Symposium

Ryan Serhant

MMS: Elizabeth Lee Sample, Louise Phillips Forbes, Ryan Serhant

Ryan SerhantRyan Serhant
Elizabeth Lee SampleElizabeth Lee Sample
Louise Phillips Forbes
Maria Babaev

Ryan Serhant, Nest Seekers International
Elizabeth Lee Sample, Sotheby’s International Realty
Louise Phillips Forbes, Halstead Property
Maria Babaev, Douglas Elliman

 

Give us your view of the impact the international buyer has had in the NYC luxury residential market, and what you do as an agent to manage the expectations, perspectives, and needs of such a diverse marketplace of customers?

 

ryanthumbRyan Serhant: The real estate market in Manhattan follows the currency market.  When the dollar is cheap for one country, we see many buyers from that country buying real estate.  Any strong broker in the city follows the FX market and reacts accordingly as it moves.  Foreign money provides liquidity for the property market in New York, which allows for faster appreciation, relatively speaking.  To take advantage of new investors, we educate them on the tax advantages, process of ownership, and property management (a service we provide in-house for all clients). Very rarely do I call myself a “real estate agent” in front of foreign buyers.  To gain their trust, I am an international property investment advisor.

samplethumbElizabeth Lee Sample: The International buyer has a different perspective to our market then we do. They see the pricing in other major capital cities and realize the upside potential of NYC real estate. It is also viewed as a safe haven for investment. As a result the competition for premiere properties is evident by our current supply.

forbesthumbLouise Forbes: Just ten years ago the high-price apartments were coops.  However, the financial requirements and strict house rules around subletting kept foreign buyers out for the most part.  Enter the rise of the luxury condominium.  “If you build it, they will come.”  This development boom began with buildings like the Time Warner Center in 2003 that captured $3,571 per square foot for the apartment on the 76th & 77th floors and The Park Imperial at 230 West 56th Street, but now includes One Madison Avenue, 157 West 57th Street, 15 Central Park West, 432 Park Avenue, The Plaza, and 50 United Nations Plaza, soon to be home to a $100M apartment.  These exclusive buildings, among many others, offer privacy because there is far less financial disclosure required, and they have quickly established a new kind of exclusive club where the only qualification is extreme wealth.  As a result the foreign wealth has had a dramatic impact in transforming our market place setting record-breaking prices. The demand has elevated what is being built.  These opulent condo buildings provide the ultimate in luxurious living from outstanding amenities to sophisticated finishes and materials in apartments designed by renowned architects.  Even the wealthiest and most discerning of New Yorkers have recently aspired to buy a luxury condo and join the ranks of the international elite.  It is my job to financially qualify the buyer, educate them accordingly, and introduce them to the wide range of high-end developments citywide.

marianthumbMaria Babaev: In my opinion, the international buyer has a major impact on the NYC residential market. Specifically in the luxury segment of the market place, we’ve recently witnessed record breaking numbers with international buyers driving the sales. Global buyers continue to invest in real estate, often in second and multiple homes while looking for unique and special properties — limited supply of which attribute to healthy activity and increased prices in NYC. For today’s real estate professional it is extremely important to manage the expectations, needs and wants of international buyer and act as a trusted consultant to provide unique insights into the state of the NYC luxury real estate market. Overall, to have an experience and expertise not only to discuss record and average luxury home prices, inventory, and housing market supply, but also to be sensitive to buying trends, client profiles, and lifestyle amenities that shape the luxury segment of the market.

 

The outlook on the US financial markets isn’t overly optimistic; how does this impact the international buyer? How deeply do the  European or Asian stock markets affect the appetite to invest here in NYC Real Estate, and what other factors have you seen make our market more appealing?

samplethumbElizabeth Lee Sample: The US financial markets are not currently affecting purchasers of NYC real estate based on our experience. I feel the overseas financial markets have driven international buyers to live and invest in New York City.

forbesthumbLouise Forbes: The outlook on the U.S. market is always changing… it depends on the day and the news source.  But regardless, I don’t believe it has a negative impact on the international buyer.  NYC has always weathered volatility better than other international cities like London and Dubai.  Even within our own domestic boarders during the recent recession, NYC faired much better and with far less severity than other cities.  Additionally, many countries have unstable infrastructure, stringent government regulations including higher taxes and strict guidelines around cash leaving the country, threats of war, etc., so they recognize the long-term value in owning a piece of the rock.

For the past three decades I have watched the ebb and flow of stock markets and witnessed the safe haven of NYC real estate.  Owning a piece of the rock is a great place holder for money and protects their investment from volatility in the stock markets.  Only 33% of the NYC inventory is available for ownership creating a very healthy efficiency in our real estate market with respect to value.  Additionally, at one point, cities like Miami and Las Vegas had an investor profile as much as 62%, while NYC is only 6% investor concentration making it much more appealing.

marianthumbMaria Babaev: Real estate trends are driven, by global and US Financial Market trends as well as political currents. From the fluctuation of the stock market to concerns regarding global political events, international financial factors affect residential real estate spending.  Even with the outlook of the US Financial Markets isn’t overly optimistic – US still remains a “safe haven” for global buyers. In fact, Real estate is one of the most important storage of wealth in the economy. International buyers tend to hold wealth in their homes rather than in stock market.

In addition, the luxury housing market remains insulated from money flows and political shifts, as these concerns are less likely to determine the purchase of a luxury home for the high net worth international buyer around the globe. NYC remains top city on the list in which international buyers feel comfortable investing their money, despite the economic downturn. In that context, luxury residential purchases, even trophy properties, can be considered a conservative investment. Many buyers both local and international  are purchasing and enjoying a home instead of counting on return on investment in the stock market. Recent changes to tax laws in some countries have impacted market activity and is just another factor that make our market more appealing.

ryanthumbRyan Serhant: The international buyer invests in real estate here in New York City for reasons beyond financial return. More often than not, they purchase here to secure a good education for their children or an opportunity for citizenship, as well as to expand their portfolio. If the stock markets are proving to be too unsteady, they will likely move their investments into something more stable and less risky. Even during the midst of the financial crisis, when the entire country’s real estate market was at a collaborative standstill, Manhattan’s market was still performing relatively steady when compared to the rest of the nation. It also was one of the first markets to recover and recover quickly, which is an attractive feat for any investor looking to invest in NYC real estate. As for any investment, investors will always have to assess the risk — the fact that NYC’s market can recover at so quickly certainly provides investors with some level of comfort.

What features make a residence more appealing to one demographic group more than others? For example, this may include feng shui elements such as apartment number or construction to other elements such as home staging or amenities.  

forbesthumbLouise Forbes: Some focus on luxurious living in a specific location, while others are more concerned with finding the right space.  They tend to prefer apartments and rooms on a grand scale that are fully renovated and they are prepared to pay a premium for it.  They aren’t interested in managing a renovation project from afar, they want to buy and move in, which is why they respond very well to nicely staged apartments.  Aesthetic is everything!

ryanthumbRyan Serhant: A lot of my Chinese investors will immediately disregard an apartment that they feel has “bad flow”. An apartment that has good feng shui can be as important to them as its amenities are for us. They firmly believe that an apartment with good flow (whether with the construction or placement of the apartment within the building) will promote good fortune. Apartment numbers or floors can also be a deciding factor. My Asian clients prefer if the numbers three or eight to be attached with the investment that they make. The reason being that “three” is often linked to “health” and “eight” to “prosperity” in the Chinese culture. If it comes down to two very comparable properties and its time for them to make a decision, they will likely lean towards the apartment numbered 1808 than apartment 1809.

marianthumbMaria Babaev: We do see that certain demographics are seeking specific features, for example Chinese buyers are influenced a lot by the art of fengshui as well as even house or apartment number. I find that international buyers are value-driven and look for luxury homes with large open spaces, a lot of natural light and finished to exceptionally high standards. Prime locations, architectural excellence, latest finishes, incredible views, high ceilings, an en suite bathroom for each bedroom, massive master bedroom suites, a gym, home office, a meditation room, movie theater, balconies, and terraces  – just to name a few features that can be found on the requirements list of the global buyers.  Overall, the residence must be great for large-scale entertaining but also very comfortable for the simple moments of everyday living.

In the last 18 months I have seen the new wave of international buyers coming into the market place. Most of them have an apartment in Manhattan or Miami, but when they move families out of their countries – they show great interest in luxury suburbs such as Gold Coast Long Island or Greenwich, Connecticut. Proximity to Manhattan, excellent school districts, private golf and tennis clubs, equestrian estates, dining and shopping establishments, fantastic parks and gardens and overall infrastructure — are the driving forces to this market’s desirability.

samplethumbElizabeth Lee Sample: That completely varies from buyer to buyer. One may want a grand mansion while another must have a view.

 

What are a few general challenges an agent will encounter when representing an international buyer and/or seller, and how do you overcome them?

samplethumbElizabeth Lee Sample: I feel that the complexities and rules of the cooperatives and condominiums are not fully understood by the international buyer

ryanthumbRyan Serhant: The language barrier can certainly make things a little more difficult sometimes, but fortunately I work with a multi-cultural team and can always count on their assistance when needed. There are a lot of moving parts involved in a foreign transaction on top of the already intricate nature of Manhattan’s real estate market, so it is critical that I always keep an open line of communication with my foreign buyers and sellers so they can feel more at ease when performing what may be the largest transaction in their life.

marianthumbMaria Babaev: I find that the biggest challenge an agent will encounter when representing an international buyer is to serve not just as a real estate broker facilitating a transaction but to be the link to the entire team of professionals such as real estate attorneys, inspectors, designers, tax advisors, immigrations attorneys, etc. For an international buyer the purchase of a property is so much more than just a standard closing and title search, – it’s a lifestyle change and adaptation to the new country and its customs and ways of doing business. So I am, as a real estate broker, always act as a trusted advisor and the source of the source of the entire chain of qualifies professionals to provide the best experience to the buyer thru the international real estate transaction.

forbesthumbLouise Forbes: Sometimes language and culture can be challenging so occasionally I use translators to make it a more comfortable and productive experience.  Additionally, foreign buyers often have pre-conceived ideas (that are usually outdated) about New York real estate as it relates to neighborhoods.  For example, they will want to live in a five block radius of Madison Avenue because they think that’s the only high-end shopping area.  They aren’t aware of how the city has evolved in almost every segment.  So one of the first things I do is emphasize the importance of the education process to establish realistic expectations.  In order to obtain a successful transaction, they have to understand their financial qualifications for coop vs condo, investment vs primary residence, accessibility to cash and guidelines for removing it from their country, etc.  And just like American buyers, I have to find the balance between priorities.  One partner tends to be more focused on value & investment, while the other is concerned with proximity to schools & shopping.

