The High Road: Who do you trust?

The listing broker denied my client the benefit of photos that I had hoped to take. This is from her Web listing.

Before the late Johnny Carson became the inimitable host of the Tonight Show, he was the inimitable quizzer on a network program called “Who Do You Trust?”

On the first installment, which I somehow caught, he joked about the grammar of the program’s name, which correctly would have been “Whom Do You Trust.”

I was reminded of his quips over the weekend, when, dressed in my usual scruffy Sunday clothes, I made my routine rounds of open houses on the Upper West Side.

One apartment I particularly wanted to see for a client I had in mind was a $3 million condo in the 80s on Central Park West.  Walking into the beautifully renovated apartment on a sunny day, I introduced myself as a broker with Charles Rutenberg Realty.

With reservations, I thought it was lovely as, at that price, it should be.  I wanted Continue reading

Out and About: Studios built not only for sleeping

Central Park Studios, at 15 W. 67th St., is one building of several originally designed for artists on that block.

Rare is the individual who can resist the ineffable charm, halo of history and peerless patina of apartments created as studios for visual artists and musicians.  They exist predominantly, though not exclusively, on the Upper West Side.

Buildings created with artists in mind often feature some combination of soaring ceilings, leaded-glass windows, British overtones, ornamental woodwork and, naturally, great northern light.

I can think of such buildings on Central Park South, above Carnegie Hall and in the Lincoln Square area.

There is almost nothing like them, and that undoubtedly explains the premiums they normally command. Continue reading

The Big Apple: Lawyers, leases, landlords, more

Do the West 70s really feel like Paris?

Mel Wymore, chairman of Community Board 7, which represents all the Upper West Side, tells the New York Times that, in addition to encompassing some of the costliest real estate in the city, the West 70s has gained buildings, among them condominium construction on Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.

The growth has buttressed values, even in a down market, but Wymore says it also has brought challenges. Small businesses like dry cleaners and hardware stores have struggled amid chain stores and banks, he said, and schools are crowded.

Another local resident charmed by her surroundings added that on a recent visit to Paris, her mind had wandered home.

“I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is tantamount to where I live,’ ” she said, incredibly.

State’s largest foreclosure law firm receives subpoenas related to allegedly shoddy practices

New York Atty. Gen. Eric T. Schneiderman has issued subpoenas Continue reading

Weekly Roundup: Interest rates head up. More!

Here’s your chance to catch up with news included to inform, enlighten and perhaps even entertain you. To read about The Big Apple, check out the other of today’s posts and look for Out and About early next week.

He sees live condo buyer in short time

Singer learns he was out of sync with the market

Her house is no prize at $11.5 million, a fashion designer concedes (3rd item)

Renting has become fashionable,representing a sea-change, but Continue reading

Bedbug beagle is among 270 exhibitors at an expo

A rare moment of breathing room among the exhibitors.

If you wanted to check out eight companies that exterminate bedbugs, 10 that manage properties or 11 that offer building security, well, you’re too late.

They were among the 270 exhibitors Tuesday at the Co-op and Condo Expo held at the New York Hilton, where some salespeople literally would have caught your eye, grabbed your arm or thrust material into your hands in the hope of generating income.

Seminars on everything from “the future of wired/wireless communications” — the future? — to “everything you need to know about underlying co-op financing” might have tempted you.  Why, I’m not sure.

Whether you were shopping for fire alarms or attorneys, you could have found such resources at the event, which filled three floors of the hotel’s “halls.”

Like me, you also might have stumbled upon a couple of exhibitors with products worth more than a glance.

Among them was something called “Climbup,” an “ecologically friendly,” if ugly, objét that calls attention to itself around the feet of furniture to trap bedbugs.  Intrusive as it is, maybe it works.

Too, you could have met a sweet bedbug beagle, who needed neither dishes of candy nor raffles to draw attention to the Dial A Bug booth. The floor was, incidentally, littered with an appealing throng of big black plastic cockroaches.

Another standout for me — perhaps I should get a life — was a family owned outfit that provides various janitorial and maintenance services to buildings that don’t have or want full-time staff. N.Y.C. Super Services targets both low-rise and larger buildings for maintenance, repairs and building system upgrades. (I didn’t find a Web site.)

Among other exhibitors was the Hutton Group, which aims to help co-ops (mostly in the outer boroughs and elsewhere) convert into condos. Linda Hutton explained to me that such a conversion helps shareholders increase their equity almost overnight.

“Manhattan is a tough market,” she conceded, “a very tough market.”

