Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Does your apartment have an entry moment?

Sadly, my new apartment does not have an entry moment. Or at least I don't think it does.

I never knew there was such a thing until yesterday, when I went to visit the showroom of a dazzling new development on Park Place. 

The building has gorgeous views, a 50-foot pool, a yoga center, a residents’ lounge with a pool table, trillion-dollar kitchens, and entry moments. The broker pointed out the entry moments in several of the apartments.

Now, this broker happens not only to be very good at her job, but also a very nice person. I like her. I have liked her for more than twenty years. So I was too embarrassed to admit I hadn’t paid close attention to her description of what an entry moment is. 

That's why I'm not sure whether my apartment has one or not.

But I kind of think it doesn't. The apartments that I saw that have them cost more than ten million dollars. Mine cost considerably less than that. 

I can do without the 50-foot pool (can’t swim), the yoga center (can’t bend), the pool table (don’t know how), and the trillion-dollar kitchen (can’t cook) but I would really love to have an entry moment. Whatever it is. I just like the sound of it.  

From what I could glean, it's either when you open the door and immediately drop dead from the view, or it's what we in the business have been calling a foyer (I'm not sure my apartment has one of those, exactly, either) only bigger.

I will figure this out one way or another and let you know. As Rachel says, watch this space.

UPDATE, 8/16/17:  Turns out an entry moment is when, the minute you open the door, you are met with an absolutely stunning view. So you are compelled to pause at the entry for a moment, to take it all in.

Call me at 917-991-9549 or e-mail  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.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The pendulum swings again. Prewar is out, and new and shiny is in.

An article in tomorrow’s Times Real Estate section entitled "Prewar Is So Last Year"  talks about millennials who are stripping the prewar detail from their prewar apartments and replacing it with nothing, or at least a whole lot less than what was there before.

In the article, a Douglas Elliman salesman says “Millennials…are looking for an apartment that doesn’t necessarily remind them of their parents or grandparents.”   

Image result for mid century modern homes
I’d say their parents and grandparents were looking for prewar detail because it didn’t remind them of the mid-century modern favored by their own parents and grandparents.

In the ‘70s, friends of mine bought a townhouse in Hoboken (at the time, Hoboken was in.  Now the whole state of New Jersey is out), and ripped everything out of it so that there was one room per floor. 

The female half of the couple was an art director and they painted the newly bare walls in white, cream, and the palest shades of lavender and blue.  They said it had been a rabbit warren of tiny, dusty rooms.  

Thirty years later people were searching Harlem and Brooklyn for those few townhouses with tiny, dusty rooms that hadn’t been ripped out in the ‘70s.  If you could find one that still had a working dumbwaiter, you had struck gold.
Elliman Photo
A building on Third Avenue constructed in 1964 has a large marquee projecting from its front wall over the entrance.  I considered it ostentatious, pretentious, ugly, and faintly obscene.  

For a while I lived two blocks down from that building, and I was always mortally embarrassed when anybody mistook that building for the one I lived in.  “I would NEVER live anywhere that looked like that!”  I would tell them. 

But then I had a client who was a gallerist.  She told me she had seen an apartment she liked in a building on Third Avenue.  “The one with that wonderful ‘60s floating panel over the front door,” she said. 

Go figure.

Call me at 917-991-9549, or e-mail 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 8, 2016

What does a doorman do (besides open the door) and why should you want one?

There are four ways to get through the door of an apartment building. Well, five, if you count opening it yourself.

Personally, I prefer to have someone else do it, as I was held up once at knifepoint and once at gunpoint in the vestibules of buildings that didn’t have doormen*. 

That was long ago--probably before you were born--when New York was one giant crime scene. New York is now a very different place, the Brennan Center for Justice reports ( "New York Can Still Boast Being Safest Big City"), but those experiences persuaded me to live only in doorman buildings from then on.

A doorman certainly opens the door and provides security, but that's only part of what he does.  He will also take packages, dry cleaning, laundry, groceries, FreshDirect and anything else that might arrive when you’re not home. 

The doorman will have a set of your keys, so if you forget them or lose them, you’re not locked out.  If you’re like me, this is very important, as I’m always leaving my keys in the pocket of whatever coat I’m not wearing.  

