Buyers: How to Craft an Offer the Seller Can’t Refuse

BrickUndergroundOctober 12, 2015

In the competitive sport that is NYC real estate, a perfectly crafted offer is your best, and fastest, way to getting the apartment you want. But what's a perfect offer—meaning one that doesn't turn off the seller with a woefully underpriced starting bid, nor doesn't leave you overpaying and settling for terms that don't work for your needs? Here's what keep in mind before sending off that email to the broker.


Price it right

"At the end of the day the price is really the name of the game," says Ari Harkov, an agent with Halstead Property. When Harkov's working with a seller who has multiple offers on a property, he puts them all in a spreadsheet, organized by offer price. "We start with the highest bid and go from there," he says.

If you're making a bid on an apartment with multiple offers and the seller's asking for best and final, "the winning offer is often between 10 and 12 percent more than the asking price," says Patrick Lilly of CORE. (Note: You don't want to go too high if you're planning on getting a mortgage; if the appraisal is much lower than your accepted offer, the bank won't finance it all.)

While you'll need to take the seller's broker's word for it as to whether there's a lot of interest in the place, if you do your homework and know the market well, and keep an eye open at open houses, you can more easily confirm whether the agent is telling the truth. Also, see whether the listing's been saved on StreetEasy by a lot of users—that can give you a sense of interest in the place, says Harkov.

If you don't know the broker and suspect they might be inflating offer numbers, Lilly suggests subtracting 20 percent from what they're quoting you.
"You may get a vague answer like 'We’ve had strong interest.' Which to me would mean there are no other offers," says Doug Williford of Warburg. "Or 'we have a strong offer,' which I would normally interpret as there is an offer, but not necessarily above ask."

"If the answer is 'We have multiple offers above ask,' you pretty much have to assume that the broker is being honest and proceed accordingly. Either it’s worth a price above the ask (to you) and you bid accordingly, or it’s not and you continue with your search. (Interestingly, if you decline to make a bid at this point, and the broker was overstating interest, you may get a call back from the broker with egg on their face looking to make a deal at your lower price, Williford says.)

To figure out a reasonable offer, "look at how long the apartment's been on the market and how much comparable apartments in the building and area are sold for," says Williford. "Take into account whether this one is on a higher or lower floor—you can usually add or delete a percent of the price per floor."

To see how much leeway you'll have on price, check out how long the apartment's been on the market on StreetEasy. "The longer it’s been on the market without a price reduction, the lower you can go," says Lilly. But if they just reduced the price, your bargaining power is low.

If you do decide to bid below ask, be reasonable, or you'll risk offending the seller or coming across as less-than-serious. The experts advise against going lower than 10 percent less than ask.

And "temper a lower offer by saying 'this is my initial offer'," says Lilly. This way, the seller knows you're up for negotiation.

How to sweeten the deal—even with a lower price


An offer is not just about the price being offered. "It's about who can close," says Williford. "You want to give the seller and their broker the idea that if they go with you it’s a sure thing," he says.


There are several ways to do that. First, you can offer cash, which means the deal won't be held up waiting for bank financing.


If you don't plan to pay cash, you can forgo the mortgage contingency, which means you're out of a deposit if you can't get the mortgage, but the seller doesn't have to worry about the mortgage falling through.


If you decide to go without a mortgage contingency, though, make sure you have enough cash in the bank to make up the difference if the appraisal comes in low (and the bank will only lend 80 percent of the appraisal amount, not the price in the contract).


You could also run into trouble if the bank doesn't approve the building. So before you sign a contract with no mortgage contingency, you need to make sure your bank is willing to loan in that building.


Another way to put the odds in your favor: Be flexible on the closing date. Make it work for the seller's needs—whether they need to move out slowly or quickly. Sometimes that could mean moving into a rental for some time.


You can also write a love letter about the apartment. Nothing too long, just a brief note that tugs the seller's heartstrings. Maybe mention your plans to raise a family there, or your love of the neighborhood. No matter what, it can't hurt, our experts say.

Make sure everything you need is there


Shooting off an email with a number is not going to get you an apartment. "You need the offer to be clear, concise and well-worded," says Williford.


Offers—which are emailed—include the sales price you're bidding, whether or not there's a mortgage contingency, how much financing (if any) you're going for, and what your desired closing date is. You can write "flexible" or "whatever works for the seller" to sweeten the deal. If you're financing, you'll also need a pre-approval letter from the bank (this is the next step after pre-qualification letter, and can take about two weeks to get).


Usually, buyers and their brokers include the REBNY financial statement (which has both your net worth and income on it).


A quick bio about the buyer and aforementioned "love letter" are usually included too.


And once you have all the documents in place, it's time to compile and create professional-looking email, hitsend and hope to hear some good news in a few days.

Selling (and Staging) With An Animal At Home: 3 Key Tricks

BrickUndergroundOctober 08, 2015

It's an old saw at this point that when it comes to unloading an apartment, sellers should minimize the personal touches, and stay far, far away from the open house. But what about your pet?


Charmed though some buyers might be to be met by a cute furry (or feathered) friend during a visit, the fact is that your pet will likely complicate matters. "To maximize the potential of getting top dollar for your apartment, you want to do whatever you can to make your property look and feel pristine," says Platinum Properties agent Teresa Stephenson. "This means that it cannot look, feel, smell like a pet lives there."


