212-937-7011

Virtual Staging vs. Physical Staging

Virtual Staging vs. Physical Staging

Virtual reality as a staging tool has grown in popularity since I first began staging apartments 17 years ago. I have used virtual staging sparingly in listings because it simply does not replace the experience of walking into a nicely furnished, staged home. Some feel that it can be used as a tool for showing buyers the possibilities of altering spaces. While this is true, I’ve heard brokers – usually the younger group – insist to potential sellers that is a suitable replacement for physical staging. This assumes that a buyer will be satisfied by investing in an apartment they’ve only seen through pixels.

Millennials may be the generation more fluent and comfortable with the digital experience than previous buyers, but they are still individuals who have always been and continue to be physically intimate with their home. When a buyer walks into a home or apartment, there is an emotional experience that takes place and buyers often ask themselves, “Do I like this apartment or not?”  The idea behind virtual staging is to get people through the door, but what happens when the reality does not match the picture is not clear

In 2010, The New York Times touted virtual staging as an important asset for brokers and sellers looking to save money on staging. However, we are in an age where authenticity is critical for buyers making investments. The nation is barraged with Fake News™ and altered images that advertise stories, experiences, and products that do not exist. No broker with the best intentions wants to be caught in a situation where a buyer is shown the digital version of an apartment and then find themselves stepping into a place that leaves them dissatisfied and distrustful of their agent.

A person can see an apartment they like online, but once they are physically in it, their feelings may change because it doesn’t “feel” right. This is why it is very important for sellers to not be seduced so quickly into virtual staging as a means by which to present their home to buyers. It is highly recommended that sellers consider physical staging, so as not to lose a serious buyer with promises that virtual staging cannot fulfill.

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Become an Expert Buyer: The ABCs of Assessing Value

Become an Expert Buyer: The ABCs of Assessing Value

While it’s very important to work with a skilled and knowledgeable real estate agent, there are many features that buyers should consider when searching for a new home.  Being knowledgeable about each aspect can aid a buyer in assessing the value of an apartment.

Amenities: As focus has shifted to buildings that have a wide array of services and amenities, ranging from simple laundry rooms or bike storage, to pet spas and high-tech gyms, units in these buildings command higher prices.

Bedroom/room count: An apartment that has a gracious layout will have more value than one with an awkward layout. Additionally, a bedroom count that is in line with the square footage can be a major selling point for many people.

City, River, or Park views: Do you want to look out your window to see a park, a river, or city skyline? Views like these may bring in more sunlight, but also higher prices.

Design: Quality renovations that are recent and tasteful boost the sales price in almost any apartment. An apartment with a grand and gracious layout with good window placement almost always achieves a higher sales price. If an apartment is decorated to appeal to buyers, the sales price will almost always be higher.

Esteemed building: An apartment in a building that has a wonderful reputation and great financials will almost always sell for a higher price than an average building.

Fees (monthly): When monthly maintenance, common charges or real estate taxes are significantly higher than average, value is affected. The asking price must reflect the high monthly charges. On the other hand, if the monthly charges are below average this translates to a slightly higher price.

Gold Coast vs. Ghost Town: Do you want to live in a prime location like Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue, Central Park West, West Village or TriBeCa’s Gold Coast? Keep in mind that they are highly sought after with the matching high prices. If you’re aiming for a lower price, you can expect second or third tier locations to be further from public transportation, closer to commercial or industrial areas, or overlook areas with current heavy traffic or future construction sites.

Homeowner History: Because most buyers now consider condominiums more desirable due to ease of purchase and re-sale, as well as for the ability to rent with few restrictions, condos trade at higher prices than co-ops often by as much as 10 to 15%.

While the above considerations will get you started, if you want to learn more about becoming an expert buyer of Manhattan Real Estate, contact me for a meeting or for a free copy of my complete New York City Real Estate Buyer’s Guide by emailing info@deannakory.com or calling 212-937-7011.

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Market Report: September 2017

Market Report: September 2017

Manhattan felt the cooler air of autumn come earlier than usual over Labor Day Weekend, a perfect end to a beautiful summer with comfortable temperatures and a reasonably active real estate market even in the dog days of summer. Open houses saw a steadier stream of attendants than a typical summer and co-op sales in July rose 13% higher than the previous year with 533 contracts signed.

The news cycle has continued to trend as previously mentioned and the market has been chugging along regardless of the irregularities that are still occurring in American politics. If the economy continues to strengthen as we expect, year-end bonuses on Wall Street will be higher, which would fuel the 4th quarter leading into 2018.

