Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

I ran in the Hamptons Marathon this past weekend in the pouring rain and driving wind. The bucolic and maritime scenery on the East End was spectacular despite the weather and I managed to post a fairly respectable time of just over four hours.

Along the 26.2 mile course I set about the task of counting FOR SALE signs in varying areas and neighborhoods to get a better understanding of the current housing market in this rarefied territory. A cursory evaluation told me that the larger seasonal dwellings had signs in evidence while those homes with year round residents did not.

Maybe those contractors, landscapers, painters and pool maintenance people are not so bad off after all?



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Monday, September 29th, 2008

Having been curious about Governor’s Island for quite a long time (a girl in my 8th grade class lived there since her dad was in the Coast Guard), I finally went to visit earlier this summer to see the place with my own eyes.

If you don’t know the Island, it’s a short ferry ride away from the tip of southern Manhattan . While long on military history, the place has been having a bit of an identity crisis for the past 10 years, ever since it was vacated by the US Coast Guard, its last military occupant. Fortunately, change is afoot thanks to the efforts of the State, City and the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation. (more…)



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Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Over the years I have logged a lot of miles on foot throughout New York City. One task I set for myself was to walk across all bridges connecting Manhattan to other parts of the world. Some days I have crossed more than one to return back to Manhattan from an outer borough. This list of river crossings is a long one and an undertaking sure to occupy many more afternoon ambles.

Here is the list of those bridges I have crossed on foot: Brooklyn, Manhattan, Willliamsburgh, Queensborough, Roosevelt, George Washington,  and Wards Island.

Those still on the list awaiting exploration are: Triborough, Willis Avenue, Third Avenue, Park Avenue Railroad, Madison Avenue, 145th Street, Macombs Dam, High, Alexander Hamilton, Washington, University Heights, Broadway, Henry Hudson, Hell’s Gate and Spuyten Duyvil Railroad.

Obviously, some are not accessible by foot, but who knew there were so many ways to get to the rest of the world?



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Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Ever since the new World Financial Center Ferry Terminal arrived from Brooklyn to the banks of the Hudson River in June, I have had the opportunity to view the construction progress as I run by early every morning. The design is striking and a real compliment to the fantastic land forming and sculptures in nearby North Cove and Rockefeller Park. There have been significant delays and cost over runs with this project but I am confident that its anticipated rescheduled opening before the end of 2008 will greatly improve ferry service from Hoboken, NJ and other Gold Coast locations with multiple slips and new concessions for the over 7,500 daily ferry commuters.

Keep your eyes open for the grand opening of this exciting transportation addition to New York City waterways.



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Monday, September 22nd, 2008

In real estate, how true is it that one shouldn’t mix business with pleasure?

Who’s to say business shouldn’t be fun? Since we were little kids, weren’t we taught that you need to have fun doing what you do, that you should follow what makes you happy?

Shortly after a recent closing, I was told by the buyer, “To be honest Harsha, I don’t think I would have bought an apartment had I not had so much fun viewing with you.”

The whole “does the apartment come with you?” line has been laughed about for a long time, but how much truth is there in it? Do buyers really buy an apartment and commit to a mortgage to impress a sales agent, who to be brutally honest, they may never see again after the closing?

A couple of apartments I’ve sold in London and New York have been to younger men, in their thirties, single and wealthy, both bachelor pads. Do I feel guilty? No. Both times I’ve believed in the investment, both times they’ve been undervalued, and in this recent case, bought for marginally less than the seller paid for it.

But there is an etiquette that needs to be confirmed between the broker and the buyer.  Who pays for the cabs to viewings? For the brunches and coffees on weekend viewings? And who pays for the celebration dinners? And if you are friendly through the buying process, do you stay friends after? Had you not been so friendly during the process of buying would you not have had their loyalty? How friendly do we need to be? Does that change with the markets?

For the few years I’ve been in real estate I’ve come across two friends of mine in the business who have both married their buyers. Both buyers bought apartments purely to marry their brokers.  One of which sold the apartment shortly after winning their bride, for a profit nonetheless.  These days in some cases, is buying real estate securing both a spouse and a home in one?

Establishing a relationship with your buyer as a broker is important.  Gaining their loyalty is even more important.  As a young, cute British broker in New York City, I’d love some advice. What are the rules? Are buyers considering viewings “dates” and if we are initiating these dates, are we in fact “leading them on”?

To me, business is pleasure, and pleasure is business. Is that wrong?



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Friday, September 19th, 2008

Last night I went to the soft opening party for Todd English’s new restaurant Libertine, located in the new Thompson Hotel at 15 Gold Street in the Financial District, conveniently located near the William Beaver House which has started its closings. Todd and his fiancé Erica are friends and clients, and my mother Emily and I were fortunate enough to get to come see his newest creation.