Do you find certain international buyers prefer to purchase in certain seasons, and is there a time of year when buyers tend to be more domestic?

ryanthumbRyan Serhant: Unlike the rental market, which is always significantly more active during the Summer months, I work with active purchasers all year round. Historically, there is always a spike in market activity in the Spring, but I would attribute that to the seasonal affect on personal behavior rather than the internationality or domesticity of a transaction. I’ve taken clients on tours in the middle of a blizzard to see apartments the same way as I would in the spring or summer time. Serious international buyers will fly in and want to see apartments despite what the weather is like.

forbesthumbLouise Forbes:  Based on my experience, international buyers are most active between March & August, especially the Europeans, who are focused late spring/early summer.  For real New Yorkers, with respect to buyers, July & August is usually a reprieve from pounding the pavement, which makes the fall season extra exciting.  Interestingly, the cycle has shifted since the recession.  November & December are now one of the most competitive and active times of the year.  In fact, this past December I was managing seven contracts during the week of Christmas!  As a result of the 2010-2012 shift in bonus payments and adjusted cash distributions on Wall Street, moving from 50-90% cash to 30% cash, deferred income through restricted stocks weighs heavier.

samplethumbElizabeth Lee Sample: Our Fall and Spring seasons are the busiest as are the auction houses. That goes for international as well national clients.

marianthumbMaria Babaev: Frankly, I don’t see pronounced purchasing seasons anymore, not even for domestic buyers. However, in the last few weeks right after Chinese New Year I had a lot of activity and showing requests from Chinese buyers and brokers as a lot of families are visiting New Year for a Chinese New Year celebration and they are actively looking for properties both in Manhattan and the luxury suburbs.

 

If you can, share the most interesting experience you¹ve ever had working with an international client.

forbesthumbLouise Forbes: I had a particularly interesting deal that was also an eye-opener with respect to post-contract management of a deal for a foreign buyer.  Most recently I worked with a gentleman from India who purchased an $11M condo. Because it was new construction, we had a delayed closing.  After the contract was signed, I had limited access to my client once he returned to his home country, and the exclusive agent had moved on to other deals.  It became my responsibility to protect my buyer from a temperamental developer and project manage the completion of his apartment, which included multiple appointments with his designer.  There is a lot of hand holding and going beyond the usual scope of work when the buyers are not living full-time in the United States, but if you are willing to commit to the extra time, the advantages can be very fruitful.  This buyer was so pleased with how we managed the deal completely from start to finish, he has since recommended several new clients.

ryanthumbRyan Serhant: They’re each interesting in their own respect. I’ve worked with clients who would fly into New York City every couple of months and bring a different group of friends and colleagues with them each time who are all interested in purchasing here, each group larger than the last up to the point where I had to rent a bus to accommodate them. I’ve also worked with clients whom I closed a deal with while they were still overseas and not meeting until months after the fact and I get to introduce to them the multimillion dollar home they purchased for the first time. I just did a deal through Instagram with a business man in South Africa.  (The deal was done by email via attorneys, but the initial meet and greet was all on Instagram.) Each experience is definitely a learning experience for me and I continuously look forward to next one.

marianthumbMaria Babaev: I think that the most interesting and rewarding experience while working with an international client is once you earn their trust, they become your client for life and not just in your immediate market place. They expect that you can provide professional guidance for their purchases in other parts of U.S. and abroad.  I also find that for some international buyers their first purchase is a “trial one,” and most of them will buy a bigger and better, more expensive property shortly after the first transaction. So it is extremely important to provide exceptional service, to become a trusted advisor and develop a great business relationship to get the client for life.

 

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MMS: Jim Gricar, Barbara S. Fox, Dottie Herman, Kathy Kaye

Jim Gricar  Halstead Property, President
Dottie Herman  Douglas Elliman, CEO
Kathy Kaye  Trump Organization, Executive Director of Sales and Marketing
Barbara S. Fox  Fox Residential Group, Inc., President

1. The current real estate market is characterized as being “very low on inventory.”  Is this accurate? If so, how do you set realistic expectations for both a buyer and seller in this type of market place?

James Gricar: It varies from submarket to submarket, but yes, we are in a generally low inventory atmosphere.  The Upper West Side, for instance, is the tightest; the Upper East has a bit more breathing room in some categories.   This is, of course, most responsible for the rising prices we’ve been seeing across the board.  Expectation management is what sales is all about, so buyers require extra care and attention right now.  It’s quite likely that as a buyer, you may well lose out on an apartment you love.  Our agents’ advice is “If this is the right time for you to buy, don’t get discouraged.  Keep at it.”  And for the seller, it’s creating an atmosphere of negotiating power and desirability, but not arrogance.

Dottie Herman: Inventory rates are low, but so are mortgage rates. Listing your home now can help potential buyers qualify for lower interest rates on their mortgages. Likewise, buyers who are seriously in the market for a new home can take advantage of the competitive rates.

Kathy Kaye: In today’s competitive landscape, it is crucial to educate both the buyer and seller in advance so they are adequately informed about market conditions. Sellers are watching the strength of the market grow, buyers remain vigilant, and it is our job to manage expectations and set realistic goals for both buyers and sellers. The ultra-luxury sector in real estate has been particularly strong. There are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities coming to market right now and we are seeing buyers react quickly and ultimately reach into their pockets.

Barbara Fox: The market is at an all-time inventory low.  Buyers must be prepared to act quickly in this market environment when they find their dream property.  There isn’t time to mull over decisions right now, and buyers need to be educated in advance by their brokers on the best way to secure the property they want to buy.  Sellers need informed broker advice on pricing their properties in this kind of market — while not overpricing.  Overpriced properties still don’t sell, even in this frisky market.

2. Over the last 3 months, we’ve seen a gradual rise of mortgage rates.  Although we are still at the bottom, it appears as if many borrowers are on the sidelines.  Do you agree, and if so, has that affected the number of transactions that are closing within the luxury market?

James Gricar: I think serious buyers are moving forward, and if financing, often times proceeding to contract without a finance contingency in order to compete with all-cash buyers. For the comfortable buyer with good assets and a high, reliable income, but who still wishes to finance, going non-contingent is an option.  Where it’s roughest is for the buyer who can qualify for a mortgage, but is unwilling (for financial security reasons) to go non-contingent.   The sheer number of cash and non-contingent buyers is so high right now, making the market a frustrating (though not impossible) atmosphere for the buyer who wishes to make his purchase agreement contingent on his ability to obtain financing.

Barbara Fox: If many borrowers are waiting on the sidelines, I haven’t witnessed it. To the contrary, people are afraid the rise of mortgage rates will be greater, and they are anxious to secure mortgages prior to that happening.

Dottie Herman: Although the mortgage rates have been climbing, they are still low when you look at the big picture – and the rising interest rates are actually bringing buyers off the sidelines because they want to lock in at these rates. The luxury market is not tethered to mortgage rates as much as the entry-level market is. Some of the really high-end inventory is bought in all-cash deals.

3. How do you advise a buyer and seller to proceed in a transaction when the property appraises below the purchase price?  What steps should a real estate broker take to ensure the property is being listed at the right price?

Dottie Herman: When a property appraises below the purchase price, the appraiser is not always wrong.  The first step is to take a look at the appraisal for reasonableness because that will determine your course of action. If the appraisal is well supported and reasonable (very hard to see this when buyer and seller have already committed emotionally to the sale), then the broker might consider renegotiating the price to save the deal.

Barbara Fox: If a property appraises below the purchase price, it could mean that several things could have happened:  1) the appraiser relied on information which was not up-to-date with current market conditions; 2) the brokers didn’t provide adequate comparables for the appraiser;
or 3) the property was overpriced in comparison to other comparable sales (not unusual in the current market climate).  It’s a broker’s responsibility to advise his sellers about accurate pricing and to discourage overpricing – all justified by a study of comparable apartments in similar locations both recently sold and currently available for sale.

James Gricar: Proper pricing is key, but bear in mind that brokers use closed comparable sales to determine an asking price.  Those closed comps are reflective of deals that were struck 2 – 6 months ago.  With the market rising as it has been, choosing the proper price requires thorough research and frankly, some hypothesizing.   In terms of appraisals, we’re seeing less of an issue at present.  ‘Non-appraisals’ are generally more a feature of a declining, rather than escalating, market.  In 2009 and 2010, non-appraisals were a daily occurrence.

4. Certain buyers prioritize amenities in their search for a residence.  Which amenities are the most sought after, and why?

Kathy Kaye: Amenities are still incredibly important to today’s buyer and the offerings are more expansive than ever. In the ultra-luxury sector, buyers now have access to world-class chefs, restaurants, incredible spas and a number of other five-star offerings. At the Trump Buildings, for example, Trump World Tower at 90 stories boasts amazing views, an incredible fitness facility and is home to Megu Restaurant. Trump International Hotel & Tower at Central Park West is the only Forbes Five-Star and Five-Diamond hotel with a Five-Star and Five-Diamond restaurant in New York. These are just two examples which are the types of incredible offerings that are available to buyers today. Traditional amenities will always continue to be attractive such as a full service concierge, outdoor space and full fitness facilities.

Barbara Fox: I believe the amenities most desired by buyers are:  attended buildings (doorman and/or concierge or elevator attendant), washer and dryer either in the unit or allowed in the unit, fitness room pets allowed in the building.

