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True Gotham: Avoiding Drama in Today’s Complex Real Estate Market

19 June, 2017 posted by: CORE

Reporting from the front lines, Douglas Heddings brings us “True Gotham” – your source for NYC real estate tips, advice, anecdotes and general market insights that aim to inform and enlighten.

If there is one word that I would use to describe the current climate of the New York City real estate market, it would be complex. It seems that most every deal is posing different challenges. From buyer, seller and even agent and attorney posturing, to financial curve balls from banks, and co-op board and managing agent interventions, all too frequently an unnecessary wrench is being thrown into the transaction process. It has been my experience over the years that there are several best practices that anyone involved in a transaction may implement to maintain peace and harmony through the closing:

1. Manage expectations: Communication is key here and it is imperative that all parties are informed of possible hurdles before having to leap them. When all else fails, think like Amazon and under promise and over deliver.

2. Remove ALL emotion: Emotion creates drama and drama has no place in a real estate transaction. Check yourself regularly to make sure that you are not being driven by your feelings.

3. Let go: No one person in a transaction controls all facets. Don’t attempt to control the deal nor the people involved in the deal.

4. Be professional: Be mindful of being of service to your customer and others involved in the transaction which leads to the final point…

5. ADD value: Ask yourself throughout the transaction if you are an asset or a liability and make every effort to add value to the transaction by practicing the 4 points above.

It is possible to have a smooth real estate transaction, but in order to do so, all parties involved must let go of any potential drama and remember that the ultimate goal is to peacefully trade real estate. This isn’t always possible but is definitely more so than many believe.



 

Trends & Tides: Agent Referral Fees and Entitlement

05 June, 2017 posted by: CORE

Trends & Tides takes a look at the ever changing environment of New York City real estate – past, present and future – by offering observations, analyzing perceptions and challenging myths, while giving a dose of reality along the way.

There have been many times over the course of my 25-year-long real estate career in which I have sent a friend, family member or customer to an agent in another city with the expectation of receiving monetary compensation for my referral. On many of those occasions, I took on the role of a liaison between my customer and the agent to whom I referred. In the spirit of adding value to a transaction and actually earning my referral fee, I would provide advice, guidance, opinions when asked and even assist with negotiations on some occasions. That said, there were also times where I simply made a phone call to another brokerage in the area in which my customer was searching and was pleasantly surprised months later when I received a check in the mail that could be as high as six figures for merely making a connection. With referral fees typically ranging between 10% and 40% of the broker’s side of the commission and 25% being an unwritten industry standard, the opportunity to make serious income abounds.

So many in the real estate industry believe that simply providing another agent with a qualified, ready, willing and able buyer or seller entitles them to a piece of that commission. Others feel strongly that they should add additional value to the experience in order to “earn” their referral fee. I feel quite strongly that unless you are at minimum vetting the agent with whom you’re suggesting your customer work or staying connected as a liaison and adding value to the transaction, then you are not entitled to a referral fee.

Most recently, it dawned on me when a long time loyal customer of mine called me to tell me that they had gone to contract on a large parcel of land in another part of the country. My initial reaction was “ouch, that stings” as the referral fee would have been upwards of $500,000. I immediately considered contacting their agent to “introduce myself” as their referring agent. Seriously! I was actually going to call and suggest that I get paid nearly $500K for a transaction in which I played absolutely ZERO part. ZERO! I know for certain that many agents do make an effort to insert themselves into deals in which they have played no part. After I calmed down and really considered all aspects of the situation, it dawned on me that I was not in fact entitled to take nearly a half a million dollars out of another agent’s pocket. I added no value and I didn’t even make the connection between the agent and a ready, willing and able buyer.

In short, it is my opinion that adding value to a transaction in which you have referred a buyer or seller is the only thing that entitles you to a referral fee. 


 

True Gotham: History Repeats in Manhattan Real Estate

16 May, 2017 posted by: CORE

Greenwich Village 007 (1)

Reporting from the front lines, Douglas Heddings brings us “True Gotham” – your source for NYC real estate tips, advice, anecdotes and general market insights that aim to inform and enlighten.

