Finding and Embracing Small Town Manhattan

With over $1.6M residents densely packed into a shy 34 square miles, it is probably difficult, no, nearly impossible for the non-New Yorker to appreciate the small town appeal of this city. But ask most New Yorkers the names of the people with whom they come into contact each day and they will rattle off a lengthy list. If they don’t know the actual names, they at least share a familiarity with these every day encounters that rivals any small town across America. And lest not forget the mourning of a closed local business that further illustrates that down-home feel that so many locals share.

I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Although Wikipedia defines the area as 59th Street to 116th Street from Central Park to the Hudson River, most “locals” would probably redefine the area as Lincoln Center-ish to 96th Street. Regardless, my condo building and the immediate vicinity around it rivals that of any small town that I’ve ever visited. My kids joke with me often that I know everyone in our building, including and not limited to children, pets, housekeepers and home health aides. From trading early morning greetings with Abul, the owner of corner newsstand and the friendly crew at Le Pain Quotidien who supply my morning 20150701_090337_resizedjava to the waves and smiles throughout the day from the countless business owners and neighbors, our community has become so familiar that it is difficult to imagine living elsewhere. Our vet, the restaurant delivery men, boutique shop owners, the checkout people at the grocery store, the guys behind the deli counter, the guys who sell us flowers, and even Mike the MTA bus driver who has taken my wife and daughter to school every day for so many years make our “small town” Westside community the very special place that we call home.

The beauty of Manhattan is that it is island made up of a plethora of “small towns” in which you can settle and call home.  Just make sure that you are working with a real estate agent who knows the area in which you want to live and can point you to all of the incredible relationships that you can forge once you become a “neighbor.”

Can You Trust Your Real Estate Agent?

Although the bar continues to be raised in the residential real estate industry, marginal agents remain the scourge of the industry’s reputation as a whole. From big ego to misinformation, it is all too often that an agent is an obstacle instead of an asset to the transaction process. It remains imperative that buyers and sellers alike take the time to determine if their agent has what it takes to represent them in a successful real estate transaction.

Consumers should consider these things when interviewing and deciding with whom they will trust with often the biggest transaction in their portfolio:

  • References- Ask for more than one and call them.
  • Google-It seems obvious but there is so much to learn about someone via Google.
  • Quiz the selling agent-have a friend call them and ask questions about the building and report back to you as to whether or not responses were sufficient.
  • Caution with friends/family-If choosing a family member or friend to represent you, don’t take for granted that they have your best interest in mind and demand the professional service you would ask of a stranger.
  • Ask “why you?”-Listen carefully to their response being certain that they bring something of value to the table.
  • Referrals-Ask your co-workers, family and friends about their experiences with agents and consider a referral based on their responses.
  • The Brand-Greatly consider and examine the company for which your agent works. You may apply the same tips above on a macro level for the company.

Don’t fall into the trap that all real estate agents are created equal. A solid, savvy and sophisticated real estate professional will be the difference between a successfully smooth transaction and a potential nightmare.

 

 

NYC Real Estate Market Data: Discerning Real from Fluff

The Daily News headline on Friday read “Apartment sales hit three-year low in January as NYC felt winter freeze.”  A very misleading headline given that the referenced report issued by StreetEasy is a CONDO report that does not include the 400+ co-ops and townhouses that also went into contract in the month of January. In fact, 634 listings went into contract in January 2014 versus 718 in the same period 2015 representing a 22% increase YoY (via UrbanDigs see UD-report 2008 to present).

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As evidenced in the UD-report, there is no”chill” in the market other than the single digit temperatures from which we all could desperately use some relief. Contrary to The Daily News report, the market continues to be starved for inventory and flush with buyers, making it often a frustrating landscape to navigate.

In the spirit of our robust real estate market, stay tuned for some anecdotes from our CORE agents representing just some of the multiple bid situations in which they have been involved on both the buy and sell sides.

 

Related Companies Buys a 50 Percent Stake in CORE Residential Brokerage!