James Gricar: This is, as you can imagine, very budget specific:  the more money a buyer spends, the more he or she expects in terms of amenities.  I think sexy building amenities are great and very useful in selling the ‘lifestyle’ of the building.  But in my experience, the amenity most buyers want is simple:  useable, well laid-out space.  That’s something every buyer, regardless of price point, seeks.

Dottie Herman: Big kitchens, SMART technology, high-end finishes, and concierge-style services (such as room service and spa amenities) are becoming more sought-after features.

5. What areas of the city excite you the most in terms of development potential, and are their certain projects that you are eager to show?

James Gricar: I’m particularly excited about the Hudson Yards/Far West Side   As a loft owner in the neighborhood myself, I look forward to more neighbors and services.  I think it’s the go-to value proposition in city real estate right now.  Gotham West and the surrounding condo conversions in the west 40’s are of particular interest.
Dottie Herman: I think the area around Madison Square Park and NoMad is really booming right now. There are some very high quality new development projects on the market like the Whitman and 10 Madison Square West that have seen tremendous interest over the past few months and I believe they are setting the pace for a very dynamic market in that part of the city.

Barbara Fox: I really love the fact that fabulous buildings are going up in the most unlikely spots around the city.  I like to watch the gentrification of those areas over time.  That’s exciting to me!

6. Have you found any success in using social media to market a luxury property? If yes, can you share the experience?  How important of a role does social media play in marketing real estate?

Dottie Herman: Social media is a very important component when it comes to marketing properties. It’s a great way for agents to communicate their listings en masse with an engaged audience. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram lend themselves so well to fabulous real estate photography. I have heard of agents getting solid offers based on a picture they posted on their social media sites. It’s really pretty amazing.

Kathy Kaye: At the Trump Organization we have a very unique platform, in the sense that our community via the Trump Family has a following of over 3 million people on Twitter alone. Hundreds of news stories are generated from 1 single tweet. Recently, we unveiled a new ultra-luxury development in Mumbai, India and we broke the news via Twitter. It is an incredibly powerful tool and one that can be highly effective to generate buzz and awareness worldwide. Additionally, we have spent quite a bit of time exploring the new opportunities in the interactive space and as such, will be launching a new cutting edge luxury property application for iPhone/iPad that will be a unique tool for our brokers and their clients.

Barbara Fox: We post all our new listings on our facebook page.  It gets the word out quickly but I don’t think it is, as yet, integral in our business model.

James Gricar: We have an extensive social media operation at the firm headed by a marketing and tech wunderkind, Matt Leone.  He and his team not only market property via social media, but are tireless in creating endless social media opportunities for our agents. And our corporate presence is quite robust as well.

7. Buildings are on the rise…literally!  Several new projects are setting height records in New York City.  What is your opinion on these massive structures?

Kathy Kaye: It is incredible to see the recent changes in the New York skyline. The designs are increasingly cutting edge and pushing the architectural boundaries while catering to the desires of today’s buyers. This is happening not only in New York but in major cities around the world. For example, we have recently announced a new building in Vancouver which is a perfect example of a highly advanced style. The property is an Arthur Erickson design with an actual twist that will undoubtedly reshape the skyline in Vancouver. Developers today are more resourceful than ever, and as such are taking city living to new heights in New York and beyond.

Barbara Fox: Mayor Bloomberg created a fertile environment for growing our city over the past 12 years.  Since we can’t add any additional land to Manhattan Island, the best and only way to grow is UP!

James Gricar: Call it mid-western of me, but to me New York City equals skyscrapers.   While height, light, and density are things we need to regulate (and do, incidentally), I believe that New York needs to remain the most vital and exciting vertical living experiment in the world.  We started it, we should keep building it!

Dottie Herman: New York is a place where people come to reach for big things, so I think that these tall buildings echo that spirit. Aim high!

 

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MMS: Eric Barron, James Retz, David Behinv Donna Olshan

Eric Barron Keller Williams NYC, CEO
James Retz Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, Director Of Marketing &Technology
David Behin MNS, Partner & President
Donna Olshan Olshan Realty Inc, President, Founder

1. We are halfway through the summer season.  What is your personal opinion of the real estate market thus far?

Eric Barron: I think it’s an unbelievably frustrating time for buyers and brokers alike, with inventory levels at historic lows.  Frankly, I don’t think it’s going to change much over the next 6-12 months as most of the new development coming to market is targeted at the top 5-10% of the income bracket.  Speed, preparation, and expert representation during the negotiation process are key to achieving a fully executed contract.

Jim Retz: Our market is very strong. Sales Volume on closed transactions for the first six months of both Nassau and Suffolk Counties (as compared to the same six months of 2012) increased in excess of 10%. That’s pretty dramatic.  Looking forward, our – Daniel Gale Sotheby’s – properties Under Contract are up 40%. That’s pretty impressive. Inventory is limited in many areas so it’s a great time to sell assuming properties are marketed and priced properly.

David Behin:  I deal with investment sales and development sites in Brooklyn mostly.  The market for these types of assets is stronger than it has ever been.  While this has to do with the strength of the real estate and the New York market in general, Brooklyn’s strength is magnified by the fact that Brooklyn has become the top destination for living, working and playing.  Our residential numbers – rentals and sales – are stronger than they’ve ever been, our retail is booming, not just with some of the best food and drinks that NYC has to offer, but with great new places to shop every day, and our work, whether it be light industrial, office, or tech is growing rapidly as more and more companies want to open up shops in NYC.

Donna Olshan:  It depends on what market you are working in. The low-end and high-end are very strong. If it’s a good property – meaning it’s priced correctly and in good condition – it will sell quickly. In addition, there is a premium that buyers will pay for properties that are newly-renovated in very good taste. Units with views always sell.

On Monday mornings our firm publishes a luxury report covering the number of contracts signed and stats for the week in the $4 million and up market in Manhattan. So far this year in the $4 million and up market, the condos have been outselling the co-ops 3 to 1. Downtown condos are particularly hot. Here’s an interesting statistic: In the first 7 months of this year, more apartments went to contract at $4 million and above than during all of last year. The flip side is that 1/3 of these luxury transactions are in new condos and sold off of floorplans. Many of these new condo developments will not close until 2015 and beyond. So the net effect is you won’t see the real results of the 2013 until 2 years out, when the new condo developments close. To subscribe to the Olshan Luxury Report, visit olshan.com/marketreport.php

 

2. How important is social media in your marketing plan? What technology do you utilize the most?

David Behin: I tweet, I’m on Facebook and Linkedin.   What gets me the most business, though, is my blog, www.thebehinreport.com, where I write monthly about what I see going on in the markets that I deal with.  I love doing this as it gives me an outlet to say what is on my mind.  I have about 6000 subscribers to my blog, and every month when I blast the new issue out to them, I get lots of responses, some agreeing, some disagreeing, and some folks who just thank me for learning something new.  It has been a great way for me to stay fresh in the minds of my clients and colleagues.

Donna Olshan:  We use the typical social media—Facebook, twitter and Linkedin. I would say that Linkedin has helped us more than the others. We own a lot of valuable domain names that point to our web site, olshan.com. We also own some of the best internet real estate there is: townhouse.com, nyrealestate.com, coops.com and some other great domain names. We also own some great addresses like 101cpw.com. All of these names point to our website and help us drive traffic. Many of these domain names were bought in 1994 and we consider them marketing currency for our firm and the properties we represent.

Eric Barron: I believe this is very personal. People say you must use a specific medium or you’re losing out and I think that’s a fallacy. I know agents that make 7 figures and don’t touch social media.   If you believe in things like Facebook, Linkedin, twitter or even a personal blog, then go for it.  If you don’t, then be authentic and stay away. Personally, I have great appreciation for Linkedin and have even been quoted as saying it’s been “life changing.”

Jim Retz: Social media represents an important component of our strategic Marketing Plan. We have invested heavily to make sure that our sales ambassadors, department heads and managers embrace this as relationship-marketing (as compared to property-marketing). We provide clear direction, training, and support when desired for rich content – particularly on Facebook and LinkedIn. We know that the various venues have different audiences. Also, we’re fully confident engagement will continue to soar in the future.

 

3. We have been discussing new developments frequently at residencyNY.  Which new developments do you feel are the most desirable, and why?

Jim Retz: I presume your reference is to new construction, which represents about 10% of the overall residential real estate market. This segment of the market is very different than individual property marketing. Recognizing, respecting, and then leveraging this difference is part of our DNA. With decades of experience, we have established a New Development Division team to collaborate with developers and homebuilders from start to finish.

Eric Barron: From my office window at 425 Park Avenue, it’s hard to ignore the building going up right across the street, 432 Park Avenue. It will be the tallest residential tower in the city, and the second tallest building in the city after One World Trade Center. The six-bedroom, seven-bath penthouse with a library has already found an interested buyer for $95 million, which is $5 million more than One57’s penthouse. The project is currently being built at a rate of about one floor per week.

Donna Olshan: The big hits of 2013 have been 56 Leonard and 150 Charles. Both are high-end downtown new luxury condos with great design, finishes, and amenities–all sold off of floor plans. 150 Charles is 16 stories with 91 units facing the Hudson River.  It basically sold out in  3 months. 56 Leonard started its marketing in February and is almost 90% sold. It is a 145-unit, 60-story condo designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron. The other stand out is Walker Tower at 212 West 18th Street. This was an AT&T office built in 1929 that was transformed into a 50-unit condo using the highest quality finish work ever seen in Manhattan development. It is an example of a gutsy developer committed to making his mark with an incredible level of design and finish work. It is also almost sold out at prices averaging well over $3,000/square foot.

David Behin: Recently I’ve become a great fan of the work that Alloy, a development firm out of DUMBO started by Jared Della Valle.  They’ve done some great projects like 192 Water, and I am very much looking forward to their townhouse project in DUMBO as well as 1 John Street.

 

4. Real estate agents face significant competition and therefore need to distinguish themselves.  What are 3 characteristics that every real estate agent needs to succeed?