Once upon a time, I suggested that a client strongly consider a purchase at 15 Central Park West. That client barked at me that she “would NEVER pay $2,000/sf for an apartment in Manhattan! That is just absurd!” Since then, that unit has traded multiple times for as much as $8,000/sf.

In 2003, when my wife and I purchased our current home, the New York Post ran a two page spread complete with a full page photo of me in a “Superman” stance titled, “Buyer Shootout.” The piece covered the bidding war climate by which we were directly impacted and the buyer’s remorse that hit even people like me in the real estate industry. Our home has appreciated by nearly 300%.

There is no denying that the appreciation seen over the 25 years that I have been selling real estate is more than remarkable. Of course I could share anecdotes of those who were forced to sell in a down market for a loss, but there have been some prevailing themes in the past quarter century:

1. Location, location, location with the greatest opportunity in areas that are explored by pioneers like artists and other creative types (Soho, West Village, the Lower East Side.)

2. Don’t dismiss a big name architect or developer. (Robert A.M. Stern has the golden touch. Pair his masterful design with a location like 15 Central Park West or 70 Vestry and you can’t go wrong).

3. Look at opportunities for infrastructure growth. (Riverside Boulevard on the Upper West Side will see more shopping, movie theaters and even schools in the coming months.)

This brings me to my recent visit to Hudson Yards. WOW! Mark my words that this new enclave is going to be a destination community sought by people both in and out of Manhattan. Many of the residences will be enjoyed by the likes of employees at KKR, Blackstone and Millbank Tweed. Others will be occupied part-time by both international and domestic owners who simply want a Manhattan escape that will provide some of the best restaurants, shopping and culture in the world. The most impressive new development project in the United States, Related’s Hudson Yards will feature indoor and outdoor performances and concerts in the Shed, beautiful parks and open spaces, navigable artwork in the form of Thomas Heatherwick’s Vessel, and a seamless connection to the Highline which carries you past Zaha Hadid’s New York signature masterpiece and through West Chelsea to the Meatpacking District.

This may seem like a bold statement and only time will tell, but the residences at Hudson Yards are going to see long time appreciation in line with the 300-500% increases that I have witnessed in my 25 years in this business. Mark my words – many will look back and wish that they had the vision and courage to take the leap now. Closings are only 18 months away.



 

Trends & Tides: Early Spring Manhattan Market Snapshot

01 May, 2017 posted by: CORE

15 CPW park view PANO (1)

Trends & Tides takes a look at the ever changing environment of New York City real estate – past, present and future – by offering observations, analyzing perceptions and challenging myths, while giving a dose of reality along the way.

CORE saw a 26% increase in contract signings for the first quarter of 2017 and April has proven to bring more of the same with the Passover/Easter Holiday week seeing unexpected record activity. Spring has definitely sprung as my peers at other firms seem to echo my experience. That said, I wanted to take a deeper dive into exactly what is happening across different price points in the Manhattan marketplace (real time up to the minute data courtesy of UrbanDigs).

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You see that the $10M+ market has seen contraction in inventory since last year but it is worth noting that 178 of those 402 units over $10M are actually over $20M which is a considerable number of ultra-high end homes. Quite a bit of inventory if you are shopping the $20M+ market. Despite that fact, pending deals since last year remain flat at 72 deals in the $10M+ range in contract. As far as the other segments of the market, relatively few additional properties are on the market this year versus last and the contract activity seems to indicate that much of the new inventory is being absorbed rather quickly.

Making sense of what is going on in different price points, different locations, and overall different segments of the market is precisely why the consumer needs a real estate professional to assist with proper pricing and effective marketing strategy. Not everything is selling in this market and it remains imperative to navigate wisely.


 

True Gotham: Why I Live in New York City

13 March, 2017 posted by: CORE

Manhattan at Night BW

Reporting from the front lines, Douglas Heddings brings us “True Gotham” – your source for NYC real estate tips, advice, anecdotes and general market insights that aim to inform and enlighten.

