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

Auction of two Harlem buildings nets $6 million

Auctioneer Chuck Schcieifer spots a biddder.

Auctioneer Chuck Scheifer swivels and spots a bidder in packed room.

In a highly successful auction Wednesday of two Manhattan buildings that the state has declared surplus, taxpayers benefited with winning bids totaling $5.97 million.

An estimated 300 individuals jammed into the auction room on the eighth floor of the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building on 125th Street to witness or participate in the sale.  There were 107 registered bidders, according to one official.

“Our goal is to get property on the tax rolls,” said the official, James P. Sproat, director of Real Estate Planning & Development in the Office of General Services.  “We’re satisfied that we’ve done the best for the taxpayers.”

Auctioneer Chuck Scheifer was less restrained: “I’m incredibly pleased and thrilled,” he allowed. “Fantastic.”

Immediately after successfully bidding on

Immediately after bidding successfully on 364 W. 119 St., the buyer (in blue shirt) and auctioneer converse.

First on the block was Continue reading

Auction set for vacation place with great security

Two houses in Manhattan also are available to bidders

If security is paramount, the happiness will be hard to contain of whoever is the winning bidder at the auction of a property in Northern Adirondack Park this summer.

On 27.3 acres in the hamlet of Lyon Mountain in Dannemora, the property includes several acres of undeveloped land and 23 buildings totaling 90,676 square feet.

New York State is selling the former minimum-security correctional facility as surplus property on July 10, and the minimum bid is a mere $140,000.

(If a second prison might prove to be of interest, the former Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on the southern tip of Staten Island is for sale as well, but not at auction.) Continue reading

The High Road: I broke every smart broker’s rule

(Flickr photo by litherland)

I have no one to blame but myself after I took on a new buyer.

Cindy is an acquaintance who e-mailed me one Friday saying that she was toying with the idea of moving out of her nearly $4,000-a-month rental to purchase an apartment on the Upper West Side.  Could we chat sometime? she asked.

I spent a couple of hours with her the next day explaining the process to someone who had lived overseas for decades and, like any first-time buyer in Manhattan, knew little about co-ops and condos, let alone what she needed to do to buy one.

It was a good conversation, in the course of which I went on at some length about steps that Cindy hsf to take to obtain a mortgage, retain an attorney and make an offer before going to contract.

She indicated as we talked that there was some urgency to get moving because Continue reading

Weekly Roundup: All-cash offers, reality dust-up, high annual sales growth, no-doc loans, Newtown resiliency, worst investments, housing ‘haze’

April transaction volume in Manhattan beats year earlier by 24 percent as supply finally starts to rise

Rent board preliminarily approves annual increase of at least 3.25 percent for one-year lease

Winning offers at even lower levels more likely than ever to be all cash

State passes overhaul Continue reading

The High Road: Unfunny comedy of errors

We arrive at the Upper East Side building around 3:30 p.m., 10 or 15 minutes early for our showing appointment, and the concierge calls up to the agent.

He descends soon thereafter, and the first words out of his mouth are that we were expected 15 minutes earlier.  The buyers I am representing and I introduce ourselves. The broker — call him “Sam” — does not.

I note that we changed the appointment from 3:15 to 3:45 in a series of e-mails trying to fix a mutually convenient time and apologize for any misunderstanding.

“Violet never told me,” he replies.

“Violet?” I wonder, Continue reading

Don’t sign contract without financing contingency

Weekly Roundups will resume starting April 5

Lawyers start with a boiler-plate contracts, but the terms they add provide essential protections.

Lawyers start with boiler-plate contracts, and the terms that they add are intended to provide essential protections.

In this nascent world of restrictive credit standards, anyone buying a new home needs to expect the expected.

When it comes not only to getting mortgage approval but also to getting promised funds, buyers can count on roadblocks that could delay or even prevent settlement.

That is why it is essential for their attorneys to include appropriate financing contingency clauses in the contracts.  Those clauses allow buyers to have their deposits returned in the event that lenders don’t finally provide the money to close.

Considering that the usual deposit of 10 percent of the purchase price — $40,000 on just the $400,000 purchase of a studio apartment — is a substantial sum, contingency clauses are not to be taken lightly.

Notes Forest Hills lawyer Ryan J. Walsh, whose explanation I’ll paraphrase liberally below, there are three major contingencies that can protect a buyer: Continue reading

There are sellers who can’t handle the pressure

(flickr photo by massdistraction)

The pressure on buyers making an offer or waiting for a seller’s response often can cause them to lose sleep.

What they may well forget is how intense the pressure can be on a seller as well, whether hoping for a good offer or deciding on accepting one that already has been made.

A recent experience underscored the point, which centered on Continue reading

Have you seen those folks sorting cans in trash?

Canners

There certainly are more degrading enterprises than picking through trash bags to extract bottles and cans from them.  But the effort is way down there, you must agree.

Perhaps you read the New York Times story on New Year’s Day about such “canners.”  The column by Francis X. Clines is what has motivated me to write this post and e-mail City Council members Christine Quinn and Gail Brewer, who represents my district along with State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, with the suggestion below. Continue reading

Sellers must keep their priorities in mind

Buyers don’t need a professional inspection to cite defects. (Flickr photo by Landahlauts)

There’s more than one way to lose a buyer, and today’s post centers on a common one — that pesky “as is” clause.

Contracts for the sale of condos and co-ops in Manhattan and elsewhere in New York City generally include the clause, which stipulates that the buyer accepts the apartment “as is.”  If the clause is not included, contingency language allows the buyer to cancel the contract in the event that the seller doesn’t agree to remediation.

Including an “as is” clause, especially for units in new buildings, shifts risk from the owner to the buyer.  And the risks — e.g. shortcomings in workmanship or code issues — are manifold in new developments.  So be it: caveat emptor. Continue reading