NAREE names winners in real estate journalism competition
The National Association of Real Estate Editors (NAREE) today announced the winners of its 70th Annual Journalism Awards, recognizing excellence in reporting, writing and editing stories about residential and commercial real estate at is first-ever virtual real estate journalism conference.
Konrad Putzier, Wall Street Journal, received NAREE’s Platinum Award for Best Individual Entry.
The Kenneth R. Harney Award for Best Real Estate Consumer Education Reporting went to Kate Giammarise, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The President’s Gold Award for Best Freelance Collection was presented to Ronda Kaysen, freelance writer for the New York Times.
Rebecca Schuetz, Houston Chronicle, is the winner of NAREE’s Best Young Journalist Award.
A panel of expert judges from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University selected all winners. Medill’s Ceci Rodgers chaired the panel. Here are NAREE’s 2020 winners with judges’ comments.
Platinum Award – Best Overall Entry Winner: Konrad Putzier, The Wall Street Journal, “A Natural Disaster Wipes Out Your Home. Then the Buyers Come Calling”
Judges’ comment: Putzier’s story shines a light on the growing cadre of investors who show up after hurricanes, floods and fires to buy distressed properties. He takes us to the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Florida and the wildfires in Santa Rosa and leaves us with a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the investors, who are despised by some and welcomed by others. Putzier finds a community that’s fighting back with “House Not for Sale” signs in their front yards. Detailed numbers, including hard-to-get dollar figures for investors’ profit margins, enhance but don’t overwhelm the story. Engaging, enterprising story, well-sourced and well-written.
Kenneth R. Harney Award for Best Real Estate Consumer Education Reporting: Kate Giammarise, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Collection includes: “Pennsylvania conservatorship law pits anti-blight advocates against property owners”
Judges’ comment: Giammarise’s series reveals how a little-known law meant to fight urban blight was being misused, almost costing at least one family its home. For her original, deeply reported stories, she tracked down the key players and real people who illustrated the problem. In the process, she served as a watchdog who held officials accountable in communities that couldn’t do so. Giammarise pointed out a glaring conflict: The state representative who pushed for the law’s passage is now the judge hearing all the conservatorship cases in Allegheny County.
President’s Award – Best Freelance Collection: Ronda Kaysen, New York Times, Collection includes: “Follow Every Step of a Major Midcentury Modern Renovation,” “’This Old House’ Turns 40,” and “Could Your House Be an Instagram Star?”
Judges’ comment: Kaysen’s detailed reporting and elegant writing elevate what could otherwise be mundane stories, such as a gut rehab that runs into problems and a milestone anniversary of “This Old House.” She finds real people who add color – such as a contractor who unwittingly left an errant footprint on a poured concrete floor. Especially noteworthy is her exploration of Instagram influencers whose homes bring in hundreds of thousands of followers. Kaysen’s carefully mined details make her stories easy and rewarding to read.
Ruth Ryon Award – Best Young Journalist: R.A. Schuetz, Houston Chronicle, “For Some, Fool’s Gold in Harvey’s Floodwaters,”
Judges’ comment: Schuetz demonstrates a knack for uncovering unique stories with impact. Two years after Hurricane Harvey, she asks: What happened to the properties that crisis investors bought to fix up and flip? What she finds is more than 150 borrowers in default on homes that remain unsold. She masterfully weaves together anecdotes, data and quotes to tell tricky stories in surprisingly easy-to-understand ways. Smart and enterprising, Schuetz is one to watch.
SECTION I: INDIVIDUAL AWARDS, ALL MEDIA, SINGLE BYLINE
Category 1: Best Collection of Work by an Individual Covering Residential Real Estate
Katherine Clarke, The Wall Street Journal, “L.A. Developers Have a Big Problem: Too Many New Megamansions”
Judges’ comment: Clarke’s meticulous reporting and engaging prose informs and delights readers with stories of people and places that are inaccessible to many: billionaires who can’t sell their Hollywood Hills megamansions; the fading lustre of sprawling luxury ranches in Colorado; and the exclusive story of Mark Zuckerberg’s secret $60 million purchase of Lake Tahoe real estate. Clarke impresses with her command of the data and economics behind her stories, and the details that bring them to life.
Jason Hidalgo, Reno Gazette-Journal, “These are the people impacted by the Spaghetti Bowl Project in Reno-Sparks”
Judges’ comment: In this impactful collection of stories, Hidalgo explores the sudden unbridled growth in Sparks-Reno, Nevada, and the resulting affordable housing crisis. Hidalgo paints a compelling picture in these deeply reported stories about the hardships befalling residents with clear, explanatory writing buttressed by well-produced videos, graphics and photos. The best of the bunch is a story that explains the impact of a major highway project that most agree is needed, but will wipe out a neighborhood, including homes, businesses and a school. Hidalgo’s well-sourced story prompted city officials to respond with changes to the plans.
Stefanos Chen, The New York Times, “New York’s Soaring, Empty Skyline”
Judges’ comment: In this collection, Chen uses novel approaches to real estate stories, such as a building boom for NYC skyscrapers that delves into the history of the city’s skyline. A story about Ken Griffin’s $240 million condo purchase asks what else one could buy with $240 million (the Hope diamond and 850 Harvard college students for four years, among others). Detailed reporting and clear, engaging writing make Chen’s work a joy to read.
Andrew Khouri, Los Angeles Times, “No Place to Call Home”
Judges’ comment: Khouri reported deeply on one of the biggest stories of 2019: California’s affordable housing crisis. In one story, he cautions readers about “tenancy in common” properties with price tags that are too good to be true. In another, Khouri gives “show don’t tell” examples that help the reader connect to the issue, such as the mother who has a Section 8 voucher but can’t find a landlord who will accept its below-market value. Data illustrate the problem in beautiful, easy-to-read graphics.
Category 2: Best Collection of Work by an Individual Covering Commercial Real Estate
Loretta Clodfelter, Institutional Real Estate Americas, “Female Founders”
Judges’ comment: Clodfelter tells a collection of stories through the eyes of the people she interviews in a manner that is detailed yet succinct. All three articles stand out but in “Female Founders,” Clodfelter does an exceptional job of explaining the gap between the number of female- and male-owned businesses, the challenges women currently have in the real estate industry – particularly compared with other industries – those they have going forward and how they can overcome those challenges.
Rebecca Baird-Remba, Commercial Observer, “A Rent Regulation Fight is Brewing in Albany”
Judges’ comment: In this collection of stories, Baird-Remba tackles the thorny subjects of rents in New York City by dissecting what politicians, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, are and aren’t doing in Albany to help individuals who are paying some of the highest rents in the country. Baird-Remba does it by talking with the key individuals involved in making the decisions, while also not getting caught up in using jargon in her stories.
Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald, “The historic Miami River district has been an open secret among locals. Now it’s going bigger”
Judges’ comment: Rodriguez’s collection of stories about Miami real estate is entertaining to read because of the way he intertwines facts and figures with personal stories as he describes the busting-at-the-seams interest in the Miami River districts and the Wynwood neighborhood. But Rodriguez’s story on the Soffer siblings going their separate ways and no longer working together at the Turnberry Associates development firm shows his skill in breaking news and succinctly explaining the background of what happened between the brother and sister.
Jacob Adelman, Philadelphia Inquirer, “Former Revel’s new owners said to be folding on troubled Ocean Resort property barely a year after sale”
Judges’ comment: Adelman’s trio of stories get into details of problems at an Atlantic City casino, the challenges that falling college enrollments are leading to for student-housing property owners and how a tax cut designed for small businesses ended up benefitting investors in real estate funds. The casino story stands out because of how Adelman details the poor financial health of the casino and what led to the issues that ultimately led to it being put for sale.
