Culture

 

True Gotham: Mindfulness Matters in Work & Play

10 April, 2017 posted by: CORE

Central Park East from 1280 Fifth (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.

I just returned from a family vacation where I decided to truly drop off the grid. I left both my smartphone and my laptop at home and decided to focus on relaxing and spending quality time with my wife and two teenagers. I believe that it was for this reason that I would rank this vacation as one of my top three of all time. Coincidentally, my boss and the CEO of CORE, Shaun Osher recommended that I read Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. It was an appropriate read on the beaches of Mexico, where it is quite easy to eliminate noise and be in the now particularly when you’ve decided to “unplug.”

As the Director of Sales at CORE, I’m often pulled in so many directions that at the end of a day I lack any real sense of accomplishment. All too frequently I seem to get caught up in busy work and simply spin my wheels. The doing “less but better” mantra in this book appealed to me. Who doesn’t want to simplify their lives in an effort to become more productive?

Essentialism lays out a road map of exactly how to eliminate the noise from your life, both business and personal, in an effort to live a more meaningful and mindful existence. We have the ability to choose that which we focus on and McKeown does a fantastic job of illustrating how the choices we make, including the things that we consider yet eliminate are all part of the voyage toward a better and more productive life. The author discusses things like the necessity of implementing play in our lives as a means of stimulating creativity and clarity. Play is not just for kids. He also illustrates that an essentialist is not one who simply cuts things out of their lives but rather someone who considers all options in an effort to choose the best and most productive path.

If you are feeling stretched at home or at the office, this is a must read. Being busy does not necessarily equate to being productive and trying to be all things to all people can be overwhelming and unhealthy. As someone who has some experience with meditation, Essentialism provides additional tools to help anyone on the journey to true mindfulness. I have already begun to implement strategies from the book that have helped me to focus on the task at hand whether it be a project that needs my attention at the office or a meaningful father-daughter conversation during an evening ride to soccer practice. The relatively simple act of determine what is most important and productive to you is incredibly liberating!



 

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.



 

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

greenwich-village-02

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!



 

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

21 November, 2016 posted by: CORE

ues-r2-0510

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



 

True Gotham: Practicing Professionalism in Polarizing Times

24 October, 2016 posted by: CORE

central-park-columbus-circle3

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. 

Those who know me know all too well that I have been a very active and engaged participant on social media almost since Facebook’s inception. So, it was shocking to some to discover that I abandoned Facebook back in September because I found much of the content that I was reading to be more of an irritant than a joy. Yes, I’m referring to the polarizing forces in our current political environment. I am definitely a sufferer of election anxiety and many of my friends and family share my pain. “So what?”, you say? This current dilemma has me asking myself, my family, friends and agents: How exactly do we continue to behave in a professional manner and do our jobs while maintaining and holding true to our personal convictions? Is it possible to maintain a level of professionalism and support a business or person who is so diabolically opposed to your fundamental beliefs?

I have worked with countless people over the last quarter of a century. Most of the people I have helped have been interesting, intelligent, sophisticated and pleasant. Some, not so much. But I never chose not to work with someone based on their personal views or beliefs. In fact, some years back, I was the real estate agent for a very prominent campaign manager who is currently front and center in the news. We definitely did not see eye-to-eye but in the many months in which I worked with this person, we shared a mutual respect and sometimes heated yet comical banter over significant political issues. Our inability to see eye-to-eye did not cause either of us to waiver from our convictions. Unfortunately, despite having a contract in hand for a gorgeous Manhattan home, a mansion in the suburbs trumped city living (see what I did there?). That said, there is a very fine line that determines the ability to tolerate the person whose views are so diametrically opposed to your own. For some, it is simply business and anything goes in the name of making a buck. For others, differing opinions on topics like abortion, immigration, and women’s and minority’s rights, make the prospect of working with someone absolutely unpalatable.

