Meet the Member: Yann Rousseau, Managing Partner, BARNES New York
Interview by the French American Chamber of Commerce
Yann Rousseau, Managing partner at BARNES New York, had the privilege to be interviewed by the French American Chamber of commerce this week. Learn more about the man leading the BARNES agency in the Big Apple.
Originally from France, Yann grew up in Paris but now considers Bordeaux and Arcachon his home. He completed three masters degrees in environmental engineering, environmental economics, and wine and spirits management. He has lived in over a dozen cities across six countries and three continents (France, Seychelles, United Kingdom, Italy, Burkina Faso, United States).
After working for several years in the development and humanitarian arena (United Nations, French Government, Seychelles Government, private sector…), Yann decided to move to the U.S. and embrace a new career. Originally settling down in Miami, he started his career as a Real Estate consultant in 2013.
Yann has since been assisting clients from modest rentals to luxurious homes, new developments and profitable acquisitions for both cash-flow purposes and capital gain. For him, it is about supporting each and every client, regardless of his budget and intentions, to accomplish his Real Estate projects in full serenity and confidence. He believes in long-term relationships gradually moving from tenant, to owner, and investor.
FACC-NY: As an Engineer with a background in Economics and in the public and private sector spanning over 6 countries over 3 continents, what guided your decision to work in the realty industry with Barnes New York?
It actually started out of luck when I moved to the US (Miami) to follow my wife, who is originally from South Florida. Her mother has a modest real estate portfolio and since I didn’t have a major career plan then, she asked me to take care of it while I was figuring things out. I enjoyed discovering a new industry and starting a new career in the US. I joined a boutique brokerage in Miami, and then quickly joined BARNES’ office. After a couple of years there, BARNES gave me the opportunity to revive the NY operation. So we moved north in late 2018 and I reopened BARNES NY alongside my partner Christophe Bourreau. Two years after, we recruited 12 agents and doubled the best year of business ever recorded for the office. And we are about to open a new agency, in Larchmont, covering the Westchester area.
FACC-NY: How do you assess the present state of real estate in the Post-COVID period?
It is hard to define precisely because the situation remains fluid. Everyone has heard about an exodus from Manhattan, but when we look at Q3 and Q4 of 2020, the numbers are actually even better than what they were at the same time in 2019. There is of course a non-negligible “catching-up” effect, where the last two quarters tend to compensate for a very slow beginning of 2020. In a nutshell, real estate transactions still need to be made and most of it had just been pushed back to the end of the year. Now in 2021, we can witness a strong recovery on the resale side, though the market remains tense on the rental front. It is definitely a tenants’ market, and it somehow remains a buyers’ market though to fewer proportions compared with 2020. We assume a general 8% decrease in price (resale) across Manhattan, with some neighborhoods resisting better than others. New developments are suffering much more and we can easily attain 2-digit discounts. Rental-wise, Landlords have to leave on the table at least 2-months of free rent to find tenants.
FACC-NY: How hopeful is BARNES New York for economic recovery in NYC?
Given the level of sufferance that is being seen all over the City, one has to remain modest. Although the industry representatives are striving for us to be categorized as essential workers, we are merely here to keep on assisting our clients in the safest way possible. People still have to move and find a place to live. In parallel, we keep on communicating highly about NYC and about the relevance of such a real estate investment, at a time where the news pretends that everyone is fleeing the City. New York will always be New York, and this shall remain one of the safest investments one can make in a such a volatile world.
FACC-NY: Are you generally seeing a lot of price reductions in the NYC realty scene due to the pandemic?
Indeed, as indicated prior, about 8% overall in Manhattan for resale and about 2-months of free rent for rentals. This is an average and certain property types, for instance, townhouses or high-luxury units, are suffering less and seem to be weathering the storm just fine. Also, the most sought-after neighborhoods (SoHo, Tribeca, prime UES…) did not take that much of a hit, if any, as opposed to those areas that heavily rely on the market forces. The “best” example being the Financial District and around major Universities (NYU / Columbia), where the lack of attendance definitely impacted the local market. On top of that, new developments are the most heavily impacted by the pandemic, because their deadlines (either regulatory or financial) press them to move their inventory at almost all cost. Discounts for this asset class can easily range over 20% which is absolutely unprecedented; margins of negotiations for new buildings tended to be close to zero in the past.
FACC-NY: How do you go about choosing listings in the new normal? What are the features that make a place particularly appealing to buyers nowadays?
As one can expect, anything that offers some sense of space, air, breathing, or green, stands a stronger advantage today. In the past, people didn’t seem to care too much for an obstructed view and were instead fine with a low floor on a dark street as long as the location was great and the amenities plenty. Now, buyers and tenants realize that they might have to spend much more time in their apartment, and during the day, so they need to be able to feel less claustrophobic. Townhouses are a must in that regard. And of course, “flex” arrangements are now a must. Units with additional spaces (dens, nooks, loggias…) that can be used for home offices are more attractive than ever.
FACC-NY: What kinds of price ranges are you seeing the most movement in right now?
Everyone is looking for a deal but people still have to move and find a roof. Basically, we haven’t seen a large shift in the price points because, as much as the entry-price properties will always be sought after, the people that can acquire multi-million-dollar property are scattered all over the world. And they are the ones with a particular eye on the market now to see what opportunities are. On the other hand, we have slowly started seeing some price points that we hadn’t seen for quite some time in the City, such as condo units under $500k, or coops under $400k. The entry point is getting lower for sure and sells at a discount.
FACC-NY: What led you to join the FACC-NY community?
We are originally a French company, with strong roots in France where the bulk of the BARNES business takes place. It is only natural for us to be an active member of the French community wherever we have an office, and the Chamber of Commerce is often an excellent relay to that end. Besides, we are often the entry point for companies and individuals relocating to the City from France (or from French companies), so it makes absolute sense for us to be members of the Chamber. We service all interested parties but our core clientele remains closely tied to France.