A: Thanks to a tipster for letting me know about Mightydigs.com, a new concept in real estate listings that takes on a much more personal touch. According to the site, Mightydigs listings can be added and edited by anyone, thereby creating an enhanced and more accurate version of the original property listing.
An interesting idea that I'm not sure whether it will catch on or not, but if it does it could become a unique social connections site where visitors to a property can give their opinions on the pros and cons of the apartment for sale. Using a blog format the content is in fact listings that users can enter for free; at least for now. Once the listing is entered into the blog as a post, users can write comments that were left by visitors to the property. Right now data is very limited but expected from what looks to be a very new site.
Right off the bat I'm wondering whether you can trust the comments that are left? Whats to say that the owner or broker will not act as a buyer and leave a biased comment about the property for the general public to read? Also, I'm not sure this idea should have been designed using blogging software. It should have its own look and feel and unique features to display their target content properly.
Take WallFly.com for example, which is a site that is attempting to gather Co-op and Condo Board data so that New York real estate investors can see the policies and toughness of the board in the building they may buy into. Wallfly has its own look and feel which was designed specifically for the target content they are gathering. I really think that the co-op board data and policies they are collecting will be a long but rewarding process for this site as they eventually will provide data that is right now hard to come by for buyers of real estate.
But, I will give Mightydigs the benefit of the doubt and try to get them some exposure as their whole model depends on true users submitting content via listings + comments; otherwise it doesn't quite work does it? As for charging for listings as of April 17th, 2006, better keep it very low because unless you are getting tons of traffic, real estate advertising dollars are better spent with NY Times Print, NY Times Web, E-Mail Blasts, & other publications that have a much larger marketing reach.
A: Excluding Harlem & FSBO's, I did a search to find the cheapest 1BR apartment on the market right now that has a Full-Time Doorman, at least 500 square feet in total size, and monthly expenses under $650. NOTE: This only includes those properties being marketed by the brokerage community as I used Corcoran's system to do this search. Usually there is a 1-2 week lag for new listings to appear in the system.
AND THE WINNER IS....drumroll please...
1 Gracie Terrace (East 82nd St): Apt. 4J
Size: 500 Sq. Ft.
# Beds: 1
# Baths: 1
Price Per Sq. Ft.: $630
Marketed By: Hilary Rovins of BrownHarrisStevens
Building Details: 24HR Doorman & Concierge, Gym on 1st Floor, Central Laundry Room, Bike Room, Reserve Fund of $2M+, Underlying Mortgage of $4.4M (your attorney will review this info and advise you accordingly)
This apartment is 7 weeks on the market and has a 70% financing restriction that may be causing this listing to not sell as quickly as it should. Nevertheless, I can't find any more listings that meet these criteria other than alcove studios that are around 350 - 400 square feet. Be sure to check this one out if you have the liquid assets to put 30% down!
A: For a buyer with a 800K budget looking for a large and sunny 1BR in a full service building in Greenwich Village that is at least 850+ Sq. Ft. with monthlys under $1,000 could be tough. Lucky for you a recent price drop at The Lawrence House on 79 West 12th Street brought a sunny 1BR down to $799K.
The seller of this property looks 'ready to go' after almost 5 months on the market as a price reduction 3 days ago brought this property down to $799K. Some of the reasons I bring this to your attention is that it is in a great location where values are hard to find, is a large 1BR that can be converted to 2BR, in a full service building with landscaped roofdeck, and has monthly's under $1,000. Put it all together and a aggressive bid might get someone a great deal! Here are the details:
79 West 12th Street; Apt. 5F
Size: 888 Sq. Ft.
# Beds: 1
# Baths: 1
maintenance: $967 (Reasonable for apt. size)
Price Per Sq. Ft.: $900
Originally Priced: $859,000 on 11/10/2005
Marketed By: Guy Abernathey of Corcoran
Here is another attractive listing in Greenwich Village which offers a set back terrace; you know how big I am on outdoor space in NYC as a selling point. Slightly more expensive and smaller than the above referenced apartment:
101 W 12th Street: Apt 16G Marketed By Rochelle Bass of Bellmarc Realty
Good Luck & Always Remember The 5 Ingredients For Real Estate Success:
2. RAW SPACE
3. NATURAL SUNLIGHT
4. REASONABLE MONTHLY EXPENSES
5. BUILDING AMENITIES & OUTDOOR SPACE
...now if you can just get all of this at a good price point!
A: Continuing on from an article on CNN Money today, the NYC real estate market is entering its best months before heading into the dog days of summer. With interest rates still rising, frustrated sellers, and serious buyers waiting on the sidelines I suspect a short term burst in activity during April & May that you probably won't hear about in the media until these deals close in July/August. Here are some tips mentioned in the article and some of my own for buyers & sellers out there.
1. Get Pre-Approved For A Loan: Mentioned in the article, this is a MUST for any serious buyer. As you learn product knowledge and educate yourself of what your target property is 'going for', you will eventually find an apartment that meets your needs and is priced right. Will you be ready to submit your bid? The first thing you will need to do is get your pre-approval letter from your mortgage broker as you will need this when you submit your initial bid!
2. Get A Real Estate Attorney: Your attorney will review 2YRS building financials, contract of sale, offering plans, and board minutes in his/her diligence for your transaction. It is at this time that potential red flags should be disclosed to you as your attorney reviews and evaluates the meat of the deal.
3. Get Credit & Financial Assets In Order: Especially for those buying Co-ops, you should be working on paying off your unpaid debts and raising your credit score. In addition, make sure you have sufficient liquid assets on hand to be able to pay for the down payment + closing costs. If you intend to get a family gift, do it NOW so that the money is in your accounts early enough to get the paper trail going for when you will need to submit hard copies to back up your assets in the board package. Generally you want to submit hard copies that are 1 month AFTER the gift is transferred so as NOT to raise any red flags in the eyes of board members. Condo buyers do not need to worry about this as much as Co-op buyers.
4. Do Your Math: Measure the property on your own to verify that the apartment is as big as the broker claims it is (the offering plan should disclose this info as well). Check recently sold's in the same building before bidding and price in renovations, views, and natural sunlight or lack thereof.
1. Price Your Apartment Correctly: Unless you have tons of time and are in no rush to sell, be sure to price your apartment correctly. The NYC real estate market is NOT AS HOT as it was a year ago. If you decide to test the market and price high, be prepared to have your apartment on the market for a good 4-6 months at least.
2. Market Effectively: For all you FSBO's out there be sure to read my post on the FSBO Checklist. The NY Times Print ads are a must and sending out an email blast to the brokerage community disclosing any buyer side commissions you may be offering is a great way to help spread the word. Gotham Photo Company is one service you can use to send out a e-blast.
3. Clean The Clutter: Make sure your property is NOT cluttered and clearly shows off its true size. Many buyers do not have the ability to visualize what a property could look like, so the seller must do it for them! CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN is a MUST!
4. Show When There's Sun: Do you get the most natural sunlight from 3:00 - 5:00PM? Then that is when you advertise and run your OH for! Buyers love sunlight as it is one of the few essentials that will always help in re-sale value.
Spring is here, rates are rising, sellers are frustrated, and buyers are ready! The formula is right for a nice little uptick in the housing market so everyone should be prepared. For buyers, be sure to lock in a rate ASAP if you know you will be buying something soon. For sellers, do NOT overprice and do NOT get insulted by a low ball offer; its a different market now and buyers are testing the waters with their initial bids. Good Luck ALL!
~ Spring Home Buying Season -- old rules, new tools
A: The Fed raised the fed funds rate by 1/4 point bringing it to 4.75% and marking the 15th consecutive rate hike by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. More importantly, I do not see any noticeable change in the issued statement that would lead me to think the rate hikes are over; at least for now.
The rate hike of 1/4 point is not a surprise. The unchanged statement is not a surprise either. Its difficult to argue that Bernanke right now is finishing what Mr. Greenspan started. I talked about this in previous posts and if you look at the article on Yahoo Finance today you will see...
Bernanke has emphasized since being chosen by President Bush to succeed Greenspan that he planned to continue Greenspan's approach toward setting interest rates. That approach was characterized by small baby-steps aimed at giving markets and investors plenty of time to adjust.
It's the right play. Not that he should be listening to me or anything but think about it, it just makes sense with everything going on in the world today. Also lets not forget that Bernanke is taking over for a guy who just sold his memoirs book rights for $8,500,000.00! He knows whats up and Bernanke is just finishing up his work.
According to the article:
In its statement, the Fed sounded at an upbeat note about the current business climate, saying "economic growth has rebounded strongly in the current quarter but appears likely to moderate to a more sustainable pace."
The statement retained language used last time that "some further policy firming may be needed." That language is seen by financial markets as signal that further rate hikes could occur.
What To Expect: AT LEAST 1 more rate hike at the next meeting and I'm leaning towards a 2nd rate hike after that. WHY YOU ASK? Because Bernanke will most likely change his tone in the issued statement which will advise the street and tradable markets that we have 1 last rate hike ahead of us. Since it didn't happen with today's statement I'm thinking it could happen at the next meeting.
