Property Grunt

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cleaning out the house

Due to swine flu and my paranoia, I am going to be doing more activities around my apartment. In other words I am throwing crap out.

I am probably one of the most disorganized person in the world and what cripples me most is paper. Since I was young, I have never been able to properly organize my papers and any attempts to organize results in a reject from a Red Grooms exhibit.

The problem is that I procrastinate. Whenever I get any of document, I put it aside or shove it in my filing cabinet where it accumulates over time. Then when I need something I open it up and I am like holy s**t where did this mess come from?

Unfortunately, paper plays a key role in real estate and it can be rather maddening if you are not organized.

The optimal strategy is to attack. Do not take any piece of paper for granted. Either file it away or toss it. I am a lazy person, so I am in the process of creating the laziest filing system that I can make. Right now it consists of 12 hanging file folders for each month of the year.

I am going to be hanging out at the Container Store looking for all types of boxes to store stuff away. I hate this, I really do. I mean I feel like this is a waste of my time and it is so boring. But I can't deal with this anymore. I can't deal with scraps of paper and other things that I have never used. It is not just the physical clutter but also the mental and spiritual suckage that is created with all of this crap.

Not to be morbid, but I have been thinking about my mortality and if God forbid the unthinkable happens, I want my family to be able to retrieve whatever they need from my hope with the greatest of ease. I think they would also be annoyed if they had to go through all this crap looking for important documents.

The other worst case scenario is that I need to bug out, get out of the city. Apart from having my belongings in boxes (which I have done before, I do not recommend it. Either you are living there or leaving there, not both.) I want to be able to packmy s**t lickity split and leave. That can be only executed with proper organization.

I am a failure at all of this and I realize it is due to three reasons.

1. I am overwhelmed by the project at hand due to the immense size of what needs to be done. That is easyily solved by not doing everything at once and focusing on only one thing. Once I accomplish that I move onto to the next assignment.

2. Once organizing I do not consistently maintain my system. That means I have to start this cycle all over again.

3. I don't throw s**t out. I have stuff that I have kept that I have been holding on for quite awhile because I feel I will be needing it in the near future. You know what? So far the near future hasn't banged on my f**king door screaming "Dude! Where are those you have been holding onto for the past 5 years? This is it! The moment has arrived and you better whipped that s**t out!" So I am tossing s**t that has no use.

Here's an example

I received this in the mail from some financial firm stating that they could bring me great wealth if I showed up for a free lunch that was being hosted by Bruce Beck. I thought it was hilarious because I am thinking to myself what the f**k does Bruce Beck know about investing? Unless he is talking about buying a sports franchise, he is not the first guy I think when it comes to financial advice. Why is he doing this? Does he need the money? Or is Bruce Beck some type of secret financial guru that we have never known about? I have no f**king clue. What I think what happened is that this company needed to genearate some leads so they send out these invites for a free lunch and a meet and greet with a sportscaster. Bruce Beck's agent probably told him it might be two hours of your time but you will get a nice chunk change to put towards your retirement. Nothing wrong with that. In fact I like Bruce Beck better than the other guy.

But I thought it was hilarious since it was an indication of how f**ked things are when financial services are desperately grasping at straws to drum up business. And how the Yale Club is whoring itself to anyone who can pay their bills.

So right now these are two blogs in one regarding cleaning up and Bruce Beck. Why? Because I know that if I do not write about Bruce Beck, that piece of paper is going to be lying around for another six months until I find it again, then I will debate to throw it out since I have not used as material for a blog entry. So I am getting this s**t out of the way.

So my objective now is establish a simple system of organization which I will maintain on daily basis and throw s**t out that I do not need. so I do not have to go through the f**king trauma of cursing myself as I look for documents that were needed 3 days ago.

I will check with you all next year on how that works out.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Random Chatter

I had my Sunday all planned which consisted of working out and making some trips. I didn't even get to work out when I was regurgitating reconstituted frozen onion rings from America's Choice that I had eaten the night before.

So I have spent the past two days laying in my bed while my stomach reenacted ''Das Rheingold" while subsisting on a diet to pepto bismol, gatorade, ginger ale and white rice and remen noodles.

I am feeling much better and after a night of rest I think I will be ready to go. So as far as I know this is not swine flu because I figured if it was I would be in worse shape. However, I did put my time to use putting my ear to the ground.

MBA students are learning very quickly that trying to find an internship in this market is like spelunking in Rosie O'Donnell's cavernous nether regions. It is just eternal darkness. From what I hear it they might be better off taking some classes over the summer.

Although this is no big surprise to anyone, I got further confirmation that a well known investing banking firm that is having a really s**ty year( yeah, which one,) that things are really s**ty for everyone in that company. Even with the TARP money, it would not surprise me if they were to be absorbed by another bank.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sassy Sliders

I was on the Upper West side last Friday when I spotted something that was not unexpected in this economy but still sad nonetheless.

Sassy Slider is no more. My first introduction to these wonderful snacks was over ten years ago when they were located in the east village. I was annoyed when they moved to the Upper West Side, however when I was in the area I always made an effort to get a couple of their vegetarian sliders and fries. Now they are no more.

At least Grays is doing well. It appears that cheap hot dogs are the eats of choice during a depression.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Depressed but aware and a shout to Ali Rogers

I love Bloom County

One of the great comic strips of our time is Bloom County. One particular feature was the Anxiety closet Michael Binkley where his fears manifested by walking out of the closet. One particular strip two economists showed up and he begged them that whatever they do do not discuss the economy his words went unheeded because that is what they did. I wish I could find that strip because it relates to an article on Recessionwire

Harvard Economic Historian Says, ‘We’re in a depression’

After the debate, attendees had the chance to ask questions of their own. One audience member asked when the Recession would be over. For the first time during the evening, the two men largely agreed.

Ferguson took the question first. “We’re not in a recession,” he said. “We’re in a depression. I would say it’s a slight depression, rather than a Great Depression, but we’re looking at five years of subprime growth.” As the audience reeled from this announcement, Madrick commented that while he was not in the business of making predictions, he agreed with Ferguson that we were in for a long, tough road. “There are major obstacles to recovery,” said Madrick.

