Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Just a note to all who follow my blog on Facebook or on the website-very Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones. This is a time to appreciate what we have and think about how to make our lives and the world a better place. This has been a trying time for many, a year ago, the economy was in free-fall and we all had concerns about our lives and the country. Many still suffer and we must all work to make our economy stronger and peoples' lives better. We have a long way to go.

It seems as if despite the darkness of this time of year, there are rays of light on the horizon. Business is improving and we can hope and make that continue. This is certainly a time to think of the less fortunate and to help in any way we can. The days are getting longer again, and a new year is upon us.

Enjoy the Holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Is a neighborhood "safe"

I have had this questioned asked of me numerous time during my real estate career, and it is one I cannot answer. However I can suggest to the prospective buyer or buyers to contact the local Police precinct and obtain crime statistics-they are probably available on-line as well. Buyers can also speak to other residents or store owners about their experiences. I often suggest that buyers return to the neighborhood in the evening and see how the area feels. I think a feeling of safety and comfort is often very subjective-different people have different life experiences and have different feelings about where they want to live.

In 2008, there were only three Police Precincts without any homicides, and two of them were the one I live in now in Brooklyn and other where I grew up in Queens. One might say I like to live in low-crime neighborhoods, or maybe it is sheer coincidence. Of course, New York is comprised of so many neighborhoods, each different in its own way. I always suggest buyers get to know a neighborhood well before they start looking to buy in that area, especially if they are moving from one borough to another. Get to know the subway locations, stores and amenities before you start looking seriously-it will make your search easier.

One of most positive developments about New York City is how much safer the City has become over the last two decades, how much crime has been reduced. I remember a number of yearsback attending a friend's performance piece in Red Hook and how I noticed on a bus ride back to Park Slope, seeing people sitting out at night on benches at a Public Housing project, something most likely unseen years before. New York has certainly become a safer place to live for many, in a large variety of locations. Get to know your neighborhoods and you will know it feels.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What Makes a City Great?

As I spend my last day in New Orleans, I have been thinking what makes a city great? I have travelled a bit, more than many, less than some. There are a few cities I have been to, that pull at my heart.

When I arrived here Thursday, having not been back since 2003, I threw my luggage in my hotel room and walked to the French Quarter and cried. It is a place of great emotion and feeling for me, walking those streets, feeling the history, the special history of this great city, of survival, of change, of destiny.

It has been ruled by the French, Spanish and Americans and like New York is not really a typical American city, rather has a feel unilke other American citiies. There is its unique music and food and you really don't have to do anything to have the experience. How I feel about Paris-there is nothing to do but keep an open heart and walk. I bought a book by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the Beat poet at the Faulkner Bookstore in the French Quarter and he writes about "Poetry as Insurgent Art." He says "Be subversive, constantly questioning reality and the status quo." That is the mark of a great life and a great City.

I came here first in 1990, though when I arrived at the airport and walked around, I felt I had been here before. It is nearly 20 years later, my life has changed and it hasn't but the feelings remain. It is one of those great cities to relish and revisit. Paris, Lisbon, Mexico City are other places for me that resonate for me in the same way, pulling at my heart. And of course, New York and Brooklyn.

I think a great city is a place that has an energy, a purpose, that brings creative people together. A place where you don't want to sit in your hotel room, rather explore every minute you can. New Orleans has suffered greatly since Katrina-it has lost more than half its population. But people are returning and as Americans we owe its people our continued dedication to its recovery. Visit and eat and listen to music and walk the Garden District and the French Quarter and visit City Park and the Ninth Ward and become a supporter of this great experiment that has survived fires and hurricanes, that has a language of its own.

We need to keep fostering the vitality of American cities-it's one of the things that keeps our country great. Support New Orleans and the City you live in.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Choosing a neighborhood to live in

When considering a purchase of a coop, house or condo, one begins with choosing where you want to live. Many buyers are open to various neighborhoods and choose the most desirable living space in one of those areas. Others have more specific boundaries, say Park Slope between Union Street and 9th Street, 5th Avenue to the Park. Each buyer's needs are different and a good Broker should be a good listener and show properties that fit that particular buyer's wants.

Very frequently buyers start looking in neighborhoods they know little about and ask the Broker about the neighborhood. I am happy to give as much information as possible, but I suggest to buyers getting to know each neighborhood they are interested in, as much as possible. Walk around, visit stores, research the schools, time the subway ride to the office, familiarize yourself with the neighborhood. Walk around at night and see how the neighborhood feels. This makes the purchase process much easier and the buyer will not waste time looking at properties in locations that are not of interest.

If buyers are moving from borough to another, for example, this can be a daunting task at first. And the Broker can steer the buyer in the right direction. But my experience is that nothing is a substitute for having the experience, talking to people who live in the area, and getting familiar with the neighborhood resources.

New York is still a city of diverse neighborhoods-it's one of the many things that makes the City continue to flourish. I suggest that to my buyers that they learn about the neighborhoods that are of most interest and get a feel for different streets and locations. It makes the process easier for everyone involved. And it can be a very interesting experience.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Taking a hiatus

Last week was a rough week as sort of my second dog, Daisy a beautiful border collie-pit bull mix, left us last week. It hit me hard as Daisy was an amazing dog, and so dear to me. I continued to see her even as I became a real estate broker, as I could not bear to not see her beautiful face, her amazing smile. (Many years back, I had a pet-sitting business.) My own Bob is now about 15 years old and he is hanging in there. But I think we all know that chances are when we have a dog or cat, we will outlive our loved ones and that is always hard. So I thankful for Bob's presence and love every day. And I miss you forever, Daisy.

Back to real estate soon.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pricing your Property Correctly

If you are considering selling your house, condo or coop apartment in the current market, there is probably nothing more important you can do than pricing your property properly. As I wrote in the last post, it important to have as much exposure as possible when selling your home-listing with a firm that has a substantial web presence and that will share listings. However, you could have the best agent, and be with a great firm, but if your apartment is not priced in a competitive fashion, you are at risk of not selling or delaying the sales process.

Although the New York market has recovered, buyers are more educated and sophisticated than ever. They have access to lots of information. When I first switched to Elliman, I was unaware of the Streeteasy site, which shows changes in price and how long an apartment had been on the market. When making an offer on an apartment in Prospect Heights, my buyer gave me information about that particular apartment in terms of our strategy in the bidding process. The information is out there for all prospective buyers to learn about.

I would say that although it is important to price your property competitively in all of New York City, Manhattan sellers should be keenly aware of this, especially in neighborhoods with lots of available listings. There are even particular buildings with a high percentage of apartments for sale. If you are working with a competent Broker, this should be a part of the pricing discussion.

It is difficult for sellers who bought at the peak of the market, who are still at risk of selling at a somewhat lower price or not making a profit after closing costs. I always try to get my sellers the best possible price, of course. But unlike Gordon Gecko, I am not of the belief that greed is good. And in the current market, it is often better to take a stronger buyer for a little less money, as some properties have not appraised at the selling price. As usual, I am always available for advice and counsel and am always happy to list your home. Enjoy the day!