Those familiar with the world of real estate have probably heard the name Modern Spaces — the well-known company celebrated its 10 year anniversary this past July. But according to the CEO, president and co-founder, Eric Benaim, its good reputation and high acclaim is not something that happened overnight.
Prior to his career in real estate, Benaim was the owner of a live event production and marketing firm that concentrated on Manhattan luxury sales. But as time went on, he realized the untapped potential in the Queens real estate market, particularly in Long Island City. In 2006, he sold over 50 residences in the burgeoning neighborhood.
In late July of 2008, Benaim and his business partner Ted Kokkoris started Modern Spaces in the midst of the economic crisis. They opened their first office at 47-42 Vernon Blvd. and ran their business without a website for the first few months. Soon after they established the business, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy resulting in hardships for Benaim’s company.
“It seemed like the world was going to end,” Benaim said.
Following the crash, the LIC resident said that the company experienced a “dark winter” where he recalled they had “no money in the bank.” They borrowed money from family in order to sustain their business and keep up with costs.
During their first year, the company’s focus was on selling walk-up apartments and Benaim said that the company did not make a profit for the first couple of years. But things started looking up in early 2009 after they were approached by Powerhouse Condominiums.
“They gave us 60 units to rent out, which we happily took,” Benaim said. Within three months they had sold all the units Powerhouse gave them.
Since its inception, Modern Spaces has increased from two to three agents to over 100 and has secured over 70 percent of LIC’s market share. The full-service company is involved in all aspects of the real estate process including predevelopment consulting, staging and selling properties.
To date, they have completed over $5 billion in sales, with $1 billion in sales occurring over the past year. Benaim confirms that the company has approximately 4,000 units in the pipeline that they are currently working on.
Now, the company has expanded from its one office in Long Island City into Astoria, Manhattan and Brooklyn. Benaim’s reasoning for establishing offices in different neighborhoods is to integrate the company into the communities which it serves.
“If we’re good to the community, the community will be good to us,” he said.
Benaim has been active in the Long Island City community over the past 10 years and is informally known as the “Mayor of LIC.” In addition to Modern Spaces, Benaim also serves on the board of directors for the Long Island City Partnership and started the annual LIC Halloween parade.
He recalled that the first year of the parade, which he started with Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, Raquel Navas-Salas and Sheila Lewandowski, they gave out about 80 treat bags to 80 children with Modern Spaces business cards stapled on them. Over the last few years, he estimates they’ve distributed over 1,000 bags to kids, reflecting the population increase in America’s fastest growing neighborhood.
With the changing neighborhood and demographic shift, Benaim shares that it’s time for Modern Spaces to rebrand itself.
“Ten years ago, ‘modern’ meant something different. The demographics at the time were people in their 20s and 30s,” he said. “Now the demographics are people in their 20s, 30s and 40s.”
He also notes the increase in property price, with the average unit selling for $600,000 10 years ago versus $1.2 million in the present day. The company’s rebranding will involve a shift to a more “elevated” look, according to Benaim, who adds that they will be opening up their new 8,000-square-foot headquarters in Long Island City by the end of this year.