One of Corcoran’s most dynamic duos, Cheryl Nielsen and Cara Sadownick, talk business, Brooklyn, and the secrets to a successful partnership.
Before Cheryl Nielsen and Cara Sadownick partnered as Corcoran brokers, each had a long history in real estate.
In the years leading up to their 2012 union, Nielsen helped open and manage Corcoran’s (new at the time) Cobble Hill office. Sadownick worked in commercial real estate, then moved to a boutique residential firm in Brooklyn Heights. During that period, they shared a memorable phone call that would lead to an enduring partnership conducted mostly from their brownstone Brooklyn neighborhoods.
Years after that initial conversation, Sadownick joined Corcoran, and Nielsen was quick to share her expertise in new construction with her colleague. They worked with a developer to transform two vacant lots by building homes and selling them together. “We sort of dated via that experience and saw that we collaborate really well,” says Sadownick. “We’re very different, but we complement each other.”
California-born Nielsen is the yin to Sadownick’s lifelong New Yorker yang, they agree. That balance extends to their two other team members, Zoe Saaf and Rebecca Navarro, the millennials on their all-female lineup. While the industry veterans share their insights on industry practices, they also learn new ways to communicate and market most effectively in an ever-evolving industry.
They talked to INHABIT about their natural rapport and share tips about the best of Brooklyn — old and new.
INHABIT: Can you talk about how your personalities complement each other?
Nielsen: Cara’s really fabulous with interfacing with young Brooklyn families. Her son goes to Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn Heights, where she also went. My family is more mature, so I connect easily with families with grown children. On a different note, I calculate numbers from my gut. I’ll share those predictions with Cara, and she asks, “How do you know?” Then she does the math.
Sadownick: We’re both spreadsheet people, but I’m very quantitative and have to see the numbers work. Cheryl’s gut is always spot-on. After we meet with a potential client once or twice, I trust her feeling about the direction we should take. She’s very intuitive.
INHABIT: Cheryl, do you consider yourself an empath?
Nielsen: I like to think of myself as spiritual. When the energy in a house is really stuck, you can feel it when you walk in, even after it’s been staged. Sometimes we take measures to clear it by working with an energy healer, and the whole place can feel lighter.
INHABIT: Sounds like a pretty unconventional approach…
Nielsen: That comes in handy, especially when we work with creatives, artists and celebrities, because they tend to be highly sensitive. If you can tune into how they feel about a space, they really seem to appreciate that.
Sadownick: At the same time, we have really good boundaries. People are there to look at a property — to find a home. Everyone feels vulnerable doing that. It’s so personal, and people trust us for our ability to be discreet.
INHABIT: And yet, you both seem very gregarious.
Sadownick: We love people. And we love Brooklyn because half of our business is done walking down the street. It’s total synchronicity. We feel that this isn’t just our job because it’s truly personal.
INHABIT: What else do you love about what you do?
Nielsen: Working with architects has always fascinated me. For about eight years, I did a lot of new development, and I enjoy the construction side of things. My grandfather was a developer in the Midwest, so I grew up around it. My father was a contractor, and my mother was an interior designer.
INHABIT: What’s an example of your new development work?
Nielsen: I was lead broker for Richard Meier’s On Prospect Park [the sculpted-glass condo building that opened in 2008 across from Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza]. It was so interesting to start on that project before they even dug the foundation.
We wanted to know what the views would look like from the top floors, so we got the Parks Department to let us inside the plaza’s monument arch. It was built in 1892 from granite, and there’s a staircase inside. From the top, we saw all of Prospect Park, the Manhattan skyline, New York Harbor — even the Statue of Liberty.
INHABIT: Back on the ground, what about Brooklyn do you love?
Sadownick: I love The Osprey, the restaurant in 1 Hotel, right on the Brooklyn Bridge Park waterfront. Our team took me there for a big birthday last year. The view is extraordinary — it’s a lot more fun to be in Brooklyn looking at Manhattan. Chez Moi is fun for dollar oysters. Beasts & Bottles is great for carnivores, like my husband, and vegetarians alike, as they have great veggie dishes, too. Our friend from Brooklyn Garden Club did the green wall in there. Also: Hibino for sushi; Darna Falafel for yummy Mideast wraps; Perelandra Natural Foods for health food and green juices; Sahadi’s for bulk and specialty foods. We go everywhere!
I love walking down a block of landmarked brownstones and seeing the undulation of facades. There’s tremendous value in that beauty, way beyond the superficial. It brings a sense of peace and grace. There’s also value in the Meier building, all glass and clean and sleek and Zen. We want the new alongside the old, contextual feeling of surrounding neighborhoods.
Nielsen: I’ve lived in Brooklyn Heights for 35 years, and it’s the smallest little town I’ve ever lived in. Folks are so friendly, and everything is walkable. Plus we have the harbor, the smell of the salt air, and we can hear the foghorns.
We have dinner in the neighborhood at Jack the Horse Tavern once a week. It’s off Middagh Street, where we’ve sold two houses built in the 1820s. For pizza, it’s Dellarocco’s of Brooklyn. And we often eat at The Heights Casino, where our family has belonged for 28 years. It’s a tennis and squash club with a dining room and grill room. They have Halloween parties for kids and holiday tree lightings on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
INHABIT: Your home wouldn’t be home without …
Nielsen: That very Promenade. Both of my kids learned to walk there.
Sadownick: The ring of flowers with four harps in the corner of my bedroom ceiling . It’s old plasterwork, made by Italian artisans. Its history reminds me of where we come from and all we have to be grateful for.