Even in the best case scenario—you get a potential buyer who's a major pet lover—your critter companion will draw attention away from the apartment itself, which is exactly what you don't want. "When I had a listing where the owner had this beautiful cocker spaniel, everyone would walk through this 2000-square-foot loft looking down at the dog" and not at the apartment itself, says CORE agent Tony Sargent. If you're selling (and you and Mr. Bigglesworth haven't moved out yet), here are three crucial strategies to keep in mind:




Almost every broker will tell a seller to make themselves scarce during the open house, and the same goes for your pet. "The same way people have a personal reaction to color, they have a personal reaction to a pet," says Sargent. "Whether they’re lovable or scary to someone, that’s going to distract them from the apartment."

This could mean sending your pet to stay with a relative for a little while, putting it in daycare, or even taking it for an extra long walk during the open house. For sellers with dogs, Sargent notes, "We'll ask for 24 hours notice from brokers or buyers so we can have time to set up a dog walker."


Cats, admittedly, are a little more difficult. For a recent sale of his own family's apartment (shared with two cats and a dog), Compass agent Eugene Litvak tells us they "sent the cats to my mother in law's place to stay, had a friend babysit the dog, and would present the apartment without any pets in it." At the very least, Sargent says, try to confine your cat to one room in the apartment (though not a crate, as they'll likely get agitated).


Put it this way. "I don't know any buyers who would say, 'I'll pay $50,000 more because you have a dog," says Litvak, "But someone might decide they don't want it because they visit and the dog's there."




Granted, this is good advice anytime you're selling, but it's especially important if you've got animals running around. "If you're not doing it yourself, hire a housekeeper to keep the apartment extra clean," says Sargent. "It's an investment in your investment."


It's particularly important to keep the place well vacuumed to minimize dander for potentially allergic buyers. If there's a litter box on site, clean it frequently to keep any smells from lingering in the air. "If there are any smells, consider replacing any carpeting, removing rugs, and/or painting the walls," adds Stephenson.


You may even want to resort to some diversion tactics."I start with scent, or scent coverage," says Mirador Real Estate Managing Partner Karla Saladino. (We've got more tips on that front here). "I also hit up Etsy to find the best looking cat box covers—they're worth the $100 or so cost."




Besides clearing the apartment of your pet's excess fur (and odors), you'll want to remove or stash their personal effects as well. This means ditching toys, feeding dishes, scratching posts, beds, and more. (Litvak, for his part, sent his scratching posts on vacation along with the cats, and took his dog's crate off-site for showings.)


This is all doubly true for litter boxes or wee-wee pads. "I once had a buyer come through an open house, and all they could talk about was the wee wee pad that was out," says Sargent. "'What did it do to the floors?'" Not exactly the response you want from someone you're hoping will for over hundreds of thousands of dollars for your home.

New and Noteworthy: A Selection of Exceptional Townhouse Listings

New York ObserverOctober 07, 2015

The townhouse market has always appealed to a certain kind of buyer—one attracted to formal living, period detail, outdoor space and the like. Recently, however, the townhouse market has appeared to expand somewhat. Part of this, perhaps, can be seen as due to an influx of brokers marketing townhouses. In the past, “most brokers wouldn’t sell townhouses, because they didn’t know about them and it’s kind of a specialty,” said Douglas Elliman broker George van der Ploeg, who specializes in townhouses. “Now, as prices are going up, more and more non-townhouse brokers are getting into townhouses, because it is so lucrative.”


But the definition of townhouse has also morphed; no longer are they necessarily convenience-challenged structures from a previous century. “People have always gravitated towards apartments, and not townhouses, because of services. Now, there is a new service, called virtual doormen—before, there was a big worry for townhouses as to how you are going to get the delivery without a doorman, but now, there is a way to do that, which was never there before,” Corcoran broker Thomas Wexler said. These days, then, it’s possible to get the aesthetic with expedience.


CORE's 1 Centre Market Place and 9 1/2 Jane Street were included in the round-up.


1 Centre Market Place

Little Italy
Built by designer and developer couple Robert and Courtney Novogratz in 2006. Underwent another renovation that included an upgraded sound system. Four stories, with a roof deck and two terraces.
Bedrooms: Five
Bathrooms: Three full, two powder rooms
Square feet: 4,100
Listing price: $6.95 million
Brokerage: CORE


9 1/2 Jane Street
West Village
A private walkway leads up to a gated entrance of the 25-foot-wide townhouse. The first floor has an open kitchen and floor-to-ceiling glass windows that open to a private garden with a fire pit, and there’s a planted rooftop terrace on top of the home.
Bedrooms: Three
Bathrooms: Two full, one powder room
Square feet: 3,500
Listing price: $15.99 million
Brokerage: CORE

The 11 Best Fireplaces for Sale Right Now in New York City

CurbedOctober 05, 2015

It's fall, y'all: The leaves are starting to turn, the weather has gotten perceptibly cooler, and if you're anything like us, you've already gotten all of your cardigans out of storage. Cooler weather also makes us think of fireplaces, one of those apartment amenities that you never really think about until there's a chill in the air and suddenly nothing seems nicer than curling up with a book in front of a roaring fire. (Maybe that's just us.) In any case, plenty of New York City apartments have the vestiges of them—elaborate mantles that have been repurposed as decorative elements, or cut-outs in exposed brick walls—but there are also plenty of units where you'll find real, honest-to-god wood-burning (or, less impressively, gas) fireplaces. Take a look at some of our favorites that recently hit the market.


This 19th-century home faces picturesque Stuyvesant Square Park (which may explain its $15 million price tag), and has five bedrooms over nearly 6,500 square feet of space. It also has five fireplaces, including one with beautiful Art Deco ornamentation that's in the dining room, near a winding staircase. And just in case the park being nearby isn't enough for you, there's a garden off the first floor.

The Price of Fame

Departures MagazineOctober 01, 2015

CEO and Founder, Shaun Osher was featured in the October issue of Departures Magazine in a piece on starchitects.