The one thing I think we can all agree upon is that, while difficult at times, rising above is the only way forward.



 

True Gotham: Marketing Your Home in a Shifting Market

19 September, 2016 posted by: CORE

skyline-2

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. 

I have been writing for my True Gotham blog since April 2006. The very first broker blogger in New York City, I have spent the past 10+ years making every effort to be of service to the consumer and the industry in hopes of raising the bar for everyone. This blog post from May 13, 2008: Marketing Your Home in a Softening Market is a perfect example of the cyclical real estate market and how we must shift strategies as market conditions change:

Other than the media coverage of both the ultra-luxury slowdown and the hyperactivity in the sub $2M market, there is no solid indication yet from actual numbers as to which direction the Manhattan real estate market is heading. That said, top producing real estate agents seem to be quite busy as marketing and selling a home in today’s market requires experience that transcends simply picking any price, sending out some postcards and waiting for multiple bids.

Those who regularly read True Gotham know my feelings about accurate pricing no matter how the market is behaving, but when buyers have more inventory to choose from, accurate pricing becomes even more of a priority.

In addition to proper pricing, here are some important factors to consider when selling in today’s real estate market:

  1. Hire a “genuine” real estate professional with experience and knowledge: By genuine I don’t mean properly licensed (that’s obvious). I am talking about someone who doesn’t over promise and who can be trusted. Don’t hire a “buy now, real estate prices always go up” kind of agent. Remember that the prospective purchaser is forming an opinion of your property through the representation by your agent.  Don’t let an agent make a bad first impression.  It’s an uphill battle if a buyer doesn’t believe what your agent is “selling.”
  2. Seek both quality and quantity through transparency: Make sure that you are pleased with how your property is being represented to both the public and the brokerage community. It should be displayed as beautifully as possible without misleading a buyer. This will insure that buyers who take the time to visit your home will be pleased and not negatively surprised (e.g., don’t be afraid to highlight how quiet the place is despite the lack view…a prospective purchaser who expects a view and discovers none is NOT going to buy your home).
  3. Change your marketing strategy: What works during a housing boom doesn’t always work in a more “normal” or declining market. Don’t be afraid to suggest “out of the box” marketing ideas to your agent. Discuss the marketing strategy regularly and determine whether changes need to be implemented. We at CORE believe we are a marketing company that specializes in real estate. That translates to creativity and success for our customers.
  4. Know your competition: Make sure your agent is informed of comparable properties that are currently on the market and that she/he can support the reasons for your price.
  5. Prepare your home for the market: It doesn’t hurt to visit comparable properties at open houses to see how your property is perceived in the marketplace. Touch up paint and declutter at minimum. At CORE, we offer our agents staging services via our CORE Styling program which insures that your property is presented in the optimal light when coming to market.
  6. Be patient: Over the past decade, properties have sold moments after hitting the market despite inexperienced agents and/or ridiculous pricing. The buying frenzy, although still occurring in some segments of the market, is less common and patience is a necessity in today’s marketplace. Choosing the right agent who stands by you throughout the entire process is critical.
  7. Don’t be stubborn (too patient): Trust that your real estate professional has a firm grasp of market conditions and listens carefully when they suggest marketing changes or price adjustments. Don’t get caught chasing the market down by resisting the lowering of your price. The best strategy to ensure an efficient sale is to adjust your price ahead of the competition.

Those are just some things to consider if you’re a seller in today’s real estate market. All of this said, there is no more important factor than trusting the real estate professional that you hire. If you don’t have faith that they know what they are doing, you may just get bitten in the asking price.

It is remarkable to me how on point this advice from 8 years ago is in our current real estate market. Isn’t it interesting how the more things change, the more they stay the same?



 

True Gotham: An Excellent Real Estate Agent Is Worth A Multiple of Their Weight In Gold

18 July, 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. 

I have been blogging since 2006 in an effort to raise the bar in real estate and to dispel the used car salesman stereotype of real estate agents. Despite my efforts, I am still shocked by some of the incompetence I witness in the industry. Thankfully, the industry continues to make great strides with the overall quality and intelligence of my current day colleagues vastly improved from 25 years ago.