The hotel used to be a crappy Holiday Inn, and Thompson Hotels has completely transformed the space and I think it will become an instant downtown destination. The restaurant is named Libertine, and located in the lobby of the hotel. This boite is really sleek and sexy; convenient since there are rooms available upstairs. Parts of the floor are leather; there is an incredible Brazilian Mahogany staircase with Brass railing that leads up to a library/lounge, making this the perfect place to relax and knock back a few.

The food is English’s take on pub fare, and judging from the hors d’oeuvres served last night, I like Mr. English’s interpretation. He made seemingly everyday dishes stand out and sing. Waiters walked around with lobster rolls avec dollops of caviar, Kobe beef franks (never seen that before), Deviled eggs with crab meat, and buckets of Truffle dusted pop corn lined the bar, I must warn you although, the popcorn a la English is slightly more addictive than crack.



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Friday, September 19th, 2008

I have been immensely intrigued by one block long streets in Manhattan since I moved to Centre Market Place, located behind the old Police Headquarters on Centre Street, in 1995. This unique thoroughfare was home to numerous firearm retailers catering to the NYPD. Now it is the site of considerable real estate development offering spectacular single family homes rarely seen outside of the townhouses of the Upper East and West Sides and Greenwich Village.

Another favourite is Weehawken Street, located between 10th and Christopher Streets in the West Village, home to relics of the waterfront activity of bygone eras and annual Gay Pride events. It seems some people don’t want interlopers disturbing the tranquility offered by this tiny enclave. I hope it remains the way it is with this wood sided house for many years to come.

I used to go to spectacular Halloween parties at a friend’s house on Patchin Place, just off of 10th Street in Greenwich Village. Their common garden was an appropriately eerie setting for the revelry of costumed guests and the iron gate at the end of the very short mews seemed to provide an extra aura of exclusivity.

I continue to find more of these special alleys, mews, and hidden byways as I explore the outer areas of New York City and would welcome your discoveries. There always seem to be more hidden gems to find when I set out to explore this great metropolis.



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Thursday, September 18th, 2008

In the last few years, there has been major residential real estate development in Brooklyn, particularly in Williamsburg. This summer, I’ve noticed more and more people are making the journey on the L train on the weekends to attend the many open houses in the area. On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, especially in the upcoming fall months, you might as well make a day of it, and check out some of the restaurants, shops and other attractions in Williamsburg to supplement your apartment hunting.

For brunch, I recommend Fabianes, a French café and bakery, with a light, airy atmosphere and delicious salads. To satisfy your sweet tooth, there is a cute ice cream shop called Penny Licks that has vegan and regular ice cream options as well as cookies, brownies and cakes. There are great clothing boutiques such as Otte, Jumelle and Noisette that rival some of Manhattan’s stores. If you are looking to shop for home furnishings for a potential new apartment, The Future Perfect has great modern, sometimes quirky pieces. To relax, I suggest checking out McCarren Park, it is a beautiful park but also has lots of concerts and events, usually on Sundays. Williamsburg is also a great neighborhood to walk around and explore on your own.



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Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Working for a company whose niche is the residential realm of Manhattan real estate, I started to feel that my understanding of the business as a whole was incomplete. In order for me to truly understand the market I was working in, and best service the needs of my clients; I increasingly felt that I needed to know what fed the residential market…and so began my commercial education.

I also increasingly saw that my residential clients and contacts could lead to commercial opportunities. I met with developers who needed sites for their new projects, as well as sales offices locations for their projects coming to market.  Clients that were looking for apartments also needed office space; I met more and more retailers in my every day life who were interested in opening up new locations in Manhattan. (more…)



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Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Who hasn’t had this situation? You are out hunting for the perfect apartment with a first time buyer. Your buyer is a young professional that needs the help of his/her parents for the down payment or even a full cash offer. You look at a variety of apartments and you manage to narrow the search down to three that meet all or at least 95% of your clients needs.

Then it’s time for the parents to come to town to approve the selections available for their child’s perfect first home in Manhattan. Very often it is the parents first time to New York but it becomes readily apparent they are experts when it comes to the city’s real estate market. Soon all of selections have been eliminated and you will need to start your search all over again. This happened to me recently when I had found a $600,000 one bedroom with outdoor space and a doorman. The parents just couldn’t picture themselves living in this place given that they just paid the same amount for a five bedroom McMansion.

The bottom line is, a lot of times the parent’s approval is harder to get than to pass the toughest Fifth Avenue coop board! What do you think?



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