Thursday, February 25, 2010

To Be Honored

Last night was the annual Prudential Douglas Elliman Awards ceremony at Cipriani's on 42nd Street. It is usually a lovely event and last night was no exception.

When I arrived to check in, I was told to sit in the "Reserved" section, which meant I was getting an award. This was all news to me and I really did not know what I would be awarded for.

The program began with a summation of 2009 and a look ahead by the two principals of PDE, Howard Lorber and Dotty Herman. They do a good job playing off each other, I think. They were upbeat, talking about changes coming down the pike, how we are positioning ourselves as a company to provide even better service to buyers and sellers.

Then the Awards portion began, and I was called to the stage as I was one of the top ten individuals in the company for number of transactions, number eight in fact, in all of Manhattan and Brooklyn. It was a great honor to be so recognized, to be on stage with the leading agents and teams at Prudential Douglas Elliman.

I am so thankful I chose to work at Prudential Douglas Elliman, to work with my colleagues in the Park Slope office and with Michael Guerra, my manager. Thanks to Justine Sealey, my incredible office manager and Hadit Sanchez, who is the office manager in Brooklyn Heights.

Who knows? Maybe number 5 next year?

Is that a "White" neighborhood?

Last time I looked at the calendar it was 2010. We have an African-American President and I live in New York City. So I was astonished to have a potential buyer ask me if a listing I had, was in a "White" neighborhood?

I first asked the buyer to repeat the question as I thought I maybe misunderstood. But he repeated the question again as asked.

I responded that I could not answer that question and that he should not ask it. I found it a bit jarring, to say the least. When I did rentals almost a decade ago, I did have landlords ask me the ethnic background of a potential lessee on some occasions. I responded that I could not answer that question. I would inform my broker and we would not show the apartment (to her credit.)

I think we continue to grow as a City and a nation, learning more about each other as years pass. We are an amazingly diverse City and one of things that I cherish about New York and Brooklyn. Let's hope this process continues for most of us.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Art of Negotiation

The key to buying a property is often the negotiating process. Whether you are the seller or the buyer, it is helpful to have realistic expectations and know how to be thoughtful about the process. Every buyer and seller is different. It is considered a given that the buyer wants to get the lowest price possible and the seller, the highest, but the process is never as simple as that.

The seller should be interested in the "best" offer, that may or may not be the highest price. Many factors are involved: whether the buyer needs to sell something to buy, how much the buyer can put down, and in a coop situation, what are the buyer's assets after the downpayment. A smart seller goes through this process carefully with their broker. Many years ago I sold an apartment in Park Slope, where the previous broker had failed to go over the financials of his buyer. It was a relatively tough coop board and the buyer was turned down and the sellers lost a downpayment on a house. A very costly proposition. I vetted the next buyer carefully, coached him for the interview and the sale went well. Given a somewhat more difficult financing environment, these issues have become more important. A good broker advises his seller well and does his or her homework on the prospective buyer.

My advice for buyers is don't be too rigid. Yes, you want the best price, but with interest rates very low a small difference in the purchase price will not affect your wallet that adversely. If you find the home you want, be it a coop, condo or house, be willing to step up and do what you need to, as long it makes financial sense.

A good broker will guide the buyer and the seller through the process carefully, providing as much information as possible. Getting the best information possible makes the buyer and seller able to make good decisions. Make sure you work with a broker who is responsive and thoughtful.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Know your relationships

I showed new construction yesterday, a listing I have with my colleague Bill Hendrickson in Prospect Heights. I received communication from a Broker from another REBNY firm, (Real Estate Board of New York) that his buyer wanted to see apartments at this property.

His buyer, was a very nice smart woman who liked the building. I showed them both a number of apartments. There are signs in this building and the property across the street, built by the same developer, which feature my firm, Prudential Douglas Elliman. The buyer asked me with the Broker present, whether Prudential Douglas Elliman built the buildings. I responded we did not. Then she asked if we managed the buildings, and I answered that we did not. The Broker then explained that Prudential Douglas Elliman was the exclusive agent to sell the apartments in both buildings.

As I was leaving the building, I heard the buyer questioning the Broker if he would get paid if he sold the apartment to her.

If you are working with a Broker as a buyer, he or she has certain responsibilities to you, though it also depends on whether his or her firm has the listing. These relationships can be complicated and a good Broker will guide you through the process. Again, if you are a buyer, try to be clear what relationship you have to your Broker and what responsibilities he or she has to you as a buyer.

Buying real estate in New York City is more complicated than most other places in the United States. Try to be clear if you are working with a Broker as a buyer, what that relationship is.