Property Grunt

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Keycards: No Go

In a recent entry of the PropertGrunt it was reported that Peter Cooper Village was undergoing changes by installing key card locks that would have residents pictures on the cards much to the chagrin of the residents.

Their voices of protests must have been heard because according to the New York Post Peter Cooper Village has done an about face.

March 30, 2005 -- Residents of Peter Cooper Village don't need a card key with their picture on it to get into their apartments — yet.
A Manhattan judge yesterday signed an order assuring the 7,000 residents of the sprawling East Side complex can still get into their buildings even if they don't have a controversial photo-card key that landlord Metropolitan Life is trying to force them to use.

State Supreme Court Justice Rolando Acosta's order does allow MetLife to begin converting to the card-key system today, as planned, but bars the landlord from blocking entry to residents who don't have the cards.

"The court understands that access to the buildings within the complex shall not be denied," says the order, which will remain in effect until a full hearing on the matter scheduled for April 14.

Many tenants argue the electronic key system is violating their right to privacy.

But MetLife argues the changeover is necessary for security reasons within the complex.

The lawyers are working overtime on this one.

MTA property taxes: REBNY comes to the rescue part 2

Here's an update on the MTA budget situation that was reported in a previous entry on the PropertyGrunt.

The State legislature reached an agreement on funding the MTA capital
plan. As previously reported, the Board urged the rejection of a
proposal to impose a 10% surcharge on all LLC, S corporations and similar
entities. The next proposal called for a 3/10th of one percent increase
in the Transfer Tax or Mortgage Recording Tax. The Board raised
objections and argued that the funding for the MTA Plan should not be placed
entirely on the real estate industry. We suggested that a portion of
the ¼ of one percent sales tax scheduled to expire this year be continued
and dedicated to the MTA.

A compromise was reached by Assembly Speaker Silver, Senate Majority
Leader Bruno and Governor Pataki, with frequent consultation with REBNY,
that will continue 1/8th of one percent of the expiring sales tax for
the MTA, projected to generate 237 million dollars and 1/20th of one
percent increase in the Mortgage Recording Tax, generating about 50
million dollars. These Taxes will be imposed in the 12 downstate MTA

There will also be an increase in DMV fees statewide to complete the
MTA package.

Although we understand that higher taxes are never welcome, we believe
the MTA capital plan is critically important for the city's future and
our ability to operate and sell New York's real estate. We also
believe the proposal is fair and reasonable.

What boggles the Grunt is that the transit system is a vital part of the New York City infrastructure because when it breaks down it affects commuters and hurts the economy. Yet I have not heard the MTA, Pataki and Bloomberg asking Washington for funds. Where are Hilary Clinton and Chuck Schumer? I thought these two were the big power players in D.C?

Its not as if New York City has been gorging itself on Washington pork, according to an article in the Daily News, New York is a top terror risk but ranks 49th in aid while Wyoming, a state known for the home where buffalo roam is in need of economic gastric bypass with all the funding it gets due to the blind funding giveaways. If you compare New York to Wyoming and break down the numbers it comes down to $38.31 per person in Wyoming while New York receives with the $5.47 per New Yorker.

It's these types of policies that forces New York City to cannibalize its own population for the funding that is needed to maintain the system. Which is one of the reasons New York City as become one of the most expensive places on earth. So please buyers, don’t blame the brokers for the high prices. There is a lot more going on. I wish brokers had this type of pull since it would make my job a hell of a lot easier.

Donald Trump: Real Estate Educator

The Grunt admits that Trumps foray into reality television was genius and this Page 6 item is just another example of him cashing in on his popularity.

March 31, 2005 -- DONALD Trump is bigger in L.A. than N.Y. How else to explain the demand for his Learning Annex class, "How to Make Money in Real Estate"? Last fall, when the Trumpster taught at the Javits Center for the Learning Annex, there were 11,622 students enrolled one month before the presentation — and the final count was 20,307. For the tycoon's L.A. appearances on the weekend of April 30-May 1, there are currently 14,291 students enrolled, and his class is 30 days away. So it looks as if the final enrollment there should hit 25,000. The Learning Annex is paying Trump $1 million per hour — plus expenses — by charging $149 for tickets, or $499 for the VIP section.

The Grunt would like to do a class for the Learning Annex which would be called How Not to Lose Money in Real Estate. I think it will be quite popular after the bubble bursts.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Extreme Open Houses

According to this article the newest trend to hit the real estate scene are EXTREME OPEN HOUSES, a term created by those buzz making writer of Unique Homes magazine, are enormous productions that showcase the home through means more inclined for Seigfried and Roy.

Beginning in Las Vegas and New York, this trend of ingratiating guests with gourmet food and celebrity appearances has now touched down in Boston and has spread across the country faster than Paris Hilton’s hacked T-Mobile.

The concept is spreading to the nation's suburbs, where brokers do everything from staging garage sales and charity events to inviting decorators to offer suggestions. In Natick recently, Coldwell Banker agent Maribeth Boisvert hired caterers to whip up appetizers at a home being marketed for $1.02 million to show it is well-laid out for entertaining. ''You've got to make it fun," she said.

There are a couple of points that I found interesting in the article

At a Manhattan penthouse being sold by Donald Trump, a so-called ''psychic psychiatrist" performed what she called ''energy healings." The Donald also made an appearance at the invitation-only affair.
The party-like atmosphere adds flair to a stale property, buzz to a pricey place, and puts a tough sell in a new light.
''It puts energy and attention on to a place," said Wendy Sarasohn, a Corcoran Group broker who favors the approach, and who organized the Trump event.

This smoke and mirrors approach is a brilliant tactic used in sales albeit not often. But when you create an environment of joyous communion, buyers become gleeful about the product and any type of common sense or guard goes out the window.
This reminds me of a segment that aired several years ago on 20/20 that reported that strip clubs were being used as places for legal business transactions. After a couple of drinks and some table dances, the Champagne room becomes the boardroom where business parties engaged in the art of commerce. A key advantage was that one party could use the atmosphere of the strip club to get a better deal. After all, it would be difficult for any man to focus on the business at hand while being a pair double Ds are shoved in his face.

By no means am I comparing an extreme open house to a strip club however the same principles are being utilized. Brokers are creating a euphoric feeling of a home through the use of food, libation and entertainment, which makes buyers more susceptible to buy the home. It also makes the buyers feel more special.

Nathan H.D. Gordon, feels protective of his childhood home and was somewhat uncomfortable with opening it to the public, but concedes the event may have been a necessary, perhaps even clever, way to market it.
It was ''more selective," he said, and did ''not let the riffraff see the house."

People always want something they can’t have. However pulling these events off are not cheap.

She spends as much as $10,000 on her events, a good investment in her image as a broker doing all she can to help clients sell. Of the three dozen extreme open houses she's organized over the past 15 years, she said, about 70 percent of the properties sold as a result.

I’m a believer. By no means do I do condemn this method of marketing. In fact I have been to similar events in Manhattan. And buyers aren’t that stupid to be won over by Cristal and caviar. However an extreme open house can not only the sell but create buzz about the property and the broker in charge. Sell by any means necessary is the code of any successful broker.

However I forsee a darker side to this trend.

Karl Case, a Wellesley College economics professor, said brokers may be spending on extreme open houses because Greater Boston homes are no longer selling themselves. ''People are nervous," he said. ''There's all this talk about the housing bubble. Having said that, people have been talking about this bubble for three years."

Which brings me to Wal-Mart. After last year’s Thanksgiving holiday Wal-Mart posted their worst sales record compared to previous years and had to rethink their strategy before the end of the season. Wal-Mart initiated a full court press including a marketing blitz of sales and advertising resulting in a sales comeback.
One of the tensions of opposites with business is that when sales are poor it is instinctive to cut your losses however the appropriate action is to take the offensive, attack and carpet bomb your customer base with marketing and advertising. It’s all about the perception and creating a new reality for the consumer rather than letting the numbers get in the way. Unfortunately companies often implement cutbacks especially with advertising during the lean times.

Even though an extreme open house is tantamount to a wedding at the St Regis, it increases the chance of selling the property when the usual channels are ineffective. These Wal-Mart level sales tactics are proof that brokers and buyers know the clock is ticking and they better make the best of the feast and leave before the check arrives. That means any property that hasn’t moved, is going to get the lipstick on the pig treatment even if the pig is a Victoria’s secret model.

