As landlords choke, Manhattan renters can cheer

Rents are falling, according to one brokerages latest report.

Rents are falling, according to one brokerage's latest report.

The numbers above speak for themselves with regard to the current rental situation.  As shown, the greatest change in the last 12 months has been in doorman one-bedroom units, for which rents tumbled 10.34% on average.

The statistics were compiled by the Real Estate Group, which commented: Continue reading

Hook, line and maybe sinker, some brokers hope

Anyone who has tried to rent or maybe even buy an apartment advertised on Craigslist knows the drill.  They call the broker, hear that place is gone and face a determined effort to keep them on the phone with promises of gold at the end of their particular rainbow.

Frequently, the listing is just fake and the product of, therefore, an unethical broker.

classifiedsStill, genuine listings can be found everywhere, not only on Craigslist but in the New York Times and on the Web sites of numerous real estate brokerages. Except. . . they are not what is implied: the individual broker’s exclusive listings.

These are called “open listings.” Continue reading

Visions of Silestone don’t dance in their heads

Bernie and Ruth used to entertain here; now theyre just entertaining.

Bernie and Ruth used to entertain here; now they're just entertaining.

In the old days, nothing energized prospective buyers more than the chance to impose their vision on their new homes, even if those apartments and townhouses had just been updated. Tear down those walls! Buy an even bigger Sub-Zero! Install built-in bookcases! Refinish the floors! Re-do the baths!  Get photographed for the New York Times!

No matter the condition of those purchases, they wanted the properties to reflect their own personality, taste, needs and aspirations. Thus, places that “needed work,” as the phrase goes, particularly resonated with such purchasers. They were eager to pay the carrying costs of two residences while work was done, put up with the inevitable frustrations of dealing with contractors, and spend and spend and spend to their heart’s delight.

They were flush with cash, filled with notions of modern design, and fated to go way over budget.

Those were the olden times of a couple of years ago, and those times now are long gone. Continue reading

You can run, but you’ll never catch up

The lead article in today’s New York Times brings us some startling news: Some desperate buyers are having trouble selling their homes.

One case in point, Adam Rogers and his wife Gillian, whose place in Brooklyn remains on the market. They bought the Clinton Hill unit in January of 2006 for $599,000. Reports the newspaper:

“At first the the Rogerses asked $679,000, the price at which their neighbor had sold his apartment.

“They since cut the price several times and switched agents. . . The apartment is listed at $599,000; they will lose about $60,000 in transaction costs if it sells at that price.”

Next case: Elizabeth Demaray and her husband Hugo Bastidas, who paid $620,000 for their condo in East Harlem in February of 2007. This very spring, they put the apartment on the market for $715,000 “about what comparable units in the building. . . had sold for.”

Then there are Jon Vernon-Browne and Adriana Herrera, who purchased a condo in

Jon Vernon-Browne and Adriana Herrera, parents-to-be, bought a house; their condo must go.

Jon Vernon-Browne and Adriana Herrera, parents-to-be, bought a house; their condo must go, the Times says.

Manhattan’s Financial District for $1 million in February 2007. They listed it in May for $1.1 million and rejected a low-ball offer.

Another unhappy seller that the Times interviewed is Danielle Dugan, who bought her fifth-floor walk-up in2006 and has been trying to sell the Brooklyn Heights co-op for $357,000 since then. Having received one offer, which was unacceptable, she dropped the price of the apartment to $340,000.

Well, duh!  Continue reading

On the surface, NYC’s job losses do not bode well

Jobs are inextricably connected to the health of the housing market for reasons that must be obvious.  That’s one reason that Washington, D.C., seems to be recovering from its housing blues.  After all, government dominates in the metropolitan region.

Thus, the news in yesterday’s New York Times about the city’s unemployment rate seems to suggest a grim outlook for the Big Apple.  But a closer look at the statistics may possibly imply otherwise.

In June, the city’s unemployment rate jumped to 9.5 percent,  the newspaper said. The rate of joblessness in the city had not been as high in almost 12 years. In May, it was 8.9 percent, significantly lower than the national rate of 9.4 percent for that month. More than 380,000 people in the city were unable to find work last month, an increase of about 170,000 from a year before, according to data released by the State Department of Labor.

The last time so many city residents were unemployed was in the early 1990s, in the wake of the long, deep recession after the 1987 stock market crash, said James Brown, a Labor Department economist. Continue reading

Mortgage rates drop for the third week in a row

Probably, almost everyone thinking about buying real estate knows that mortgage rates are linked to the price of long bonds.  Thanks to the federal government’s stimulus money, there are lots and lots of the bonds on the market.

This week, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 5.14 percent, down from last week’s 5.20 percent, reports Freddie Mac. Last year at this time, it was 6.26 percent.  As for the 15-year FRM, it, too, was down, averaging 4.63 percent in comparison with 4.69 percent a week ago and 5.78 percent a year ago.

Five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were 4.83 percent this week, up slightly from last week’s 4.82 percent but lower than 5.80 percent one year earlier.

One-year Treasury-indexed ARMs averaged 4.76 percent this week, off from 4.82 percent; at this time last year, it was 5.10 percent.

For a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, the rate reduction over the past five weeks translates into a monthly payment saving of $56 on a $200,000 loan, according to Freddie Mac.

(You’ll find extensive news about mortgages and the housing market in my biweekly newsletter.)

Declining rates have proved to motivate consumers, especially those interested in refinancing their existing mortgage. Continue reading

When visitors enter a household, they know

Sometimes you’re not conscious of it, while other times it can overwhelm you.  But when you enter someone else’s home, you are immediately affected by its characteristic smell.

Do the owners have poor hygiene?  Do they own a cat or a badly behaved dog? Do they smoke. . . anything?  Is there an air of mustiness?  Do they wear cheap perfume?  I doubt that I have to go on since you undoubtedly know what I mean.

In my real estate career, I recall numerous times when a smell turned off a buyer, whether the buyer realized it or not.  If a home reminds someone of terminally ill kin, you can imagine how that prospect might well flee.  Or ethnic cooking can discourage a buyer who is not a racist but who happens to hate, say, curried food.  The lingering smell of grilled hotdogs would not please a vegetarian.

One broker has written how she and her clients used to classify smells in categories under the umbrella of  “funk.”  There were “paint funk,” the quasi-toxic but cleanliness-implying smell of freshly painted walls; “cat pee funk;” “cigarette funk;” and “bio funk,” the description of which I will spare you. Continue reading