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Ex-fashion executive following pattern of success


When the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts found itself in need of an infusion of cash, Winoker Realty’s Jonata Dayan helped the organization pursue an unusual alternative to selling the building it owned on 39th Street — divide the building into condos, and sell half of them.

“They were able to create four block and lot numbers, and sold out two of the office lots and kept the retail space as income for the foundation,” she said.

Dayan heads Winoker’s commercial condo and co-op division, which she started in 2005.

For Dayan, business is a family affair. She founded and ran a clothing manufacturing company with her husband and brother-in-law before she started with Winoker as a new broker in 2001.

Six years ago, she was joined by her son Adam Ben-Dayan, and three years later his brother Jonathan also joined the team.

In real estate, she said, working with ones nearest and dearest can be particularly beneficial.

“When you’re developing a transaction, you need someone to bounce your ideas off of. Working with your family is great because they’re not taking the deal and walking off with it,” she said.

Like many new brokers, Dayan drew on her previous experience — in her case, in the fashion industry — to build her business.

“I get along with the tenants because I used to be one of them,” she said. “Their requirements are different, their mentality is different, their clock is different. Their business model is not as stable as a law firm. They kind of grow and shrink.”

And it was a client from the fashion industry who gave her one of her early experiences with commercial condominiums.

Felina Lingerie was thinking of buying a townhouse in order to own their own space, and Dayan directed them to the commercial condo building at 12 West 32nd. She recently closed her third deal in that building, she said, and is working on a fourth.

Because the space demands of businesses in the fashion industry tend to fluctuate, Dayan said, they often find themselves subletting space — something that is easier if you own. Condos are also popular with non-profits, which are exempt from property taxes, and medical tenants, who often invest in costly space improvements. But she has done deals for all kinds of office buyers, from software developers to a geologist.

In general, the arguments that persuade office tenants to own their own space are similar to the reasons individuals choose to own homes, according to Dayan.

“After payroll, rent is probably your biggest expense that doesn’t come back. Over 20 years, you’re basically paying your landlord’s mortgage when you could be paying your own,” she said.
The recession has indirectly benefited the commercial condo market, she said, with historically low interest rates and generous loans available for business owners through the SBA.

One challenge facing the market, she said, is a lack of supply. Only about 70 office buildings in the city have been converted to condos.

“It’s pretty dry out there,” she said.

Selling a building as condos can yield a higher price per square foot than selling the building in its entirety, she said, and with the help of an experienced team, the condo conversion process can take as little as nine months.

Dayan also does leasing work — she is the exclusive leasing agent for 320 Fifth Avenue — but approximately two thirds of her business is in office condos and co-ops.

Looking forward, she sees her group branching into investment sales, as customers who have gained experience with ownership of their own workspace consider expanding their portfolios.

Dayan is the daughter of a tailor and a nurse, and emigrated to the U.S. from Israel with her parents when she was in the fourth grade. She spent the remainder of her youth in Brooklyn and attended Erasmus Hall High School — an alma mater she shares with Barbara Streisand. She graduated cum laude with a bachelor of art’s degree from Brooklyn College.

Fluent in Hebrew as well as English, Dayan has retained dual citizenship. She enjoys spending time with her growing family and reading everything from historical biographies to science fiction. 

When she started at Winoker, Dayan was the only woman at the firm — a distinction she sees as an advantage.

“I think it was easier because people remembered me,” she said. “People tend to be less rude to women.”

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