Treat this as another indication that the end is nigh folks. So let’s be careful out there.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Rat problem at Whole foods. But which one?

Don't worry folks. It was the Whole foods in Chicago. So now all of the flatiron, upper westside and chelsea can breathe a sigh of relief.

Rodent problem closes Whole Foods store

March 25, 2005

Mayor Daley's Dumpster Task Force shuttered a Whole Foods Market in the city's Lake View neighborhood Thursday for what officials described as "rodent infestation."

Inspectors closed the store at 3300 N. Ashland after confirming reports of "substantial rodent activity."

To reopen, store managers must present the task force with revised guidelines for pest control and housekeeping, clean the store thoroughly and pass a stringent reinspection, officials said.

Store representatives could not be reached for comment late Thursday. But a message left on the store's answering service says the business is closed "due to a building issue" and expects to reopen today. Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Al Sanchez said in a statement the store has long had a good reputation for cleanliness and concern for the environment, and he was confident management would correct the problems.

My only problem with the Whole Foods in Union Square is that people keep standing inside the entrance staring at the vastness of the space. Keep moving people. Its just a souped up grocery store.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Response to Reader email

Below is my response to the email a reader sent me who is pondering an opportunity to join the Grunt and the rest of real estate army. The content has been edited to protect the identity of the reader which the Grunt has promised so feast on my wisdom.

Dear Fresh Meat I mean NAME WITHHELD,

Young Padawan, take a deep breath, sit down and relax. I will first tell you that it is up to you whether to take the red or blue pill. But hopefully what I have to say will clarify your choices.

First of all congratulations on your offer from NAME WITHHELD. There are many perks of being an agent including making your own hours and working from home which is probably why it is the profession of choice for single and stay at home parents. There really is no salary cap in being an agent. It all depends on how many deals you close and of course what your split is.

Are there drawbacks in being an agent? I would say that one needs to make certain adjustments. I am not sure where you are working now but I assume that you have health insurance and other types of benefits? See if you can carry over the benefits as long as you can. As a contractor you have to fend for yourself in getting your own health insurance and taking care of your own expenses. Also see if you can get laid off by your employer so you will be able to file for unemployment. I knew one broker who arranged to get benefits and severance from his previous job giving him breathing room to be a broker. Say goodbye to your weekends. Every Sunday will be dedicated to working the open house whether they are your own or taking buyers to them. If you are doing rentals, you will be pounding the pavement on Saturdays with clients.

It is imperative that you are aware of the the status of the shortage of inventory in Manhattan which has contributed to higher prices. Deals are being put together at a pace that was unheard of years ago. This has made all of our jobs a helluva lot harder because what is out there has a tendency of being overpriced, is not what our buyers are looking for and if it is bidding wars that conclude at best and final are par for the course.

You can make a ton of money in this business but it takes effort, patience and time. Remember, the money does not come over night. It takes the average of 3-5 months to close a sales deal which means any rewards will come after long hours in the office and in the field. Even before the real estate boom, the agent profession always had a reputation of having a high turnover rate because many agents could not deal with the parameters for success in this industry.

I see you remember the days of the cisco and microsoft certification. How I miss, Urbanfetch and all that unadulterated excess. This insane market reminds me of those days since it has gotten everyone in a tizzy throwing money at anything that has the word property attached to it and running for a license to cash in. I know one girl who is considering leaving her gig in NYC to go to Florida to do deals.

Make no mistake, once the bubble pops the license will not be as popular. But unlike the cisco and microsoft certification, the real estate license is very versatile and comes in very handy regardless of the state of the economy. When will the market pop and how bad will it be? If I knew that I would not be writing this email but putting down an all cash offer for an island in the Caribbean.

Success comes in different ways and sizes. I know one broker who is a complete slob but since he started he has been putting together deals at a ferocious pace. There is another broker I know who has a pipleline of referrals from financial sector because of his contacts there and probably eats steak every night.

There are three factors that I have seen that make the successful agent.

1. A strong referral netwrok:Having friends, family and acquaintances spreading the word that you are in the business
2. Product knowledge: Mastering at least one area of the city.
3. Rolling with the punches: Customers can be insane. Be able to overlook that and keep doing your job. Within reason of cOurse. If you feel threatened by a buyer. Ditch em and tell them to take it personally.

If you do not have any of these attributes, that's okay. They can be acquired over time.

Please do not base your decision on this email alone. I am just one of many opinions out there and I recommend you discuss this with other professionals in the field. .

Also when you take the state test I recommend getting there as early as possible. The lines have become quite long and they do not offer the test everyday. From what I hear some brokers are walking down the line recruiting brand spanking new agents to work for them. Btw, tell NAME WITHHELD I said hello. And take his advice about lawyers and chewing gum.

Thank you for reading my blog. I am glad that my experiences can be of use to you. If you have any other questions please feel free to email me.


The Grunt

So what do you think folks? Am I right?

Reader mail

The Grunt would like to share an email sent a by a concerned reader on his recent entry on the real estate bubble. The Grunt’s policy regarding email is that all questions and comments are welcome. And the Grunt will ask for your permission before publishing your email and will guarantee your anonymity by withholding your name, email address and editing the content of the email.

Hello Property Grunt,
Just read your commentary on the NYT article re the real estate boom v.
the internet bubble.
I gulped hard when I read your last paragraph: I remember during the
dot com era everyone was running to get Microsoft certification or
anything Cisco related. Now everyone is running out to get a real estate

I'm taking real estate license classes! I'm definitely
planning on finishing the course and taking the exams but now, I feel
jittery about changing careers. I've got a stable job now but I wanted to
switch to real estate sales to make more money. I've been offered a
NAME WITHELD once I get my

Would appreciate on hearing your thoughts about my situation.

What words of wisdom did the Grunt bestow upon this reader?

It will be revealed later today. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Oil Prices

Straight from Inman:

CPI jitters
Surprise, surprise. Oil prices in the outer stratosphere, so today we hear that prices paid by U.S. consumers rose a greater-than-expected 0.4 percent in February, the most in four months, led by higher costs for gasoline, air fares and lodging.
Everyone wants to take one more drink at this party and have one last dance, but time is running out gang. Get real, the real estate market has been unreal for 10 years and now we must face the piper. Wait a minute you ask, what do CPI and oil prices have to do with real estate? Everything, higher inflation is leading to higher interest rates, plus inflation takes more income from home buyers, giving them less disposable income to buy houses.
The cup is half full, sorry.

I concur with Inman's analysis reagarding oil prices but the Grunt feels that oil prices will have other negative affects on the real estate market because higher oil prices also raise landlord expenses.

It is a well known fact that landlords make most of their money during spring and summer seasons while in the winter some landlords consider themselves lucky to even break due to heating oil costs. Those of you who are jumping on the invesment wagon in purchasing buildings be aware that these are one of the monkey wrenches that can be thrown into your cashflow works.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Rental SOL: Broker gets their commission. But was this a rogue agent?

The soap opera of the curbed reader has concluded with the broker getting paid, albeit, a reduced fee.

Considering the cloak and dagger foreplay that was going on, the broker should consider himself lucky for getting paid at all. After reading the conclusion of this entry I suspect that the broker was doing business on his own without the knowledge or the authorization of his company. Remember, an agent needs to be sponsored to work in the field which is probably the only reason he is associated with the company.

The red flag was that the fee was being paid in cash. Any respectable brokerage company has their fees paid in certified checks. Also the original check was addressed to another company instead of the one the broker was associated with.

I realize now the lack of business cards, sign in sheets, fee forms and the fact that the agent did not partake in the application and lease signing was not due to unprofessionalism or carlessness. The broker probably did not want to create a paper trail for his company to follow and by limiting his visibilty and utilizing other tactics of CYA, both the landlord and agent had official denialability if they were caught.

What the broker probably did was make a deal with the landlord to do the openhouse, no questions asked as long as he got a well qualified tenant and the broker received his fee. Because the landlord did his own credit checks there was no need to bring this to his company's attention therefore leaving his employer in the dark. Why would a landlord go along with this? Because most likely the landlord doesn't care who gets paid what as long as there is a qualified tenant in the apartment.

The Curbed reader could have actually blackmailed the broker in getting a no fee deal at the risk of exposing the agent's alleged extra curricular activities to his sponsor which are grounds for dismissal and even revocation of his license. This probably explains why the broker was so flexible about the negotiations since he was most likely keeping the spoils to himself and wanted to avoid a confrontation with his client.