What Makes a First-Floor Apartment a “Maisonette”?

BrickUndergroundSeptember 30, 2015

Sometimes, it seems like there are as many real estate jargon terms out there as there are actual apartments. In our new feature, Bricktionary, we decode them, one buzzword at a time.


As a rule, ground floor apartments get treated as second-class citizens of the real estate world, and not without good reason. Oftentimes, living on street level means extra noise, less light (thanks, in part, to bars on the windows), and a higher chance of rodent run-ins, not to mention nosy (or pervy) passerby peeking in. There's a reason these apartments are generally cheaper than the exact equivalent located several floors up.


And then there are first-floor apartments dubbed maisonettes, which often carry impressive price tags. (Here's one on West 10th Street asking just under $10 million.) Indeed, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that developers "eager to establish another class of coveted apartments" are transforming these ground-floor spaces from offices to luxe, high-priced apartments. So what makes a space a maisonette, and not just any old first-floor apartment?


Brokers say it's all about the private street-level entrance. "It's the outside entrance that really defines it," says CORE broker Lawrence Treglia, who notes that maisonettes also often have an additional entrance straight into the building's lobby. These apartments frequently have more than one floor (the term technically means "small house," after all), but it's not a strict requirement.


Typically, you'll find traditional maisonettes in older buildings in areas like the Upper East and Upper West Sides, or the West Village (as pictured above). However, as the craze for "townhouse-style" living marches on, Alyssa Soto Brody (also an agent with CORE) says she has seen many of them in recently constructed building in areas like Williamsburg, Cobble Hill, and Park Slope. Brooklyn is really known for townhouse living, and in neighborhoods like these, "this is a way to do it creatively," she says. (And also a way to get a taste of life as a townhouse owner if you can't swing the price of an actual house.) In any case, if a broker tries to talk up a maisonette on your next apartment hunt, no private entrance means no claim to the name.

A $39.5M Palace on the UES and 9 More Tri-state Luxe Listings

New York PostSeptember 30, 2015


$25 Million, 74 Washington Place

Turett Collaborative Architects have done more transforming than Michael Bay. This particular project began life in 1853 as a Greek Revival townhouse. But then TCA recently got their hot little hands on it and upgraded it into a seven-level, “state-of-the-art” residence.


SPECS AND THE CITY: 7,053 square feet, six bedrooms, 6½ bathrooms, Greenwich Village


PERKS: More than 1,300 square feet of exterior living space including a private garden, eat-in chef’s kitchen with Gaggenau and Sub-Zero appliances, finished cellar, elevator, millwork by Henrybuilt, two gas fireplaces and tailor-made marble and tile work.


WHAT’STHE CATCH? With “unparalleled views” of Washington Square Park, speed chess might best Monday Night Football as your favorite spectator sport.


THE X-FACTOR: Much like their tigers, Siberia’s oak makes ours look like a joke. Lucky for you, your floors are made of it. (Oak, not tiger.)


CONTACT: Emily Beare and David Beare, Core, 212-726-0786 and 212-726-0743

Pricey Digs: Pretty Prewars in Chelsea

Luxury Listings NYCSeptember 24, 2015

Henry Hershkowitz and Heather McDonough's listing at 427 West 21st Street, #PLR was included in the September/October 2015 issue.

Development Update: Living the Charmed Life

Luxury Listings NYCSeptember 24, 2015

New luxury condos are coming to Soho, the New York Post reported, to meet demand from buyers eager to live among the nabe's charming cobblestone streets and cast-iron buildings. Among the projects are 150 Wooster Street, where a developer plans a new six-unit building; 30 Thompson Street, the Karim Rashid-designed condo building and 42 Crosby Street, designed by Annabelle Selldorf. Sales began at 10 Sullivan Street, a new Cary Tamarkin-designed condo tower, last year.

Holier-Than-Thou NYC Real Estate

StreetEasy BlogSeptember 24, 2015

If you hadn’t heard – and/or have been living in an atheist bomb shelter – the Pope is coming to NYC tomorrow and there is no shortage of fanfare and excitement. There’s going to be a big parade, a concert featuring the likes of Jennifer Hudson and Gloria Estefan and a whole lot of school visits and praying. The last papal visit was in 2008, but the popularity of Pope Francis and his progressive message make this visit a big deal for many New Yorkers regardless of their religious beliefs.


His visit has been analyzed and opined on every which way from architectural studies of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral to the reaction of local car wash workers and Malthusian traffic reports, but in a city where the long arm of real estate knows no bounds, we thought we’d take a look at the changing function of churches.


Only in a city where inventory is so low, land is so scarce and landmarks law is so full of loopholes would places of worship revert to homes. We took a look at the listings – both currently active, in-contract and past – and found a handful of amazing and surprising spaces that once were places of religious worship and are now places layman — like you and me — call home. Take a look at what we found.


Novare 135 West 4th Street


Built in 1860, Washington Square Methodist Church formerly occupied the site of the Novare condo at 135 West 4th Street.


The church was designed by Gamaliel King in the Romanesque Revival style and features a marble facade with four slim buttresses. Throughout the 19th century, the church served a traditional Episcopal community, but by the 20th century the church become enmeshed in politics, becoming a meeting place for the New York Christian temperance movement in the 1910s and 1920s.


It later became a mecca for social activism in the 1960s and supported groups like Vietnam protesters, the Black Panthers and Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Facing financial hardship in 2004, it was sold to real estate developers. The architecture firm FLANK redesigned the church into an eight-unit luxury condo.


The three-bedroom penthouse is currently listed for $12.495M and features 20-foot ceilings and a wall of vibrant stained-glass windows that are original to the church’s design. The apartment also offers a 500-square foot terrace, a floating chrome staircase and a sprawling open floor plan living area.