Category 3: Best Real Estate Column
Gold Winner (tie):
Beth DeCarbo, The Wall Street Journal, “Pets Can Take a Bite Out of Resale Value”
Judges’ comment: DeCarbo knows the power of a strong anecdotal lede and central character – in this case, the owner of three dogs and a $1.25 million, 4,000-square-foot home. Over three years, she spent $25,000 to $30,000 on repairs related to her pets. Yes, they like to chew. The package also includes an advice-filled sidebar with the punny headline, “Stop doggone chewing.” It’s a strong story with widespread appeal, given that nearly half of U.S. households include a dog.
Gold Winner (tie):
Beckie Strum, Mansion Global, “Why Biggest Is Rarely Best in Real Estate”
Judges’ comment: In this thoroughly reported piece, Strum shows how mansions the size of football fields can be a bad investment. A 30,000-square-foot house is not triple the value of a 10,000-square-foot one. The 56,000-square-foot home of “Charlie’s Angels” creator Aaron Spellings sold for $1,120 a square foot while the Playboy Mansion down the street sold for $5,000 per square foot. Buyers beware: As Strum writes, “Biggest is rarely best.”
Ronda Kaysen, Freelance, The New York Times, “What Exactly Is a Modern Farmhouse?”
Judges’ comment: In her stylishly written takedown of the faux farmhouse made famous by HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines, Kaysen presents evidence for why she thinks it’s time to say goodbye to the look. She cites the 1.2 million Instagram posts with the hashtag “Modern Farmhouse” and snarkily observes, “Scroll through it and you start to wonder if color exists beyond white, black and reclaimed wood.” Her point of view is clear and clever.
Brad Inman, Inman, “Why Did Zillow Sue Compass?”
Judges’ comment: Inman captures the drama of the face-off between two charismatic real-estate warriors – Zillow CEO Rich Barton and Compass CEO Roger Reffkin. Reffkin, a disruptor, hired a new chief technology officer who headed artificial intelligence at Microsoft and the science and software behind the supply chain and order fulfillment at Amazon. Barton is battling with instant sales through iBuying, and Reffkin is trying to win with stress-free real-estate transactions. Inman writes with authority about these compelling characters.
Jennifer White Karp, Brick Underground, “Would you rent this one bedroom in Little Italy, where you have to cook on a hot plate?”
Judges’ comment: Karp mixes great statistics (the number of new Manhattan leases signed in January fell almost 8 percent, compared to the previous year) and an engaging writing style with great service journalism. She lets snarky, saucy New Yorkers (one runs a real estate research firm) give their opinion on whether a no-gas apartment is worth it for a 10 percent rent credit. Learn something and smile.
Category 4: Best Economic Analysis
Gold Winner (tie):
Jason Hidalgo, Reno Gazette-Journal, “Inside Reno’s Housing Crisis: Why Aren’t More Affordable Homes Being Built?”
Judges’ comment: Using statistics, graphs, videos and excellent reporting, Hidalgo explains in detail how Reno’s affordable housing crisis came to be and, just as importantly, how it can be addressed. Hidalgo methodically explains how everything from fewer housing permits to fissions in the construction industry have left the city in an affordable-housing bind.
Gold Winner (tie):
R.A. Schuetz, Houston Chronicle, “Do Opportunity Tax Breaks Miss Their Target?”
Judges’ comment: Schuetz’s reporting about how Texas Gov. Greg Abbott took a federal tax overhaul designed to boost jobs and economic activity in low-income neighborhoods and instead designated the funds for areas with robust growth is an example of outstanding explanatory reporting and how journalists can take what many readers might consider a dry topic and turn it into must-read journalism. The “Opportunity Zones” map that accompanies the piece makes it easy for readers to see locations and numbers in an understandable manner.
Andrea Riquier, Dow Jones MarketWatch, “Four years, $13 million and dozens of hands: How ‘affordable’ housing gets made in America”
Judges’ comment: Riquier tackles the complex topic of affordable housing through one public housing project in Washington, D.C. Riquier digs into the details and complexities of the individuals, companies, money and laws involved in making affordable housing and why it takes so long to complete even a single project.
Kevin Sun, The Real Deal, “Analysis: Here’s what the new rent law will do to the average stabilized apartment”
Judges’ comment: Sun’s analysis of what New York City’s new rent law will do for landlords who own multifamily dwellings is easy to read and understand, thanks to his “less is more” approach to the story. Sun takes each topic, from deregulation to vacancy, and succinctly explains how each was impacted by what he calls the “old rules” and the “new rules.”
Jon Gorey, The Boston Globe, “Gateway cities’ bounce back”
Judges’ comment: Gorey’s in-depth look at how so-called gateway cities in Massachusetts – cities that were stepping stones to prosperity for individuals and families – leaves the reader understanding how and why these cities once in the depth of foreclosures have turned around and now have homes for sale with skyrocketing prices. The story’s illustration of median home and condo prices allows the reader to easily see the increases in the cities and make comparisons.
Category 5: Best Interior Design Story
Ronda Kaysen, Freelance, The New York Times, “Could Your House Be an Instagram Star?”
Judges’ comment: Kaysen knows the ingredients for a great story. She includes “show, don’t tell” examples of social-media influencers whose spotless, “showroom condition” homes are professional sets. And she helps us understand the history of how houses, like their owners, became stars. Sure, “Real Housewives” played a role. But remember Robin Leach? Kaysen weaves wonderful anecdotes and examples throughout the piece.
Silver Winner (tie):
Amy Gamerman, Freelance, Mansion, The Wall Street Journal, “Nantucket Homeowners Shake Last Call”
Judges’ comment: Gamerman gives a fresh window into the world of pricey, over-the-top houses by bellying up to the bar. Who would spend $80,000 on this kind of luxury? People who own 9,000-square-foot homes in Nantucket. She also explains why people would invest in them. They’re a place to host events for presidential candidates. They’re also a way to gather late into the night because local rules require pubs to close by 10 p.m. Gamerman’s piece is a model of how to mix thorough reporting and strong storytelling.
Silver Winner (tie):
Michele Lerner, Freelance, The Washington Post, “To add warmth to a home, bring more of the great outdoors indoors”
Judges’ comment: In this richly reported piece, Lerner shows the reader why people want to bring more stone and wood into their homes. She finds a perfect couple to illustrate the theme of her story. They lie by a nature trail, so they wanted to add natural stone to the shower. Lerner also tucks in service, noting that it’s good to be wary of wood in damp places like bathrooms and that it’s good to think about the heavier weight and higher expense of stone.
R.A. Schuetz, Houston Chronicle, “Picture the perfect home: Virtual staging on the rise”
Judges’ comment: In this timely, well-reported story, Schuetz looks at the how-to’s, expenses and ethical issues surrounding “virtual” staging. It’s a bargain: Traditional staging can run $500 to $600 a month whereas photos cost just $65 each and don’t require movers. Schuetz also brings up sticky issues such as whether it’s verboten to enhance the backyard so the grass looks greener and the power lines are removed.
Aimee Rawlins, The Real Deal, “The art in the deal”
Judges’ comment: From the clever headline to the top-notch reporting, Rawlings gives readers surprising, specific statistics and details about the growing market for art curation in high-end home staging. Brokers swear that the artwork – with a cost of between $2,000 and $20,000 a month – has helped to sell multimillion-dollar homes in a slowing market. Rawlings thoroughly explains the trend and adds interesting tidbits about the people who stage the art.
Category 6: Best E-Newsletter by an Individual Journalist
Eileen Woods, Boston Globe
Judges’ comment: In her comprehensive roundup, with must-see open houses, ask-the-expert tips, home-owner advice, a home of the week, celebrity deals and potential deals (such as whether the Obamas are going to become Martha’s Vineyard homeowners), just-listed properties and lots of news, Woods knows what readers want to know. She also includes compelling statistics about home remodels and favorite materials.