People had responded to Curbed yesterday saying that the broker was in the right and that I was looking to duck out on paying. But I have to ask them doesn't all of this secrecy and duplicity bring anything into question? Or are they brokers that employ similar tactics?

If my suspicions are correct, the broker is not in the right at all since he is probably not sharing the fee with his sponsor. Unfortunately, these types of shennanigans do occur in the rental business. The Grunt hears of stories of brokers playing with the gray line which he will tell for another time.

If you are an agent considering ripping off your sponsor. I strongly advise against it. If you are caught, they will eviscerate you through the court system and hang your entrails on a pike for all to see as a warning to all brokers.

The Grunt was happy to play a minor role in this caper and here's the entry that the Curbed reader was referring to if you want to check on the license of an agent or broker.

Friday, March 25, 2005

MTA property taxes: REBNY comes to the rescue

Oh Joy! Oh Rapture! More great news from the MTA! Not only have they slowed trains down due to construction, implemented fare hikes but they are also attempting to carpet bomb the New York City real estate industry with taxes to fund their MTA Capital Plan.

Straight from the mouth of REBNY:

Funding the MTA Capital Plan The Real Estate Board of New York has been successful in stopping a Senate proposal that would have imposed a 10% surcharge on LLCs, partnerships and S-Corps (generally all non-corporate forms of business) to fund the MTA Capital Plan. REBNY recognizes the importance of the MTA Capital Plan for a well-run transit system. However, we have been able to convince the legislature that this proposal would impair economic activity and ultimately undermine the long-term funding of our mass transit system. At the same time, we have voiced our opposition to a proposed increase to the mortgage recording tax or to the real property transfer tax. As a result of our efforts, the transfer tax proposal has been reduced to two tenths of one percent from three-tenths. So far, we have been able to avoid tax increases that would have the most adverse economic impact on our industry and our region. As this legislative update is being sent, the Governor and the legislature are seeking new sources of revenue for the MTA. We have proposed retaining either all or half of the one quarter percent sales tax surcharge that is scheduled to sunset in June. This option would meet the revenue target that has been identified in the various state tax proposals we have opposed. It is expected that the Governor and legislature will agree on the revenue sources to fund the MTA Capital Plan by the beginning of next week.

Here is a NY1 story on the whole legislature process and a sitrep from Gothamist on the current state of the MTA.

Taxes are a fact of life in New York City. You got to pay to play. But this is ridiculous. Whether the MTA needs new management, more money, I don’t know. But something needs to be done. If you are buying in New York City do it fast before this legislation passes or else your expenses are going to get a lot higher.

If anyone from the MTA is reading this can you do anything about those vendors selling bootleg DVDs on the platforms? Not only are what doing illegal but they are a hazard since they create congestion in the stations.

REBNY, I am glad are dues to being put to use. How about cheaper health coverage?

The new dot com: Real Estate

This Friday's New York Times did an article on how the frenzy of the real estate market resembles the last days of the dot com boom.

There are certain points of the article that I would like to address.

Nobody can know whether the housing boom of the last decade will end as the dot-com frenzy did. But the parallels are raising alarms among many economists, even those who acknowledge that there are important differences between homes and stocks that significantly reduce the chances of another meltdown. For one thing, houses are not just paper wealth: you can live in them.

Houses also need to be maintained which include taxes, utilities and mortgage payments. If it is not generating income it is a non performing asset which means it is costing you money especially if they are not making any money.

The can't-miss aura of real estate has also helped nudge many families to invest more of their personal wealth in real estate by buying more expensive homes and taking on riskier mortgages - much as ordinary workers used their 401(k) plans to bet on company stocks.

This really scares me. This not the place to take risks with your retirement.

There are certainly serious reasons to believe that house prices will not suffer the fate of technology stocks. Not only are houses more tangible, but people do not sell their homes as quickly as stocks, making a panic much less likely. Because of tax advantages, few owners are likely to sell and rent something else simply because local house prices start to decline.

There is a flipside to this. Liquidation of stocks can take second while selling a home can take months. If your money is locked up in a house and all of a sudden the market takes a dive your not going to be able to pull it out in time.

I remember during the dot com era everyone was running to get Microsoft certification or anything Cisco related. Now everyone is running out to get a real estate license.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Rental SOL? Curbed Reader on the verge of screwing a broker

In a recent entry of Curbed a reader wrote about an unusual situation regarding a rental broker. The reader viewed an apartment twice and put in an application for the apartment which was accepted and negotiated a fee for 12%. According to the reader the broker never had the client sign anything requiring the fee and the broker sent him to the landlord's office and the broker was never present at the lease signing. Now the reader wants to know if he can get out of paying a fee.

Below was the Grunt's response which he sent in to curbed.

I wish I got emails like this.

This broker is an idiot in the way he conducted himself. However I suspect he has an ace up his sleeve which is an exclusive agreement with the owner stating that he will get paid regardless of how the apartment is rented. Which is probably the reason why he was so careless about the process and that should really piss off the owner since the broker obviously did not take control of the deal which is his job.

The reader has every legal right to withhold the fee since he did not sign anything. But this is where it gets sticky. What type of agreement did the broker sign with the owner if there is any? If it penalizes the owner it might be a bad way to start a relationship with the owner. However if there was an agreement contingent on the just the client paying for commission then it could become one word against another without any paper trail to provide evidence.

My best advice is for the reader to consult a lawyer if he or she wishes to stiff the broker because there are certain risks associated with screwing over a broker.

Remember, the reader signed and sent the lease back but has not received it and the lease is not valid unless both parties sign. If the broker is in cahoots with the landlord they could withhold the lease until another party comes in and tell the reader they found someone better. Remember, until he has received a signed lease from the landlord the reader is technically still in the application phase.

If this was an exclusive of a manager I guarantee from my own experience that the reader is going to have a war on his hands because managers will fight tooth and nail for their money and cut their nose to spite their face if they are not getting the full 15. I feel bad for that agent because he is going to get his ass handed to him by his manager.

From some of the details present in the entry I am thinking its possible that the agent was not a real estate agent at all being completely unfamiliar with the process because of the mistakes that were made. Even rookie agents knows better than to send a client alone to the landlord's office to do the application and lease signing.

Although I have been burned a couple of times on rental deals where clients have killed the applications or simply refused to sign the lease I am not too sympathetic to the plight of this particular agent because he assumed too much and did everything wrong.


The Grunt was doing his morning web recon when he came upon this Gothamist entry on Daylo. Its basically a boutique version of craigslist and Gothamist description is as follows.

Allows you to create a profile and offer services on a recurring basis.

Combined this with a feedback system, so you know which buyers and sellers are good, and which ones are not.

You can browse profiles (if you are looking for services) or requests (if you are a service provider,) and everything is organized by zip-code, so it's pretty easy to find people close to where you live or work. The best part is that Daylo was founded right here in NYC, so there are tons of local listings on the site already.

The Grunt is quite impressed with the GUI of Daylo and the fact it has been designed for the locale is a tremendous advantage of users because it will allow users to easyily find what they need in their respective area.


The Grunt loves Aliens and anything that has to do with Colonial Marines. Sometimes in this business you feel like Hicks facing a horde of xenomorphs with the last of his unit, a 90 year old woman who looks 30 and a little girl armed with the head of a plastic doll.

According to the news the fed has hiked up the rate the seventh time this year. This is in an effort to stem inflation however they are trying to be careful not to stop the economy in its tracks. Grunt was watching ABC news when the they had Lisa Stark who said that people were suprised about the whole thing.

The Grunt has this piece of advice. If you have credit card debt, get rid of it. These hikes affect credit rates in a really, really bad way. Besides you will need ever dimeto pay your adjustable rate mortgages. A couple of months ago, the Grunt was watching Business Week now and an expert from Flynn Zito noticed that Americans were simpply shifting their debts. From what I can remember it seemed that people were either refinancing or opening home equity loans to pay off credit card bills.

I am not too crazy about these elements because if people are unable to keep up with mortgage payments or other housing bills it leads to the doomsday scenario of foreclosures and bankruptcies.

Fl Real Estate has put in an update on the fed hike.