New Listings

Broker's WeeklySeptember 23, 2015

Michael Rubin's PHB listing at 252 Seventh Avenue was featured in the "New Listings" section of Broker's Weekly.

$12.5M Village Condo Is Blessed With Stained Glass Windows

CurbedSeptember 22, 2015

Located in a former church that dates to 1860, this duplex penthouse is a "rare, stunning and dramatic residential experience," according to the brokerbabble, and for former renter Jude Law, it was definitely, uh, some kind of experience. You see, this beautiful, stained glass-boasting, 500-square-foot terrace-equipped condo is located in the Novare at 135 West 4th Street, directly beside a New York University freshmen dorm, and if you are an A-list actor, they will watch you and shout at you every time you use your spacious, landscaped terrace (Law's reaction? To throw oranges at the students, naturally). Clearly, 700 new New Yorkers may not be the best neighbors, but the condo does have its perks: Venetian plaster walls, Brazilian walnut floors, a library, three bedrooms, 20-foot ceilings in the living room, a chrome and glass staircase, and the aforementioned stained glass, which is original to the church building. It sold in 2009 for $6.3 million, and it's now on the market for $12.495 million (h/t 6sqft). 

Jude Law’s Former Greenwich Village Penthouse in Gorgeous Church Conversion Asks $12.5M

6sqftSeptember 22, 2015

Remember all that hoopla over Jude Law flinging fruit from his Greenwich Village penthouse onto ogling NYU students? Well, here’s where it happened, ironically, in a former house of worship.


Built in 1860 as a Methodist church, 135 West 4th Street underwent an incredible condo conversion by FLAnk Architecture in 2006, where they beautifully preserved original church features such as stained glass windows and exposed beams, but added all the modern luxuries an A-list celeb would want. The aforementioned penthouse first sold for $6 million to entrepreneur Mark Kress and was then listed for resale for $8.5 million in 2009. It ended up selling the following year for a much-reduced $6.3 million, and then found a renter in Jude Law. Now, the duplex is back on the market asking $12,495,000, and it can be all yours (assuming you keep your orange lobbing at bay).


It’s too bad those pesky freshman were such a nuisance, because Law certainly missed an opportunity here. The stunning, 3,500-square-foot, three-bedroom home comes with enviable features including 20-foot-high ceilings, Venetian plaster walls, Brazilian walnut floors, industrial-style doors, exposed ceilings beams, and historic stained glass windows in several rooms.


One of the extremely contemporary additions is the floating chrome staircase, which connects the lower level (housing the master suite, media room, and two additional bedrooms) to the upper floor (that contains the living room, kitchen/dining room, and terrace).


Of course it’s the outdoor space that really steals the show, and not just because this is where Law lost his temper. A massive, double-height wall of operable glass opens onto the 500-square-foot terrace, which comes complete with an outdoor kitchen, beautiful landscaping, and plenty of room for entertaining.

Modern Throwback: Duplex in a Building Steeped in City Lore Showcases Owner’s Vision

New York ObserverSeptember 18, 2015

Though it is no longer the “palace of jewels,” the former headquarters for Tiffany & Co. at 15 Union Square West is still quite nice to look at, with its sleek glass-and-black-zinc exterior juxtaposed with the restored original cast-iron arches.


“One of the features is the mix of older architecture with sleeker finishes,” Core broker Cassie D’Agata opined of the sixth-floor, 2,282-square-foot duplex we visited. She gestured toward the massive window arches in the living room, adjacent to a metal library ladder propped against the custom built-ins overflowing with books as well as signed and framed copies of Playbill—the owner, Andrew Martin Weber, is “in the theater world.”


The full effect of the unit’s 16-foot ceilings is felt when ascending the floating glass-and-steel staircase that leads to the two bedrooms—a master suite with two walk-in closets and a bathroom that includes a glass-encased “wet room” with a claw-foot tub, as well as a guest bedroom with a single closet and en-suite marble-and-glass-tiled bathroom. (There’s an additional powder room on the first floor.)


Mr. Weber has decided to sell the condo because he “doesn’t use it that often,” Ms. D’Agata, who shares the $6.2 million listing with Patrick V. Lilly, told the Observer. She added that Mr. Weber “has a big art collection, so gallery space was important. He specifically chose the artwork, probably his favorite pieces, for this apartment.”


Those pieces include a Richard Serra print as well as a gold crown perched atop a small chair, with what look to be baby’s shoes underneath. (Ms. D’Agata clarified the shoes belong to a teddy bear named Charlotte.)


The living room opens on to the kitchen and then to the dining area, where one can view Union Square Park through more floor-to-ceiling windows. If the view loses its charm, there’s also a photograph of Charlotte the teddy bear wearing the aforementioned crown hanging in the kitchen.

Featured Listing: 374 Broome Street, PHS

Modern NYCSeptember 08, 2015

Located in the heart of NoLita, Penthouse South at 374 Broome Street is an extraordinary 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom residence with an unparalleled landscaped roof terrace of grand proportions. The 19th Century building, Brewster Carriage House, was converted in 2010 and the developer carved out this penthouse residence for its optimal vantage point, views and usable private outdoor roof terrace, which exceeds all expectations for those looking for the perfect outdoor entertaining space.


The roof terrace, measuring 2,062 square feet, is accessed from the main living area via the ornate copper railing staircase and is sheathed by an impressive sculptural glass bulkhead. The terrace, customized by its current owner, features mature irrigated plantings, a bocce ball court, an outdoor sound system and an outdoor kitchen with gas grill.


