sweeter.
Corcoran parlayed her loss into a burgeoning real estate business and kept her eyes and ears open to trends, which quickly established her as the expert during a time when the New York City real estate market would weather some of its most volatile years — eventually coming out on top, where it is today.
After taking New York — along with the Hamptons and Palm Beach — by storm, she is now working on a new venture.
Barbara Corcoran Productions should expose her to the rest of the population that doesn’t automatically know her face. Already a regular on the morning talk show circuit, where she has been talking up “America’s Sexiest Suburbs” and “Best Places To Retire,” Corcoran plans on developing television with a property twist.
One of 10
The Corcoran family ran like a factory out of a three-family clapboard house in Edgewater, N.J., across the Hudson River from the city she would eventually know like the back of her hand.
Mother Florence and father Edwin Jr., with roots in Roscommon and Cork, respectively, had 10 children. Barbara Ann, second eldest, took her place as the clown of the family, and endured a painful secret throughout much of her school years.
Dubbed “stupid” and relegated to special education classes by the nuns at her Catholic school, Corcoran eventually realized that her painfully slow reading and learning was because of undiagnosed dyslexia.
She has said she never became a good student, but she did eventually get a BA from St. Thomas Aquinas College in New York’s Rockland County, and worked a plethora of jobs until she met Simone at the diner where she tried her best to compete with a curvy bombshell waitress for customers. Simone noticed Corcoran’s potential, and the two went into business together.
After a painful split with Simone when she most doubted her abilities, Corcoran began to watch her star rise.
Real Estate in NYC
Corcoran had the sense to notice a growing trend in real estate when she struck out on her own with The Corcoran Group in 1973.
She described how she noticed the “Sales” section of the New York Times Real Estate pages were outpacing the “Rentals,” and thanks to years of archaic rent-control guidelines, building owners were converting buildings into condos in order to make a profit.
Corcoran followed suit and started to show homes for sale, and her commissions reflected the growing market. She was hooked, and decided to publicize her findings.
The first “Corcoran Report” was a short blurb on the quick rise of home values in Manhattan, which was picked up by major news outlets and began her careful foray into marketing the company she had started.
While the Corcoran Group has weathered some nasty times in the real estate market, such as the 1987 Wall Street crash and the first Gulf War, which Corcoran said wiped away 40 percent of the company’s earnings, they have come out on top as the market has reached dizzying heights.
In what was a hint of her influence, Corcoran started a mini-stampede to Red Hook, Brooklyn, a small neighborhood isolated from the subway system whose prior claim to fame was as a seaport in the 1800s, and had recently fallen out of favor. When Corcoran bought herself a storefront brownstone in the area, prices nearby rose accordingly.
With the New York market getting tight, this sort of neighborhood grabbing has become a weekly game for herself and other brokers. Other neighborhoods given Corcoran’s seal of approval as “up and coming” include Harlem, Queens’ Long Island City, and perhaps most shockingly, “SoBro,” the area of the South Bronx that is already showing signs of revitalization thanks to the Fulton Fish Market’s relocation there and the refurbishment of lofts. One of Corcoran’s own surefire tips for spotting and up-and-coming area is to check if artists and a gay population have taken root.
A New Venture
While Corcoran is resigning as chairperson of her company, it already had been sold to real estate giant NRT in 2001 for a reported $70 million – a year in which they had $2.2 billion in closed sales volume, 28 offices and more than 1,200 brokers.
Corcoran stayed aboard as the face of the company, and her recent move was met with shock throughout the cities in which she had made her presence most known.
Clearly, Corcoran knows a good thing when she sees it. As talk about the real estate bubble bursting reaches fever pitch, there is more demand for an expert, namely a friendly face, to talk about it.
Corcoran granted one interview to the New York Observer in the weeks after the announcement of her resignation, where she gave a few details about her new company – namely, that she has a youngish staff of six, and they expect to get involved in at least one reality show.
Until then, the team is holed up in the Corcoran Group’s Madison Avenue headquarters — but in typical real estate mogul style, a new space in the trendy Flatiron district, is being finished as of press time.