Tuesday, August 2, 2016

All mimsy were the borogoves, and the white zone is for loading and unloading only.

“AS of August 8th we will have to start separating our garbage. THE BIN UNDER YOUR DESK will no longer have a plastic liner in it. It will be for PAPER PRODUCTS/CARDBOARD ONLY. The BLUE bins will be for METAL/CANS/FOIL/GLASS/RIGID PLASTIC.  The tall BLACK bins (not in the office yet, coming this week) and the SILVER BIN IN THE KITCHEN will be for all else (food, foam products, plastic bags, chip bags, etc.).  --Office Manager”

This is the most recent in an ongoing series of notices from our much beloved office manager, who is after all Just Doing Her Job.  As I understand it, here’s the way things are at present:

Paper products and cardboard go under my desk where there is no longer a plastic bag.  The blue bins are for metal/cans/foil/glass and rigid plastic and it’s Claudia who does graphic design except when it’s Christopher. Black bins that aren’t there are for food, foam products, plastic bags and chip bags when we're not in the kitchen where that stuff goes in the silver bin and Theresa makes the coffee but Brian does advertising and you can’t pour anything into the water machine and it’s two ladies who used to be Anna and Anna but are now something else who do public relations and Carly is now also somebody else and no shorts in the office and Charo puts the listings in the blue bin and the Xerox machine is not to be used for metal/cans/foil, which are entered in the computer by Bert and we are not open Saturdays in the month of August when new listings go in the dishwasher or maybe the black bin that isn’t there and aspirin goes in the medicine cabinet and I have to go get some RIGHT NOW.

Friday, June 3, 2016

New York City: It's more fragile than you think.

A few weeks ago I watched from my window as the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava burned, and thought of how many times I’ve walked past that church and never really looked at it.  Or in it.
St. Sava's burning
Now I can see from what’s left of it that it must have been truly gorgeous. Designed by Richard Upjohn for Trinity Church to serve the Episcopalians in what was then "uptown," it was consecrated in 1855. 

Edith Wharton was married there in 1885, and mentioned the church in
The remains of St. Sava's
“The Age of Innocence.”    It was bought by the Serbian people in 1942. (St. Savas History)

Across Madison Square Park is another beautiful building that I had never entered until recently.  The Appellate Division Courthouse of New York City is at the northeast corner of 25th Street and Madison Avenue. 
As I live close by, my lawyer friends were always asking me if I’d seen the inside, and I always had to tell them no. I figured you couldn't go in there without a law degree.

At their urging (and urging and urging) I finally climbed the steps and went into the lobby.  It’s lovely, and nobody told me to go away.  You should see it too.

For several years, I had the great privilege of working in the Chrysler Building.  I walked through that glorious Art Deco lobby every morning and every evening, but I never made it to the Cloud Club, and now the Cloud Club is gone.

Okay, you’ve heard this sad story a million times.  Stop and smell the roses.  Enjoy life while you have it.  Etc., etc., etc.

But walking into the lobby of a building and admiring the art and architecture is one of the few pleasant things you can do in New York that’s free.

In addition to the buildings mentioned above, I also recommend several lovely churches (you don’t have to pray; you just have to be quiet), St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 51st and Fifth, Grace Church at Broadway and 11th, St. Thomas’s at 53rd and Fifth, among others.

Image result for ford foundation building
Ford Foundation photograph
There are also hidden gardens you may not be aware of. The Ford Foundation, on 43rd Street near the UN, is a beautiful quiet green place. There’s nowhere to sit down, but you can walk through it to your heart’s content.  

And while you’re in the neighborhood, you might as well walk through the UN gardens.  

Also, there are beautiful little vest pocket parks on the river at the eastern end of 51st Street and the southern end of Sutton Place South.

Downtown, there are some lovely places to sit in the shade in Battery Park.
From a bench in Battery Park
Don’t let these lovely bits of the city go unexplored. And find some more of your own.  And when you do, please remember to tell me about them.

Call me at 917-991-9549, or e-mail cstimpson@stribling.com. I’ll be happy to visit your apartment, loft, or townhouse and give you a detailed broker’s opinion of what it could fetch today, supported with figures and comparable sales. Of course, there’s no cost or obligation involved.

