Monday, November 24th, 2008

In 1973, Barbara Corcoran created what was eventually to become New York City’s top real estate brokerage company. Her entrepreneurial mind, common sense approach to building a business, creativity and tenacity set her apart from the field. She sold the company seven years ago and started applying her creativity and knowledge into other endeavors. She has written two books and is widely considered a pre-eminent expert in the real estate and business world. I had the pleasure of speaking with her about the company she created and eventually sold and the general market.

THE INTERVIEW

Shaun: What was the most challenging part of starting your real estate brokerage company?

Barbara: Coming up with the cash, absolutely, because I was working as a waitress at the time and I lived off of what I earned in tips. Coming up with the cash to start any business was a major obstacle. But fortunately, my (what was soon to be boyfriend), came into the diner. I met him and he gave me the cash to start a brokerage firm. A thousand dollars.

Shaun: That’s a great story.

Barbara: That was a stroke of good luck.

Shaun: So you never became a real estate agent? You started your own company immediately and you never went to work for a firm?

Barbara: I started my brokerage firm in New Jersey immediately because my boyfriend had a friend who was an attorney, and as an attorney he was able to license me. So I just went and took the test. In those days, you have to appreciate 35 years ago, there were no barrier entries at all. If you could walk and talk you could pass the test. And I could do both, so I sailed through it.

Shaun: Is it any different now?

Barbara: Of course. It’s a pain in the neck now. In New Jersey, in New York, any state. Top of the list of course is California where fifteen years after I went to California five times to attend the courses I failed my brokers license five times in a row. I never got to move to California because I already had the Corcoran Group. I wanted to just move to California to just start all over again, but I couldn’t because I couldn’t pass the damn exam. In answer to your question; “Is it more difficult today?” It’s more difficult in terms of education, because you have to take courses and pass the exam, which is a pain in the neck. (more…)



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Friday, November 14th, 2008

A forlorn corner in Manhattan is about to get its share of the limelight… literally! The Triple Bridge Gateway from Port Authority to the west side has been given a brilliant treatment by Leni Schwendinger Light Projects to illuminate and reveal the underbelly of these bridges and maybe even frighten away a few rats in the process.

Nine years in the making, the lights will be switched on tonight, Friday November 14th, at approximately 5:30 PM at the corner of Ninth Avenue and 40th Street.



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Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

My buyer told me today while we were sitting in traffic on Houston that viewing properties to him was as much fun as grocery shopping (ie. Not fun – for those of you who enjoy grocery shopping, he doesn’t).  I was shocked.  I was disappointed.  I started to question both myself and my line of work.  It never occurred to me that buyers didn’t enjoy viewings, being led without having to think from one apartment to another for a few hours, having the almighty power to discard properties that matched every one of their obsessive requirements sometimes “just because they didn’t get that feeling”.  As an agent I’ve been so envious of my clients, at least till the time comes to hand over any money, that it infuriated me he wasn’t enjoying the “shopping” experience.  Those that know me know how important it is for my buyers to enjoy viewing apartments with me, and while he assured me it wasn’t me but the viewing of apartments he found laborious, nevertheless I probed him to expand. (more…)



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Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

The New York Times recently published an article written by Nicolai Ouroussof titled “New York City, Tear Down These Walls”. In the article, he contends that there are some buildings, so ugly in nature, they should be torn down. He goes as far as naming the top contenders. (I personally think he missed a few). I am not as bold as he, to name them here, but I do support his overall position and additionally contend that we are seeing some of the wrong  buildings built in the wrong neighborhoods. If we look to the successes of the past, we will find a commonality in the architecture being intuitive in a way that it adds, not detracts to the landscape. History will soon show us that buildings out of context with their surroundings will not resonate as well, if at all, with the people they are attempting to attract. Would you be comfortable living in a sixty story building in an historic neighborhood surrounded by six story pre war loft buildings?

New York Magazine published a similar themed piece about Starchitects and their possible added value (or not).  I am all for architecture representing progress and being an expression of our society. Hopefully it pays respect to the past and takes us a direction in the future that we can be proud of in the years that follow.



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Monday, November 10th, 2008

As the last of the colorful leaves fall from the deciduous trees in the city, it is easier to understand the great gifts provided by our leafy friends during the warmer months. I attended a lecture by New York City Department of Parks & Recreation Commissioner, Adrian Benepe, last week where he outlined a great number of the benefits trees provide on many levels. Aside from the measured effects of slowing climate change, protecting water quality, improving air quality, lowering summer air temperature, conserving natural resources and providing wildlife habitat, there are tangible economic indicators from a real estate perspective as well.

A property’s proximity to a park or other area with trees has a significant impact its value. Just like a landscaped home’s value increases 5 to 11%, New York City’s added street trees increase property values by $52 million each year. Added trees also increase economic activity in business districts and elevate community pride.

I will be sure to remind myself of the significance of trees as an asset for New York City when the buds appear again in the early spring.



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Friday, November 7th, 2008

A group of us from CORE attended the recent REBNY Deal of the Year Awards ceremony held on a chilly (one could even say frigid) night in Central Park. Being the eve of Halloween, the party planners drew on the holiday as their inspiration for the décor for this elegant, black-tie affair as, apparently, did some of the guests. Happily, the drinks flowed and after the cocktail hour, guests moved into another tent for the dinner, awards ceremony and, most importantly, the dancing.  Celebrity sightings included Pam Liebman, CEO of Corcoran, noted actor and broker, Mark Lynch of CORE and Dolly Lenz, Queen of the Universe. Diane Ramirez, head of Halstead, presided over the awards ceremony in which the details of the first, second and third place deals were recounted. Coincidentally, agents from Halstead won each of the three awards. As soon as the last lamb chop was served, the music climbed a few decibels and a stampede of brokers hit the dance floor to boogie the evening away. After all, how often can one trip the light fantastic in Central Park, in black tie, to boot?



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With some commentators parsing the election results along voting patterns related to decline or increase in housing prices by state, others are analyzing the statements our President-elect has made in regard to protecting home ownership and cracking down on mortgage fraud on both his website and in statements made to the National Association of Realtors.

The real revelation comes from the Social Media applications the Obama campaign used to create the tremendous support that enabled a win at the polls. Real estate professionals, or any savvy operation for that matter, could take a few pages from this playbook and see results from using what are now proven methods for capturing and maintaining clientele.



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Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Watching the election results with New York’s resident ANIMAL, Bucky Turco, last night made for an interesting evening. His confidence in an Obama victory was steadfast but I was still wary of the initial undecided outcome of the 2000 election and general uncertainty in a weakened economy. Not long after midnight we were all able to breathe a collective sigh of relief knowing the path this country has chosen and looking to a brighter future for all. Thank goodness we didn’t have to watch any of those old goofy commercials.



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Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

A friend in Boston just told me about a creative approach to financing in this topsy-turvy world of late, brought to you by the intrepid uber-entrepreneur, Sir Richard Branson. Virgin Money operates on all levels of finance for a multitude of needs including mortgages, seller financing, small business and even student loans. The idea is to eliminate the bank and make all elements of the process a more informal affair. With the level of creativity required to keep deals going forward, this may be one approach that fits the bill.



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