~ Fed Boosts Key Interest Rate for 15th Time
A: According to Relocate-America.com's "America's Top 100 Places To Live", New York City ranks #7 behind Boulder, Ithaca, and Ann Arbor among others. Thanks for the tip Tanja.
According to Relocate-America.com: The nominations along with key data regarding education, employment, economy, crime, parks, recreation & of course, housing are reviewed, rated & judged & determined by our editorial team.
Top 10 Cities To Live in 2006
1. Naperville, IL
2. Cary, NC
3. Boulder, CO
4. Ithaca, NY
5. Charlottesville, VA
6. Ann Arbor, MI
7. New York, NY
8. Columbia, MO
9. State College, PA
10. Bend, OR
Relocate-America and Relocate-Canada are two of the largest relocation sites available online. These programs present online visitors with a comprehensive directory featuring over 6,000 communities. Consumers can review information on specific communities where they may be relocating.
The Fed chairmans opening day is Tuesday. It's likely that he's feeling the need to flex some muscle, show he's tough on inflation, and hike the Fed funds rate another .25%. The ironic factor is that usually when the Fed hikes the rate, bond prices and home loan rates traditionally stay stable and may even improve slightly. Stay tuned for an interesting week of interpretations.
A: I got this very useful information from Broker Scott Claster's website. It outlines the estimated closing costs that a seller will have to pay to close their real estate transaction.
*NOTE: You should always contact your attorney beforehand to go over what all your closing costs will be. There is a chance that future tax laws for New York City will change that affects what closing costs your are required to pay. Below is a good guide to go by to get a estimate of what your total closing costs will include.
CONDO CLOSING COSTS FOR SELLER
CO-OP CLOSING COSTS FOR SELLER
A: Check out this listing that is less than 3 weeks on the market in a Pre-war UWS Co-op at 328 West 86th street. With a rent stabilized tenant in place paying a low $745/Month, this seller is chopping the asking price down to under $400K while another 1BR in the same building and line is asking $750K!
I told you deals will popup every once in a while! This deal has a catch though. The catch is you can't live in the apartment because of a rent stabilized tenant that is living there. What I do not know is how long of a lease the tenant has and if the tenant has an option or right to extend the lease. Still, here is your chance to own a 1BR Co-op in the Upper West Side with NO BOARD APPROVAL at way below market value. Here are the details:
328 West 86th Street: Apt 14B
Size: 750 Sq. Ft.
# Beds: 1
# Baths: 1
maintenance: $696 (LOW - includes taxes as well!)
Price Per Sq. Ft.: $532 (Holy Snikees!)
Marketed By: Ray Kiswani of Bellmarc Realty
Apt. 14B Floorplan
FYI: Apt. 10B in this building is currently being offered for sale at $750K, with maintenance slightly lower at $584/Mth because of the lower floor. Assuming the same total size, this apartment is asking $1,000/Sq. Ft. which shows the value for the above referenced apartment.
A: The Census Bureau reported sales at an annual rate of 1.08 million homes in February, down 10.5 percent from the revised rate of 1.21 million in January. The report also showed a drop compared to a year earlier in the median price of a new home -- the level at which half of homes sell for more and half sell for less. In February the median price was $230,400, down $6,900, or 3 percent from February 2005. Story.
If you read my blog this report SHOULD NOT be any surprise at all! In fact, I'm the only broker around that criticizes good housing reports as being misleading because of its lagging nature. Check my post yesterday "Housing Market Like Bull" and you'll see my note at the bottom.
I have been reporting for months now that the NYC housing market has been soft, with OH activity low, more inventory coming to the market, but prices still high. This would explain the drop in the # of sales as less buyers are pressured to buy right now until sellers start dropping their prices to current market value.
This report today will be twisted and turned by the media in every conceivable way. Expect articles on the bursting bubble coming true reports from experts and real estate professionals doing a 'see I told you so' skit on their blogs. This is NOTHING NEW! After 5 years of incredible growth it is only natural that the housing market cools off as lending rates inch higher and inventory grows.
For some reason the psychology of the general public is NOT to buy in a cooling housing market; as opposed to bidding over ask in a very HOT housing market where buyers scramble to get a property no matter what the cost. So I decided to introduce to you the religion of Contrarian Thought when it comes to investing which can be applied to most tradable markets.
Contrarian Investing: Contrarian investing is an investment strategy that seeks out securities, companies, or industries that are currently out of favor with the investing community. Contrarian investors may search out undervalued stocks, turnaround candidates, or cyclical companies nearing the bottom of a trough. Contrarian investors tend to do the opposite of what the majority of investors are doing. *This can also be applied to housing!
Think of it this way. Would you rather buy Google stock (NASDAQ: GOOG) at $445/share when all the news is good and all the charts show a clear upward trend OR would you rather buy GOOG at $330 after it corrected over 100 points with news turning negative with the recent downslide. Me personally, I'm starting a position AFTER the downfall at a price around $350. If it goes down more, I'll buy a little more (Dollar Cost Averaging). When the stock turns around and gets back in favor again, I will be the proud owner of shares at a lower price as I bought in when everyone else was on the sidelines.
Now apply this to housing and HEED my advice! AS THE HOUSING MARKET CONTINUES TO COOL BUYERS SHOULD GET EVEN MORE INTERESTED IN MAKING A PLAY AND TAKE ADVANTAGE OF A DEAL WHEN IT PRESENTS ITSELF. Case in point: I bought my apartment in the UES 2 months AFTER September 11th when housing was the last thing on most people's minds. Contrarian investing strategy should be used by those with longer term goals and who can ride out any short term volatility. After all, if you are forced to sell it will be very hard to get top dollar.
The housing reports that will be coming out over the next few months will continue to be on the flat to negative side which will result in a flat to down housing market (with rates rising too). Buyers should be SAVVY and have their EYES OPEN in these types of times should a deal you cannot refuse present itself. Trust me it will. While no one knows what the longer term future of housing will bring, we do know that real estate will always be a favorable investment because:
1. Everyone needs a place to live
2. Owning forces you to save money by building equity
3. Hedges your portfolio against other investments
4. Tax benefits cannot be matched by other Capital investments
5. Housing is cyclical and tends to have longer boom cycles and shorter bust cycles.
~ At Long Last, A New Home Sale Slump
A: The Fed is set to meet early next week (meeting is March 27-28th), and make their move on monetary policy once again. I am extremely certain that we will have another 1/4 point rate which would bring the fed funds rate, the overnight bank lending rate controlled by the Fed, to 4.75%. By the way, obviously the above resume is out dated as Ben Bernanke is currently serving as the new Fed Chairman.
I discussed a few weeks ago, "Interest Rates Could Go Higher", that I was about 95 - 5 in favor of a 15th consecutive 1/4 point rate hike at this upcoming fed meeting.
According to this new CNN Money article:
According to futures contracts on the Chicago Board of Trade, investors are pricing in a 100 percent chance of getting at least a quarter-percentage point rate increase at the March 27-28 meeting.
What To Look Out For: Forget the rate hike of 1/4 point, that we all pretty much know is coming. Instead, focus on the statement that the Fed will release with the monetary policy move. We already know that in the last statement the Fed removed the "measured" keyword indicating that the rate hike campaign was nearing its end and that future moves would be more strongly related to future economic data. I will be looking for any clues that might indicate an end to interest rate hikes sooner rather than later.
What To Expect: 1/4 Point Rate Increase
Affect On Housing: A 1/4 point rate hike shouldn't have a huge impact on current lending rates. It normally takes a few weeks for a rate hike to funnel down into the loan rates that you see, so expect a small uptick in lending rates by the middle of April or so. Should the released statement indicate more rate hikes to come, you will probably see a more aggresive reaction by the bond markets which would push rates higher than expected. But I don't expect any surprises in the statement.
UrbanDigs Says: New Fed Chief Bernanke is NOT going to want to mess around with the street and markets by releasing a tricky or unclear statement at this meeting. I think he will be clear and continue what Greenspan started in setting the tone for the next meeting. Most economists are anticipating a 2nd rate hike at the May 10th meeting while others are predicting 3-4 more rate hikes which would bring the fed funds rate closer to 5.5% when all is set and done. I do not see that happening. I think Bernanke is going to be more cautious with monetary policy considering the delicate situation we are in right now with still high energy levels, political instability in oil rich nations, dwindling public opinion on the war in Iraq, a cooling housing market, a fast growing deficit, and a strong economy.
~ Fed Meeting: All Eyes on the New Guy
A: The National Association of Realtors reported existing homes sold at an annual rate of 6.91 million in February, up from a revised 6.57 million pace in January. The 5.2 percent rise was the biggest gain since a 5.9 percent jump in February 2004. Story.
Although economists surveyed at Briefing.com forecasted a decline to 6.5M last month, the report released today showed surprising strength and proved once again that housing is unlike many other markets with its resilient demand.
The article points out some possible explanations as to why this month's report was so strong:
The surprise pickup in February sales may have been due partly to favorable circumstances in January, as the report is based on when a sale closes, not when a contract is signed.