Donna Olshan: There is a difference between successful and good. There are agents out there that are very successful in terms of sales and commission dollars but they don’t always serve the best interests of their clients. A successful agent who is good has excellent contacts, is very good at communicating and following up, and has the ability to present the data in context so that their clients can make the right decision efficiently.

David Behin: 1) Be an expert in something and work to make sure that the people in your network know it, 2) Network constantly, 3) Treat every client like they are your only client

Jim Retz: Our firm has been the dominant market share leader for Long Island since 1922. Impressive, yes, but consumers really expect their agents to: (1) be an expert on the market and throughout the entire process of working together, (2) be local and authentic in every way (eg: care), and (3) help them navigate through a change in location, and often, lifestyle. Oh, and be available all the time.

Eric Barron: Let me rephrase that question to ask, “What characteristics should agents have to succeed?” Oftentimes there is simply no substitute for a large sphere of influence.  To answer your question, I’m a big fan of Intelligence, Belly Hunger and Networking Skills.

 

5. What are the biggest issues you are experiencing when buyers are seeking approval for a mortgage or loan?

Eric Barron: This market is very difficult on the Real Estate Appraiser, with price increases happening so quickly.  An agreed-upon contract price today can be 10-15% higher than 4 months ago, which puts tremendous pressure on the time value adjustment appraisers make.  Thus, buyers need to ensure they have a sufficient down payment to make up the potential appraisal shortfall.  Also, the days of “limited documentation” are clearly a thing of the past, as buyers are often very frustrated having to explain why they withdrew $50 from their checking account.  I say this in jest, but it’s not far from the truth.

Jim Retz: There are actually several issues today. Rates have increased when compared to historic lows, which is simply a matter of education, yet they remain incredibly attractive. Our real focus is to assist borrowers in any way we can to navigate the mortgage process – pre-qualification; understanding the complexities of what is a far more stringent environment, and helping to maneuver through everything that needs to be done until the closing.

David Behin: That they have no money!

Donna Olshan: The buyers we deal with are qualified. The biggest issue is that the banks have trouble underwriting various buildings or understanding a buyer’s financials. The underwriting guidelines are always changing. I consider most underwriting departments to be the D.M.V. or Post Office of the banking system. Often the underwriters are located in cities or towns where the bank can hire employees at a low pay. You’ve got big banks with huge underwriting departments in Charlotte, North Carolina,  Maine and Minneapolis.   Some of these people have no idea about New York real estate and the complicated finances of the people who are often buying. The problem isn’t with the front-line loan officer you meet in a bank. Often, those people are quite good. It’s what happens after the application leaves the loan officer that drives the banking experience.

 

6. Real estate agents are becoming very prevalent on television shows.  Do you feel these shows are accurately portraying the real estate industry and real estate agents?   

David Behin:  I don’t watch these shows so I can’t comment.

Donna Olshan:  No. It makes for good television and a number of agents have profited off of their new-found stardom. Good television has producers that seek to build drama by staging a story with conflict and exaggerated behavior. Good real estate is just the opposite. You want to get the deal done with the least amount of drama as possible so that everyone walks away happy. But I can see how some buyers and sellers looking for 15 minutes of fame will be attracted to the agents and these TV shows.

Eric Barron: The sensationalism of all reality TV has gotten way out of hand.  Is there much else to say?

Jim Retz: My personal opinion is that what is being portrayed on some shows is for the audience’s viewing pleasure. It’s done for entertainment, and doesn’t even come close to the professionalism I have seen in the industry for decades. Conversely, it’s a delight when the likes of Barbara Corcoran and experts like our President & CEO Patricia Petersen are interviewed and can provide meaningful, relevant information about the process, opportunity and business of real estate.

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MMS: Kelly Kennedy Mack, Stephen G. Kliegerman, Edward D’Ambrosio, Melissa Pianko

Kelly Kennedy Mack, President of Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group
Stephen G. Kliegerman, President of Halstead Property Development Marketing
Edward DAmbrosio, Vice President of Douglas Elliman, New Development
Melissa Pianko, Executive Vice President of Development for Gotham Organization, Dev

1. New developments are a very popular topic right now! Why do you feel that New developments have become so “hot” again?

Kelly Kennedy Mack: This may be the strongest real estate market in New York history, and it is being driven by a new development revival. Of the $6.3 billion sold in Manhattan in first quarter, more than a third came from new development. Manhattan has been starved for new condominium inventory over the past five years which has created intense pent-up demand for new product. Low inventory is propelling sales in every submarket and at every price point, resulting in truly astounding sales.

Stephen G. Kliegerman: The new development market has seen a tremendous resurgence in the past twelve months as New York has lead the country out of the housing recession due to numerous factors.  First and foremost, as the economy has healed, job growth in the city has created an overwhelming demand for housing – pushing rents up while the economic stimulus has kept interest rates low.  Thus, for the first time in many years, it has once again become more affordable to own than to rent in the city.  In addition to that, the number of new housing units built since the summer of 2008 has dropped to a 30 year low as financing for new developments dried up due to the recession.  Secondly, there has been an increase in interest from foreign buyers looking for a safe haven for equity preservation and future appreciation in the market.  Foreign buyers are willing to accept relatively low returns in order to safeguard their savings in anticipation of rising housing costs as demand for new housing still outweighs supply.  Lastly, there is always a high demand for new housing with the latest and greatest amenities, finishes and, of course, location. Many of today’s new developments are located in highly sought-after neighborhoods such as Tribeca, the West Village, Upper West Side. Now Midtown, with the emergence of One57, 432 Park and Baccarat has been established as a residential destination for the wealthy.

Edward DAmbrosio: It’s pretty simple… there is a natural cycle of home ownership… which includes ownership of a “new” home.  That cycle was interrupted with the onset of the recession. In general, people are now feeling a bit more secure about the financial status of the economy and their own financial status. People are finally adjusting and accepting what some call the “new normal.”  There is a pent-up demand and inventory is low, so right now there is a flurry of activity from both the builder/developers and the buyers.

Melissa Pianko: During the downturn (2008 to 2010) there were not many new developments started.  So for the past few years, there has been a limited amount of new residential product brought to market. Gotham Organization is bringing our first post-recession building to market this month – Gotham West – located at 510-550 W. 45th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues in Hell’s Kitchen.  We are thrilled to be bringing this large development to market at a time where there is a significant demand for new buildings.

2. What amenities are today’s buyers looking for in a new building?  Name 4 that are the top of the list please.

Stephen G. Kliegerman: Buyers seek amenities that enrich their lives and add value to their residence.  The most sought-after amenities today are well appointed fitness centers that offer services such as personal training and wellness programs, swimming pools, resident lounges and children’s play rooms.

Kelly Kennedy Mack: Buyers don’t respond to gimmicks. Useful and time-tested amenities including parking, storage, fitness and multipurpose rooms, especially those designed with children in mind, resonate with today’s buyers. More recently, we’ve seen a proliferation of global buyers with multiple homes around the world, so properties offering full-service amenities supported by a hotel operator are actually an everyday need in their jet-setting lifestyle. In recent months, Baccarat Hotel & Residences New York has captured the world’s attention with the most exquisite amenity package available – anywhere.

Edward DAmbrosio: Today, amenities may be interpreted as “features.” What features rank high on the list for buyers?  1-Kitchen design and layout.  How they integrate into the homeowners lifestyle.  2- Outdoor living space – Patios, gardens, cooking areas, areas to entertain.   3- Open floor plans – great rooms that lend themselves to entertainment and ease of flow.  4- Master bedrooms or master suites that are on the main floor with generous closet space.

Melissa Pianko: We tend to focus on rental developments so I will speak to what renters are looking for in new buildings.  We believe the New York renter has gotten smart.  They want amenities they will actually use rather than fads (like Wii machines).  At Gotham West, we have a large courtyard which is an oasis from the craziness of New York.  It is beautiful to look at and a great place to relax.  We also have a really great gym – with spinning and yoga, a large lounge, some more intimate gathering spaces, a business center and a roof deck. We offer an array of concierge services.  The idea is that our renters are busy and we want to make their complicated lives as relaxed and convenient as possible.

3. What are some of the biggest challenges developers face in the market today?

Edward DAmbrosio: Scarcity of residential parcels of land. Not having enough inventory, or the right product, available for today’s buyers.  Trends in the market have changed rapidly. Lifestyle and location demands have shifted dramatically.  On Long Island, particularly, dealing with communities and local municipalities that oppose new construction has been a major challenge. There is a fear that new building will result in higher school taxes, more traffic, etc. Many studies show the exact opposite. Over time new communities often increase tax revenues, will bring new jobs, new retail. Overall it enhances the living experience in the community.

Melissa Pianko: Development is fun because it is challenging!

Kelly Kennedy Mack: Every developer I know is looking for a plot of land to build on. Scarcity of land is a growing challenge to developers.

Stephen G. Kliegerman: Developers face numerous challenges particularly in New York City.  First off, obtaining construction financing is still more difficult than it was prior to 2008 as lenders are still being very conservative, causing developers to either pony up more cash on their own or to find equity partners to join them in order to get a development off the ground.  Secondly, in the past four months land prices have sky-rocketed as developers compete for sites as the market continues to flourish on both the rental and condo side.  In addition, as the development market heats up, construction costs are starting to rise again as the competition for quality contractors increases.

 

4. Let’s talk money. How difficult is it for someone to finance a new construction purchase? What should a buyer ask their mortgage banker or mortgage broker in advance? Do any developers provide financing for buyers?

Kelly Kennedy Mack: Financing for purchasers varies by building and is less prevalent at the highest end of the market where Corcoran Sunshine mainly operates. That being said, buildings over 50% sold are relatively easy to finance. Many developments have preapproved lenders, so it’s wise to speak with the sales team for lender recommendations specific to the building they represent.