Even if you plan to stay in your home till the next millenium, it’s always good to know what it’s worth.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Astor Row: All you need is a wicker rocking chair and a glass of lemonade.

Where can you find a house with a front porch in Manhattan?


There are 28 of them on the south side of 130th Street, between Fifth Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard, which is known as Astor Row.

A few years back, my then-partner and I had a client who was looking for a house in that neighborhood. 

We were exploring the area when we came upon a row of beautiful 19th century brick townhouses with wooden front porches painted green.  
New York Landmarks Conservancy Photo
Many had become dilapidated over the years, but they hadn’t lost their charm.

Not only were there front porches, but they looked out over front yards, which must have once been gardens, and could be again.

I never forgot those houses.  

I was reminded of them today, when I saw an article in www.brickunderground.com titled "A Harlem street with a 'quiet southern town vibe' shines again."

The article says that the lot on which the houses were built was originally bought at auction by John Jacob Astor in 1844.

During the next 150 years or so, the houses were built, changed hands several times, and eventually fell into disrepair. 

In the 1990s, Astor's great granddaughter-in-law Brooke Astor was on a driving tour of Harlem when she saw them. 

"What is this?" Mrs. Astor inquired.  Funny she should ask.

She was appalled by the houses' condition, particularly that of the porches, which in some cases had been removed. 

Mrs. Astor was in a position to do something about this.

“After a conversation with the then-President of the Conservancy, Susan Henshaw Jones, Mrs. Astor pledged the first of two Astor Foundation grants that eventually totaled $1.7 million to jump-start the restoration of homes on the row,” Brick Underground says. 

“Eventually, $3 million was raised to do the work on the porches, as well as to repair toppling chimneys, damaged roofs, and cast-iron fences, and repoint and clean the facades.”

Times have changed in Harlem, especially on this newly restored row. Today, one of those houses is on the market for $4,300,000. 

Here’s the link to the article: http://www.brickunderground.com/live/Astor-Row-Harlem

Call me at 917-991-9549 or e-mail cstimpson@stribling.com.  I'll be happy to visit your apartment, loft, or townhouse and give you a detailed broker's opinion of what it could fetch today, supported with figures and comparable sales.  Of course, there's no cost or obligation involved. 

Even if you plan to stay in your home forever, it's always good to know what it's worth.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Is the Manhattan real estate market softening? Yes and no.

At the top, it's melting, rapidly.  At the bottom, it's granite.

More than three thousand new and ridiculously expensive apartments are about to hit the Manhattan market. 

As if we didn't have enough.

Central Park Tower, 111 West 57th Street, 520 Park Avenue and 432 Park Avenue are among the new buildings rising on or near 57th Street, now known as Billionaire's Row.
Architectural rendering of
157 West
57th Street (New York
Daily News, MARCHMADE)

The Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group defines ridiculously expensive (they call it "luxury") as costing $2,400 per square foot or more.

The March 31 issue of Crain's New York Business says that well over half of a total of more than 5,000 new apartments will be priced at that point. ("Luxury Market Cooling") 

A 2,000 square foot two bedroom (2,000 square feet could easily accommodate three or even four bedrooms, but we're talking luxury here) would cost a minimum of $4,800,000.

Of course, this is not counting the high-end condos already on the market. Per The Real Deal, condo units at Extell's One57, at 157 West 57th Street, are still not sold out, more than four years after sales launched.  

Exactly how bad is it?  Well, six to nine months of inventory is considered a balanced market.  More than nine months is a buyers' market, less than six months is a sellers' market.

The chart below was prepared by Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants. Read it and weep. 

At the moment, there are 28.2 months of co-ops and 26.3 months of condo inventory priced above $10,000,000. From $5,000,000 to $10,000,000 there are 12.6 months of co-ops and 12.4 months of condos.

As you can see, at the lower end, the market is still firmly in the hands of the sellers.  Less expensive properties are being snapped up before the ink is dry on the listing agreements.

At the top, the market is at the other extreme, flooded with new, shiny and expensive condos.  

It's definitely a buyers' market. But where are the buyers?

I don't know.  The Real Deal doesn't know either.

"So how much demand actually exists for uber-luxury condos?" The Real Deal asks.

