Veteran broker Harold Valestin left MNS Real Estate for Nest Seekers International. In Valestin’s new role as director of development marketing and sales, he will expand the firm’s relationship with developers and market existing properties. Valestin started at MNS in 2005 when the company was called the Developers Group. He has sold for 12 years in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn and rose to vice president with MNS. Raised in Queens, Valestin is a graduate of St. Francis Prep. He is married with three kids. He sat down with Real Estate editor Liam La Guerre
La Guerre: Why are people now noticing how cool Queens is?
Valestin: I think for a couple of reasons. One, definitely affordability. You can get a home for a lot less than you would pay in Manhattan, and then also there’s a new vibe about Queens. It’s starting to get its own buzz. Queens is the most multicultural, diverse borough in the city, if not the most diverse county in the country. In one borough you have dozens if not more than 100 different countries [represented].
La Guerre: Queens has diversity, history and low land prices. What do you think is the most attractive feature of Queens to developers?
Valestin: The reason developers are coming to Queens is more of a price thing. The land in Queens is much less expensive than it is in the city and Brooklyn. And now that they know there are buyers and renters willing to come to Queens, it is logical for them to come here. Not only is the land less expensive, but now they have a market for the things that they build.
La Guerre: The real estate boom in LIC and Astoria is creating rising land prices like never before in Queens. How high will it go?
Valestin: Probably they’ll still creep up a little bit, but there’s going to be a point where it doesn’t make financial sense anymore. So then that’s going to push back the land prices. I think for Queens there is still a little bit more room for land prices, but I think within the year you’re going to start seeing the stabilization of land prices.
La Guerre: You mean by the end of this year or within next year?
Valestin: Within 12 months.
La Guerre: Do you see development booms coming to other areas in Queens besides LIC and Astoria?
Valestin: Obviously when you are talking about development, developers are looking for the highest return on their investment and they are going to go for the places that are most sought after by the customer, and those places were Long Island City, Astoria, Flushing and to an extent Forest Hills. From a traditional house perspective Bayside and Douglaston are very high on that list. If you are talking about the rental or condo market the previous neighborhoods I mentioned would be the ones that are the sexiest to builders.
La Guerre: What about an area like Jamaica?
Valestin: Actually, Jamaica is about to see a major influx of new buildings, particularly around the LIRR Sutphin Boulevard station. There is a tremendous amount of talk exploring residential and contextual buildings over there. So that area of Jamaica is going to see a mini boom itself.