My wife makes me! That is all. No, seriously, my wife was born and raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and made it clear to me that she wouldn’t likely ever have the desire to leave Manhattan. I migrated to the Big Apple in 1989 from the suburbs of Baltimore. Prior to my move, I had never even visited “the city” as the natives refer to her and I met my wife in 1992 so the rest is history. Many of my friends and family are baffled by our residence in New York and frequently ask questions like, “how is it raising children in the city?,” “isn’t it noisy/dirty/scary?,” “how do you afford it?”

The parents of the girls on my daughter’s soccer team will tell you that I frequently dream of living in a big house in Montclair, New Jersey with some grass and maybe even a pool. But the reality is that every time I begin to get swept away in the day dream, I realize how incredible the last 28 years have been for me as a resident of “the city.”

• The food and restaurant scenes are unparalleled and on a practical level, there just aren’t too many places where the daughter can have Chinese, the wife sushi, the son Mexican and I Indian all at the same dinner table. And given that my wife cooks about 4 days a week, she is able to shop on her way home from work for the freshest ingredients straight from some of the best markets in the world.  Most of those markets deliver too!

• According to a quick Google search, there are upwards of 100 museums in New York City. My daughter and her grandfather are in the process of visiting them one at a time whenever he’s in town from Santa Cruz.

• Broadway and Off-Broadway shows are just a short 30-40 blocks from our home. My wife and daughter have seen Wicked twice and we were even blessed this year to score 2 face value tickets to Hamilton so that our son and daughter could attend together. Kate and I also scored 2 face value tickets separately and wow, what a show!

• My almost 16-year-old son has been traveling by subway to and from school since he was 9 (full disclosure, we followed him for the first couple of weeks until he proved he was ready.)

• Our kids have MANY friends from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and cultures and they don’t feel the need to discuss those backgrounds. They are just simply friends.

• My 13-year-old daughter does not go to the same school as her older brother because they are very different people. Both schools are well suited for each of them. That choice is invaluable!

• The city truly NEVER sleeps! If you want a hamburger at 5AM, the diner or corner deli will happily oblige.

• The infrastructure is incredible. This city is never paralyzed by weather and rarely are people rushing out to buy bread and milk before a blizzard. You can likely have it delivered in the middle of a blizzard.

• Yes, it is expensive but you can also earn a very handsome living here.

Basically, the availability and convenience of just about everything makes me appreciate the life that I have here with my family and serves to wake me from the day dreams of suburban bliss that so often permeate my mind. The grass is not always greener.



 

Trends & Tides: Buying or Selling a Manhattan Co-op

13 February, 2017 posted by: CORE

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Trends & Tides’ takes a look at the ever changing environment of New York City real estate – past, present and future – by offering observations, analyzing perceptions and challenging myths, while giving a dose of reality along the way.

A simple question posed on social media last night made clear that many still long for an explanation of the co-op buying process in NYC. So I am re-sharing this TrueGotham post from November 2009:

Here is a step by step guide of what to expect from the point a contract is sent to a buyer’s attorney until that glorious day at the closing table. And don’t forget to review your closing costs early on in the process so you have no surprises.

1. A contract is sent to the buyer’s attorney from the seller’s attorney from a boiler plate form with attached suggested riders

2. The buyer’s attorney does their due diligence for their client which consists of but is not limited to reading of the Co-op Board minutes, reviewing the building financial statements, offering plan, proprietary lease, and house rules.

3. The buyer’s attorney then marks up the contract with suggested changes and it goes back and forth until both attorneys agree on language.

4. Once the contract is finalized, the buyer will sign and provide a 10% deposit check to be delivered to and deposited in your attorney’s escrow account until closing.

5. The seller will then sign the contract.

6. Once the contract is fully executed (signed by all parties), it is delivered to the buyer and they have typically 30 days to submit their application to the Board with their mortgage commitment letter.

7. The seller’s real estate agent reviews the board application and almost always has to request additional documentation or changes which takes approximately 1-5 business days.

