The Big Apple: Lawyers, leases, landlords, more

Do the West 70s really feel like Paris?

Mel Wymore, chairman of Community Board 7, which represents all the Upper West Side, tells the New York Times that, in addition to encompassing some of the costliest real estate in the city, the West 70s has gained buildings, among them condominium construction on Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.

The growth has buttressed values, even in a down market, but Wymore says it also has brought challenges. Small businesses like dry cleaners and hardware stores have struggled amid chain stores and banks, he said, and schools are crowded.

Another local resident charmed by her surroundings added that on a recent visit to Paris, her mind had wandered home.

“I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is tantamount to where I live,’ ” she said, incredibly.

State’s largest foreclosure law firm receives subpoenas related to allegedly shoddy practices

New York Atty. Gen. Eric T. Schneiderman has issued subpoenas to the state’s largest foreclosure law firm and a related company, indicating that his office has some doubts about the effort by state attorneys general to resolve questionable foreclosure practices among the nation’s top banks.

The New York investigation appears to center on two of the state’s foreclosure industry giants: the Steven J. Baum firm, headquartered in Amherst, N.Y., and Pillar Processing, a default servicing firm set up by Baum.

Representing JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and other large banks, the Baum firm has handled an estimated 40 percent of foreclosure cases in the state. Pillar Processing provides extensive services to the firm.

Water bills to go up, probably by 7.5 percent, much less than expected

Homeowners can expect a 7.5 percent increase in their water bills this summer, although the rise is lower than expected, in part because the city used so much water during last summer’s scorching heat.

Last year, Department of Environmental Protection officials estimated an 11.5 percent increase for fiscal year 2012, but New Yorkers used 3.4 percent more water than projected, thanks to record heat waves. In addition to that extra revenue, the department saved money by using wireless meter readers, which reduce the likelihood of bill disputes.

Nearly a month’s rent for lease “insurance” may overcome landlord’s disapproval

An outfit called Insurent is one way that a prospective tenant can be granted a lease even for applicants whose annual income or lack of U.S.-based credit history does not meet the typically stringent financial tests that landlords require in Manhattan.

“Assuming you pass the Insurent® Lease Guaranty qualification process, your landlord will receive a guaranty on your one-year lease,” according to the Web site.

“For a fee that represents a small percentage of your total annual rent, you can satisfy the landlord’s financial and credit requirements while eliminating the hassle of finding an acceptable co-signer or guarantor or putting up significant additional security.”

That “small” percentage: 75-80 percent of a month’s rent on average for U.S. residents, as much as 110 percent for others.

So many countertops, so little info on which is best–until now

Experts sought out by BrickUnderground.com like various surfaces to use as countertops, each with reservations when it comes to beauty and indestructibility. Find out their favorites and why they like them by visiting Brick.

City agencies wrestles with expansion of West End Avenue historic districts

On West End Avenue, two projects — one under construction and one proposed — have triggered a debate over the city’s historic-landmark preservation process.

The houses at 732-734 West End Ave. are slated to give way to a $10 million, 16-unit apartment complex scheduled to open in June 2012. Another project similar in size is planned for 508-510 West End Ave., but it is on hold the city Landmarks Preservation Commission considers extending local historic districts to include those properties.

Increasing numbers of landlords are becoming mortgage deadbeats

The number of foreclosure notices for apartment buildings in New York City soared during the past two years, reaching levels last seen in the early 1990s, according to a new report.

If buildings go all the way through foreclosure, tenants could be evicted. Well before then, buildings with financial problems are often slow to perform maintenance.

Apartment buildings that received foreclosure notices in the past 10 years had 15 percent more housing-code violations than other buildings, according to the report by the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University.

There were 720 foreclosure notices filed in the city during 2009 for privately owned buildings with five or more units, the report found. In 2010, it was 661. The last peak in apartment-building foreclosure filings was in 1994, when 666 were logged.

But foreclosure auctions plunge in first quarter

The number of new scheduled foreclosure auctions in New York City (256) fell 67 percent in Q1 2011 compared with Q1 2010 (767) and 47 percent from Q4 2010 (487).

In contrast to Q4 2010, Staten Island foreclosures were off 68 percent; Queens, 61 percent; Brooklyn, 41 percent; and the Bronx,31 percent.

Manhattan was the only borough that had an increase in the number of new scheduled foreclosures: 46 percent more than in Q4 2010.

Third quarter prices climb, but flat sales suggest buyer uncertainty

The health of the city’s residential real estate market is looking a little uncertain, with home prices rising slightly but the number of transactions dipping in the first quarter, according to a new report.

The average citywide home price in the quarter stood at $732,000, up 4 percent from the first quarter of last year, according to the report, which the Real Estate Board of New York conducts to track quarterly sales of condominium, cooperatives and one- to three-family homes.

In comparison with the last quarter of 2010, however, prices were off 1 percent.

Inventory also went down from a year earlier.  There were 8,999 homes for sale during the first three months of the year, down 12 percent from the same time a year ago.

The total value of sales in the city in the first quarter hit $6.58 billion, down 7 percent from a year earlier.

Short-term rentals in apartment buildings grow in popularity while facing jeopardy

The short-term rental business is diverse, encompassing everything from a cluttered closet-sized walk-up in the outer reaches of Queens to an impeccably restored 1840s town house with 18-foot ceilings, seven bedrooms and a roof deck at 11 Cranberry Street in Brooklyn Heights.

Most properties are available for as briefly as a night or for as long as a year.

A weekend at a short-term can cost anywhere from $250, for a garden apartment in Harlem, to many thousands of dollars for an entire town house.

Brokers say they’ve seen myriad reasons short-termer, adding that demand for short-term leases has been growing stronger recently.

But the increased demand is coming as short-term rentals are subject to greater scrutiny and control.

More condo boards taking steps to ban subleases, and a state law scheduled to take effect next month prohibits rentals of fewer than 30 days in most apartment buildings.

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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

Malcolm@ServiceYouCanTrust.com
Web site
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