This triple mint offering features equally impressive residential living spaces which pay homage to the buildings heritage while offering all of today's most desired features and amenities. Sun-filled and largely scaled, the open living/dining area boasts a gas fireplace, soaring 11'9" ceiling heights and eight oversized windows, three of which open onto Juliet balconies, offering bright southern and eastern exposures. The open chef's kitchen centers around a Bianco Borealis marble island and features fully-integrated Miele dishwasher and refrigerator, Miele oven and cooktop, extra-large stainless steel sink, Newform fixtures and a 70 bottle Sub-Zero wine refrigerator.


With winged master bedrooms on either side of the living area, the owners have the option to choose which master suite suits them best. The large northern master suite features a deep walk-in closet and a four-fixture en-suite bathroom with the third bedroom adjacent. On the other side of the loft, a second master suite faces south and features a "walk-through" closet with a five-fixture en-suite bathroom boasting an oversized Wetstyle soaking bath, a separate fully-enclosed 10-inch rainwater shower, classic white Bianco Dolomiti marble, Mutina Bark stone tile covering the heated flooring and walnut vanities with dual Wetstyle sinks.

Additional fine details throughout this extraordinary home include custom milled white oak flooring, Control4 smart home, security system, automated blackout/solar shades and a full laundry room with Bosch washer and dryer.

On the Market in New York City

The New York TimesSeptember 04, 2015

Homes for Sale in Brooklyn and Manhattan

  • In Harlem, a two-bedroom two-bath with a washer/dryer and a private terrace in an elevator building that was once a public school.

  • On the Upper West Side, a triplex with a sleeping area, a living area, an eat-in-kitchen and two baths in a brownstone.

  • In Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, a six-bedroom two-and-one-half-bath three-story 1907 frame house with double parlors, a formal dining room, an eat-in-kitchen, a butler’s pantry, back and front yards, a driveway, a two-car garage, a wraparound porch, and laundry rooms on the second floor and in the basement.

Harlem Condo $1,795,000


Manhattan, 220 West 148th Street, #PHC


A two-bedroom two-bath with a washer/dryer and a private terrace in an elevator building that was once a public school. Adrian Noriega (212) 612-9635, Brett Caspi (212) 612-9643, CORE;


COMMON CHARGES $1,344 a month; taxes: none through 2025 because of an abatement.


PROS The kitchen/living/dining area in this meticulously designed apartment opens to an expansive irrigated rooftop terrace with a variety of trees, plant boxes and plenty of room for entertaining.


CONS The bathrooms lack windows.

Own a Waterfront Home in Upstate New York

Architectural DigestSeptember 03, 2015

A contemporary home with a picturesque lily pond in East Fishkill is up for sale. 


Known as Mission House, this contemporary home was built in 1999 on a wooded property just an hour and a half from New York City.

Center Stage: Home Makeovers that Appeal to a Wide Variety of Buyers Pay Off

New York ObserverSeptember 02, 2015

“Let’s make it just like a James Bond-type character lives here,” Interior Marketing Group president Cheryl Eisen declared when she entered an empty penthouse on Warren Street with Douglas Elliman brokers—and Million Dollar Listing stars—Fredrik Eklund and John Gomes.


To create a “bachelor-pad-type loft” atmosphere, Ms. Eisen, whose home staging company specializes in high-end city real estate, added a white leather couch, sleek Philippe Starck-style black chairs, and a low, modern black bed to create a minimalist master suite. 


Once the 12-day staging process—Ms. Eisen was clear she never exceeds the designated 12-day time period—was complete, the Tribeca duplex that had been languishing on the market for a year was in the midst of a bidding war, and the victor emerged as no less than 007 himself—actor Daniel Craig, with an all-cash $1.9 million offer.


“You only have one chance to make a first impression, and you don’t want to miss that opportunity,” Core broker Emily Beare told the Observer. Especially in a quick-moving market with lots of liquid buyers, the spaces that put them quickly at ease are those that they are more likely to buy right away. Voilà, the ascent of home staging.


Staging—which involves arranging a home in such a way as to maximize its curb appeal—is nothing new. “The whole idea of staging really started in California, which makes sense because it’s the land of television and movies, and props and staging,” Corcoran broker Deanna Kory opined. “But the staging world has expanded. Fifteen years ago, I started staging probably before anyone else did. I had a vacant apartment in the Majestic on Central Park West, and I couldn’t sell for a price the owner wanted—she wanted $1.3 million; we kept getting $1.27 million. I told them that in California, they had this thing called staging—no one had heard about it here. I said, ‘Let me see if I can rent some furniture, and see if we can show people a sense of what it might be.’ ” Ms. Kory, who has staged many homes herself, convinced the owners to put $10,000 into staging, and “the next week, we got $1.5 million.”


Whether done by a broker with a background in staging or a certified professional stager, the process seems to reap dividends. According to Susan Goldstein, principal of home staging company SBSC Design, staged units show off their qualities more effectively. “As time went on, people saw places going into contract much faster—brokers became believers. It’s not just sellers, but brokers having a very specific idea of what they want to see in what they bring into the apartment.”


Staging is typically done before a home is listed, and television shows like Million Dollar Listing and HGTV’s Selling New York have helped brokers by “easing the groundwork” for buyers, who aren’t as taken aback these days when a broker tells them to remove their personal belongings, noted Douglas Elliman broker Ann Cutbill Lenane.


“People often feel connected to their overly decorated spaces, but television shows have helped us so much. It’s hard when people have spent a ton of money, especially when they might be a little eccentric … you have to be careful, and make sure you don’t get into an ego issue,” Ms. Lenane added. 