Update: Lawrence Yun, senior economist for the National Association of Realtors.
Yun says that the 30-year fixed mortgage – now 6 percent (average) -- will be 6.7 percent by year's end. Yun is predicting that residential sales will decline 3 percent for 2005 as a whole. This comes off of four record years. There were also be a slowing in price growth. Price appreciation in 2004 was 9 percent. It will be between 5 and 5.5 percent in 2005, according to Yun.

Will New York be touched?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Rap mogul evicted

This is pathetic. Page 6 reported that Damon Dash is being evcited from his London Home because he overstayed his welcome past his January lease expiration.

Points of interest:

Dash ignored a court hearing, the judge ordered him to pay $100,000 in back rent, plus $1,200 a day until he vacates the house and $10,000 in legal costs. Landlord Grahame Bond was also given the right to retake possession on March 29.

The landlord had this to say:

"I find it absolutely ridiculous that someone who openly boasts that he is worth a fortune should behave like this."

Dash's response through a spokeswoman was:

He hasn't been there in five months. He left behind some stuff, but nothing he cared about." The landlord should have gone in and thrown his stuff out, she said.

First of all you wanker its not the job of the landlord to take out Damon's stuff out. Doing that wastes the landlord's resources and time. Damon's stuff is his responsibilty. It does not take alot of effort for Dash to hire a bunch of movers and to leave the premises by the agreed date. Also, depending on London rent laws, the landlord may not be legally entitled to enter the premises even after the expiration date of the lease. Legal channels must be utilized to get the authority to take those actions.

Damon is an example of why co-op boards often refuse celebrities or famous people because unfortunately some of them feel they are above the law and cause trouble for other residents.

Is Damon Done? Not really. He will able to rent anywhere he wants because of his vast wealth however word is going spread about how much of a deadbeat he is so if he wants to rent an apartment in London I am sure a landlord will demand a year up front and a couple of months for security. In terms of buying a home, he will most likely buy a condo or a townhouse because no board would ever allow him on their premises due to his past misconduct. Of course this doesn't help his credit report but I am sure that this is the least of his worries.

I would never do business with Dash in any capacity unless I had an ironclad contract that would eviscerate him if he did not fulfill his obligations.

People like Dash can get away with this stuff, but universe works in weird ways and good or bad what you put out can come back with a vengance.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Keycards: A really bad idea?

Grunt had a busy weekend and just wants to sleep. But fear not, I have the strenghth to blog.

NY1 recently reported a revolt by tenants at Peter Cooper Village. By March complex will replace all locks with an electronic photo keycard. The residents consider an invasion of privacy.

Assemblyman Steve Sanders sums it up

“Not only do they want to have this electronic system with your picture on it,” said Assemblyman Steven Sanders, “they want to know what time and what day you enter your own building. They want to know it, and they want to keep track of it. They want to store it. And I say it’s not their damn business.”

There are obvious advantages to having this system in place for the property management company. First it would cut the cost of replacing and storing keys since all information would be placed on cards. This is one of the reasons why the majority of hotels have instituted the system. The Assemblyman is quite correct that it will allow the property management company to keep track of their tenants. This would prove advantageous if the tenant was illegally subletting and the management company needed proof to show that somone else was residing there. If a tenant needed a new key, they would simply have to request another card without having to go a locksmith.

However this is not a full proof system. As the blackout of 2003 demonstrated anything that has an electronic power source is vulnerable. Key card systems are not fool proof since they can be accessed by hackers or personnel with bad intentions. Which may work in the resident's favors because their personal security is being place in the hands of the management. If something were to go wrong with the system management would be ones that would be held liable.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Top of the morning and Citi-Habitats developments

The Grunt was watching last night's Nightline this morning titled Not Angela's Ashes which featured Frank McCourt, the author of Angela's Ashes, who went to visit Ireland and was astonished to see that the miserable Irish Catholic Childhood that he once wrote about shows little evidence of existing. Ireland, as he puts it has won the lottery. There is a tremendous amount of development and change.

Google's European and Middle Eastern Heaquarters is based in Ireland and the amount of jobs that are available is staggering to the point that there is not enough Irish to fill them leading to more immigrants entering the country. With all of this success, many of the elders question the direction of the New Ireland. One stated that now it seems that people are more intested in buying the right home and putting their kids in the right school. Sounds like New York. However I think Frank McCourt sums up Ireland's new prosperity from a quote from Shakespeare.

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown

More Citi-Habitats News

The Grunt has heard on the wire that Citi-Habitats agents have seen the light and the light is called taxi which is the database system that is used for sales by Corcoran. Citi-Habitats agents realize how antiquated the filemaker pro system is since it has less search options and there is no way to save the searches requring all listings to be printed out which the Grunt can only imagine how humongous the bill is on paper alone. Do not fret environmentalists, it is now being recycled. Although both systems are up and running the filemaker pro is barely holding its own and new updates are still being sent by email much to the frustration of Citi-Habitats agents. Hopefully they will be up and running when the weather warms because it doesn't inspire alot of confidence when agents are calling other companies for leads on listings.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Cragislist update and other naughty bits

The Grunt recently received an email from Craig regarding the housing forum. And there has been some interesting developments. Apparently a brokerage company has incurred Craig's wrath by not following the rules. What did I tell you all about Craig? If you mess with him he will take you down. Bitch and moan all you want. Its his site and his rules.

Straight from Inman Blog, ladies and gentlemen I give you the Real Estate Twins but are they really twins?

Sad but True: You have to pay to stay in New York City

Last night the Grunt was doing his laundry when he ran into a neighbor who was throwing out cleaning supplies and informed him by the end of the month they were moving since her husband found a new job in North Carolina by Durham and bought a three bedroom house in a suburban area for $180,000. She commented you couldn't buy a closet for that amount in Manhattan and was happy to have a new home but she realized once you leave its very difficult to come back to New York since the standard of living here is so high and only the super rich can afford it. What she found odd was that even though salaries were high in the New York City area it was not by much comparing to the rest of the country so their money could go further outside the city.

Grunt has lived here all his life and plans on staying however I realize how insane the prices are here and recommends that if you want to stick around in NYC, buy something. If you think its expensive now, it's going to get alot worse if the Olympics come here.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Real Estate License Check

Recently I was going through Craigslist and noticed the features that Craig has included in the apartment search section of Craigslist. These include how to get your own credit reports, an NYC Department of Consumer Affairs report on Apartment Information Vendors and scams that have been used on craigslist. I would like to present another tool for the consumers which is offered by the State of New York. This is the Liscensee Name Search which is part of the Department of State Division of Licensing Serices. It covers the licenses from real estate agents to appearance enhancers. (I have no idea what that is.) You have the option of searching by name, business and ID Number.

Using this tool you can verify whether the agent you are working with is really a licensed real estate agent and what company they work for. Whether you are dealing with an agent in capacity of rental or sales you are exposing a huge part of your life to this individual. Afterall they will know not only your likes, dislikes and other preferences but they will be exposed to your credit reports and your finances. In the wrong hands that information could be disastorous to your financial health. So at least you will have the peace of mind of knowing who you are dealing with and that they can be held accountable if they are negligent of their duties. And if they are not who they say they are, the Grunt advises you to get the hell out of dodge.

As far as the Grunt knows California has a similar system so it would not surprise me if all states have this online tool or in the process of implementing it.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Congratulations to the owners of 124 Thompson Street

The Grunt has heard from the wire that owners of 124 Thompson street have two offers on their fantastic home on 124 Thompson street. Its not known whether it has been through brokers or direct buyers but both offers are at ask and the McNultys are still entertaining offers above ask but buyers please be aware that in order to even see the apartment at this point you must be pre-approved for a mortgage or have some proof that you are serious in purchasing the home.

Although its a far cry from a sign contract, this is definitely a step in the right direction for the McNultys considering what they have had to deal with.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

I hate junk mail

Never ever ever disclose your address to a broker if they inquire over the phone. They will put you on a list and you will getting more postcards of brokers and paper cluttering your mailbox for the rest of your natural life.

But here's something that made me laugh.

The Charlie's Angels of real estate.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Beating a Dead Horse Update: Citi-Habitats on the comeback trail

The Grunt has learned that Citi-Habitats agents were given access to Corcoran's Taxi at 4pm yesterday and the rental database will hopefully be back online by Monday. Citi-Habitats has also lost at least 3 rental listings that the Grunt knows of caused by this drama, but who knows how big the loss really is.