Kathryn Brenzel, The Daily Dirt, The Real Deal
Judges’ comment: Brenzel writes with authority as she whizzes through the top real estate news in New York City – and then recaps the biggest news in a few other major cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami. Readers can quickly learn the priciest residential closing of the day ($6 million for a condo unit in United Nations Plaza) and the priciest new residential listing of the day ($6.9 million on the Upper West Side). Brenzel creates a must-read newsletter.
Mike Phillips, Bisnow London
Judges’ comment: Phillips interviews a Blackstone honcho and explains how a 2007 deal financed with $32 billion in debt was a winner. (The informative headline, too, notes that the deal “should have killed Blackstone.” Did it? No. “Instead it reaped a $7b profit.”) ) Readers will also feel like insiders after finding out what the founder of a commercial real-estate company and the head of a tech fund tell Phillips exclusively.
Category 7: Best Architecture Story
Ronda Kaysen, Freelance, The New York Times, “’This Old House’ Turns 40”
Judges’ comment: For this Sunday cover story, Kaysen interviewed the three past and present hosts of the PBS show “This Old House” – the first time they had met in the renovation show’s four decade-history. Her thorough reporting – finding guests through the ages and looking at the history and influence of the fixer-upper show – makes this piece special. Kaysen also helps readers see what makes the show unique, such as how it includes “the grittier bits of home renovation,” like plumbing.
Silver Winner (tie):
Henry Grabar, Slate, “The Mad Rush to Bulletproof American Schools”
Judges’ comment: Gabar explains how a school designed to survive a mass shooting doesn’t need to look that way. The new elementary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, for example, looks beautiful, with a rain garden, a moat that doesn’t appear to be one and lots of glass (that just happens to be bulletproof). In contrast, Gabar reports, other schools have responded with teacher panic buttons and smoke cannons in the hallways. This kind of reporting makes this story a stand-out.
Silver Winner (tie):
R.A. Schuetz, Houston Chronicle, “East Texas, nation’s ‘wood basket,’ prepares to rise”
Judges’ comment: Schuetz surprises the reader with tidbits about tree farming in East Texas with this interesting, newsy pitch: The lumber, previously used for framing single-family homes and to make paper and furniture, may be destined for construction of environmentally friendly 18-story wooden high-rises, thanks to a new, multi-layered, laminated product made of southern yellow pine. Schuetz includes strong reporting and good history.
Stefanos Chen, The New York Times, “New York’s Evolving Skyline”
Judges’ comment: With a strong news peg (16 buildings 500 feet or taller scheduled for completion in 2019), Chen looks at New York’s new skyline. Good reporter that he is, he tucks in history about the city’s skyscrapers. Interestingly, once filled with businesses, they are now more likely to be filled with residences, particularly luxury condos. Chen also reveals how developers skirt zoning loopholes to create the tallest allowable structures.
Michele Lerner, Freelance, The Washington Post,“Making the Case for Cottage Neighborhoods”
Judges’ comment: Rather than downsize dramatically, from a 3,500-square-foot house to a condo, the couple in the lede move into a community of 10 new, 1,490-square-foot homes in suburban Washington, D.C. For her in-depth look at the “pocket neighborhood” concept, Lerner interviews residents, architects and developers about the benefits and the hurdles (including zoning ordinances). In this thoroughly reported story, she clearly explains this alternative to traditional houses and traditional condos.
SECTION 2: INDIVIDUAL AWARDS- NEWSPAPERS, PRINT OR DIGITAL, SINGLE BYLINE
Category 8: Best Residential Real Estate Story – Daily Newspaper
Nancy Sarnoff, The Houston Chronicle, “Flood District Sending Out Letters Saying Property May be Claimed”
Judges’ comment: An important local story on an issue that affects thousands of homeowners in Houston who built fences, sheds and other structures on flood district property adjacent to their homes. Most have no idea that the property isn’t theirs. Sarnoff explains in plain language how this could have happened and finds a couple whose property was claimed.
Troy McMullen, Freelance, The Washington Post, “The ‘heartbreaking’ decrease in black homeownership”
Judges’ comment: This is a thorough and thoughtful story based on data showing that Black homeownership in the U.S. had declined (in 2017) to levels not seen since the passage of the Fair Housing Act. McMullen finds a black couple that is impacted and explains in clearly written prose how a rollback of government policies is partly to blame.
Jeff Collins, The Orange County Register, “Will Online iBuyers Upend Home Sales?”
Judges’ comment: Collins’ story explains every part of the iBuyers process in accessible prose. The story includes specific numbers from homeowners about the amount of profit they left on the table by going this route, as well as the larger economic context. An important reader service and trend story that presciently questions what happens to iBuyers in a housing slump.
Category 9: Best Mortgage or Financial Real Estate Story – Daily Newspaper
Joe Gose, Freelance, New York Times, “To Meet Demand for Green Buildings, Developers Get a Leg Up”
Judges’ comment: Gose takes a complex topic and succinctly explains how developers are using the Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, to help them pay for environmentally friendly buildings, including making them more energy efficient. Gose details some of the projects around the country where PACE financing has been used, including California and New York, noting that 36 states and the District of Columbia allow the use of the financing for commercial properties.
Michelle Lerner, Freelance, The Boston Globe, “Sellers Dismiss Loan Programs That Aid Veterans and First-Time Home Buyers”
Judges’ comment: Lerner does an excellent job of explaining why home sellers often quickly dismiss potential buyers who need either a VA loan or an FHA loan to make a purchase and why those sellers shouldn’t be so quick to write off those potential buyers. Lerner educates her readers by explaining what both types of loans are and how potential buyers can use them to their advantage.
Tim Grant, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “A Loan Services Business Gone Bust, Lawsuits Filed and Fingers Pointed All Around”
Judges’ comment: Grant’s profile of former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Charles Sanders and the failure of Urban Lending Solutions, his mortgage modification company, is a well-written, detailed look at how a well-respected entrepreneur whose company once had so much promise is now fighting for his reputation after his business dissolved and banks and creditors pinned the blame on him.
Category 10: Best Commercial Real Estate Story – Daily Newspaper
Eli Segall, Las Vegas Review-Journal, “Blooming on St. Rose”
Judges’ comment: Through photos, video, illustrations, data and shoe-leather reporting, Segall details the rapid and ongoing development of the west Henderson area at the southern tip of the Las Vegas Valley. Segall’s story explains the good and the bad of that growth, in a region where the population is expected to grow five-fold by 2049. Segall pored through city planning records to write about how developers have built or plan to build 36 projects covering more than 1,000 acres.
Sean Hamill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Tearing Down History”
Judges’ comment: Hamill uses video, interactive graphics, maps, charts and more to write a story that is a history of nearly 300 Pittsburgh structures that were identified as historic but are now gone thanks to neglect by owners and the city. In addition to telling the overall story of how so many buildings were demolished, Hamill’s piece includes smaller stories, each with text and video, of individual structures and how they came to their current plight.
Jon Gorey, Freelance, The Boston Globe, “In a Jam: Will Boston’s Transportation Woes Drive Down Home Values”
Judges’ comment: Gorey’s story takes a look at how Boston’s aging transportation system – both road and rail – could impact companies’ decisions to relocate to the city and employees’ decisions to live there. This insightful, thoroughly reported story explains why it may be difficult, if not impossible, for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to attract the investment it needs to upgrade. Gorey takes a complex subject and makes it accessible.
Category 11: Best Small Daily Newspaper Story – under 75,000 circulation
Jeff Ostrowski, Palm Beach Post, “Palm Beach County 2030: How Will We Grow?”