There’s been a lot of rosy talk about recovery lately, so it was a bit of a shock to hear these gloomy forecasts. Ferguson said that he, too, got excited everytime Jim Cramer (of CNBC’s Mad Money) came out with happy predictions about the economy - but so far, he wasn’t buying it.

From my understanding economists rarely agree and this is one of the instances that they do. Which makes this article very significant.

Honestly, I am not freaked out by this. In fact, I am relieved because I know where I stand which means I can determine the proper strategy to be more successful in life. It is similar to learning that the wailing horn is warning you of a tornado and not some person's car alarm. Because now whatever comes our way will not be a surprise.

Ali asked me to post a link of her's last week which I did not do because I am lazy. So I am going to do her one better and post 3 of her links.

A Peek Inside Madonna’s $40 Million Townhouse

Are 1 in 9 U.S. Homes Really Vacant?

Is It Legal to Advertise for a Gay Roommate?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Goldmine

I received the following press release from Kelly Kreth.


--Unique Platform Offers Online and In-Person Bidding on Residential and Commercial Properties Worldwide in Real Time—

New York, NY, April 20, 2009 –, [BOTC], the first online real estate trading platform for Manhattan residential and commercial real estate properties, launches today in Manhattan. offers a unique way to buy and sell Manhattan residential and commercial properties. There are many advantages for sellers, buyers and brokers to using this innovative technique.

BOTC offers many distinct advantages to sellers, including:

· A free detailed property analysis with comparable sales, a recommended starting bid price, a local and international marketing schedule and an open house schedule, within 90 minutes of their request;

· A finite, much shorter than average, 30-day on-the-market cycle;

· Sellers pre-sign a contract prior to listing their property making the transaction transparent and making the sale certain if there is a qualified buyer;

· Marketing of properties locally, nationally and internationally, utilizing print, digital and broadcast media;

· Access to a database of pre-screened and qualified buyers from around the world.

· The highest accepted bid will be awarded the contract for sale and within three hours the contract and the closing schedule will be delivered;

· Sellers pay nothing if the property is not sold.

· Sellers pay 3% if property is sold, which is significantly lower than others charge.

By buying residential and commercial properties through BOTC, buyers are benefitted by getting a transparent process, the best prices, and the most comprehensive information about each listing.

BOTC also allows brokers to list and sell their exclusive properties through the platform.

Thirty days after a property is listed, buyers bid in real time on BOTC’s platform to negotiate the best possible price. Bidding takes place simultaneously online and in person at BOTC’s Manhattan ground-level, bidding center located at 226 Fifth Avenue . The bidding is broadcasted live around the globe.

BOTC’s operations are overseen by two Manhattan real estate professionals with more than 25 years of combined years of experience: Albert Feinstein, managing director and Vlad Sapozhnikov, executive director, residential sales.

“Lately, in this market, sellers haven’t been able to sell their properties because buyers are unsure if they can find a property of their choice and get the best possible deal. After almost two years of development, we created the platform to offer sellers and buyers the most innovative and certain approach to selling and buying Manhattan premium residential and commercial real estate,” explains Feinstein.

“Having worked in residential sales in Manhattan for many years and having been the top sales person for many buildings, I realized that a standard brokerage approach no longer works in this type of economy,” comments Sapozhnikov. “There is a need for much more dynamic and technologically-advanced tools to sell and buy on Manhattan , so we created as a type of “E-Trade” for real estate.”

BOTC’s cutting-edge platform includes three major components: listing engine, bidding engine and video broadcasting. The price negotiation engine was designed and developed by, the leading real estate data provider.

“I believe that’s price negotiation engine is by far the most sophisticated and advanced technology that is available on the market today,” says Matthew Haines, founder,

About is the first online real estate trading platform created to sell and buy Manhattan residential and commercial real estate properties. pre-negotiates the best prices and contract terms and affords sellers a short listing agreement, lower commissions, an exceptional marketing campaign, and access to qualified buyers from around the world. The finite, 30-day process, culminates in a bidding event where’s state-of-the-art platform allows buyers to negotiate the best possible prices online and in person. Bidonthecity’s price negotiation engine has been designed and engineered by, the leading real estate online datacenter.

I first heard about Bid on the City from NYT and as I have stated in previous entries this is a sign of things to come where broker services are being outsourced.

When you take away the bells and whistles, a real estate sales transaction is an auction. A seller puts out a price, the buyers put in their offers. It is either deal or no deal.

With the real estate market tanking the way it is, buyers and sellers are more open to other options.

Do I think this is the end of the real estate brokerage business? No. But I do think it will take a huge chunk out of their bottom line. Bid on the City will not be the only game in town because there is no barrier of entry to their business model. You do not need to be Ebay to create an auction site, all you need is a little cash, outsource the programming to India and you are good to go.

If Bid on the City were to fall there be will ten other sites to take its place. In fact it would not surprise me that a lot of people are watching this very closely to see how this develops. What makes this so lucrative is that the operating costs are much lower than running a traditional real estate brokerage. The minimum capital outlays consist of getting a domain name and a laptop. Even if a real estate auction site makes a fraction of the deals that the big real estate brokerages do, they will still be ahead because their overhead is so low.

The profitability potential of these real estate auctions is enormours and as it becomes more popular I would not be surprised to see Corcoran and other brokerages exploring the option of implementing an auction department within their infrastructure.

The real winner in this is Kelly Kreth. Because of her presence in the real estate community and the unique service that she offers in establishing brand recognition, there will many a company kicking down her for her help.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Parents and Patience

As I have gotten older, I have become more fonder and more grateful of my parents. It is not just the news reports of people facing hard times but from my own personal experience of seeing others that I know who are in dire straits.

Which brings me to Joyce Cohen's lateset edition of the Hunt.

I knew I was going to like this Hunt when I read the following

LIVING at home with Mom and Dad at age 34? Oh, the indignity.

All he could think, Quamin Ellis said, was, “I can’t do this — I’m an adult.”

But it was even more unacceptable to pay rent. So Mr. Ellis opted for delayed gratification. If he had to return to the parental nest, he would, holding out until he could again buy an apartment.

After graduating from the State University at Albany,
Mr. Ellis returned to his childhood home — a brownstone in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn, where his parents had reared four children — and landed a job in the field of legal publishing.

