Property Grunt

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


This picture of Katrina was taken from an Air Force jet. That majestic yet chilling formation of clouds was the source of all the destruction that hit New Orleans and Mississippi and reduced those areas to a third world country.

Frances Flynn Thorsen is spear heading a campaign to help the less fortunate through the Real Estate Blog Squad. So spread the word folks and dig deep.

This is a link from Gothamist that will give you links of where to donate. And of course check out the Real Estate Blog Squad’s section on the Gulf tragedy.

This is a series of galleries of the diaster areas which I hope will give you all a better perspective of what is going on.

Gallery 1
Gallery 2
Gallery 3
Gallery 4
Gallery 5

On Nightline last night, Ted Koppel said a few word that I would like to share.

We don't like anticipating disasters. It suggests pessimism and America is largely a nation of optimists.

But when you look at the damage inflicted by an accidental storm, you have to think about the sheer havoc that an intentional terrorist attack may produce one of these days.

We want to believe that no one will ever use a weapon of mass destruction against one of our cities. But it's almost inevitable that someone will. We don't like to hear that; we certainly don't want to contemplate the consequences. But we need to talk about it and we need to plan for it.

The very worst thing you can do when confronting a potential disaster is to take the position that it'll never happen to us

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

It's all about the CYA

According to the Wall Street Journal many analysts are doing the full court press on real estate to the point that they are looking at every detail no matter how trivial to figure out when the correction will occur.

Securities analysts following home builders traditionally research and write about a range of topics because the health of the industry is tied to many variables -- from the economy to immigration and demographics. But now that the fate of the housing market has become one of the most-closely watched stories in the U.S., analysts are following every twist in the data, from big picture to granular, trying to discern when the nation's possible housing bubble might burst.

For example, Ms. Zelman tracks 14 home builders but also produces lengthy reports on sales at Sherwin-Williams Co. paint stores, whose business may send signals about homeowners' tidying up to sell or fixing up new purchases.

"We're putting out as much information as possible," said Ms. Zelman, who heads a team of analysts who scrutinize dozens of economic indicators each week and survey more than 150 "channel checkers" -- people who collect data from furniture companies, building-supply chains and real-estate brokers to get an on-the-ground look at current conditions.

So why all this effort? Well first of all it is obvious.

"Everybody is waiting for the shoe to drop, so none of these analysts want to be the last one out the door" said Rick Anderson, a spokesman for the Public Home Builders Council of America. "They feel as though they have to examine and microexamine every bit of information."

Bottomline, no one one wants their pants down with their asses hanging in the breeze. It also goes to show how much is riding on the housing market since all these Wall Street rocket scientists are giving this market a full body cavity search.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Two more signs of the real estate apocalypse

Straight from the mouth of Alan Greenspan regarding the economy and the housing market from Yahooo news and the New York Times.

"Any onset of increased investor caution elevates risk premiums and, as a consequence, lowers asset values and promotes the liquidation of the debt that supported higher prices," he said. "This is the reason that history has not dealt kindly with the aftermath of protracted periods of low risk premiums."

He also stated:

"What they perceive as newly abundant liquidity can readily disappear," he said. "Any onset of increased investor caution" could cause home and stock prices to drop, he noted.

This is Greenspan's way of saying duck and cover.

Janis of Inman another article on the Fannie Mae Situation that I am sure will give you warm fuzzies all over.

Here some highlights from the article.

Fannie Mae's retained portfolio totaled $788.8 billion at the end of July, down from $808.2 billion at the end of June.

The portfolio has shrunk at an annualized 20.9 percent so far this year as Congress continues to work on legislation that will curb or slash the company's mortgage holdings following an accounting scandal.

Looks like they are liquidating like mad.

Fannie Mae has been shrinking its portfolio to bolster its capital cushion and meet regulatory requirements as it struggles to resolve accounting problems uncovered by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight last year that led to the possible restatement of as much as $12 billion in previously reported earnings.

Both the White House and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan say Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose a risk to the economy because they have grown too large. Legislation to curb the company's mortgage holdings is currently under consideration in Congress.

While the rest of the market acting like grasshoppers, Ginnie Mae are working like ants storing up for the harsh winter.

I know I keep beating the Housing bubble/bomb drums but signs to me are too blatanly obvious to ignore.

Kind of ironic isn't it? I am a broker and I am telling people to run for cover. It is totally against my prime directive. I should be leading a Corcoran Conga line to Harlem.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Chinese Connection

No. I am talking about the Bruce Lee classic, which was originally titled Fists of Fury. I am talking about the role China and the rest of Asia plays in this housing bubble/bomb.

The bottom line is this folks China and parts of Asia are buying our debt. Those mortgages you signed up for have now been bundled up and sold to investors in Asia courtesy of our banks and mortgage brokers.

Ok. Well what is the problem? Well according to Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor under President Clinton and now faculty member at UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy, there is a huge problem.

Here's where the Chinese connection comes in. A major reason mortgage rates have stayed low is there's a lot of money around. And much of that money has been coming from abroad. China and the rest of Asia have been putting their spare cash into America, in order to prop up the dollar and make it easier for them to export to us.
But that's about to change. We've been pressuring them to let their currency rise, and they're getting the message.

Paul Krugman of the New York Times Op-ed page also throws in his two cents about getting funds from abroad.

Now, any economics textbook will tell you that it's fine to borrow from abroad if the money is used to expand the economy's productive capacity. When 19th-century America borrowed from Europe to build railroads, it was also enhancing its ability to repay its debts later. But we aren't borrowing to build productive capacity. As a share of G.D.P., investment other than housing construction is below its average between 1980 and 2000, and way below its level at the end of the 1990's.
In other words, a fuller answer to my former neighbor would be that these days, Americans make a living selling each other houses, paid for with money borrowed from the Chinese. Somehow, that doesn't seem like a sustainable lifestyle.

So besides the hanky panky going on with the market and ginnie mae this is another monkey wrench that could be thrown in the housing works.

Recently it was reported that the July housing market still maintained a strong standing. But it is all going to catch up with us sooner or later. There are too many balls up in the air and there is a point when it all comes crashing down.

Let's not forget the oil prices. AAAAAARGH!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Holy Grail? More like Holy S**t Part 2

There has been a tremendous amount of acrimony regarding my critique of Ms. Bandon’s article regarding her experience with finding a rental through brokers. It is unfortunate there is so much negativity associated with my profession and I hope through this discussion that we can at least vent out our frustrations. If that does not happen, well at least I can amuse myself by sparring through print. I had to select only a few comments because I exhausted myself executing my patented ripping a new orifice technique.

Here's the line that made me stop reading:
"The most valuable resource a broker has is their time and it is something they hate to waste."

Right there, proof positive that brokers are self-obsessed, overpaid, uneducated morons who don't understand that everybody's time is valuable. And actually, other people's time is probably MORE valuable than theirs since they eat their young and feast on the blood of innocents for a living.