8. Multiple copies of the application are made by the real estate agent and delivered to the managing agent.

9. The managing agent then takes 1-2 weeks to “process” the application running credit reports, etc and then they disseminate to Board members.

10. Board members then review the purchase application and all supporting documentation to determine if they will interview. Members may choose to review and give their opinions via email, they may require a discussion to take place at a set monthly meeting time, or they may decide to review packages together on an as needed basis.

11. Assuming they find the application acceptable, a notice of interview date can come anywhere from 1 week to month after Board receives package from management (this is where a seller can reach out to board to kindly request them to expedite the process).

12. Board interviews buyers

13. Typically approved within 1-3 business days but some buildings take longer.

14. Closing is then scheduled to take place approximately 10-14 days after approval or as stated in the contract (most Manhattan deals NEVER close on the date specified in the contract).

Lastly, it is imperative to mention that banks are also slowing the process considerably these days with tighter lending standards.

So realistically, one should expect a closing of a Manhattan co-op to take approximately 2-4 months from the time a contract is sent out. Having said that, things like holidays, vacations of Board members and other pressing business that a Board may have to address are all factors that can lead to further delays.

Hopefully this will help to manage the expectations of all who are venturing into the sale or purchase of a Manhattan co-op.



 

True Gotham: Social Media and Doing Right by Our Clients

30 January, 2017 posted by: CORE

TG

Reporting from the front lines, Douglas Heddings brings us “True Gotham” – your source for NYC real estate tips, advice, anecdotes and general market insights that aim to inform and enlighten. 

This past September I decided to take a break from social media, specifically Facebook. While I missed the pictures of my sister’s kids, the posts from my nephews, in-laws, my mom and many of my friends, I did not miss the political posts that contributed to my considerable loss of faith in a segment of our nation. Even more aggravating than the nonsensical diatribes on our political climate, I noticed a huge surge in the amount of egocentric posts by some of my very own real estate colleagues. Facebook Live posts from the backs of taxis, poorly acted vignettes created under the auspices of showing the social media sphere how one runs their business and even inflammatory and highly offensive personal political views are attacking many of the New Yorkers whom we serve.

We were drowning in a perfect storm of self-produced “reality” TV shows, easy access to broadcast ourselves to the masses and an epidemic of unbridled narcissism. We utterly and completely missed the point of why we do what we do – we find homes for the men, women, friends, families and children who make up the greatest city in the world.

Have we forgotten that the customer is ultimately whom we serve? In these posts, I see no mention of them, no appearance and rarely a word about them, unless it’s in effusive praise of the agent. Many may think this is funny coming from the guy who introduced the guided video tour to the Manhattan market in 2006. Yes, there were times when I was shooting where I lost sight of the fact that the video was about the property and ultimately doing my job for the customer. Fortunately, I had videographers who always brought me back to reality (real reality) to maintain focus on the task at hand: doing right by my homeowner.

I’m back on social media now. As much as some of the content remains an irritant, I see many ways in which video, Facebook Live, Snapchat, Instagram and the like can play a positive role in servicing the client and raising the bar in the real estate industry. Some are doing it right but most aren’t, in my opinion. There is a better way and I have to believe that those of us who are committed to doing right by our clients will find it.



 

True Gotham: Holiday Homes

19 December, 2016 posted by: CORE

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Reporting from the front lines, Douglas Heddings brings us “True Gotham” – your source for NYC real estate tips, advice, anecdotes and general market insights that aim to inform and enlighten. 

There are varying opinions regarding whether or not a seller should list or keep their home listed over the holiday season. There’s no doubt that activity slows a bit during the period approaching New Year’s Eve but I question whether that slow down is more a function of decreased inventory as misinformed sellers pull properties from the market. Inventory definitely drops just as it does in August, but in the 25 years that I have been involved in selling NYC real estate, I can tell you that my experience has consistently been that properties that are listed over the holiday period often find buyers.

This year sees Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa beginning on consecutive days: the 24th, 25th and 26th, respectively. So, it’s very possible that there won’t be many showings on those three days, but I’m betting that the week following the start of those holidays will see considerable activity – only if your property is still on the market.

