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Help! We’re moving to south Battery Park City. Where do we eat?

  1. Inatteso.

    From one of my clients: “Hubby and I loved Inatteso when we finally went a couple months ago. It had great atmosphere, food and wine, with a nice bar area. It was reasonably priced too. Everything else coming to mind in South BPC is very ho-hum.”

  2. Obao Water St.

    Since, as noted above, there isn’t much in South BPC, you’ll head east a lot. But there are restaurants there. From a friend of mine at the Daily News: “We’ve been down in the new office [at 4 New York Plaza] for a little while, and Obao is Michael Bao’s new noodle place. It’s great. I eat there once a week.”

  3. North End Grill.

    Heading north to “Triburbia” — the area of North BPC just south of Tribeca proper — is always an option too. And there’s a new Danny Meyer restaurant. “Upmarket comfort food” says Time Out.

Posted 8 years, 5 months ago at 1:53 pm.

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Why do brokers always lie about square footage?

OK buyers, I know that seeing “estimated” and inflated square footage numbers makes you crazy — it’s like being in a world of personal ads where everyone is “great-looking” and “sexy,” but turn the tables for a minute, and pretend you’re selling.

You would prefer your real estate agent to:

A) exaggerate/lie outright, as has historically been done with coops (”I was told it was 1200 square feet when I bought it, what do you mean it’s 1050?”)

B) simply rise to the inflated standards of the market (”that one down the hall says it’s 1100, and it’s smaller than mine”)

C) say nothing and be ignored by buyers who distrust anything with no listed square footage (”why am I not getting any traffic at the open houses? What’s wrong with your ad?”)

or D) list footprint square footage, which puts every co-op (which measures between wall distances) at a disadvantage to every condo (which measures distances that include the thickness of the walls) (”why, this 1050-square-foot condo is WAY smaller than my 1050-square-foot co-op”)

I pick “C” for my listings, and I hand buyers a floorplan with laser-tape-measured dimensions on it, and they STILL ask for me square footage quotes. Constantly.

My new response is “Well, a broker from another firm said it was X, so you can use that for comparative purposes, but if you want to multiply all the dimensions on the floorplan it won’t add up to that.”

Posted 11 years, 5 months ago at 12:59 pm.

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I understand bidding low if a house needs renovation. But what can a buyer use to negotiate on a house when they don’t see too many negatives?

Thanks to sniper from streeteasy.com for this good question.


Typically on a house the buyer makes an offer, and then uses the inspection to get some kind of credit or rollback. So when we sold the beach house (Nassau County) the buyers asked that we correct the slope of the driveway because there was a water spot near the house; prune a tree that had broken the garage soffit line, thus weakening the roof; and have an electrician come in and remove a tangle of wires in the basement on the grounds that they were a fire hazard.

Other than those things (most experienced buyers would have caught the wires, but not necessarily the roof impingement or the driveway), it is typical for a suburban buyer to ask about leaks, pests, mold, and site-specific things — like in an older community, that was built when homes were heated with oil, you would ask if there was a buried old tank.

That’s all stuff that’s generally in the category of “seller doesn’t have to disclose, but has to give a truthful answer when you ask the question.”

I would also get a separate termite inspection, since the little critters are really easy to deal with if you catch ‘em early, and a beast if you catch ‘em late.

Posted 11 years, 5 months ago at 11:17 am.

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What’s the deal with the fourth quarter market numbers?

Hi All, Happy New Year! Below is the text of the first front_porch newsletter is a quick attempt to give you a little analysis of the New York City market reports that are coming out today.

* We’ve hit the stall, which can been seen because days on market lengthened significantly. According to the Miller Samuel Elliman report, average 3Q days on market were 134, 4Q days on market 159: There’s the September collapse of Lehman Brothers.

* Prices didn’t really rise as much as some reports say. The Halstead/BHS report shows a rise (you read that right) in median prices of 8%, but that’s really a change in mix as some more expensive apartments closed while starter buyers either waited on the sidelines or negotiated discounts. From the field, I can tell that you prices of $2 million apartments are near flattish, while prices of $500,000 apartments are probably down around 7%. If you don’t want to believe me, one of the best indicators ran in the New York Times on Sunday, which showed declines in the Chelsea Stratus of around 7% from 2007 to 2008.

* We are probably not all going to be living in boxes in 1Q 2009. We know that there are new condo buildings where buyers are not closing – I can think of two in the Financial District that are in trouble, and Brooklyn’s showplace One Hanson Place is renting units — but the numbers show the even post-Lehman, co-ops are continuing to resell, and many existing new condo contracts are continuing to close. In fact, average price per square foot dropped by less than one percent, from$1,193 in Q3 to $1,183 in Q4.