Usually hired before a home goes on the market, or to help spruce up a listing that hasn’t sold, home stagers like Ms. Goldstein will go through a space, select what pieces (if any) can remain, and then use furniture from warehouses, rental stores, or loaned designer pieces to create an atmosphere that is appealing to the desired buyer. “First, I go in, and I take pictures. Then I come back, sit at my computer, and figure out what I need,” said Ms. Goldstein. “My assistant and I sit with my inventory [at a warehouse in Brooklyn] and decide what will work. If we need something that will have to be ordered, it could take up to two weeks before I can begin staging. If we already have a lot and can use local vendors, I can start in a week.” Once she begins staging, Ms. Goldstein said that she is usually done within three days, max.


Staging costs vary widely; if a stager is unable to use any furnishings already in the unit, the price can go up significantly. A three-month contract by Ms. Goldstein’s SBSG Design can begin as low as $9,500 for a one-bedroom and grow to more than $150,000 for more extravagant townhouses and penthouses.


Stagers can face another obstacle when a home has already been expensively decorated by an interior designer. “Staging is the antithesis of interior design, because the designer creates space just for you,” noted Sid Pinkerton of Manhattan Staging. “People who’ve spent a boatload of money are very resistant to someone coming and saying they need to change the space, but if we compromise, it might affect the final result of staging. Staging isn’t just about creating a pretty picture—it’s about showing off the attributes of an apartment in the best way possible.”


Ms. Eisen shared a similar sentiment, noting that interior designers make a home taste-specific, tailored to the client’s preferences. When it comes time to sell, however, that space will “feel like someone else’s home to a prospective buyer walking in.” 


Such was the case at an apartment she worked on at 949 Park Avenue. “They had some interior designer do it, and it had paisley wallpaper. It didn’t sell for over a year. We came in and saw a few things wrong—it was so taste-specific, and there was no dining room. So we took the paisley wallpaper down, created a formal dining area in that space, and it sold immediately at full price.”


Most of Ms. Eisen’s jobs fall into the $35,000-$120,000 range, though “In staging, we do it on as low a budget as possible so our margins are good—that’s our model, that’s everyone’s model,” she said. “But it does look extravagant. People go into our stagings, and it looks like an interior designer did it.” According to Ms. Eisen, the projects she works on typically get an accepted offer within the first 30 days.


One Upper East Side townhouse Ms. Eisen worked on was a quirky mix of “weird strangeness,” including maroon walls and top hat light fixtures. It had been on the market for over a year before Fredrik Eklund got the listing. He immediately called Ms. Eisen, who “staged the whole thing—it sold completely furnished immediately after we staged it, they wanted everything. It was an Upper East Side townhouse, so we added original artwork. It looks like an art collector’s home. It sold for $13.5 million.”


Ms. Eisen has a formula when it comes to assessing properties she’s working on: “Don’t compete with the architecture. Enhance the space enough to really show off its selling features, and accessorize so it looks warm and homey.” She added her company also “assesses the demographic—an Upper East Side family will have different taste than the downtown Tribeca bachelor. We speak to that story; we tell the story of the buyer. We do so with luxury furniture and eclectic accents, which are a mix of vintage and new pieces.”


For a penthouse on Greene Street, “The Winklevoss twins saw it twice, and the second time they said, ‘forget it,’ ” Ms. Eisen recounted. The owner had done a “beautiful construction job, but it needed something else. We populated it with really unique, beautiful textural furniture. As soon as you walk in, there’s a really comfy, cozy, nutty-looking cocktail area. It was very downtown, very Greene Street bachelor pad. When the interior designer did it, it was very cold. Where there used to be art, we replaced it with mirrors. We made the living room more grand, more ‘wow!’ ”


“After we staged it, Fredrik [Eklund] called their broker. At first the broker said no, they weren’t interested. But they did come back, and they bought it immediately … My guess is that it had a personality that they identified with. I think that made a difference.”


The Winklevii must have thought so—they paid $14.5 million for the Soho triplex.


And sometimes, stagers can do their job almost too well. Ms. Lenane once had a listing where, after she staged the space, the seller decided they weren’t quite as unhappy in it as they thought. “We clean it up, we get rid of unwanted things—the ottomans, the husband’s leather recliner the wife had been wanting out—and they realize they aren’t so miserable in the apartment.”


“It’s not exactly what you want as a broker,” Ms. Lenane said. “But staging is a wonderful thing.” 

$1.795M Penthouse at PS 90 Has 1,900-Sq Ft Terrace

StreetEasy BlogSeptember 02, 2015

For most of us New Yorkers, penthouse apartments are the dream we strive for. Often coming with gorgeous views, gigantic windows, luxuries and amenities we can only begin to imagine, and almost insultingly large square footage, penthouses are the ultimate hallmark that you’ve made it.


Penthouse C at 220 West 148th Street, also called PS 90, is certainly an embodiment of all of those qualities. Currently for sale for $1,795,000, this apartment features 1,400 square feet of interior space, but the clincher for this property is the outdoor terrace, which is over 1,900 square feet and private. That’s right — no sharing with anyone, except your friends, of course.


This kind of outdoor space is a goldmine and is practically unheard of, especially when the outdoor area exceeds the already generous inside space by 500 square feet!


Inside, the penthouse features Caesarstone countertops, marble-finished bathrooms, hardwood flooring, and an in-unit washer and dryer. The terrace offers uniquely designed landscaping, automatic lighting and a sound system, and not one, but two vegetable gardens. It also has its own five-zone irrigation system to keep all the trees, shrubs, and other plants watered, as well as coming with two seating areas equipped for outdoor dining, hanging out with friends and hosting possibly the coolest party in the neighborhood.