The trade group's statement said the warmest January on record may have helped to spur sales, while a brief dip in mortgage rates that month also probably helped.
The report also noted that home prices dipped in February when compared to January, but still rose from a yeare earlier.
UrbanDigs Says: While this report offers a fresh of breath air with all the negative talk recently on housing, I still worry that these lagging reports are not very accurate when looking into the future. The article even pointed out, "...as the report is based on when a sale closes, not when a contract is signed." So, we are looking at deals that happened 2-3 months ago and closed in Febraury. Expect this report to show a drop in the coming months which will result in all the experts doing a "see I told you" skit about the cooling housing market.
~ Home Sales Post Biggest Jump in 2 Years
A: I read this piece on Rain City Guide which is quickly becoming a regular part of my daily real estate blog browsings. In this post Dustin Luther looks at a few reasons why Zillow.com should be 'very worried'.
As I reported a few months back in my post "Online Real Estate Landscape is Changing", there are a number of new online real estate search sites that have popped up in the past year or so that all claim to have the best interface and database of home listings for your city. Zillow.com on the other hand took a different direction and built a website offering you instant home valuations. So far, their efforts have been met with many criticisms regarding their "Zestimate Accuracy' and incompleteness of data (Sorry NY'ers, you can't find your apartment valuation here).
In Dustin Luthers post, "Why Google Base Matters", on RCG the other day he discusses a few good reasons why Zillow.com should be 'very worried':
1. Google Entering Listings Market: I was playing around with some google searches when I noticed a new box that shows up when you do a real estate search...as in [Seattle+real+estate]. My impression of Google's latest features is that the data is VERY incomplete and the interface is ugly.
2. Zillow Content is Not Sticky: You are not sticky. I'm a hard-core real estate user and after satisfying my Day 1 voyeurism, I've never had a good reason to visit your site again. I've talked with your staff about this and I know that you are not geared toward a user like me, but I recommend you find a way to create stickiness if you really are planning to be an ad-based media company. Why? See reason #3...
3. Google is the First Step to Getting to Zillow: People start a home search (and especially people moving to a new city) by typing a query into a google search box. From now on, those people are ALL going to see Google's offerings, and should Google decide to add a valuation tool, the tool will likely be "good enough" so that they never even both going to Zillow. Google only has to be good enough at providing a valuation in order to capture most of your market. Why? See reason #4...
4. Inaccurate Data: People don't use your site to get the "exact" price of their home since you don't even try to provide it. If you asked 10 appraisers to value a typical Seattle home, you would get 10 different answers and at least a 5% standard deviation in their answers. Even if you can improve your answers by 2% more to match the variability inherent in the emotional decisions associated with buying a home, that is still not good enough. Don't waste much more time trying to improve your appraisal methods. You're good enough and soon others (like Google?!?) will have a service that is good enough as well. Instead, find something sticky. You have a very talented team, so I doubt you're suffering from lack of ideas. Nonetheless, it is clearly time to develop something that will bring me back to your site on a regular basis.
Dustin brings up some very interesting points and I happen to agree with him 100%. I do not see Zillow.com's current content being good enough or sticky enough to warrant users to come back everyday. If their model is online advertising or subscriber fees, something needs to change over there. Knowing that Google showed their face in the home listings market means there are Google Labsmen working full time to make something that already exists better. Its hard to bet against a company that has a market cap $100 Billion, tons of cash at their disposal, and a base audience and reputation in place to offer data directly to the user through their site.
~ Why Google Base Matters
A: Like most other markets, the housing market now has futures contracts to be traded via a partnership between The Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Tradition Financial Services. This is right up my alley as a former NASDAQ Equities trader for Tradescape (which is now E-Trade Professional) as it offers investors a way to safeguard themselves against a housing market crash (known as a 'hedge') or bet on which way you believe the housing market will go.
The Skinny: Now you can participate and cash in on a housing market boom or housing market crash without the hassles, transaction costs, and time that is involved with buying and selling real estate.
On Tuesday, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Tradition Financial Services, together with Fiserv Case Shiller Weiss and Standard & Poor's, announced the launch of S&P CME Housing Futures and Options.
According to the CNN Money article:
These derivatives will enable investors to take a position on the direction of home prices either for the nation as a whole or for 10 major cities to start, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Of the three major asset classes, the bond, the stock and the housing markets, only the housing market, which represents some $20 trillion in assets, cannot be speculated on easily, said Robert Shiller, the Yale economist and author of "Irrational Exuberance," the 2000 book that foresaw the bursting of the tech-stock bubble. Shiller sees these derivatives mostly as tools that large, institutional investors can use to reduce risks. Mortgage bankers, for example, could hedge against falling real estate markets that would increase their exposure to delinquencies and foreclosures.
But John Labuszewski, of the CME, says, "Although the main customers will be institutional, there is a surprising amount of interest on the part of retail consumers."
It looks like there will be a few ways to trade housing futures which include:
1. By Direct Investment: Investors could buy futures in housing prices and profit if home prices continue to increase (if the investor goes long) or if they fall (if the investor goes short).
2. By Locking in Home Equity: Home owners intending to sell within a year or two can go short in home price futures. If the price of their house drops, that can recapture the loss on the investment.
Talk of Home Equity insurance is also mentioned in the article. Home Equity Insurance would be like any other type of insurance that you can buy which would protect your investment against losses should the housing market fall forcing you to sell at a loss.
It's interesting the timing of the launch of these futures as it comes at a time when many financial and real estate experts are predicting a slow down after 4-5 years of unsustainable growth.
UrbanDigs Says: Don't start messing with these contracts until you fully understand how they work and could affect your long term goals. If you are planning to live in your house for 15+ years there really isn't much need to start trading housing futures to protect against a possible near term collapse. However, if you are a speculator whose primary business is buying and flipping, this could be a perfect hedge against your business model should the housing market take a tumble. By selling short (bearish on housing) on the housing futures you will actually profit if the market falls allowing you to recoup losses from the eventual sale of property. If there are options contracts available, it's always better to write a call (bearish) or sell a put (bullish) so that you do NOT have the time value component working against you. For those interested, here is a Quick Options Tutorial.
~ New Way To Bet on Real Estate
Retail sales for February were weak and appeared to be spread across most types of retail outlets. Weak economic news tends to benefit Bond pricing and that's why home loan rates improved slightly last week. This week there are a few ecomomic reports that may influence housing rates and will reveal inflation on the producer level. A favorable PPI report on Tuesday will likely benefit both stocks and bonds and bring more improvement in loan rates.
A: Check out this 6-Day old listing marketed by Richard Healy of Halstead which to me represents a fantastic value for a 4BR Condop in Gramercy. For those in the market for a 4BR family home in these neck of the woods, be sure to check this one out ASAP! While the high end is a bit sluggish right now, props to this broker for pricing it correctly.
Its hard enough to find a 4BR family home in Gramercy for under 3M, let alone one that is 3,600 Sq. Ft. in size. While this pre-war building doesn't have a doorman, it does have a wrought iron gated entrance w/ stone floor, a computerized key entry security system, a keyed passenger elevator, and investor friendly board policies. Priced at only $815 a square foot, somebody will get a lot of bang for their buck with this one in a great location with 4 exposures! Some more details:
118 East 25th Street; 3rd Floor
Size: 3,600 Sq. Ft.
# Beds: 4
# Baths: 3
maintenance: $2,464 (LOW - includes taxes as well!)
Price Per Sq. Ft.: $815 (See the value!)
Marketed By: Richard Healy of Halstead
A: My daily browsing of Matrix led me to this interesting chart regarding the Price-Per-Square-Foot (PPSF) of closed Co-op & Condo deals for the entire island of Manhattan. For those newbies, PPSF is a number derived simply by dividing the asking price by the total size of a property. It's a valuation metric used to asses a property's actual resale value.
According to the post:
The average price per square foot of a Manhattan apartment has risen continuously over the past decade, up a total of 234.7%. The average square footage of all units sold peaked with the dot-com boom, at 1,362 square feet, later trending down 6.8% to 1,269 square feet in 2005.
NOTE: As with all housing stats this chart is dating back to last year (lagging) when the market was very different. I'm certain the next chart, or perhaps the following one, will more accurately show the recent housing slowdown in NYC with a small drop in price-per-square-foot per transaction closed.
~ Crains New York Business Economic Spotlight Chart - March 2006
A: Over the past few years as the housing market surged, thousands of either unemployed or unhappy workers decided to become a real estate agent. Unfortunately, the housing surge was only temporary and as every seasoned real estate professional knows, refferals and creative marketing are what drives your business. So I ask you, what will thousands of relatively new real estate agents do now that the housing market is cooling and they are in the hardest part of their careers; Building Their Business & Refferal Base. Fact is, it can take years to build one's real estate business where personal and professional refferals are the main driver of your annual income. Its just unfortunate for those who will never make it!
