Monday, December 31, 2012
Friday, November 02, 2012
NYC Real Estate Goddess rode out the storm snug in Brooklyn, where my location in Kensington - though sometimes seemingly inconvenient to the nightlife splendors of Manhattan - lent itself to my safety. My 6 story elevator building lost neither power nor water nor heat, and no damage to the building (so far as I am aware) or my unit. So I am very thankful.
M. Woods & Associates - my brokerage - also came through the storm in good shape. There hasn't been any power since Monday night due to the 14th street substation outage, but the building did not flood and did not sustain any damage, though a wall of ivy in the backyard was ripped off the wall and landed in the garden.
Since Sunday we were hunkered down in Brooklyn. It was so cute to see all the kids in the building watching movies like Madagascar and Ice Age 3 in our basement common room. Parents brought popcorn.
Our proximity to Park Slope made the wait for public transport bearable - Tuesday we walked up to the Pavillion to see Taken 2 - Argo was unfortunately sold out! - and to have dinner on Prospect Park West at the Windsor Cafe. Our server (who I think was also the owner, as we've seen him before but never waiting tables) seemed harried but polite - no doubt due to the inevitable short staffing situation that comes with no public transportation in NYC!
Wednesday was Halloween. I was spared the stress and anxiety of trying to find a way into Manhattan to conduct a lease signing when the markets re-opened, making it necessary for the new tenant to work the NYSE. I had a plan if necessary. It involved 1-2 local buses to get to downtown Brooklyn, then walking or taking the ferry across to Manhattan, then a bus up to the Village, and walking the rest of the way. My building is actually 3 blocks from an express bus stop, but it's the last stop before departing to Manhattan (through the Battery Tunnel, which was closed, meaning a detour to the Brooklyn Bridge), and there would be little chance that the buses wouldn't be packed within the first couple stops in Sheepshead Bay. Luckily, in the end the only bus I had to take was the B68 up to Park Slope with my sweetie, to indulge our favorite Halloween tradition of eating at our favorite pizza place, Pizza Plus, and cooing at all the cute Halloween costumes that the kids were wearing. I also was able to add our leftover Halloween candy to Pizza Plus' stash - businesses give away candy in Park Slope - thereby keeping us from devouring it in the days to follow!
Thursday, we finally got some subway service back. With a guaranteed route available to Downtown Brooklyn, I was finally ready to attempt the crossing! I had 4 plans for crossing into downtown Brooklyn:
1) Take the subway shuttle bus, which would leave me at 14th and 3rd and and walk over to 12th and Hudson.
2) Take the East River Ferry at Brooklyn Bridge Park and get a bus on the Manhattan side to go up to 14th Street.
3) Get in the carpool line at the Brooklyn Bridge and get a ride into Manhattan, supplementing with bus as necessary.
4) Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge - this was my last resort plan!
Upon arriving at Jay St - Metrotech, I encountered the shuttle bus line. It wasn't too long, perhaps 80 people were in line, though the line wasn't very clearly defined, e.g., with barriers. Instead of having shuttle buses lined up, they were pulling up 1 at a time about 5-8 minutes apart. As I watched a bus being loaded up - to the gills - I realized that I would likely have to stand, and that in Manhattan people would try to get on, with few getting off til 34th street. I decided to try my luck elsewhere. Option #1 was out, perhaps to try on the way home.
The on-ramp to the Brooklyn Bridge was just up the street. I walked over and found a cop directing traffic. I asked where the carpool lines were but he told me there weren't any, that I was supposed to "arrange it" myself, and "it was a good way to end up in someone's trunk". That remote possibility aside, I didn't feel like waiting at the side of the road for someone with 2 people in the car needing a 3rd to roll along. Plus it would mean walking away from the bridge, which would be going backwards. No go on Option #3.
I considered Option #4 my last resort, though I've walked the Brooklyn Bridge countless times. So I didn't walk directly onto the bridge after talking to the officer and instead started walking towards Dumbo. I knew that once I got to Old Fulton St, I could see the lines for the ferry, and if they looked long, I could just dart up the staircase near Cadman Plaza to get on the bridge instead.