Stephen G. Kliegerman: Well, not only have I been a development marketing expert for quite some time, but my wife is actually a private mortgage banker at Wells Fargo, so I know a lot about this.  Obtaining financing is not as difficult as the press has made it out to be, although lender requirements have become more stringent post Lehman.  Purchasers need to be well prepared to obtain a mortgage today.  First off, know your credit score and make sure it is over 700 in order to get the best rates and have the most options.  If your credit is not good obtaining financing will be difficult.  Second, prepare for the process by having your last two years of tax returns, most recent pay stubs and all of your financial documents ready to present to your lender.  In addition, for the most part be prepared to put 20% down and if you are self-employed have plenty of backup information prepared with your accountant to present your actual income to the lender.  The days of no income verification loans are gone, so be ready to have your entire financial profile scrutinized.

 

Edward DAmbrosio:  Let me put it this way: financing any purchase nowadays can be complicated and surely frustrating.  Buyers for new construction qualify as they would with any conventional loan to purchase a home. However, what becomes difficult is navigating and understanding the banks underwriting process and paperwork most lenders require.  Every buyer should ask their mortgage banker or broker specific questions regarding that process and know where the underwriting actually takes place. Most Loan Officers know which banks and or lenders have the most common sense policies.  Most developers do not readily offer financing. What they have done over the past few years is become much more flexible in terms of extending the length of contracts – offering the buyer more time to secure financing and/or sell an existing property.

5. Excluding developments that you might be working on at the moment, what new development do you admire, and why?

Melissa Pianko: Rather than a residential development, one of my favorite upcoming new developments is CornellNYC Tech. This is an incredible opportunity to help the City of New York on so many levels and truly feel that this brings us to the 21st Century.  In case you’re not familiar with it, New York City’s plan to establish a world-class applied sciences university received a major boost recently with the announcement of a $133 million donation from prominent tech billionaire and philanthropist Irwin M. Jacobs, the founding chairman of mobile technology giant Qualcomm. Jacobs and his wife Joan are making the donation to Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, which have joined forces with New York City to launch Cornell Tech, a $2 billion research university to be located on Roosevelt Island, between the boroughs of Manhattan and Queens.

Kelly Kennedy Mack: I’m very interested to see how the residential conversion of the Woolworth Building turns out. It’s always been one of my favorite buildings in the city.

Stephen G. Kliegerman: 18 Gramercy is a favorite of mine.  The location is one of the best in the city and the fact that they were able to enlarge the windows had a huge impact on the park views and amount of light the residences receive.  One of my other favorites is Walker Tower.  The developers of Walker Tower took a huge risk putting what I consider the best fit and finish package in any development into the kitchens, baths, floors and hardware and it really paid off.  Not only are the views amazing but the finishes compliment the amazing views.  Every developer is now using Walker at the gold standard for what a quality, top of the line product is.

6. When constructing a new building, what modern technologies are developers incorporating into their projects in order to “Go Green?”Can you name a few changes all developers should make in order to build smarter and more efficient buildings?

Stephen G. Kliegerman: Developers are using everything from recycled materials, beautifully manufactured ceramic tiles rather than natural stone, high efficiently HVAC systems, high E rated glass to state of the art mechanicals in order to conserve energy, respect the environment and maximize efficiency.

Edward DAmbrosio: ’Going green’ really is important to me personally, but also for the overall environment, so it’s very exciting to see that Geo-thermal and Solar energy is incorporated more and more into the initial design plans for new homes.

Kelly Kennedy Mack: One of the newest properties in our portfolio, Watchcase in Sag Harbor, has extensive planted green roof technology. This looks beautiful and provides ecological benefits and cost savings to the homeowner, the property, and the entire village of Sag Harbor.

In other LEED-certified properties like Riverhouse and The Laurel, buyers have noted their appreciation of green features like filtered fresh air, tobacco smoke protection, and use of low-VOC paints and sealants. HVAC systems that require less energy and produce fewer CO2 emissions are popular as well.

These systems are environmentally friendly and add real value to the lives of purchasers. What’s interesting is that developers who have built their careers around green properties, like Michael Namer at Alfa Development, say that it ultimately doesn’t cost more for a developer to build green.

Gradually, more and more towns have raised the energy saving requirements for the home; not just Energy Star appliances, but for all the mechanical systems in every new home. It is costly, but best for the consumer today and the environment in the future. What can, and should be done, without having it required by the local building codes, is to insulate each home to meet higher standards on a regular basis. Additionally, there are many materials available such as recycled products or materials that are environmentally friendly.

Melissa Pianko: Thinking long-term here about green building is important: what can be done upfront to reduce long-term energy costs and make the building more sustainable.  I think we will start to see developers using more innovative approaches – particularly as the government incentives start to catch up with the technology.

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MMS: Diane Levine, Frederick Peters, Tresa Hall, Gary Kiyan

Diane Levine Sotheby’s International Realty, Senior Vice President/ Brokerage Manager
Frederick Peters Warburg Realty, President
Tresa Hall The Corcoran Group, Executive Vice President, Director of Sales
Gary Kiyan Anchor Associates, Senior Manager

 

1) What is the most important attribute you like to see in a seller when listing their home?

Diane Levine: With sellers it is important for them to have a plan for where they will be moving to next.  When a seller wants and needs to get on with their lives, whether because they are moving for a reason, like an addition to their family or a job promotion they are more receptive to the offers that they receive.  They will focus on what the buyers present to them vs. just thinking I want to achieve “x” amount.  Their thinking shifts from I’d like to get a certain amount  and I’d think about selling to what are the buyers willing to pay at this point in time.  When agents  have a handle on the seller’s real motivation and time frame, they have a better chance of persuading the seller to act.

Frederick Peters: Realistic pricing – hands down

Tresa Hall: The two most important attributes to look for in a seller is their motivation to sell and their willingness to price the property to sell.

Gary Kiyan: When a seller has  realistic expectations of what the market can deliver that always makes it better when creating proper marketing, and in the negotiation process for bringing about a solid transaction. In addition when the seller understands the partnership aspects of the relationship when it come to more linear points like staging, touch up work and showing schedules, these basics create deals.

2) What are some of the key qualities a prospective purchaser should see in a real estate agent?

Frederick Peters: Several qualities: you need to find an agent who can fully contextualize your purchase economically. So it must be someone with a breadth of market understanding who is capable of giving you adivice about what to go for and how aggressively to go for it. These days, with so many properties going into multiple offers, that information is critical. A good agent should also always help you to prioritize your need and determine where you have flexibility – is it size, is it location, is it price? That guides the search

Tresa Hall: A purchaser should expect that their agent is diligent is searching for properties and educating them as to the information that they have found on websites.  They should also expect their agent to communicate regularly and respond immediately to their phone calls, emails, or texts.  Their agent should be a good negotiator and should be knowledgeable in every aspect of the real estate transaction.  They should feel comfortable that they can trust their agent.  And they should believe that the agent has their best interests at heart.  They need to know that their agent CARES about them.

Gary Kiyan: A consumer who has or is willing to be educated as to the true state of the market is always great to work with; in addition, a purchaser who understands the partnership and agency relationship aspect of the procedure is something I relish as well. Real Estate sales negotiations is an art form, so when a purchaser can work in harmony with the agent I find that great transaction come from this approach, which points to the concept of trust, which is not the easiest thing to find or achieve in a “caveat emptor” business. In this market a buyer who understands the pace of the deal and or the transaction is another blessing when it is present, these are the qualities of my dream purchaser.

Diane Levine: Prospective purchasers will do best with a real estate agent that can explain what is happening in the real estate market, knows details of the apartments that they are suggesting for the client, listens and ask questions of the buyer so that they help the buyer identify what they want and need and who work diligently to make it happen.  The best agents care more about their clients vs. just doing a deal, they are hard-working and determined.  They return your calls and are actively guiding the buyer to proceed in a certain way, as the looking and buying process proceeds.

3) What are some of the most sought after locations today? Why?

Tresa Hall: There are many sought after locations in NYC today.   Chelsea and many of the downtown areas are extremely desirable in today’s market, in part because of some of the new developments.  Brooklyn Heights, Williamsburg, Park Slope are sought after now.  All of these areas are popular for their neighborhood feel, easy access to transportation, restaurants and are considered to be “hip”.   Following new developments is the indication of sought after locations.

Gary Kiyan: Well the way the market is at present; locations with inventory are popular! All real estate humor aside, in my present environment I am dealing with many first time home buyers so, I saw a number of transaction from Murray Hill to the upper eastside in deals from 750k and down. In addition we saw strong demand in the financial district for one and two bedroom activity. Of course downtown in general shows strong demand ( which is typical) for Soho, Tribeca and the West Village remains in tact however with a shortage of product and the high demand has created a very fast paced and competitive environment, which must be navigated.

Diane Levine: New York City is the place to live—we have everything and more.  As an international company, the Sotheby’s International Realty agents get enquires from around the globe.  Foreigners are interested in neighborhoods that they have heard about abroad like Columbus Circle\Lincoln Center, Greenwich Village or Soho, which give them access to the excitement of the City.  If they are investors, they are also interested in value and growth.  Many are now asking more about Brooklyn and Harlem.

Frederick Peters: This is an impossible question to answer, as increasingly all of New York is sought after. There is no undesirable location in Manhattan any more – it just depends on what you want. People are fighting over brownstones all over Brooklyn. Each neighborhood has its charms, and whether it is artists in Bushwick, young professionals in Harlem or Beaux Arts lovers in Bed-Stuy, there is a place for everyone.

4) What is your take on some of the reality shows that portray NY real estate brokers.  Are the shows accurate?

Gary Kiyan: Well it certainly shows that we are in an entertaining, fast paced industry, this type of venue presents a bit of a personified version of the best and worst qualities of the  Real Estate professional, while I have seen similar scenarios develop on some of the more high profile transactions I have participated in, some of it is beyond the realm of many of the day to day deals I see. As long as there is some voice or attention to the fact that, honest professional service and consultation is the true cornerstone of our business I am comfortable with the shows.

Diane Levine: We, working in the real estate business in New York City, are lucky to be able to see the most luxurious apartments and to represent many of the most diverse, interesting and wealthy people from around the world that want to live in our city. The reality shows allow us to share these special spaces and  what our business is like with all that it includes: the excitement, stress and sometimes unusual behavior.  Although it is never “real” to condense a process that can take months into 30 minutes (If only our deals moved so quickly), it would be great to tell all involved we need to be done by the next commercial break.   Watching these shows have brought some great new talent into the industry.

