She's the queen of Victorian Flatbush real estate, with nearly a half-century of home sales under her belt.
Her granddaughter, who got her real estate license at age 18, is no slouch either.
Mary Kay Gallagher, age 94, sells historic homes in Prospect Park South, Ditmas Park, Midwood and nearby areas – stunning, stand-alone single-family properties that are a century old or more, with verdant lawns and trees. Ninety percent of them have driveways, which of course are coveted in Brooklyn.
Granddaughter Alexandra Reddish, 40, is Gallagher's savvy colleague in home sales at Mary Kay Gallagher Real Estate. A daughter-in-law, Madeleine Gallagher, handles rentals and helps with sales.
“We keep it in the family,” Mary Kay Gallagher said.
She launched her broker career in 1970 after the Prospect Park South Civic Association's then-president asked her to get into real estate, hoping she'd find buyers for the area's homes who wouldn't turn them into boarding houses.
Gallagher started her firm once the youngest of her six kids – he's now 53 – went to kindergarten.
Despite our undying devotion to Brooklyn brownstones, we've been longing to stroll the streets of Victorian Flatbush now that spring has arrived, and get an Eye-ful of the extraordinary houses. They look especially good when the cherry, dogwood and lilac trees in their yards are blooming.
We were fortunate to get a chance to visit Gallagher and Reddish in the Prospect Park South home where Gallagher has lived since 1959.
Two trends they talked about: Neighborhood home prices are topping $2 million. (See related stories.) And Victorian houses that are in “better shape” – that means “decent” move-in condition – are selling above their asking prices, Reddish said.
“Demand is high throughout all these neighborhoods,” she said. “You can't get anything for less than $1 million in Ditmas Park.”
When Gallagher started her work in the 1970s, properties sold for $60,000, she recalled.
These days, even fixer-uppers are faring well. Mary Kay Gallagher Real Estate was the sale broker for 515 E. 19th St., an eight-bedroom home in landmarked Ditmas Park that needs a lot of work. It went for $1.42 million in March. The buyers were Yi Sha Feng and Qun F. Feng, city Finance Department records indicate.
The 10 small neighborhoods known collectively as Victorian Flatbush have the largest concentration of Victorian wood frame houses in the United States, according to the Historic Districts Council, which designated the area as one of its “Six to Celebrate” in 2012.
It stretches south from Prospect Park to Avenue H and Brooklyn College and includes Caton Park, Prospect Park South, Beverly Square West, Beverly Square East, Ditmas Park West, Ditmas Park, West Midwood, Midwood Park, South Midwood and Fiske Terrace.
The map on Gallagher's website also includes an additional neighborhood of significance, Albemarle-Kenmore Terrace, where brick and limestone townhouses predominate rather than free-standing wood frame homes.
Very few Victorians are for sale at any given time because many long-time owners refuse to give them up, even for big bucks.
“We're the country in the city,” Gallagher said. “I would never leave this neighborhood. I'm too comfortable here.”
When homes do come on the market, buyers are often residents of brownstone neighborhoods such as Park Slope or Boerum Hill who've sold their townhouses for $3 to $4 million. Previously, many buyers were co-op residents in places like Park Slope. But now the money from selling those apartments isn't sufficient for buying Victorian Flatbush homes.
Gallagher, who's a great-grandmother, refers to herself as semi-retired. To her, semi-retired still means very busy. She takes job-related calls seven days a week and works at open houses. Reddish, too, is on the job seven days a week.
P.S. There's so much to tell about Victorian Flatbush – check in next week to read more.
For now, see our Gallery of Eye Candy for a closer look at their realm.