Had you attended the expo, you would have had your pick of architects, air duct cleaners, door and windows vendors, elevator servicers, engineers, insurers, interior designers, laundry servicers, and storage-room installers (including one, Bargold Storage Systems, which charges nothing but a percentage of the monthly fee).

You know, I really should get a life. (And if you’ve read this far, maybe you’ll want to consider getting one as well.)

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
Web site

Developers reap bonanzas. Not always.

An item about the conversion of an office building on lower Fifth Avenue (illustrated in the photo at left) caught my eye last week.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the building at 141 Fifth Avenue has finally sold its last two condo units. It happens that an unidentified buyer paid $12.9 million for the apartments, according to the newspaper.

You might think, as I did, that the developer of the 34-unit building cleaned up, with the average price per square foot of $1,700 and sales said to total $112 million.

Think again. Continue reading

Does rental market portend strong sales?

(Courtesy The Real Estate Group of New York)

Both nationally and locally, the rental market has proved to be increasingly robust.

The U.S. vacancy rate keeps falling, and high rents in Manhattan continue to grow.

(Average rent for a studio in a doorman building went up 12.26 percent to $2,529 in the last year, according to the Real Estate Group of New York, and other reports show that the average rent in the first quarter rose 3.9 percent to $3,342 versus a year ago.)

A broker friend of mine, Paul Zweben, reports that he had a swarm of tenant hopefuls for a place that he leased for $108,000 a year within a week of putting it on the market! He makes a point with which it is hard to argue that a tight rental market can mean only a strengthening market for sales.

As everyone knows, consumers tend to calculate finely the marginal benefits of owning and renting.

Sophisticated ones take into account the present value of a deposit on properties they might buy along with all the continuing costs such as mortgage interest and monthly expenses.  Also figured into the relative benefits will be how long they can be sure of residing in a city, how well they know the area, how secure they are in their job, the potential value of their other assets and their perspective on future interest rates.

More than anything, prospective renters and buyers factor in their views of the local housing market.  Where are prices headed?

Given that rents are rising as the number of vacancies is decreasing, the balance of buying over renting tends to tip.

It may well be that the coming weeks until Memorial Day will see significant vitality in sales provided that the inventory of well-priced and desirable properties grows.  (Supply may well sag, however.)  Whether that translates into higher prices or a more vigorous market than a year ago, when the federal tax credit boosted sales, is an open question.

I’m beginning to have my doubts just how strong the Manhattan market will be.  One thing I know is that open house traffic last weekend appeared slow to me and, from what I am hearing, to others as well.

Is the noticeable change from a week earlier significant?  Could it be that consumers have suddenly lost confidence because of uncertainty in Washington — the budgetary wrangling last week and already upon us again — in addition to the imminent deadline for paying their taxes?  Have they seen everything that might interest them by now?

If I knew the answers to questions such as these, I’d invite you to visit me at Delphi.

Subscribe by Email

Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
Web site

Out and About: Comps don’t always explain price

Consider a co-op that went on the market last month in a Central Park block of the high 60s .

This apartment is on the ground floor of 1928 building that has a part-time doorman and no other amenities.  The unit itself has been nicely renovated, including floors refinished with a dark stain, fresh paint and a modern kitchen of more than 86 square feet.

The ceilings are unusually high, there is a foyer, closet space is ample and the layout is sensible.  Both the living room and bedroom face south at street level, but the views from the kitchen and 132-sf room labeled “dining room/den” on the floorplan are into a courtyard.

One of my issues is that the so-called dining room/den is being marketed otherwise, Continue reading

The Big Apple: Condo prices, rents rise and more!

Condo prices rise 12 percent over May 2009, but pace seems to flag

The Radar Logic data firm reports that Manhattan condo prices went up 4.7 in January over a year earlier but that the rate of growth seems to be slowing.

Although prices have climbed 12 percent above the post-bust low in May 2009, the price recovery is “losing steam” or may simply reflect seasonal weakness in demand, according to the firm’s RPX Monthly report on Manhattan neighborhoods. The report said it was too early to know with any certainty what contributed to the increase.

Uptown neighborhoods fared better than downtown neighborhoods, with year-over-year increases caused by higher prices per unit as a result of a shortage in supply.

Apartments with a washer/dryer clean up when sold

One new value-enhancing amenity that’s catching on is allowing shareholders and unit-owners to install clothes washers and dryers in their apartments. Plumbing issues have been the usual reason for forbidding washing machines.

But one veteran real estate appraiser has estimated that a washer and dryer add approximately 5 percent to the value of any apartment, leading to the increasingly permissive attitude these days.

The rich are Continue reading