Your self-pity is akin to retardation. Get a real job.

I agree with you on all points except for the overpaid part. There is a significant minority who makes a ton of money and which probably accounts for the eating of young and feasting on the blood of innocents. However, the rest are thrown to the wolves to the marketplace where they will either survive or do a run down washout lane.

There are many brokers who would relate to your description since it sounds like a lot of rental clients they have worked with. Because a ton of clients have unrealistic goals in what they can get for their money, it is the broker’s job to educate them. This is often a painful process and what usually ends up happening is that the client ditches the broker and hooks up with another agent. Those clients are ideal because they have already been educated on someone else’s time.

Your self-pity is akin to retardation. Get a real job

And your self- loathing is akin to a 35 year old virgin who thinks they are an expert on all things related to sexual intercourse when all their experience amounts to is the hours spent trying to find free midget porn on the Internet. As for getting a real job, what would you know about that since you are a 35 year old virgin spending all your time finding free midget porn on the Internet?

One of the main problems with brokers and agents is that their interests are at odds in significant ways with their clients' interests; their main incentive is to make a quick sale, minimizing the time they spend on a transaction and maximizing the rent the client must pay because that's often tied to the brokers' fee. Their existence creates unnecessary transaction costs that are not in my experience justified by the costs that would be incurred if an apartment seeker conducted the search on their own. That's why I feel no sympathy for agents like the one above who puts out the plea that s/he needs to make a living too. My response: you and all other real estate companies have created an industry that makes it almost impossible now for individuals to look for homes on their own--you've imposed yourselves between me and the object of my search without giving me an option to go around you, except with great difficulty. So the more you suffer, the more likely it is that your profession will die, and the happier I will be. Hopefully more people will stand up against agents' extortion, and that will drive out a number of the parasites in this profession, leaving behind a smaller number of agents who will be able to effectively serve those home seekers who actually want to use them.

Great presentation skills in your writing but I recommend you go to an accredited law school next time instead of the ones that advertise through pop up ads because your logic is quite flawed.

Yes. Every rental agent wants to knock out those quick easy money deals because rentals are designed that way. The process of doing credit check, presenting three months rent and signing leases are the easy part. The hard part is finding the right apartment for the client. The only way the agent gets to the quick and easy phase is when they find the right apartment for their client. That is why client's interests always go first. You can’t put the cart before the horse. You savvy?

In other areas of the country the concept of 15% broker fee is completely unheard of because those areas aren’t Manhattan. This is an island people. That means there is always going to be a physical constraint in terms of what is available for housing and a ton of demand for those who come to live, work, go to school or just want to look really, really cool. So there will always be a ton of constraints associated with finding an apartment. That is until we start building out into the sea or get those huge saucer towers with flying cars that we see in the Jetsons. Consider it karmic payback from the Indians that exchanged Manhattan for some beads.

Landlords utilize brokers to delegate the task of filling up their apartments with qualified tenants. And until all landlords pay in full for these services, the cost will always be passed down to the client. It is the way the business works. If agents were truly acting as barriers to entry then Manhattan would be littered with vacancies. The fact of the matter is that the difficulties of finding an apartment are so many that to blame the rental agent faction is complete bulls**t.

I believe that you misread her comment of "Oh, I don't know, I'm in no rush."

It's obviously sarcastic and said in an exasperated tone.

It's symmetrically attached to a previous "annoying" question and sarcastic response. Plus it ties into the whole previous paragraph regarding the short period of time apartments on the market and the not-mentioned but usual state that people seek out apartments when their old lease is ending or when they are compelled to move for another reason.

Bullies are actually easy to spot because they answer questions with questions. "What exactly are you looking for?" they say when you ask about a listing. Gee, I think, I'm looking for something kind of like this ad I called you about. "When do you have to move?" they ask. Oh, I don't know, I'm in no rush.

And I believe you completely misread my response.“Oh, I don't know, I'm in no rush." Whether she was being sarcastic or not, the end result was aggravating the broker. Which is the reason why they were so abrupt with her.

"Plus some people could not get a apartment without a broker anyway."

Huh? Like who, comatose patients? My advice to you brokers is this: If you're looking for sympathy, don't bother trying to find it outside this little insidery blog. Because out here in the real world, NOBODY VALUES YOU. Just because a job *exists* doesn't make it noble, or even necessary. I've lived here 5 years and still have stomach-churning memories of the broker who "helped" me get my apartment. What an oily, waste-of-space leech. Brokers contribute nothing; they just insinuate themselves into what *should be* a simple transaction, bluster around a little bit, shuffle some papers and then demand a ridiculous amount of money. What a scam. Even brokers themselves, deep down, must know that we'd all would be better off without them.

Let’s get something clear Einstein, rental brokers don’t want your sympathy and could care less what you think of them. All they want is your money. I don’t think they should apologize for that since they provide a service that very few people have the stomach or wherewithal to deal with. Landlords need brokers because maintaining a property requires a tremendous amount of time and energy so they outsource the task to finding qualified tenants to brokers. Sometimes it takes a broker to properly present the client to the landlord because some clients have no clue how to put their best foot forward.

In terms of what we contribute it really depends on the broker, I know some brokers who constantly pound the pavement and get those sweetheart deals and I know some who are complete wastes of space. As for your stomach churning experiences with that broker if you want me to apologize for that person, I’ll be more than happy to when you apologize for every client that has made my life a living hell. I have had some stomach churning experiences with clients but I still work with them. One of my first clients was straight out of Scarface and my manager at the time made sure to keep close tabs on me while I was out with him since he was concerned with my safety, but are all clients like this? No.

I think the world would be better off without whiny little people who are eager to blame others for the difficulties they have encountered in their lives instead making an effort to make the wrong the things right through positive action. But I think you have clearly shown that world is very far away.

Exact same experience as the above poster: went to a building, was referred to an exclusive broker, saw the apartment for 10 minutes. Met for another 10 minutes to sign the lease a few days later. Bam, almost $3000 to the broker, for 20 minutes of work. Not a bad hourly wage. And no sob stories about lots of wasted hours with other customers - when you're an exclusive broker for rent-stabilized luxury studios, I don't think you have to show an apartment too many times before you get a taker.

There is no hourly wage for a broker. What we kill is what we eat. And if we don't kill, we go hungry. For every one deal this broker closes he has to do maybe over 100 showings. Which means countless days of showing apartments and money out of their pocket to pay for ads. Just remember, for every easy day there are a hundred hard ones.

Good people, remember that the majority of the population looks for a new apartment every couple of years. A rental agent has to do this everyday. Feel blessed you are not in their shoes.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Holy Grail? More like Holy S**t

The Grunt found Alexandra Bandon‘s first hand account into broker hell blunt yet amusing. It is unfortunate, but her experience is usually the norm rather than the exception.

