Thursday, February 21, 2013

Carnegie Hill: what it costs to live there and what you get for the money.

In 1901, Andrew Carnegie built a vast, 100,000 square foot mansion at the corner of 91st Street and Fifth Avenue, and thus gave his name to the area bordered approximately by 86th and 96th Streets, Fifth and Third Avenues. 

The Carnegie mansion now houses the Cooper-Hewitt
National Design Museum (Wikipedia photo)
Home to many of the private schools parents would kill to get their children into, Dalton, Nightingale-Bamford and Spence, for three, it's the kind of neighborhood where the children are more likely to be seen in plaid skirts and blazers with crests than piercings and tattoos.

While residents here are not necessarily as beyond-the-dreams-of-avarice rich as those in the blocks farther south (or if they are, they keep it quiet), if those lower blocks are the Rolls Royce of Manhattan, Carnegie Hill is the Bentley.

You won't see huge perambulators pushed by nannies in uniform, as you occasionally do on those lower blocks, but you will see lots of Bugaboo strollers pushed by young mothers with Goyard or Louis Vuitton tote bags slung over their shoulders.  The large prewar apartments that abound in the neighborhood are highly attractive to families.

Carnegie Hill is also home to a large section of Museum Mile, which stretches along Fifth and Madison Avenues from the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 82nd and Fifth to the Museum for African Art at 110th Street.

Photo courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Carnegie Hill's portion includes five of the ten museums, among them the Guggenheim, the Neue Galerie, and of course the Cooper-Hewitt. 

Like that of the rest of the city, the real estate market here is starved for inventory, but there are some excellent properties available.

At present, there are 14 three-bedroom, three-bath apartments, in prewar co-op buildings with doormen, available in the neighborhood, at prices ranging from around $2,000,000 to more than $6,000,000.

In the last six months, sixteen similar apartments have sold with an average selling price of about $4,500,000, which means that this segment of the market favors the seller (no surprise). 

Sixteen similar two-bedroom co-ops are available priced from something over $1,000,000 to about $4,000,000. 

Average asking price for a one-bedroom co-op in a prewar doorman building is currently a bit over $700,000, but there are a number of them available at less than $500,000.

The largest co-ops now available, those with four or more bedrooms, can be had for between $4,500,000 and $14,500,000.

Condos are scarce, as the neighborhood was built and converted in an era before they became popular.  At present, there are only 34 condos available, ranging in size from one bedroom to six.  Twelve are in prewar buildings.  Average price per square foot for all of them together is about $1,700.

Rent for a three-bedroom apartment in a doorman building (nearly all were built after World War II) averages out at about $14,000 per month, although it's sometimes possible to find a three-bedroom for under $10,000.

For a two bedroom apartment, the average is a little over $8,000, and a one bedroom will cost somewhere between $2,000 and $4,500.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Why I'll never leave New York. And neither should you.

New York has to be the only city in the United States where it’s impossible to be bored.

Los Angeles has its charms, but I am reminded of the radio announcer who said, “And it’s another monotonously beautiful day here in southern California…”

Chicago has stunning architecture, but on a January day the wind off the lake gets boring really fast.

Philadelphia?   Seriously?

Here there’s never nothing to do.  There are countless museums—it would probably take a lifetime to explore them all. 

Brooklyn's Prospect Park West
It takes half a lifetime to explore all the treasures of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I knew someone who never went there without a compass. 

There are innumerable art galleries.  Two botanical gardens.  Two zoos.  The best theater, opera, ballet in the world. Parks everywhere, from vest pocket size to bigger than the entire country of Monaco.

You get the idea.

But there are other reasons why New York is a great place to grow old. 

For me, one of the biggest advantages would be not having to drive, park or maintain a car.  Face it, we may all live long past the age when it’s a good idea to drive.  Here we have the best, most ubiquitous public transportation in the country.  
Gay Street, in New York's West Village
You don’t have to climb stairs; there are 58,000 elevators in New York City (thank you, Google).  If you need medical attention, there are 184 hospitals and 122,167 doctors, and you don’t have to be flown to any of them.

There are those who say it’s expensive to live here. 

Not necessarily.  In fact, it's possible to live here very inexpensively. 

A quick search of Streeteasy shows more than 1,000 one bedroom apartments for sale at prices of $500,000 or less and monthlies no higher than $750.  There’s no extra bedroom for guests, but some of us will be grateful for that.
Monthlies of $750 are affordable on an income of $30,000 a year.   It doesn't get less expensive than that. 

(Yes, I know, for $500,000 in Cleveland you could have a seventeen room mansion with a swimming pool, two tennis courts and a stable for the polo ponies.  But you'd be in Cleveland!)

It may be more comfortable to stay in your present home.   Here's a link to an article in today's New York Times about NORCs, or naturally occurring retirement communities:

But housing is not the only thing that is or can be inexpensive.  For a little over $100 a month you can have unlimited rides on subways or buses.  If you're over 65 you can  go from Battery Park City to the Cloisters for $1.25. 

The west side, and beyond it, out of town.
Most of the museums either let you pay what you want or have hours when admission is free. 

Art galleries are free, and when a new exhibit opens they give you peanuts and Chardonnay. 

There’s the public library, where they let you take books home without paying a cent.  And then you can take them back again.  They even pay for storage.
And it's safe.  According to Crain's, Honolulu, at a fraction of New York's size, is the only city that's safer.  No kidding!  Check the source:

I could go on about its diversity, its cosmopolitan nature, its friendliness (it's a lot friendlier than Los Angeles where you're always in your car with the windows rolled up and the air conditioning on), the good manners of the natives (often, every single person getting off a bus thanks the driver and holds the door open for the next person).
But the very best part about growing old in New York is, if you become slightly eccentric (or crazy as a loon), nobody will even notice.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Why doesn’t New York have a multiple listing service? Actually, we do.