Luckily, that didn't have to happen. From my vantage point I saw that there was no line (and confirmed by checking Twitter feeds for NY Magazine and NYEDC) and got my spot.
An added benefit of heading to the ferry was walking through the neighborhood I lived in nearly 15 years ago, but have rarely visited since - Brooklyn Heights. Cadman Plaza has been refurbished with a new green play surface to accommodate all the screaming kids that were working off the excess energy from being cooped up for 3 days + a lot of Halloween candy. The paths snaking along the perimeter have also been redone with a rubber composite for nice jogging surfaces. I caught a glimpse of the new building at Poplar and Henry too as well as a new restaurant up the block. I do miss those few blocks.
$4 for a quick ride is a great bargain and I was lucky enough that the next ferry was heading straight to my preferred destination of Wall Street Pier. So, Option #2 ended up being the plan. But it wasn't the end of my journey by a long spell.
Walking from the pier to Broadway was interesting. Everything was very quiet, subdued, just a lot of pumping trucks and a few people manning them. No lights in any of the buildings. Once I got to the Stock Exchange there were walking tours of tourists. I cut down Thames Street to Church, which goes uptown, and stood across from the World Trade Center site, which had lights and a working elevator. I noticed businesses on the same block had electricity too - maybe they are on the steam system? I hadn't heard much before Sandy about buildings buying steam directly from ConEd to power them. It's definitely something I want to know more about. With the exception of one all-electric building in Chelsea, everything building we manage has gas or oil boilers.
One unintended benefit to getting the ferry was hitting Church Street before the bridge-crossers do. I caught an uptown M5 with relatively few people on it - I was able to get a seat. At the next stop, perhaps 15 people got on - no more seats. The stop after that was next to City Hall Park - right across where the Brooklyn Bridge hits Manhattan. But the bus was practically full already. A few people managed to pack into the rear door, making it very uncomfortable. Naturally the guy standing all the way in the back thought it beneath him to move a half step back, allowing for breathing room near the rear door. The bus driver made everyone enter and exit from the rear door, I'm assuming so that he wouldn't have people yelling at him or crowding the front of the bus, against regulation. We skipped a few stops but had to stop at the stops where people wanted to get off. When that happened, 3 more people than got off would try to pack in, sometimes delaying us by blocking the rear door from entering.
I decided it was time to get off when people started screaming at each other. A loudmouth packed on and blocked the doors, causing someone further in to yell at her to get off. She pushed further in, managed to get the door to close, and then proceeded to talk smack back at the other woman. Not that they could have reached each other to come to blows. Even if they were next to each other they probably couldn't have raised their arms above their shoulders. Maybe they could have bitten each other, a desperate measure in these bacteria-averse times. There wasn't much chance of a fight. But I'd had enough, and 8th Street was close enough so that I could get to the office within 15 minutes of walking. I reached my office 2 hours and 5 minutes after entering the subway station near my home. Usually it's a 55 minute commute, including the 5 minutes it takes to stop at Starbucks and get a tea - which I couldn't do this time because no Starbucks in any part of the Village had power.
Once off the bus I realized that there was indeed no cell phone service as had been reported! I had one bar at 6th Ave and 11th Street, but as soon as I turned down 11th Street, it was gone, and there was none all the way to 12th Street and Hudson Street. I hoped no one was trying to reach me. The landline in the office was working, at least. The landlord I was heading to see greeted us with flashlights as we walked up to the top floor apartment. The lease signing went well and I was glad to see the landlord was holding up very well without power. He has gas heat, so he could cook, and gravitational water pressure, so he had water, though it was all cold since the water heater was off.
What's truly amazing about this collapse was the fact that not just the facade fell off the building - the facade was some kind of brown stone. But there was a brick interior wall underneath that stone, anchored by wooden studs. And ALL of it was sheared away on the third and fourth stories, only the brick surviving on the second story. You can see the metal trim at the top was pulled out on the lefthand side, maybe providing a crack that the wind levered away? Or was there longtime water damage from the roof weakening the facade's adhesion to the building? I feel sorry for the people who lost their homes there. It's a great location!