Quamnin graduated from a SUNY. That is awesome. The SUNY schools are best deals in town. It is added value galore since they are such great schools and their costs are so low. Even the application kicks ass.

I would like to present the following points of interest.

Two years later, in 1998, his father, a geriatrician, suggested he buy a place. So he did, with his father’s help — a 750-square-foot two-bedroom condominium for $87,000 in Prospect Heights.

He lived there for five years, first with a boyfriend and then alone. When he lost his job, he rented out the condo and moved back home. “Mom and Dad are my base,” he said. “When things go wrong, I can pop back over there.”

He then lived in Chelsea with a boyfriend, decided to indulge his interest in style and attended beauty school at the Aveda Institute. He is now a hairdresser for Bumble and bumble.

When his relationship ended, Mr. Ellis again returned to the parental nest, lacking the time and resources to find another place to live.

“I always intended to go back to my apartment in Prospect Heights,” he said. “I made a home of it and was superattached to it, but I couldn’t afford to keep it.”

For more than a year, he inhabited his childhood bedroom. His sister returned, too, along with her baby boy.

“I wasn’t used to being there with another adult sibling,” he said. “You think it’s bad as kids!” His nephew, adorable though he was, awakened every morning “screaming like a banshee.”

Mr. Ellis’s plan was to sell the condo and buy a smaller place for himself in the city. Last spring, he listed the unit with a friend, Jeff Gardner, an agent at the Corcoran Group, and requested that Mr. Gardner find him a new home.

The condo sold in the fall for $455,000. “It was totally sick and insane,” Mr. Ellis said, referring to his profit. He credited his father for suggesting that he buy a decade before, and himself for having no reason to disagree.

Quamnin was smart by not only listening to his father and buying an apartment he also showed he could put aside his pride by renting out his condo and moving back home. not once, not twice but three times. In the end it all paid off for him.

That one already had an accepted offer of $399,000. “The quality of everything was a notch below what you would expect, but it was a part of the education process,” Mr. Gardner said. “Quamin hadn’t really come to terms with what he could afford and had this idea he would be living downtown, but I said, ‘You have to be realistic — here is what $399,000 buys, and you don’t have $399,000.’ ”

Midtown it would be. “In the end, financials win out over location, as they often do,” said Mr. Gardner, whom Mr. Ellis termed “the voice of reason.”

Mr. Ellis bought his apartment — the Addison Hall studio that he liked — for the asking price, $299,000. (It was originally listed last spring for $359,000.) Monthly maintenance is $642. The board interview was informal, with one person meeting him at the Holiday Inn across the street.

With the market softening, “sellers couldn’t ask for the moon,” Mr. Ellis said. “That really worked in my favor. We had genius, genius, genius timing.”

Mr. Ellis moved in February, along with his affectionate cat, Misstress. He wouldn’t mind new kitchen cabinets and a redone bathroom, but is content for now. To his surprise, he loves his new Midtown West neighborhood. “The irony is, this was not even on my radar,” he said. “I had no idea.”

His parents are glad, in large part, that he is out on his own, he said. “I definitely miss them,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get home for Sunday dinner every week.”

Quamnin was willing set aside his emotions and focus on the numbers that he wanted. In time the market did correlate to his requirements. It took a while but he was able to pull it off. Yes, he lives in midtown and the location does not have the sexy factor of the West Village but Quamnin got that apartment for a steal. In the long term, he will make a profit when the housing kicks back up. Which won't be for awhile, however he is in a very good position since he bought at such a low price. The worst case scenario is that he has to move in with his parents again.

What Quamnin has done all his life is called living below your means. In the world of business that is called keeping your operating costs as low as possible.

It wasn't just luck that Quamnin was able to reap the benefits of this series events. By listening to his parents and exhibiting a huge amount of patience


Thursday, April 16, 2009


I know this has nothing to do with real estate but the next three articles can’t be ignored.

I started playing violin when I started kindergarten, I was with the same violin teacher till I was in Junior High school when I decided to quit. I had a rather rocky relationship with the 4 stringed instrument of death and I was glad to have quit although I still played in the Junior high and high school orchestra.

But I still respect the instrument and will find myself tossing a quarter to a Busker with a Stradivarius.

Which brings me to this article

At an Age for Music and Dreams, Real Life Intrudes

At an Age for Music and Dreams, Real Life Intrudes

Two days before their long-awaited trip to New York City, for many of them a foreign place, the members of the Newark High School Sinfonia noisily gather for rehearsal. The cacophony ends when the first of the first violinists, the best violinist, stands to lead others in tuning to an A.

Her name is Tiffany Clay and she is 18, with light brown hair tied in a ponytail and large eyes that always seem at the edge of tears. She has been on her own, more or less, since she was 16, and the violin in her delicate hands was bought for $175 on eBay by her music teacher.

She is a complicated young woman, says that teacher, and a gifted musician. Consistently at or near the very top of her class. Should be going to a top college, on scholarship. Should be, but won’t be, because she feels a need to make money more than music.
Ms. Clay is a child of her age and place, worried about being laid off, uninterested in and maybe even afraid of imagining a life beyond central Ohio. Newark is what she knows: a pleasant, bifurcated city of 45,000, where concerns about unemployment temper the pride in local public art, and where affluence and poverty sit side-by-side in the classroom.
She once explored the idea of going away to college to become a music teacher. But it just didn’t seem practical: spending four years studying the theory of music, which doesn’t interest her, while here in Newark, the school system is constantly adapting to real and threatened cuts.

Music programs always seem among the first to go, she says. No job security in Tchaikovsky.
This is a hard working young girl who has gone beyond showing promise she is a f**king prodigy. And it is a miracle she has gotten this far in her life.

The short life story Ms. Clay tells is of an adulthood come too soon, of parents splitting up when she was young, of a mother gone to another city, of a father, an electrician, dogged by employment uncertainties. She and her father clashed so often, she says, that she moved out at 16, got a job and tried to figure out life — rent, work, school, some health issues — on her own.

She returned after a year but left again several months later, for good, though she is in touch with her parents, and talks often of wanting to be around in case they ever need her.