Although Ms. Bandon‘s account is for the most part accurate The Grunt would like to clarify certain points of her article in order to explain why she encountered such difficulty in finding an apartment.

The Bully
Most rental listings don't go on the market until a month before they're available, which means renters can't seriously begin searching until then. So a lot of agents and brokers capitalize on the panic that comes from that 30-day countdown to homelessness. They hit on your worst fears by sneering, "You'll never find anything in that price range" or "Apartments like that just don't come on the market that often."

The reality is that in a hot market particularly during the spring and summer, apartments that are priced properly go very quickly. Do some agents take advantage of the situation? I hope so. It is part of their job. But the situation itself is not their creation. It is the market which is created by the masses including Ms. Bandon who are seeking a home. Well-priced apartments go very fast and unless it’s a condo or co-op, it can take less than five minutes for an application to be accepted and leases to be signed.

Bullies are actually easy to spot because they answer questions with questions. "What exactly are you looking for?" they say when you ask about a listing. Gee, I think, I'm looking for something kind of like this ad I called you about. "When do you have to move?" they ask. Oh, I don't know, I'm in no rush.

The most valuable resource a broker has is their time and it is something they hate to waste. These questions that Ms. Bandon took offense to are asked to pre-qualify a client. They want to make sure that you are worth their efforts and if you are employed and have good credit. Any agent worth their salt will ask these questions.

If Ms. Bandon felt any type of bullying it was probably because she said Oh, I don't know, I'm in no rush. This pisses off brokers to no end because it means you are wasting their time since you are not serious about finding a place. It also prevents them from doing a proper search for you because they do not know if the apartment that you want fits your timetable. Even if you are not in a rush you should at least give them a rough estimate on when you plan on moving.

I encountered a Bully when I answered an ad for a "$2,690/2br - HOT, HOT, HOT WEST VILLAGE STEAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" (Caps lock and exclamation points are very important to the Bully.) "Have you been looking only at no-fee apartments?" he scolded. "That's why you're having a bad experience. No fee apartments are awful."
Actually no fee apartments are pretty crappy. The reason why they are no fees is because there is something wrong with them that require a broker to put in extra effort to get them rented out hence the landlord has to pony up a months rent to the broker.

"But, um, this apartment is no fee," I said.
"That one's rented," he said. "I have a better one on 10th Street. It has a fee."
Ah, the classic bait and switch. Call about one property, and the Bully will tell you either it doesn't fit your criteria or it has already been rented. Then you'll hear about another, better, place, which just happens to require a fee.

As I have stated before in my previous entry on rentals, an apartment that is priced well is always going to go. That is why a good broker will have at least ten comps ready to show. Do bait and switch scams occur? Of course. But I think it is narrowed minded to assume that incidents of this nature are all bait switch scams without taking in account the other factors including a hot market and a shortage of inventory.

Take it from me: the moment a broker answers your question with another question, just hang up. If he's not focused on the ad he listed, he probably doesn't really have that property.

Whether it was intentional or not Alexandra most likely pissed off the broker when she was being vague about a move in date. I can imagine they felt this yenta was wasting their time trying to needle information out of them so they had to resort to more stringent measures to see if she was worth talking to or was just taking up valuable oxygen.

The Confidante
There are times, I have to admit, when an agent's rap was so good that I shut off my scam detector. That's what had happened with the woman on Charles Street. We had talked on the phone and she had listened. Listened - and told me I shouldn't look at the apartment I'd called her about because it wasn't right for someone of my maturity and sophistication. Instead she had the perfect place, on one of my favorite blocks. Yeah, girlfriend!

Then while we waited to meet up with the listing broker, we exchanged gripes about clueless agents. "I got into this business," she said, "because I was dealing with so many brokers who didn't know what they were talking about." My new best friend!
The Confidante uses empathy to gain trust. "Oh, you're going through a breakup? How horrible! You've only dealt with sneaky, stupid brokers? I hear you!"

Part of a broker’s job is customer service which means burying their face between your ass cheeks as tightly as possible. Trust is established through empathy, sympathy, beers or whatever means are available to them. That is why the best agents are usually actors since they have the skills to create empathy with their clients.

This woman was good, but she made one big mistake: she lied. Turns out she couldn't tell a town house from a doghouse. In the end, the apartment was actually decent. But it wasn't good enough to justify the fee, which couldn't be negotiated down from 15 percent because it was a "co-broke," a deal shared between a listing broker and an agent who brings in a client. And I wasn't about to lay out that kind of money for a girlfriend who had betrayed me.

Ms. Bandon really needs to get over her girl crush over this broker.
Her one big mistake was taking this personally. As far as the agent was concerned this was just business. She was using her charms to get the job done and I think she should be commended for it. Ms. Bandon should have figured it out that this agent did not take this personally when Ms. Bandon was screaming at her for her mistake regarding the town house that the broker didn’t put her foot up her candy ass. Did you think the agent was taking her abuse because she was her best friend? No. Ms. Bandon is just a paycheck to her. Whether she abuses or her not is not the issue. Whether she will pay the fee is all that matters. I know this is a harsh assessment but that is the reality of the business.

There is saying among rental brokers which is “Co-broke or go broke”. Co-brokes are usually the last resort for agents because it means they have to share the fee with some else.

The Grunt realizes that there is a lot of confusion over co-brokes and is going to do his best to clear it up.

I have an exclusive rental. A broker from another company brings in a client who sees it and puts in an application, which is accepted and leases are signed. Because I am in control of the deal I will demand and get a 15% fee, which will be divided between two the brokers.

The reason why there was no negotiation on the fee was because the exclusive broker did not want to reduce their cut. 15% is always the standard fee for a co-broke and do not even try to have your broker negotiate with the exclusive broker because the exclusive broker will tell you to go to hell.

The Tourist
A Tourist is an agent who's just getting his or her feet wet in a neighborhood and dabbles in its geography, architecture, history and culture. But he hasn't quite learned his way around, which can be frustrating for a local like me. More than one broker I worked with didn't even know how to get to the addresses they were showing me.
Matthew Mediatore from K&O Realty was a Tourist when I met him. Our first encounter ended without my seeing the property because Matthew had gotten the cross streets wrong and we'd missed the appointment. The next time I saw him, he tried to impress me about a place - which was, mind you, three blocks from where I lived - by telling me "Gwyneth Paltrow lives right over there." Yes, I know. And Liv Tyler lives there, and Sarah Jessica Parker lives there, and Hilary Swank is just up the street. Anything else you want to tell me about my neighborhood?
Over the next few weeks, however, Matthew shed his Tourist status. He made sure he showed me only town houses, not brownstones. (While a native New Yorker means a house when he says "brownstone," brokers use that term for any building sporting real brownstone on the facade. Many of them are actually tenements.)
He also didn't patronize me. Instead he was professional and honest, probably because he had owned a personal training business for 10 years before becoming an agent. Agents with life and work experience interact better with clients, because they already understand the value of working hard at good customer service.

