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‘Stodgy’ New York City real estate firm Brown Harris Stevens hires 25-year-old TIKTOK influencer

A 150-year-old New York City real estate firm that’s been described as ‘stodgy’ and ‘hoity-toity’ is making moves to embrace the digital age by hiring a 25-year-old TikTok star to teach its agents how to make the most of the platform.

Curbed reports that Brown Harris Stevens — which was founded in 1873 and has offices in Connecticut, the Hamptons, and Palm Beach — has enlisted TikToker Madison Sutton (@thenycagent) to help its agents modernize the way they sell homes. 

Sutton, who has only been working in real estate for a few years but has found huge success on the Gen-Z-beloved app, will develop TikTok workshops and train the firm’s agents to ‘open a new and underutilized pipeline for business.’ 

Brown Harris Stevens has enlisted TikToker Madison Sutton to teach agents how to effectively use the app

Sutton, 25, has nearly 100,000 TikTok followers and says that all of her business comes from the app, where they posts home tours and other NYC content

Sutton, 25, has nearly 100,000 TikTok followers and says that all of her business comes from the app, where they posts home tours and other NYC content

Sutton, 25, has nearly 100,000 TikTok followers and says that all of her business comes from the app, where they posts home tours and other NYC content

Brown Harris Stevens, founded in 1873, is known to cater to wealthy buyers and has offices in Connecticut, the Hamptons, and Palm Beach

Brown Harris Stevens, founded in 1873, is known to cater to wealthy buyers and has offices in Connecticut, the Hamptons, and Palm Beach

Brown Harris Stevens is known to cater to wealthy buyers, and a curated list of some of its ‘exceptional’ listings includes a $53 million triplex in Manhattan’s West Village, a $39 million six-bedroom Fifth Avenue co-op, and a $35 million 11-bedroom Southampton mansion.

The firm hasn’t completely shied away from social media, and has pages on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Instagram is its most popular account with 31,000 followers.

Sutton, meanwhile, has 98,7000 TikTok followers, an audience she built up during a short career that launched just six months before the pandemic.

Sutton — who describes herself as a ‘real estate influencer’ — only had a short time in New York City real estate under her belt when the pandemic hit and business dried up as the city went into lockdown and many people moved out.

But the entrepreneurial agent began posting on TikTok, sharing apartment tours as well as other New York City content.

Current listings include a $53 million West Village triplex, a $39 million Fifth Avenue co-op, and a $35 million 11-bedroom Southampton mansion

Current listings include a $53 million West Village triplex, a $39 million Fifth Avenue co-op, and a $35 million 11-bedroom Southampton mansion

CEO Bess Freedman explained: 'We consider ourselves eternal students of technology and are always eager to adapt'

CEO Bess Freedman explained: ‘We consider ourselves eternal students of technology and are always eager to adapt’

‘What TikTok did, I couldn’t have expected or planned or calculated in my entire lifetime. It’s completely changed my life,’ she told CNN

Her videos became popular and, according to Curbed, she was soon getting as many as 500 inquiries every day. She became busy enough that she hired two agents of her own. 

Now all of her business comes from TikTok, and she said her commissions have nearly doubled. 

Brown Harris Stevens recently reached out about finding a little of that magic for themselves.

‘I was initially a little bit surprised myself,’ Sutton admitted, ‘but when I went to meetings everyone was so excited to learn about it.’

CEO Bess Freedman explained: ‘We consider ourselves eternal students of technology and are always eager to adapt.

In addition to workshops, Sutton may do a video series or Zoom meetings to teach agents how to best translate their listings to the platform

In addition to workshops, Sutton may do a video series or Zoom meetings to teach agents how to best translate their listings to the platform

In addition to workshops, Sutton may do a video series or Zoom meetings to teach agents how to best translate their listings to the platform

‘With more and more emerging technology and social-media platforms like TikTok capturing the public’s attention, Brown Harris Stevens and our agents are continually pivoting and evolving. And now, we are hiring a TikTok sensation.’

In addition to workshops, Sutton may do a video series or Zoom meetings to teach agents how to best translate their listings to the platform.

For example, she pointed out, most listing photos are horizontal, and agents often use wide lenses to take the pictures.

But on TikTok, which nearly every user views from their phone, vertical photos have the best impact. 

Sutton’s videos often feature tours of empty apartments with her voiceover explaining what the apartment has to offer. Occasionally, she appears in the videos herself.

Sprinkled in with her apartment tours are clips showing off her outfits, tips for finding an apartment, and funny TikTok trends.

Sutton's videos often feature tours of empty apartments with her voiceover explaining what the apartment has to offer. Occasionally, she appears in the videos herself.

Sutton’s videos often feature tours of empty apartments with her voiceover explaining what the apartment has to offer. Occasionally, she appears in the videos herself.

She had only been working in NYC real estate for six months when the pandemic hit and business dried up

She began posting and was soon getting hundreds of inquiries a day and had to hire her own agents

She’d only been working in NYC real estate for six months when the pandemic hit and business dried up. She began posting and was soon getting hundreds of inquiries a day

Speaking of her success, Sutton admits that using TikTok can be 'intimidating,' especially for agents who've have success the old-fashioned way

Speaking of her success, Sutton admits that using TikTok can be ‘intimidating,’ especially for agents who’ve have success the old-fashioned way

Speaking of her success, Sutton admits that using TikTok can be ‘intimidating,’ especially for agents who’ve have success the old-fashioned way. 

‘There is a level of vulnerability to putting yourself in front of millions of people,’ she said. 

‘If you’re already successful, there can be hesitation to adopt a platform like this. People may also assume they have to be in front of the camera all the time. You’re entertaining as well as providing knowledge. I have a more personal format on my platform, but that’s not the case for everyone.’

But she points to upsides, like her own success. She said that she’s created ‘long-term’ relationships with people she’s met on TikTok whom she may never have connected with otherwise.   

‘I may not have had access to these clients, or they may not have been exposed to someone like me,’ she told CNN. 

‘If you’re a realtor, you should be on TikTok. No questions asked,’ she added. ‘Even if a video performs poorly, it’s not about the performance. If one of those people who sees that video finds their home … I’ve done my job.’


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