Judges’ comment: Ostrowski’s stories explain in-depth and in a clear, succinct manner what engines will drive Palm Beach County’s growth for the next decade. The use of illustrations for demographics means the story isn’t bogged down with digits and instead focuses on the people who will be affected by that growth and who will help drive that growth. The story includes a graph on a shifting racial mix in the county, with the Hispanic and Black population expected to increase the most.
Jason Hidalgo, Reno Gazette-Journal, “These Are the People Impacted by the Spaghetti Bowl Project in Reno-Sparks”
Judges’ comment: Telling the story through the eyes of the people who will be affected most, Hidalgo takes an in-depth look at the reconstruction of the Spaghetti Bowl interchange, where Interstate 80 connects with U.S. Highway 395 and I-580. Hidalgo spoke with residents, business owners and others about how the multi-decade project could upend their lives and, in some cases, force them out of the only homes they’ve had. Hidalgo mixes those personal stories with statistics, videos and photographs to tell an important, compelling story.
Joseph S. Pete, The Times of Northwest Indiana,“Parched in a Retail Desert, Gary Businesses Struggle Through Crime, Economic Challenges”
Judges’ comment: Pete’s story paints a picture of a once-thriving city in Northwest Indiana and explains how a decline in jobs and then residents hollowed out Gary’s retail businesses and led to a long decline. Pete offers some interesting historical tidbits and, through interviews with a remaining business owner and others, he explains how crime and a shrinking population seem likely to prevent a comeback.
Category 12: Best Weekly Newspaper Story – Weekly Business Newspaper
Blanca Torres, San Francisco Business Times, “The Bay is rising. Where does that leave a wave of big waterfront projects?”
Judges’ comment: Torres does a superb job of describing the dilemma of rising Bay waters with developers who remain committed to building everything from Oakland’s largest housing development to a community with more than 1,500 homes on the waterfront. Torres mixes stats, background, anecdotes and interviews to explain the science behind the rising waters and possible solutions to successfully building on the desired parcels of land.
Tom Acitelli, Commercial Observer, “What Happens to a College’s Real Estate After It Closes?”
Judges’ comment: Using Newbury College in a Boston suburb as the portal to tell a story, Acitelli explains what happens to the real estate left behind when private not-for-profit and for-profit colleges close. Although some of the property is snapped up by commercial real estate investors, Acitelli delves into the challenges for all parties involved, including municipalities. The story is exceptionally timely given that some colleges are facing possible closures in the current economy that has been devastated by COVID-19.
Will Robinson, Jacksonville Business Journal, “Downtown Finds Its Future In History”
Judges’ comment: Robinson’s story details how Jacksonville is both demolishing its historic downtown buildings but renovating others. In his thoroughly reported story, Robinson offers history and plenty of data to explain how developers decided which buildings to save and which to demolish and rebuild from scratch. His story carefully contextualizes the tough choices for a business audience.
Aaron Elstein, Crain’s New York Business, “Oh Chutes”
Judges’ comment: Elstein takes a description-filled look at the ornate mail chutes still present in so many New York City buildings. Elstein draws the reader immediately into the story (and keeps them there) by describing a building manager opening a mail chute and finding everything from mail that was several years old to a yellow marker that likely caused the jam. He closes the loop on this delightful story by mailing one of the once-stuck pieces of mail – a birthday card – and interviewing the happy recipient.
SECTION III: INDIVIDUAL AWARDS – MAGAZINES – PRINT OR DIGITAL- SINGLE BYLINE
Category 13: Best Residential, Mortgage or Financial Real Estate Magazine Story – General Circulation
Rich Bockmann, The Real Deal, “Real Estate’s Surveillance State”
Judges’ comment: Bockmann’s deeply reported story details how the real estate industry is incorporating the latest technology to satisfy the need of consumers to be more connected. But that technology, which includes facial recognition, is also stoking fears of privacy concerns. Bockmann’s story is chock full of engaging examples, from a building described as a “computer with a roof on it” to a Canadian mall owner who stopped using facial recognition after Reddit users discovered it could estimate the ages and genders of the malls’ visitors.
Dan Geiger, Crain’s New York Business, “Gaming the System”
Judges’ comment: Geiger does a masterful job of detailing how New York City landlords exploit loopholes to deregulate thousands of city apartments by extensively renovating them and then pushing up rental rates to market levels. Geiger combs through court filings to reveal cases in which landlords fraudulently inflated renovation costs, and interviews attorneys and advocates to explain how tenants often face an uphill battle proving it.
Vauhini Vara, The Believer, “Small World”
Judges’ comment: Through the eyes of a man who loses his wife to breast cancer, Vara chronicles how tiny homes went from being one possible solution to affordable housing to being the first option for homeowners who have found the friendship and community that larger homeowners have. Vara weaves a compelling narrative and raises questions about whether tiny homes are as popular as advocates would have you believe.
Category 14: Best Residential Trade Magazine Story
Natalie Hoberman, The Real Deal, “Drama at the Agency”
Judges’ Comment: Hoberman describes recent intrigue and conflict at the Los Angeles luxury real estate brokerage firm The Agency. Through interviews with former and current employees and industry experts, Hoberman writes a fascinating profile of the firm, its high-profile co-founder, Mauricio Umanski, and its meteoric rise after the housing crisis. She dives into licensing records to track agents who left The Agency for other firms last year, explored pending litigation and interviewed Umanski for his side of the story. Careful and detailed reporting elevated this piece to the top of the heap.
Kyle Clapham, Qualified Remodeler, “Painful Reality”
Judges’ comment: Using available state and federal statistics, including the Centers for Disease Control, and interviews with a wide range of industry experts, Clapham details in clear, concise manner the toll that opioid abuse has taken on the construction industry. The story explains why construction workers are particularly at risk for opioid abuse, why so many workers are reluctant to seek help, and steps the industry and trade groups are taking to help workers, including having confidential employee assistance programs.
Jason Porterfield, Chicago Agent Magazine, “Broker as Politician: How Involved Agents Transform Communities and Their Business”
Judges’ comment: Porterfield’s story shows readers how real estate brokers influence their communities, often by becoming politically active themselves. Far from being a conflict of interest, Porterfield argues that the interests of brokers-turned-public official are often aligned with those of the community. Through interviews and examples, Porterfield details how such brokers can influence everything from development decisions to the sale of a municipality’s land.
Category 15: Best Commercial Real Estate Trade Magazine Story
Erin Hudson, The Real Deal, “The Playboy Club was a chance at redemption for Adam Hochfelder – here’s what went wrong”
Judges’ comment: Through dogged reporting, scouring documents and on-the-record and off-the-record sources, Hudson tells a compelling story about the Playboy Club in New York City and ex-convict real estate investor and developer Adam Hochfelder. Hudson’s story tells of the uphill battle the club faced in the face of the #MeToo movement, the decision by Playboy to pull the licensing agreement that gave the club its name and Hochfelder’s involvement through it all.
Greg Isaacson, Commercial Property Executive and Multi-Housing News, “Middle Draw”
Judges’ comment: Isaacson does a superb job of explaining the interest in commercial real estate in the U.S. by foreign investors, including that their money is flowing well beyond New York and L.A. these days. Isaacson’s data-rich story provides a treasure trove of actionable trends, including foreign investors’ move into places like Daytona Beach and Texas, as well as why industrial properties are attracting more investment.
Jeff Shaw, Seniors Housing Business, “Affordable Housing Overwhelmed”
Judges’ comment: Shaw’s story details the struggles seniors who have limited financial means face when they search for affordable senior housing. Through interviews with senior housing advocacy groups and affordable housing developers and advocates, Shaw finds that there isn’t enough affordable housing, some have wait lists that are years long and others aren’t even accepting applications. The story is well-written and thoroughly reported, and offers some solutions.