One of the challenges a broker faces is learning the inventory. Even with the yahoo maps and mapquest, there are a lot of new brokers who are still beginning to navigate their way across Manhattan often at the detriment of their client. However that does not mean they can’t be salvaged. From what Alexandra has described this gentleman is making every effort to become a model agent and I am sure that Mr. Mediatore will be quite successful in this venture.

The Scavenger
If the Tourist is a hard worker, the Scavenger is the laziest. The Scavenger trolls newspapers and Web listings, finds an ad for a great place and then relists the place as his or her own. Often, the same apartment will show up five, 10 times in a row, all with different brokers' contact numbers.
It's not their fault, really. Because of the strong sales market, there's a glut of brokers and agents. In fact, New York's Department of State, which administers the real estate licensing exams, recently ended its walk-in test-taking policy in several locations, including New York City, because the lines to get in were snaking around the block.
I met my first Scavenger when I answered a "no fee" ad on the Craigslist Web site for an apartment down the block from me. It was listed for $3,175, but I took a chance that the landlord might come down on the rent for the right tenant.
I never actually met that agent because he sent a co-worker in his place. When we sat down with the landlord, I jumped right in. "Look, I have to be honest - I love it, but it's more than I can afford," I said. "But I hope you'll consider lowering the rent if I promise to take care of ..."
She cut me off. "The price is firm," she said. She turned to the agent and asked him, "What about you? Do you work?"
Puzzled, he answered that he was a broker with a neighborhood agency.
"I don't know who that is," she said. Then she looked at me and smirked. "You could have just looked in The Village Voice," she said.
Suddenly it all made sense. The guy who had put the ad on Craigslist didn't even know this woman; he had just seen her classified ad in The Voice and relisted it. That's when she and I exchanged glances. "Who did you think was going to pay you?" we both asked the agent.
He had no idea, because his colleague had set him up. Needless to say, the landlord never came down on the price, and the next day I picked up The Village Voice. There was the ad, a tiny three-liner, listing the apartment for $2,995 - $180 less than the ad on Craigslist. Perhaps the agent's plan had been to pretend he was getting the landlord to come down on the rent in exchange for the renter's paying the fee.
But listing the property in the first place was unethical, according to the code of ethics of the Real Estate Board of New York, an industry trade association. The code states that "without the prior knowledge or consent of the owner," no member shall "offer, or cause to be offered, such property for sale or lease."
From then on, I looked in the paper myself.

I don’t call these scavengers. I call them lazy f**ks. I remember one agent who was busted by my former manager because this agent was stupid enough to rip of an ad of one of the top producers in the office. Ms. Bandon should know that the craigslist's NY real estate section is a hotbed of scams and abuse which Craig himself is well aware and has been waging an unending battle against the forces of evil.

The Grunt is not surprised by the brazen nature of these scams considering that, as Ms. Bandon has pointed out, there is a surplus of agents in Manhattan and a dwindling amount of rental inventory in the city which makes things all the more competitive.

The Veteran
West Village, eat-in kitchen and private backyard at that price? Too good to be true. I called the number and spoke to Michael Marino, the sole proprietor of Marino Real Estate in TriBeCa, and found out the place was several blocks south on Hudson - still in the Village, but below my geographic cutoff line. I decided to see it anyway.
The apartment was great. It had a nonworking fireplace, a good-sized bedroom, closets galore, a new bathroom, and it really did have a backyard, complete with flowering roses. And Michael knew just how to handle me. Laid-back, soft-spoken, he didn't push me with the hard sell. He just showed me the place and we chatted for a while. After 22 years in the business, he knew the deal would either happen or it wouldn't.
His ad, it turns out, had appeared only in the paper, not online. Michael said he's old-fashioned and thinks people who are looking for an apartment will check the paper first, so it's not worth paying extra to put the ad online. Once I started reading the classifieds in print, I realized that a lot of Veterans followed this logic, and that I'd been missing quite a few listings by searching only online.

If you do a quick search on ad revenues for print media you will see that they are undergoing a crisis in terms of circulation and that ad sales are down. Print is on its way out while online advertising is become more popular and it is in the best interests of brokers to advertise online. I do not advise ignoring online ads, since brokers not only prefer advertising only because of the hits they get but also ads shelf life is a lot longer on the web.

I would also like to point out that Ms. Bandon made a compromise in her preference for location. We all compromise one way or another when we are looking for a place to live. Many a time when a client would be obsessed with one area then after taking them to every apartment I could find in the area they would change their mind and go to a completely different area.

Mary A. Vetri, a senior vice president at William B. May on Hudson Street, is herself a 17-year veteran. "Rentals are my bread and butter," she says. To her, even the smallest studio rental could add a client to the Rolodex who someday will bring back a multimillion-dollar sale. For that reason, the Veteran rarely lies or even goes for the hard sell, because he or she wants to establish a lasting relationship.
Case in point: when I asked Michael if the apartment was in a town house, he said: "Oh, I don't know. Maybe it could have been a town house at one point." Turned out it was, built in 1842. But Michael was probably the only broker I dealt with who didn't jump at the chance to tell me that.

I would not call these veteran brokers but professionals. I have met many new brokers who also exhibit these traits of making an effort to establish relationships with clients in order to create a harvest of buyers in the future. It is common sense.

Michael probably did not jump to tell Ms. Bandon the full details of the apartment because he knows his market is the most sought after and overpriced area in Manhattan therefore he is not going to get on his hands and knees giving every detail about the apartment. Michael knows that there are ten other people behind her who will and it is just a matter of time when he collects his fee.

The Genuinely Nice Person
Though I knew I was interested in the Hudson Street apartment, I actually put Michael off for as long as I could while I made sure there wasn't anything better in my immediate neighborhood. In a last-minute surge of phone calls to real estate companies, I came across a true broker rarity: the Genuinely Nice Person.

Tim Taylor works for Citi Habitats, which doesn't always have the best reputation among apartment hunters. But Tim was attentive the first moment I called him. I took a chance and was honest, letting him know that I had an apartment lined up but wanted to keep searching for another week.

This is not a Genuinely Nice Person. What we have here is a Genuinely Desperate Person.

First of all Tim should have immediately hung up the phone and saw that Alexandra was a lost cause. In his desperation to close a deal he thought he could win her over by finding the perfect apartment for Alexandra but all he was doing for Alexandra was confirming that she had made the right choice with Michael.

Telling Tim I had a place already was a risk - he could have just stopped calling. But the Genuinely Nice Person doesn't work that way. Tim told me about every listing he found that I might have liked, even going so far as to break a broker's taboo and give me building addresses so I could save us both time with a preliminary walk-by.