Since curbed broke the story of the database and Andy leaving, its provided a plethora of marketing material for other firms to acquire listings that were once part of the Citi-Habitats database.

Grunt figures the databases is being held together with spit and bailing wire and as long as it holds throughout the spring and summer they shouldn't have a problem. But it looks like they have not been merged as of yet.

Hot 97 landlord dispute over 50 Cent and the Game

The Grunt is not a big fan of hot 97 even since their djs put out a racist song mocking the tsunami victims. Last week it was site of a shoot out between 50 Cent and an ex-member of his posse the Game.

Now, according to the New York Daily News the landlord, the city's carpenters union is making demands to Hot 97 that posses be banned.

The landlord has stated the followiing:

Hot 97 visitors have also harangued building security and blocked tenants from entering and leaving the building. The union wants the right to force some visitors to use a different entrance to the building - and the right to bar some celebrities altogether.

Article provides a list of incidents that occured there.

The union noted that the gunplay was only "the latest in a series of extremely serious incidents."

In February 2001, bullets flew outside the building when the crews of Lil' Kim and rap duo Capone-N-Noreaga clashed following back-to-back appearances at the station.

A witness testifying at Kim's trial this week faulted the station for putting the battling stars on a collision course by booking them for the same day.

A year after the Lil' Kim incident, popular DJ Funkmaster Flex got into a scrape with rival host Steph Lova outside the station and eventually pleaded guilty to harassment.

Now the million dollar question is can the landlord do this? It depends on the lease. The Grunt assumes that a commerical lease was signed which are very different than residential leases. In commerical leases the tenant is usally solely responsible for the condition and maintainence of the property allowing free reign for the tenant in exchange for a large monthy payment of rent. Residential leases require the landlord to bear more of the burden.

The landlord has claimed that Hot 97 is in violation of their lease.

Declaring Hot 97 in violation of its lease, the union gave the radio station until Friday to agree to the new rules, including the anti-posse clause.

This is where it gets kind of tricky. Unless there is a clause that the landlord can change the rules of the game, signed leases are pretty much iron clad until they expire.

Will this change anything over at hot 97? One tenant is not so sure.

Employees who work in the building rallied behind the landlord yesterday - but were skeptical the new measures would keep the peace.

"They can't get rid of a rapper's entourage," said Marc Hsu, 30, of Manhattan, who works in human resources for a company in the same building.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Grunt's salute: Watch your feet. I'm dropping names.

The Grunt would like to take this moment to salute the individuals who have aided Grunt in his efforts in the crazy war called real estate. This is just the beginning in the Grunt showing his appreciation. There is more to come and I plan on setting up a links section very soon.

Joyce Cohen
Joyce writes The Hunt column in the New York Times which chronicles the trials and tribulations of everyday people in their mission in finding a either a rental or a residence for sale. The Grunt contacted Joyce Cohen when the Grunt did an entry titled Rental Hazing which was an analysis of her excellent profile of Sara Antunovich and her boyfriend, Orion Montoya in A Fresh Start Loses Its Freshness. Joyce enjoyed the Grunt's analysis and was generous in her critique and advice for the PropertyGrunt. The Grunt recommends anyone who is moving to Manhattan to read her columns because they are a bastion of information of how to properly navigate in the jungle of real estate. Her columns are part love story, action, drama and plenty of comedy. She is also a delightful writer who has a delicious wit and the ability to empathize with her subjects and portray the essence of buying or renting a home, which is a new beginning because that is in affect what happens when you partake in the real estate journey. Feel free to email her with your real estate stories at

Lockhart Steele
Lockhart Steele is the publisher of Curbed which is the best blog about real estate in New York, (Yes. Even the Grunt is humbled by this blog.) Curbed covers the entire spectrum of real estate from residential, commercials, development, brokers and anything that deals with the New York Real Estate Market. From restaurants to design, Jakob Nielsen would have a usability orgasm discussing the simplicity and genius of the graphic user interface of this blog. Not only does curbed serve as a harvester of real estate related articles, it also has a search engine that covers all topics that have been published in the blog. I think its greatest asset is its feedback loop. Readers are welcome to present information and their views to curbed and if it has any relevance it will be published. It is not uncommon for reader's pictures to be published on Curbed. As many of you may have noticed I have been published on Curbed and I am now part of their roster of real estate links. This occurred when Lockhart placed a call to arms for correspondents and contributors and the Grunt felt it was his duty to answer. I take great pride that I was selected to be part of the Curbed community.

Craig Newmark
The Grunt's connection to Craig was when the Grunt emailed his Craigslist Wars entry to Mr. Newmark. The Grunt was flattered that Craig responded to the Grunt's email with appreciation for the Grunt's work and encouraged the Grunt to partake in any future discussion regarding Craigslist developments in real estate. Craig wasn't even upset about what the Grunt wrote about his experience using craigslist. As far the Grunt knows.

Grunt's exchange with Craig reminds him of an incident that occurred to a consultant he once worked with back when the Grunt had a salary. The consultant was a follower of the Mac and when the G4 came out he was the first in the group to get one. A calamity occurred with the G4's screen when, for some unknown reason, it cracked and created a cool yet distracting rainbow visual. The consultant contacted Mac customer service and was informed that a screen replacement would be necessary and the price was more than buying a G4. The consultant wrestled with customer service pointing out the sheer stupidity of the solution but they would not budge. A fellow consultant suggested he email Steve Jobs, which the consultant did and to his surprise Steve Jobs not only responded but also apologized for the situation and authorized, that a new G4 to replace his damaged one.

I called Craig the Stew Leonard's of the internet. I take that back because a family member pointed out to me that Stew was sent to jail for tax evasion. The Grunt realizes that Craig possess the attribute of a successful entrepreneur and internet icon which is keep his ear to the ground which is what made Steve Jobs so triumphant.

Frances Flynn Thorsen
Mustang Means an officer who has been brought up through the ranks beginning from enlistment. It is a term of pride and honor. The Grunt would places the term on this blogger. Frances has 20 years of experience in the real estate market and her blog reflects it. Her blog covers all aspect of real esate from mortgages to marketing. She was also the first to break a story about Wal Mart entering the real estate field. She's also part of craigslist history. One of the reasons why craigslist has gone through some changes is because of this entry. How do I know this? Because I was the one who sent it. France is very, very sharp and she is aware of trends that occur in real estate particularly national trends. The Grunt never realized how myopic he has been about real estate until he came across her blog and saw how the rest of the world worked. Well, that's Manhattan for you. Frances has an uncanny ability at designing a fantastic blog. She could give a few lessons to some graduate students that the Grunt knows.

As I have stated before I will be doing a series of salute entries to all the people that helped the Grunt so keep an eye out.

Astor Place Cube

The Grunt received this email about the Astor Place cube from the Village Voice. Thanks J!

The Grunt remembers the Cube in his days of unbridled youth and only discovered its unique feature when he was taking a film production class and saw a student film displaying the Cube's amazing talent. I won't ruin it for you. You have to come to New York to figure it out.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Update on Thompson Street Broker Spaz and Citi-Habitats

The Grunt had the pleasure of meeting with the McNultys at their open house at Thompson in Soho. They were quite gracious with the Grunt and the countless brokers who stopped by. The Grunt's mission was to say hello and commend the McNultys for their high spirits and showing a tremendous amount of class despite the incident. They even had homemade chocolate chip cookies and trail mix for buyers and brokers.

Grunt was annoyed before but since visiting the McNultys the Grunt is furious because the McNultys are about to become parents. That pyscho broker's actions could have potentially put that unborn child in danger yet Mr. McNulty exhbited a huge sense of restraint in the situation. The ex-agent should consider herself lucky. Grunt knows some men who would be far more unpleasant if they felt somone was endangering their wife and unborn child.

The apartment is a fantastic corner unit with large bedroom, high ceilings, tons of southern exposure, closets, storage, track lighting in the living room and a pullman kitchen. The layout has the real west village feel and there is a tremendous amount of potential in terms of renovation which include taking down the wall between the two rooms and redo the floors. There is a huge closet/loft area that you could convert into a loft bed of some sort.

The building is fantastic. They refinanced their mortgage and are flush with a large reserve fund. They not only allow pets but also encourage it, they also allow washer and dryers in the apartments.