John Egan, National Real Estate Investor, “How Glenn Rufrano Became the CRE Industry’s Mr. Fix-It”
Judges’ comment: In this illuminating story, Egan profiles Glenn Rufrano, who has a reputation for being a top turn-around expert at several companies, including his current position as CEO of VEREIT. In interviews with Rufrano’s colleagues and friends, Egan paints a picture of a well-respected executive who enters businesses with complex problems and sorts through them with calm deliberation and transparency. It’s a well-written and well-researched profile.
INDIVIDUAL AWARDS – ONLINE OR BROADCAST
Category 16: Best Online Residential, Mortgage or Financial Real Estate Story
Gold Winner (tie):
Andrea Riquier, Dow Jones MarketWatch, “Why buying and selling a house could soon be as simple as trading stocks”
Judges’ comment: This is a fresh take on the technology driving the iBuyer trend and whether institutional investors are helping or hurting residential housing. Riquier gains access to the data scientists behind companies like Zillow and learns about the artificial intelligence and machine learning to come (such as Knock’s valuation model, “Borg”). A unique and well-written look behind the scenes of a major trend.
E.B. Solomont, The Real Deal, “A free penthouse for Steve Ross, now on the market for $75M”
Judges’ comment: Solomont provides an important explainer about how distributions work in real estate development, using a headline-grabbing transaction (Steve Ross’s penthouse) as the starting point. Smart and well-written, this story is accessible to everyday people while also serving its more sophisticated audience.
Joe Rihn, Capital & Main, “Expiring Affordability Covenant Threatens Chinatown Tenants”
Judges’ comment: Rihn takes a policy issue – the expiration of a decades-old affordable housing agreement – and makes it grippingly human by reporting deeply about its impact on a single building in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. This is a well-written story, populated by the real people who are affected, and supported by crucial numbers and data.
Jon Gorey, Freelancer, The Boston Globe, “Mortgage programs help buyers who take on fixer-uppers”
Judges’ comment: This is an interesting story about whether fixer-uppers make sense anymore given millennials’ preference for move-in ready homes. Gorey concludes that they do, especially with the help of new mortgage programs. Gorey has an engaging writing style and makes good use of data in this reader service story.
Mimi O’Connor, Brick Underground, “Brick Underground’s guide to co-living spaces in NYC: How to tell the communal disruptors apart”
Judges’ comment: This is everything you wanted to know about the booming trend of co-living in New York City, including the amount of investor money pouring into new projects. But the real value is in O’Connor’s comprehensive, entertaining and user-friendly guide to the top 10 co-living companies in NYC.
Category 17: Best Online Commercial Real Estate Story
Gold Winner (tie):
Matthew Rothstein, Bisnow, “Incentives, Investigations and the Growing Distrust of Real Estate Campaign Donations”
Judges’ comment: Using the Amazon HQ2 debacle in Long Island City, New York, as a jumping off point, Rothstein’s story explores how the cozy relationships between real estate developers, money and local politicians are facing voter outrage and FBI scrutiny in major U.S. cities. Through interviews with developers, politicians, local experts and more, Rothstein deftly explains changing attitudes and how they are leading to, in some cases, more restrictive local laws.
Gold Winner (tie):
Deirdra Funcheon, Bisnow, “Inside the Wild Legal Battle Over EB-5 Fraud, Defamation and a $2.5B Times Square Project”
Judges’ comment: Funcheon examines how the EB-5 visa program is easily susceptible to fraud and how some have taken advantage of the program’s weaknesses. The program encourages foreigners to loan $500,000 or more toward a U.S. business project, which in turn allows them to get a U.S. visa. Through excellent sourcing and poring over court documents, social media accounts, contracts and more, Funcheon focuses on a case involving a Florida developer, Chinese investors and projects in Times Square.
Amanda Rabines, Growth Spotter, “Opportunity Zones in Central Florida”
Judges’ comment: Rabines does an excellent job of explaining opportunity zones, a program of commercial real estate tax incentives for development in disadvantaged areas, born in the 2017 tax plan. Rabines shows that these zones, still in their infancy, are already having an impact in central Florida. Through interviews, compelling numbers and interactive graphics, she finds that the trend is growing and raises the question of who may benefit most.
Patrick Clark, Bloomberg News, “How a Manhattan Scion Built a Rural Empire”
Judges’ comment: Clark writes an insightful, colorful profile on Stefan Soloviev, son of well-known Russian billionaire developer Sheldon Solow. Clark takes the reader out West where Soloviev has become the 31stlargest U.S. landowner by acquiring farm, ranchland and a railroad in western Kansas and eastern Colorado. The richly descriptive story tells of Soloviev’s bet on an area hard hit by population decline, drought and commodity price swings and the local community’s hope that he can make a success of it.
Cara Smith-Tenta, CoStar News, “Houston Pushes to Stay at the Edge of Space Exploration 50 Years After the Moon Landing”
Judges’ comment: With the 50th anniversary of first moon landing giving this story timeliness, Smith-Tenta analyzes how Houston is scrambling to regain its place in the space race through a new development, Spaceport, that will include coworking spaces for aerospace technology companies. Smith-Tenta’s story goes beyond the present day horse race with Florida, Alabama and California, to explore the rich history of NASA in the Houston area. This is an enjoyable and rewarding read.
Category 19: Best Audio or Video Report – Online or Broadcast
Phillip Molnar, The San Diego Union-Tribune, “Own your own California town: Campo up for sale”
Judges’ comment: Molnar broke the news that the small border town of Campo was up for sale – and propelled the dusty ghost town into the national spotlight. This 3-minute video took viewers to Campo, with Molnar as host, and provided an engaging and enlightening look at the town and, more importantly, its people. An added bonus: Molnar is a natural in front of the camera.
Emily Myers, Brick Underground, “Podcast: NYC’s complicated relationship with Airbnb”
Judges’ comment: Myers deftly addresses the complicated legal issues New York Airbnb hosts face in this information-packed and well-produced podcast. She also explores whether Airbnb helps or hurts the NYC housing market. The bottom line: Airbnb hosts in New York City are earning only about $5,000 a year renting out apartments, often illegally. Is it worth the risk?
Melanie Torre, CBSAustin, “Want to sell your home for cash? Watch this first”
Judges’ comment: In this well-written and produced story, Torre explains why potential sellers need to be on alert for all-cash offers from investors. Using the example of an elderly man’s sale of his childhood home, she explains clearly and concisely how to avoid investors who are looking to take advantage. This is important viewer service.
Miriam Hall, Bisnow, “Let’s Have a Drink NYC: Knotel CEO Amol Sarva”
Judges’ comment: The premise of “Let’s Have a Drink” is to showcase the personalities behind the real estate movers and shakers in New York, even if the guest prefers Kombucha to Scotch. In this episode, Hall hits the mark, drawing out the best in her guest, who is the CEO of a flexible workspace provider. She asks probing questions that elicit good stories from her guest.
INDIVIDUAL OR TEAM AWARDS – ALL MEDIA
Category 20: Best Breaking Real Estate News Story
Kathryn Brenzel and Georgia Kromrei, The Real Deal, “Senate and Assembly reach deal on rent laws. It doesn’t look good for the industry”
Judges’ comment: The Real Deal team broke the news that state legislators had reached a deal on historic rent reform in New York — a story of major importance to its readers. The team not only got the story first, but they got it right and reported objectively about the likely impact — profound — on real estate investment in the state and New York City in particular.
Randyl Drummer and Jacquelyn Ryan, CoStar News, “Los Angeles Investor to Buy Third Large Studio in Latest Play to Become Major US Producer”
Judges’ comment: Drummer and Ryan gave CoStar readers the kind of major deal news that can change the industry’s competitive landscape overnight. Contextual reporting and writing that goes well beyond the headline elevates this story and gives readers a comprehensive look at the investor’s larger strategy and how it will impact Los Angeles.