"Who today knows how many people around the world can afford an ultra-luxury apartment, and how many of them would be willing to buy one in New York?.....This dilemma doesn't just concern luxury developers but the whole industry.

"If developers are overestimating global demand for high-end New York product, they could be inflating a luxury bubble that could drag down the entire market.  If they are underestimating it, the industry may well be misdirecting its resources."

I don't see any signs that they're underestimating it. 

One developer, HFZ Capital Group's Ziel Feldman, is making his properties smaller and pricing them between $4,000,000 and $8,000,000. Feldman is calling this "affordable luxury." We'll see if it works.

Jeff Blau, CEO of The Related Companies, says that at this point, building on Billionaires' Row is more like gambling than investing. (The Real Deal)

In a panel discussion at the 92nd Street Y last Thursday, developers Jared Kushner, Steve Witkoff and Abby Hamlin, along with Blau, seemed to agree.

"Gary [Barnett, of Extell] built that building and then 40 other developers came out and said, 'Oh, I've got an original idea. Maybe I'll do a similar project in a similar area with similar pricing,'" Kushner commented.

Donna Olshan's weekly newsletter (Olshan Luxury Market Report) for March 28--April 3 says that "The biggest stumbling block so far: sales above $10 million.  Year-to-date, 45 contracts at $10 million and above have been signed, down from 73 in 2015 and 80 in 2014."

Crain's New York Business says that despite a number of new projects coming online in the past year, the number of sales increased by a mere 8%, while the number of units on the market fell as developers of new buildings chose to keep homes off the market.

Keeping apartments off the market is expensive. Developers carry and service seriously heavy debt between the time a project is begun and the time when the last sale closes. Other than for inventory control, they don't keep apartments off the market unless they really, really have to.

And they really, really have to.

On the other hand, if you want to buy an apartment for less than $2,000,000, first, try to find one, and then be prepared to stand in line. 

Below $2,000,000 it's definitely a sellers' market. This is where more inventory is seriously needed.

But that's another story.

Call me at 917-991-9549 or email cstimpson@stribling.com.  I'll be happy to visit your apartment, loft, or townhouse and give you a detailed broker's opinion of what it could fetch today, supported with figures and comparable sales.  Of course, there's no cost or obligation involved.

Even if you plan to stay in your home forever, it's always good to know what it's worth.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How one super-smart, super-organized tech entrepreneur bought a co-op.

You don't have to be a Meagan Palatino to buy a co-op in New York, but it helps. Here she offers some excellent information for anyone planning to buy one in the near future.

So I Bought a Co-op in New York, and Here's My Story, by Meagan Palatino

For more on the subject, see 

What to obsess about when you buy a co-op. 

How many of your secrets do you have to tell to get into a co-op? Or condo?

The mortgage contingency: what difference does it make to a seller whether you finance or pay cash?

In defense of the much maligned co-op.  

Essentials of the offer: how to be the perfect buyer 

The one essential for working with a broker as a buyer. And what you're entitled to in return. 

Call me at 917-991-9549, or e-mail cstimpson@stribling.com. I’ll be happy to visit your apartment, loft, or townhouse and give you a detailed broker’s opinion of what it could fetch today, supported with figures and comparable sales. Of course, there’s no cost or obligation involved.

Even if you plan to stay in your home till the next millenium, it’s always good to know what it’s worth.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Does anyone ever really shop for an apartment in January?

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, they do. They may not actually buy in January.  But they do begin to look.

There’s something about the winter holidays that makes people want to change their lives. They decide to get married. They decide to get
January.  A color picture.
divorced. They decide to have another child. They decide to move someplace where it doesn't snow.  

All of these decisions involve real estate.

So if you're planning to sell, January is in fact a good time to hire a broker and put your property on the market.

Those buyers who are out there looking are really serious, or they wouldn’t be braving the winter winds.  And while your apartment may not look as appealing in winter, neither does anybody else’s. 

In fact, if you have a fireplace, it will look a lot better in the winter when there’s a fire in it than in the summer when there isn’t and it’s an empty black hole in the wall. 

Also, potential buyers are in town, not off vacationing with their children, who are in school.  Many are beginning to look with an eye to actually moving in the summertime, when school is out.

You may have less competition, as the conventional wisdom is that spring
is a better time to sell, so a lot of sellers wait till spring.  This also means that your broker is not quite as busy and will have more time to devote to your property.