Tim probably had no clients and his manager was probably screaming at him every day to make a deal to make up for the desk space he was taking up. Clutching at straws, he probably saw Alexandra as a chance to get back into the game, which is why he made these futile efforts to assist her

I hope for Tim’s sake that he did not give addresses out to Alexandra because by doing that he broke one of the Ten Commandments of Citi-habitats, which is

Thou shalt not show or give addresses out to a client until after they have signed a fee form agreement and after they have shown them that apartment.

I predict that when Tim comes into work this weekend he is going to have a long and loud chat with his manager.

To be honest, I don't know how they make any money. The Genuinely Nice Person seems to spend an inordinate amount of time searching listings on behalf of clients who may or may not ever pay him. Tim and I met only once, at a really nice two-bedroom on 12th Street, but he spent a good week working on my behalf, including over a holiday weekend. When I rejected the apartment because it required too much money up front, he just said: "I'm so sorry. I didn't know. They should have put the two-months' security in their listing. I'm really very sorry about that."
A broker apologizing? Unheard of. What a nice guy.

After this article Tim probably won’t be making any money at all, at least not with Citi-habitats. Many agents have been in the position of Tim including the Grunt. No. I never released addresses to clients over the phone. Remember that there is a difference between being desperate and stupid. But I have been desperate for clients and attempted to woo them every way possible only to have them abuse me and break my heart. Tim definitely has the makings of a great agent with his work ethic and focus but he needs to be better at qualifying his clients, have the confidence to cut them loose if they are not willing to be loyal to him and not release information to clients. But it is very difficult to stand strong when everyone around you seems to be closing deals left and right while you are barely able to make a cold call.

Hopefully after his manager rips him a new one, the manager will give Tim a second chance to redeem himself.

In the end, I signed the lease on the Hudson Street apartment and Michael and I negotiated the fee: more than a month's rent, but less than 15 percent. I think I got a pretty good deal.

She has no idea how good of a deal she has. They usually charge 15% in that area. Count your blessings Alexandra.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Landlord bum rush

I found this on Gothamist.

This retired Asian person, who paid $158 for a two bed on 172 East 89th street, found himself without a home when he came back from a trip. His locks were changed and all of his belongings were tossed out. All of this was done illegally.

The apartments in that building fetch up $1500 so it is understandable why the owner, Dominick Galfaro wanted the guy out. But the way you do this is you buy them out. It is a pain the ass to do but you figure out what the tenant's price is and hopefully they agree to it.

But this landlord did everything wrong.

According to the NYDaily News

When he complained to Galofaro, the landlord told him he had taken over the apartment, said Eng's son, Peter. "The defendant approached the victim, grabbed him by the hand, and forced him down the stairs and out of the building," said Barbara Thompson, spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney's office.

Mr. Galofaro's motivation for his actions was no doubt motivated by money. In this market, he obviously paid an arm and a leg for this building and needed to squeeze every penny he could for the mortgage.

He probably figured he could take the heat from the city and that his lawyers would take care of the flack.

Galofaro figured that any trouble would be minute because:

a) Mr. Eng was a Chinese immigrant and Mr. Galofaro assumed he would not have the resources to protect himself.

b) Any litigation would take years to resolve and being that Mr. Eng was a senior citizen it would just be a waiting game until Mr. Eng croaked.

What Mr. Galofaro has done is atrocious. However, this probably happens more often then we know.

Make no mistake. The Grunt is a capitalist and is all about the Benjamins. That is why the Grunt is in real estate. But there are rules that need to be followed in this business. Mr. Galofaro committed a grievous act against a tenant that was over the line. If Mr. Galofaro did not have the money to take care of this tenant then he should have never bought the building. Or he should have made the efforts to negotiate a deal with the tenant or have the seller persuade the tenant to leave.

The city population displaced by high real estate prices is already seething with rage and is really pissed about this situation. Mr. Galofaro has made himself a lightning rod for their anger and resentment.

Owning, managing and developing your own properties is hard enough as it is. When you take actions like Mr. Galofaro you are just making it harder on yourself. Not only is Mr. Galofaro need to contend with the judicial system but I am sure HPD will be taking a very close look at him.

Because of the heinous and public nature of this crime, I wouldn't be surprised if he is looking at jail time and I am sure Mr. Eng has some of the best lawyers by his side who are out for blood. I don't expect a settlement. I think Mr. Eng is going to go all out until he has his pound of flesh.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Real Estate Blog Squad taking it to the streets

The Grunt recently posted an entry regarding the Real Estate Blog Squad which Frances Flynn Thorsen of the Realtygram blogger. has set up. In that post I made reference to an Inman News article on the Blog Squad by Janis Mara. One of the interesting points of the article was NAR's luke warm reaction to the presence of Bloggers. Apparently that has all changed according to an entry by Janis in the Inman blog.

Realtor bloggers welcome at NAR convention, spokesman says
On August 8, Inman News ran a story about the Blog Squad,a group of (mostly Realtor) bloggers who will chronicle the National Association of Realtors Conference & Expo Oct 28-31 in San Francisco, led by Bethlehem, Pa. Realtor and blogger Frances Flynn Thorsen. Lucien Salvant, an NAR spokesman quoted in the story, returned from an absence from the office and called today to say that he wanted to emphasize that Realtor bloggers are welcome at the conference. "They (Realtor bloggers) are welcome at the conference and they certainly are welcome to attend the news conferences," Salvant said. "Bloggers in general who are not Realtors would have to pass a credential check, but Realtors in general are welcome to attend the conference." The original Inman Blog Squad story drew comment in blogs including the Property Grunt, a New York broker's blog.
Janis Mara, Inman News

Frances Flynn Thorsen also pointed out in a recent entry that NAR has also jumped on the Blog bandwagon.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Signs of the times: Let's keep cool

I often pass this news stand and I see this sign.

One would think they are selling the counter part of the hot beverage known as hot chocolate. But why call it cold chocolate? Why not call it cold chocolate milk? Or Yoo Hoo? So I decided to inquire about this cold chocolate and it turned out I was completely wrong.

The owner informed me with great amusement that the cold chocolate was in reference to chocolate candies that he stored behind the counter in the cooler offering another alternative to any of his merchandise that had withered to liquid in his candy case. Mystery solved.

The best reason to walk into a comic book store.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A prayer for Karen

Karen Hoyt is a real estate blogger from Titsuville, Florida. Karen has always impressed her colleagues with her professionalism, knowledge and her down to earth charm.

Recently Karen has chronicled her current medical situation and surgery in her blog. The Grunt just wants to take a moment from the real estate madness to let Karen know that we are all pulling for her.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The fuse has been lit: From Housing Bubble to Housing Bomb

At the risk of sounding like a drama queen the Grunt feels that this isn’t a bubble anymore. It’s a bomb.

The chaotic nature of the real estate market and factors associated with it gravely concern the Grunt. I could give you a laundry list of factors ranging from suicidal mortgages being taken by buyers infected with irrational exuberance to a housing market that has been carpet-bombed senseless with overpriced homes and a lack of inventory. However there are two factors that I would like to address that I feel that are transforming this bubble into a bomb.