Blanca Torres and Fiona Kelliher, San Francisco Business Times, “Exclusive: Iconic San Francisco landmark to hit the market for the first time ever”
Judges’ comment: The reporters broke the news that, after a failed two-year effort to sell a partial stake in the Transamerica building, the owners were now preparing to sell the entire building. The story is clear, concise and packed with numbers, including the proposed selling price. This was an important follow-up on a major real estate story.
Cameron Sperance, Bisnow, “EXCLUSIVE: Chick-fil-A to Stop Donations to Charities with Anti-LGBT Views”
Judges’ comment: Sperance’s story featured an exclusive interview with Chick-fil-A’s president. He offered a unique perspective on the company’s decision to stop giving contributions to two charities that raised the ire of LGBTQ groups and increasingly hampered the company’s national expansion efforts.
Category 21: Best Investigate Report or Investigative Series
Gold Winner (tie):
Kathryn Brezel and David Jeans, The Real Deal, “Elevated Risk”
Judges’ comment: Anyone who steps foot on a passenger elevator expects it to have been inspected and deemed safe. But a seven-month investigation by Brezel and Jeans found that not to be the case, due to poorly trained elevator mechanics and lax oversight. Readers connect to the heart-breaking story through the eyes of people whose family and friends have been killed in passenger elevators. An interactive map allows readers to see if their building’s elevator is safe. The New York legislature subsequently passed a bill requiring elevator mechanics to be licensed.
Gold Winner (tie):
Ann Choi, Keith Herbert, Olivia Winslow, Arthur Browne, and Bill Dedman, Newsday, “Long Island Divided”
Judges’ comment: Some consider the number “13” to be lucky. In the case of real estate agents discriminating against potential minority home buyers on Long Island, it wasn’t. It took Choi and her colleagues 13 parts to detail the full story of the insidiousness of that discrimination. Through the use of testers, hidden cameras, secret meetings, and more, the Newsday team investigated real estate agents on Long Island for three years and found that Hispanic, African-American and Asian homebuyers found themselves shut out. Multimedia components helped the team tell the story in a comprehensive yet easy-to-understand manner.
Silver Winner (tie):
Noah Buhayar and Lauren Leatherby, Bloomberg, “Florida Paradise Offers Wealthy Developers a Big Trump Tax Break: LeFrak’s Florida Solé Mia Is Headed for a Big Trump Tax Break”
Judges’ comment: Buhayar and Leatherby dig into the details of opportunity zones, a program that was designed to encourage investment in struggling communities. But in a three-part series, the reporters explain that struggling communities were often ignored, as investors clamored to claim the program’s tax breaks. Buhayar scrutinized nearly 400,000 filings in Delaware about corporations that include AT&T and Tyson Foods, all of whom wanted to use the tax breaks. ProPublica and the New York Times followed up on his reporting, and both sides of the aisle in Congress introduced bills to end the abuses.
Silver Winner (tie):
Jim Weiker and John Futty, Columbus Dispatch, “Foreclosed and Fleeced”
Judges’ comment: In a two-part series, Weiker and Futty document the heartbreaking stories of homeowners in foreclosure who signed over their property rights to unscrupulous individuals who promised to pay their bills and let them stay in their home. Instead, the scammers pocketed money, often thousands of dollars, left over from the home’s sale at a sheriff’s auction. Following the tour-de-force stories, Ohio began notifying homeowners of the leftover money, one person in the series was investigated for criminal activity and another was poised to lose his real estate license.
David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes, Los Angeles Times, “L.A. Deputy Mayor Raised Money From Developers with Major Projects in Downtown, Records Show”
Judges’ comment: In a series of seven stories that spanned all of 2019, Zahniser and Alpert Reyes painstakingly detailed the connections between influential real estate developers and Los Angeles public officials, among them Deputy Los Angeles Mayor Raymond Chan. The reporters documented several pay-to-play schemes, including how Chan raised thousands of charitable dollars from developers wanting city approvals or who were waiting for building inspections. The deeply reported and well-written stories led to council members limiting campaign contributions from real estate developers.
Jacob Adelman and Craig R. McCoy, Philadelphia Inquirer, “Stealing from the Dead”
Judges’ comment: A death in the family or having an older family member can be challenging and emotional enough for family members. But when homes are suddenly and unknowingly transferred – stolen outright – that adds to the frustration and pain families have. Adelman and McCoy’s investigation found evidence of fraudsters doing everything from forging the names of sellers to so-called wholesalers paying less than market value for properties and making a profit, taking advantage of people at their most vulnerable periods in their lives. By the end of 2019, Philadelphia’s mayor had taken steps to address the issue.
Category 22: Best Series (Individual or team awards, all categories of media)
Prashant Gopal, Brian K. Sullivan, Noah Buhayar, Bloomberg News, “Climate Consequences”
Judges’ comment: The series conveys a sense of urgency, noting that by the end of the century, 13 million Americans will need to move because of rising sea levels. The three-part series begins with Gopal’s in-depth reporting on the climate exodus from Florida, which represents 40% of the riskiest coastland in the United States. Gopal and Sullivan look at how Boston developers proudly opened a new 1,000-acre waterfront development on the manmade peninsula known as the Seaport. They also examine the unusual decision to design a new city with homes for 57,000 in a greater Los Angeles area at high risk of wildfires. This richly reported series gives a sobering look at human hubris.
Jane Wooldridge, Andres Viglucci, Taylor Dolven, Kyra Gurney, Douglas Hanks, Aaron Albright, Rene Rodriguez, Rob Wile, Miami Herald “Priced Out of Paradise”
Judges’ comments: In this aptly titled series, the reporters make it immediately clear that Miami is the most expensive area in the United States for renters. (Airbnb isn’t helping, but it’s just one reason for the problem.) Meanwhile, the Miami-Dade area’s wealth inequality rivals that of Colombia. The Herald’s reporters use statistics – on wages for teachers and nurses, on housing prices, on foreign buyers – to powerful effect. They also look at solutions, including affordable housing complexes and the possibility of a vacancy tax that would collect money from foreign buyers who park their assets in real estate abroad but don’t actually live in their U.S. homes.
Anne Machalinski, Claire Carponen, Jennifer Wang, V.L. Hendrickson, Mareesa Nicosia, Barron’s Group, Mansion Global, “Tech Hubs Giving Cities a Real Estate Boost”
Judges’ comment: In this six-story series, Mansion Global reporters look at how becoming tech hubs has changed the real-estate markets in Los Angeles (aka the Silicon Beach), Portugal, Shenzhen, Pittsburgh, Ottawa and Tel Aviv. “Techpreneurs” and international companies chase talent to cities that offer an attractive lifestyle and more affordable housing than the Bay Area. These articles effectively use data to make their key points. For example, the average sale price of a single-family home in the Ottawa area was $363,000 in April 2019 – a year-over-year increase of 7.2% but still a bargain compared to the Silicon Valley.
Diana Olick, Erica Posse, Richard Uliasz, CNBC, “Risking Risks”
Judges’ comment: This well-reported video series by CNBC real estate correspondent Diana Olick shows how climate change is affecting the commercial and residential real-estate markets. For example, it’s leading to floods in sports stadiums and putting teams and cities at economic risk, and it’s leading to weather variability that threatens ski seasons and ski towns. Olick goes on scene with key players at stadiums and in flood zones and gives helpful and often jaw-dropping statistics (for example, the United States will need to spend $400 billion to protect coastlines).
Category 23: Best Blog
Blanca Torres, San Francisco Business Times, “What it’s like living in San Francisco’s most expensive condo buildings”
Judges’ comment: Torres is an ace reporter who knows how to use real people and numbers. One couple spent $2 million for a 1,300-square-foot, two-bedroom place. A 67-unit condo at 181 Fremont typically sells for $2,300 to $4,000 per square foot – or $15 million for the penthouse. Fortunately, the supply of new condos will rise in the next two years to about 700 condo completions each year. Torres’s audience is well-served by her deep sourcing and reporting.
