Sellers can tempt buyers with attractive financing

In a difficult selling environment, there  is one surefire way for a property owner to lure buyers.  That approach, which is not without risks, is seller financing.

Any risks can be minimized, and the strategy can prove to be win-win for buyer and seller alike: The seller gets to unload a property and obtain a higher rate of interest than with most other options, while the buyer avoids the hassle and uncertainty of borrowing from a conventional lender.

As Rockville lawyer Harvey S. Jacobs has pointed out in the Washington Post, it is essential for the seller to insist on a substantial down payment of at least 30 percent.

Another issue Continue reading

If apartment doesn’t feel right, go with the flow

When buyers can’t put their finger on what troubles them about an apartment, often the root cause will be layout.  Rooms don’t seem to flow naturally into each other, are awkwardly situated, present decorating difficulties or suffer from some combination of such attributes in those units.

Nowhere are these issues more likely than in combined apartments –for example, one in the high 80s on a corner of Amsterdam Avenue. Continue reading

Arleen Shabel hasn’t killed her husband–yet

My clients as photographed by the New York Times in front of their Moorestown, N.J. home.

I had the pleasure of connecting a New York Times writer with buyers of mine, Arleen and Norman Shabel, a couple of weeks back.

The Shabels, who have been looking for pied-a-terre in Manhattan, were quoted in a long piece about homeowners having second thoughts about selling their properties at the 11th hour.  Chronicled, as well, were the ziz-zags of buyers whose remorse had them pulling back from offers that they had made or were about to make.  And today’s Times had a similar story on Page 1. Continue reading

Maybe tax benefits of homeownership should end

Abolishing the mortgage-interest deduction would replenish the nation's coffers. (Flickr photo by hto2008)

If anything I have posted so far hasn’t made me a pariah among my professional peers, this piece may well do that.

A column I read in the New York Times on Saturday got me thinking, again, about the question of U.S. government policy of supporting home ownership (which has fallen a couple of points to around 67 percent since the housing bust) by allow a tax deduction for mortgage interest.

In his provocative article, Joe Nocera quotes several economists and questions the policy.  Why does the policy represent a cow so sacred that it cannot be slaughtered, not even touched?

That cow, of course, is that that home ownership fulfills the American dream. To my mind, heretical as it may be for a real estate broker to ask, hasn’t the time come to send that old cow to pasture? Continue reading

Plans to buy, renovate home bounce back in year

In May of 2009, only 3.0 percent of the 717 New York State residents polled by the Siena (College) Research Institute of Loudonville said they planned to buy a home.  Last month, that number rose to 4.7 percent.

Those results compare with 3.7 percent in May 2008 and 5.3 percent in May 2007, close to the height of the housing boom.  (Lehman Brothers imploded on Sept. 15, 2008.)

With respect to undertaking a major renovation, the numbers starting in 2007 were 20.6 percent, 16.9 percent, 13.8 percent and, this year, 17.8 percent.

The numbers do not completely correlate with the study’s index of consumer confidence, Continue reading

Bid on 29 apartments, houses in Queens, Brooklyn

The minimum bid for this Bayside property is $338,000.

The public administrator in Queens is auctioning off 10 co-ops, one condo and 18 single-family houses, each of them left by owners who died without a will.

The estate auction takes place June 29 at 11 a.m. at 88-11 Sutphin Blvd., Room 62, Jamaica.  Inspection will be June 26-27 between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Regarding the co-ops below, the contracts will be nullified and deposit returned in the event that a board rejects a successful bidder. Continue reading

Out of the mouths of babes is one thing. . .

There oughtta be a law. But wait, there IS. (Flickr photo by kolix)

But out of the mouths of experienced brokers is quite another.

The other day, clients of mine lingered in a $2 million loft that interested them in Tribeca.  As we were leaving the newish building in lower Manhattan, they asked the broker who showed us the condo two questions that he should have known better than to have answered.

Q.  Who lives in the building?

A.  A lot of nice people, many like you.

Q.  What’s the neighborhood like?

A.  It’s very safe.

I had all I could do to keep my jaw from dropping.  As anyone in the business worth his salt knows, his answers were clear violations of the Fair Housing Act.  They represented cause for a discrimination complaint.

