Cover Feature

Living The Luxe Life

Photographer: Jill Lotenberg

Carol Staab Serves the Upper East Side By Being the Consummate Upper East Sider

It isn’t often that a homeowner would ask the broker marketing his or her apartment to enter the home, find a specific outfit, and overnight it to Monte Carlo for a charity event. When the broker is Carol Staab, it’s par for the course.

Ranked in the top one percent of Douglas Elliman brokers, Staab routinely posts record-breaking sales for her Upper East Side clients by offering creative, cutting-edge marketing, luxury service befitting her clientele, and a unique insight into their needs. Staab not only serves the luxury customer, but she is that customer, and specializes in her own neighborhood.

In order to provide this high level of luxury service to her clients and get them excellent results, Staab has what she calls her “5-Star Navy Seal Collaborative” team consisting of a highly skilled real estate agent who assists with showings and open houses, a personal administrative assistant, a marketing director, a graphic designer, a top property photographer, a stager, a videographer, and even her own publicists.

“It’s an informal concierge service,” which also can include referring other consultants, such as attorneys and personal shoppers, she said. “I help them with every aspect. That level of service is different. A lot of my clients are neighbors. I have a deeper understanding of their needs.”

As well as their Fifth Avenue apartment, Staab and her husband also have a home in Southampton, are members of the Burning Tree Country Club, in Greenwich, CT, ski in Aspen, and support charities including the Ronald McDonald House and the Central Park Conservancy.

Staab came to the industry via a circuitous route. After earning a degree in biology (with a minor in math) from Boston University, she spent nine years traveling the world as a Pan Am flight attendant.

“It was the best company to work for,” she recalled, offering pioneering routes to the then-Soviet Union and China. “The education that I got in those nine years, traveling the world and learning different cultures, the relationships I developed, and the ease of being with people helped me develop my skill sets. We’re in an international city. I have a client in Bahrain I’ve never met. But I represent several of his investment properties and understand the culture there.”

She turned to real estate in 1992, at a time when the market was soft. “I didn’t know anything about real estate. But I was a clean slate,” Staab said.

She began by renting apartments, and taking advantage of recent easing of restrictions on sublets. She completed so many transactions in her first two years that she quickly got her broker’s license, and moved into sales.

She quickly found both a personal and professional home in the luxury market, especially the Upper East Side. She and her husband were searching for their own purchase and came upon 1049 Fifth Avenue, a new development in the mid-1990s.

They purchased the model apartment overlooking Central Park and the Reservoir, and eventually Staab marketed and sold 16 other units in her own building, including one that is internal, with every window facing a brick wall. “I’ve sold it three times, at increased prices. It is a great entry level apartment, to get into a pre-war condo on Fifth Avenue,” she said. “My own building really launched me in the luxury market.”

For Staab, luxury is about more than just price. While these properties are in the top 10 percent of pricing (starting at about $4 million), they must also be architecturally stunning, with great views and light, gracious layouts, high level finishes and appliances, and high ceilings.

“Buyers also are looking for luxury amenities. For example, at 15 Central Park West there is a private dining room, and residents can hire the building’s chef to prepare dinners in their homes,” she noted. Privacy is a major amenity in this market—buildings that can allow residents and their guests to enter and leave discreetly are in high demand.

She also has developed a keen understanding for marketing luxury properties. Staab is known for her elaborate marketing videos on individual properties, as well as videos that profile the neighborhoods.

“With a luxury property, the whole marketing process is different. The timeline is different. I do an enormous amount of marketing. You have to know whom to target, and the social aspect is important as well,” she adds.

As she built her business, her reputation expanded her reach into the Midtown and Downtown markets. The Bahrain client, for example, got her name from the concierge at one of his buildings.

Her alliance with Douglas Elliman serves her marketing well. “Elliman gives me the freedom to be an entrepreneur,” she said.

Another advantage of working with Elliman is its partnership with global luxury firm Knight Frank. “When I give a listing presentation, sellers are very impressed to hear it will be promoted via their website in 80 different countries,” she said.

One client led to another, and Staab has become one of the leading brokers in the U.S., ranked in the top one percent nationally. She also has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2015 Real Trends/Trulia Zillow America’s Best Agents Award, Douglas Elliman’s Diamond Award in 2014, and the firm’s Platinum Award in 2013. She also is the author of “Luxury Home Selling Mastery,” an Amazon best-seller.

She produces “The Pulse,” a weekly luxury newsletter for clients, and a quarterly video report on the market. The Upper East Side is really two markets, she noted. The area east of Third Avenue offers comparatively affordable luxury (somewhere between $1,600 per square foot and $1,800 per square foot). New condominium development is targeting that price range, she noted. From Lexington Avenue through Fifth Avenue is very different, dominated by co-ops. But there are values to be found there, as well.

“There’s been a growing difference between the prices of co-ops and condos—approximately 20 percent to 30 percent. You can get a better deal with these big grand co-op family apartments than with luxury new development,” she observed. “However, you must meet the qualifications for the building.”

While there will always be a market for trophy properties, expect flat to softening prices in the luxury market for 2018, she said. There is a glut of new development units in the market especially in Midtown, which could require up to four years to absorb, compared with a more typical one- to two-year supply, with more units under construction.

“Prices are starting to come down, and sellers are traveling further to meet the buyer in negotiations,” she said.

The condo resale inventory has declined, and buyers will look there for value, so that sector should do well. After a peak in 2014, the townhouse market should be soft.

About 15 percent of her sales are to foreign buyers, she said, but a casual observer might be surprised where the foreign business originates. “People are always talking about the Chinese buyer. But the Canadian buyer is a big factor in luxury.”

Meanwhile, Staab remains happily ensconced in Fifth Avenue, in the same apartment that helped launch her career.


Carol Staab
Associate Broker
Douglas Elliman
575 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022
212-891-7205 (O)
917-273-7787 (M)

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