Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Sometimes Giving Back is the Right Thing To Do...

The first day of February finds me finally back from vacation, yet embarking on a new journey.

Unfortunately I was forced to admit a defeat in my quest to live on my earnings as a real estate agent: I hit the threshold beyond which I dared not go. I'm not totally giving up, but I did have to have a part time job, preferably one that paid my health insurance, which I had to give up in January because I couldn't afford it anymore (for anyone working a salaried job out there, your insurance costs a LOT!!). I sent resumes in for front desk jobs, database jobs, event assistant jobs, anything that paid a certain level and was part time. But I found a unique opportunity with UHAB, the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board.

UHAB is a nonprofit organization that acts as developer for affordable housing projects. These are not "projects", which are basically meant to give shelter to the homeless. Instead, they are a form of home ownership for the poorest in the city, and something that is very necessary in this day & age.

Basically the following happens: a landlord loses his apartment building due to foreclosure (unpaid taxes, water bills, mortgages, etc.). Tenants can also organize to arrange to buy the building from the landlord (this costs more). The tenants organize with UHAB's help and ask to become a cooperative under the HDFC umbrella. They choose UHAB to be their "sponsor" or developer. UHAB then acquires the building using public and private funds earmarked for affordable housing. A construction loan is taken out to fix the buildings, which usually need serious upgrades. Apartment interiors are also rehabbed. Tenants are relocated during this process.

At the end of construction, the co-op is formed. The construction loan is replaced by permanent financing and the new board takes control of the finances, assisted by HDFC, a sister company.

So here I am working in the finance/construction department with a very interesting job: to help create requisitions, proformas and generally manage the books of all projects currently in development. Doesn't sound like a part time job? Well, techically it's not. It's an Americorps volunteer position! I'm not getting paid much, but I'm going to do things that are way more sophisticated than any other paper pushing job. Plus I still have flexibility to work real estate, which is what I wanted to maintain.

On the real estate side of things, I am almost finished (finally) with my email list. If you want to be on it, please email me. I have plans for two: one to be sent monthly, about general interest real estate and the second to be sent weekly for people who are actively looking for a piece of property.

Things are coming together. Slowly.

Here's one property that I want to highlight:

This gorgeous 1300 square foot duplex in Ditmas Park is only $425,000 and features an AMAZING layout: one long open living room downstairs (walk through kitchen and powder room are tucked off to the side) with ENORMOUS TERRACE! Upstairs, a large master bedroom, smaller second bedroom (PERFECT size for office or child's room), with enormous walk-in closet just off master bedroom in hall. Full bathroom upstairs. This apartment has been beautifully renovated and would make a very comfortable home. The building features a garage, elevator, and laundry. Nearby transportation: B68 bus to Pavillion in Windsor Terrace, bus across Cortelyou, Q train and F train at Ditmas Ave. Building allows pets and 10% down payment.

Pros: Fantastic layout (I almost bought one), great price for the size (and probably somewhat negotiable), OUTDOOR SPACE, available off-street parking, great location for kids and near one of the true up-and-coming neighborhoods (this means not rough, only has a few kitschy shops & restaurants with more on the way). The commute is incredibly short: less than 45 minutes door to door to 34th Street via the Q train.

Cons: Really only one: the maintenance is very high - over $900. Couples looking to relocate from Manhattan or Brooklyn Heights will find this easy to swallow, but it's pricey for people moving from Park Slope/Windsor Terrace. You can combat this by putting down more money so you don't have a large mortgage payment. This is the kind of home that you will live in for years - and you will appreciate it greatly as it appreciates!

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