Frederick Peters: Well, we have participated for years in “Selling New York”, which did a pretty good job of portraying the highs and lows of real estate brokerage as a career. I have been unenthusiastic about the mac ho/shark portrayal of agents on “Million Dollar Listing”, but I guess it sells ad space.

Tresa Hall: I don’t really call these shows “reality” shows.  I don’t think they necessarily shed an accurate light on real estate agents.

5) Imagine that interest rates increase from 1 to 1.5% above their current levels.  What impact will that have on the purchase market?

Diane Levine: Being in the business over 25 years, in the past, I saw a buying frenzy when interest rate first start to raise as buyers tried to jump in before rates went higher, followed by a flattening of prices, as buyers felt they couldn’t spend as much because their monthly payment would be more.  However, in New York City now since at all price points more and more buyers are “all cash” and not depended on financing – all bets are off.

Frederick Peters: Even at 4 or 4.5% interest rates will still be historically low. It would undoubtedly remove some purchasers from the mix, but with inventory shortages at their current acute levels, it would probably not have too chilling an effect on the market. And honestly, a little LESS intensity in the market would be a welcome experience for buyers and agents alike.

Tresa Hall: I believe that a small rise in interest rates would encourage the buyers to move more quickly before the levels were raised more.

Gary Kiyan: We are in a market where the lending rates are some of the best we have seen, and these rates along with the hope of an improving economy are definitely having a favorable effect on the market place. I do not personally think that 1-1.5 percent will kill the golden goose, however as interest rate rise it will gradually effect some pricing and when the point come that overall inflation kicks in, which is typical on the backside of a recovering economy, at that point we may see some deeper effect in the market.

The bottom line is; the less expensive an overall transaction is, more people can buy. So, while the luxury market may go unaffected, the median and lower parts of the market feel the effect more as interest rates rise, yet at a  1-1.5 percent increase I would still be confident.

6) Are you seeing an increase in demand for second home purchases?

Frederick Peters: I don’t think we currently see much of an increase. Ever since the recession began, flight capital from Europe, South America, and Asia has been making its way steadily into the US. That continues to happen at a high level. Bricks and mortar in New York seem very appealing to wealthy multinationals looking for a safe place to invest. In addition, we see many well-off Americans buying second, third, or fourth homes here. But I don’t know that this is an increase in demand. I think this demand has been here for a while.

Tresa Hall: We have definitely seen an uptick in purchases in the East End (Hamptons, Sag Harbor, Amagansett, Montauk and the North Fork).  Second home purchasers are definitely back in the market.

Gary Kiyan: Yes, actually I am seeing demand in almost all aspect of the Manhattan market, these types of deals are on the rise as well as empty nesters downsizing and taking advantage of market conditions. We see a risein second home purchases for the domestic and international market place at this point in time.

Diane Levine: As the manager of the Downtown Manhattan office of Sotheby’s International Realty, I have the responsibility of reviewing board packages on all our deals.  Most of the packages I reviewed in the first few months of this year were for primary residences.  There are a lot of first time buyers jumping in at points up to $2.5M.  Agents are reporting that many clients would consider buying up, if they could find something (hard in this multiple bid market).  Since you asked about second homes, I checked with our Hamptons offices and they have been reporting an overly brisk sales , significantly higher than the same time frame in 2012.  Most of their sales are second homes.

7) How do you advise a purchaser who is involved in a transaction where there are multiple bidders?

Tresa Hall: I would tell them that they should give the absolute highest price that they could and if they lost the bidding war at that price, then they wouldn’t be distraught at losing it.

Gary Kiyan: So many deals are going through this process right now and managing the purchasers expectations of the market are key in our present environment. It is a bit of an art form to give the purchaser an experience where they know the agent is vigorously representing them, when there is not that much give on pricing. Indeed, some buyer have to lose a unit during negotiations in order to understand the true will of our present market conditions. If I think a property is fairly priced I will advise my purchasers to be mindful of this point and refrain from attempts at hardball negotiations. Make reasonable offers if not full price and above asking price in some situations.

Diane Levine: As soon as there is more than one “real” buyer, the advantage shifts to the seller.    In order to level the playing field, a buyer and their real estate agent need to be prepared.  Buyers need to review and be prepared to present themselves financially in the best light -what they can spend, how much they can borrow.  When a property which meet the client’s needs hits the market, the buyer needs to act swiftly. The sooner they get in to see it, the earlier they can complete their due diligence and make an offer.  When bidding goes over ask, after the agent provides input as to current value of the unit, the buyer needs to think long and hard to answer- at what price if they lost it would they be kicking themselves.  By sharing details of other current negotiations, the agent needs to help the buyer truly understand the speed with which they will have to move.  In the market we are in, the buyer often may have to decide on the biggest purchase of their life are being in busy open house for a few minutes.  And we think our job is stressful.

Frederick Peters: Go high. And write the seller a letter about how much you love the property. It is amazing how effective those can be!

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Diane M. Ramirez

MMS: Diane M. Ramirez, Dottie Herman, Reba Miller, Roberta Axelrod

Diane M. Ramirez Halstead Property, CEO
Dottie Herman Douglas Elliman,  President & CEO
Reba Miller CORE , Director of Sales-Madison Avenue
Roberta Axelrod Time Equities Director of Residential Sales and Rentals

1)  The market has had a great year relative to the last 4 years.  Do you think this trend is going to continue in 2013? What 3 factors influence your outlook?

Dottie Herman: At our recent meeting with our 1,000 Agents in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, I shared that I was no longer ‘cautiously’ optimistic – I was definitely optimistic. In 2012, Halstead Property had our best year in the firm’s history. Combined with our high level of deals in just the first two months of 2013, I know it’s going to be a great year. Three factors that influence my outlook are low inventory, increased consumer confidence and the rising numbers of construction permits (for new developments.)

Diane M. Ramirez: At our recent meeting with our 1,000 Agents in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, I shared that I was no longer ‘cautiously’ optimistic – I was definitely optimistic. In 2012, Halstead Property had our best year in the firm’s history. Combined with our high level of deals in just the first two months of 2013, I know it’s going to be a great year.

Three factors that influence my outlook are low inventory, increased consumer confidence and the rising numbers of construction permits (for new developments.)

Reba Miller: It’s definitely going to be a great year ahead. The three factors influencing my outlook are the tempo of deals being done each day, the quick sell-out of new developments, and lending  being cheap and readily available.

Roberta Axelrod:   In 2013, it looks as though the market will continue to be strong throughout the year since there is a serious shortage of available inventory, interest rates remain low and many purchasers and sellers have been waiting on the sidelines to be sure the market is back.

2) When representing a buyer, you are trying to secure the lowest purchase price.  When working with a seller, your goal is to command top dollar.  However, putting a deal together that will close with a qualified buyer/motivated seller can impact those numbers.  What advice do you give your clients early on in the process to manage expectations?

Diane M. Ramirez: It’s imperative that the broker represents the best interests of their client – whether it be a seller or a buyer. We take that very seriously at Halstead. We advise our Agents to manage expectations by keeping a clear line of communication, a calm demeanor and to be thoughtful of the stress on a buyer or seller.

Dottie Herman:  It’s imperative that the broker represents the best interests of their client – whether it be a seller or a buyer. We take that very seriously at Halstead. We advise our Agents to manage expectations by keeping a clear line of communication, a calm demeanor and to be thoughtful of the stress on a buyer or seller.

Roberta Axelrod: We are advising purchasers that product is very low and that they need to be able to see units they may be interested in at the first showing, have their lender pre-qualification letters in hand and be prepared to make a serious offer that day if they love it.  We are advising sellers that they can typically price their units above the level of the past selling prices in the building.

Reba Miller: If I am representing a new seller, then I do my best to prepare them on proper pricing which is reflected in market data from the past 30 day. If priced properly, multiple bids are possible!   If I am representing a buyer, I am preparing a strong offer that can be acted upon quickly in order to remain competitive in today’s fast-paced market.   A knowledgeable and prepared broker will help to guide both the buyer and the seller.

 

3) I want to purchase a new home in your market.  What is the best deal right now, and why?

Reba Miller: The best deals are going to be with units that are in need of renovation.  With time, energy and creativity, a buyer can get a good deal and have their dream home when construction and design is complete.

Roberta Axelrod: The best deals can be found on “fixer uppers” that are priced low as most purchasers are not willing to put in the time and effort to get involved with major renovations. But beware, if you are not experienced, renovations always take longer and cost more than originally planned.

Dottie Herman: Inventory is extremely tight in Manhattan right now. The best “deal” is to find a home that meets your individual needs and you will have a bit more luck where the inventory is not as tight such as the Upper East Side or certain Downtown areas.

Diane M. Ramirez: Inventory is extremely tight in Manhattan right now. The best “deal” is to find a home that meets your individual needs and you will have a bit more luck where the inventory is not as tight such as the Upper East Side or certain Downtown areas.

4)  What are 3 items your buyers seem to ask for on their “wish list”? What amenities are you seeing as the new trend?

Roberta Axelrod: Purchasers are asking about children’s playrooms, dog friendliness and bike storage. We are seeing more buildings with refrigerator storage for grocery deliveries and concierge services that do more than sit at the front desk.

Diane M. Ramirez: Three things that buyers seem to ask for is a great location, lots of natural light and a good flow. The amenities that we are seeing as a new trend are over-the-top closets, his & her closets, an open flexible floor plan and outdoor space.

Reba Miller: Reasonable Maintenance, Space and Light Good data to support the purchase.  A pet washing station would be an example of a trendy amenity.

Dottie Herman: Three things that buyers seem to ask for is a great location, lots of natural light and a good flow. The amenities that we are seeing as a new trend are over-the-top closets, his & her closets, an open flexible floor plan and outdoor space.

5)  There is plenty of chatter on the street that the banks aren’t lending.  Is this true? Are you buyers having difficulty obtaining mortgages?

