My first year in Cambodia has passed at warp speed

one year 12

What some folks think of as Angkor Wat is the temple in the background, but the name actually applies to a sprawling complex filled with architectural wonders that cover many kilometers.

December 3 was the anniversary of my move to Cambodia.  Although I felt pretty much prepared for the experience, I have learned a lot.

Everything about making Phnom Penh my home is new.  I have never before been retired, never lived as an expat, never expected to have English be so often understood here and never spent more than vacation time in a developing country.

The list of what I learned about Cambodia and me is long, but I’ll do my best to provide mere brushstrokes of my perspective in the hope that I won’t tax your patience.

One year 3

One surprise has been how deeply moved I have been by the widespread poverty, how desperately I’d like to help a poor people and how 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

Should merely curious buyers seek appointments?

Flickr photo by Michael Simmons

When buyers call brokers to say they are thinking about a home purchase, those brokers respond almost literally like Pavlov’s celebrated dogs.  They may even actually drool.

I don’t plead guilty to drooling, at least not in such instances, but I admit to having made appointments for buyers who are unfamiliar with the housing market to see various properties.

Is such a practice fair to the sellers, who may spend a couple of hours stashing toys and scrubbing tubs, or to their brokers, for whom time is supposed to equal money? Continue reading

No place like home — sometimes unfortunately

HvacDirect-Commercial-Package-Air-Conditioner-15TON

Example of an air conditioning unit that would be installed on a rooftop.

The following headline in the New York Post caught my eye:

Manhattan couple says hulking Duane Reade air conditioner blows away their view

According to the newspaper, they own a $3 million duplex on East 86th Street next to Duane Reade.  Lo and behold, the store is planning to construct a huge eight-foot-high air conditioning unit on its roof.

Uh oh, there goes any view (from the second and third floors) and down goes the Upper East Side co-op’s value.

So Continue reading

Out and About: 2-bedroom units are all the rage

This is the final Out and About for the summer, but please do check in for occasional posts on other topics meantime.

Second bedroom of my apartment, which is on the market at this writing.

Second bedroom of my apartment, now on the market.

Two-bedroom apartments may well meet the needs of the biggest segment of buyers.

For one or two residents, they represent the flexibility of having an office, guest room or baby’s room for a family planning to grow.

For a couple already with offspring, two-bedroom units make it possible to accommodate easily (in New York City terms) two quite young children of even the opposite sex, two of the same sex into their teens and even three kids should it be possible to divide a large bedroom if, as often is the case, a true third bedroom is too much of a financial stretch for the buyers.

It is no surprise, then, that two-bedroom co-ops and condos accounted for approximately a third of the market share in Manhattan during the first quarter of the year.  And they sell quickly when priced correctly.

Two-bedroom units that are listed under the market have been going fast, while those that seem to be exactly on the market take just a bit longer.  That’s true of at least three pre-war apartments that I happened to see on the Upper West Side within the last couple of months.  Consider these: Continue reading

Weekly Roundup: Outer boroughs vs. Manhattan, Hamptons on rebound, growing June sales and prices, eager buyers, actors aiming lower, more

This is the last Weekly Roundup until after Labor Day

Outer boroughs far outpace Manhattan in Q2 sales

‘Best and final’ offers often getting breached after seller acceptance

Ties to the city by relative handful of residents usually long and loved

Landlord spends $20,000 on private detective to bust owner renting out apartment via Airbnb

Renting apartment for grown children can be taxing

Rent regulation creates two different worlds

To say nothing of the enormous tax advantages many luxury co-ops enjoy

Home sales, prices rebound in the Hamptons in Q2

City Council erases quirk in special tax exemption for veterans

Finally acting like a grown-up, he lowers price to sell Malibu mansion for $10.2 million

Widow of opera legend Continue reading

Out and About: Windows best for jumping out

View, what view?

View, what view?

Short is the distance between a high window in a prison cell and rooms with windows jammed into a corner.

Although the exemplar in the above photo, taken in a co-op between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues in the low 90s, shows that light enters the living room, the windows add nothing else.  In fact, they throw off the room’s balance.

Without going up to the windows themselves,  such a configuration require a resident to hike over to them just to know the weather.  They probably are better for jumping out than looking through.

Yet the apartment, Continue reading