While working full time at the Sonic, she has also maintained superior grades, taken several Advanced Placement courses and distanced herself from classmates. She bristles when some of them talk of what they have spent at the Easton Town Center mall — “That’s a month’s rent,” she wants to say — but at the same time she admits to feeling jealous: “I want — that!”

Now wearing a yellow Sonic golf shirt and a Tiffany C. nameplate, Ms. Clay leaves to make $7.35 an hour, plus tips; it will be a long night. “Kids are in school during the week,” she explains. “They leave at 9, and I stay until after 11.”

Soon she is gliding on roller skates beneath neon reds and yellows that grow more garish as dusk descends. Spinning, speeding, stopping with effortless grace, she balances plastic trays of sweet and greasy food with those delicate hands. Her mastery of yet another world, this Sonic world, means she is again employee of the month, entitling her to a month of free meals.

Ms. Clay comes from a broken home and has to work at a Sonic to make ends meet. She is employee of the month not because she wants to be the best because she does not want to starve.

With adversity like this, it would have been understandable if she threw in the towel and just settled for whatever came her way, but she did not. With the help of some very generous people she went forward to bloom.

Now at a cross roads, she is looking at nursing, nothing wrong with that, as a career rather than music. Money is on her mind and considering her background, I can’t begrudge for thinking like that.

Whatever Ms. Clay chooses my hope is that she is happy. She serves an example of overcoming adversity and the status quo

By now everyone has heard of this little con artist. IF you haven't, read the links below.

Hipster Grifter Guilty of Conning Fellow Hipsters

Hipster Grifter Kari Ferrell's Victims Speak Out!

Stories about her rolling all over the place about all sorts of illegal douchebaggery. From what I understand her home was a little better than Ms. Clay’s, yet here she is on her way in being profiled on America’s Most Wanted.

I have no sympathy for this young lady. She could have bettered herself without acting this manner but she chose to walk this path.

Although I am not a big fan of grifters I have to give them a grudging respect in how they play the game however how Kari conducted herself was neither clever nor original. I think Angelica Huston would beat her with a chair out of principle.

Also it is beyond low to claim you have cancer in order to take advantage of others.

This is from SushmitaCaepio from Gawker

Ironically enough...
I do have cancer.
I've been battling it off, and on, for the past 5 years. When it is in remission, I have a normal life. When it flares back up, I am effing miserable.

I have a great employer who understands that when I'm healthy, that I will give my all, and when I'm sick, I give what I can. I've survived a few rounds of layoffs, and I'm generally well accepted within my peers.

I've refused to let my wife, or anyone else take pictures of me when I'm in the hospital. I don't mind it if people come and visit me, but, I don't want their sympathy -- I want their well-wishes.

People who abuse, and scam the system like that make me sick.

Turn yourself in Kari, nothing good will come out of you dragging this out. At least in jail you will find the resources you need to straighten yourself out. The road to redemption will be long and hard but you are still young enough weather the storm.

Now the following is an injustice beyond words.

High School Cheer Coach Fired After Posing Nude

She posed nude and now is out of a job. CBS13 went to Casa Robles High School to find out about the cheerleading coach turned Playboy centerfold.

"The girls are supposed to look up their coaches," says one concerned parent.

She bared all, all over the internet. Casa Robles High School officials in Orangevale confirm with CBS13 that their girl's cheerleading coach, Carlie Christine, was the one who posed nude in a playboy centerfold.

Christine is also Playboy's 'cyber girl of the week.'

For obvious reasons we can only show a few of many provocative poses from Playboy.

Parents and some students, who did not want to be identified, exposed the coach to school officials after rumors started slowly getting out that she had posed nude.

"I think it's unacceptable. It's not fair," says Jamye Curtis.

What apparently uncovered the coach was when some girls didn't make the cheerleading squad because they had a few unexcused absences from school. Their parents then made copies of Christine and dropped the pictures on the principal's desk.

Christine was then fired from her position at Casa Robles High School.

"And I was in shock that I knew the girls had seen it and knew about it," a parent told CBS13.

A lot of parents and faculty are talking and looking.

It is a damn good thing that I am not a student of this high school because I would put flamethrower to this place. Wracked with puberty and hormones, my fifteen year old body be gathering up spear and shield to hunt down the stupid wenches who outed Carlie Christine.

What pisses me off is that Carlie Christine did not do anything illegal. She was not doing drugs, banging freshman boys or engaging in any conduct unbecoming of a teacher. She posed naked for playboy. Oh s**t that is scandal. In an age where people send sexual acts through PDAs and make sex tapes on a daily baiss, what she did on her own personal time was tame in comparison.

Carlie Christine was outed because she did her job. Those stupid harpies were not allowed on the cheer squad because of unexcused absences. Apparently facing the consequences of your actions is not a popular topic among the families of these girls. Instead of sucking it up they decided to take it out on Carlie.

The school administration are a bunch of f**ktards. Having Carlie Christine would have been a gold mine. Student attendance would have shot through the roof, cheer leading would have been extremely popular. That type of popularity gets you more tax money and in this economy every school is scrounging for money. All they have done now is increase the rate of blue balls amongst the male population.

All kidding aside, those girls who ratted their coach out are so uncool for what they did. In fact it would not surprise me if they are stigmatized by the rest of the student body. By posing in Playboy, Carlie became one of the faculty members with street cred. Those girls are going to be spending many a lonely weekend gorging on Ben and Jerry's and watch DVDs of Sex and the City.

I hope Carlie sues and gets a fat settlement. She deserves at least that for losing her pension.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

You know the drill

Send them out or file an extension. One or the other.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ali Rogers

Ali Rogers is on the rise.

Last Thursday I was perusing Inman and looking over Ali Rogers Real Estate Rookie Column which I discovered was her last column for Inman

Inman News
'Rookie' no more: a farewell
Diary of a Real Estate Rookie

By Alison Rogers | April 7, 2009

Inman News
When I had been a journalist for about 15 years, I got hired to launch a new Saturday section at the New York Post, one that would be entirely about real estate.

With the help of my deputy Andy Wang and a really talented team of people, we created something that was part sports section, part personal finance advice, and part dream-home catalog. The section was new and different, and sales of the Saturday paper shot up. For two years I covered real estate so closely that I lived and breathed it, and that changed my outlook.