Obviously interest rates are first on the list. Greenspan raised interest rates once again and according to the New York Times Greenspan is spreading the word that there is more to come. The Grunt feels that Greenspan was holding back with gritted teeth and fists clenched last year due to the election but since its conclusion all bets are off.

The Grunt sees two scenarios. One is that Greenspan unleashes a barrage of interest rate body blows before leaving office or the Chairman maintains a low profile while executing a series of strategic yet limited set of increases and leaves the brunt of what needs to be done for the next guy. Greenspan is not an idiot. He will take whatever actions are necessary to stabilize the economy and could care less what people think of him. So whether it is now or later, Greenspan will be giving us our bitter medicine regardless of who is holding the spoon.

The number two factor that has inflamed the ulcers of investors is Fannie Mae which has been undergoing a tremendous amount of upheaval in the last couple of months. First, Daniel Mudd took over Fannie Mae and began reorganization efforts to get the biggest lending company in America stabilized. One of the first orders of business was an order for all employees barring them from selling or buying Fannie Mae stock.

Fannie Mae has barred its 5,000 employees from buying or selling company stock for the foreseeable future, as the mortgage finance giant moves ahead with a multibillion-dollar restatement and deals with federal investigations into its accounting practices.
Company officials announced the trading blackout in an e-mail sent to employees Friday evening. Spokesman Charles V. Greener confirmed the authenticity of the message and said Fannie took the step because it "felt it was the prudent course of action." He declined to comment further.

There was obviously something that spooked Mudd for that order to be issued and the last thing he wanted was a company wide panic. Mudd also probably wanted to prevent any perceptions of insider trading therefore eliminating further turbulence for the company.

But what has really shook up investor confidence is that Fannie Mae once again missed their regulatory deadline and will not release their second quarter earnings report. Fannie Mae stated that it was due in part that they needed a year to fix accounting errors resulting in Fannie Mae shares taking a nose dive.

Shares of Washington-based Fannie Mae declined $2.19 to $52.64 in New York Stock Exchange trading after the company said Wednesday that it won't finish fixing the errors until the second half of next year

The Grunt can only speculate that when Mudd saw the books he dropped a load in his pants. He probably realized that if word got out how f**ked up everything was it would cause a chain reaction in the economic landscape that would make Enron, Worldcom and all the other stock scandals look like a day at the beach.

Besides limiting the exposure of Fannie Mae’s inner workings to the public as much as humanly possible Mudd is also taking action by putting his bean counters and executives into the trenches to get the company back on track which he publicly declared.

"Fannie Mae is committed to devoting all resources necessary to complete the restatement as expeditiously as possible," the company said in a regulatory filing with the SEC reporting the delay in second-quarter results. That will include hiring about 1,500 consultants to work on the massive project this year and spending more than $420 million on auditing and legal costs, it said.

Daniel Mudd, the chief executive installed by Fannie Mae's board to replace ousted CEO Franklin Raines, said in a statement that completing the project is the "number-one corporate priority, and we are moving forward."

"We are leaving no stone unturned," Mudd said.

From what the Grunt can see, Mudd is taking the appropriate actions needed to remedy this situation. Although no further details are being released, Mudd is upfront with what is going on and is making no attempts to sugar coat that he has a potential FUBAR on his hands. However, are his efforts a day late and a dollar short?

In his column, Paul Krugman speaks of the hissing sound of the air being let out of the bubble. The Grunt's instincts tell him that hissing sound isn’t air but the fuse that has been lit to this housing market. Whether you are buying, selling or sitting this one out please watch your backs and do not ignore the red flags that have popped up. This is not the time to gamble with your finances with risky mortgages or overpriced property. Whatever deals you make, do the math and make sure it makes sense. And when in doubt, dont.

What will be the result of this housing bomb? It could just be an M80 sized pop or it could be on the scale of the Mighty Thor slamming Mjolnir into the earth. We'll find out soon enough. But don’t call this a bubble anymore.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Feel the love

This was another one the Grunt never expected. First the Inman nomination for most innovative media site, then the spot on MSNBC/Newsweek and now this. A reader nominated the Property Grunt for the Curbed Broker Boys & Babes Contest.

Property Grunt, anonymous broker/blogger ("I don't know his real name, but I know that there is a contest for leadership of The Property Grunt Fan Club. He inspires motherly, sisterly, and other genuine affection from coast to coast");

Whoever wrote this in, thank you. It's those little things that just warms the Grunt’s heart.

This is like the best summer ever.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Another Flea market gone?

Does anyone have the 411 on 688 Broadway? That is the lot that has been used as a flea market next door to Tower Records in Greenwich Village. According to the denizens of the market the owner is in negotiations who is a developer who wants to build co-ops. Rumor is the price is $15 million. The Grunt attempted to confirm this but the tenants declined to discuss it further since they were not in the best of the moods. However on a lighter note it looks like Hell's Kitchen will be getting more business.

I can’t say I am surprised since empty lots are disappearing quicker than Tara Reid’s film career.

Flea markets are considered to be transient businesses for landlords and serve as a stopgap measures till something better comes along. This is what is known in the business world as buy and hold. The fact that the flea market was there for so long indicates that the landlord was holding out for awhile and before the bubble it was more profitable to rent out the space than developing it themselves or turning it into a parking lot. The flea market appears to be on its last legs then again I was checking it out on a weekday since there was not as many booths and there was very light traffic.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Frances Flynn Thorsen leading the way for the Blogsquad

Today Inman News focused the spotlight on the real estate blog squad which will march into the National Association of Realtors conference in San Francisco this October.

Those of you who don't know our fearless leader, Frances Flynn Thorsen, has declared the mission of the blogsquad to be the following:

"We'll get behind the scenes with our laptops, cameras and camcorders and put together a daily consortium of comments," said Frances Flynn Thorsen. Thorsen, a Bethlehem, Pa., Realtor and blogger, is coordinating the effort at the NAR Realtors Conference & Expo Oct. 28-31. The blog site is

Frances has maintained the overall objective of the blogsquad is open communication.

"It's an exercise in citizen journalism," said Thorsen, who in prior incarnations worked as a reporter in New Jersey and covered conventions for a print trade publication, Paper Age Convention Daily. "It's an open forum. I don't think there is an open forum in the real estate industry now, and the blog format lends itself to that."

And you don't have to be there to participate.

"They can blog about their thoughts and reactions" to convention events, she said. "People don't have to be in San Francisco physically to talk about items of import. They can do that from anywhere in the country."

Although NAR has allowed the blogsquad to attend press briefings it seems NAR is indifferent towards their presence if you consider what NAR spokesman
Lucien Salvant's response was regarding bloggers.

Asked if his organization welcomed the bloggers, he said, "I really don't have a comment. They can do what they want."