September is historically a time of transition, with the beginning of a new school year and the gradual uptick in activity for the real estate market. People can expect new inventory to start coming on the market in mid-to-late September into early October. My team and I have invested our time over the summer in preparing for the final months of 2017, including the mailing of our Fall Newsletter. The newsletter includes a comprehensive market analysis of the past three quarters and what to expect at the end of the year, as well as advice on the benefits of outdoor staging, the dangers of overpricing, and assessing property value in NYC.

If you’re considering selling or buying this Fall, our newsletter includes information on how to prepare and approach this season’s market; to receive a copy, email info@deannakory.com or call 212-937-7011.

All the best–
Deanna

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Market Report: August 2017

Market Report: August 2017

Welcome to the Deanna Kory Market Report, a series on the real estate market news based on research and personal observation.

We look forward to updating more frequently this Fall!

The market has been showing some small, but promising signs of picking up from a quiet summer and it’s partly due to how adaptable people are in times of uncertainty. Sellers and many buyers have been nervous with their investments, tuning into news that has been churning out drama after drama in a seemingly endless loop. However, the constant stream of crises is becoming white noise for many people and now is a way of life under this president and is now expected. Even with the recent North Korea conflict, there are hopes that this will follow suit with the previous unsettling news stories and will eventually dissipate.

My favorite metaphor for a market like this is to picture a city street bustling with people and when an unexpected downpour begins, people scatter. They duck into stores, look for scaffolding, and even huddle under bus stop with coverings if there’s space! People will wait for a few minutes, while trapped under the nearest cover from the rain, hoping it will stop soon. Realizing the rain won’t stop, eventually people head back onto the streets, open their umbrellas or drape their coats over their heads to get on with their day.

Buyers and sellers have been put off by the current series of crises and uncertainty on the political scene, but I already sense people are beginning to feel more confident about the stock market, especially because earnings remain strong. Those trends, if unabated could lead to higher bonuses at the end of the year. While no one can say when the deluge of breaking new stories will subside, I see buyers and sellers opening their umbrellas and slowly but surely coming back to the market.

All the best–
Deanna

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Purchasing an Apartment in a New Development

One Riverside BoulevardBuying an apartment in a brand new building or in a conversion from rental to condo/co-op or even in a building under construction that does not yet exist, has enormous appeal for many reasons, including:
1. Everything is new. For some buyers there is nothing that compares to owning a brand new home that no one has lived in before.
2. Ease of purchase. When purchased directly from the sponsor of a new development project there is no intrusive board approval process, i.e. no financial statement, board package or interview. Sponsors give buyers a great deal of flexibility with financing a purchase by requiring a minimal down payment of 10% in most cases. In brand new buildings, down payments on contracts can be as high as 25% of the purchase price.
3. Flexibility for owners. With few exceptions, new development projects are condominiums. Owners are permitted to rent out their apartments with limited restrictions. Condos also have no restrictions regarding pied-a-terres, parents buying for children, or a purchase by a corporation or trust.
4. Luxury lifestyle. New development buildings typically offer an array of luxury amenities, such as: health clubs or fitness centers and spas, swimming pools, sport facilities, playrooms and classes for children, landscaped outdoor areas, plus an attentive staff of doormen, concierges, and porters.
5. Top-of-the-line appliances and finishes. To attract buyers, developers often include high-end kitchens and bathrooms, and stylish finishes throughout the entire building.
6. Cutting edge design. World-renowned architects and designers are major players in new development projects. Buyers feel excited about living in a space designed with creativity and vision which can be tailored to your own needs and taste. The media buzz created by a name-brand architect or designer infuses these projects with undeniable caché.

How do you know that a new development is a sound investment?

Sponsors are required by law to issue an offering plan that contains all information relevant to the sale of units, such as description of the neighborhood, details on construction, design and materials, projected operating budget, reserve and working capital funds, procedure to purchase, unit prices, monthly charges, and closing costs. It is important to engage a real estate attorney to perform due diligence on the project. Real estate attorneys know what to look for when reviewing the offering plan and purchase agreement. They review all relevant details of the purchase and advise you on any potential risks before you sign a sales contract.

