What’s wrong with brokers anyway?

Flickr photo by marttj

BROKER WARS: Tales from the Front

If real estate brokers receive little respect, there is ample reason.  In this three-part series, I’ll provide examples that prove the point, explain what is required of brokers in New York now and suggest a solution.

It does not surprise me, and certainly won’t surprise you, that 30 percent of respondents in a Harris Interactive Poll said real estate agents and brokers deserved “hardly any prestige.”

Their assessment was exceeded by a couple of points only by the categories of actor and stockbroker.  As for having “very great prestige,” real estate agents and brokers were 23rd on the list, attaining a mere 5 percent—below farmer, union leader and accountant.

I have found myself blogging regularly about the unprofessional, rude, incompetent or unethical actions of other real estate practitioners.  Consider these examples (which you can find at greater length by following the links): Continue reading


Case-Shiller sees improvement, expresses concern

Data through January in the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices show that the annual rates of decline of the 10-City and 20-City Composites improved in comparison with December.

The gauges, which omit apartment sales and include whole metropolitan regions, actually had the 10-City Composite unchanged from a year ago and the 20-City Composite down only 0.7 percent versus January 2009.

Annual rates for the two Composites have not been so close to a positive print for three years.  Commented Standard & Poor’s David M. Blitzer: Continue reading

Frustrated artists can dress up their naked walls

Hanging sculptures designed with or without your input represent one of three options that A.R.T. offers at unusually reasonable prices.

Donald Rattner, a friend who is a successful architect, is branching out – almost literally.  He has started a business called A.R.T., which Don characterizes as “a new way to create, collect and think about contemporary art” by making high quality, original art more accessible to more people.

He and his wife Gaby opened a pop-up store in Brooklyn’s pulsating DUMBO (near Grimaldi’s impossibly popular restaurant) that I visited a few days ago, and I was blown away by the quality of the design and the level of creativity.  Best of all, the prices are within reach of many consumers.

The average price of one module ranges from $38/unit to $55/unit for the shelf art and $45 to $60 for the wall art per module, with a minimum order of two or three units, depending on the line. Mural art runs $8-10 a square foot. Continue reading

Biggest impact of 80-20 rule change yet to be felt

After literally decades of campaigning by the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums, as well as others, a limitation on the amount of money that a co-op building can collect in rent from commercial (technically, patronage) operations was changed in December 2007 starting that tax year.

The impact of what was an expanded definition of “cooperative” has yet to be fully realized, though there are isolated instances of occasionally enormous benefits.

Until it was changed, the so-called 80-20 rule prevented cooperatives from enjoying a tax deduction for their expenditures on property taxes and mortgage interest if their income from retail stores, garages and such exceeded their operating budgets by 20 percent.

As a result, many commercial tenants were paying a pittance in rent, including nothing in the case of a few nonprofits such as, say, thrift shops.

With a new, more comprehensive definition of “cooperative” in the revised IRS rule, buildings now can permit the budgetary contribution of commercial rent to go over 20 percent.  Continue reading

A land lease building should be your last resort

This bargain-priced apartment has been on the market for 67 weeks. Why?

The phrase “land lease” often strikes terror in the hearts of co-op and condo buyers and brokers alike.

It should.

That’s because a land lease means that the building sits on land it doesn’t own.  Someone else holds title to the property and rents it to the building. Continue reading

Hard to ignore, VOWs face uncertain future here

Boston-based CondoDomain, a Web-based discount real estate brokerage, is now a member of the Real Estate Board of New York, offering offers a VOW (Virtual Office Web site), reports the Real Deal. That means that customers who log onto the company’s New York site can browse through the listings in REBNY’s database, which is far from comprehensive.

CondoDomain founder and  told the Real Deal that the appearance of VOWs in New York City has opened the floodgates for new companies like his to penetrate the lucrative New York City market.

“The VOW will lay the groundwork for companies like ours to come in and compete,” CEO Anthony Longo told the publication. Continue reading

Top broker and I have an extended e-mail spat

Flickr photo by Giandomenico Ricci.

She is a first-rate broker with a raft of listings.  When a client of mine wanted to see one of them on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, I e-mailed that information to the broker, whom I’ll call “Gina,” touching off a dispute that riles me even as I pen this post.

To put the e-mail exchange in context, you need to know that I had asked on Tuesday, March 9, for an appointment at 10 a.m. on the Saturday before the one that is the subject of the e-mails below.

Gina wrote back what would work for her: later than 10 a.m. on Saturday or at an open house on Sunday.  She didn’t provide details.  When no open house appeared on the listing by that Thursday, I decided to e-mail her once again. Only in that way did I learn of one being scheduled for that Sunday at times she ultimately provided to me.

In the end, my client couldn’t make the open house, but Continue reading