Jessica Fiur, Multi Housing News, “What Renters Want”
Judges’ comment: To appeal to real-estate insiders and apartment operators, Fiur fills her 8-year-old blog with helpful information – and a healthy dose of humor. When she is giving advice about “five things you’re doing wrong when you’re trying to lease your apartment,” she says to run ads with photos. Otherwise, who wouldn’t wonder what an owner is trying to hide from a renter? (She compares it to internet daters who don’t post pictures.) “Is it dilapidated?” This smile-inducing blog can make even a grumpy person grin.
Liz Dominquez, RISMedia, “Housecall”
Judges’ comment: In “4 Easy Staging Tips You Haven’t Thought About,” Dominguez gives good tips in bold-face type – and then fills in with details from her reporting. For example, she urges people to put themselves in the buyer’s shoes and to use their noses. Any smell? Light some candles and open the windows to let home air out for an hour or two. Too much junk – er, treasures? Rent a storage unit. This is important reader service.
Category 24: Best International Real Estate Story
Natalie Wong and Natalie Obiko Pearson, Bloomberg News, “College Kids Are Living Like Kings in Vancouver’s Empty Mansions”
Judges’ comment: Wong and Pearson took a potentially dull story about a new tax on empty homes in British Columbia and instead told a highly engaging, “you won’t believe this” story about the bizarre upside-down world the tax created. They reported on the resulting crash in rent and property values that gave birth to a “candy store” for buyers and renters alike, including one college student who tells them he wishes he could stay forever in the castle-like home he’s renting on the cheap. Snappy writing and great characters contribute to this stand-out story.
Neil Callanan, Bloomberg News, “Ireland Property Rush Risks Repeat of Crisis”
Judges’ comment: Who says you can’t go back? Callanan returns to Ireland, where he wrote about the 2008 real estate crisis, and reconnects with his sources. Lively writing and a keen eye for detail elevate this prescient story about the latest real estate boom in Ireland. Callanan talks to a developer who is still paying off loans from the 2008 crisis and tellingly reveals his plan to bet against the current lofty market. The story is bolstered by data, history and invaluable context.
Sara Clemence, The Washington Post, “What to know before buying that dream vacation home in another country”
Judges’ comment: This is a thoroughly reported reader-service story that benefits from Clemence’s easy writing style and real people examples. Who knew that some countries require a 30% down payment on a property, or that a major renovation in Mexico could come as cheap as a few thousand dollars? Clemence explores the pros and cons while consulting legal and tax experts along the way.
Mike Phillips, Bisnow, “Can You Get Through Brexit Without Breaking Real Estate? A Bisnow Choose Your Own Adventure Game”
Judges’ comment: After months of speculation about the impact of Brexit, Phillips has a refreshing and unique approach to the story that puts the reader in charge of the “what ifs.” It’s a clever series of click-throughs to various outcomes that offer well-sourced opinions and some surprises. The story plays with the endlessly frustrating uncertainty of how the U.K. will eventually handle its EU divorce.
SECTION V: TEAM AWARDS – ALL MEDIA, MULTIPLE BYLINES
Category 25: Best Team Report
Jeff Collins, Nikie Johnson and Alicia Robinson, Orange County Register, “SoCal losing battle for places to live”
Judges’ comment: This is an enterprising story built on impressively detailed data and in-depth reporting that shows how most city and county governments in California are failing to meet state-mandated goals for new and affordable housing. The team tells a clear story of well-intentioned policy running into local community opposition and shows us how the impasse is affecting real people amid California’s worst housing crisis in state history. The story is greatly enhanced by an interactive map with detailed housing data.
E.B. Solomont and Kevin Sun, The Real Deal, “Ghost Towers”
Judges’ comment: Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin’s $238 million condo purchase on Central Park South is the impetus for this well-reported and engaging story about luxury high rises in New York City that sit dark and empty because their units are largely pieds-a-terre for the wealthy. The team analyzed city records and concluded that 30-40% of Manhattan’s condos are “bank accounts,” or a place to park cash, for their largely foreign owners. State lawmakers responded with a progressive mansion tax and a new transfer tax.
Mark Belko and Jessie Wardarski, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Killing the Strip?”
Judges’ comment: When new commercial development threatens to overwhelm an old and beloved retail strip in Pittsburgh, business owners and some residents are dismayed. In this insightful story, Belko and Wardarski explore the reasons the old street is giving way to new investment and what, if anything, should be done about it. The story is well-written and well-sourced and is enhanced by photos and several video profiles of the small business owners.
E.B. Solomont and Katherine Kallergis, The Real Deal, “Cracking the Bro Code”
Judges’ comment: This is a fascinating story about the Alexander brothers, who seem to be consistently involved in the highest of high-end residential transactions (like Ken Griffin’s New York condo). It’s a fun read, beautifully written, that takes the reader on a journey through the lives of the rich and famous.
INDIVIDUAL OR TEAM AWARDS – (Work of the publication and its editor/s)
Category 26: Best Design, Home or Shelter Magazine
Mae Cheng, Mansion Global(March 2019 issue)
Judges’ comment: With its gorgeous photography and well-written, thoroughly reported stories, Mansion Global deserves top honors. Catering to wealthy readers, it serves up pieces on glass houses, five island getaways for $5 million and taller glass skyscrapers in England. It runs Q&A’s with people like designer and potter Jonathan Adler, whose “forever muse” is Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Loaded with statistics about luxury home-sale prices and sizes, this magazine knows its audience and delivers the expected high-quality content.
Madeline Bilis, Apartment Therapy, “Apartment Therapy’s Best of 2019”
Judges’ comment: Apartment Therapy knows what its enthusiastic apartment-dwelling fans want to read and delivers it with approachable style. A case in point: “Unreal Estate” includes stories like “How Nancy Drew, Ramona and Your Other Favorite Children’s Book Characters Would Decorate Their Studio Apartments.” Down to earth and inclusive, the publication expertly (and always with kindness) makes its readers feel part of a community of like-minded home lovers who genuinely like organizing, cleaning and improving their nests.
Mark Moffa, Unique Homes
Judges’ comment: This magazine lets readers know what makes a home worth $100 million and shares beautiful photos designed to make luxury home lovers salivate. The Miami “ultimate compound” on its cover lists for $25.9 million, which includes a wine cellar, a new seawall, a 140-foot deck and private staff quarters. Even the ads are gorgeous because they showcase residences on, for example, a private Tahitian island.
Category 27: Best Residential Trade Magazine
Stuart Elliott, Erin Hudson, E.B. Solomont, Kevin Sun, Sylvia Varnham O’Regan, Eddie Small, Kathryn Brenzel, David Jeans, Rich Bockmann, Georgia Kromrei, Mary Diduch, Jill Noonan, Damian Ghigliotty, Paul Dilakian, Victoria Tuturice, Ashley McHugh-Chiappone, Lucas McGill, Yoryi De La Rosa The Real Deal (the September 2019 issue)
Judges’ comment: With clever headlines like “Fredrik Goes to Hollywood” (as in top New York residential seller Fredrik Eklund), The Real Deal signals its tone. It delivers real-estate scoops and news without sounding stodgy. A roundtable Q&A-style “power lunch” featured a chat with the president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New York Properties, the senior lending officer at Citibank and the chair and CEO of Halsted. This 134-page issue is packed with dishy industry news, including “Compass to Ex-Uber Staffers: Ride with Us.”