Potential Issues with a purchase in a New Development

Even if the due diligence does not reveal specific problems there are potential complications inherent with all purchases in a new development. Some common issues that arise include:
1. Closing date. In a building not yet built or apartments not yet finished, one should expect that the promised closing date will be delayed. This is because variables such as bad weather, labor disputes, material shortages, delayed deliveries, or cash flow problems can slow construction. Buyers are then forced to wait well beyond the original completion date. Those who have a clause in their sales contract stipulating an end-date for the closing are protected from tying up their down payment if the sponsor fails to complete the project in a reasonable length of time. Developers are aware that buyers may want a solid date, and they often fight to push the end- date as far out as possible. For a buyer who wants a desirable apartment that other buyers may want as well, many often choose to go with what is standard in a purchase contract for that particular development.
2. Mortgage financing issues. With closing dates vague, buyers may find it difficult to lock in an interest rate to coincide with the closing. Most lenders offer a 60-90-day rate lock if financial markets are moderately stable. In addition, lenders may refuse to provide funds for a closing if fewer than 15% or as high as 50% of units in the building have sold and closed, or if the common areas and amenities have not been completed. Most recently, developers will line up a bank or two that make a commitment to lend in the building without requiring closings to occur. These banks usually believe in the development and will often hold a high percentage of the loans/mortgages in the building. In fact, to make it appealing to buyers, some banks are mitigating the interest rate risk by allowing a borrower to lock in a rate for up to a year! Depending on the schedule for closing, buyers should look for such an arrangement.
3. Property taxes. One of the appeals of owning an apartment in a new development is the property tax abatement that some developers receive for building on certain sites. The abatement does not take effect until the building has received a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O), so those who purchase in a building with a temporary C of O may have an initial tax bill which is much larger than expected. These tax abatements generally phase in over a period of 10-12 years. In some neighborhoods, the phase-in period of the abatement can be as long as up to 20-25 years.
4. Fixtures, appliances, overall condition. Sponsors, who are permitted to close on units with a temporary Certificate of Occupancy, may begin to schedule closings on units where details have not been fully finished. A pre-closing inspection is essential to verify that the apartment is ready for occupancy and everything in it is in order, as promised. Very often, buyers will have a “punch list” of smaller details that need to be completed or rectified post-closing. This is common and there is usually a time limit during which the sponsor is obligated to complete the punch list.
5. Ground and second level commercial space. Most new development buildings have a large commercial rental or condo on the ground (and sometimes second) floor. Since the quality of the commercial tenant will have an impact on your building, it is important to try to find out what plans the sponsor has for renting any space dedicated for commercial use. One question to ask: are there restrictions on the types of businesses that will be permitted? While residents may have no problem with sharing their building with professional offices or boutiques, some may not be happy with a noisy bar, restaurant, or unappealing business on the premises.
6. Adjacent properties. Is there a possibility that future construction will negatively impact the building and/or the unit you are purchasing? Since developers are generally permitted to build a certain number of interior square feet based on the zoning of their property (known as FAR “floor area ratio”), an open view from your apartment could abruptly become a view into a brick wall if a new building is built next door. It’s wise to research zoning laws and neighboring sites to see if that might be the case in the future. Your real estate attorney or a land use/zoning attorney should be able to research that and inform you about the zoning surrounding your apartment.
7. Lot line windows. Some apartments have “lot line” windows. These are windows that are on the legal lot line of the building. If a lot line window of an apartment is overlooking an empty lot or a short building, make sure to find out if a building can be built that reaches the height of your window. If so, it is possible that your lot line window will have to be bricked over. Information about lot line windows must be disclosed in the offering plan. However, there is no requirement that the offering plan disclose anything about neighboring development potential. In this case, “buyer beware” (caveat emptor) comes into play. You should have a knowledgeable real estate attorney help you in this regard.

New York City Real Estate Buyer's Guide

NYC Buyer's Guide
This article is an excerpt from our NYC Buyer’s Guide, the complete guide to buying residential real estate in New York City.

Click here for your complimentary copy!

 

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What to Look for During Your Pre-Closing Walk-Through

checklist-smallWhether or not you are buying your new apartment ‘as is’, it is advisable to refer to a pre-closing walk-through checklist. It all seems standard but when you are there, it’s easy to forget. If there is a post-closing holdover, the contract will typically stipulate the pre-closing walk-through and the post-vacancy walk-through to confirm nothing significant has changed since you took ownership. The detailed inspection below is usually reserved for the final review which takes place after an apartment has been vacated. Below are things to look for during a walk-through:

General Condition
The apartment is to be left “broom clean” as per the typical clause in the contract. “Broom clean” does not necessarily mean fully cleaned.

I. The apartment is to be in the same condition as of the time you signed the contract if the apartment is sold “as is”. For example, if there was a major scratch in the floor at the time the contract was signed, then it will remain. However, if the scratch was not there at the time of the contract being signed, then it needs to be noted and brought to the attention of your attorney; it must be repaired by the seller, or money can be given or put in escrow until a repair takes place. This is typically negotiated either just before or at the closing. The same holds true for appliances. If you sign an “as is” contract, then the appliances are to be delivered in the same general condition as of the signing.

II. The apartment is sold with the appliances in “working order”. In this case all appliances in the unit must work. Therefore, the appliances should be tested to make sure that they function properly and if they do not, you should report this to your attorney so they can arrange to have the appliances repaired.