The Grunt salutes the McNultys and wish to them the best of luck in the sale of their home, their new life and the life they are bringing into this world.


As the Grunt and Curbed as reported those wacky hybrid agents are experiencing rough weathers with the exit of Andy and the disastorous database merger. The Grunt has gathered more intelligence on the database debacle which is that the system used by CH is filemaker pro which is being implemented into Corcoran's taxi. Apparently both systems are relics of the 20th century making the whole process a bit of a challenge for all parties. Maybe Corcoran should outsource this to India . A theory that has been some going around that is probably the reason why Andy left. Seeing that he was really no longer needed and somone else was minding the store the last thing he would probably wanted to be associated is this fubar therefore leaving his former platoon to deal with the ramifications. With all fairness I am sure all parties involved had no idea this would happen. Or maybe they just forgot to do their due diligence.

Better get on the ball Pam. Getting that database on track is mission critical. Once the weather turns warm all hell is going to break loose with all those college graduates mobbing all your locations. The next thing you know Dwelling Quest will be usurping your place as the biggest rental broker in Manhattan. Who knows? There could be an exodus to Dwelling Quest of Citi-Habitats agents lured by an updated listings database.

For sale by Owner: A dangerous way to do business especially with a psycho broker

Curbed recently reported an incident between an owner and a broker. Today's New York Times has brought further details to light.

The Grunt give props to Curbed for being recognized by the New York Times.

The McNulty's were doing an open house allowing brokers to look at the apartment when Gia Wang from Douglass Elliman proceeded to have a spaz attack when she was asked to vacate the premises, which resulted in Mr. McNulty receiving facial wounds courtesy of Ms. Wang.

This is what happened according to Mr. McNulty

The couple advertised the open house, and Gia Wang, an agent with Prudential Douglas Elliman, was one of several brokers who showed up to look at the apartment. It is common for brokers to go to open houses where owners are handling the sale themselves, either in the hope that they may be able to persuade the owner to turn the listing over to them, or to meet buyers shopping for an apartment.

Mr. McNulty said he allowed the brokers to look around but asked them not to stay. He said that Ms. Wang lingered in the apartment and that he had to ask her several times to leave.

"She left and reappeared a couple minutes later, just ranting and raving," recalled Mr. McNulty, who worked until recently as a graphics editor for The New York Times. "Her rants got more incoherent and we said, 'You're really scaring us and you have to go now.' "

She continued to be belligerent, he said, and when he tried to remove her from the apartment, she began to claw at his face, scratching him and drawing blood. "She was dragged kicking and screaming out of my kitchen," he said. Finally, he said, he got her into the hallway and she fled the building

If Ms. Wang's intention was to persuade the owners for an exclusive this was not the way to do it. Any agent worth their salt will walk through a FSBO(For Sale By Owner) open house, make nice with the owner, compliment the apartment and leave their business card without even mentioning anything about representation. When an agent does a pitch it has to be in a controlled environment, preferably alone in the apartment with the owner. NOT AT AN OPEN HOUSE! The best time to make a pitch is after the open house because the owner may feel like they are in need of assistance.

Loitering at a FBSO open house to troll for buyers is no better than being a streetwalker working the meat market for johns. It’s simply unprofessional. Good agents get buyers through ads, referrals and walk ins that come through the office.

If Ms. Wang's intention was to acquire buyers by treating Mr. McNulty's home as her personal office than he was more than justified to toss her out.

The Grunt found some details from the article worth discussing.

Meanwhile, Mr. Peters said he found out about the incident two days later, after Mr. McNulty called to complain. Mr. Peters said he then called Ms. Wang and asked why she had not called to tell him what happened. "Her reasoning for it was that she felt that she had disgraced Douglas Elliman and she was planning on resigning and she was very scared," Mr. Peters said. She resigned on Feb. 24, he said.

As an agent she made a critical error of not reporting the incident to him. The management needed to be made aware of it immediately. Her conduct was absolutley unacceptable.

He said Ms. Wang began work for the company last October and appeared to be a promising young broker. If Ms. Wang had not resigned, he said, he would have had to fire her because of her behavior. "We're a customer service oriented company," he said. "She should have left right away."

Mr. Peters agrees her actions were despicable and even confirmed her behavior with a third party.

Mr. Peters said he also spoke to another person who had been in the McNultys' apartment and saw part of what happened. "He said he's never seen such unprofessional conduct in his life," Mr. Peters said of the witness. "She was asked over 10 times to leave and she didn't."

He said Ms. Wang admitted that Mr. McNulty had asked her politely several times to leave, but that eventually he became more adamant.

"She told me she was sick and she'd never been talked to like that," Mr. Peters said. "She said, 'I just froze.' "

Yet, Mr. Peters response to this goatf**k was this:

Mr. Peters said Ms. Wang's behavior was clearly inappropriate, but he added, "I think both parties were at fault."

From the information presented in the article there is no evidence stating that Mr. McNulty was at fault in any way. For Mr. Peters to suggest the owner bears any responsibility to the situation is adding insult to injury. To be frank, Mr. Peters should be burying his face firmly between Mr. McNulty's butt cheeks and consider himself lucky that Mr. McNulty has not initiated legal action against his company. That is if he hasn’t already. Under Mr. Peter’s watch Ms. Wang put Mr. McNulty, his wife and anyone else present in harm's way. God only knows what would have happened if she had gotten her hands on a kitchen knife. In fact this whole incident is an embarrassment to not only to Douglas Elliman but the real estate brokerage community at large.

Instead of a response that shifts blame to other parties Mr. Peters should have offered his sincerest apologies and offer his services free of charge. That's right, I said it. Free. And pay for the other agent's commission if it were to become a co-broke.

When an owner sells their home they are trusting buyers and brokers not to do anything that could be detrimental to the home and to the occupants. A seller has no idea who they are dealing with so they are opening their doors in good faith. Ms. Wang clearly violated the owner’s trust, which is completely uncalled for and low class. Bear in mind brokers are under constant scrutiny by the public and what Ms. Wang did does not help our public image.

Legally, Mr. Peters is most likely in the clear since Ms. Wang is no longer associated with the company and all blame has been placed on Ms. Wang therefore may not feel the need to take responsibility for the situation.

The article also raise more questions.

After speaking with Mr. McNulty, detectives began trying to contact Ms. Wang, but were not immediately able to interview her. "She's still being sought for questioning," said Detective Dennis Laffin, a Police Department spokesman. Ms. Wang returned a reporter's phone calls but spoke only briefly. "I love everybody," she said. "I don't have any bad feelings about anything."

If Mr. McNulty attacked her why didn't Ms. Wang call the police? Why is it so difficult for the police to question her? If she is innocent why isn’t she presenting her side of the story?

He said Ms. Wang admitted that Mr. McNulty had asked her politely several times to leave, but that eventually he became more adamant.
"She told me she was sick and she'd never been talked to like that," Mr. Peters said. "She said, 'I just froze.' "

Why didn't Ms. Wang leave in the first place? What was reason for her frozen condition? She claimed she was sick that day? But what was the nature of her affliction? Was it mental or physical?

Mr. Peters said that after Ms. Wang left the McNultys' apartment, she went to run an open house of her own that was scheduled for the same day.

If she was ill why did she report to an open house instead of seeking medical attention?

Ms. Wang's supervisor, Chris Peters, an executive vice president at Douglas Elliman, said she later told him she had not been feeling well that day and only scratched Mr. McNulty because she felt intimidated.

But was Ms. Wang threatened? Did Mr. McNulty attack her? If that was the case than Ms. Wang would be justified in using force, however intimidation is not grounds for nearly disfiguring someone.

Would this have been prevented if Mr. McNulty had hired a broker in the first place? Probably not, but it would have been the broker who would have been in the line of fire. If any damage occurred, the seller’s broker would have been held liable. Money, convenience and safety are issues sellers need to examine when pondering the FSBO option. The Grunt doesn’t discourage FSBOs. Whatever a seller decides to do with their property is their right and to hell to anyone else who thinks differently. But everything has its pros and cons.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Banking her Sex and the City dreams on a no fee budget

The Grunt come across this entry on Stephanie Klein's blog.

I'm actively looking. There. Big shock. I need to meet a man.