I thought of people's life stories in terms of the buildings that they lived in, or could possibly live in. As I put it at the time, "When you have a hammer, everything looks like a house."

Then I just couldn't do it anymore. You try working on the same thing over 100 times and tell me how much passion you have left. Besides, I was pretty jealous of the people I was covering, glamorous super-brokers who wore fancy suits and made millions. I decided that I wanted to quit, and right around that time I had dinner with Brad Inman.

To those of you who read Inman News without having a mental picture of Brad, let me say this: he is courtly and fast and funny all at the same time. If his intentions were ill, you'd have to watch your wallet, but since his intentions are good ... well, I ended up working -- let's see -- six Real Estate Connect conferences and writing a column for him.

The idea was that the column would be called "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie," because a similar column had been written for Inman News once before, and been popular, but the writer had ended up quitting real estate.

The way Brad explained it, I would just have to do the things I was doing in real estate, and tell my stories once a week, and hopefully not quit.

I guess I got the not quitting part right. At the beginning, everything else went wrong: I had trouble investing and terrible clients and tripped over my own feet. But every now and then I had a win. My first year in real estate was my first year of marriage, so I would write about fighting with my darling husband Ivan and then ask him to copy-edit it.

There were weeks when the column was all I had. At the beginning it was a sorely needed paycheck, and at the end it was a way to be emotionally connected to other people who did what I did and loved what I loved, in a world where it felt like, well, most people revile real estate agents.

As time went on, the column gained fans -- and to everyone who ever wrote me, thank you -- and then became a book of the same name which got kudos in Newsweek. Thank you Karen Murphy and Matt Wagner -- you changed my life. My real estate career grew too, to the point where I suddenly knew how to do stuff, and the wins started coming a little more often.

In fact, I haven't quite been a "rookie" for some time now. This is column 183, which means I've been writing it for nearly four years, during which time I've worked with people from Boca Raton and Dallas and Hollywood and Norway, and gotten them all housed.

I've gotten some big paychecks and I've lost some big paychecks -- I refer to the afternoon where I missed a $4 million deal as "the $150,000 Mets game" -- but maybe now it's time to graduate. I intend to keep writing (you can find me doing some blogging about real estate for CBS Interactive) but I'm not going to tell any Rookie stories for a little while.

I do, however, want to say thank you: Thank you Brad (and the Inman News crew).

And thank you readers: we know that you have a choice of airlines and thank you for flying "Rookie."

In return, I'd like to try to give you some words to live by out there in the real estate jungle. The words in my head are kind of funny and sad and smart all at once, which I know is confusing, but maybe you'll let me get away with it, just this time:

* The clients that you get most excited about are the ones you do the best job for.
* You know when you're doing the right thing; it's not an SAT test.
* Not every time is a good time to buy or sell a house. There are some really awful times to buy and sell houses, and if you call 'em that when you see 'em, your clients are more likely to be loyal when you call the good times.
* Two heads are more enthusiastic than one.
* You can convert nonbelievers into ordinary customers, and ordinary customers into referrers, but you can't make nonbelievers into referrers. Find them the perfect house, turn water into wine -- on their next transaction they're still for-sale-by-owners.
* If my mother had called "stand up straight" the "Law of Attraction," she would have made a lot of money.
* Don't forget Fran Leibowitz's motto: "You're only as good as your last haircut."
* New technology is incomprehensible, but you have to try.
* To quote Matthew Haines, the founder of, "data is not brokerage." Knowledge adds value. Expertise adds value. And so, for that matter, does joy.
* The faster you send a thank-you note, the easier it is to write it. I'm not one of those sorority girls who pre-writes her thank-you notes before she goes out for the evening, but I wish I were.
* From Gil, my sponsoring broker: "People don't change. Easy customers stay easy and tough customers stay tough." Corollary: Really mean and crazy people are mean and crazy to everyone, not just you.
* No one needs to see 100 properties to decide what to buy. Let the alarm bells go off after the first 10.
* From Michael Yang of Yahoo: "The consumer feels like the Internet is just a big hallway where Realtors are beating them with sticks and the first customer to fall gets dragged in the door." In other words, just because it's the Web doesn't mean you can forget your manners.
* Revenge is never as satisfying as you think it will be, but it's not bad.
* From Dan, my other sponsoring broker: "I hear what you're saying you would like the situation to be ? but what are the facts of the situation?"
* A good salesperson sells all the way up to the close. A great salesperson sells through and after the close.
* Remember, there's always another property.

Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie."

Editor's note: This is the last installment of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie." Thank you, Alison Rogers, for sharing your stories, and for inspiring and delighting Inman News readers. We wish you well! ***

The Diary of a Real Estate Rookie should be required reading for all brokers whether they do business in New York or other areas. Ali shows the true face of being a real estate broker and gives the straight dope of not only how to survive but succeed in the business.

As far as I am concerned all real estate brokers should aspire to be Ali Rogers. She not only knows her stuff but she is professional, focused, and respectful. She also has a strong sense of humility and honesty.

As she closes this chapter in her life, another one opens where she is now blogging for CBS Money watch in her column Ask The Agent.

As people tire of certain real estate talking heads, particularly ones who invest in Red Hook, I predict that Ali will be popping up in more of the mainstream media, particularly networks that are in dire need of credibility, yes CNBC that was a dig at you, and need someone who is willing to lay it all out about the real estate market. Ali Rogers is that person. I am very happy for all of her success. She has worked very hard to get to this point in her career and she deserves every bit of it.

And those of you are looking to buy or sell, don't be shy. Feel free to drop her a line.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Nice house.

Want to see what is inside?

Lovely antiques aren't they. Well they are yours if you want them.



From what I have been this house is already on the market and this is pure speculation it appears someone lost their job.

I was talking to a family member about this and they informed me that the consignment shop that is holding this sales is closing one of their stores in Bronxville. The family member made the following observation at some point someone is going to burn their antiques for firewood. My thoughts were that as funny as that may sound, I think that is what is going to happen.

And the question that is asked as the first match is lit

"Why did we this stuff in the first place?"

And the answer.

"Well, at least it will keep us warm."

EDIT: APRIL 11, 2009 5 PM Looks like I was onto something.

Lives Streamlined for a New Era


When in doubt, don't.