Dottie Herman: It all depends on the individual buyer. If they have great credit and the funds to purchase a home, the banks are lending. They are stricter than in years past but that is actually for the best. Buyers should be prepared to present lots of documentation and be patient with the process.

Diane M. Ramirez: It all depends on the individual buyer. If they have great credit and the funds to purchase a home, the banks are lending. They are stricter than in years past but that is actually for the best. Buyers should be prepared to present lots of documentation and be patient with the process.

Reba Miller: Some buildings showing a high concentration of sponsor or investor units are still having difficulty and buyers with poor credit scores are having trouble.

Roberta Axelrod: Qualified purchasers utilizing professional experienced mortgage brokers are obtaining financing in this market. A competent real estate broker generally can recommend a mortgage broker to their clients to meet their financing needs.

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Margaret Trautmann

MMS: Kenneth Scheff, Neil Binder, Barbara Fox, Margaret Trautmann

Kenneth Scheff Stribling & Associates, Managing Director,  Executive Vice President
Neil Binder  The Bellmarc Group, Principal
Barbara Fox Fox Residential Group, President
Margaret Trautmann Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, Licensed Associate Broker

1 – How should a consumer choose a lawyer for their purchase transaction? What are the 3 most important factors to consider?

Barbara S. Fox:  A consumer should always use a lawyer for a real estate transaction who is recommended by someone who has had recent favorable dealings with the attorney.  Or, get a referral from your personal attorney — or better yet – from your real estate broker!  Three important factors to remember are:  1) Use an attorney who is familiar with Manhattan apartment closings, particularly if a coop is involved.  2) Use an attorney who is located preferably in Manhattan and readily available if needed.  3) Make sure the attorney has another lawyer to serve as a backup in case he/she is away and something with regard to the deal needs to be attended to immediately.

Kenneth Scheff :  I think the three most important factors in choosing a lawyer are:  1) Whether the lawyer gives you a sense of confidence; whether it’s someone you can talk to.  2) A second factor would be whether they have the time to work on your transaction in a quick or timely manner because I think there are some truly excellent lawyers that are slow and that can be very detrimental and could cause you to lose a deal.  3) The third factor ties into the confidence factor.  Are they familiar with the New York City market and where the market is right now in terms of sense of urgency?  Do they understand what’s commonly done in negotiated points of a contract?

Margaret Trautmann:  Choosing a lawyer for your purchase transaction is very important.  The best is to get at least three referrals from a licensed and experienced real estate broker and interview each, keeping in mind these factors:  1) If this is a major property, be sure that the attorney you are considering is connected with an appraiser.  This will ensure that he/she will understand what is needed for the transaction to proceed as smoothly as possible, and that there will be nothing overlooked (for example, extra lots).  2) You truly get with you pay for!  If you are thinking of cutting corners and hiring an attorney just based on price, keep in mind that the results can be disastrous.  Price should not be a factor at all.   3) Make sure that the attorney is a “Deal Maker,” not a “Deal Breaker;” your attorney should be comfortable dealing with and speaking directly with the selling broker.  Your attorney should be someone who understands the area in which you are purchasing/selling, and should have knowledge of the village/town laws and codes.  A very good attorney from New York City may not be thoroughly knowledgeable about villages on Long Island, so be sure whomever you choose is well-informed.

Neil Binder:  There is no question that an attorney who is well acquainted with residential real estate transactions in New York City is essential to a smooth transaction.  Otherwise, a responsible attorney who is not acquainted with this field is going to be hypersensitive to every possible permutation and will take more time to review documents and engage in research to ensure that he is conforming to the laws here.  An attorney knowledgeable in New York City real estate will also be aware of the customs normally followed.  The result is that the transaction will proceed more smoothly and probably at a cheaper cost.

Many attorneys lose sight of their role in serving their client. They believe that they are not merely acting as a legal protector and advocate, but also as a business advisor. This can often cause a considerable level of confusion in a deal that would otherwise have been an easy transaction. I have seen deals where counsel has refused to permit his/her client to engage in a transaction because a building’s maintenance was high or the reserve fund was low. I have also seen transactions where counsel sought to renegotiate the deal when it was perceived that the price was too high. Many times the result is a fallen deal. A lawyer should remember that his/her duty is to advise clients of the legal risks associated with the transaction so that the client can make an informed decision.

There are some attorneys who believe that it is important to be adversarial to the other attorney. Thus, the transaction becomes a battle of egos between the respective counsels, more than a transaction on behalf of their clients. Obviously there are times when a strong hand has value; however, it should not be the beginning point to the conversation. A good attorney will look to build rapport with the other attorney and focus on problems as mutual challenges that both attorneys should seek to resolve for the benefit of their respective clients.

2 – Is social media an important part of your business plan and how do you see it impacting your future business?

Margaret Trautmann:  Social Media plays a very important part in my business plan and has already impacted my business dealings. This current and future generation has been brought up with technology: cell phones, computers and more. It is important to be able to give the instant attention and gratification they desire. Keeping up with changes in communication is extremely important.

Neil Binder:  There is no question that social media is an important part of the future of the real estate brokerage business.  Since being a salesperson is a “people business,” the goal of the salesperson is to reach as many people as he/she can. However, merely having a Facebook account is hardly enough. The agent must build up the size of their networks to encompass as many people as possible and communicate meaningful information that people will be inclined to read. Six degrees of separation is true – for each person who is a friend, you can count on six more opportunities. If you build a reputation, you build a referral business.

Barbara S. Fox:  It is important and I’m sure will become increasingly important, particularly with our younger generations.  At the moment, I don’t believe the impact it may have on the market is fully felt.  But it’s a great way to get the word around about things – specifically new listings.

Kenneth Scheff : I think it is an important part of many of our agent’s plans for the future and a lot of our agents are using social media now.  On a very simple level, it seems easier to keep track of your contacts through Facebook and Twitter, rather than having a long list of names in a contact folder in Outlook. Somehow, it just seems more organic to reach more people through the new social media, and we’ve also had some interesting successes with our agents who are from other parts of the world. Once they join Facebook, they get back in communication with people who are on other continents and it has led to a surprising amount of business for us.

3 – It’s no secret that there is significant interest in NY Real Estate from foreign investors.  Are these investors driving up prices?

Neil Binder:  Foreign investors are heavily focused on new construction. Thus, this segment has been strongly supported by this activity. In the resale market foreign investors have been a significant participant for some time; however, the percentage of this market relating to foreign money has remained somewhat stable. The big aspect driving the current market is low interest rates, perceived favorable value in prices and lifestyle decisions.

Margaret Trautmann:  Without a doubt, foreign investors are significantly interested and have driven up the prices. There is such value on the North Shore of Long Island that these foreign investors see and understand the value and are willing to pay more. They do tend to be tough negotiators.  However, at the end of the day, if anyone really wants the property they will buy it.

Kenneth Scheff: I think they have an impact.  Sometimes when people talk about foreign investors, they talk about people who have foreign passports that actually live in New York already.

If you’re talking about purely investors (meaning they live in other countries and do not want to use the property as a pied-à-terre), they really are just investing in the property to rent it out and then sell it (they might not even see it).  I would say they are a small part of the market and their significance might be better characterized as building-by-building; for some buildings that has been an important factor in selling them, and for other buildings it has not.

On the other hand, if you’re talking about how many people who buy a condominium (usually it’s a condominium) have a foreign passport and either are living in New York or plan to use the apartment as a 2nd or 3rd home, I would say that plays a very significant part of our market.  It has had a definite impact leading to increased prices in condominiums while keeping that gap between condo and co-op prices significant.

Barbara S. Fox:  Foreign investors are definitely finding Manhattan real estate a good investment.  They are keeping the prices, particularly in new condominium buildings, supported, and even driving them up because of the lack of product currently available in the city.

4 – Referrals from past clients are critical for growth.  How do you maintain those relationships after closing?

Kenneth Scheff: We’re extremely good at that.  At Stribling we’re able to do that by acting in an extremely ethical, considerate, gentlemanly or ladylike way during the transaction, so the clients remember that they had a good experience.  After that, we maintain a nice warm relationship with the buyer by staying in touch, and having a drink or meeting for a coffee every once in a while.  I’m not suggesting that in every transaction, or even the majority of our transactions, the broker and client become good friends, but I am saying that in most of our transactions there is a feeling on both sides that they could be friends if they had time and needed new friends, thus, creating a more organic relationship.  In terms of what we do, people do send notes, people pick up the phone, send e- cards or newsletters.

Barbara S. Fox:  I personally never forget a good client and always try to stay in touch with my clients over the years.  I have clients I sold apartments to 20 or more years ago, who come back to me because I’ve stayed in contact with them over those years.  At Fox Residential Group, we stay in touch by sending a corporate holiday gift to our clients, customers, and others who have served us well over the past years.  We also send regular mailings and emails of articles and our newest listings that may be of interest to them.

Neil Binder:  The value of a referral is that you are not an unknown to the buyer, and he comes to you with a recommendation about the quality of your service. This is the key to building a solid reputation.  The key to building this referral base is by keeping your old relationships fresh. Send them a mailing from time to time, particularly during the holiday season. Let them know what’s going on in real estate by sending them a newsletter or market report.

Margaret Trautmann:  Keeping relationships after closings has gotten to be quite a bit easier with social media. There are monthly updates as to what is happening in the market and what I have been up to that I send out at least once, if not twice a month. For example, “Just Listed” or “Just Sold” information, market reports for their areas and “The Heartbeat of the Market”.

5 – Helping a client find that perfect dream home is a very rewarding feeling.  What was your most memorable moment?

Barbara S. Fox:  Every time I see a customer’s eyes light up when they look around an apartment – and like it — is a memorable moment for me.  I equate finding the right apartment with finding the right mate – there’s a chemistry which is instantly felt.  After many years of doing deals, I’ve never lost that special feeling when I’ve connected a customer to a property.