To all of you realtors and brokers, consider this a call to arms. Break out your blogs and saddle up with the blogsquad.

A Letter to Peter Jennings

Dear Mr. Jennings,

My memories of you began as a child when I would watch you as a correspondent on ABC News when I was having dinner with my family. I always liked you since you had a presence that made me feel comfortable and allowed me to be more receptive to the news even at that age. Even as a child I was aware of your talents for bringing the news.

It was quite a tragedy when Frank Reynolds passed away from cancer. He was an esteemed newsman and I grew quite accustomed to his presence. However, when you were chosen to take the helm of World News Tonight, I was quite happy because your constant presence meant a certain soundness during my evenings. In school I learned that you were not just someone who read the telepromter but you were a force to be reckoned with. You had questions and you demanded that they be answered not just for yourself but for your viewers.

When I heard that you had cancer back in April, I was hoping that you would be making a triumphant return. Afterall you were a fighter who had risen through the ranks of the news industry without even having a college education. And World News Tonight was still being promoted with your name even in your absence. There was clearly no doubt in my mind that you would be making a comeback.

This morning I woke up to the news that you passed away. I would have liked to have met you and shaked your hand. I would have liked to have said thank you for being there for all of us during the dinner hour.

Good Morning America has been giving tributes to your life and career. As I watch I feel that I would be lucky to have even a fraction of your legacy.

You will be missed Peter Jennings.

Take care,


Sunday, August 07, 2005

Your word means nothing to me.

The Grunt was looking over Joyce Cohen's excellent Hunt Column about the Gonthas who bought a house in Staten Island. Besides learning interesting facts about Staten Island, there was one part of the article that caught the Grunt's eye regarding problems with a property they were putting an offer. Below is the excerpt.

Last fall, the couple found a lovely Victorian home on Curtis Place. The seller happened to be a real estate agent, who also showed them several other homes. But it was hers they liked the best, and the price was right. All parties agreed on $425,000.

Then, the house inspector flagged two problems: exposed asbestos in a closet, and a capped pipe in the basement floor that might have indicated a buried oil tank. The Gonthas planned to call in a specialist for a further inspection, but the seller balked.

"Maybe there was never an underground oil tank, but we didn't know and were not willing to live with that risk," Mrs. Gontha said. She worried about contamination or collapse.

"The owner got defensive and insisted it was not an oil tank," Mrs. Gontha said. "I said I would be inheriting this problem and needed to be aware of what I was getting myself into. She kept saying, 'Take my word, it's O.K.' "

Neither side would budge. "I needed someone certified in this line of work to tell me it's O.K., and if it isn't O.K. I need to know how much it is going to cost to correct the problem," Mrs. Gontha said. "She couldn't understand why it was so important to get this done." She rescinded the offer.

I want to applaud the Gonthas for keeping their heads on and not letting their emotions run wild. Although they fell in love with the house they were willing to walk away from the deal because their concerns were not being addressed.

Having asbestos in the closet is bad but an underground oil tank that is in poor shape can be just as bad even worse.

So why did the owner prevent the Gonthas from doing an inspection?

The Grunt has thought up of two reasons.

1. The owner is a real estate agent and knew the rules of the game. If the Gonthas had done an inspection and it turned out that the tank was on the verge of contaminating the whole property then the Gonthas could use that as leverage and rightly so against the owner to get a lower price for the house to compensate for the cleanup or have the owner be responsible for the cleanup.

2. If word got around that the property had a defective oil tank then there was also a chance the Gonthas would pull out and no buyers would touch that place with a ten foot pole until the owner had the tank removed or cleaned which would cost the owner money.

What it all comes down to is that the owner was excercising CYA. By preventing any confirmation of the oil tank's real condition and assuring the Gonthas that there was no problem the owner was preventing any further costs from incurring on their end and if there was a problem it would only be discovered after the closing leaving the seller clear of any damages. So by giving the Gonthas their word that the tank was fine and taking advantage of the seller's market the owner was playing a game of high stakes poker with the future of the Gonthas in the pot. The Gonthas simply folded and walked away from the table.

The Gonthas may have ended up paying a higher price for another home on a different street however it is in my opinion they did the right thing and protected themselves for the long run.

People, never, ever prevent anyone from doing your due diligence. Something as serious as an underground oil tank needs to be inspected because if something goes wrong its on your head. I don't care if it is the Pope himself giving his word. You need to get the right people to do the inspections and verify the conditions of the property. Once you buy a property, that's it. You are the one responsible for its maintenence and if there is something wrong with it that you didn't know about when you bought it. Well, TS!

Friday, August 05, 2005

RED ALERT: Beware of Craigslist scam!

I found this out from Curbed reagarding a very brazen and stupid scam that has ripped off the layout of the craigslist site. This is the response from Craig's blog.

August 03, 2005
SCAM: site faking craigslist
Just to let people know in a hurry, the site

has no relation to us, and we're escalating dramatically now.

Please get the word out.


Obviously someone hasn't been reading the Property Grunt because if they were they
would have read my entry on Craigslist and know Craig will end you if you mess with his site.

It is too damn hot and humid for this type of stupidity. We are all very cranky and tired. Please, I implore you good people, let's chill out, take it easy. Don't do anything stupid like stand in front of the subway doors blocking people from moving. Or spreading your legs when you are sitting down on the train thereby taking up all the room in the seat.

Let's exercise some courtesy and understanding and avoid compounding our mutual aggravtation. For those of you hitting the open house trail this weekend, bring water with you and try to be on time for the open houses. If you miss them, just shrug it off and go home. Life is just too short to get angry.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Summer Slowdown

Record sales? My broker must not be doing a good job as our open house traffic has been anemic. They hardly show the apt during the week. I have a great 1 bdrm in the east 70's and its not moving after 2 months--Is it our broker or the summer. I think its time to take it off the market till after labor day. what do you think?

This was a comment from a reader on my entry on the record sales in June. This is my response.

Dear Reader,

I can only imagine your frustration regarding your current situation. Before I propose any solutions I would like you to first take a couple of deep breaths, have an aperitif, a hot bath or anything to get you relaxed. Because selling an apartment is stressful as it is and there is no reason to compound it.

First of all I am going give your broker the benefit of the doubt that he or she has been doing the best job they can by having open houses and showing as much as your broker can. The most horrible thing about being a broker is that you do everything you are supposed to do and the end result is nothing.

The sale of an apartment is a linear model where the seller puts it on the market; a buyer sees it and then purchases it. Unfortunately the reality doesn’t always follow the model.

There are many reasons why you have not received an offer, which I will present to you.

1. You are quite correct about the summer. The traffic is usually a lot lighter because many customers are out of town during the weekends and families are on vacation. A significant amount of agents do not even attempt open houses because they feel the clientele they will attract will not be as motivated or the small amount of people that do come does not justify the time and cost of an open house. However many brokers still do open houses during the summer because their gut instinct tells them that out of the dozens of buyers who are still looking there is one buyer how will fall in love with the apartment and buy it. Bottom line you have to show if you want to sell.