Kitchen

  • "Remember that the super or resident manager can often fix minor items for you, so it doesn’t hurt to ask."
    Test all of the appliances (refrigerator, freezer, stove, oven, microwave, hood or vent fan and dishwasher)
  • Microwave – It is recommended by manufacturers that an empty microwave should never be turned on. You can use a glass or plastic object that can hold a little water to test the microwave.
  • Hood or Vent Fan Over Stove – If you want to see if the air is being drawn up into the hood, take a tissue or paper towel and put it close to the updraft and see if the tissue sticks to the filter.
  • Dishwasher – You can test by turning it on and seeing that it is beginning to work and then pressing the reset button or if there is no reset button, let it go through a light cycle which can take a while. It is strongly recommended that you do this first as it is never a good idea to leave the apartment with either a dishwasher or a washing machine running. If the seller is living in the apartment until after the closing, please inform them that you have left an appliance running. DO NOT stop a dishwasher or clothes washer mid-cycle as the water will not drain and will sit and can cause problems.

Other Appliances and Systems

  • Washer – same as dishwasher above.
  • Dryer – Note that some clothes dryers have sensors so if nothing is in the dryer that is wet, the dryer may not turn on.
  • Air-Conditioners – It is easiest to determine if an A/C unit or system works if it is warm out, however it is also possible to see that at least the unit or system “turns on” in cooler weather.
  • Crestron and Other A/V Systems – Best to test this prior to an owner leaving their home. Otherwise you may have to take its condition on good faith.

Bathrooms

  • Flush toilet.
  • Turn on sink, tub and showers and see that hot water is working.
  • Make sure that the sink and tub stoppers are working.
  • Look for leaks in the ceiling.
  • Living room, dining room, bedrooms, etc.:
  • Look at floors, walls and ceilings.
  • Look inside closets for leaks that may not be apparent in the room.
  • Raise windows to make sure that they work*.
  • Some people test outlets with a cell phone charger or hairdryer.
  • Turn on the light switches (sometimes they go to an outlet).

THE BUILDING RESPONSIBILITIES
Some issues are fall under the responsibility of the building and not the seller. Things that are often included in this category are:

  • Original toilet and in wall plumbing issues
  • Windows installed by the building*
  • Leaks from other apartments
  • Leaks from the building’s exterior (to repair but not to paint)
    * check with your broker or attorney

Remember that the super or resident manager can often fix minor items and is usually a great resource, so it doesn’t hurt to ask for his advice or help.

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Preservation Pays

Preservation Pays
An Upper West Side Architectural Gem Holds Its Value, Generation After Generation

For over 30 years, LANDMARK WEST! (LW!) has worked to protect the architectural character of our Upper West Side neighborhood from insensitive change and development. One of the many gratifying partnerships we enjoy is with Deanna Kory’s team at Corcoran. This past July, together we co-organized the latest in a series of open houses featuring remarkable historic properties on the market. Architectural historian and Columbia University professor Andrew S. Dolkart led a captivating tour of 351 West End Avenue, a beautifully restored 1891 rowhouse designed by Lamb & Rich, for friends of LW! and Corcoran.

This house, part of an eye-catching row on the west side of the avenue between 76th and 77th Streets, exemplifies the incredible resilience of well-constructed 19th-century architecture. Built with care and quality for an upper-middle-class market, 351 West End Avenue was preserved by design and by chance until the 1990s, when a conscientious couple purchased it to make it their family home.

Professor Dolkart began his tour in front of the house, observing that:

“This is a remnant of what West End Avenue was. I think we forget that West End Avenue, from 67th Street to about 106th Street, was 75-80% single-family homes in 1900. They were replaced by apartment houses [in the 1910s and 20s]. It was a shock to the real estate community that houses built just twenty years before were being torn down. Both real estate journals and the popular press comment on how rapidly West End Avenue was changed.“

351-wea-event-4-of-18351 West End Avenue occupies one of only two blocks on the avenue (the other is 90th to 91st Street) that survive with their original low-rise character. Professor Dolkart attributes the seemingly miraculous survival of 351 West End Avenue, and its neighboring rowhouses on both sides of the street, to restrictive covenants that prevented its demolition and replacement during the building boom of the early 20th century. By the time such covenants were outlawed in the early 1930’s, the development rage had subsided and 351 West End Avenue was spared.

Built on speculation, the house was sold in 1892 to the Rawley family, who had made their fortune in the Indian cotton trade and came to New York from England. Professor Dolkart shared some of his research about the Rawley family’s life at 351 West End Avenue, noting that: “In 1900, Anthony and Despina Rawley lived here with their three daughters and one son. They had five servants, an Irish chambermaid and an Irish waitress, a Swedish cook and Swedish kitchen maid, as well as a French nurse.” By 1930, the house was rented out as a rooming house and around 1940 it was divided into apartments.