In one of the most synergistic marriages to ever take place on the NYC real estate frontier, world-reknowned develop Related Companies has purchased a 50% stake in Manhattan’s #1 Boutique brokerage firm, CORE.

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I am thrilled to be a part of this and look forward to everything that this means for our customers, clients and CORE agents.

Check out the complete story from today’s New York Times.

Mazel tov to Shaun Osher, Jeffrey Blau and the CORE and Related families!

 

Blame the Broker?

With all of the parties that are involved in a New York City real estate transaction, it still amazes me that when anything becomes uncomfortable, everyone looks to the broker’s commission to make things right.

Consider this: there are a minimum of eight (8) parties involved in an all cash transaction (9 if buyer has a broker) and twelve (12, 13 with buyer’s broker) in a financed transaction.

  • Seller
  • Buyer
  • Seller attorney
  • Buyer attorney
  • Seller’s agent
  • Buyer’s agent (90% of the time)
  • Building property manager
  • Closing agent for management

And if financed, we add on:

  • Mortgage broker
  • Underwriter
  • Bank Attorney
  • Payoff bank attorney (just shows up at closing to collect outstanding mortgage balance from seller)

This is a lot of hands in the pot to get a deal from inception/offer all the way to the closing table.  What continues to baffle me after 22 years in this industry is that when any of the above parties makes an error (and it does happen), the seller consistently goes after the commission of their broker.

I suspect, well rather I know that this is in large part due to the size of the fee that the broker yields from the transaction. And it is human instinct to want to point the finger at someone when things don’t go our way.  The big fee often brings with it a certain resentment when things don’t go as smoothly as everyone had planned.

Recently, one of my agents at CORE recently closed on a transaction in which the seller was furious that the closing took so long.  An email string from months ago showed how incredibly well the agent managed expectations, worked diligently on the seller’s behalf, operated with integrity, and tried to persuade the bank and buyer to close as soon as possible.  All of that and the seller was furious demanding a reduction in commission.  She didn’t attack the bank, her attorney, or management all of whom played a part in the delays.  She came after our agent who was consistently working in the seller’s best interest.

The moral of the story: agents must manage expectations, deliver on their promises (think Amazon) and sellers must understand that with so many hands in the pot, it is very possible that someone other than the agent is to blame for any mishap.

Food for thought.

The $50M Home Market

Manhattan real estate has become so incredibly sexy.  From the dramatic “reality” shows to the media reports of billionaires and foreign investors gobbling up property, it has never been a more exciting time to live in NYC.

Today, Curbed ran an interesting piece on The 25 Most Expensive Homes in New York City ranging from the penultimate $118.5M potential (nope, it isn’t even one apartment yet) 3 unit Penthouse combo at The Ritz Carlton Residences in Battery Park to a Lenox Hill mansion at 57 East 64th Street for a measly $44M.

I love this articles just like the rest of the world. And a little secret, I love selling these homes too.  So when i read this article, I thought I would do a quick check of the plus $50M market and this is what I found.

Despite the numerous articles and media attention given to the mega million dollar sales in Manhattan, it turns out that only 9, yes N.I.N.E. residential properties have EVER sold for $50M or more (via StreetEasy) throughout the history of New York.  Compare that with the 14 that are currently on the market and it is obvious that there just aren’t as many super wealthy individuals as the press would have you believe.

Buy/Sell or Sell/Buy?

I share my thoughts on how to best time the intracies of a sell/buy or buy/sell (that’s the point) move in this excellent Brickunderground piece.

True Gotham is Back

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I am back and so is True Gotham! It has been way too long since I have played an active role in the content and life of this blog. 6 years of running The Heddings Property Group kept me away and basically forced me (not really as everything is a choice) to sell out to outside writers which often amounted to considerable fluff. It has hardly been “dispatches from the front lines of NYC real estate,” but it will be going forward.