Benjamin Franklin

Back in the 1990's the comic book industry went through a transformation of sorts. Artists like Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri led a from Marvel with other artists to create their own comic book company called Image. Their initial success led to a massive exodus to the independent comic book industry as tons of established artists and writers decided to throw their hand in the creator own industry.

Then everything imploded. There are a variety of reasons why the comic book industry crashed near the end of the 1990's but it all comes to down to a saturation of product. What fueled the comic book boom were speculators who were jumping in and buying up multiple issues of comics and hoarding them for a later date when they could cash in. In other words they were applying value investing to comic books. The buy and hold strategy works better for investing, not comic books.

One of the factors that makes a comic book valuable is that it is rare. There are none like it or very few in existence. Despite the fact these new comics had marquee names, they were not even worth the paper they were printed on because of the copious amounts of inventory on the market.

And if everyone knows this, there is no incentive to buy or sell because the ROI is just not there. Even worse, those young bucks who decided to go out on their own were now left unemployed by their own hand because their companies had to shut down.

All of this brought about a shower of doubt that comic book fans were unable to shake off for quite awhile

I bring up this obscure fact of comic book collecting because the current economic situation reminds me of that period. I feel what we are experiencing is doubt and even with all the initiatives that are being put to get things rolling, I do not see the real estate market let alone the economy getting back on its feet for quite awhile.

For example:

Scope widens in Chinese drywall case

The problem of defective Chinese drywall is no longer confined to coastal Florida.

Drywall produced by Knauf Tianjin Plasterboard Co. Ltd. -- one of the problematic manufacturers identified so far -- made it to the inland town of Sebring, about 90 miles east of Sarasota in Highlands County, the Herald-Tribune has confirmed.

Meanwhile, a national consumer advocacy group is claiming that the scope is much broader. The Washington, D.C.-based America's Watchdog, which is partnering with high-powered attorneys across the country, says that its own investigation has found defective Chinese drywall in Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North and South Carolina, Virginia and Texas.

"We think this could literally turn out to be the worst case of sick houses in U.S. history," said Thomas Martin, the organization's president.

The Herald-Tribune reported on Feb. 1 that shipping records show at least 550 million pounds of Chinese drywall has been offloaded at U.S. ports since 2006 -- enough to build 60,000 average-size homes.

Gases being emitted from the Chinese-made material have been tied to corrosion and blackening of pipes in homes. Some Southwest Florida residents say the gases also have been harmful to their health, a charge the builders and manufacturers dispute. Several lawsuits seeking class-action status have been filed, including one in Sarasota County and another in federal court.

Ryan Willis moved to Sebring with his wife in 2006. They bought their first home -- a custom design that Willis himself helped craft -- built by local builder Meliti Construction. The couple helped paint the walls and lay floor tile.

"It's kind of depressing to think about all the work we put into this place," Willis said. "Now it will all have to go."

In 2007, the Willises' air-conditioner began to fail. It would ultimately do so four times. The couple's silver plates began to blacken, as did metal light fixtures. Three satellite TV receivers, along with their TV, stopped working. Other appliances and fixtures had problems.

"No one could explain what was going on. It was just so strange. I mean here this is a brand new house," Willis said. "It wasn't until a couple weeks ago that we first heard about Chinese drywall."

Willis has pictures taken during the home's construction. When he reviewed them, they showed drywall clearly bearing the name Knauf Tianjin. He immediately called the state health department.

Michael Foreman, head of Sarasota consulting firm Foreman & Associates, recently inspected the Willis home at no charge. Foreman suspects that dozens of homes in the area were built using the material.

During the real estate boom, building materials became very expensive due to the demand from pretty much every where in the world particularly China. In order to keep their operating costs low and to ensure profitability, many developers cut corners where they could. At the detriment of their customers.

Value for a home only occurs if someone to live there and it doesn't look like anyone wants to live in those homes. As for flipping these types of homes, you still have the same problem, if you want to make a profit you have to flip to someone.

With stories of everyone walking from their homes including banks, it would not surprise me that municipalities mandate that all owners of these homes need to clean them up before even thinking of selling them.

That is why a professional flipper would never touch these homes with a ten foot pole, because the homes have basically become brownsfields and it would be a considerable expense to decontaminate them.

It is not just the house that contains this type of drywall that has problems, the neighborhood that has even one of these on their block basically has a functional obsolescence. The gases emitted from these toxic homes is going to spread everywhere and no one knows what type of impact long term will exposure will have on the immediate population.

The only way this situation can be corrected is undertaking a massive cleanup effort which won't happen because of the cost.

This is just drywall we are talking about. There's probably all sorts of other s**t that went during the boom times that we don't want to know about but we are probably going to find out the hard way when we see building collapses occur within new developments sub standard building materials.

That is why I do not see any type of significant recovery in the near future for the real estate market because we are dealing with these types of variables. Not to say there isn't any opportunity out there. However I would strongly advise everyone to exercise adhere to a strict due diligence policy to the point of paranoia. But for people to say that there will be a recovery by the end of this year is crackhead talk.

One of the very large boulders that is acting as a drag on the economy are these toxic assets no one wants. It is gotten to the point that the government is planning on offering more ways for the people to spend money on them.

U.S. May Enlist Small Investors in Bank Bailout

During World War I, Americans were exhorted to buy Liberty Bonds to help their soldiers on the front.

Now, it seems, they will be asked to come to the aid of their banks — with the added inducement of possibly making some money for themselves.

As part of its sweeping plan to purge banks of troublesome assets, the Obama administration is encouraging several large investment companies to create the financial-crisis equivalent of war bonds: bailout funds.

The idea is that these investments, akin to mutual funds that buy stocks and bonds, would give ordinary Americans a chance to profit from the bailouts that are being financed by their tax dollars. But there is another, deeply political motivation as well: to quiet accusations that all of these giant bailouts will benefit only Wall Street plutocrats.

The embrace of smaller investors underscores the concern in Washington and on Wall Street that Americans’ anger could imperil further efforts to stimulate the economy with vast amounts of government spending. Many Americans say they believe the bailout programs — and the potentially rich profits they could yield — will benefit only a golden few, including some of the institutions that helped push the economy to the brink.