When I was at a recent Citi-Habitats office meeting, it was announced that the average length of a real estate agent's career is 1.1 years. It was also announced that the average career of a top producer is about 4.5 years. While these numbers are probably not exact figures and one could argue that numbers could be presented in any possible light, its hard to ignore the disparity between these two concepts; average length of career and average career length of top producers.
So what happens to the rest of the agents? Well quite simply they die out. According to today's CNN Money article:
Over the past four years, the housing market has been a big driver of job growth as almost four out of every 10 jobs created in the United States were housing related. "At best people should prepare for no pay increase and no bonus, something they have been getting a lot of," Mark Zandi, an economist at Moody's Economy.com told the paper. "At worst they should be thinking they may need to change occupations."
Its a tough world out there when you try to chase a surging market. I've lived through it when I was an equities trader during the dotcom boom, and I'm living through it now as a real estate agent in a cooling housing market. Who will survive with so many agents fighting for a share of a decreasing # of sales housing market in New York City? Will sales agents start doing rentals? Will they retire? Will they move on to other jobs? Well, they have one thing going for them. The national economy is booming and job creation is strong. But when will the denial of a still-booming real estate business actually be overcome?
I'm hearing from colleagues that the older generation brokers are for the most part, beginning to move on. While I have no stats to back this up, it does make sense. Younger brokers have come in droves over the past few years and have brought with them more energy and determination to work harder for their clients. The days of putting a listing in the system, showing 3-4 OH's on Sunday, and getting a direct deal and bringing a 6% commission to the house are over!
Perhaps its just the old American Way of chasing the big money, wherever it happens to show up. I recall when I was at the Real Estate Institute studying for my license that the teacher said to a class of 50 or so, "...forget being a buyer broker. They just take your commission and will never last". Boy was he wrong. It even sounded as if he was frustrated by the fact that buyer brokers are entering the market and taking away 3% of his commission; since he didn't bring in the buyer and get a direct deal. In my humble opinion, buyer brokers are a key aspect of the real estate industry. In fact, I believe there is a stat out there that aprox. 85% of deals in NYC are co-brokes; meaning that 2 brokerage firms worked together to get the deal done and share the commission. Think about this:
What is the value of the seller broker right now besides acting as the gateway to the rest of the brokerage community? Shouldn't the buyer broker who brings the actual deal to the table be rewarded most?
And what about the online real estate landscape that is changing so drastically? We are still waiting to see how this plays out and who the winners are. How will it affect sellers and seller brokers? Its going to be very interesting to see which brokerages are the survivors, which online sites are the survivors, and more importantly which real estate agents are the survivors. Maybe it will be the real estate bloggers that come out on top? Maybe not!
In the end it comes down to one hugely important aspect when discussing the future of real estate jobs: WHO HAS THE BEST & MOST CREATIVE MARKETING STRATEGY AND THE LARGEST REFFERAL BASE! Trust me Jacky Tiplitzky will be just fine. Michael Shvo will be better than fine. Dolly Lenz ain't going anywhere! So how could we learn from them!
~ Real Estate Jobs in a Sad State
A: Finding a true 2BR/2BTH Doorman Condo in Manhattan is hard enough on your own. Here is some help. Check out these 4 sub $1M apartments that may be good for your growing family! Priced from lowest to highest.
275 West 96th St; Apt 4F
Size: 1,100 Sq. Ft.
# Beds: 2
# Baths: 2
maintenance: $912 (Below $1/Sq. Ft.!)
Price Per Sq. Ft.: $817
Originally Priced: $899K on 3/9/2006
Marketed By: Alan Nickman & Stephen O'Neil of Bellmarc
135 East 54th St; Apt 4E
Size: 1,200 Sq. Ft.
# Beds: 2
# Baths: 2
Price Per Sq. Ft.: $804
Originally Priced: $995K on 10/17/2005
Marketed By: Jeanie Davis of Corcoran
333 East 34th St; Apt 5L
Size: 1,185 Sq. Ft.
# Beds: 2
# Baths: 2
Price Per Sq. Ft.: $823
Originally Priced: $975K on 2/13/2006
Marketed By: Daniela Kunen of Douglas Elliman
236 East 47th St; Apt 26E
Size: 1,127 Sq. Ft.
# Beds: 2
# Baths: 2
maintenance: $2,073 (High Monthly's Affecting Price)
Price Per Sq. Ft.: $878
Originally Priced: $990K on 11/15/2005
Marketed By: Inge Tuncay of Halstead
As always, feel free to talk with me every MON - FRI from 10:00AM - 12:00PM right here on UrbanDigs to discuss whether these 2BR's listed might or might not meet your needs!
A: For those individual property owners with private gardens, patios, or terraces and for those Co-op buildings with roofdecks take a look at this Riccardi Landscape Design that focuses on outdoor space redesign in New York City.
Although it is hard to find outdoor space in Manhattan, for those of you that do have it and for buildings that have common roofdecks or courtyards, this seems a great idea to increase the quality of your living and investment! I already wrote a blog titled, "Outdoor Space: Find It!", that points out the big advantage of both owning and re-selling properties that have outdoor space in NYC.
Take a look at this before and after example I found on the site:
No wonder some of the customer testimonials mention:
"Barbara Delivered our Beautiful New Garden on Time and On Budget - We now spend more time here than our Living room!"
For those of you who like to do it yourself, like me, you can:
MY OUTDOOR SPACE
UrbanDigs Says: Do what I did with my outdoor space. Go to Home Depot and get a bunch of bags of marble landscape chips, evergreen plants, bags of dirt, and lattice wood. Order rectangle planters from a site such as this one that can easily be assembled and then put it together, stained, poly'd a few times, and interior coated with roof sealant before planting. Do your best to cover your walls with the lattice wood and put climbing roses or hydrangea's so that it will crawl up the lattice. Add some clear christmas lights to the lattice wood and bam, you got a great outdoor space. Or you can pay Barbara from the site above to do all this for you.
A: I found this listing today that was originally priced at $525K back in December and reduced twice to $450K today. With 2 reductions in 3 months on the market you know this seller is ready to go! Whoever is in the market for a 1BR in Murray Hill with at least 725 Sq. Ft., 24HR Doorman, Renovated Common Areas, Gym, Courtyard Garden, Storage Room, and low monthly's which includes basic cable should definitely check this one out.
A clip from the central listing system:
Drastic Price Improvement!!! Will not last!!! This beautiful large one bedroom apartment has a great layout and high ceilings. The apartment is very sunny with western exposure & Empire State building view. Apt has parquet floors and five closets and is quiet. This full service building boasts a 24 hour doorman, brand new lobby and hallways, courtyard garden, roofdeck, live-in suoper, laundry room, private storage room, bike room and luggage room. Brand new gym just opened! The low maintenance includes basic cable. Pets Welcome! Great building in fabulous neighborhood that offers it all-- restaurants, entertainment, transportation.
Unfortunately this Co-op board discourages parents buying for children or the use of guarantors.
200 East 36th Street; Apt 2C
Size: 725 Sq. Ft.
# Beds: 1
# Baths: 1
maintenance: $720 (Below $1/Sq. Ft.!)
Price Per Sq. Ft.: $621
Originally Priced: $525K on 12/9/2005
Marketed By: Caitlin Hughes of Corcoran
OPEN HOUSE SUNDAY FROM 4:00 - 5:30PM
A: I saw this YIELD CURVE EXPLANATION on the sidebar of a recent CNN Money article last night and I immediately knew it would be perfect if I transffered the meat of the article into a post on UrbanDigs. For sake of ease, here is an explanation of the yield curve, and what surrounds all the recent talk of an inverted yield curve!
Lets get right into it. The yield curve is what economists use to capture the overall movement of interest rates (which are known as "yields" in Wall Street parlance).
NORMAL YIELD CURVE
Normally the longer you lend somebody money, the more money you want back in return. After all, more time means more risk. So longer-term bonds typically command higher rates of interest than short-term notes and bills. The resulting yield curve -- a graphical representation of the rates of return for short-term to long-term Treasuries -- rises from left to right.
When the Fed starts raising or lowering its target for an overnight bank lending rate -- essentially moving the "short" end of the yield curve -- the entire curve typically moves as well.
FLATTENING YIELD CURVE
Recently the Fed has been raising short-term rates. But long-term Treasury rates have been falling. This has led to a "flattening" of the yield curve, where the difference between short-term rates and long-term rates becomes less and less.
INVERTED YIELD CURVE
If short-term rates continue to rise and long-term rates refuse to do so or head even lower, the yield curve will "invert" -- an unusual state when short-term rates are higher than long-term rates. This is often taken as a sign of impending recession. But debate has grown in recent months over whether this is in fact a reliable indicator. The last time the yield curve inverted was in 2000, and a recession followed. The same thing happened in 1989. But an inversion in 1998 proved to be a false alarm.
This yield curve theory is important to understand because there are always things that can be learned from CAUSE & EFFECT. For example, when the yield curve inverts a recession is looming ---> if a recession is looming the fed will cut rates ---> as rates fall the housing market will runup.....and so on and so forth. After all, having a general understanding of where monetary policy is headed can be very advantageous when formulating a future investment strategy!