There are a few disadvantagesbut these are easily dealt with.  For example, second only to location, light is the most important attribute a property can have. So if you're on the market in January, your broker should try to schedule showings towards the middle of a bright day.

Also, you should make sure your home is warm and friendly, because buyers may be cold and cranky. A fire in the fireplace can warm cold feet, and the smell of baking cookies can do the same for a cold heart.  

Speaking of feet, don’t forget to tell your broker to ask buyers to take their boots off so you don’t have slush all over your floors.  Put a chair by the front door so they can do it comfortably.

The best part is, you will have the benefit of a longer selling season.  If despite all your broker’s research and expertise your price turns out to be too ambitious, you can drop it and still have plenty of time to sell before things slow down after Memorial Day.

Call me at 917-991-9549, or e-mail cstimpson@stribling.com. I’ll be happy to visit your apartment, loft, or townhouse and give you a detailed broker’s opinion of what it could fetch today, supported with figures and comparable sales. Of course, there’s no cost or obligation involved.

Even if you plan to stay in your home till the next millenium, it’s always good to know what it’s worth.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The median price of an apartment in Manhattan is about a million dollars. That will get you a one bedroom.

The New York Times reports that in the third quarter of 2015, the median price for a Manhattan apartment was $999,000 (Manhattan Prices Near Million Dollar Mark).

The median price is a more accurate picture of the market than the average price, which is skewed by those stratospheric sales north of $50,000,000 you keep reading about. 

And what do you get for $999,000 in Manhattan? Most likely a single bedroom. 

A quick search for apartments currently for sale in Manhattan priced between $950,000 and $1,050,000 yielded nine studios (yes, there are million-dollar studios), 84 one-bedrooms, 36 two-bedrooms, and seven apartments with three or more bedrooms.

Yes, I know, not so long ago a million dollars could buy you the moon. And if you're in Columbus or Muncie, it probably still can. But New York is--well, let's just say it's different here.

According to Jonathan Miller of Miller Samuel Inc. Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants (millersamuel.com), there are not enough million dollar apartments to go around. 

If you've got one to sell, it will go in a flash.
Here's Jonathan's absorption report for the month of November, which shows the number of months it will take to sell the currently available properties at each price point.

You may have seen this chart here before, but in case you haven’t, the green columns are co-ops, the blue ones are condos. The total number of months of inventory in each price bracket is at the top of each column. Less than six months is a sellers' market, six to nine months is a balanced market, more than nine months is a buyers' market.

As you can see, with no more than five and a half months of inventory priced under $2,000,000, the lower end of the market is still squarely in the hands of the sellers.

On the other hand, with up to 31 months of inventory, the upper end is still equally squarely in the hands of the buyers. If you've got $10,000,000 or more to spend on an apartment, sellers will greet you with open arms.

Another reliable authority on the subject is Noah Rosenblatt, who publishes Urban Digs (urbandigs.com). 

Noah reports that 49% of sales in Manhattan trade at or above the asking price. 

This is what happens when there's so little inventory at the most popular--that would be the lowest--level. It also indicates that properties that are priced properly are the ones that are selling. 

Buyers are not making offers on properties that are priced too high. And they all read what's on the web about real estate, so they know when a seller is delusional about price.

(For more on this subject, see Pricing 101: Why you have to get it right the first time, and Pricing 102: How to get it right the first time.)

Among other helpful services, Noah also tracks the number of contracts signed every month (Urbandigs Monthly Contract Activity), which is a more current indicator of market activity than the number of closed sales, as there is a lag time of two or three months between contract signing and closing. 

He groups them by the month for the last eight years so you can compare this past November to Novembers in 2014, 2013, 2012, and the five previous Novembers, to eliminate seasonal changes in the market.  

November of 2015 had 861 contracts signed, 9.1% fewer than November of 2014, which was the busiest November in the eight years Noah has been keeping track.  May of 2013 had the most signed contracts ever, with 1,427.

To find out what your apartment is worth in this environment, call me at 917-991-9549, or e-mail cstimpson@stribling.com, and I'll happily come to look at it and put together a broker's opinion of value. No charge or obligation. It's my idea of fun.

If you're thinking of buying an apartment, I'll be glad to help.