“This is an opportunity to forge an alliance between Main Street, Wall Street and K Street,” said Steven A. Baffico, an executive at BlackRock, referring to the Washington address of many lobbying firms. BlackRock, a giant money management firm, is playing a central role in the government’s efforts and is considering creating a bailout fund. “It’s giving the guy on Main Street an equal seat at the table next to the big guys,” he said.

I love how they are trying to spin this as an emotional decision. It has nothing to do with returns but just the fact that the people will be part of a process which is a really bad way to invest. Investing is about profit, it is not about being at the same table as another high roller.

As far I am concerned I would not touch this with a ten foot pole. As Jonathan Miller has pointed out regarding marked to market and his blog that there is good reason to be wary.

One of the key reasons investors aren’t buying troubled mortgage backed securities (toxic assets) is because there hasn’t been a way to establish prices - there has been little activity. In fact it is a lot like appraising home values today in a market with very limited or no sales activity.

As an appraiser, I was thinking of making an argument to a lender that “because there is no data I’ll appraise the property based on the last time it sold or as of a year ago when there were comps - it’ll be up to me.” Yeah, right.

Last October, just after the credit markets seized, I wrote about the concept of Mark-to-market in my [Mark To Market] To Buy A Fat Pig where I made the case that there may be no value at a certain moment in time. Immediately following 9/11 when there were no sales and some brokers are saying the market fell 25%. How can this be measured if there were no sales?

Nobody knows what these things are worth. And the people who are setting up the prices are the ones who got us in this mess in the first place. Do the words Fox guarding the hen house ring a bell?

If I were a savvy investor, which I am not but I am trying, I would not throw my money into this fund. Not only because I do not know the true value of what I am investing in but also the firms that involved are not doing this out of the goodness of their own heart. They are going to do everything they can to game the system in their favor. However I would not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

If selected — likely to happen by mid-May — money managers like BlackRock could begin a fund within weeks.

As well as BlackRock and Pimco, Legg Mason, another big mutual fund company, and BNY Mellon Asset Management, a big asset manager, have said they are interested in starting retail investment funds to participate in the government’s plan.

For the investment managers, the benefits are potentially large. These big firms can charge healthy fees to investors for taking part. They will also have the marketing prestige of being the firms the government turns to at a time of crisis to help sort out the country’s financial mess.

This is why I would consider investing in the companies themselves who are involved in creating and managing the fund because of this fact. But not the fund itself. Investors are well aware of these factors that is why they have such great doubts and are unwilling to throw their money into the pot for a fund of this nature. Which of course is not going to speed up this recovery anytime soon.

Through the school of hard knocks, the average of American is now far more educated with this financial crisis and the options that are presented just don't seem attractive to even attempt. It is like a game of high stakes poker gone terribly wrong. No one is going to bother to pull themselves up to the table because everyone knows each others hand.

Don't tell me it is going to be alright. It is not. Not for awhile. In the end it will all sort itself out but we are light years away from the end.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


NYT is really ahead of the game.
Housing Slump Hits Manhattan

So why now? The following IM discussion explains it.

Me(8:42:19 AM): old news
Family Member (8:43:06 AM): yeah
Family Member (8:43:13 AM): they put it off until they couldn't ignore it
Me(8:43:19 AM): yeah

And people wonder why newspapers are dying.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The hardest working man in real estate

That's Jonathan Miller! The James Brown of appraisal.

Besides his real estate blog, Jonathan Miller has taken upon himself to do a real estate podcast called the Housing Helix.

Jonathan covers a variety of different topics including appraisal ethics, toxic mortgages (He makes some very salient observations about the pricing of these mortgages) and a surprising development he experienced while speaking at a meeting of real estate professionals outside New York City.

It is vital that people read his blog and listen to his podcast in order to be more aware of the real estate market. Jonathan Miller is able to go micro to macro when it comes to real estate and he is not only well informed but his analysis of real estate issues is quite precise and will give you a lot to think about.

Although this is a given, I would like to remind you all that he is one of the most ethical and conscientious real estate appraisers around. If you don't believe me, let me point out he is nowhere near Andrew Cuomo's radar. Why? Because the Great Jonathan Millers is a straight shooter.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Getting Schooled

If only Sidney Poitier could save the day.

The cliché of real estate was location, location, location. In the suburbs it is location, location, school district.

It appears the latter is becoming more prevalent in Manhattan as stated in this NYT article.

FOR some young families who bought during the housing boom, having it all meant an affordable brood-sized apartment in possession of a good public school zone. But other parents in pursuit of real estate never even thought about schools. They assumed they would send their children to private school, often because they too had followed that route.

That was before the economic crisis. Now, as many would-be private school parents scramble for a good public school, there is a despairing recognition that in this respect, geography is destiny: With odds of being accepted into a popular school in another zone slimmer than ever, they either live in a neighborhood with a decent elementary or they don’t.

Renters and first-time buyers are in the best position to light out for better school zones with their young offspring. Meanwhile, landlocked owners — unable or unwilling to sell in a down market or to spend around $33,000 a year to send their child to private school — are panicking.

Trapped by their real estate, these parents are swallowing a bitter pill: had they sold their apartments a year ago, their profits might have financed an entire private school education.

Some parents are considering renting an apartment in a desirable zone — at least for the time it takes to prove residency. And some otherwise law-abiding parents plan to flout the system by establishing a fake residency in their school zone of choice.
“I can tell you I hear it all the time on the playground — whether you’re moving or ‘moving,’ ” said Claudia Knafo, 47, a concert pianist and music professor who lives with her husband, Alexander Yagupsky, 44, and 4-year-old son, Joshua, on West 110th Street and Riverside Drive.

She says her family’s situation is common in her neighborhood.
“We bought our apartment in 2004,” she said, “and like most new parents we never even thought about the public school zoning issues. We just assumed our son would go to private school.”

But when it came time to apply last fall, she and her husband, a music teacher, felt they could no longer commit to the expense because of the change in the economic climate. They applied to three private schools asking for financial aid, even though they were advised by other parents that this would undermine their son’s chances. He was turned down by one and put on the waiting list at the others.

It all comes down to money or lack thereof. People do not have the liquidity they once had or they assumed they would and now they are between the proverbial rock and hard place. And they are looking at all their options.

