How a Top-Grossing Manhattan Real Estate Agent Balances Family and the Changing Market

March 20, 2015 Updated: March 25, 2015

NEW YORK—Barbara Anderson Terry is one of Sotheby’s International Realty’s highest grossing agents. She works out of the East Side Manhattan Brokerage and specializes in Manhattan’s luxury market.

Until recently, she spent most of her time showing her clients prewar co-operatives.

But as the luxury market has transitioned toward pricy new condominium developments, Anderson Terry has also been adapting her strategy. She is looking to tap into the torrent of international buyers that are investing in Manhattan’s luxury real estate.

Roughly 39 percent of Sotheby’s luxury segment sales in Manhattan are foreign buyers. About one in four are foreign buyers from Asia.

“All through my adult professional life, I’ve been fortunate enough to always have referrals,” Anderson Terry said. “But now that the world has become so global, so much more of the luxury market is not from your immediate circle, it’s more of the foreign market.”

Anderson Terry has seen the success of her colleague Nikki Field, who also works out of Sotheby’s East Side Manhattan Brokerage. Field has been reaping commissions from the Chinese market for five years. Since 2013, around three-quarters of the sales closed by Field’s team have been foreign buyers.

Getting the Real Estate Bug

Anderson Terry grew up on the hills of Westbury on Long Island, the oldest of eight children in a devout Catholic family.

At that time, you could drive your customers around in your station wagon with your kids in the back.
— Barbara Anderson Terry, real estate agentSotheby's International Realty

After she married and had two children, Anderson Terry worked part time as a nurse. But she resented filling in for the full-time nurses on holidays, because it meant working religious holidays, including Christmas.

A neighbor suggested she try real estate, because she could make her own hours, and work around her children’s schedules.

“Well, p.s. that ended up being a joke, because if you really get the bug and want to be successful you end up working 24/7, right?” she said, “But at least you can work from home, and you can also have your family.”

So began Anderson Terry’s real estate career in 1975, with Daniel Gale, a Sotheby’s International Realty affiliate on the North Shore of Long Island.

“At that time, you could drive your customers around in your station wagon with your kids in the back, it was so friendly,” she recalled. “You would then go to one of the clubs for lunch, and show her the schools, the deal was done. Very, very easy compared with New York City real estate.”

Family Life Hits a Hurdle

Anderson Terry was a successful agent right from the start, but her family life was not going as well. She and her husband were living apart, and were gradually growing further apart. To compound issues, a number of men on Long Island, including married men, had taken to hitting on her.

She decided to move to New York City.

But before she could truly settle in she met a man. A wealthy San Franciscan named Gary Shansby. Within a week she found herself sitting on their rock in Central Park.

He presented her with the largest diamond ring she had ever seen and told her he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Anderson Terry looked at him as her knight in shining armor. They married Jan 1, 1983, and her young family moved to San Francisco.

Anderson Terry became a “corporate wife,” traveling the world with Shansby’s vitamin company. She also became involved in the arts and philanthropy. She served on the San Francisco Zoological Society Board of Directors, and was vice president of the San Francisco Opera Guild, chairing the Development Committee. She was also a member of the San Francisco MOMA Benefactor’s Committee and Collector’s Forum.

Her real estate career was effectively put on hold for most of the 1980s, and her children were sent to elite boarding schools.

“My father really insisted upon higher education, the best education he could encourage us to have, so I felt the same way for my children, and I wanted them to get into the best schools that they could,” she said.

Her children, B.J. and William, went to Choate, an exclusive private preparatory school in Wallingford, Connecticut. The school has a number of prestigious alumni, including John F. Kennedy, and the late philanthropist Paul Mellon. Tuition and board is currently just under $53,000 a year per student.

But her second marriage was “just not meant to be long-term,” Anderson Terry said, adding that Shansby had a temper that would often flare at home.

Anderson Terry returned to New York City with her two children at the end of 1989.