... who works in real estate who won't charge me a broker fee. Come on, someone who reads this has to know one. Don't tell me to go on craigslist or buy a no-fee apartment book. Don't tell me to call management companies and start asking. I want names. Give me the name of a broker who won't charge me a broker fee, and I'll date him if he finds me an apartment. Shit, I'll even pay for dinner.

I'm looking for a 1 bedroom apartment (no, I said 1 bedroom, not alcove studio) in the West Village or Union Square area only. No, I won't live in the Financial District or Chelsea. They must take dogs (Linus is 16 lbs.). The apartment must have a dishwasher, laundry in the building, and have a living room big enough to accommodate both a living room set up and a dining room table. I love to cook and need space to entertain. The bedroom must accommodate a queen sized bed and an office area. I will not spend more than $2600 per month.

Like a whore, I'm one owner away from the streets. Whatevs.

After the Grunt stopped laughing he realized she was being serious and then shook his head in disbelief. Stephanie is endemic of New Yorkers who are searching for the holy grail which is a no fee apartment in Manhattan.

The Grunt does not like these types of clients for three reasons.

Unaware: They don't know what is out on the market and they need to be educated. When the Grunt first started out he was told to work with no fee clients and show them what they get for no fee and convert by showing them what they could get for a fee. This never, ever, ever worked. That is why the Grunt never works with no fee clients.

Unrealistic: Because of their lack of education, no fee clients expectations of what they can get are completely unrealistic. And when a broker shows them a no fee apartment, the client becomes angry and dejected blaming the broker for their misfortune. There is also skepticism on the no fee client's partfeeling as if the broker is holding out on them.

Unreliable: Just like craigslist users, no fee clients have most likely called ten other brokers and will go with the better deal.

No fees do not exist in the areas of Union Square and the West Village since they are extremely popular. No fee apartments are most likely located in less desireable areas like York and 1st on the upper eastside.

Stephanie's desire to avoid fee a will not happen if she is dealing with a broker. A no fee usally amounts to one months rent which is paid by the owner to the broker therefor Stephanie will have to kick in the rest which comes out to 10%.

Her requirements are not in sync with her budget.

They must take dogs (Linus is 16 lbs.). The apartment must have a dishwasher, laundry in the building, and have a living room big enough to accommodate both a living room set up and a dining room table. I love to cook and need space to entertain. The bedroom must accommodate a queen sized bed and an office area. I will not spend more than $2600 per month.

Landlords have a strong dislike for dogs because of barking, crapping, the potential damage inflicted onto property and they can also injure other tenants resulting in a lawsuit. Cats are ok. They are quiet and usally stay indoors and have no desire to jump on top of you and hump your leg. Dishwashers cost money to install and maintain in an apartment and the landlord will factor these costs in the rent, passing it along to the tenant.

queen sized bed are words that will give her a problem. West village apartments are notorious for being cozy, aka small since they are prewar buildings that have charm but little space. Back in the day when they were built tenants did not fathom having a queen sized bed. Hell, beds were probably a luxury back then and you were lucky if you got a pillow. She might have better luck in Union square. There are some post wars that have enough room to accomdate the bed. However the combination office area in the bedroom is not going to happen, not at that budget.

Stephanie seems like a nice girl albeit completely oblivious that brokers don't care for dinners or dates. What they care about is cold hard cash. And they are willing to provide the services needed in exchange for that reward. The Grunt suggests that Stephanie move to Queens or the Bronx. She can definitely find a huge apartment for that amount of money. Better yet she should consider buying. Considering the massive windfall she is on her way to recieve from with Judith she could easily afford a down payment on an apartment and the rent money could go towards a monthly mortgage. And from personal experience, Judtih pays very well.

Grunt suggest that Stephanie not tell a broker that she is looking for a no fee because they will either hang up on her or a broker will take her out to the no fees in her budget which will mostly likely be complete pieces of crap and attempt to convert her then she will be very unhappy and blame the broker and the broker will be angry at her for spinning their wheels.

The only thing that she is going for her is the cold weather which is a deterrent for apartment hunters and creates a dynamic for deals. But spring is around the corner and if last spring is an indication of what will happen she better get started on her search and be willing to make compromises because Manhattan will be overrun with apartment seekers.

Remember Stephanie, Sex and the City was a tv show. This is real life.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Beating a Dead Horse: Citi-Habitats on the ropes?

Recently Curbed broke a story about Andrew Heiberger’s surprise departure and problems with the merging of the Citi-Habitats and Corcoran database. According to Curbed the database has not been updated since February 8 and CH agents have been working with old listings. The Grunt was going to sit on the sidelines since Curbed did such a great job in covering the story so it felt rendundant to jump. Until a recent development occured regarding the database. Besides a battlefield analysis was too strong for the Grunt to resist.

It has been reported to the Grunt that because of this fubar agents are getting updates of new listings via email which has proved inefficient since it requires agents to log into their computers and agents are barraged with tons of listing emails.

As Curbed pointed out this may be the reason for Andy’s hasty exit. However the Grunt has learned from another source he wanted to split because of some development deals he was working on. Which is plausible.
The Grunt has analyzed the response email from Pam Leibman that Curbed published and would like to share his interpretation of it.
Pam was smart to send this email since it squelches any rumors of any other exits by management and maintains the morale of the agents in general. Also this group is probably the best qualified to run the CH operations and searching for a new executive team could be a long and lengthy process and with the spring and summer rental season around the corner it could be disastrous for the company. Also Andy most likely signed a non-compete clause that probably included that he would not take his best and brightest with him.
But I do disagree that they will continue with the same business model which is the hybrid agent model where agents do rental deals during the summer and focus on sales during the winter. Either way agents are always working throughout the year.
I see the model being disbanded in the near future if it hasn’t been disbanded already. Sales are Corcoran’s forte and given the opportunity they will handicap the competition in even if it is one of their own.
The future I foresee for Citi-Habitats is that it will be treated as a farm team. Brand new fresh-faced agents will be thrown into rentals to get experience and will have to prove themselves worthy if they wish to do sales. A policy could also be instituted where CH agents would have to refer any buyers or sales listings to Corcoran agents in exchange for a referral fee.
Corcoran could treat the farm team as their own talent pool picking out the best and brightest agents and assistants. Being promoted as a Corcoran agent would be the carrot to motivate Citi-Habitats agents to close deals and stick it out in the rental business.
Sound far-fetched? Within the first week of the buy out, Corcoran immediately disbanded the Solofts brand and absorbed their agents into their fold.
Despite an official suspension on any agent changeover between the two companies, Corcoran has already poached several high rolling Citi-Habitats agents by offering more resources and higher commission splits.
It seems like the Corcoran agents have the home team advantage since they are the ones making the rules. But if I was a Corcoran agent I would be a little concerned. Citi-habitats could be used as the proverbial glue factory for Corcoran agents who are not producing. If your not pulling your weight perhaps the threat of being demoted would serve to motivate and you might be more useful doing rentals than sales.

A transfer could be also be used as a disciplinary action against Corcoran agents who have been malicious or negligent in their duties or a way to knee cap a high producer on the verge of defecting to another agency by lowering their prestige to sellers and buyers with a CH transfer. It would definitely be seen as a demotion for a Corcoran agent to be transferred to Citi-Habitats.

At this point this is all speculation. Let's see what happens in the next 5 years.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Know the players and treat everyone like royalty

This was in page 6 of The NY Post.

March 2, 2005 -- SIR Ivan (Wilzig), the aspiring pop star who always wears a flashy cape adorned with the peace sign, vowed revenge after he was turned away from a celeb-stocked party in L.A. The event was hosted by car giant GM, and organizers didn't realize the North Fork Bank, which Wilzig's late father owned, has funded scores of GM dealerships in New York and New Jersey. Ivan told a friend: "Let's just say that's the last time I will be underwriting any GM projects."

There is absolutely no excuse for the oranizers have let this incident occur. All it takes is a good PR person to know who is who and to make arrangements in advance on the guest list. If there was an oversight a PR person should have been on site with a back up list checking on the guests.

The same goes in real estate sales. You never know who you are dealing with so be nice and make the effort to know who is who. Whether it is the board president, doorman or super be nice even when people are not so nice to you. You never ever know. I remember one open house I did where one man entered dressed in flip flops, a ratty t-shirt and shorts. The apartment having the open house at a brownstone duplex one bedroom on a thrid floor walkup and it was listed in ballpark of a half a million.