Their anxiety mounting, Ms. Knafo and her husband are considering selling their two-bedroom co-op and moving into a zone with a more desirable school.
“We actually had a Realtor come to our home, because I was completely hysterical about what to do with this smart kid I can’t seem to find the right school for,” Ms. Knafo said. “We bought it for $570,000 in 2004 and she said we’re back at 2004 prices, so we might not necessarily lose money on it.”

Plan B, she said, is to sublet the apartment and rent elsewhere. A schools consultant, Robin Aronow of School Search NYC, advised her that by historical standards her son’s chances of being admitted to P.S. 87 were good if the family established residency in the zone by June 1. Given the waiting lists disclosed by a growing number of schools, Ms. Aronow now strongly recommends calling the school before moving.

But Ms. Knafo worries that the rent from their apartment won’t cover the cost of a new one. The median asking price for a two-bedroom rental in the P.S. 87 zone is $4,200 a month; in P.S. 199’s zone, it’s $5,450, according to
“Basically,” Ms. Knafo said, “it’s like playing Russian roulette — are we going to have to pay for two apartments to get our child into the correct zone? There are lots of people who are borrowing addresses or moving in with family. I personally am not comfortable with that.”

As order ot qualify for residency so their children will be accepted to a better school even if there is no need for a second apartment.

And there will be more people borrowing addresses or moving in with family. In fact that is a very common practice in the suburbs. I knew one kid from my town whose family ended up moving to the Bronx while he was in high school. Rather than transfer him to another school, they borrowed an address from someone who lived in one of the the town’s apartment building to establish a residence. On paper the family were part of the community despite the fact he commuted from the Bronx everyday.

It was a well-known fact amongst his friends regarding this arrangement but no one ever ratted him out or perhapsno one cared. From what I know about the Bronx, I believe Bronx Science is one of the top schools in the area however it is more of the exception than the rule. Next door to Bronx Science is Lincoln high school, which is an institution that is more indicative of the Bronx school system. It is a well-known fact that Lincoln students will go shopping after school by preying upon Bronx Science students.

Why would any parent subject their kids to that type of environment? Why risk their kid’s future by having him take a test for a school that he may not get into? He had just 4 years to go so his parents probably figured it was best to create the façade of residency rather than deal with the trauma of starting over again.

What the family of a friend of mine did was to sawp the house. What happened was that one family moved in, established roots, then another set of relatives moved in, then the previous familywould leave and sell the house to the second set of relatives.

Some brokers say they’ve noticed a surge of interest in public schools from couples who don’t have kids yet and from childless people who are concerned about resale value.

“For the last 10 years people have made an extraordinary amount of money, so they have the cash to buy an apartment now, even with the setback from the stock market.” said Daniela Kunen, a managing director at Prudential Douglas Elliman, whose two listings on Park Avenue in the P.S. 6 zone are drawing significantly more traffic than comparable ones just north and south of the school zone. “However, they would prefer to get into an apartment that will provide their children with a free education so they can limit their expenses because they’re uncertain about the future.”

Karen Advocate-Connolly, a senior vice president at Prudential Douglas Elliman, said she had noticed a spillover from the highly regarded but pricey P.S. 6 zone. “It used to be very much P.S. 6, and now people are willing to broaden their horizons, like P.S. 290 and P.S 183. The buyers now are just very savvy, and they’ve done their research on the different schools out there. They at least want a public school backup — they’re looking for the option.”

Noah Bilenker and his wife, Valerie Abitbol, recently went into contract on a two-bedroom apartment costing around $1 million on Third Avenue near East 81st Street in the P.S. 290 zone. The couple — both lawyers who do not yet have children — chose that apartment over another on East 95th Street and Third Avenue solely because of the school.

“I think the change in the economy made us look for things in more established neighborhoods,” Mr. Bilenker said, citing a significant number of new condominium buildings in the more northern neighborhood.

The apartment they are buying is in an area with deeper roots, he said. “I think there would be more established parent-teacher and community groups, and if the city has budget problems and there are cutbacks among teachers, the more established schools with strong networks among parent and alumni groups will be able to weather the storm better.”

I will be honest with you. In real estate families can be a pain in the ass due to higher taxes and the fact that some kids can be really noisy and annoying. Their presence can radically change a neighborhood usually for the beter, but change it nonetheless. This is why families are the kryptonite of gay communities. All you have to do is look at Chelsea. It used to be a haven for the gay community and now the gay and lesbian populations have made way for the stroller set.

Even if I had no kids, I would still consider buying in a neighborhood with a strong school district. Even if I do not have kids or my kids go to private school, it would be to my advantage to own an apartment that area because there will be always someone who is willing to rent or buy it from me.

Real estate is all about added value. What makes one apartment more valuable than another? It usually comes down to the external obsolesce, whether the apartment is in a bad school district or near a gas station.

It doesn’t matter how much Italian marble you have or how much money you put into the kitchen. Sometimes buyers only care about how high the SAT scores are in that school district.

I don’t fault parents who take these extreme measures. It is a f**kin street fight out there and every parents wants their kid to be prepared the best they can to face the world.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Propertyshark Foreclosure Maps

Brian over at Propertyshark sent me the following links that give a more descriptive view of foreclosures in Manhattan and Queens.

These two maps point out the new foreclosures in these two boroughs and it is pretty f**king insane.

Here is Manhattan.

Here is Queens

The difference is night and day.

Here is additional information that was provided to me.

Key Takeaways:

-New foreclosures in New York City (869) were down 5% compared to Q1 2008 (918) and up 14% over Q4 2008 (764).
-Queens comprised 66% of foreclosures in New York City.
-Brooklyn saw a significant drop in new foreclosures, declining 74% compared to Q1 2008 and down 55% from Q4 2008.
-Staten Island had the highest rate of foreclosures per household in Q1 2009, with one in every 1,187 homes scheduled for auction, followed by Queens with one in every 1,343 homes scheduled for auction. The rate in Manhattan was the lowest, with one for every 43,059 homes scheduled for auction

What this says to me is that if you are a bargain hunter you will find many a deal in the Queens and Staten Island. However if you want have a Blue Chip state of mind, you will stick with Manhattan. You might have to pay a higher premium but just from this information alone it appears that the Island of Manhattan is a much safer bet.