The Heddings Property Group was recently absorbed by Shaun Osher and The CORE Group and I have enthusiastically accepted the position of Executive Vice President of Sales for the company. CORE_logo_rgb_white This new role has me overseeing nearly 100 Manhattan real estate agents which will give me access to the front lines like never before.

I am sincerely looking forward to once again bringing you relevant and timely content on all that is the incredible Manhattan real estate market.

For those who followed this blog in the past, I am sorry for my departure from what once meant a great deal to me!

But, I’m baaaaaack!

Manhattan Ranked Second Best Place in the Country to be Single

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According to a recent survey conducted by Rent.com, Manhattan is the second-best place in the country to live if you are a single adult. Defining a single adult as anyone over the age of 20 who has never been married or who is currently separated, divorced or widowed, the site estimates that there are approximately 494,899 single in the borough. This amounts to approximately 38 percent of Manhattan’s population of nearly 1.6 million.

When ranking cities according to their attractiveness for singles, the site considered factors such as restaurant options, nightlife options and the number of people who frequently visit coffee shops. In all, Manhattan earned a score of 781, with 1,000 being the highest score possible. This score represents the highest score achieved by any city included on the survey, including number one ranked San Francisco, which only edged out Manhattan because 39 percent of its population is single.

Manhattan also scored high on Rent.com’s safety index, earning a score of 822 out of a possible 1,000. With a score this high, singles do not have to worry about being victims of crime as they explore all that the city has to offer. With many places open until 4:00 am or open 24-hours per day, there are plenty of nightlife opportunities for the single crowd to enjoy throughout the night.

The city is also well-known for its actively GLBT scene, meaning people of all sexual orientations can find other singles to spend their time with. Whether walking the streets, riding the train or visiting one of the many late-night establishments, singles have a number of opportunities for meeting and getting to know each other.

Of course, while Manhattan is rated high for having a large number of singles and a variety of places for these singles to interact, there is no saying whether or not these relationships will flourish into long-term relationships. What you and other singles choose to do with the opportunities before you is entirely up to you.

Manhattan Population Continues to Grow Despite Increased Housing Costs

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With a population of more than 1.6 million, Manhattan continues to grow. While there are certainly some positive sides to a growing population, there is one downside to having so many people interested in living in Manhattan: housing.

Unfortunately for those who live in Manhattan or who wish to live in the borough, housing is at a premium. With only so much space available for housing, adding more housing is nearly impossible. Furthermore, New York University’s Furman Center reports that Manhattan lost 3,000 rent-regulated apartments in the last year along. In many areas throughout the borough, the stabilized homes that were typically more affordable are being replaced by “market rate” units. In fact, from 2002 to 2012, the number of stabilized or controlled apartments fell by more than 19 percent, while the number of “market rate” apartments increased by more than 19 percent. As a result, finding an affordable place to live is becoming increasingly more difficult. Even local residents who have lived in the borough for decades are finding themselves forced to leave because they simply can’t afford to stay. Even middle class professionals are finding themselves getting squeezed out by the high prices.

Obviously, no one can blame landlords for increasing their prices. If the market demand is high, increasing prices each year is a great way for landlords and investors to make money. Nonetheless, while this is not a new phenomenon for Manhattan, the issue is reaching what many consider to be “crisis” status. After all, when prices continue to rise and force long-time residents out of the borough, it tears at the fabric of the community. It also makes it difficult for families, seniors and other valuable community members to stay in one place, with many finding themselves constantly moving in an effort to find more affordable housing.

Manhattan and its residents have always taken pride in the diversity that the borough has to offer. In fact, an estimated 29 percent of those who reside in the borough are foreign-born citizens. With rent prices rising 19 percent since 2005, however, even traditionally immigrant neighborhoods are at risk of changing dramatically. Already, the change in population can be seen occurring from Washington Heights down to the Lower East Side. While the change is gradual, it is clear that it will continue unless something happens to change the current trend of housing prices in Manhattan. So, while the population continues to grow, the face of Manhattan’s population is likely to be quite different in the near future.