Here begins the tale of the present owners’ heroic efforts to restore the house to its 19th-century grandeur. As our tour continued inside, one of the owners explained:

“It had been remodeled in the 60’s, and it really did have 60’s everything…avocado-colored appliances and very bizarre tile on the floor everywhere…there were ashtrays overflowing and bicycles and skateboards littering the hallways. It was absolutely disgusting. I ran to the phone box at the time on the corner, called my husband, and said “you won’t believe it, we found the place!”

351 West End Avenue is a protected landmark within the West End-Collegiate Historic District (designated in 1984 and extended in 2011). So, even in more recent market booms, it has been secured against demolition. But most landmarks are not protected on the inside. Features such as parquet floors, carved wood moldings, fireplaces, coffered ceilings, and pocket doors don’t often survive. Miraculously, many of these elements were preserved in 351 West End Avenue, though hidden behind walls and under layers of paint.

The present owners spent the better part of 20 years carefully undoing decades of damage and restoring 351 West End Avenue to an elegant, comfortable single-family home. Intricately-carved woodwork was painstakingly stripped and refinished. Curved pocket doors that had been nailed shut and covered with drywall were freed and restored.

pocket-doorsElaborately-inlaid wood floors, pocked with carpet nails, were delicately refinished. Eclectic architectural details survived through previous owners only because it was cheaper to leave them in place than to rip them out. An awe-inspiring example: the gorgeous wooden Venetian-blind panels (by the company that manufactured blinds for the Empire State Building’s many windows!) that slide into pockets below the grand front windows on the second floor. Professor Dolkart spoke for all of us when he said, “I think this is a fabulous and incredible survivor. I only hope the next owner takes as good care of these as the current.”

Taking care of our architectural heritage is a responsibility we pass down from generation to generation. Laws help, but people are the most important link in the chain that connects the past to the present to the future. The Upper West Side is the Upper West Side – literally one of the most beautiful, livable and valuable places on earth – because of buildings like 351 West End Avenue. And 351 West End Avenue is all the more special because its owners have recognized and appreciated the value of preservation.

Here’s to good stewards who love our landmarks!

Written by Kate Wood
President, LANDMARK WEST!
To learn more visit www.LandmarkWest.org

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Cut the Clutter and Make the Sale

Cut the Clutter and Make the Sale

Clutter is an unavoidable nuisance for most. But when it comes to selling a property, it is a serious hindrance. Decluttering your space may be the most important preparation for showing your home – and for landing that coveted asking price, or much higher.

When prospective buyers see your home, they want a blank slate onto which they can project themselves and their future lives. If your home is highly customized (that indigo mood wall, or that incredible print you scored at a Chelsea estate sale), or even a little lived-in (the last 10 years of your children’s school pictures are adorable to you…), buyers struggle to envision themselves there. Think of a showing as a first job interview: you want to appear polished and professional, impressive but not overly dramatic. Most important in creating that positive first impression is clearing out the clutter. It makes your home feel lighter and more attractive, which in turn means more offers and a faster sale – not to mention a more organized and peaceful state of mind for you at this hectic transitional moment. But the clearest path through the clutter isn’t always obvious. Start with these steps to get you closer to a clean, ready-to-sell living space.

5 Steps to Getting Your Home Ready

1. Look Around, with Different Eyes: It’s hard to be objective when it comes to beloved items in your own home. That said, now is the time to carefully evaluate. Assess what really needs to go, what can stay, and what may need to be tweaked. Do a walk-through of each room, and be honest about what might throw off a prospective buyer in each space. Don’t trust your own judgment? Enlist someone more objective, like your realtor or a professional organizer. They will come in with fresh eyes and quickly identify elements that need to change.

2. Make Lists: As you’re evaluating each room, take notes and make lists of what needs to be accomplished there. It may help to break it down to two lists, “must-do” and “would-be-nice”, to prioritize the tasks. For example, repainting your entire brownstone may not be realistic, but repainting a single bedroom might. If renovating your entire kitchen is not on the horizon, consider switching out cabinet or drawer pulls, or updating countertops or appliances.

3. Start Tossing! Get down to the dirty work of removing excess by throwing away or by donating items you don’t need anymore. Things you truly can’t part with can be moved into storage or a second home temporarily. If you can’t make up your mind, think about enlisting a professional. When you start digging into closets and cabinets, and your whole life is sprawled out on the floor, it can feel terribly overwhelming.

A professional organizer will help you sort through it all: disposing of items in bulk, handling donations, shredding old files, recycling electronics and more. For items you wish to remove during showings but don’t want to part with, an organizer can coordinate movers and get those valuables safely into storage. It’s a daunting process, but one that can be managed well with some outside assistance.

