Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks on October 3, 2018
When Jonathan Sadeh went shopping for an apartment a few years ago, he had a clear idea what he wanted. “I was looking for an apartment that could be modified into a 3-bedroom to maximize value,” recalls Sadeh, a pulmonary doctor. As it happened, Sadeh had a friend who had recently renovated an apartment.
This friend had brought in Assaf Leib, an interior architect and designer who heads Leib Designs. Sadeh was so impressed by the results that when he started shopping for an apartment, he called Leib. The designer offered to accompany him on apartment visits and, to Sadeh’s surprise, he brought a pencil and pad – and whipped up sketches, on the spot, of possible renovations.
“When he drew it, I could actually visualize,” Sadeh says. “If he had described it verbally, I wouldn’t have gotten it. The thing I love most is his ability to sketch what the apartment might look like – in seconds.”
One apartment they visited together was in an elegant 28-unit co-op on West End Avenue. Leib’s pencil got busy. “I couldn’t have imagined the layout he came up with,” Sadeh says. “He made two bedrooms into three, added a walk-in closet, moved the hallway, moved doors. He could see the whole thing. The changes were dramatic, but I couldn’t see any reason why the co-op board wouldn’t approve it.”
Sadeh bought the apartment, then Leib drew up formal plans for the renovation. Under the co-op’s alteration agreement, its architect reviewed the plans, visited the apartment, and asked questions. The design was approved and the renovation work began.
“The apartment ended up looking exactly like Assaf drew it on that first visit,” Sadeh says, unable to mask his amazement. “The service didn’t cost much, and it was well worth it.”
Leib charges $350 an hour for his sketching services – a negligible fee given the speed of his pencil and the cost of New York City apartments. “I provide two types of services,” Leib says. “First is the sketching of possible renovations for the buyer. They get a very clear idea what the space might look like, and in many cases this has helped the broker close the deal. My second service is the whole package of renovating apartments, from soup to nuts. Combining apartments is my forte.”
Jay Glazer, a broker at Corcoran, met Leib through a client several years ago. Since then, Leib’s sketching has helped Glazer close sales on half a dozen co-op and condo apartments. “I think what buyers respond to is an immediate sense of what can be done,” Glazer says. “It gives the buyer a sense of comfort that it’s possible to move a wall or reposition plumbing.”
Of course Leib’s sketches and concepts are no guarantee that a co-op board is going to approve a proposed alteration. But in addition to helping buyers and their brokers, Leib’s work has helped sway boards, even difficult ones.
“He recently renovated an apartment for a client of mine,” Glazer says. “It was kind of a rigid building, but he was able to get the renovation approved and done. I also try to give my clients guidance if the board is going to be difficult – and how they can sell their plan to the board.”
It helps that Leib knows his business. In the words of satisfied customer Jonathan Sadeh of West End Avenue, “What his sketching provides is his vision of what the apartment could look like, which is difficult for most people to see, certainly for me. That kind of vision was the selling point, the most valuable thing for me. It got me very excited about what the apartment could look like. It’s why I bought the place.”
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