Did I ignore the guy? Did I tell him he couldn't afford the place. No. I treated him with respect and dignity and gave my full attention. It turned out this man was the board president. My goodwill and graciousness came in handy when the owner of the apartment was being grilled by the co-op board where he was buying his new place. We asked if the board president would write a reference letter which he was more than happy to do.

Thoughts on the Bowery

Yesterday the Grunt received an email from Jessica from The Village Voice containing a series of articles mourning the death/transformation of the Bowery. The Voice did a fantastic job chronicling the end of an era that has been in the works for quite sometime. Below are the articles.

The Last Days of Loserville: An Elegy for the Bowery Once home to hustlers, drunks, and bohemians, America's slummiest streetis turning into real estate gold. Up and down the northern end of the Bowery, luxury apartment buildings are shooting up over the low-risethoroughfare like iron weeds, erasing all traces of the hard-luck

Joy Press laments the demise of the Bowery, once America's
legendary slum, now a millionaire's row.

Robert Christgau listens to the vanished sounds of the street, where American pop music-from Monk to punk- began
Toni Schlesinger takes a stroll with Mose, the Bowery's
19th-century superhero.

Danial Adkison reports on the future of the endangered Liz Christy Garden.
Darren Reidy searches for a place to flop on the remnants of
skid row.

The Grunt treats the lower east side like certain vacation spots. Nice to visit but I wouldn't want to live there. But the Grunt is aware that it does have a character of its own that attracts a multitude of people. The apartments that were available were usually not the nicest or the cheapest. It was a pain in the proverbial butt to walk down and the trains were never nearby the apartment that the Grunt needed to show.

Grunt remembers two clients who wanted a two bedroom in the Bowery area. The Grunt found the perfect walkup by the tenement museum. It was basically a railroad apartment but the entrance opened up in the middle of the apartment and the bedrooms were at each end while the kitchen was in the living space between the two rooms. The clients moaned about not having a real living room for a tv but I argued that they would be too busy barhopping and meeting girls to watch tv. The landlord pointed it out the layout was ideal for two single men because it allowed them to entertain the ladies with relative privacy since the bedrooms were not next to each other.

There was one apartment in the Bowery that was a huge sunny two bedroom that could fit at least 4 people if you got creative and became a very popular spot during the summer because a ton of brokers would show up leading their clients like the pied pipers we were. What really sucked was when the keys never worked and we had to walk our carcasses back to the office while apologizing profusely to our clients.

What I am curious about is the row of restaurant supply stores that are on the Bowery near Avalon at Chrystie Place. I foresee they will share the same fate of the Fulton Fish market which is they will be moved to the Bronx or a really scary part of Brooklyn. Unless they are landmarked or the air rights have already been purchased that property is a prime target for redevelopment. All it takes is a very wealthy developer with the necessary connections and the hard hats will be broken out.

I think the Bowery's final destination can be summed up by this quote:

As Chinatown historian Peter Kwong says, "This is a city that's very pragmatic. A new group comes and wipes out the old. That's always been the case in New York—but of course it's not always a good thing."

Craigslist in Space

No joke people. According to this article

Craigslist Chief Executive Jim Buckmaster won an eBay auction over the weekend -- at $1,225 -- for the chance to send a message into outer space

And Craig is spreading the wealth to all you craigslist users. Whatever ad you place you will notice an option on the bottom of the ad that allows the ad to be beamed into space. Feel free to make first contact. And yes, just like craigslist it is free. Even for the rental brokers.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Contractor Fraud in Florida

I saw this last night on NBC news on Contractor Fraud and it got me really, really angry. This poor elderly woman in Florida hired this contractor and gave him $36,000 of insurance money to fix parts of her home damaged during the hurricanes. The end result was that he destroyed her house, stole perfectly good fixtures and ran off with her money.

According to the news story there is more work than there are contractors in Florida.

State investigators checking on work sites say part of the problem is there's more work than there are reputable contractors.

The good news is that the authorities are well aware of this and are on a mission to make the wrong things right.

Eddie James, of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, has a message for people who come to Florida figuring they can just rip people off, take the insurance money and run.

"Don’t come, 'cause if you do we're going to use all means necessary to catch you, and put you in jail," he says

I know why this piece of garbage did this because this was an elderly woman who had no one to protect her and was probably afraid that he would hurt her. He also knew if he was ever caught, which he was, she would probably be dead or incapciated before his case went to trail and it would be highly unlikely that any civil penalities would be enforced.

How do you protect yourself from scumbag contractors? MSNBC was good enough to display a set of links that provide information on how to properly conduct business with a contractor. They include the following

1. Federal Trade Commission publication: "After a Disaster: Repairing Your Home"

2. FTC quiz: Test your skills at hiring a contractor

3. Better Business Bureau tips on home repairs

4. The National Association of Home Builders Remodelors Council will provide a free copy of their brochure "How to Find a Professional Remodeler," if you send a self-addressed stamped envelope to:

NAHB Remodelors Council
Dept. FT
1201 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005

If you suspect you're the victim of contractor fraud, you can file an online complaint with the FTC or call them at 1-877-FTC-HELP (TTY: 1-866-653-4261).

You should also check your local state and city agencies to learn more about laws and the procedures to find a good contractor. A good place to start is your local Better Business Bureau.

Question from Miami

This question comes from Sellrealest8 who by the way has an excellent blog on the Florida real estate market and has a great perspective on the real estate market in general.

I am in this Miami Market of the condo craze and new contruction flips.We are also having a huge condo conversion craze. The gut feeling I have is like the old pyramid scheme where you invest $1500 and get like 5 of your friends to invest in the pot $1500 and when you reach the top you get the jackpot but the people on the bottom that you talked in to doing it also lose out. Regarding the website to learn how to do this reminds me of the "No Down Payment" days when you stop making money doing it you then write a book to make money because the "No Down Payment" days were drying up. So is the new construction investment days starting to dry up? Do you feel there is a trend?

The trend is a seller's market expecially in New York and I am not just talking in Manhattan. Brooklyn, Queens and even Westchester are getting bombarded with buyers. There seems to be more construction being implemented in Manhattan and these boroughs. Are there unscrupulous parties taking advantage of this situation? All you need to do is take a look at this blog to see its not all happiness and sunshine. Now is the new construction investment trend drying up? Right now, no. However the near future is anyone's guess especially with the weak dollar and that Greenspan is looking at raising interest rates.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Seems like old times or Can we say bubble?

Reading this article reminds me of the dotcom boom when everything with .com at the end of it was burning up the stock market.

"It is much better than the stock market," Mr. Lidsky said. "This is an extraordinary, phenomenally good result."

What Mr Lidsky is discussing is the time honored tradition of flipping a property. Which is simply buying a property and finding another buyer to purchase it from you.

But this concerns me.

"Americans are treating real estate as a viable alternative to stocks and bonds," said David Lereah, chief economist at the Realtors association. And some are buying at least two properties at a time.

Like the day traders of the 1990's dot-com boom, people are investing in a market that seems to just go up. Promoters use Web sites to attract investors, promising quick profits. One site,, is run by a pair of investors who offer online training for $197. On their home page, they say people can earn over $100,000 in six months investing in unbuilt real estate.

I know I am going to sound like debbie downer but this is a very risky way to invest in real estate. There are many differences between real estate and the stock market. One key difference is the liquidity factor. If you own shares in a company that sells muffin stumps and you hear that next year that muffin stumps are not going to be as popular you can simply press a button on your computer and dump the stock.

However if you have just bought a condo that is in the stages of being built and you find out the land the condo is being built was the former home to a large meth lab and the waste from the lab has polluted the ground and requires a bio hazard team to clean it up you will have a harder time to sell the condo. Usually it takes time to find a qualified buyer and when you do it takes at 3-5 months to close deal depending on the parties involved. And the deal can fall apart at anytime. Worst case scenario you are stuck with a property that no one wants and you are left losing money on it.

Many homeowners are tapping the paper wealth in their own homes to buy more real estate. Mark Purnell, who manages internal technology for a software company in Southern California, said the four-bedroom house he bought eight years ago in Rancho Santa Margarita, south of Los Angeles, had quadrupled in value to $800,000. Last year he took out a $150,000 home equity loan and, with his brother, bought three houses in Phoenix.

This is really bad idea. Because this manner of investing is putting your own personal property in danger.

Hey, let's be careful out there.

-Sargeant Phil Esterhaus