It's NOT an exact science but it does tell a story that has resulted in some kind of scenario that could be educational for future analysis. It is true that every recession had an inverted yield curve years before to predict it. However, not every inverted yield curve predicted a recession. Confusing right. Well like I said, its not an exact science. The reason it was big hoopla when the yield curve inverted months back was because if a recession did actually occur than the fed will not raise rates by that much and will actually need to start cutting rates once the data proves a recession is at hand. If rates go down, housing becomes more attractive an investment as CD's, Money Markets, and other fixed investment vehicles become less rewarding.
SmartMoney.com Article: Inverted yield curves are rare. Never ignore them. They are always followed by economic slowdown - or outright recession - as well as lower interest rates across the board.
I hope the graphs above make sense so that now you know what the experts are talking about when they discuss the yield curve, bond rates, and what it could all mean down the road. Lets see how accurate this past inverted yield curve actually turns out to be.
~ Big Rally in the Bond Market
~ The Living Yield Curve
A: The 3 major credit agencies today revealed a new system called "VantageScore" for computing one's credit rating after a need for a systemwide overhaul has been hotly debated for years. The goal: Simplifying the loan process for both lenders and borrowers. Story.
According to the article:
The announcement by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion said the new "VantageScore" was "a direct result of market demand for a more consistent and objective approach to credit scoring." "Under the new scoring system, credit score variance between credit reporting companies will be attributed to data differences within each of the three consumer credit files and not to the structure of the scoring model or data interpretation," the agencies said in a joint statement.
This is so important because a person's credit score is directly related to how much a lender will ultimately lend and the rate they are willing to provide. The better the credit score, the more you can borrow at a lower interest rate.
The new scoring system will range from 501 - 990.
According to Experian, the rating categories will be as follows:
A -- 901-990
B -- 801-900
C -- 701-800
D -- 601-700
F -- 501-600
The new scores will be available immediately!
~ Major Credit Agencies Adopt Uniform Score
A: When preparing a package for a Co-op board you want to be as professional as possible and present yourself in the best possible light. The most important aspects of the board package include your financial history, current job and liquid assets, and personal & professional letters of reference. For this post I will go over how your letters of reference should look before submitting the package to the board.
Below are 2 reference letters (1 personal & 1 professional) that were used in a past deal that the Co-op board ultimately accepted. To protect the privacy of the buyer, all names, numbers, and author of the letters are blacked out.
PERSONAL LETTER OF REFERENCE EXAMPLE
PROFESSIONAL LETTER OF REFERENCE EXAMPLE
Although I had to black out the names and numbers listed in the letter you should still be able to get a good idea of how the reference letter should be made. Keep it 3-4 paragraphs in length and have it typed up on a corporate letterhead with the author's signature at the bottom along with contact info. Good Luck!
A: I just received the updated price list for The Wellington Towers Condo on 350 East 82nd Street in the Upper East Side.
The Wellington Towers Condo Conversion is slated to be a sophisticated limestone, granite, and brick tower of studio to 5-bedroom luxury condominium residences with expected occupancy sometime during the Summer of 2006.
- Year-Round Swimming Pool
- Spa Facilities; Sauna, Steam, & Relaxing Treatment Rooms
- Fitness Center
- Children's Playroom
- Private Lounge w/ Wi-Fi Access; Check out my Hotspot Locator Website
- Community Room w/ Catering Facilities
- 24HR Doorman & Concierge
- Valet Parking & On-Site Garage
- On-Site Dry Cleaning & Maid Service
- Pet Friendly
- Gas Fireplaces in Apt's on 14th Floor & Higher
Updated Pricing & Availability List:
One thing to note is that monthly's are a bit high with a tax abatement already 4-5 years old. Still, if you have the means definitely look into it as the location is great and amenities are plentiful in this slick new building.
~ Wellington Tower Condos
Sponsor units have NO BOARD APPROVAL! When an individual or company converts a rental building to a co-op or condo, the first transfer of an apartment, or "sponsor unit" does not require board approval.
According to Wallfly.com's Glossary: Sponsor Unit: Apartments that are held as an investment by the sponsor - the original develeper who built the building or converted the the building to a co-op. Sponsor apartments are usually exempt from board approval.
But there are some other important things to note!
Sponsor units command a premium because people who might not pass a board can buy them. For example, a sponsor unit would be a good choice for parents who want to buy an apartment for a child who is a student. A sponsor unit may be the best apartment for someone who is not working, or only has a short job history. Basically, if you aren't a candidate for a co-op building and can't quite afford a condo, keep an eye out for a sponsor unit!
Buyers of a sponsor unit should take note that they will need to pay NY State and NY City transfer taxes, and often the seller's attorney fees. You still have to submit a board package (Homeland Security! The management company needs to know who is moving into their building) and you almost always have to abide by the building's house rules as far as sublet requirements and pets. Although it varies from sponsor to sponsor, you may be able to put down less than the minimum financing normally required by the building.
Check out these sponsor units under $550K:
$539K - One Bedroom - Central Park West and 101st St
$499K - Convertible two bedroom - 25th St. and 2nd Avenue
$289K - Studio - 311 East 25th Street
A: As I browse Curbed.com today I notice a frustrated reader bring up the question of 'Why Are Co-ops Here'? It's a great question as future first time homeowners don't really know the headaches and restrictions that many Co-ops place on their shareholders. From the tedious board approval process to subletting and living policies, you would think Co-ops are a dying breed. But I'm not so sure they are.
To Curbed Reader: As much as I would like to agree that a city of condo's would be so much simpler than a city ruled by Co-ops, I don't see much change down the road. Yes it is true than almost ALL new developments are either Condo or Condop, I do not see how the more liberal condo legal structure will ever surpass the restrictive and dictatorship model of Co-op legal structure in New York City.
Rather, I do see a future environment where existing Co-op boards get more liberal as the members of the board change over time and reflect the new ownership of the building itself. In my opinion, a Co-op board with less stringent policies makes for a more valuable stock certificate at resale.
A Co-op with more liberal purchasing, subletting, living, and reselling policies can be marketed to a larger pool of potential buyers making it more valuable. A Co-op property with very stringent board policies must lower their asking price as they are marketing to a much smaller buyer pool.I'm sure many filthy rich people out there will disagree with me as they prefer the stringent policies of their Co-op boards so as to maintain the quality of resident that ultimately makes it as a shareholder of their private corporation. But there are more less wealthy people out there than filthy rich people. So, I tend to side with the masses.
New York City used to be about 80% Co-op or so (estimate only) and has since started swaying a bit towards the Condo side with all the development due to the past 3-4 years of the housing boom. Now I would say NYC is about 75% Co-op. This # will never go below 50% so a world not ruled by Co-ops in New York City is just an unrealistic dream. Instead, look for a LIBERALIZATION of Co-op boards that will be an attempt to level the playing field when it comes to board approval, subletting, pied-e-terres, parents buying for kids, and reselling; all features of a Condo that make it more valuable.
But in the end, you still own stock in a corporation. Never forget that! Closing costs will always be lower and Co-op owners will never own a title to their property!
~ Ask Curbed: Will the Revolution Be Condo-ized?
A: Although I registered the domain www.passthecoopboard.com months ago it looks like I was beaten to the punch by this well thought out website called Wallfly.com. Wallfly is a site dedicated to building a database of rating Co-op boards; a problem that I was dying to solve. A difficult (data and user reviews will take time) yet rewarding model that lets residents lookup and rate their own building's board policy on toughness, restrictions, what its like to live there, what it takes to get in, and who deson't stand a chance!
NOTE FROM SITE: To review you must register. A member may only write one review per building. If you wish add to a posted review, however, you may edit your review at anytime.
Moving on, the main page has a RAVE REVIEWS section that points out the best reviews for buildings that were left by residents.
In addition the site has added some fun stuff such as a TOP 10 list of most infamous board turndowns; with Madonna & Howard Stern being the current leaders. Add in Recent Reviews, a Watchlist, Co-op Buzz section, Glossary of terms, and Real Estate Links (no UrbanDigs though..whats up with that?) and this site is on the right path to building what will eventually be a very useful resource!
If you are looking to buy a Co-op then you should know that the board approval process can be tedious, frustrating, and painful at times. A site like Wallfly.com will be very handy once their database gets filled with user reviews. Currently the site is lacking in content but that should be expected from a 7 month old startup! Good Luck Wallfly guys! Now lets try to help them out by submitting a review of your Co-op!
~ WallFly.com - Rate & Review Co-op Boards
Bond prices fell last Monday and caused home loan rates to rise about .125%. Because the European Central Bank decided to raise their interest rates, the concern is that foreign investors will now start moving their money out of the US market. For this coming week, inflation watchers will be on the edge of their seats waiting to see if consumer prices are indeed on the rise. If the news of the week looks economically "hot", with inflation on the rise, look for bond pricing to suffer and home loan rates to rise another .125%.