A doorman will let your cleaning person or your cousin in if you’re not home when they arrive.  He will also announce your visitors.

The security guard is another form of doorman. When you're looking for an apartment, you should note that some will be advertised as having doormen when they really have security guards.  

A security guard's job is simply to guard, not to help. But security guards vary. Some will open the door for you, some will take packages and perform many of the duties of a doorman.  Some will just sit and watch as you juggle your keys, packages, and whatever else you may be carrying.  I know of at least one who will not move from his desk unless the building burns down. 

So it's a good idea to check on exactly what the security guard will do for you if you are thinking about buying in a building that has one.

The “virtual” doorman is nowhere near your door. He is near a camera that is watching it.  He will push a button that opens it and watch to make sure nobody follows you in.  He can let in dry cleaning, package, or other deliveries if the delivery person knows where in the building to put them.  He can notify the police if you appear to be in danger.

But he can’t let you into your apartment, so you have to remember your keys.

Then there’s video security, which only works if there’s somebody home.  A camera allows the person in the apartment to see who’s standing outside, talk to them, and push a button that lets them in. Sometimes there’s no camera, just an intercom.

Some buildings require residents to go down to the lobby and admit guests in person, rather than buzzing them in. Some buildings, especially lofts, have locks in the elevator, one for each floor. 

The fifth way is to open the door yourself.

If this is your preferred method, you will have to be home when packages, dry cleaning, or anything else is delivered, and when your guests or cleaning person arrives.  And if you're followed through the door by someone waving an ax, you're on your own.  But you do have privacy and a lower maintenance (more about that below).

Some people prefer a doorman-less building. Celebrities often prefer these, because lobby attendants can be bribed to talk.  

Others feel not having somebody in the lobby is only acceptable in small town house co-ops of, say, four units, where they know everybody in the building. They want to be sure they can tell a resident from a stranger.  

Security doesn’t come free, but it can be surprisingly inexpensive, depending on the size of your building. 

According to (“One search.  All jobs”), the average salary for a doorman is $33,000.  Let’s assume your building has three eight hour shifts of doormen. That’s $99,000 a year. 

If the building has 99 units, each unit will be responsible for $1,000, or $83.33 per month.  If it has 300 units, it’ll be $330 per year, or $27.50 per month.  (The building also has to pay for benefits for doormen, so that's another charge.) This is part of the maintenance. 

The smaller the building, if it has a doorman, the higher the maintenance will be.  
It's also helpful to tip the doorman at the end of the year.  The amount is of course up to you, but I generally divide three to five hundred dollars among the building staff, which includes a live-in super, doormen and a few porters, and nobody's complained.

The initial cost of an apartment with a doorman will be about 12 or 13 percent higher than that of an apartment without one, according to the real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel, but there are a number of factors at work here.  

For one thing, buildings with doormen tend to have amenities like health clubs, planted roof decks, garage spaces that other buildings don't. They are likely to be in locations that are considered more desirable. All of this raises prices. So the doorman is not the only thing that makes the apartment expensive.

A security guard is somewhat less pricey, at $28,000.  

The cost for a virtual doorman varies widely as installation charges differ depending on when the building was built and what security systems are already in place, but presumably, in the long run, a virtual doorman is less expensive than an actual human being. 

If you’re put off by the idea of small talk as you pass through the lobby, remember that all you have to say is “Hello.”  Or you can say nothing, although a smile is never a bad idea.

Personally, I have never found the small talk offensive.  Bottom line, doormen are nice guys.  Some keep dog treats in their desks.  Some keep lollipops. If they’re not nice, they get fired.

Once my late husband was entering a building as the doorman returned from the curb, after helping somebody into a taxi (That’s another thing doormen do—they get you a cab).  

My husband politely held the door open as the doorman walked through it.  “Thank you,” said the doorman.  “You do nice work.”

Call me at 917-991-9549 or e-mail  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.

* There are doorladies, but they’re few and far between. In all my years of selling real estate, a job which involves going in and out of a lot of doors, I’ve seen exactly one doorlady.

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 and somewhat beleaguered office manager about what goes where and who does what.  She is, after all, Just Trying to Do 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, or maybe a black robe.

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 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 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:

Call me at 917-991-9549 or e-mail  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  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.