Matt Power and Alan Naditz, Green Builder (Nov. 15 issue, The State of Sustainable Building)
Judges’ comment: In its first annual look at what the data says about sustainable building, Green Building examines the risks and opportunities. Its readers already know the basics, so the magazine goes deeper, looking at smart-home technology and challenges such as labor shortages and rising material and land costs. It also looks at futuristic concepts like using fibers made from super-strong algae instead of steel and concrete. Good use of charts and visuals enhance the reader experience.
Suzann Silverman, Multi-Housing News (the June 2019 issue)
Judges’ comment: Multi-Housing News knows its audience, with a cover story on high density in urban areas that bring vitality to residents while reducing a city’s carbon footprint. The magazine adds useful and fun graphics, such as a chart about what top executives say is “in” (squash courts) and what’s “out” (theater rooms). The publication is a “digest,” so its listicles make sense. It’s helpful that longer versions of the stories are on the website.
Category 28: Best Commercial Trade Magazine
Stuart Elliott, Keith Larsen, Erin Hudson, Kathryn Brenzel, E.B. Solomont, Rich Bockmann, David Jeans, Eddie Small, Georgia Kromrei, Sylvia Varnham O’Regan, Mary Diduch, Kevin Sun, Jill Noonan, Damian Ghigliotty, Bill Egbert, Paul Dilakian, Hannah Drossman, Victoria Tuturice, Ashley McHugh-Chiappone, Yoryi De La Rosa, and Lucas McGill The Real Deal (the December issue)
Judges’ comment: This hefty 110-page magazine lands a big get: a sit-down interview with Ben Carson, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, at HUD headquarters. In it, he talks openly, mentioning his vegetarian wife and his time in a Baltimore tenement with rats and roaches following his parents’ divorce. Other strong stories in this issue include an in-depth look at controversial real-estate developer Adam Hochfelder. Never forgetting its readers’ needs, it also provides useful “deal sheets” on real-estate sales, with addresses, descriptions and prices.
Suzann Silverman, Guide to 2019, Commercial Property Executive & Multi-Housing News
Judges’ comment: Clever headlines like “Mixed-Use Moxy” help transform what could be dry subject matter into a lively read. The issue includes in-depth analysis of the economy; a profile of a successful woman CEO; and a detailed and informative exploration of mixed-use private-public partnerships in three cities. CPE/MHN knows their readers, so they put together helpful charts that list the 20 top mortgage banking firms for the year. They also look (with charts) at rent growth in metro areas, such as Austin, Orlando, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Jennifer Molloy, Institutional Real Estate Asia Pacific (the September issue)
Judges’ comment: With its goal of providing investor-focused global real estate information, the magazine wisely offers its readers a “special investment risk edition.” It seems prescient, given the pandemic. (In his editor’s note, dated July 22, Geoffrey Dohrmann warns readers: “Be very, very careful. It’s a wacky (and risky) world out there.” The monthly makes good on its mission to give institutional property investors trusted, reliable data on the international real-estate business. Institutional investors get the current and look-to-the-future information they need.
Category 29: Best Newsletter
Kerry Barger, The Wall Street Journal (September 12, 2019)
Judges’ comment: In its breezy newsletter, the Journal recaps the week in high-end real estate. It also links to its remarkable Mansion stories — in this case, to its ski issue. With clever writing (retired catcher Mike Piazza is “rounding third” on a $5.6 million condo) and reader engagement (readers are encouraged to vote for the “WSJ’s house of the week” and share “homeowner horror stories” for an upcoming story), the newsletter brings Wall Street Journal quality with a light twist.
Lauren Beale, Los Angeles Times Hot Property Newsletter (September 3, 2019)
Judges’ comment: This witty weekly newsletter gives readers the fun scoop on big-name, big-ticket home sales. Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi sold their $15 million house after just 10 months? Perhaps because they just spent $42.5 million on Adam Levine’s Beverly Hills place. Throwing in a little history, the newsletter even includes “from the archives” sales from decades ago. Though the newsletter focuses on southern California, it flicks at news from all over.
Mae Cheng, Mansion Global Barron’s (December 13, 2019)
Judges’ comment: This first-rate daily newsletter rounds up luxury real-estate news from around the world, starting with the biggest headline (how the United Kingdom’s Conservative Party win gave the housing market the “gift of certainty”). It also gives a “listing of the day” and some “news bites” (such as the decline in U.S. house flipping). An interesting “by the numbers” bar graph shows the declining share of Trump-branded buildings that mention the president’s name in online listings. A helpful “Around News Corp.” roundup links to stories in the New York Post, The Times of London and The Wall Street Journal.
Beth McGuire, RIS Media’s Daily e-News (October 21, 2019)
Judges’ comment: In its daily roundup, RIS Media leads with an item on whether personality assessments are a true measure of agent success. (No.) The newsletter mainly links to RISMedia’s top stories and industry news – but that makes sense for readers who want to skim for highlights. How can they best use social media without spending money? (Among other things, use hashtags and promote local activities on Twitter.) The newsletter is no frills but gives helpful news its readers can use.
Category 30: Best Newspaper Real Estate or Home Section
Heather Halberstadt and Kris Frieswick, Mansion Section, The Wall Street Journal (June 28, 2019)
Judges’ comment: Readers who want to know about high-end real estate purchases and trends can find much to love, with stories about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s former summer home, the new listing of a 40-acre vineyard once owned by the late Kansas City Chiefs owner (credited with coining the phrase Super Bowl). The pieces include high-quality Wall Street Journal reporting but also helpful graphics, maps and charts, including one on the new ins and outs of Miami real estate. The caliber of reporting and writing in Mansion is exceptional.
Dion Haynes, The Washington Post (May 1, 2019)
Judges’ comment: The service stories in the Post’s real estate section — devoted solely to selling a house in this issue — are first rate. In fact, reading them could save readers tens of thousands of dollars. This section offered tips about what not to do when selling a home and a charticle on which home improvements to spring for and which ones to skip. (Hint: spring for the new garage door.) The Post section exemplifies the best in giving readers practical advice.
Eileen Woods, Address, Boston Globe (September 15, 2019)
Judges’ comment: This 36-page “fall house hunt” section looked at everything from how VA loans work to how to handle mold in the garage. The Globe goes beyond the obvious, sharing advice on how to buy throw pillows, how lighting can elevate a home, how to get loans and how to understand Gen Z buyers, who want to live close to work. The tips and the reporting are first rate.
Category 31: Best Website
Teri Rogers, Brick Underground
Judges’ comment: This indispensable website delivers useful, money-saving tips for anyone renting, buying or selling a place to live in New York City. Renters can read pieces like “8 ways to negotiate your rent when renewing your lease.” Packed with advice, the site also provides a gross rent calculator tool and produces a podcast. It’s also timely and engaging, with first-person “Inside Stories,” like Kelly Kreth’s ode to her Upper East Side doorman, who died of COVID-19. It’s easy to see why Brick Underground is essential reading for New Yorkers.
Stuart Elliott, The Real Deal
Judges’ comment: For people who make a living through buying, selling, financing or investing in real estate, The Real Deal.com [deal.com] delivers hard-to-find news, features, videos, investigative stories, live talks and webinars. The site links to the magazine’s well-reported pieces, such as a look at why real estate is still tangled up with the mob. It’s organized in an easy-to-understand way, with tabs for different big cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, South Florida, national) and categories (news, magazine, research, events, video, and live talks). It’s not surprising that nearly 3 million readers visit the site each month.
Kerry Barger, The Wall Street Journal real estate website
Judges’ comment: With links to Wall Street Journal exclusives (“Travis Kalanick is behind $43.3 million deal for Los Angeles mansion”), and richly reported features (“For the rich, a dilemma: quarantine with staff, or do their own chores”), this website is essential reading for anyone interested in the luxury real-estate market. Readers get the kind of scoops and high-quality profiles, business news, videos, graphics and charts they expect from the Journal. They also get digital-only specials like “house of the day.”