I Am Legend". I've been camping plenty of times and am used to complete darkness under the night sky, but it was a little creepy in the city, especially this city!
At Union Square I got off the bus when I realized Whole Foods had lights and shoppers! They had opened at 1PM on Thursday. They had limited lights, little bakery goods, no meat other than some packaged goods, and no dairy in the display case. But it was good to see them open! I got a couple bagels. The Green & Blacks Chocolate was completely cleaned out.
At Third Ave there were plenty of shuttles. It was full but not jam packed. It was 6:30 by then, I guess people who had been working hightailed it out. It was hard to see out of the bus with all the lights on the street out but the interior bus lights on, but I saw a couple bars who had opened in candlelight. Soon enough we were over the Manhattan Bridge and back to Jay Street, where the streets were lit and I didn't need a flashlight to go down the working escalator and back onto my working F train to Kensington. Again, a 2 hour trip, not including my detour to get Indian food at Bombay Grill in Park Slope.
Luckily, ConEd announced that power would most likely be back on Saturday, meaning more of the subways would be able to run into Manhattan. My train - the F - will likely continue running in sections until the tunnel is drained, as will the other 8 lines that run under the East River. I hope they will start running the R train over the Manhattan bridge when service to Lower Manhattan resumes, and extend the N train at least as far as Atlantic Center. The Manhattan Bridge likely to be the only crossing point by subway for the next week. Either way, starting Sunday there should be trains running at least as far down as Wall Street and the Battery, meaning I could pick it up just the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Walking across won't be so bad for me if there's a train just on the other side.
Today, Friday, I think I'll head over to the newly re-opened Park Slope Library and see if they need help stacking books. My Councilman Brad Lander's latest email said their regular staff was having trouble making the commute. Take it easy this weekend, everyone. Because it will be a sprint for the next two weeks!
Friday, September 14, 2012
Hmm, crossing NYC real estate with a ghost story. It looks sexy and fun! The premiere is September 30. I am really looking forward to seeing it. In the meantime, I'll stick to my downtown Village ghosts. Those Upper East Side ghosts are too fancy for me!
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
This study shows just one of the myriad ways that New York State is the highest taxed state in the country. If you want to buy a property - you have to pay tax on the mortgage that you take. Even on a refinance, it's sometimes required.
However, mortgage recording tax is not required on co-op mortgages, which significantly lowers the closing costs associated with co-ops. So when you're putting that pesky board package together for the co-op you've decided to buy, just think about how much money you're saving - up to 1.9% of the mortgage amount!
'via Blog this'
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
I think the government is looking at this completely wrong. Why not institute a principal reduction program for underwater homeowners who are current on their mortgages? Think of it as a reward to all those hardworking middle class homeowners who have managed to hang onto job and home by the skin of their teeth. These are the people who didn't take crazy risks and who would be more productive and able to productively contribute if they were a bit more secure.
Here is how I'd structure the program:
1) Homeowners must have a loan currently owned by Fannie or Freddie
2) Homeowners must be current on said mortgage
3) Homeowners must be using home as primary residence at least 2 years
4) Homeowners must apply for principal reduction and pay for an appraisal to prove that the home is underwater.
5) Homeowners would be eligible for principal reduction of half the underwater portion. In other words, If they are $200,000 under water, they would be eligible for $100,000 principal reduction. This way the homeowner still shares some of the burden.
6) Loan amortization schedule is recast so that payments are spread over the remaining life of the original loan. This drops homeowners' payments immediately.
I'll admit this might not really feel like much of a "stimulus" but it will have that effect. People need to feel secure in their lives to do the kind of consumption this economy needs. If they can't get a leg up on income, then helping them with the largest ongoing expense they have is a good way to go. Much more than a one-time handout, this will have a gradual and long lasting effect.
FHFA Says Fannie, Freddie Will Not Reduce Mortgage Balances | Realtor Magazine:
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Friday, June 29, 2012
Monday, June 25, 2012
While I appreciated it greatly when cell service went up in those stations, I'd rather see additional stations getting cell service. And I suppose wifi will help us use all those iPads, iPods and eReaders. But really we need service (of either kind) down an entire line, or what's the point? I certainly hope no one will start camping out on the benches of the subway to use the free wifi (especially when you can get free wifi in Jackson Square Park, and any one of 6 Starbucks, among others).