A: With all the bubble talk I feel it would be a good idea to take the other side of the coin and discuss a few reasons why it would be a good idea to buy now, rather than wait out a cooling housing market.
Reason # 1: Interest Rates Are Rising - The argument could be made that in a rising interest rate environment the housing market will cool off because money is getting more expensive to borrow. But even if you get a property for a bit less in 6 months because of cooling, you will lose that 'savings' due to the higher interest rate that you lock in down the road. If current consensus is now for at least 2 more rate hikes (for a total of 50 basis points), with possibly more, I believe that buyers now have a bit of pressure on them if they happen to find a great deal out there. FACT: Interest rates are going up and no one really knows how far! Recent reports suggest they are going higher than anyone originally thought and Lehman Brothers recently predicted 4 more 1/4 point rate hikes ahead of us. The Skinny: Expect Mortgage Rates To Rise Considerably Over The Next 6-10 Months As The Fed Combats Inflation & A Booming US Economy
Reason # 2: NYC Rents Are Rising: With vacancy rates under 1.0 and housing prices still high, landlords know they can jack up their rents as units turnover. These days, rent hikes of 25% more for non-rent stabilized buildings are not uncommon! The recent article in NY Mag and my post here on UrbanDigs discusses how the landscape has changed for renters in New York City over the past year or so. For any renter who is facing a lease expiration soon and currently has a stable/high-paying job with significant liquid assets saved up, should consider looking at the sales market as they will most likely face much higher renting costs as they renew or sign a diferrent lease. The days of cheaper rent and no fee rentals that we got used to after September 11th are no longer. The Skinny: The Cost of Living in NYC Without Building Equity is Rising! Taking into account tax benefits, equity building, and future appreciation over the long term, it might make sense to buy rather than rent if you are forced into higher renting costs!
Reason # 3: Buyers Have Control & Can Submit A Low-Ball Offer - Sellers are frustrated. Open House activity is not what it used to be and sellers are faced with patient buyers and a longer time on the market before a deal presents itself. In todays market, sellers should expect at least 3-6 months to sell their property. But what about those sellers that have to sell now? The other day I reported on a $210K studio on the Upper East Side. Well thats gone now only 2 days after I reported on it. Not to say my post brought in the buyer, rather that this was a deal where the seller had to sell now. So the broker underpriced and the unit sold very quickly. Somebody got a good deal and for all I know the seller accepted a 180K offer? Who knows? The point is that there are good values out there if you look. And even if you think a property is still overpriced (but you love it), submit a low ball offer! You would be amazed at the response in today's market at an offer that a year ago would have insulted the seller and garnered 'no response'. If a property was asking 700K, was reduced to 650K, and you think its worth 575K, then submit it! Don't wait around for another price reduction. Be proactive and submit your highest bid and leave it in their hands. The Skinny: Buyers Have Power & Sellers Are Frustrated. You never know the level of urgency that a seller is under. Buyers must understand that they have more control in today's market than they had in the past 2-3 years! Take advantage! Submit your low-ball offer and see what happens; after all, you might get an apartment for a price you never thought possible.
These 3 reasons describe the current environment we are in when analyzing NYC real estate. What do we know? We know borrowing costs are rising. We know rental costs are rising. We know we are 9 months into a housing slowdown and deals do pop up here and there. We know that buyers have way more control and negotiating power than they had in the past 2-3 years. We know sellers are frustrated. This is what we know. Put it all together and I can easily make an argument why its a good time to buy. I'm not broker babbling here. I'm simply offering a breath of fresh air while all the other blogs talk about the impending housing crash. But what if it doesn't? No one knows how to perfectly time the real estate market and the decision to buy vs. rent should be made after analyzing your own personal situation. Ask yourself:
1. Do I have enough assets to afford a down payment, closing costs, and still have enough left over to be comfortable both for my own well being and to pass a coop board (should you buy a coop).
2. Is my job stable? Do I expect my salary + bonus to rise over the years?
3. What will my rent be when my lease expires? Is it going to be much higher than it was?
4. Do I plan to live in NYC for at least the next 3 years?
If you answer 'YES' to these 4 questions than you should strongly consider buying rather than renewing your more expensive lease to rent. If you have the means, then Buy! Don't be fooled by all the bubble talk and don't try to time the market perfectly. Buying a home in New York City is still to me a fantastic investment as long as you buy within your financial limits. Good Luck!
A: Thanks for the tip from Dina who started her own gift shop online DinaBean.com. Part of a real estate broker's job, besides satisfying the needs of their client, should always be to present a gift once the transaction closes (either renting or selling). It just makes for good business in a service industry that is largely based on personal refferals. Dinabean.com offers gift ideas that are 'outside the box' and perfect for brokers to offer to their clients.
I usually base the gift I give on the commission I receive from a deal. Here is the breakdown that I go by:
$0 - $5,000 Commission ---> $150-$200 Gift
$5,000 - $7,500 Commission ---> $250-$350 Gift
$7,500 - $10,000 Commission ---> $350-$500 Gift
$10,000+ Commission ---> $500+ Gift
Now this is NOT set in stone and giving a gift that is valued lower than this guide is fine; as it's the thought not the value that really counts. But this is what I usually stick to because I love to see the surprised look on my client's face when they see what I got them after the deal is done.
Note: The gift is a tax write-off for brokers because it is a business expense! Be sure to keep the receipt and give it to your accountant when he/she does your filing.
Giving a nice gift to your client really tells them that you enjoyed working for them more than the dollars that you got from doing the deal. If I'm willing to spend a portion of my paycheck on my client, they know that they have a broker that truly cares about them and not just about the deal! It's a great model to abide by for any agent looking to grow their business into a 'refferal based' business as they enter the prime of their real estate career!
~ DinaBean.com Gift Ideas
A: I saw this one on Inman Blog the other day and just thought it was a very interesting idea created by the former E-Loan founder. Think of a 'Citibank-Meets-Ebay' business model and you get to Prosper.com.
Prosper.com is a online marketplace for people-to-people lending and was launched to make consumer lending more financially and socially rewarding for everyone. According to the website:
The way Prosper works is intuitive to people who have used eBay. Instead of listing and bidding on items, people list and bid on loans using Prosper's online auction platform.Visually, the online lending platform works like this:
People who want to lend set the minimum interest rate they are willing to earn and bid in increments of $50 to $25,000 on loan listings they select. People who lend can easily diversify using "standing orders", which automatically make many small loans to different borrowers.
Borrowers create loan listings for up to $25,000 and set the maximum rate they are willing to pay a lender. Then the auction begins as people who lend bid down the interest rate. Once the auction ends, Prosper takes the bids with the lowest rates and combines them into one simple loan. Prosper handles all on-going loan administration tasks including loan repayment and collections on behalf of the matched borrower and lenders.
UrbanDigs Says: It's just such a new idea (lending from people online through a bidding model rather than from a bank) that personally I would feel a little nervous about it. That's not to say its a bad idea or that you won't find a great rate through a service such as this, its just that its so new and I'm not sure exactly how it works or the background of who you are lending from or to. I would love to hear some feedback from anyone that has used this new site so that I can hear concrete evidence of its quality of service.
~ E-Loan cofounder starts new Internet lending site
A: PropertyShark.com is by no means new (most real estate blogs link to them) but I can't help but notice that many of my clients still ask me about this type of information when all they need to do is go to this website! Just type in a building address and you will retrieve consolidated NYC property records that includes owner info, title history, taxes, violations, permits, demographics, foreclosures, sales comparables, toxic hazards, air rights, and more. A truly great resource for any buyer or seller.
PropertyShark.com lets you do a search in a number of ways:
1. Which have recently sold and what they sold for
2. By neighborhood, size, and type
3. Which are in foreclosure or pre-foreclosure
4. By owner's name
5. Which are actively for sale
The site is also not restricted to NYC, as they now cover over 20 million properties in 15 major markets. Combining public data with proprietary data and technology, the PropertyShark.com team strives to level the playing field to allow all people to access data that was previously only available to a select few.
definitely worth the time to visit and bookmark for future use!
A: Thanks for the tip, whoever you are! Did you catch this ad in the NY Times this Sunday? We all know that SEX SELLS in this city, but I didn't think it would become part of a marketing package for an apartment. I bet it worked and probably got the broker more calls than usual.
Man, this place really is X-SEXY! For anyone out there with too much money in their bank accounts than they know what to do with, I highly recommend buying this pad!
252 Seventh Avenue
# Beds: 2
# Baths: 3
Financing Allowed: 90%
Asking: I don't know. $3.2M or $2.995M?
Marketed By: Deborah Rieders & Susan Storan of Corcoran
A: I'm now starting to get the feeling that interest rates will be headed higher than previously thought and the idea of a feds funds rate of 5.5% was recently predicted by Lehman Brothers.
It pains me to say this but it looks like we are going to be facing a few more interest rate hikes as the fed looks to bring monetary policy to a "neutral stance"; neither hindering nor helping economic growth.