But, then, this is the same broker who consumed more than 24 hours to respond to my requests, by e-mail and by voicemail to his mobile phone, for a showing on the very day that he finally replied–way too late and ignoring my further urgings for him to call me.

Oh, yes, then he telephoned me 45 minutes before the appointment that we finally made – in writing – to ask where we were.

Wouldn’t it be cool if brokers had an enforceable requirement to report Fair Housing offenses?

I’m just sayin’.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
Web site

What to make of a Times story on stalling sales?

An article in the New York Times today does little to inspire confidence in the Big Apple’s housing market.  In case you missed it, the long piece by Vivian Toy begins this way:

This year, the burst of real estate action that marks the spring season came early in New York. Manhattan saw a big sales spike in March, well before the market’s usual busy season in May and June. But now, instead of going into the expected overdrive, some brokers say, sales have started to stall.

That could simply mean that spring arrived and ended early, as buyers gained confidence in the market and began to shop. Or it could mark the beginning of a slide that will lead to another dip in prices and sales activity.

Although many brokers will tell clients that the market has already hit bottom, some economists and real estate experts predict that prices are still falling, and will drop 5 percent to 15 percent by the end of next year.

Frankly, I’m not sure what to make of the article, which is strong on anecdote, weak on numbers. That’s not to say Continue reading

Why I write what I write

(Flickr photo by NIOSH)

I am living proof that old journalists won’t even fade away.

Years after I left traditional journalism and went on to at least three other careers, I can’t seem to stop writing.  In fact, I am writing so much that I have developed a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Unshackled from the restraints of editors and the necessity of charming sources, Continue reading

There’s marketing and then there’s fantasyland

All of us get spam and all kinds of mail that we don’t have the time to read.

From the e-mails that I receive from other brokers, you might think they were the exception.

This is just a sample--every one of them selling a property. More below.

I’ve gone to a bit of trouble to show you the e-mails that I received on Friday alone, admittedly a busy day, to demonstrate what too many brokers believe is effective marketing and to take the opportunity to rant and whine.

Every single one of the e-mails you see here touts a property, and every one of those properties is available to me on Manhattan’s version of an MLS.  (The screen shots I have copied are not duplicates.)

Certainly, you shouldn't even try to read the graphics, not only because they're illegible from my copying.

What is running through the minds of the brokers?  You can be sure all of us are getting about the same number of these annoying e-mails and reading them just as avidly as am I.  There are more of them from Friday:

It would be nice if these were the end of Friday's contributions.

Seeing these pages may give you some idea of why I maintain two e-mail addresses for my business. The one from which these pages are copied is  The one that goes directly to my BlackBerry is, which receives far less such spam and thus is far less likely to drive me mad–in both senses of the word.

(I do, by the way, continue to receive broker mail on my Service You Can Trust account from Washington, four years after moving back to Manhattan.)

But wait! There are still more:

And that's not all.

Do I ever, ever read these e-mails?  Hell, I rarely even read the subject lines–unless I’m in the mood for a laugh by checking for this recurring one: “WON’T LAST!!!” I don’t see the point.

If I’m searching for properties that meet my buyers’ requirements, you know what, I’ll find them.  The e-mails I’m getting serve merely to make me feel harassed, nagged and annoyed.  Even deleting them makes me angry.

(Okay, probably I could ask them to remove me from their lists or I could block them, yet I have this inexplicable fear of, paradoxically, missing something in mail I don’t bother reading.  Although it may be efficient to invest a few minutes to be unsubscribed, that process irritates me, too – irrationally, I concede – even more than having to deal with needless so-called marketing. Besides it wouldn’t work: Every time I give out my card, the cycle starts all over again.)

The real estate brokers who resort to e-mail blasts are wasting time, theirs and mine.  Often, they also are wasting  money by using a distribution service.  I don’t mind if they waste their resources, but I’d be thrilled if they’d stop intruding on me.

And brokers who think that their e-mails will result in a single sale are dreaming.  If brokers need to reassure sellers that they’re doing everything possible to unload a property, why stop at e-mails?  Why not parade up and down Broadway wearing sandwich boards?

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
Web site