Happy Selling and Happy Holidays!



 

Trends & Tides: From the Trenches

05 December, 2016 posted by: CORE

tandt-pic

Trends & Tides’ takes a look at the ever changing environment of New York City real estate – past, present and future – by offering observations, analyzing perceptions and challenging myths, while giving a dose of reality along the way.

Quarterly reports serve their purpose in our ultra complex real estate market but sometimes it’s nice to check out what is happening real time, particularly as the market shifts.

Anecdotal evidence from our own ranks of 180 agents at CORE as well as a peek at real time data from UrbanDigs seems to be telling us something very important: the bridge between bid and ask is narrowing, and therefore contract activity is picking up. Last week saw an unusual number of signed contracts here at CORE for this time of year and daily listing reports show that as many as 70-80% of currently active listings are reducing prices. The combination of these two factors tells me that sellers have softened and are finally ready to let go of old price expectations and meet buyers at a palatable price for all.

As we approach 2017, more will be revealed, but if buyers and sellers continue to have a meeting of the minds, sales volume should pick up. Only time will tell.



 

True Gotham: Opinions Aren’t Facts, Just Ask Your Broker

21 November, 2016 posted by: CORE

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Reporting from the front lines, Douglas Heddings brings us “True Gotham” – your source for NYC real estate tips, advice, anecdotes and general market insights that aim to inform and enlighten. 

As the current real estate market continues to shift, sifting through information and the opinions of real estate professionals becomes increasingly more relevant. A recent communication with a buyer’s agent reminded me of just how much influence an agent’s opinion can have on whether or not a transaction takes place, despite whether or not said agent has the experience or knowledge worthy of such influence. This conversation brought me back to a True Gotham post from September 2010 in which I discussed opinions and how my opinion and a $1 will buy you a cup of coffee:

If there is one thing I know for sure after all of the barbecues, cocktail parties, and various summer get-togethers, it’s that everyone has an opinion about the real estate market (I repeat, there is not ONE national real estate market). So what do all of these (mine included) anecdotal opinions mean? They simply prove that the perception of what is currently happening in anyone’s specific hyper-local real estate market is greatly influenced by the media, in the trenches personal experiences and general real estate industry chatter.

Let’s break down the legitimacy of all three:

1.  The Media:  I LOVE the media! I think it is incredibly powerful and in the hands of responsible reporters can serve the consumer very well. But often times reporters of “man bites dog” scenarios are much more effective at negatively skewing perceptions about housing and the economy. In my almost 20 years of selling Manhattan real estate, never has the media been so powerful in swaying public perception about housing on a daily basis. The number of emails and phone calls is directly proportional to positive or negative news stories about housing, the stock market, mortgage rates or the global economy. That said, some excellent reporters are out there doing their very best to stay ahead of the curve and report current trends which leads to a more informed consumer. Even bloggers like Noah Rosenblatt at UrbanDigs are among those leading the way towards transparency and accurate reporting of current market conditions.

2.  From the Trenches:  Anecdotal at best, this information is only as dependable as the person sharing it. For instance, a savvy and knowledgeable real estate professional, appraiser and market expert like Jonathan Miller provides useful data and anecdotes that give incredible insight into current market conditions as well as forecasts for what’s to come. A sophisticated broker or real estate agent with real time experience in a specific market can also provide useful information. But a broker or agent who is in “desperation” mode trying to keep their business afloat is not typically a good source for market conditions.

3.  Industry Chatter:  This in my opinion is often the least reliable as egos almost always get in the way of reality.  No broker/agent wants to discuss when their business is suffering and my experience has almost always been that when I share with someone that volume has slowed, they get most uncomfortable and either change the subject or throw me some open ended statement about how busy they have been.

It still holds true that making sense of your specific real estate situation comes down to analyzing data, buyer or seller motivation, and the guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable real estate agent.

Click here to read the full True Gotham post from 2010: A Broker’s Opinion Is Just An Opinion



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