According to today's CNN Money article titled "Poole Sees Rising Interest Rates"...:
The economy has a "great deal of momentum" and the Federal Reserve may have to raise interest rates further, especially if growth exceeds expectations, one of its top policy makers said Monday. "Should we get data in the coming months that are consistently strong, particularly if there are substantial upside surprises, then that says we're going to have to step a little harder on the brake," St. Louis Federal Reserve President William Poole told Reuters.My last report on interest rate policy had me at 85 - 15 in favor of a rate hike at the next meeting, and 50 - 50 for another rate hike at the following meeting. It's time to revise these numbers upward and bring my current thinking to 95 - 5 in favoir of a rate hike at the next meeting, and 65 - 35 in favor of another rate hike at the following meeting.
As I browse Matrix today, I see Jonathan Miller is thinking the same way I am as he reports on this issue:
As a sign of more difficult times ahead, specifically in the real estate economy, analysts are beginning to raise their estimates as to how high the Fed will go until they feel inflation is in check. Consensus has been to either 4.75% or 5%. Lehman Brothers has just increased their federal-funds rate peak to 5.5% in August or September. They have not penciled in a policy reversal at any time in the next year and a half [Barrons]. Their reasons for the change:
1. Although the housing market is cooling off, the process is slow and Fed Chairman Bernanke has reiterated the idea that the Fed will respond slowly to the cooling.
2. The economy is showing more underlying strength than we had expected. Therefore, it will probably take longer for the diminishing housing-wealth effect to overcome an even stronger underlying trend in growth.
Boy oh boy oh boy. What a ride this 'new' fed is taking us on here as everyone keeps upping their estimates on how high the fed will actually go with rates. Six months ago most of us thought we would be done by now; man were we off the mark! But that's the way it is and at least we have a good idea now of where we are headed.
Worst Case Scenario: If Lehman Brothers is correct and the fed really does raise the feds funds rate to 5.5% (we are at 4.5% now), expect 30YR mortgage rates to easily exceed the 7% mark and possibly go closer to 7.5% when all is set and done. As money gets more expensive to borrow, buyers will be even more hesitant to pay top dollar for any property across the country.
~ Poole sees rising interest rates
~ The Housing Boom is Over & The Economy Feels A Little Too Fine
A: Check out this $210K studio apartment that Citi-Habitats own Coco Mindreau is selling at 531 East 87th Street.
Only 1 flight up and getting southern light, this seems like a nice deal for anyone looking for a cheap home in the Upper East Side. When calculating the monthly expenses for a buyer who puts down 20% with a mortgage rate of 6.25%, the total comes out to $1,477/Month BEFORE TAX DEDUCTIONS!
If you are renting a studio apartment right now paying close to $1,300 a month, and you have the means to buy, I would strongly consider viewing this 7-day old listing. It will go fast!
531 East 87th Street; Apt. 2B
# Beds: 0
# Baths: 1
Financing Allowed: 80%
Marketed By: Coco Mindreau of Citi-Habitats
A: If you are looking for a 1BR in a prime location of the Upper West Side near Central Park and with the luxury of a 24HR Doorman and planted roofdeck, check out this 6-day old listing at 200 West 79th Street.
The Gloucester building is located on 79th street between Broadway & Amsterdam Avenue and is a full-time doorman building with a live-in super and porter available 24 hours. The lobby and hallways were just renovated meaning future assesments for this type of work shouldn't be a concern for you.
It's always best to ignore renovations and focus on the 4 things that can NOT be changed about a property: LOCATION, SIZE, VIEWS, & LIGHT. With regard to this property the location is great, the size is fine, the views I'm not sure about, and the light seems great. Not a bad start.
*Note: Your real estate attorney will review all building financials, offering plan, board minutes, and contract of sale before advising you to sign the contract. You should be notified if any major renovations are planned which might lead to future maintenance assesments!
200 West 79th Street; Apt 9B
Size: Aprox 650 Sq. Ft.
# Beds: 1
# Baths: 1
maintenance: $859 (a bit high for apartment size)
Price Per Sq. Ft.: $762
Marketed By: Doron Zwickel of Douglas Elliman
A: Its Jon Brownstoner, of the Brooklyn real estate blog Brownstoner. This is a GREAT blog all about Brooklyn Brownstones and written anonymously.
definitely a good read for anyone interested in Brooklyn real estate. Besides the main site the blog has a API from Property Rover so that you can search listings on the brownstoner site, a forum for group discussion, a renovation blog component, and a my brownstone webpage where you are invited to create your own brownstone homepage and to browse the homepages others have created.
If you use a aggregate reader to display new posts from all your favorite blogs, add Brownstoner to the list! Other Real Estate blogs that MUST be on your list include: Curbed.com , Matrix , & Property Grunt.
~ For Real Estate Blogs, It's Still All About Location
A: Why not? A Cooling Housing Market + Rising Rents & Lower Vacancy Rates could put buying back in favor again down the road (not just yet because interest rates still have some room to rise)! Something to think about when crunching the numbers. While I still believe we have some softness in the housing sector ahead of us, I can't help but notice that if rents keep rising like they have been than the disparity between the cost of renting vs. buying will narrow!
The rental market in Manhattan is certainly favoring landlords rather than tennants right now as the vacancy rate continues to drop and rents continue to rise. Add in a 9-Month Old Housing Slowdown and all of a sudden the difference between the cost of owning (w/ tax benefits) vs. the cost of renting becomes much closer. If this trend continues could this lead to a Rent-Hike induced housing boom in New York City?
Its something that can be argued for Manhattan only, as almost all other markets do not have that rare combination of limited supply of housing plus high demand for housing at the same time. It could also be argued that there are many buyers out there who have been 'priced out' of the New York City housing market for the past 2 years, and are now facing rent hikes as they look to renew. The question now presents itself: Do Renters consider buying now that:
1. They Have Saved For A Few Years & Are In Better Financial Shape
2. Are Faced With Higher Renting Costs & Less Rentals To Choose From
3. Have Experienced A Slowing Housing Market & Gained More Control of the Bidding Process
In a recent NY Mag article the focus is on rent hikes at Peter Cooper Village & Stuyvesant Town. According to Jay Heydt of Citi-Habitats:
Driven by all the bursting-bubble talk, buyers are waiting and renting, says Jay M. Heydt, managing director of Citi Habitats' Union Square office. So "as of January 2006, there's a less than one percent vacancy rate for rentals," he says, adding that there's no tighter market than downtown; putting Peter Cooper Village at the improbable center of a boom. If Eric L. wants to stay put, he'll have to pay 25 percent more: $2,800 a month, non-negotiable. Nor is he alone. The tenants-association Website teems with postings from sticker-shocked renters. "At first [I] thought it must be a mistake!" writes one. "Bon voyage, PCV!" huffs another.
Its just such an interesting topic that I do not understand why it is not covered more in the mass media. I guess there is no personal angle on the idea; no angle, no story. Anyway, thats why we blog!
UrbanDigs Says: If NYC housing continues to soften (which I think it will, without crashing) and NYC rentals continue to get more expensive (which I'm not sure what will stop it), it's hard to ignore a situation where it just makes much more sense to BUY rather than RENT! If you have been priced out of the NYC market for the past year, KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN and continue to save your money and get your credit score as close to perfect as possible and put yourself in good financial shape so that you can take advantage of a deal when it presents itself. Trust me, it will!
~ Out with the Old, In with the Newer
A: Check out this great post I saw on Matrix today that explains to the general public all the real estate babble that us brokers use to describe apartments in New York City. Be sure to watch the short video clip when the reporter goes out into the streets of NYC to test out what New Yorkers really know about real estate lingo!
In A Nutshell
1. frplc, fplc, FP = fireplace
2. gar = garage
3. HDW, HWF, Hdwd = hardwood floors
4. hi ceils = high ceilings
5. MLS = Multiple Listing Service
6. vw, vu, vws, vus = view(s)
7. FDR = formal dining room
8. HVAC = Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning
Is it really worth abbreviating?
1. expansion pot'l = expansion potential
2. grmet kit = gourmet kitchen
3. assum. fin. = assumable financing
4. nr bst schls = near the best schools
5. fab pentrm = fabulous pentroom
6. q pos= quick possession
1. Wow! = better check this one out.
2. lo dues = low dues
3. FROG = finished room over garage
4. OWC = owner will compromise
1. close to or convenient to = a lot closer than you would want
2. compact = tiny
3. mature garden = needs an industrial weeder
4. intimate = claustrophobics
5. TLC = wreck
6. interesting or unique = shag carpeting and a floor plan designed by Dr. Seuss
I can't believe the dog didnt know that WBFP means 'Wood Burning Fireplace'. I mean, if it was my chocolate lab Stella (who never barks!) she would say that this is the thing she sleeps in front of when we go to Uncle Lex's house in Vermont!
~ Real Estate Lingo, Jargon, & Acronyms Are A PITA
A: The price of Light Sweet Crude surpassed the $63/Barrel mark as oil prices rose for the fourth straight day on nagging geopolitical supply concerns. Fears of more violent attacks in Nigeria and Int'l tensions over Iran's nuclear plan are two forces contributing to oil's most recent bull run.