2. Is your apartment priced properly for what it offers? Did you do the comps for your building? Did your broker present a list of apartments that have sold or are on the market that are similar to your apartment? The comps of closed sales are now far and few due to the lack of inventory on the market but if your agent did their job they should have presented you with as much information as possible allowing you to make an informed decision. If an apartment isn’t priced properly it will not sell.

3. Why do you say your apartment is great? What attributes do you feel justify the cost? Are these attributes being marketed? More importantly are these features attractive to buyers? If these attractive elements are not properly marketed that could be a reason why your apartment has not received any offers. If you are marketing attributes that are your own taste it might be in conflict with the tastes of others. The best way to see if you are on the right track is to see any one bedrooms in your building that have recently sold and see how they are presented on the market.

4. You state your location is in the east 70’s. Where exactly? Are you on Third Ave a block away from the 77th street subway station? Or are you all the way in the boonies by York? Are you above a bar? Do you get a lot of street noise? Those are also factors that may be limiting the amount of traffic coming to your apartment.

Now you have two options assuming that you still want to sell.

Option 1 Keep showing

If you decide to take this option you should definitely have a sit down with your broker and discuss the situation. During this sit down you will be tempted to put your foot up your broker’s ass and if you have a good broker he or she will embrace their BOHICA. (Bend Over Here It Comes Again). Part of the broker's job is to take as much abuse as possible from their sellers. Afterall they act as the buffer. However please be aware all these factors that I have presented are out of their control. So even though it may feel good to provide negative stimulus it may not accomplish the desired objective.

With your broker you should evaluate your current strategy and try to figure out what is not working. You should ask them how often they are marketing the apartment, check their web ad and if they are using the New York Times. Also ask if they are a member of REBNY. By being a member of REBNY your apartment would be listed in their database, which would expose it to the majority of brokers in Manhattan. Also field any suggestions from your broker to improve the apartment. You might even consider a price reduction.

Once you have formulated a new strategy, you should make the effort to keep on showing and exercise patience. This is not an instantaneous process therefore you must rid yourself of any delusions of instant gratification.

I am assuming that you signed an exclusive agreement; hopefully there is an exit clause. I mention this because if you feel that your broker is not fulfilling their duties you may want to change brokers. If there is no exit clause you can just wait for it to expire. I feel that this should be a last resort because it means you have to start the whole process over again. As I have stated before I am going to give your broker the benefit of the doubt because if he or she wants to make money that apartment needs to be shown in order to sell. Hopefully they are doing everything in their power to sell your apartment.

The second option: Take the apartment off the market.
One of the setbacks of having an apartment on the market too long is that it gives the impression that it is undesirable and often buyers will attempt to use that as leverage in negotiation. If you make the decision to do that I highly recommend you do a walk around of your apartment and determine what improvements need to be made. A fresh coat of paint, some light bulbs and some air freshener will do wonders for an apartment. You should consider rearranging your furniture or even getting new furniture.

I know it may sound extreme but you have to remember that when you put your property back on the market the buyers especially the ones who are repeat visitors are going to be expecting some type of rebirth. It also helps your broker because he or she can tell customers how you redid everything creating more credibility for yourself and your broker.

As I have stated before you also might consider a change in price whether it is an increase or reduction. But that is entirely up to you and I recommend that you consult your broker about this matter.

Treat your apartment like a bride treats her wedding dress. Make it a pristine and holy shrine that everyone will come to worship.

I leave you with this one thought from Buddha:

“Our life is shaped by our mind for we become what we think.”

Good luck.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Compatibility: Looking for the Reeses Peanut Butter Cup in Real Estate

In a past entry the Grunt presented his take on the suburban market which led to a discussion from readers about the market. The Grunt would like to take this moment to discuss the concept of real estate compatibility in association with the suburbs.

Compatibility should be on the mind of any successful real estate owner/investor. They have to be on the watch for anything on the horizon that is compatible with their property since it only serves to enhances the value of your property. For instance if you are looking for a residential investment in Manhattan nearby subway station would be quite compatible for your property. One also should also be on the look out for incompatibility. For instance a crack house would be most incompatible with any real estate investment and would have a higher chance of devaluing it. Another example of incompatibility would my next door neighbors who have no concept of volume control on their stereo system and have a need to play the bass at ass shaking levels in hopes of turning their drab existence of an apartment into a club that they are unable to afford to go to. These tenants would be incompatible with certain real estate investments particularly any of mine.

I bring up compatibility because of a segment that was aired on Fox 5 news about a homeless shelter being moved to Valhalla in Westchester County which was originally located at the Westchester County Airport. According to this article the residents are none too pleased particularly with the level 3 sex offenders that will be residing in the shelter.

A homeless shelter, especially one that houses level 3 sex offenders, is definitely incompatible with real estate investments particularly residential homes. Let's face it, the last thing you want on your mind is that there is somebody in your town who intends to reenact the last Michael Jackson Trial with your kids.

If you want to avoid these types of situations you have be aware of your own compatibility issues. Is living in a town with a homeless shelter that also houses sex offender something you are comfortable with? What is your threshold? Some people can deal with it and others can't even stand the thought of a homeless shelter in the next town over. Then you must take the iniative that wheverever you live that your environment is compatible to your needs.

Valhalla does have an interesting dynamic of industries including the Westchester Medical Center, New York Medical College and the Westchester County jail, which exist harmoniously. Perhaps its unique adaptability was what made it such a promising candidate for Westchester County.

The Grunt is quite sympathetic to the Valhalla residents’ plight and to Westchester County. I am sure this was not an easy decision to make but it had to be done since there is a need for a shelter because of the small yet signifigant number of homeless people in the area and it needs to be addressed.

A homeless shelter is par for the course in the city but in the suburbs it is considered an ananomly since people migrating to the suburbs are fleeing from that type of element. I am sure many former urban dwellers were shocked to hear these institutions exist in suburbs particularly the newcomers.

The dream of suburbia is to raise your children and live in peace and tranquility of the clean air, grass and your own private roof over your head without having to deal with the hazards associated with the city including drug dealers, noise and menus shoved under your doors.

Never, ever make the assumption that things are different in the suburbs. Urban blight can manifest itself in different ways in the land of lawns, backyard barbecues, clean air and Erma Bombeck. All you need to do is take a look at Valhalla to see underneath the veneer of the surburban garden of eden there slithers the snake of social problems that need to be resolved.

Whoa! MSNBC!

The Property Grunt has been featured on the MSNBC/MSN/Newsweek Blogwatch.

I learned very quickly that real estate has way of humbling even the proudest man. Its moments like these that I can reflect that on my accomplishments. Besides, I just loooove the attention.