“Getting listings with this amount of significant outdoor space is rare,” says Adrian Noriega, the broker for Penthouse C. “This kind of quality and this kind of size doesn’t come by often.”


“One of the things I really love about this space,” Noriega continues, “is the sense of privacy, even when you’re outdoors. There’s no noise up there, no real sense that you can be watched by anyone. If it weren’t for the amazing view of the skyline, you wouldn’t even realize you were in New York.”


The median asking price in Central Harlem is around $800,000, which is incidentally about how much Penthouse C was listed and sold for back in 2010. Central Harlem apartments have a median sales price of $760,000 and a 100.5 percent sale-to-list price ratio, which means units are selling for asking price or above.


The terrace features custom landscaping, two seating areas, and even a sound system.

Panelists Finalized for TRD’s Shanghai Showcase

The Real DealSeptember 02, 2015

With The Real Deal’s U.S. Real Estate Showcase & Forum in Shanghai just one week away, the more than 50 panelists attending next week comprise a who’s who of U.S. real estate and development. 


Luxury Listing of the Day: Bright, Airy Penthouse in Tribeca, NYC

InmanSeptember 01, 2015

Private terrace and hypnotic fireplace put finishing touches on this clean apartment. This lovely four-bedroom penthouse in Tribeca includes a terrace with Midtown views, white oak plank floors, and access to the building’s common rooftop, children’s play area and dog-washing station.


It’s listed for $9.9 million with CORE.

On the Market in New York City

The New York TimesAugust 28, 2015

Homes for Sale in Brooklyn and Manhattan


• In Lenox Hill, a three-bedroom two-and-a-half-bath with a fireplace and washer/dryer in a full-service doorman building.

• On the Upper East Side, a duplex studio with a Murphy bed and a shared roof deck in a walk-up.

• In Park Slope, a one-bedroom one-bath unit with a living/dining room, an open kitchen, three exposures and a balcony in a gated 31-unit, pet-friendly co-op building with a common roof deck, storage and laundry facilities and a live-in superintendent.

Upper East Side Co-Op $425,000


Manhattan 227 East 87th Street, #4A


A duplex studio with a Murphy bed and a shared roof deck in a walk-up. Matthew Cohen, CORE (201) 410-5496. Maintenance $750 a month


PROS A brick wall and a decorative fireplace add charm to this sunny unit. The kitchen is nicely renovated. A staircase leads to a closet as well as a roof deck that is shared with an adjacent unit. 


CONS The apartment is on the fourth floor. The blue sink, toilet and tiles in the bathroom could use an update. 

Tour a Majestic Home Designed by George Brown Post in Bernardsville, New Jersey

Architectural DigestAugust 27, 2015

A grand Beaux Arts manor in rural Bernardsville is up for sale.


Built in 1886 by architect George Brown Post, who also designed the New York Stock Exchange building in Manhattan, this Beaux Arts–style home has all the grandeur of a Parisian manse. Known as “Stronghold,” the home was later used by Gill St. Bernard's School for the second half of the 20th century. It was completely restored in 2013. Located in the exclusive area of Bernardsville, in rural Somerset County, the residence is just over an hour from Manhattan.


Beyond the stone façade, the interiors were constructed from fieldstone, wood, and terra-cotta, as seen in the study. In the den many of the original materials remain, including the stone masonry and Corinthian columns. The property consists of two expansive wings: One houses the dining room (shown here), kitchen, and great room, and the other houses the garage. Nearly 32 acres of manicured grounds surround the home. Additionally, a separate carriage house makes for the perfect guest quarters.

Jessica Silver: Licensed Real Estate Salesperson, CORE

The Native SocietyAugust 25, 2015



Jessica is a Licensed Real Estate Salesperson with CORE.  Her dedicated and client-focused approach enabled her to seamlessly transition from a successful career in advertising sales to real estate. Her real estate deals have covered a wide range of neighborhoods, from Brooklyn, to Manhattan, to Queens; no neighborhood is off limits in the search for the perfect home.


A native New Yorker, Jessica grew up in Westchester County and has lived in New York City for 25 years. She owns a co-op on the Upper East Side and enjoys New York City restaurants, museums, parks, shows, and everything else the city has to offer. In her spare time, you can find her on a yoga mat or volunteering with Animal Haven, an animal shelter located in SoHo.


What do you do best?  

Whether you're buying or selling, this can be overwhelming.   I make sure my clients feel comfortable with each step, and know that we are partners through the entire process.


What makes you the best? 

I believe in being honest and managing people's expectations. This establishes trust and leads to a successful, long-lasting relationship.  I have a solution focused approach and listening to my clients is priority one. In the event that obstacles rise, I have the skills to overcome them and find alternatives that remain within their preferences. My clients understand that I’m not just trying to close a deal. They know that I put their best interests first and seek their ultimate satisfaction.  Referrals are a core part of our business as well, and this can only come from happy clients.  


How will you stay the best?  

Keep up to date on the ever-changing industry, and make sure my clients are well-informed.  I continue to challenge myself so I can stay on top and not become complacent.  Every deal is a learning experience and no two are alike.  Losses present an opportunity to learn as well: What could I have done differently? What did I get from this and how I can I use it in the future?  If you're not out there fighting and learning every day, someone else will come along and take your spot.


Biggest success? 

Every success is a big success


What are your aspirations?

Personal: I've always been somewhat of a workaholic, setting my personal life aside as a result. In an ideal world, I would like to have a better balance of both.   

Business: One thing I love about this business is the non-stop education; every day brings a new experience/opportunity.  My goal is to have a strong business built on respect and knowledge, while continuing to grow and learn.


What fascinates you?