As the Director of Sales of CORE, I have a different and more objective perspective of the real estate agent. Although rarely an intimate player in the transaction, I’m often sought out for advice, direction or simply approval regarding certain aspects of the deal. Because of my involvement from pre-listing to closing, it is easy for me to appreciate the agent who rises to the top by providing a level of professionalism, insight and knowledge that makes them a true asset in any transaction.

Here are just a few of the things that contribute to an agent being an asset in your transaction:

  • Being of Service – The better real estate agents understand that they are there to serve and assist you.
  • Excellent Communication – This means LISTENING to the consumer but also communicating effectively and HONESTLY about market conditions and all things real estate.
  • Staying Out of Their Own Way – The best agents constantly check themselves to make sure the consumer’s best interest is always primary.
  • They Don’t Sell – Hard selling rarely aligns with the consumer’s best interest.
  • Excellent Navigators – In an information rich world, making sense of and navigating the information is key.

Agents who practice the above and constantly try to frame themselves as an asset in the transaction tend to indeed be worth more than their weight in gold.



 

True Gotham: Culture Fit Directly Impacts Consumer

13 June, 2016 posted by: CORE

Central Park Columbus Circle

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 many factors that determine the success of a real estate agent and in turn the success of the real estate transaction. Some of the obvious internal forces are charisma, professionalism, emotional intelligence (EQ), negotiating acumen and overall real estate knowledge. And of course the obvious external factors are the tools and support provided by the agent’s firm. But many agents and consumers alike underestimate the role that company culture plays in the nurturing, support and success of the real estate business.

Think about your favorite job for a moment. Perhaps it was last year or maybe even decades ago? Perhaps it is the job you currently hold? Now consider what makes/made the experience so positive. A proper culture fit is likely to blame. I can tell you from 25 years of experience in the NYC real estate business that when the culture of a company matches that of the real estate agent, the results are astounding and resonate beyond the agent’s business into every aspect of the real estate transaction. Imagine the real estate agent who is happy, positive, feels supported and nurtured and has an overall optimistic outlook of their business and the upshot of that on each and every real estate transaction that he or she touches.

In an effort to determine if a culture is the right fit for you as an agent, consider asking yourself these questions (via Katie Bouton of Harvard Business Review):

  • What type of culture do you thrive in?
  • What values are you drawn to and what’s your ideal workplace?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • How would you describe the company’s culture based on what you’ve seen? Is this something that works for you?
  • What best practices would you bring with you from your previous organization? Do you see yourself being able to implement these best practices in this new environment?
  • Think about a time when you worked with/for an organization where you felt you were not a strong culture fit. Why was it a bad fit?

Finding a good culture fit is key to business success, and agents who love the culture in which they work are more successful and better equipped to serve their buyers and sellers.



 

True Gotham: Spring Inventory Climbs but Summer Looms

26 May, 2016 posted by: CORE

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For buyers of New York City real estate, any report of expanded inventory is welcome news to say the least. It is surely music to the ears of many buyers that Manhattan inventory has indeed increased by 52% since the first of the year (via UrbanDigs). It may be equally as exciting to buyers to hear that although the number of contracts signed has increased by 6% in the same time period, the year over year comparison shows a 13% increase in inventory and a nearly 20% decrease in contract signings. But this is what has happened this spring. What can we expect going forward?

Summer tends to be a more historically predictable season with both contracting inventory as well as fewer signed contracts. If we look at the past 4 years of inventory and contract signings, the patterns are quite predictable:

Sales Inventory

Contracts Signed

If history is any indication of what summer will bring, it is safe to say that inventory will contract by approximately twice as much as contract signings. Our market will remain tight as it continues its search for equilibrium.



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