I tried to rationalize the idea that the shallowest stations would get service first, but that also makes no sense: the L platforms at 8th Ave and 6th Ave are at least 2 stories deep. Meanwhile, I used to get reception on the N/R/Q platform at Union Square, but that ended after only a few weeks. Why?
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I benefit from the service at 14th street because that is where I take the subway when heading into the office. But I would LOVE to have service at my home station Ft. Hamilton Parkway on the F train. And that's not even a tough station to wire up! On the south end of the Manhattan bound side, you can stand at the top of the stairs and get reception, but two steps down you lose it. I suppose I should be grateful just for that, but it's hard to do when I'm rocking out to Pandora and cut off half a song after jumping on the train. Once Pandora threw up Cashmere by Led Zepplin and I managed to ride that all the way through to the outdoor track at Fourth Ave, where I got a little continuity.
But I get it, Manhattan matters most, right? How about we wire up the A/C/E train from Fulton to 42nd Street and go from there?
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
I didn't know many people back then. I lived first with a family friend whose grown sons had moved out, then with two roommates on the north end of Brooklyn Heights that I didn't socialize much with. I worked a lot of hours at my unpaid internship at a professional sports league office, and when I was done, I had no money and no one to spend it with.
So my first few months in New York, when I wasn't at a game, I spent my free time roaming the city, starting with my adopted neighborhood Brooklyn Heights. I wandered up and down the promenade and Henry Street where I lived. And I wandered up and down Montague Street where most of the shops were and still are. It may have seemed a lonely existence (and it was sometimes) but it was good for me, learning the streets of my new city and the buildings that lined them.
As Montague drew closer to the Promenade (a route I often took for the sheer sightliness) I came to know a large marble-columned edifice with arched porticoes, a building that stood far above its closest neighbors. As I recall, it had an awning, and the awning was embossed "Bossert Hotel". I never saw doormen there, or anyone going in or coming out, really. But it looked like a nice building. I imagined it was one of those old-time hotels with small rooms appointed in antiques.
So when my dad & stepmother said they were coming for a visit, I looked the number to the Bossert Hotel up in the phone book (remember when those were useful?) and called. A nice-sounding man answered the phone with the building's name.
"Hi, I'd like to if there are rooms available," I told him.
"My father's coming to town and I'm trying to find him a place to stay," I repeated. "Do you have rooms available for the Friday after next?"
"Umm, this isn't that kind of hotel," the nice man said.
"What kind of hotel is it?" I asked, envisioning some kind of extended stay requirement.
"This is a residence for Jehovah's Witnesses. We don't take paying guests."
"Oh." I was really disappointed, not just because I wanted my father and stepmother to stay near my home, but because I really wanted to see the inside of the building. But Dad came and stayed in Manhattan, and I kept wandering past the Bossert Hotel, wondering what it was like in there, trying to catch a glimpse through windows positioned to reflect the sunlight back out. Eventually I moved out of Brooklyn Heights. To this day I never have seen the inside of the Bossert Hotel.
But that may be about to change. Apparently the Watchtower Society has put the building on the market and it's in contract now. According to this Brownstoner post, plans have now been filed to make the building back into a real hotel. New York certainly needs the hotel rooms. I am really looking forward to it, though, because I love to see beautiful buildings, inside and out. Here's hoping that the developers give it an inside (or preserve its inside) that matches the beauty of the outside I have so marveled at all these years.
Tuesday, May 01, 2012
"We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends."
Friday, April 20, 2012
IF you don't feel like heading to the theater (and a lot of showings are sold out already, though you can rush 1 hour before, and have a good chance to get in), there are several films available both online and through video-on-demand.
The quality of these movies is amazing, and more than half will trickle out in distribution, though somtimes it takes 1-3 years to appear at your local theater or on cable.
A few years ago, Black Dynamite, a campy homage to "Blaxploitation" movies from the 70s, premiered at Tribeca. It had a run at the Angelica theater in Manhattan about 8 months later. Last Sunday I saw it on TBS. I honestly have no idea why this didn't become a huge hit, but it should become a cult classic. Netflix it. You'll see what I mean.