People, in general, fascinate me; I like to guess the story of complete strangers.   I enjoy learning about people's lives and what forms their unique personalities.


Favorite Motto:  

I love inspirational quotes, they can really change your perspective or reinforce what you're already feeling. The one that really stands out is one that everyone should consider  "Before you speak, ask yourself this: Is it true? Is it Kind? Is it Necessary?  Our words have the power to hurt others, however they also have the power to heal. Choose them wisely"


Favorite People: 

My favorite people are my family and good friends.


Favorite Places:  

I'm not a beach person, I prefer active vacations and have been various places in the world for yoga retreats and bike trips.  My favorite spot would have to be the Galapagos, a trip which had no biking or yoga. I loved experiencing the individual beauty of each island, and seeing the animals in their protected and natural habitat.  We did hike every day and go snorkeling, so I guess you can say this was also an active vacation.


Favorite Products:

Avon skin care

Vince Camuto and Stuart Weitzman (you need comfortable shoes in this business)

Jo Malone scented candles


Current Passions: 

Pre-war architecture, rooftop views, yoga, anything with truffles, all animals, crossword puzzles, a nice chilled white wine.

From $380K to $1.4 Million, 7 NYC Apartments That Are Also Smart Investments

BrickUndergroundAugust 24, 2015

Looking for an apartment in NYC is oddly similar to looking for love—you need to be willing to woo and be wooed, know how to beat out the competition, and of course, be prepared for rejection. But at least with apartment-hunting—unlike dating—there’s an easy way to figure out whether or not pursuing a particular prospect is worth it.


In addition to offering up the usual details found in most listings, RealtyHop — the new sales-focused website from the people behind RentHop — also provides a given property’s estimated investment potential if you should ever decide to rent the space out. This cap rate represents the annual operating profit—which is the estimated rental income minus yearly expenses and common charges, divided by the asking price. (This estimated rental income is based on the asking rents of comparable properties in the neighborhood, assumes 100% occupancy, and doesn’t take into account things such as the cost of repairs, advertising, closing costs or sublet fees paid to the board.)


Just remember that because many co-op buildings either severely limit or completely prohibit subletting, this cap rate is more useful if you’re searching for a condo.


In this week’s round-up, you’ll find an Alphabet City co-op that allows pieds-à-terre, a Lincoln Square two-bedroom with a functioning electric fireplace, and an East Williamsburg one-bedroom with a Bluetooth sound system and in-ceiling speakers. All have estimated cap rates of between two and six percent, which makes them wise investments, says RealtyHop.


Two-bedroom, 2-bath Lincoln Square condo at 43 West 61st Street, #19J for $1,275,000 


A functioning electric fireplace heats up this newly renovated Lincoln Square condo loft, which also features high-end finishes and an open kitchen with stainless steel appliances. The boutique building has a full-time doorman, a live-in super and a private circular driveway. Maintenance is $970 a month, taxes are $947 a month, and the estimated cap rate is 4.48%.


Studio, 1-bathroom Lower Manhattan co-op at 215 Park Row, #3G for $380,000


With a wall of oversized windows that look out on open city and garden views, a windowed eat-in kitchen, loads of closets, and a separate dressing area, this 500-square-foot studio feels even larger than it is. The co-op building, Chatham Green, has a live-in super, a full maintenance staff and a laundry room. Amenities include a community room, a library/book-sharing room, a bike room, a game room with a kitchen, and on-site parking for just $200 a month. Maintenance is $692 a month and the estimated cap rate is 5.31%.


Two-bedroom, 1-bathroom Alphabet City co-op at 55 Avenue C, #9 for $735,000


This downtown Manhattan two-bedroom has high ceilings, a windowed kitchen, a windowed bathroom, and relatively low maintenance charges of $300 a month. The co-op building has a large landscaped backyard, a bike room, a super, and permits both parental purchases and pieds-à-terre. The estimated cap rate is 4.98%.


One-bedroom, 1-bathroom Financial District condo at 56 Pine Street, #8B for $715,000 


This one-bedroom is located in a full-service doorman building with a concierge, a fitness center, a relaxation lounge, a party room with a wet bar, a billiards room, a media room and laundry on every floor. Maintenance is $855 a month, taxes are $176, and the estimated cap rate is 4.27%.


One-bedroom, 1-bathroom Boerum Hill condo at 46 Bergen Street, #2 for $849,555 


This sunny, high-ceilinged Brooklyn one-bedroom has in-unit laundry, an open chef’s kitchen with a large granite island/breakfast bar, and a marble bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub. The pet-friendly boutique building offers private storage and bike storage, and has a J51 tax abatement and low monthlies—maintenance is $251 a month, and taxes are just $120. The estimated cap rate is 4.24%.


Two-bedroom, 2-bathroom East Williamsburg condo at 629 Grand Street, #2 for $1,425,000


Located in the heart of East Williamsburg, this two-bedroom condo offers up 10-foot ceilings, a state-of-the-art Bluetooth sound system with in-ceiling speakers, and a large kitchen. The pet-friendly building has on-site laundry. Monthly maintenance is $594, taxes are $175, and the estimated cap rate is 2.64%.


Two-bedroom, one-bathroom Brooklyn Heights condo at 51 Columbia Place, #3, for $1,025,000


Just one block from Brooklyn Bridge Park, this two-bedroom floor-through condo in Brooklyn Heights has a large, open-plan entertaining room; a chef’s kitchen with stainless steel appliances; spacious bedrooms; and a renovated bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub. The pet-friendly condo building has a free washer/dryer in the common basement, as well as shared storage.  The unit is listed for $1,025,000, maintenance is $350 a month, taxes are $376 a month, and the estimated cap rate is 4.13%.

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