The Big Apple: Developers under gun and ground

Important housekeeping announcement:  There will be reduced frequency of posts until after Labor Day, but you can look forward until then to Out and About, some typically critical posts taken on The High Road, perspectives on sellers and buyers, and other information meant to be both illuminating and, occasionally, even entertaining.  This regular Friday feature will return on September 9, when it will be combined with Weekly Roundup.

Fair Housing Law settlement points to many more in thousands of other buildings

The developer and architect of an Upper West Side luxury rental apartment complex, The Melar, have settled with the federal government on charges that their new residential building violated federal law because it is inaccessible to the disabled, according to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharark.

The settlement may have an impact on more than 100,000 residential properties across the city. Continue reading

Weekly Roundup: Rates up in seasonal market

Important housekeeping announcement:  There will be reduced frequency in August until after Labor Day, but you can look forward until then to Out and About, some typically critical posts taken on The High Road, perspectives on sellers and buyers, and other information meant to be both illuminating and, occasionally, even entertaining.  This regular Friday feature will return on September 9, when it will be combined with The Big Apple.

Pending home sales rise for second consecutive month

Sales of new homes continue to move sideways in June

By Case-Shiller’s gauge, May home prices increase normally with seasonality

Economists reflect on the numbers

The Fed see little change in U.S. housing market

Following Treasury yields, rates climb 0.8 points and exceed a year earlier

Self-employed Continue reading

Brokers know something that appraisers don’t

Past just isn’t precedent when it comes to appraisals. (Flickr photo by -Georg-)

If you seek to borrow money from an institutional lender such as a bank to purchase your new home, you can be sure of at least two things: mounds of completed paperwork and a visit by an appraiser to your intended property.

It is the appraiser’s job to determine whether the apartment or single-family house provides enough collateral to back up the loan in the event of default.  As we all know, when the value declines below the value of the loan, the homeowner is said to be underwater, owing more than the property is worth.

That’s not a happy situation either for the lender or the owner.

Appraisers note Continue reading

Officials set minimum auction bids different ways

Surrogate's Courthouse in Manhattan, site of public administrator auctions.

Auction aficionados are well aware that each of the public administrators in the city’s boroughs holds auctions usually three or four times a year to unload properties of owners who died without a will.

Every time I publish a post about an upcoming auction along with the minimum bids, I can count on Internet chatter to the effect that the apartments and townhouses going on the block don’t add up to bargains. To commenters, the minimum bids invariably seem too high.

I got to wondering how the public administrators decide on the minimum. Continue reading

Out and About: It’s wrong to gild a (faded) lily

This photo of a brownstone

Because we are moving into August, there will be just one more Out and About before Labor Day.  But you’ll find other posts, published somewhat less frequently than usual, until then.

Have a look at the photo at the left and consider how much you approve of painting over antique woodwork.

Having seen that wonderfully ornate woodwork, I suspect that someone has monkeyed with the photo. In person, I was turned off by many layers of paint that obscured the detail and failed to cover up numerous underlying flaws.  (Unfortunately, the photo doesn’t do the bannister injustice.)

It seems clear that the paint, as usually is the case, was a cost-saving shortcut that, to my mind, only amplified the defects in the woodwork. How lovely that ornamentation would have looked when repaired and polished. But how expensive the project would be.

Such corner cutting is typical of what I see in turn-of-the-century brownstones that have been divided into apartments, and I think Continue reading

Bankruptcy auction set for 2BR Chelsea co-op

Living room of 101 W. 23rd St., Unit 3J, in Manhattan.

A two-bedroom, one-bath co-op in the heart of Chelsea is to be among the properties auctioned Aug. 4 starting at 11 a.m.

Other properties on the block include a single-family house in Pelham Gardens, the Bronx; a two-family residence in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn; and a two-family house in Springfield Gardens, Queens.

The renovated 950-sf Chelsea apartment, Continue reading

The Big Apple: Rentals hot, Hamptons too. More!

Employment posts gain in June, but jobless rate continues to stall

The city’s unemployment rate in June went to 8.7 percent from May’s 8.6 percent, the state Department of Labor reported.

The one-month rise was not itself a significant increase, but after falling consistently each month for nearly a year starting last spring, there have now been four consecutive months without a noticeable decline in the city’s jobless rate.

Most of the drop in the rate from its 10 percent peak has come not from significant job gains but as a result of discouraged job seekers leaving the work force.

The city added 51,400 private sector jobs in the 12 months ending in June. The 1.6 percent growth rate, “is pretty good by historical standards,” according to James Brown, principal economist at the labor department.

Rental rigmarole challenges prospective tenants

With a vacancy rate in Manhattan of under 1 percent, apartments sometimes rent in hours, not days or weeks. Good tenants are not that hard to find. On top of that, evicting problem tenants can be expensive and time-consuming.

So, as the New York Times observes, most landlords here require a lot of information.

They want to see a prospective tenant’s tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, proof of employment, photo identification and, sometimes, reference letters from previous landlords.

Everyone will run a credit check (many Manhattan landlords look for a score above 700) and just about all, from big management firms to small-time landlords, want to know that your gross income is somewhere between 40 and 50 times the monthly rent.

Luxury sales in the East End Continue reading