And don't miss out on all the awesomeness again - Participate in Tribeca this year!!
Here are a couple fast facts about real estate in some western states:
- water rights are extremely important in Nevada (duh!), and work a lot like air rights here in New York. You can buy them and sell them, and the amount in existance can be adjusted by the state legislatures.
- In San Francisco, all apartments are automatically rent stabilized.
- It's very hard to get clearance to convert an existing building into a condo. This is because the city thought too much rental housing was being lost as 2-3 unit townhouses were being converted in large numbers. So there is a condo conversion lottery, and hitting it could take a very long time.
- Tenant-in-Common shares (or TICs, as their advertised in the real estate section in SF) are the alternative. While in New York you might see 2 or 3 owners in a TIC situation, in San Francisco I saw buildings with 30-50 units offering individual apartments as TICs. It's kind of reminiscent of a co-op, but without a corporation. Just goes to show that the market will usually find a way to meet demand.
It's hard to find co-op financing outside NYC - a lot have to be all cash. TICs are technically real property, so I suppose it would be easier to finance than a co-op. And, as with co-ops in NYC, local banks have probably evolved so as to be able to fairly evaluate them, given that this phenomenon has been going on at least the 10 years I've been visiting, and possibly longer.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Instead, it looks like the little guy is finally feeling a little more confident, and smaller starter homes are starting to finally move on the market. It may not be all about the want to invest however, as Manhattan rents are starting to fly skyhigh again. All you renters, that means you don't have 48-72 hours to "think over" apartments. February, a traditionally slow month, saw very high rental activity.
When you're out shopping for apartments, you need your previous year's tax returns and/or W-2s, letter from your employer showing salary and tenure, 2-3 consecutive paycheck stubs, and bank statements showing enough reserves to pay all the move in costs (please don't send a checking account statement showing only $50; you are trying to prove you are financially qualified to pay rent monthly!). You may also need a copy of your ID, a reference or previous lease from your current landlord. Forewarned is forearmed: I would have quite a fortune if I were given a commission for every renter who missed out on an apartment they loved because they didn't take my advice and have all their paperwork close to hand.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
What really makes me happy is the delightful new renderings for the 3rd part of the High Line - the part that goes above 30th street and over to the West. The amphitheater is ingenious and I love that part of the stretch will be left - temporarily at least - au naturel with the life that seeded itself there when the High Line was abandoned.
I've been so grateful the winter was so mild but I'm a little fearful the summer will blaze in compensation. So I'm going to head out and enjoy this weather while I've got it!
Saturday, March 03, 2012
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Title insurance is a safeguard against defects in the title of real property. This phenomenon came out of the era of non-computerized records (since the 1500s, basically), when it was very easy to impersonate someone, forge documents, or otherwise muddy the waters when it came to proving ownership of a property. Title insurance (coupled with title abstracts) basically come into play when there is a defect in title, such as an old lien on the property or a claim by a previous owner.
In New York, particularly in Manhattan, title insurance is rarely used. Some 80% of available residential units are co-ops, which are not considered real property, and therefore rarely involve title insurance. Title insurance is mostly applicable to real property ownership - including condos and townhouses or buildings of any kinds. In fact, mortgage companies require a title abstract - and usually also title insurance - before they will agree to the mortgage loan.
The author of this article - Mr. Guttentag - has highlighted a possible cost savings for owners of condos and townhouses who wish to refinance - namely, a discount on the reissue of title insurance. If you are thinking about refinancing your condo or house, this is required reading!
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
|Scottish Terrier breed competition at 136th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show|
|Norwich Terriers in the Wings at the 136th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show|
|Great Pyrenees Playing on the Bench at the 136th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show|
|Mastiff backstage at 136th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show|
|A Young Girl Plays With a Leonberger entry at the 136th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.|
There were some great creatures in general. As a close second to my beloved Scottie, I really liked the Sky Terrier in the Terrier Group.
|A Sky Terrier chills out in the benching area at the 136th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.|
Do you have a story about how you successfully deal with pet owner tenants? Let me know!
