Thursday, December 27, 2007

Is this a safe neighborhood PT2?

So we can all remember my original post a few weeks back. It was more of a rant than a post full of statistics. Well that was because the statistics were not out as of then. They came out today.

As of this writing, I am pleased to announce that we have the lowest homicide rate in the city ever. It seems odd that in this age of violence, we have had fewer homicides than in 1963, but the numbers don't lie. I guess there is something to be said for gentrification!

Friday, December 21, 2007

New Technology Pt2.

Hi All,

So the carpets were being replaced in my office this week. I felt that it made the perfect opportunity to do what I haven't done in over two years, go out and preview apartments specifically to advertise, get more virtual tours and learn new inventory.

As a broker, I see tons of apartments weekly, but sometimes you can get caught up viewing the same things over and over from year to year. The last time I went out twice or more a week and spent several hours per day just viewing vacant apartments was my rookie year. I would do it twice a week minimum for eight hours a day. This was a part of what helped me gain the product knowledge of the massive inventory of apartments we posses with our immense database.

Well fast forward a couple of years later, with the implementation of PreVisite, we can take a virtual tour of an apartment very easily. So I figured, why not kill two birds with one stone. Well let me tell you something, I LOVE THIS GADGET!!! It is necessary to have good natural light or the pics don't come out quite as nice (you can't use a flash), but man, I may just keep a portable light with me just for use with this do-hickey! I have made a focused effort to get virtual tours for as many of my ads as possible. This is quite a feat when competing with 800+ other agents to advertise a unit, before five other agents do and you are blocked out from advertising it as well.

So I am working to make sure that all of my ads have a virtual tour, as of this post, 11 of my 18 alotted ads have one up. A few of the buildings, I need a client to get into the apartments with, but I am working around that as much as possible as well.

So feel free to click the link to my listings on the top left of the main page, or if that's too much work, you can just click here

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Technology

We had a meeting at Corporate yesterday morning. It was to introduce a new technology which makes it even easier for clients to get a feel for a place from the internet pictures with a virtual tour.

In the past, in order to post a virtual tour of an apartment, we had to schedule a company to do it, they'd come into the apartment and take eight pictures, go to the lab and stitch them all together for a side to side tour of the place.

Fast forward to today, we have a new fish eye lens, which can magnetically attach to "any" digital camera. it allows for a single shot, panoramic view of the room. This for an agent is priceless! it makes it possible for us to give you a virtual tour with one quick photo.

For an example, view my listings page, or these first few listings in particular.

Click on the link for "Virtual Tour" in each. More will follow, as I intend to make all of my ads have this feature within the next few weeks.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Will the Feds give us an early Christmas present this year ?

The markets are all betting that the Fed will cut rates when it meets on December 11th. The big question is will they cut by ¼ % or ½% ?
Consensus is looking for a ¼ % rate cut and that will bring good news to the mortgage market. Home equity loans will get the immediate boost and we hope that mortgage rates will soon follow suit.

Rates are on the decline right now. We are in a data-driven market and the weaker economic reports and continued increase in foreclosures nationally have put a damper on the economy. The bond market has held its ground below 4% and mortgage rates have dropped to levels that we haven’t seen in over a year.

Bill Gross, PIMCO's bond guru, forecasts that the fed funds rate will drop to 3.25% or lower by the end of 2008 - good news for mortgage rates in the coming year.

While mortgage rates have continued to drop, we do need to be vigilant with the ever-changing lending marketplace. Banks continue to tighten guidelines across the board and are demanding even better credit, more liquidity and larger down payments. Many lenders are now capping mortgages at 80% of the purchase price. While you can still get 90-95% financing, it becomes more difficult to obtain by the day.

When will this tightening cycle end ? Many bankers believe that lending guidelines will stabilize in the first quarter of 2008 . We already see some of the banks that have not been hard-hit by the sub-prime mess step back into the lending arena. The key to getting a good rate today? Look for a portfolio lender who does not rely upon the still-fickle secondary market for funds. There are more of these lenders out there than you think.

Shop carefully and you will get the mortgage you seek at a rate better than you would have expected.

Is this a safe neighborhood PT1?

That question, while I understand it and really wish I could say what you want me to say, is against fair housing rules in this city. For those unaware of what this means exactly, read this definition of NYC's "Fair Housing Laws".

"It is unlawful for landlords, superintendents, building managers, condominium owners, cooperative owners and boards to discriminate in the sale, rental or lease of a housing accommodation or in the provision of services and facilities because of a person’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender (including gender identity), disability, sexual orientation, creed, marital status, partnership status, alienage or citizenship status, age, lawful occupation, or because children are or may be residing with the person."