4. Consider Additional Finishes: Once you’ve cleared out the clutter, you can think about any work you might undertake to get your space truly shining such as refinishing floors, repainting, reupholstering or replacing furniture. A relatively small investment can pay off exponentially.

5. Put It All Back Together: Now it’s time to reassemble your space, arranging what is left after the decluttering in the most appealing way. At this stage you may also need some new additions. A piece of artwork or furniture, a mirror in an entryway, new bed linens, a thoughtfully placed vase of flowers – these details make a difference when prospective buyers see a home for the first time.

Remember, this process can feel exhausting and anxiety-provoking, but it is temporary and it’s ok to ask for help. A professional organizer will help you through the process. So take a deep breath and get ready to visualize your next amazing home.

Amanda-Wiss-HeadshotContributed by:
Amanda Wiss
Founder, Urban Clarity LLC
amanda@urbanclarity.net

Featured in the Wall Street Journal
How a Pro Helps Tackle Clutter

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Landmarks Preservation 101

Landmarks Preservation 101

What can and cannot be done to your landmark building?

There are often many questions related to renovating or modernizing certain elements of your brownstone façade or your prewar apartment that is within in a landmarked district. The Landmarks Preservation Commission provides oversight on all improvements ensuring the history of the city is well-preserved for years to come. There are many complexities related to navigating the ins and outs of building department permits, as well as application and filing processes, so it is best to have a general idea of what is allowed and what is not regarding the work you are intending on undergoing. Hansel Hernandez provides answers to many of the most frequently asked questions.

What is a landmark façade?
The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has jurisdiction over a designated Individual Landmark, or any building inside a designated historic district. Work proposed on the main street façade, the side, secondary facades, the rear façade, and the roof of any of these buildings has to be pre-approved by the Commission before the proposed work can take place.

What is the difference between a landmark building and a building within a designated historic district?
There is no difference in the level of protection between an Individual Landmark and a building located in a designated historic district. The difference would be that the Individual Landmark would have more architectural, historical, or social significance relating to the history of the City of New York. The Individual Landmark would have eminent architectural importance associated with a famous and prolific architect(s), or feature significant craftsmanship or particular building technique; important historical events would have taken place in it; or groundbreaking social issues, or an illustrious person would have been associated with it. At the same time, a row-house, office building, apartment building, or commercial storefront in a historic district may, as a whole, contribute as part of the streetscape which contains special architectural character in that particular neighborhood. Taken as a whole, the buildings in a designated historic district come under the purview and protection of the Landmarks Commission.

How do you make changes to a landmark façade – what is the process?
First you will need an application form. You can obtain an application and a copy of filing instructions from the Landmarks Commission’s Web site, www.nyc.gov/landmarks, by calling 311, or in person at their offices, 1 Centre Street, 9th Floor, New York, NY 10007.

Applications must be accompanied by photographs, drawings, building material samples and/or photo-montages to illustrate the existing condition of the feature that is to be repaired or replaced, and the proposed new work. You can call the Landmarks Commission and speak to a staff member to discuss which materials are needed, or to arrange a meeting at their offices for further discussion of the proposed work.

After you complete the application form, and add the necessary descriptive materials, you can mail or deliver them to the Commission where they will be docketed and assigned to a staff member. The staff member then determines whether the application is complete, and which type of permit is needed for the proposed work. The staff member will contact you to discuss the proposal, the materials, and to indicate if anything else is needed to process the application and issue the work permit. The applicant has to wait until receipt of the Landmarks permit in order to do the proposed work.

The Commission issues two types of permits for work to be done on designated buildings:
Certificate of No Effect (CNE)
• Issued when the proposed work requires a Department of Buildings (DOB) permit, but either does not affect the protected architectural features of a building, or meets criteria spelled out in LPC’s Rules for specific alterations to the exterior of buildings
• Work covered: interior renovations, plumbing and heating equipment installation; rear wall alterations, cleaning or repair that requires DOB approval, such as Local Law 11 repairs
• Valid for four years
• Public hearing not required

Permit for Minor Work (PMW)
• Issued when the proposed work does not require a Department of Buildings (DOB) permit, and which either meets the criteria under LPC’s Rules for specific exterior alterations or is considered to be good preservation practice
• Work covered: exterior painting, replacing doors or window sash, installing storm windows, or masonry restoration, cleaning or repair, and restoration of architectural detail
What is the process to install new windows?