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
If you're anything like me, getting there can be a bear. So far in the past 3 months I have dropped off useless electronic crap at Prospect Park, Cortelyou Road in Ditmas Park, Union Square, and Tekserve on 23rd Street. And yet, there's more! I have finally sucked the last out of my 2001-era Gateway desktop and it's ready to go. But it's sooooo heavy, and the most convenient drop-off was on one of the crappiest days of this blissfully mild winter.
Lower East Side Recycling Center to the rescue! Today, a new PERMANENT drop off center was opened in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn. The new address is 469 President Street (corner of Nevins). I am so excited about this! We separate our garbage around here, and the space constraints make it painful to hang onto something you can't/don't use anymore, even though it doesn't smell! But it's important to me that reusable materials get reused, and don't end up somewhere they can poison people.
I'm planning to head to their open house on Saturday. And I'm bringing a few old things with me!
Friday, January 20, 2012
This week, Crains New York reported that the Real Estate Board of New York - an industry advocacy group representing most of the real estate agencies in Manhattan and many in the outer boroughs (my agency - M. Woods & Associates LTD - is also a member of REBNY) - sent out direct mail to residents in the area asking them to oppose the landmark district and to press their City Council members to vote down the designation. According to the Crain's article, the City Council has never denied or adjusted the borders of a historic district after it was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).
The reason is because LPC has such a long process of considering proposed landmark districts, that most of the arguments have been hashed out by the time it gets to City Council. LPC has often designated smaller areas that ones proposed by preservationist lobbies such as the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (of which I am a member). In this case, the Municipal Art Society of New York, Brooklyn Heights Association and New York Landmarks Conservancy proposed the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District.
Again, I frequent the area, and I do love the older Gothic and Romanesque buildings that were designated. I think there is a reason to protect these buildings. They are rather low buildings that are now in zoning districts that would allow much higher buildings, and therefore in danger of being torn down. But I am undecided as to whether it is necessary to include the skyscrapers. After all, it's these are the tallest commercial buildings to be found in Brooklyn (with the exception of nearby Metrotech), now that the Williamsburg Savings Bank is mostly condominums. In addition, which of these buildings is in danger of being torn down? There are thousands of Art Deco era buildings on Manhattan that have been in service just as long, and are not deemed to deserve landmark status.
The reason given on the Municipal Art Society's web page speaks about recognizing the tremendous commercial growth that the district experienced "after (italics mine) the borough was consolidated into Greater New York."
REBNY's commentary has to do with the increased bureaucracy inherent with a landmark designation. It takes longer and is more costly to maintain the buildings' facades. I particularly note the quote from REBNY president Steven Spinola“The city just continues to landmark away its economic future.” To some extent, I agree. I support the landmarking of examples of past great architecture - I am around it more than most. I am so grateful that the Village and Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope - all areas I love to be around - have been deemed worthy of landmark status.
But this issue has caused me to examine why I am so happy about it. And the truth came to me when I pondered when I thought about which buildings in this new district seemed deserving, others superfluous. The answer: height. While I love looking at all the Greenwich Village townhouses, I love more the sun on my face! Same with Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights Brownstones. The townhouses are lovely, but I grew up in a Cape Cod and see the beauty there too. Skyscrapers, in my opinion, don't need landmarks. But we do need more height restrictions in neighborhoods around the city.
Another beef I have with Art Deco sky scrapers is the relatively small amount of window area they sport relative to their facade size. I worked in office buildings for many years, and often felt so stifled. How many occupational health studies have been done in office buildings that come up with a recommendation that more sunlight = more happy and productive workers?
So here, I think REBNY has a point: we need to be able to innovate and upgrade. Particularly I think that is true of our commercial properties. It's hard enough with residential properties. Commercial properties should be icons of our future, not hallowed relics of our storied past.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
With prices above $1000 per square foot in many parts of Manhattan, we care about every inch! As mentioned in this blog post, square footage is measured in several ways. In new development condos, for instance, the square footage is measured by the floor plate. That means some of the square footage in the apartment is between the drywall and the studs, unfortunately.