Neil Binder:  I have spent over 15 years building on a patent I created, Selection Portfolio, which is a means by which properties are compared according to specific criteria:  location, building, floor, view, space and monthly cost. Using this criteria I set up a special program, Selection Portfolio Valuation, which permits us to compare like apartments in a given neighborhood at a similar price.  I have spent an enormous amount of time trying to get it right.

One day, an agent came into my office. His foreign buyer was interested in an apartment and he wanted my advice on what to do. I listened to his concerns:  he didn’t know what to bid on an apartment and he sought direction. I went to the computer and printed out a Selection Portfolio Valuation report. The agent looked at the analysis and decided to bid based on the price the report recommended as the proper value. After the agent presented the report to the seller, he too was in agreement.  I never even saw the apartment, but I still made the deal. Great moment!

Margaret Trautmann:  After 23 years in real estate, I have to say that my most memorable and rewarding transaction has to be the purchase of my son and daughter-in-law’s home. The trust and faith that I would understand and listen to what it is they wanted in a home was touching. The home they purchased was the first one they saw. The house came on the market just before they were able to buy. But upon seeing the house, they realized that this was the home for them. To this day, they are so happy with the choice!

Kenneth Scheff:  People have very vivid dreams and we do want to make them happy.   We want people to feel like what they’ve purchased was a good idea – it made them and their family happy, and was a good investment.    I want to reframe the question a little bit to say that what’s most exciting for me is when we go through a process with our buyer and they become educated in the market.  Buyers then sometimes learn that what they initially thought they wanted may not actually be their true dream home, or it may not be realistic.  What we’ve helped them do is appreciate what they can find and get, and they realize that this really is their ultimate dream home.

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ryan150

MMS: Ryan Serhant, Gary Malin, Douglas Heddings, David Maundrell

Ryan Serhant
Ryan Serhant
Gary Malin
Gary Malin
Douglas Heddings
Douglas Heddings

Ryan Serhant Nest Seekers International, Executive Vice President
Gary Malin Citi Habitats,  President
Douglas Heddings The Heddings Property Group, President
David Maundrell aptsandlofts.com, President

1  What types of marketing strategies are you planning for the Fall?

Malin: Citi Habitats recently underwent a complete rebranding initiative.    We changed our logo, our tagline and mission statement, and are currently undergoing a gut renovation of many of our branch offices.  As a result of these big changes, we are taking a multi-faceted approach to marketing this fall.   We have purchased billboard space around the city, and will be doing some print advertising.  However, the bulk of our advertising expenditure will go to online initiatives.  It’s simply where the clientele is.  Over 80% of home seekers begin their search online, so it makes sense to have a large presence there.

Heddings :Informative agent newsletters –  including regular, real-time market updates and events for both buyers and sellers – are on our agenda.  Of course, Heddings Property Group’s social media activity will remain prominent aspect of our marketing campaign.

Serhant: For starters, we are giving away about 1000 pumpkins out of our office on Reade Street on October 13th.  There are a lot of families in Tribeca so we try to be as kid friendly of an office as possible (the whole office is a mural of the cities of the world with fun things for kids to find).  We are also pushing out a large advertising campaign surrounding our recent successes with record prices per square foot in certain buildings.  The market is incredibly active, and success begets success.

Maundrell:  SEO and email marketing are two marketing tools of prominence for us as we continue to build the  aptsandlofts.com brand. These tools are exciting because of the low cost / high results. We are also expanding our presence on Facebook as well as opening a second office in Cobble Hill Brooklyn this Fall to increase our storefront presence.

2  I believe that it is very important that consumers understand how they are being represented in a transaction. What do you do to insure this?  Do you use the Agency Disclosure Form to accomplish this?

Heddings : First of all, it is imperative to explain the Agency Disclosure Form and what it means specifically for a buyer or seller.  It is at this point that we explain our fiduciary responsibility and our allegiance to parties in a transaction.  However, at Heddings Property Group, we believe that, following this discussion, our actions are just as important – if not more important – than the words on the disclosure form. Our actions are inspired by our clients’/customers’ best interests, and it is important to establish trust and make clear that we strive to put their desires before our own.

Serhant: We always use Agency Disclosure forms.  We have to by law.

Malin:  Clients are required to read and sign the agency disclosure form by New York State law, and I think it does a pretty effective job explaining whose interests a broker represents.   Clarity is a very important component of our business, and we pride ourselves in our dedication to customer service.  Our training program is rigorous and the most comprehensive in the industry.  Our brokers are trained to always exceed expectations for their clients, regardless if they are a landlord, renter, buyer or seller.

Maundrell:  It is always a priority that aptsandlofts.com agents always follow all NYS Guidelines. However, it is also extremely important that buyers / renters are fully aware of who is representing them.  I think the law that went into place last year enforces that agents fully explain who they are representing early enough in the process that there should not be any confusion. We have implemented many checks and balances internally to ensure the Agency Disclosure Forms are signed, but the key will always be training the agents.

3  It seems that many new developments are being brought to market after a lengthy time of inactivity. Are you finding this?  Are you working on any new projects?

Maundrell:  aptsandlofts.com is bringing several new condominium projects to the market  between now and the end of the year. Most of these projects are smaller boutique developments, which buyers really are gravitating toward these days. This fall we are seeing an average of nearly 300 people attending our Grand Opening parties for condominiums and we expect that trend to continue for our upcoming developments in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.

Serhant: Financing is easier now, for developers and end users, so we’re seeing projects come back to life.  We’re actively working with a few developers to get projects off the ground.  The market is in need of new inventory. It’s dead out there.

Heddings : There aren’t enough new projects to even make a dent in the dearth of inventory.  We need supply!  One57 is great for the billionaires and those of us who are fortunate enough to sell there, but ask the Upper West Side couple how their search for a Classic 7 is going and they will surely weep as they explain the lack of properties from which to choose.

Malin: Market conditions in both the city’s rental and sales markets have improved over the last few quarters.  Projects that have been dormant are now ripe for completion, given the public’s demand for new housing options.  The entire far West Side is poised for an incredible revitalization with the massive Hudson Yards project, and the Queens waterfront in Long Island City will be completely transformed with new residential towers in the next decade.  Don’t forget about the area surrounding the Barclays Center, it’s another hot spot for new development – both residential and commercial.

The outer boroughs are hot.  Manhattan has an “overflow” effect, meaning when people get priced off the island, they look for alternatives, generally along main transit routes.  As a result, many neighborhoods in the outer boroughs – for example, Astoria, Queens and Bushwick, Brooklyn, are seeing a surge in new residents.

CHMG, our new development marketing arm, is currently leasing a variety of projects, most notably, the New York by Gehry tower at 8 Spruce Street in Manhattan.  It’s the tallest residential building in North America, and has been attracting new residents from all over the world.  We’re currently 87% leased.  We also just bought to market the first phase of a 2 building complex at 11-15 Broadway in Astoria.  In addition we recently re-launched a building on East 28th Street called The Grayson after a complete gut-renovation.  It looks spectacular.

4  As the sales market is heating up, how are you finding the rental market?

Serhant: The rental market is trading higher than we’ve ever seen it, which in turn creates a more active investor buying market.

Maundrell:  The aptsandlofts.com team is finding that the rental market is as hot as ever and could realistically be a record year again. We have seen rents rising approximately 10% annually for the past 3 years.

Heddings : The strong rental market coupled with low vacancy rates is fueling the sales market.  In many instances, it is once again cheaper to buy than it is to rent.   Interest rates remain at historic lows, the NYC real estate market remains a perceived safe haven for foreign money and buyers in general are attracted to NYC for all that it has to offer.  Let’s also not forget how livable this city has become with low crime, more green spaces, excellent schools, cultural events, and an incredible transportation system that makes the city easily navigable.

Malin: The rental market has reached historic highs in terms of pricing.  We have even surpassed the pre-recession heights of the market in terms of what landlords are able to charge for available units.  At its core, the Big Apple is a renter-centric city.  Give or take 70% of Manhattan apartments are rental properties, which is high in comparison to other cities.

The current tight rental market can be frustrating for would-be tenants.  I advise clients to make a list of “needs” versus “wants,” be flexible and open to looking outside your target area, and begin the search ready to transact.  Home seekers should have their relevant paperwork and funds ready before they start looking at apartments.  The rental market moves fast.

5  What would be the single most important piece of advice that you would give to a seller considering selling their property?   How about a buyer who was considering purchasing a home?

Malin:  Apartment shoppers are more informed about the real estate market than they ever have been.  For this reason, it’s important for sellers to price their home in line with current market conditions. Overpricing a home is a big mistake, but a very common one.  The peak time for buyer interest is when an apartment just hits the market, and homes that have sat on the market for a while can be a “red flag” for many would-be buyers.

For buyers, they should be sure to get pre-approved for a mortgage before beginning the search.  Bank qualification requirements are notably more strict than they have been in recent years.  However, interest rates are at historic lows. If you have the means to buy, now is a great time to make the leap to ownership.  Manhattan real estate is always a wise investment; and the lifestyle and opportunities available in our city are like nowhere else in the world.

Heddings : Inventory is LOW and if you are considering selling in the next six to 12 months, you may want to step up and list sooner rather than later. If you’re a prospective buyer, make sure to evaluate your priorities to make sure buying a home in this market makes sense for you.  Consider the desired length of ownership, whether financing or not, current living situation and, of course, financial health.

Serhant: I give the same advice to every seller:  Price to sell.  If you don’t want to sell, don’t do it.  If you do, then price right.  Buyers need to pull the trigger.   People are too afraid.  It’s just real estate.

Maundrell:  It is very important that you trust your agent is analyzing the market correctly and pricing your property in accordance to not just closed data, but also more of the real time activity happening. Pricing is a major component of the marketing strategy for any type of listing. Overpricing a listing will lead the property to becoming stale.

When buying a home, make sure you are working with a reputable and knowledgeable person regarding financing; it’s a common false belief that going to one of the major banks is the best approach. We have found that in many circumstances independent mortgage brokers who offer several banks as options is a great opportunity for many consumers as they offer some flexibility. Major banks have very specific types of criteria and property they will lend on, we see our customers finding out these specifics months into the process.

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