No permit required:
• Weather stripping, caulking, puttying
• Replacing broken glass
• Repairing suspension systems (cords, pulleys, etc.)
• Repairing or replacing window hardware
• Repairing window components by partial replacement, scraping, filling, or sanding
• Painting window sash or frames the same color
• Installing most interior storm windows or panels
• Installing interior security gates or grilles
• Installing regulation child guard

Permit required:
• Painting window sash or frames a different color
• Installing new window sash or frames
• Installing exterior storm windows and exterior storm window frames
• Installing or removing exterior shutters
• Installing window awnings
• Repairing or altering window frames
• Installing or removing exterior security window grilles or bars
• Changing the shape or design of window openings
• Blocking in existing windows or opening up new ones
• Restoring original or architecturally appropriate window openings
• Replacing (extensive) original window materials or consolidating with epoxies or other plastic

If you live in an apartment building and want to replace your window sash or frames you require a permit from the Landmarks Commission. With your application you should include photographs of the existing windows, measured drawings of the existing windows, measured drawings of the proposed new windows, and a color chip of the color that is changing. You generally get these materials from the window installer.

What is the process to install through-wall A/C units?
No permit required for installing:
• Window air conditioners that don’t require brackets affixed to the exterior, or don’t alter the window sash or frame
• Window fans that don’t require brackets affixed to the exterior, or don’t alter the window sash or frame

Permits required for installing:
• Window units that require brackets affixed to exterior or alter the window sash or frame
• Central air conditioning systems that require exterior condenser units, chillers or fresh air intakes
• Through-the-wall air conditioning units
• Split heating and cooling systems

If you live in an apartment building and want to install a through-wall A/C unit it requires a permit from the Landmarks Commission. The proposed unit should be centered beneath a window opening, the exterior grille should be mounted flush with the exterior wall, and the exterior grille has to be painted to approximate the color of surrounding masonry. With your application you should include photographs of the building or area where you are proposing the installation, measured drawings, and a color chip of the proposed color of the exterior grille. You generally get these materials from the A/C unit installer.

A good first step for either new windows or through-wall A/C’s would be to check with the building management to find out if the building already has a Landmarks-approved through-wall A/C unit or window replacement Master Plan. The Master Plan would have the approved window and/or AC unit drawings, which were reviewed, approved, and granted a building-wide permit sometime in the past. This would eminently expedite the application process with the Commission. All you need to include with your application are copies of the approved Master Plan drawings and photographs of the area where you are proposing the unit installation or photographs of existing windows. If management is unsure about the Master Plan, you may call the Landmarks Commission to find out if in fact the building already has one.

What is exempt from a Landmarks designated area/what are the exceptions?
As a general matter, the Landmarks Preservation Commission regulates all outside facades and the roof of all designated buildings. It also regulates “hardscape” features, such as the installation of sidewalks, paths, front areaways, rear gardens, patios, etc., but does not regulate “landscape” features. In addition, the Commission generally does not object to proposed interior alterations in a designated house or apartment, but it is does review interior work which requires a Department of Buildings permit. This type of review is done in an expeditious manner and only takes a few days.

What if the back of a building is not in a Landmark area?
The rear of designated buildings comes under the jurisdiction of the Landmarks Commission, as stated above. All buildings facades and the roof come under the purview of the Commission.

Can you do thru wall A/C in back of building?
Yes you can, see instructions for filing for a permit for the installation of A/C units.

 

Hansel HernandezHänsel Hernández is an architectural conservator specializing in the preservation and rehabilitation of historic buildings and monuments, and cultural resource management. He received his Master’s in Historic Preservation from Columbia University. He lives in New York City and has worked for the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, the Getty Conservation Institute, the National Park Service, The American Academy in Rome, and the Museum of the City of New York.

If you are a townhouse owner or on the Board of your building and would like more information and consultation on how to handle landmark issues, you can reach Hansel by email at hansel5@hotmail.com

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Market Segment Review 2015

Market Segment Review 2015

The NYC market consists of many different types of housing in various locations and buildings which have different and distinct qualities in terms of architecture and amenities. Each segment is affected in a different way depending on supply and demand as well as other factors, especially location.

Re-sale Co-ops
• Prices of uptown sales of co-ops were flat overall. Spring 2014 was a peak time for co-op sales prices uptown. Of course there were exceptions, with some record sales for unique properties.
• Prices of downtown sales of co-ops were also flat, but the inventory of co-op buildings was much smaller than uptown.

Re-Sale Condos
• Overall, sales prices of resale condos were on par with 2014; as above, there were higher sales that bucked the trend.

New Development (new construction) 
• Overall, depending on the building, this segment was a little stronger, but time may show whether there will be a slowdown in this segment depending on how the market evolves.
• There were a few exceptional new buildings where expectations were met. One such building is 220 Central Park South, which is ultra-high end in a special location with unobstructed views of Central Park.

New Development (conversions from rental to condo or co-op)
• This market has fared reasonably well as developers have been “raising the ante” in terms of interior décor and design. Another reason is that developers were ‘listening’ to the market and creating layouts that work for today’s buyer.

