By Roland Li
Around a year ago, Barak Dunayer, president and founder of Barak Realty, saw a slowdown in the market, and some of his agents began expressing frustration with the tough real estate climate. He decided to return to selling his own properties, as well as managing the firm, moving from a private office onto the sales floor.
“I just got a little tired of the complaints,” he said, and decided to demonstrate that properties could still trade. Because the firm is on the smaller side, now with around 25 agents, he felt that he could continue to manage, while also selling.
The move displeased some former employees, who felt that Dunayer was giving his own listings more prominence, at their expense. Others were turned off by his aggressive style.
“He would get very stern with his agents,” said a former employee. “There are several different occasions where he has raised his voice, very, very inappropriately in front of other employees to anyone he has an ‘issue’ with.”
“He is a great agent – don’t get me wrong,” added the person. “He’s amazing at his job because he is so forceful, but some don’t work like that. I personally think it is a turnoff.”
But Dunayer said that the complaints were sour grapes.
“Some of those people used to base a large part of their business based on my referrals,” said Dunayer. “Their business went down. Obviously, they got upset, and they went somewhere else.”
Dunayer founded his firm in 2000, after arriving in New York from Israel in 1994 to study the trumpet at Julliard. He began running the company out of his Upper West Side studio, eventually expanding to 37 brokers. In 2009, he opened an east side office at 1458 Third Avenue, in addition to the office at 237 West 72nd Street.
In July, Jeffrey Tanenbaum, the firm’s top producer, left Barak Realty for Halstead Property. Tanenbaum declined to comment. A few other brokers have also recently left. In February 2009, husband-and-wife team Tom and Catherine Holmes, Bill Vilkelis and Jeff Goodman, also left the firm for Halstead. However, Vilkelis soon rejoined Barak and is currently an agent.
Dunayer dismissed rumors that the firm was in financial trouble, and said there were no plans to merge or sell to another company. The firm has a traditional commission split. “We are less people, but we are more profitable,” said Dunayer.
The firm has over 30 exclusive listings, including broker Kathryn Swift’s two condos at 44 West 106th Street, priced for $1.025 million and $875,000. Dunayer has four contracts signed at 215 West 95th Street, ranging from $599,000 to$1.258 million.
Instead, he hopes to grow the rental side of the firm’s business, capitalizing on tightening vacancy rates and rising rents.
“What we have in mind is to hire a strong rental director,” said Dunayer. “We have feelers out, we’re interviewing people.”
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect broker Bill Vilkelis’ return to Barak Realty.