Maybe, just maybe, Shakespeare had a point

The Supremes.

Okay, killing all the lawyers would a mistake, especially those in the photo.  But there are times when I’d like to savage some whose involvement in a transaction made my life difficult.

Such are the lawyers with little experience in real estate, no respect for real estate brokers, no commitment to hard work or some combination of those characteristics. Continue reading

With lead in them thar walls, get ready to spend

A new rule requires contractors who renovate, repair or paint in residences built before 1978 to be trained in lead-safe work practice by April 22.

Anyone receiving compensation for such work that disturbs painted surfaces is subject to the new Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP) of the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which says it on target to implement the measure. Says Acting Regional Administrator Stan Meiburg:

“This rule strengthens EPA’s goal to protect children from exposure to lead-based paint. To be certified a contractor needs to take a simple one-day course. Beginning April 22, 2010, consumers should ask for proof of certification before work begins.”

The rule requires contractors to become trained and certified as lead-safe by EPA. Individuals take an eight-hour training course offered by private training providers to become a certified renovator. The certification is valid for five years.

No big deal, you say.  Continue reading

Joe Korff tries another way to sell out the Solaria

After the embarrassing auction of 54 condos of the Riverdale’s Solaria in the Bronx last November, Joe Korff and his ARC Development are trying a tactic they have dubbed “Spring Bid and Buy.”

Huh?  If a double meaning is meant, the grammar is elusive.  And if Korff thinks the idea will work better than simply lowering prices, he’s whistling Dixie.

More than half the building reportedly still is empty.  A total of 35 apartments in the sleek glass tower on Henry Hudson Parkway remain on the market, according to the Riverdale Press.  Only 10 of the development’s 64 units had found buyers prior to the auction.

Poor Mr. Korff seems to think that an inconveniently situated development ought to be priced competitively with other New York City projects.  Continue reading

Is it not true that economists like it both ways?

Wolves, not bears. (Flickr photo by Tambako the Jaguar)

There is a basic problem with economic forecasting, and that problem is insuperable.

Here is the problem: Economics is only a behavioral science, and human behavior is famously impossible to predict.

(If it weren’t, you undoubtedly can think of numerous examples of the failure of economists to tell the future as in–oh, I don’t know–the Wall Street debacle.  An example in a different context: the numerous mistakes that parole boards make on something as seemingly foreseeable as the propensity of a prisoner to commit another crime?)

As a result, economists always seem to be talking out of both sides of their mouths, having it both ways, being two-faced–pick your favorite cliché.

What got me thinking about this concern in the past week has been several articles that quoted economists, starting with one of my favorite punching bags, Robert Shiller.  Continue reading

I’ll bet my next commission on Mary Kay’s regret

Perhaps you read a lengthy and largely admiring profile last Sunday about the nonagenarian broker credited with helping to save Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, from a downhill slide.

In that piece, Mary Kay Gallagher is quoted as saying that she got into real estate as a kind of civic duty, “to help find responsible guardians for the shingled, gabled and columned behemoths in her own backyard.”

As suburbia beckoned many of the middle-class white families that had populated the Flatbush area, the minority population surged to 20 percent in 1970 from 2 percent in 1960, according to the Times article on the woman.  Blockbusting by brokers wanting to repurpose the area became a viable threat.

Once the so-called Old Guard moved out, what mattered to the 90-year-old broker was replacing them with owners who cared enough and could afford to maintain their properties and preserve the neighborhood’s aesthetic. Continue reading

In a co-op board interview, you can skate around the way your dog surely will snap at. . . children

Flickr photo by Revolt! Puppy

BrickUnderground recently asked me to list how to answer tricky questions during a co-op board interview.  Examples:

The board asks you to describe the dog you adopted from a shelter years ago, a snappish Chow mix Continue reading

Allow me, for one, to sing Con Edison’s praises

As I write this post, I am listening to the sounds of hammering, chainsawing and the racket caused by cutting into the street.

It is music to my ears.

I conduct my real estate business from my home office, sitting at desk by the window that is just above the heads of passersby.  I happen to love this arrangement because I feel part of the world while being apart, enjoying the changes in the weather and the sight of tulips I helped plant in the tree boxes outside my apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

While working the other day, Continue reading

62 condos sold in Miami weekend auction–maybe

The San Lorenzo Tower

Individual buyers bid an average of $121 per square foot – nearly double the minimum asking price but 44 percent below the original construction loan amount – on 65 unsold units in the first auction of a new Miami condo tower in more than three years, says blogger Peter Zalewski, a broker in the upscale Bal Harbour section of Miami.

More than 300 people showed up at the Hyatt Regency Miami Hotel in downtown Miami (and an unknown number of additional investors went online) to participate in the April 10 auction of the units in the San Lorenzo condominium.  The building is a few miles west of the Little Havana neighborhood.

It is unclear how many of the units will actually go to closing Continue reading

This is one ‘play’ in which nobody forgets a line

Patricio, my doorman, on the Upper West Side.

When the contract with 30,000 union employees of 3,200 buildings in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Manhattan is due to expire, you can count on the situation unfolding as it has periodically over the years.

There always is a drumbeat of dire consequences issued by Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union.  Then comes a strike authorization vote.  Meantime, property managers and boards of directors gear up for the worst.

It’s a like a play in which everyone has a part and has all the lines memorized until the curtain rises.

In fact, the worst sometimes happens, Continue reading

Maybe it’s OK if taxes dampen spirits, tax energy

Flickr photo by Chris_J

You already know that the IRS is drooling over the impending income tax deadline.  You’re not alone.

This is the time of year when homebuyers are digging through that shoebox with all their receipts, hoping for a refund, dreading the possibility of draining their savings and . . . postponing their search for a new place to live.

Although the weather may be fine and open houses scheduled in seasonally elevated numbers, taxes and their impact in “normal” times tend to sap the resources, energy and motivation of buyers.  (Of course, this is hardly a normal year.)  The nascent vigor of the housing market follows.

It’s just as well: Continue reading