In prewar apartments, square footage is often (but not always) measured from interior wall to interior wall. Why the difference? Because floorplans for the prewar buildings are often not available. As a result, new layouts are drawn using interior wall measurements only. So next time you see a 650 square foot prewar and a 650 square foot recent development listing, and one feels a lot bigger, you know why.
The actual issue discussed in this blog post is whether to list the square footage of a property in the marketing materials. The author tells a story of a very particular buyer who tried to back out when the actual square footage differed from the listed amount by less than 1%. That's a pretty extreme example to me, but it happens.
A colleague of mine doesn't list square footage because she finds that people have different opinions of the same number. Instead, she asks them to tell her how much they think the space is. Predictably, answers vary all over the map.
The truth is that layout greatly affects the perception of square feet. In my opinion, potential buyers will tell you how much usable square footage they see. Does the unit have a long hallway from the entrance to the foyer? Wasted Space. Square bathroom or narrow rectangular bath? The wide square shape may be perceived as larger. Galley kitchen or open kitchen with breakfast bar? That's a toss-up. Some will count the separate kitchen as more space, while others will perceive the narrow kitchen as smaller than it really is.
I've gotten pretty good at figuring out - within 50 square feet or so, how big an apartment is. Sometimes I work forwards. For instance, if a prewar apartment has a 12' x 22' living room and a 12' x 15' bedroom, then total square footage is likely between 750 (if a galley kitchen) and 850 (if eat-in kitchen). Other times, I work backwards. For instance, if an apartment is a full floor of a townhouse, then you take the size of the town house (ie, 20' wide by 40' long, a typical size in the West Village) and subtract 50-100 square feet for the interior staircase. A longer house makes for a bigger apartment with an interior dining room and/or a second bedroom.
One thing I do not recommend is using a "rule of thumb" or "legendary" square footage. I once knew a seller who represented that his apartment was a certain square footage because "the coop assigns one share per square foot". Unfortunately, the buyer's appraiser found that the real number was nearly 300 square feet less. The buyer cared very much about the square footage and wanted a huge price drop. Turns out he cared about the price per square foot, even though the property appraised for the contract price. He didn't want it unless he was getting a deal, even though he'd been through the apartment several times and felt it met his needs. Ultimately, the sale died. Moral of story: do take a measuring stick and measure the apartment yourself, even if you "know" what the rough number is.
As a broker (and a person with a decent - though hardly perfect - spatial perception), I appreciate an approximate square footage in the listing information. It helps me understand whether I should even bring a customer to a specific listing, or if it would be too small. I use floorplans and photos to help me make that decision (and the more information a listing has, the more likely I am to shortlist it for a customer).
Bottom line: Measure the property, even if you have documents stating a particular square footage. Always use the word approximate. Provide more visual information to complement the square footage information (floorplans, photos, etc.). It could save your sale.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Yes it seems that all our vigilance is paying off - thank goodness! But just as with other scourges, bedbugs never were completely gone, and they are still out there, as the article says, particularly in hotels. So please, keep taking precautions, and we will all sleep a little better at night.
Saturday, January 07, 2012
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
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1 of the analysts quoted picked real estate securities (home builders, REITS, etc.) as the top pick. Another made a comment, made by several other experts in recent national media, that the housing "bottom" could occur later this year.
I feel a little skeptical about this prediction. For one thing, there is still a lot of inventory sitting there. And another problem is that real wages (which means wages adjusted for inflation so you can compare one year to another) continue to drop. The fact is, when the majority of homeowners can't afford homes, then home prices drop.
Again, this is penalizing people who bought homes in the last 5-8 years, during the bubble, and have stayed current in their payments. They are going to continue paying much higher monthly payments, or sell at a price which won't recoup them enough for a down payment on a new home if they have to move. If they stay current, and wages continue to drop, then they will not have enough disposable income to a) enjoy life and b) keep the economy afloat with all their purchases.
Analysts are getting optimistic about 2012 because corporate earnings have rebounded a bit. I hope they are right. Naturally my livelihood depends on it, but I have to wonder if it wouldn't be a good idea to give all those hardworking people a little break?