I just feel a need to report on these things because the rising price of energy is an inflation leading indicator that new fed chief Bernanke must keep an eye on and combat by tightening monetary policy. In lay terms, this means interest rates would be raised to combat future inflation.
When scrutinizing the Iran nuclear situation more closely, the article points out:
The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 35-nation board of governors will convene Monday to study a report saying essentially that Iran has ignored a Feb. 4 call to re-suspend enrichment work. Referring the issue to the U.N. Security Council moves Iran a step closer to possible sanctions, which oil traders fear could prompt the world's fourth largest oil exporter to cut supplies.Should this occur, the supply of oil will be disrupted once again (for how long or by how much is still unclear), leading to more supply issues and higher oil prices. Not a good sign if you were hoping that interest rates were close to their highs with no more rate hikes in the works.
UrbanDigs Interest Rate Opinion: You know how I love to predict things; just don't plan your whole life around these opinions! I am probably about 85 - 15 in favor of a 1/4 point rate hike at the next fed meeting, and about 50 - 50 for a second 1/4 point rate hike at the meeting after that. If both meetings yield a 1/4 hike (so 1/2 in total or 50 basis points), expect mortgage rates to rise to the mid-upper 6's for 30 YR fixed and possibly higher. Housing markets should remain flat to down in this scenario with more speculative markets possibly getting hit harder and faster. I will report more on this as news develops.
~ Supply Threats Push Oil Nearer To $64
A: The 421a Tax Exemption Certificate is a key financial resource used by developers and offered by the city to spur development and keep housing costs reasonable by offering 'temporary relief' in property taxes owed by individual condominium owners or coop shareholders. Although, most new developments in New York City today are either Condo's or Condop's, not Coops (see my post on What is A Condop?). By the way, isn't that the perfect image for this post!
According to the NYC.gov website:
The Cooperative and Condominium Abatement Program provides partial tax relief for condo owners and co-op tenant-shareholders to reduce the disparity in property tax paid between residential Class 2 properties (i.e., condominiums and cooperatives) and Class 1 properties (i.e., one-, two-, and three-family homes), which are assessed at a lower percentage of market value.There are also eligibility requirements:
Ownership -- Condominium owners and cooperative tenant-shareholders who, as of the applicable taxable status date, may own no more than three dwelling units in any one property. Units held by sponsors or their successors in interest are not eligible.
Other Exemptions -- Properties that already receive a state or local tax exemption or abatement, such as J-51, 421a, or 421b, may not be eligible.
Its important to note that tax abatements/exemptions are applied for by the developer and granted by the city to offer incentives to developers for building and marketing a new property. Usually, a 10-Year Tax Abatement is granted meaning that the actual property taxes that were assessed to the building and its individual units will get relief for the first 10 years of occupancy. The tax relief is the greatest right when the building is ready for occupancy and then increases every 2 years (20% every 2 years) until the 10 years is up, and at which time the property taxes will have hit their maturity.
Lets take a look at a real-life building for an example of the 421a Tax Abatement and the listings for sale in pre-construction:
205 East 59th New Development
#Beds - 2
#Baths - 2
Total Size - 1,368 Sq. Ft.
Maint/CC - $1,626
*RE Taxes - $261
#Beds - 1
#Baths - 1.5
Total Size - 1,122 Sq. Ft.
Maint/CC - $1,344
*RE Taxes - $216
In this New Condo Development on 59th Street the 421a Tax Abatement brought the tax payments down to a very low $200+ for these 2 units. If I do the math and add 20% to this starting figure every 2 years for 10 years, I will reach a mature property tax value of about $650 for Apt. 9B and slightly less for Apt. 22A. So in this new development the 421a Tax Abatement is saving unit owners about $400/month or $5,000 a year for their first 2 years of living at 205 East 59th street.
I know its a bit confusing and that it could also be argued that with the temporary lower monthly expenses the developer is boosting the asking price, but in the end its still a luxury new condo with more amenities than most buildings offer; including:
- 24HR Doorman & Concierge
- Private 5th Floor Landscaped Gardent Terrace
- Fitness Center
- Service Pantry for Catered Events
- Outdoor Stretching Studio on Mahogany Deck For Yoga
- A Whimsical Puppy Park
UrbanDigs Says: For investors who bought early in pre-construction at a good price point, it might be wise to sell your unit halfway into the tax abatement. The logic here is that you are selling the property while there is still tax relief in effect and the monthly expenses are lower than they will be in 5 more years; this should help you get a higher asking price assuming the market hasn't experienced any turbulence. Always remember that as monthly expenses rise, the asking price must be reduced to compensate for affordability.
A: A lot. If you are a first time buyer of a Co-op, then read this post so that you know exactly what YOU are getting into, and what the potential buyer when YOU SELL will have to provide to get a board approval.
A Co-op board will most likely look deepest into your financial history, current salary, and references when evaluating your board package. So for sake of ease I will break down by category what you will be required to provide for most Co-op boards.
Last 2 Years Tax Returns w/ W2's
Financial Net Worth Form (All Assets & Liabilities)
Bank Account Hard Copies (Last Month)
Hard Copies backing up Assets
Last 2 Pay Checks or Deposit Transfers
Up to 5 Personal References
Up to 3 Business References
Letter from Employer stating position, salary, & length at firm
Letter from Bank confirming accounts and balances
Letter from present Landlord
In addition to all of this you will need to gather these loan documents from your lending institution (usually takes the longest to receive):
Copies of Aztec Recognition Agreement (3)
Copy of Loan Commitment Letter
Things The Board Looks For:
1. No more than 1/3 monthly salary to be used for housing costs
2. At least 1 Years worth of Mortgage + maintenance in liquid assets AFTER closing costs
3. Increase in salary from previous year
Other items the board may ask for can be copies of personal ID's, certificate of foreign status, hard copies of individual item's net worth, or the contract of sale if you are selling a property.
NOTE: The seller broker has a responsibility to their client to pre-qualify you (the buyer) for purchase of the property. The seller broker should be well aware of what the board will look for in terms of financial and situational (such as no parents buying for kids) and should NOT allow their client to accept the offer of an UNQUALIFIED buyer.
If you plan to buy a Co-op be prepared to present original copies of everything noted above, and possibly even more, for the board to review. Also keep in mind that you will be in a position later on when you sell where you will have to pre-qualify the potential buyer; no one wants a board turndown!
Originally Published 01/07/2006
A: A 'NO FINANCE CONTINGENCY' refers to when the Finance Contingency is OMMITTED from the contract of sale by the seller of an apartment to protect themselves in the event that the buyer can NOT secure a loan prior to closing. Should this occur, the buyer will have to come up with cash to buy the apartment at closing or risk losing their 10% deposit. Read The Comments For Detailed Answer By Real Estate Attorney Peter Graubard.
Its amazing that when I google 'No Finance Contingency' I see a past UrbanDigs post as #1 on the search results and then pretty much garbage thereafter to describe what this really is for homebuyers. Lets try to clear it up right here:
Definition of Contingency: An event that may occur but that is not likely or intended; a possibility. A possibility that must be prepared for; a future emergency.
When the New York City housing market was going crazy a year ago (mainly because of no inventory, tons of demand, and lower mortgage rates), it was clearly a sellers market with packed open houses and multiple bids on properties. I recall an office meeting when our sales manager told us that 7/10 deals were going OVER ASK! That is an incredible statistic. In this type of crazed sellers market, many buyers had to deal with a No-Finance Contingency clause being added to the contract of sale. There was not much you could do about it. If you didn't accept the clause and sign the contract, the seller would just move on to the next bid. Not the case in today's market.
Sellers omit the Finance Contingency from the contract of sale to protect themselves from a deal going sour. Once you have a fully executed contract of sale there is not much that a buyer can do to get out of the deal; except not be able to secure a loan! So, the No-Finance Contingency clause protects against this emergency and states that even if the buyer cannot secure a loan prior to closing, they must either come up with all cash or surrender their 10% deposit. In contracts of sale that do NOT have this clause and a buyer cannot secure a loan, the seller is usually out of luck with the buyer getting out of the deal and their deposit back since the deal was contingent on securing financing!
You can see the appeal of doing this by the seller. But in today's market where the dynamic or power has shifted closer to buyers, seller's should find it very difficult to get a contract signed with this clause in it. Talk to your real estate attorney about this and be sure to find out if your contract of sale has this clause in it before you sign; especially if you have bad credit, are self-employed, or have reported declining income on your tax returns from successive years. These are all items that a bank will look at before committing to your loan!
REMEMBER: After the contract is fully executed the bank will send an appraiser over to appraise the value of the property. Assuming the #'s come in where they need to be, the bank will then process the appraisal and work on getting the buyer a loan committment. This loan committment letter is needed to submit to the condo or co-op board (with the rest of the board package) for final approval. Once you have board approval a closing date could be set up. So, just because you have a signed contract doesn't mean the deal is done; you still have the loan and the board approval to take care of!
~ The Finance Contingency
~ Is Your Earnest Money Protected By The Finance Contingency