This goes the same for brokers telling you an area is safe or unsafe based on any of those criteria listed above. I once had two listings, one in Murray Hill in a Full Time Doorman, white glove conceierge building and one in East Harlem in a townhouse right aroudn the corner from a methadone clinic. I did a crime statistic comparision for the two, guess which one had the higher crime rate?

Now it may seem like an innocent question, but let me just say this much. We may all have a different perception as to what "safe" means. Again, I am treading deadly grounds here and must still be politically correct with what I say. So I'll put it to you this way. I grew up in four of the five boroughs in this city, so when I hear gun shots, it would only scare me if I was a crook doing something wrong. I'll just leave it at that and save my other comments, so as not to offend any families of those who have lost their lives prematurely for unjust reasons.

The last time I checked, my cousin in Detroit lives in the most dangerous city in the country. I think my 91 year old Great, Great Aunt in D.C. is also in a more dangerous city than this place is now. Trust me, I have lived here my whole life and now rent and sell million dollar homes in what is now called a "neighborhood" known as Williamsburg. I can remember that area being nothing but industrial and very desolate and scary at night. People still fear Bushwick, but rent places there all the time now, as some brokers label it as "East Williamsburg". Harlem is another place where this same type of gentrification has taken place. There is a Ben and Jerry's, Bath and Body Works, Staples and a host of other higher end retailers other than the street vendors you would only envision when thinking of Harlem. Even where my company's corporate headquarters and training facility is, just off of Union Square, I can recall walking through that park 10-15 years back and hearing the crunch of crack vials beneath my feet! Ever see that Dave Chappelle skit about him being lost in a limo and a baby is selling drugs in the hood, on the corner at 4AM? That was a ten year old in the lower east side on Avenue A, riding up to you on a bike, offering a cornucopia of illicit substances ten years ago. Tompkins Square Park, which now is one of the best dog runs in the city, was once a haven for the homeless and all of the above shady activities.

To ask a broker if the area is safe, is like asking a car salesman if you will die by driving 100MPH or asking a lawyer if you will get sued for being a jerk. We can advise you on if we feel an area or place is safe based on OUR perceptions, but really think about it for a second. I've lived here my whole life and seen all sorts of really wild stuff go down, so not much fazes me. What is comfortable for a native, may be REALLY uncomfortable and scary for a transplant, tourist or a visitor.

Most brokers aren't even natives, so what can they truly advise you on the real truth of the matter? They will just pitch you that an area is safe as you walk past the cars on cinder blocks and burning trash cans. I will at least laugh about how "I haven't seen THAT in NYC in twenty years!" My bottom line is, I am honest as Abe Lincloln, so if I tell you a place is safe, I would mean it sincerely based on my experiences in said area. Now, if you go and do something silly to get mugged (like stumble home drunk at 4AM with all of your cash hanging out of your pockets, your iPod blasting and never once think "let me keep an eye out as I fumble around for my keys", or bring some dude home you just met at Dorrians, who is obviously the second coming of Robert Chambers) then DON'T BLAME ME! I have found that most criminals are all about seizing a low risk opportunity. So generally speaking, safety revolves around staying alert, aware, in well populated areas (according to police, watch out for well dressed pickpockets though!)

There really is no rhyme or reason to crime in this city any more, so I'll make one up right now, before I head out of the door. If you flaunt all of your rocks, in front of those who have not, then prepare to get got! This city is as safe as you make it, so stay aware and alert, or you just might end up half naked, dazed and confused and hurt!

All jokes aside, I know that this is an important and serious issue, especially for parents with female children coming into the city for the first time. If you are concerned with safety and crime rates, then you can find all of the information you need right here at this link.

Supply Versus Demand

In the summer months, there is a greater demand for housing. There is the influx of new hires, interns, incoming students getting an early jump on their apartment search as well as short term vacationers. While most landlords prefer that their leases end in the summer and thus they can command a higher market rent, there is actually a shortage of apartments every year from March through September. Sometimes this goes even into November as there are all of the lawyers who pass the bar and search somewhat later after a much needed trip around the world.
The vacancy rate in this city for Manhattan rentals has been below .5% for the past year and is currently below .25%. In the summer, this creates a feeding frenzy. Everyone wants to live inside what I refer to as "the box". South of 96th Street, North of Canal, East of 8th Ave (Broadway on the UWS) and West of Second Ave. This is based on the subway access in the city as well as a perception of what constitutes a safe area. Most people who are relocating from another state have been groomed to look in this box and thus end up living in a box. Not only does this further narrow the selection of available apartments to rent, they also have visions of New York that need a serious updating from the movie "The Warriors".