Connections That Last

Anderson Terry has a handwritten note that George H. W. Bush sent to her and her children after they left Shansby.

He had written in response to a note they had sent to friends and family, with their new address and explaining their new situation. Bush wished Anderson Terry luck with her new life in New York, where her roots are.

Returning to Real Estate

Anderson Terry returned to Sotheby’s for a brief stint, before switching over to Douglas Elliman for 10 years.

During her time with Douglas Elliman, she and a partner formed a real estate investment company called New York Investment Properties, she got her masters in Real Estate Development and Investment from New York University (NYU)—and she remarried.

Frederick “Ted” Terry is quite different from her first two husbands, she said, “more of an academic.”

Terry was valedictorian of his class at Williams College, and is senior counsel for the prestigious law firm Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. He is an executor for the estate of art collector and philanthropist Paul Mellon.

She met Terry more than two decades ago at an event at the new Choate Art Center, on the grounds of her children’s former boarding school. A mutual friend introduced them, because he knew they would hit it off. The friend and Anderson Terry also had an ongoing joke that her third husband would have a good sense of humor.

The art center at Choate was designed by the famous American Chinese architect I.M. Pei and commissioned by Paul Mellon. Ted Terry often represented Mellon at events at Choate, because Mellon did not want to attend personally.

When the Terrys first married 22 years ago, Mellon invited them to his famous home set on a 5,000-acre estate in Middleburg, Virginia. Anderson Terry remembers marveling at the beautiful homes on his property, and the famous paintings he had collected. The paintings, all originals, adorned every room of the house that they stayed in, and even the walls of Mellon’s private plane.

Terry is heavily involved in philanthropic work—primarily the World Monument Fund and the National Gallery, both of which involve travel. He and Anderson Terry have stayed in many interesting places, including the palace of the Maharaja of Jodhpur in India.

Anderson Terry is still involved in her own charitable endeavors. She serves on the Rockefeller University Council and women’s committee.

Going It Alone

In May 2001, Anderson Terry launched her own real estate company, Anderson Realty, where she and her team worked for eight years.

After the Lehman Brother’s crash in 2008, Anderson Terry started contemplating going back to Sotheby’s, which she eventually did at the start of 2009. She now runs their Anderson Terry Team in the East Side Manhattan Brokerage.

“I feel like I’m back home, and I’m hopefully going to be there till I retire—no more jumping around. Because I do feel we have the best international brand,” she said.

Successful Family

Over her career, which has spanned more or less 30 years, Anderson Terry has sold more than $1 billion in residential real estate, in NYC, on Long Island, and in the Caribbean.

Anderson Terry had hoped her daughter, B.J. Casey, would work by her side in real estate.

Now in her early sixties, Anderson Terry could retire if she wanted to, but she is a driven woman who enjoys her job. She wants to build a solid business model to pass to her team after she chooses to leave the playing field.

Anderson Terry had hoped her daughter, B.J. Casey, would work by her side in real estate, but her daughter had been turned off by horror stories growing up (about dishonesty and the like). Casey instead moved into the financial sector, and now works for a hedge fund, as does her husband, Jack Casey.

Seeking a female heir for her real estate business, Anderson Terry has turned her attention to her new daughter-in-law, Hye Young. She is trying to convince Young, who married her son William DeMeo last year, to join the Anderson Terry Team at Sotheby’s.

Young may be a hard buy though—she is enjoying studying computer programming in Ohio, where she and DeMeo live. She has been getting straight A’s.

DeMeo is a postdoctoral associate in the department of mathematics at Iowa State University.

Perhaps Anderson Terry’s true wish is that her teenage granddaughter, B.J.’s daughter Charlotte—who looks just like she did as a teenager—will eventually take over the successful business that she has built.

Anderson Terry, her husband, and their 15-year-old King Charles spaniel Bridgette live on Park Avenue in Manhattan, three minutes walk from her office. They also have a weekend and holiday home in East Hampton that was designed by Robert A. M Stern Architects.