Heading home warms my heart and lifts my spirits

Whittier, Alaska, which is dominated by a building in which almost everyone lives.

Whittier, Alaska, which is dominated by the Begich Building. (Photo by Jessica Spengler on Flickr)

When I moved from Manhattan to Phnom Penh toward the end of last year, most of my friends and family made clear their impression that I was heading to the least desirable outpost of the civilized world.

They were clearly wrong.

During my travels over the last month, I discovered Whittier, Alaska, which must rank on any list as one of mankind’s least hospitable municipalities.

The driver of the bus that dropped Lin and me at Anchorage Airport after a 90-minute drive from Whittier through a one-lane tunnel noted that the city began its life as Continue reading

I’ve taken Manhattan, but I’m leaving it behind

Skyline

New York City has captivated me since I first moved here in 1970.

Like everyone who appreciates the city, I have celebrated its universally acknowledged virtues — the myriad restaurants, the energy, all types of diversity, the stimulation that almost every block offers, the glorious parks, the vast range and high quality of cultural offerings, the climate of creativity along with residents whose intellect can be challenging, whose openness is endearing and whose directness can be refreshing.

I left Manhattan once, in 1995, to undertake a new and rewarding project in Washington, D.C. for the U.S. government.  I expected to be away for just a year, but that year stretched into 11 years, the last four of which unexpectedly involved a detour from communications, public education and journalism into what became a thriving real estate business.

But I missed the Big Apple, so I gave up that business to start a new one as a real estate broker in Manhattan.  Although returning in 2006 filled me with delight and impressed me with new discoveries, my business never reached the heights that I had achieved in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.  Moreover, the practice of real estate here left me yearning for the level of involvement that it requires in the Washington area, where agents and brokers complete contracts themselves, without a lawyer’s participation.

I have felt — and I am sure I will be accused of hyperbole — that all we do in New York is open and close doors.  True, we counsel, we negotiate (to a limited extent), we analyze the market and we peddle properties.  Yet I have found the demands of the work to be wanting, especially in comparison with D.C.  That’s me.

Despite my lackluster income from real estate in New York, I have somehow managed to acquire substantial assets.  However, I have in recent years become concerned about the chance that I might outlive them.  Continue reading

Weekly Roundup: Broker titles, celebs on the move, growing supply, reverse mortgages, the American Dream, boarding houses, and more

Next week’s Weekly Roundup will be the last until Sept. 6

Offering plans afford glimpse into pluses, minuses of lavish lifestyle in luxe buildings

Buyers snapping up Manhattan apartments 38 percent faster than last year, with UWS tightest market

Brokers still wrestling with new state rules on titles

Prices of Williamsburg condos plummeted in spring

First-half volume of investment properties leaps 41.3 percent over same time last year

One Picasso forsaking his walls

Lord of the Rings actor drops $1.075 million for gingerbread Victorian in Texas

Former NBA player lists California home for $2.795 million

Onetime TV detective, also actor who originated role of Continue reading

Liking paperwork, you’ll love co-op renovations

(Flickr photo by luxomedia)

Anyone planning to undertake major renovations in a co-op apartment faces a forbidding task.  Without the building’s prior written consent to undergo structural alterations of an apartment, count on trouble ahead.

If you are a brave soul with plans to expand the kitchen you soon will acquire, add a bathroom or take down a wall, there is no guarantee that the co-operative will approve the alteration request.

Many boards won’t even consider Continue reading

Brokers can offer rebates legally to their buyers

Eric Schneiderman

There has for some time been confusion about the permissibility of brokers giving part of their commissions to their buyers.

The money obviously can be perceived as an incentive for the buyer to ask for representation by a broker.

One reason that brokers may demur, however, is the New York Real Property Law, which declares the following: Continue reading

State admits to limited policing of us brokers

(Flickr photo by Metropolitan Police)

Real estate brokers in the state number 52,855, nearly half them in New York City.

Number of complaints filed with New York’s Department of State last year: 952.

Those figures were reported by the Real Deal in a piece about how hard will be enforcement of new advertising rules.  (I reported on the changes previously.)

Given what most consumers think of real estate agents and the number of times that I alone have observed violations of state law, those numbers just don’t square with reality.

There’s a simple explanation. Continue reading

Weekly Roundup: Upcoming auction, Hamptons rentals, U.S. prices, trending rates, much more

Queens public administrator schedules auction of three co-ops, 12 houses from $64,000 to $1.054 million

Co-op boards have broad latitude in making, amending, rescinding house rules, however wiggy

Suburbs, particularly in Connecticut and New Jersey, see rising prices

And in the Hamptons, number of $1 million rentals — for the summer alone — approaches record

Homeowners hurt by Sandy to receive property tax reductions totaling $90 million

Uh, those folks using balconies for storage or dead house plants can opt for highest, best use

When it comes to living here, actor Richard Kind knows what he loves

Again to be newly wed, actress turned fashion mogul lists Beverly Hills estate for $8 million

Discount taken in purchase of singer’s Central Park West apartment hardly immaterial

Rap mogul Continue reading