However, “listing discount” — which is one of my favorite stats, expanded from 2.6% in Q3 to 7.3% in Q4.  I think this is a sign of weakness in the quarter to come.

Most likely are continued single-digit price declines until market psychology changes — which means the Obama stimulus measures actually cause lenders to make mortgage money available again.

I’m moderating a panel called “Finding the Turnaround” with Jonathan Miller and four other economic gurus on Friday — part of the Inman Connect Conference. I encourage the press to attend, but I’ll also send out a note telling you what they said after.

Posted 11 years, 7 months ago at 2:34 pm.

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Enough of the seller FSBO advice. What do I need to know to buy an apartment FSBO?

When you’re buying an apartment, you’re really doing three things:

1) accepting price

2) accepting condition

3) accepting risk.

In addition, you need to get the building to 4) accept you.

If you are working on your own without an agent, the best check that the price is acceptable is that you’ve shopped around, and that you like your target apartment at the settled price because you’ve seen what else your money can buy you. In addition, if you’re borrowing money, you need to make sure that you’re not wildly overpaying by the bank’s standards. For New York City, the easiest rough check on historical prices is to run per square foot pricing at www.millersamuel.com/data. Be aware that the stated square footage of the target apartment may be overstated, so quickly check its footprint: a 40′ by 20′ square may be advertised as 1,200 square feet, but your lender won’t believe it.

2) accepting condition. One chief reason buyers use agents is that it’s tough to look past a beautiful design. Some FSBO buyers try to get around this by bringing in home inspectors, who vary greatly in quality but are better than nothing. Search this site for “walk-through” and you will come up with a fairly detailed list of things to look for. In terms of the condition of the building, you want to know when the boiler, roof, and windows were last replaced, and when the last compliance with Local Law 11 took place. A good lawyer can help you do some of this if you don’t want to use a broker. Also, check the board minutes for possible problems, and run a check of the building on New York City’s BIS website (free.)

3) accepting risk. No apartment owner is an island, especially not a co-op buyer who is buying shares in a corporation. What would you do if you were buying GM — Rely on its reputation? Call a broker about its past performance? Examine its financials to see the structure of its assets and liabilities? This is the same type of due diligence that you do with a condo (often by reading the offering plan, which runs about 300 pages) or with a co-op (often by reading the past two years of financial statements.) You are looking, as you would with a company, for a sense of how management handles long-term planning versus short-term expenses. In addition, ask the seller if any assessments are planned; if they know they must disclose. Finally, many buildings hire certiorari attorneys to reduce their taxes, and the attorney’s fees come down on individual shareholders. Again, ask the seller if such an assessment is coming through, because it should fall on the seller, not on you.

As far as 4) The one overarching comment is to take the application process seriously. You should use the level of care that you took with your college applications, and approach the interview with a degree of respect and formality. The more money and status you have, the more care you should take with the process, not less. For more specifics, there are lots of posts on this very searchable site about co-op boards and interviews — type “board” or “interview” in the search box.

And oh, if this has been helpful, buy my book: http://tinyurl.com/2ag28z


Posted 11 years, 7 months ago at 8:20 am.

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I just moved into a new place and I can’t get my sofa and queen bed into the apartment! What do I do?

Many movers will disassemble a sofa/cut it in half — we had it done, and they didn’t hurt the sofa, though they did kick over a can of Fresca onto the Oriental rug.

If you want somebody who specifically specializes, you can try Dr. Sofa, who has gotten decent press. Any competent upholsterer can do it too. The job will cost you a few hundred, but that’s cheaper than a new sofa.

For beds, someone recently told me that they disassembled their frame and then bought a TempurPedic mattress, which I thought was smart. When Ron Lieber reviewed mattresses in The Wall Street Journal, (sorry, still looking for the link) he noted a slight smell attached to the mattress initially, but no other problems.

Posted 11 years, 8 months ago at 11:01 am.

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What are the most common mistakes beginning real estate investors make?

This was inspired by a LinkedIn question asked by Phoenix, Arizona, real estate agent John Sellers of John Hall & Associates; I think it’s a great question.

In no particular order, the biggest mistakes are:

1) Rushing. If you’re going to be an investor, you’re going to be an investor for a long time, so take time to do your research, consider several properties, get thorough inspections, etc.

2) Not having enough capital. It’s easy to assume that the previous owner’s numbers will work for you — and then the roof leaks. Leave yourself a margin for error.

