New York’s venerable gay-owned Chelsea real estate agency, Bank Neary Real Estate, started the year off in a new home.
At the beginning of 2021, Gil Neary and Matthew Bank, co-owners of Bank Neary Real Estate, moved out of the real estate agency’s 16th Street and Sixth Avenue office into its new digs on the corner of 17th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues.
The agency “has some roots in the neighborhood,” said Neary, 64, who opened the agency nearly 35 years ago with his former business partner who retired in 2018.
The agency entered a new era with Bank, 55, who became Neary’s new business partner and vice president of the agency.
Bank became an agent and joined the agency in 2010 after his former business, HX, a Chelsea-based nightlife magazine, folded after 18 years that same year.
Neary was the magazine’s first advertiser, “A castle for every queen.” It was very popular with readers, said the president of the real estate agency.
The two gay men had a long business relationship, respected each other, and were appreciated in the neighborhood. When Bank expressed interest in being a real estate agent 12 years ago and later a business partner at the agency, it made sense.
“We had a good working relationship. It’s been work[ing] out very nicely so far,” Neary said.
In 2021, the agency’s 10 agents, including Bank and Neary, rented more than 100 apartments and sold 54 properties totaling a value of nearly $40,000,000 worth of properties, according to Bank.
The agency’s hub is Chelsea and surrounding neighborhoods, but the agents work throughout New York’s five boroughs representing renters and landlords, as well as buyers and sellers.
The men are excited about their agency’s new location and era. Unlike their previous space, this one is on the ground floor, with broad windows looking into the agency and a little patio area at the storefront entrance. Bank foresees hosting an official open house sometime in the spring when the weather gets better, he said.
“It is a fresh start for us,” Bank said.
People can walk by, wave, and stop in to chat with the agents and check out the latest listings.
The agency opened at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s. Homophobia was very real. New York City didn’t have the strict anti-discrimination housing laws it has today.
Neary remembers the first days the agency opened its doors. A gay couple sat down in front of Neary. Recommendations from friends of friends led the two men to the agency. The real estate agents they had previously attempted to work with didn’t understand they were two gay men buying a home together.
The men told Neary they wanted to work with “people that we know we’re going to be comfortable with and that will understand us,” he recalled them telling him. “I think people still want to be with somebody who’s relatable.”
Gay homebuyers Philip Gallo, 59, and Michael Isbell, 64, longtime clients of Bank Neary Real Estate, have returned time and time again for their home sales and search needs.
“We’re a gay family,” Gallo said stating being a gay real estate agent was “clearly a factor” in their decision to work with Bank, who is also a longtime friend.
“It’s great to have someone who knows the market and knows the community that we were going to be living in,” he said.
White glove service
Clients told Gay City News Bank and Neary know the neighborhood, city, and governance like the back of their hands, and they praised the pair’s listening, advising, and negotiating skills.
“This is one of the biggest decisions people will make” in terms of big purchases in their lives, Gallo, a trained lawyer working in compliance, said. “The client is going to get frazzled no matter what, given the importance of the decision.”
“Matthew is really calm under pressure, which is also amazing,” he added.
Gallo knows. Last year, he reached out to Bank to help his family find their new home when they decided to move back to New York from London. Gallo declined to disclose information about his family for privacy reasons.
“Matthew was amazing at helping me find an apartment in Manhattan,” Gallo said about the transatlantic search, which was done over FaceTime for several months. They found a new home in Chelsea, renovated it, and without warning had to immediately temporarily vacate due to a fire in the apartment above theirs, he said.
Bank came to their rescue. He found a three-bedroom apartment in a building with a doorman for the family to live in for six months and assisted with all the logistics and paperwork.
“Matthew was amazing,” taking the “short order” challenge of finding a temporary home “for me, my kids, and my husband to move into,” Gallo said. He then helped them find their second home in Connecticut.
Isbell also came to Neary by word of mouth in the mid-1990s. Over the decades, the consultant bought and sold apartments in the same apartment building with Neary, he said. Around the end of 2019, Isbell sold his apartment and moved West to Palm Springs. However, he missed New York. In August 2021, Isbell closed on a new apartment back in his old building with Neary’s help.
“He very much listened to me. I think [he] understood pretty clearly what I was looking for. He did not venture terribly far afield from my price range. He is just very easy to work with,” Isbell said.
To find current listings at Bank Neary Real Estate, visit www.bankneary.com.