Some members of the press still say that we New York brokers don’t want to share our listings, and thus our commissions. 

They say this is why New York doesn't have a multiple listing service like other cities, where brokers, unlike us, are kind and generous.

They all live under the same rock.
During my entire twenty-plus-year career, I’ve done no more than four or five deals where the commission wasn’t shared with another broker, and even then it certainly wasn’t because the property hadn’t been shared with brokers outside my firm.
Sharing listings is the only way to give them the greatest exposure and thus realize the highest prices from the most qualified customers.

We don’t call our system a multiple listing service.  But under the rules of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), we are required to share every exclusive listing with every member firm, that is, the vast majority of the firms in New York, within 24 hours. 

An exception can be made only if the seller objects.
Let's get our terms straight.  An"exclusive" listing is a property that a given firm has the exclusive right to sell. No other firm can advertise it or contact the seller directly. 
However, they can show the property and negotiate a sale through the firm that has the exclusive.  And they do.

It’s as rare here as it is anywhere else for a broker to represent both buyer and seller; in fact, when this does happen, there is an elaborate mechanism involving lots of paperwork to make sure it’s clear to everyone on both the sell side and the buy side exactly whose interests are represented and to what degree.

A REBNY-member broker may call a broker from another member firm at any time and request an appointment to show a listing.  Non-REBNY members may show our exclusives if they agree to abide by REBNY rules. 

The only acceptable reason to deny the request is if the property is already under contract, if the seller has accepted an offer or for some other reason doesn’t want it shown, or if the buyer (whose name has to be given when the appointment is requested) already has an appointment through another broker.

It is customary for a broker who is having an open house to allow other brokers to bring or even just send their buyers to it.  If the buyer’s broker doesn’t come with him, the buyer then usually puts his broker’s name on the sign-in sheet along with his own.  

But even if the buyer leaves out this step, he can make an offer through his own broker who must, by law, present it to the seller's broker, who must, by law, present the offer to the seller.  Any broker who fails to present any offer to a seller risks losing his license.

It’s actually far less convenient for us to share our listings than it often is elsewhere.  In cities that have multiple listing services, there are usually lockboxes on houses that are for sale, and any broker with a key can open the lockbox and show the property. 

Here, one of the advantages to the seller is that the seller’s broker is present every time the listing is shown.  No strangers wander unaccompanied through a seller’s house or apartment.  Almost without exception, there are two brokers present at every showing.   

Any questions?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Ok, you've got the price right, but you're not getting any offers. What about staging?

Of course you’ve put away the kids' toys, stored the stuff that was crowding the closets, cleaned the place to sterility, put the fresh flowers on the coffee table, baked the cookies. But this may not be enough.

It's hard for any of us to look with perfect objectivity at the home we know and love. There are little flaws we've lived with so long we don't even see them any more.  Or if we do see them, we think nobody else will. 

You may think that nobody will notice a little patch of blistering paint in the corner of a ceiling. But what that says to a buyer is water damage.

Other places where there are seemingly minor imperfections--a finger mark by a light switch, a crack high up on a plaster wall, unwashed windows, a broken floor tile here or there--may not seem like a reason for a buyer to reject a property.

But the truth is, any or all of these can create a subliminal perception of a lack of care and maintenance.

Furniture that's been loved for too long by too many children can look shabby.   Children's art scotch-taped to the walls of their bedrooms is charming, but not a selling feature.

If you've already moved out and the place is empty, believe it or not, the rooms will look smaller. Furniture gives it scale.

It's just like an old saying brokers have: Nobody ever bought anything they saw on a rainy day. It's true. A lack of sunshine can make even the most gorgeous property seem dreary. And even a few scratches and patches can have the same effect.

Even if the place is in perfect condition and everything in it is more or less new, it may not appeal to everyone.

Too much furniture or too many bookcases can make a room seem smaller.  Not enough furniture makes it seem cold. 
The wrong furniture arrangement can make a room seem unwelcoming. Or maybe furniture you chose with an eye to your particular needs just doesn't appeal to others.

A professional stager can work miracles.

You may not want to spend the money.  You may think that you and your broker can do it all by yourselves.

Bite the bullet and hire a stager.  A tiny investment can bring you a huge return.

And staging is so common now that if you haven't had your property staged it will look worse by comparison.

I sold a townhouse recently which we had professionally staged. The difference the stager made was amazing.

The initial consultation cost $350, but as the sellers chose to hire the stager to do everything she had recommended, there was no charge for the consultation.

It was a big townhouse, four stories, about 4,300 square feet not counting the basement.

Altogether the owners spent a trifling $7,000 to have some painting done, clutter removed,an old carpet runner removed and the floor under it polished to a gleam, ironwork at the front gate and on the stoop repaired and painted, furniture rearranged, art work borrowed or rented and hung, and various other things taken care of.

Before the staging, the house was a warm, comfortable family home.

After the staging it was a warm, comfortable family mansion.
It was somehow regal.  It said affluence, sophistication, meticulous maintenance, good taste.

Even seasoned brokers who saw the house before-and-after were immensely impressed. Before the staging, many had predicted the asking price of $3,450,000 was too high.

But I had done all the research, personally visited every similar house then on the market, and I was convinced the price, or something close to it, was achievable.

Despite all predictions, within weeks the sellers had five offers to choose from and the house sold for the full asking price of $3,450,000.

If we hadn’t staged, it could have gone for $100,000 less.

And by the way, in case you’re interested, the stager was Stacey Anderson of Nest Designs,