3) Doing the “wrong” renovations. Remember the episode of The Apprentice where one team tore out a bedroom? With a rental, it’s not about your taste; it’s about the taste of potential tenants.

4) Not allowing for vacancies. Even if you buy with tenants in place, they’ll leave at some point (or they won’t, and you’ll have to evict them). When banks were conservative, they assumed that rental units were occupied only 75% of the time. I think that’s still a good rule-of-thumb.

5) Just plain overpaying. There’s a motto in real estate that “you make money when you buy, not when you sell.” That doesn’t mean that you can buy a house for a dime, but you do want to negotiate as hard as you can when you’re purchasing a place.

Posted 11 years, 9 months ago at 9:58 am.

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I’m thinking of making a lowball offer — where should I start?

I wrote about this in my book, “Diary of a Real Estate Rookie.”

There’s an excerpt, update for the 2008 market, here. It gives you some theory behind making a lowball offer, so you can discuss with your real estate agent or even go it alone.

Posted 11 years, 9 months ago at 2:42 pm.

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Why aren’t apartments 50% off yet?

NO ONE has a crystal ball. I always say that if I could predict the future, I would make a lot more money than I could as a real estate broker.

However, I have said repeatedly in many places, and I’m saying it again, I just don’t see prime Manhattan going through a repeat of the late ’80s/early ’90s skid. It would help me, as an owner, upgrade if prices on my dream apartments all tanked . . .but my forecast instead is for a market that flatlines, with prices flat to slightly down and very few transactions  . ..

whether that means prospective buyers want to jump in right now or not is a matter for each of you and your individual real estate agent.

But here’s what’s different:

1) money is cheap even if property isn’t. Interest rates are half of what they were in the late 80s;

2) NYC is a much nicer city. Tribeca used to be the land of giant rats where you’d be afraid you’d be mugged at night. Who’s going to attack you down there now, a laid-off investment banker? A Phil-and-Ted wielding mom?

most importantly, 3) Inventory hasn’t piled up yet. According to data provider Miller Samuel, we currently have seven months of inventory on the market (a “buyer’s market” is usually defined as anything over six). It’s worth noting that days on market are lengthening. Properties are certainly taking longer to sell.

But it would take yearS (that’s plural) of selling almost NO properties before we hit the inventory levels of twenty years ago.

How many years?

Let me put it this way: According to Miller Samuel, 2,654 properties sold last quarter, down from 3,081 the quarter before. So we’re clocking along at around 12,000 sales a year.

If that rate suddenly plummeted to just 500 sales a year — a 96% drop in sales, which is, umm, unlikely . . .and inventory kept coming on at the same rate, it would still take nearly THREE years before we were as screwed as we were in the ’80s!

Now of course you can say that if there’s a panic, inventory would come on at a higher rate — but remember, I’m talking a 96% drop in sales.

So if you’re waiting for the ’90s case, it’s going to take awhile. Keep my phone number and call me in 2012 . ..

Posted 11 years, 9 months ago at 7:56 am.

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What are New York’s “Good Buildings?”

In 1985, Tom Wolfe wrote an Esquire article where he talked about 42 New York buildings as “Good Buildings.” For your curiosity, the list is below.

Now since I was too lazy to go back and find the original article, this list is via Stephen Gaines’ The Sky’s the Limit: Passion and Property in Manhattan. If you are reading this post you’ve probably already read this book, but if not, buy it here now.

Of course, the question arises “in a downturn, what holds its value?” In the early ’90s, for example, the Gold Coast of Greenwich Village held up well, but currently it feels like celebrities would rather like in 15 Central Park West than down there. So we’ll have to see; the future will come to us.

But do bear in mind that some of New York’s best (or at least most hyperexpensive) buildings are not on this list — and some of those that were at the time aren’t. No Dakota, no Forty Fifth Avenue.

1 Beekman Place

10 Gracie Square

1 East End Avenue

120 EEA

550 Park Avenue

555 Park

635 Park

640 Park

720 Park

730 Park

740 Park

765-75 Park

770 Park

778 Park

812 Park

810 Fifth Avenue

820 Fifth

825 Fifth

834 Fifth

953 Fifth

960 Fifth

998 Fifth

1020 Fifth

1030 Fifth

1040 Fifth

River House — 435 East 52nd Street

4 East 66th Street

131-5 East 66th

2 East 70th Street

4 East 72nd Street

19 East 72nd

36 East 72nd

117 East 72nd

160 East 72nd

50 East 77th Street

21 East 79th Street

39 East 79th

66 East 79th

79 East 79th

25 Sutton Place North

One Sutton Place South

Posted 11 years, 10 months ago at 11:58 am.

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