Out and About: Truthfully, there is a free lunch

(Flickr photo by Glamhag)

If you are anything like me, you like getting something for nothing.

And if other brokers are anything like me, they are suckers for giveaways as well.

Offering free stuff is one way of luring brokers to open houses geared to the industry.  I confess to feeling a bit ashamed to say that it works for me.

I’ve provided it myself, the logic being not only that more brokers will attend an open house but that they’ll spend more timing absorbing its characteristics while they chomp on a lunch that is close to free — that is, if we value our time at nothing.

(Often, it is lenders, not brokers, who pick up the tab as a way of promoting themselves to brokers.)

Although I don’t go out of my way to attend such open houses, I’ll acknowledge that any free lunch is bound to be better than the slice of pizza that I’ll wolf down as I race to cover as many open houses during the week as possible.

Almost always, some combination of sandwiches, chips, cold pasta, fruit salad, cookies and other nourishment is offered as part of a tour of similar properties in part of a neighborhood — for example, big units on Central Park West, or garden apartments in the 70s, or a bunch of co-ops clustered in the 100s. Sometimes, we are provided even with sushi.

So, lunch is not only an inducement, it’s also is a nice benefit in addition to the convenience and efficiency of assessing a number of properties in a relatively short time.  It is, moreover, a chance to exchange what some may call information and others among us, gossip: “Did you see anything nice on tour?  What did you think of . . .”

Lunch may not be the only temptation that listing brokers proffer.  Some advertise online to the industry the existence of a bonus payment (which always should be disclosed to represented buyers as a potential conflict of interest).

As I write this post, my inbox contains a lure similar to others that I have seen in addition to a mere lunch. The latest is a raffle with the chance to win an iPad or iPhone just by leaving behind a business card when we visit an apartment during its open house on Riverside Drive in the low 100s.  And we don’t even have to stay there for the drawing.

The same broker offered an iPad one week earlier for another of his lonely listings, one that had gone stale and was situated relatively far from where most Upper West Side brokers (and their buyers) normally venture.

The expensive prize was seeming recognition that the apartment’s detriment was its off-the-beaten-path location in two respects: 1. Brokers need to expend a fair amount of time to make their way to the unit, and 2. Having a group of other open houses in close proximity of each other enables a decent number of them to be seen efficiently in one outing.

In case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t get to the iPad apartment, though the unit and its raffle were on my list.  Maybe, there will be “free” lunch on a brokers’ tour next week.  I sure hope so.

Here is a sample of some of the properties I’ve visited that have been listed by various brokers:

  • A 3,000-sf corner apartment of inordinate appeal in a Central Park block of the mid 90s.  A well-considered combination of two units on high floor with four exposures primarily facing south and west, this airy co-op has four bedrooms, a large central kitchen with laminate countertops, four and a half baths and a living/dining room that is 32 feet long.  The co-op is in a 1925 building with full-time doorman, live-in super, basement storage and — yes! — ping-pong table at a very high asking price of $4.35 million with average maintenance of $4,022 a month.
  • On Riverside Drive in the low 100s, a two-bedroom co-op that has a formal dining room.  With a tired eat-in kitchen featuring countertops of white ceramic tile, older appliances and washer/dryer hard against the stove, this dark unit has merely adequate closet space (including one of cedar), one vintage bath in need of attention and the other one that has aesthetically suspect improvements, windows facing walls.  In a 1926 building with few amenities, this apartment, which is temporarily off the market, would be more realistically priced below its listing price of $1.075 million with monthly maintenance of $1,334. 
  • A 755-sf one-bedroom apartment in a Riverside Park block of the low 80s.  This eccentric co-op on the first floor of a 1900 pet-friendly townhouse has been nicely renovated, except for appliances in the open kitchen, a wood-burning fireplace, through-wall air conditioning and balcony views over the block’s interior gardens.  The bedroom is steps up from the spacious living room and provides ample closet space.  In a pet-friendly building that offers laundry facilities and additional storage in the basement, the unit went on the market in February for $695,000 with maintenance of $992 a month before going down in two steps to $635,000 and, in September, off the market.
  • In a Central Park block of Lincoln Center, a lovely duplex that has its sole bath between the two bedrooms upstairs.  Entry of the 1,100-sf co-op is basically into the eat-in kitchen — which has upscale appliances, custom cabinetry, granite countertops and half-size dishwasher — but the transition to the living/dining area with its gorgeous floors and south-facing bay window is smooth.  Needing cosmetic upgrades, including refinished floors and the bath, the upstairs does not impress like the downstairs.  The apartment’s reduced offering price of $995,000 million with appallingly high monthly maintenance of $2,845 should do the trick.  In a pet-friendly building wreathed in charm but with amenities limited to its 24-hour elevator operator, the unit’s price is consistent with the $1.475 million sale of a pristine similar apartment on a lower floor last spring.
  • A rambling 1,850-sf corner co-op in the mid 70s at Amsterdam Avenue.  This three-bedroom, three-bath apartment has its high-end galley kitchen separated from the dining area by a bath, bedroom and dogleg turn in the hall.  There are a plethora of closets, the most open of three exposures south and west, the necessity of renovating the baths and overall condition that is generally no better than fair.  Its original asking price of $1.895 million in October was lowered twice in mere weeks, most recently to more reasonable $1.695 million with maintenance per month of $2,511 and an assessment through 2013 of $294. 

Tomorrow: Renovations defined

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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

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