Townhouses
The townhouse market fared well in some areas and less so in others.
• The Upper East Side was on-par with the previous year, although overall it took longer to sell each house. There were over 40 sales of single-family homes last year. Two record sales were both grand prewar single-family mansions over 12,000 square feet; 125 East 70th Street for $37M and 41 East 70th Street for $33M.
• The Upper West Side showed a slowdown in sales of single-family homes. There were approximately 20 single-family sales in 2015. Most of the sales took place in the 2nd half of the year.
• Downtown house sales increased with approximately 50 single-family sales last year; a marked increase over the two previous years where both averaged 36 sales. The highest ticket price sale Downtown, 16 East 10th Street, closed in September for $38.5M. The single-family mansion was fully renovated, offered over 10,000 square feet and is located just off Fifth Avenue.

Projections for 2016

Factors that can influence the market:
Interest rates: Since the Fed’s rate increase, mortgage interest rates have been steady if not lower. Given current market violatility, it is not likely we will see the Fed increase rates further. So far, there has not been any significant adjustment related to interest rate levels, which bodes well for the upcoming spring market.

The falling price of oil: The falling price of oil has ultimately wreaked havoc in the financial markets, resulting in volatility and unpredictability in the stock market. Foreign markets are stumbling, Europe never fully recovered, and Russia and the Middle East have been hurt because of the depressed oil prices.

Disclosure of identities mandated by the Treasury Department: The Treasury Department announced that it will begin mandating the disclosure of identities of “secret buyers” of Manhattan (and Miami) homes costing $3 Million and above. This applies to cash-only transactions conducted using shell companies like limited liability companies, or LLCs. The recent announcement caused quite a stir in the Manhattan residential real estate community, but the real impact remains to be seen.

Political uncertainty: The increase in global conflicts and terrorism has been in the spotlight. The recent Paris attacks coupled with the continuing war against ISIS and the potential for additional attacks weighs heavily in peoples’ minds. Moreover, 2016 is a presidential election year, and many candidates have been voicing their concerns about our nation’s security; such talk precipitates heightened anxiety and may contribute to the volatility in the market.

In addition to the factors mentioned above, over which we have little or no control, there are many other factors that can directly impact the market. Here is a list of those primary factors:

Fewer foreign buyers from Europe, the Middle East and Russia are expected to purchase condo units in New York City, which might ultimately impact the co-op market. In addition, China hit a bubble and its strong economic growth could not be sustained. Reports are showing that there is a slight slowdown in Chinese investment in NYC real estate. However, those foreigners who wish to invest money outside their country will still look at New York real estate as a safe haven.

Market volatility has an impact on buyers. Fear and lack of confidence in the economy affects buyers who wish to purchase a new home, that said, this volatility may or may not endure.

sales-tableSupply and demand. Manhattan market wide is currently still considered under-supplied, although most segments recorded a welcome increase over the previous year. In many segments, supply varied considerably by unit size, and three of the four bedroom sizes were undersupplied during 4th Quarter 2015. Studios were the most undersupplied, one and two bedroom residences were also undersupplied, but had increases in supply compared to last year. Three+ bedroom units were roughly equal. This lack of supply of desirable apartments or homes, coupled with strong demand still bodes well for those sellers.

Bonuses are on par with last year, and people with money in hand often look to buy a home.

The new development market is the segment that has attracted much media attention due to high sales figures and ultra-luxury new buildings. There are a lot of fluctuations and potential gains that could take place that will affect the 2016 new development market. The following are factors to consider:
• Developers are eternal optimists. Every developer feels that their project is the best and will engender the highest price. This is a good thing in a strong market, and a liability if the market falters.
• Land prices escalated to exceedingly high figures. There are many developers and would-be developers who are looking to buy land, and thus the demand is far exceeding supply.
• A developer has to make exceptionally high offers on land and feel confident that they can garner a certain amount of square feet and sell at a high price. In addition, labor and soft costs have risen, creating a situation where a developer must attain a certain high price to cover overall costs.
• There are a large number of new development buildings in the pipeline. As of now, 3,000 units are in the pipeline for the near term. That number will increase as the year progresses.

The Good News for 2016

Positive things to remember during a transitional market:
• There are always people in the market who must buy and sell.
• The re-sale inventory is still low relative to previous years.
• The Fed interest rate increases signals confidence in the economy.
• There are some opportunities for buyers in a transitional market (certain market segments may fare well while others suffer).

Proper Pricing is the Key to Success

When a seller prices an apartment based on what the market will realistically bear, it will sell and may even attain higher than the asking price. We price apartments appropriately and on average, our sales are at or above the asking prices we establish. We provide an extensive comparable analysis before pricing a property. Most often our valuation of properties is within 5% of sales prices. Proper pricing and presenting a property in the best possible light are key in this transitional market!

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