Generally speaking, the apartments further North, South, East or West yield more space. Any native or veteran NY'er knows this and looks for those areas to get the maximum yield for their dollar. I always say, if you are at least on the island, it beats dealing with the *B&T crowd depending on your needs and budget (*That's bridge and tunnel not bacon and tomato).

It's not just to purchase an aparment here in the city where you can end up in a bidding war. With many landlords accepting multiple applications, you can end up with several qualified applicants at the same time. This will rarely happen in the "off" season , but can happen quite often in the summer and thus a "make me an offer" session can begin. I have had my share of bidding wars on rentals. While I will normally advise on looking for other options, in a tight market with a tight deadline to secure occupancy, sometimes this is the only choice. Fortunately, most have been won by my clients.

Even if you are in a higher budget range (excess of $5000/mth rent) there can often be a lack of inventory based on your particular needs, be it the quality, space or location. These are three areas in which most New Yorkers have to settle on one or more of unless there is no rush to move. Usually, when that is the case, I have found that most of these people are just window shopping. You know the type, they come into the store everyday and squeeze the charmin and squeeze the fruit but never buy anything.

This brings me back to supply versus demand. If you are serious about finding a place here, think long and hard about your criteria and also give yourself a minimum of four to six weeks prior to the expected occupancy date if you are not at extremely selective. If you are, then you may want to give as much as six to eight weeks prior in case you will need to look at co-op or condominium sublets which often can lead to more space, higher quality and a more homely feel than the traditional rental building. I also advise you to make two lists of your criteria. A list of NEEDS and a list of WANTS. Trust me it will help you to be more focused in your search. Also stick with one broker whom you connect with as opposed to working with dozens. For the most part, a good broker will have access to the same listings as a bad broker, but take the time to LISTEN to your NEEDS.

Either way, the proceess is of renting here is rarely easy, especial trying in the summer months and one that will force you to compromise on a lot of your wants if you don't handle it the right way. There are simply too many people looking and not enough places in the summer months, hence the higher market rents. A savvy consumer is looking to move now even if it means breaking assigning or subletting a lease. This is the time when landlords are desparate and you have the most bargaining power as a renter in this city!


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tis the season of NO FEE rentals!

Amazingly, there are over 268 listings currently on the market which I can rent to you as a "No Fee" rental. For those not in the know, the standard commission here in NYC is 15% of the first year's rent, which is due at lease signing. Many landlords, especially during this traditionally slower time of year for rentals, offer concessions known as OP's (Owner Paid) which equal one month (roughly half of the standard fee) to help brokers and tenants come to an agreement and thus fill vacant units.

More often than not, the units which offer this are not in the premium areas which are in the most demand, so it takes some compromise on all three sides to get the transaction done. The broker has to be willing to forgo roughly half of his standard fee (10% of something beats 100% of nothing!). The tenant has to be willing to see the value in taking a place that may be outside of the box by common standards. Areas such as Washington Heights (WaHi), Jackson Heights (JaHe?) Harlem (Morningside, Hamilton and Suagr Hill as well!), certain areas of Brooklyn (Think outside the hipster areas such as Willie B and Green P) and of course, the Fi-Di area of Manhattan will net you big savings on a broker's fee.

If you are not at all in the higher budget range, these are areas you will need to consider to get the maximium yield for your dollar. At the end of the day, the "no fee' market is the exact same thing as the "fee" based market. The fee is just spread out a different way.

Trust me when I tell you, this is not the NYC of ten years ago where you had to be scared of these areas. Gentrification has spread to the point that the only place without a Starbucks is Two Bridges. I know a lot of you reading this are like "Is that even in Manhattan?"
Look here,_Manhattan

Call or send me an email with details regarding your search for a new home.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Even in the slow season, big things are popping!

So this Penthouse listed below was snatched up as of today. It was just on the market for two weeks, during the slowest time of the year for rentals. If that's not an indication of how tight the rental market is here in NYC, I don't know what is. I showed it the very first day it was listed and thought to myself, someone is going to get a great value in the next two weeks. Well I didn't rent it, but someone did and kudos to them as well as the lucky client(s) who now have this great home!
Stay tuned, I have a knack for finding great values in killer locations. Another hot listing or two will hit the blog this week as well. The one that I found today, I just rented today, so it makes no sense to tease you all with what you can't have.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Sweetest Penthouse Deal In The Whole City

This unique rental is just waiting for two or three people to snatch it up. Or perhaps the Financial Analyst or Trader with a Family who needs to be close to the office will snatch it up. It is in the Heart of the Fi-Di area, but trust that if you are living here, no one can say that there's nothing going on down there anymore. Just look at the pictures, there is more space than anything else comparable and a huge PRIVATE outdoor space as well! This is a true Baller's Crib for that one lucky guy out there, we're talking nothing but net!

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