We all know renovation and design quality can affect the sales value of an apartment or home. As a top broker in the city for over 3 decades, I have seen my share of successful and unsuccessful renovations. Why is this so? It all depends on choices that an owner makes, starting with the architect or designer. Here are four steps and suggestions to consider if you want the best results when selling:
- Hire an architect/designer with a track record of successful sales. Most owners look at the design results in photos and even current finished properties that were designed by the architect/designer. But if you are interested in resale down the line, find out how many have sold successfully! That is an important and not a standard question.
- Look at properties you have liked that have sold – even had mulitiple offers and see what designs are selling. What do each have in common with the other?
- Ask your favorite agent about which apartments they have seen that have sold extremely well. Get their ideas of what has sold and why. Ask them if they know of an architect or designer where the apartments have consistently sold well.
- If at all possible, go to see a recent renovation of an architect/designer whose designs sell well. Step into the apartment and get a feeling for it to make sure that you will be happy living in it.
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Today’s post is by guest writer & kitchen designer Regina Bilotta – this article is featured in the Deanna Kory 2018 Spring Newsletter.
Once your home passes the Curb Appeal test, what is one of the most important assets in selling your house? The kitchen! According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 report, the average return on investment for renovations, or ROI – that is the value you can expect to get back upon selling your home for every dollar you spend on upgrades – is 64%. Kitchen and bath renovation ranks among the highest returns. Depending on the type of kitchen renovation, your return can vary from 65% for a major remodel to 80% for a minor job. The rule of thumb offered – if you plan to live in your home for more than 5 years – go for it. Design your dream kitchen with every color, bell, and whistle you want because history proves that trends will change before you sell. If you are thinking of selling in less than five years but want to enjoy a new kitchen while you are there, keep these guidelines in mind: remodeling for resale means choosing materials that will make you happy but also appeal to potential buyers.
Whether you’re looking to sell a co-op, penthouse apartment, or brownstone, the guiding principal is “NEUTRAL” – and not in a bad way. For starters, today’s design trend is a perfect template to create what’s called a “resale-conscious aesthetic”. Even the most-high end, spectacular kitchens incorporate calm palettes and clean lines which happen to be just the ticket to appeal to general audiences and also stand the test of time.
Let’s start with the cabinetry, typically the largest surface in a kitchen. Whether you are installing new cabinetry or simply painting your existing, the safest color selection is classic white. Don’t be disappointed; today’s white can be many things. Consider white, with a cool grey or blue undertone. Or warm up your white with beige or taupe tones but be careful to stay away from pink! With the marketable permanent “color” determined, you will be able to introduce your own favorite but “temporary” color accents. Everything from wall paint to dishware should reflect your own favorites, later to be changed by the buyer. Begin to imagine how a new “marketable white” kitchen can actually satisfy your desire for “color” but also create a clean slate anyone can work with.
Next up, if you have the space, consider introducing a working island in a different material – today’s alternative to the kitchen table. This is the perfect surface to incorporate stained wood-like oak or walnut that can work seamlessly with the white painted perimeter cabinets. Better than a table, an island can accommodate appliances, a sink, or simply give you that extra storage everyone needs. Include an overhang for comfortable stools to gather family and friends. So far, this new kitchen with its neutral palette hasn’t turned anyone away.
Color and material done, cabinetry style is next. This is where the concept of “clean lines” comes into play. Whether you select traditional framed cabinets or transitional to contemporary frameless cabinets, “less is more” for today’s buyer. The days of elaborate details like heavy complex moldings are gone. Take a cue from the style of your home. Let your cabinetry tell a story. It could reflect the style of the rest of the home as seen outside of the kitchen. Or it could successfully distinguish itself from the obvious style and present as though it were a piece of modern furniture placed in a Victorian paneled dining room. Either way, for cabinetry to appeal to a general audience and meet our “neutral” criteria, it must be clean and simple. Today’s biggest sellers range from plain framed, five-piece flat panel doors with an applied or routed molding to frameless flat panel doors. Paints are low sheen or flat and stains are matte.
Counter-tops are easy. While beautiful marbles have become most popular, they require care and maintenance not recommended for resale. Consider a manufactured stone-based material that will stand up to years of heavy use and promise to look as good as it did on the day it was installed. There are numerous patterns and colors to choose from, many of which look just like natural marble. Again, lean towards neutral colors that will compliment your cabinet color.
Appliances offer endless choices. Whether you decide to go with stainless steel or paneled fronts, a sign of a well-done kitchen is a flush refrigerator/freezer – one that does not protrude beyond the counter-top. This one element has become so important to kitchen design that numerous manufacturers have introduced models at multiple price points. While a top-of-the-line big name appliance package will certainly be attractive, it will add to the budget and could decrease you ROI. Alternatively, if you have the room, consider one luxury option, like a built-in coffee maker or a steam/convection oven. Make sure the style of the appliances work with the overall style of kitchen. Other important eye catchers are cabinet accessories. Add interior roll-outs, pull-out trash, magic corners, spice and utensil drawers, lit interiors, and must-have electronics. These are relatively inexpensive ways to make kitchens functional and exciting.
Keeping these four guidelines in mind will make it easy for a potential buyer to see themselves cooking and eating in your kitchen – with their own colors and their own style. Enhance the marketability of your entire home with these tricks of the trade!
Leading kitchen design firm specializing in custom kitchens since 1985. Exquisite product, unrivaled service & superior craftsmanship.
A&D Building, NYC | Mamaroneck, NY | Mount Kisco, NY
212.486.6338 | 866.245.6882
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This series features advice on how to build the best team of professionals who will help you with the buying or selling of your Manhattan home. Assemble your Home Team by also reading Part 1: Real Estate Agent, Part 2: Real Estate Attorney, and Part 3: Mortgage Specialist
There are two types of home seekers: one group would tour an apartment and carefully examine what is in front of them and may say, “This is exactly what I had in mind!” Others might find things they don’t particularly like, such as an old-fashioned more traditional look of the apartment, a layout that feels too closed in, or simply be put off by a previous homeowner’s choice of interior decor. Then there are home seekers who are able to visualize what they want and they look at an apartment with an eye on how to make it their own. These buyers have the vision and a sense of the renovation they need to perform to make the apartment or house their own unique home. To that end, they understand that they will need the best designer, contractor, or home service professional on their side.
People often ask me about how to find the right people to help them renovate an apartment they have just purchased. I u.sually respond by asking about the type and scale of renovations they are planning because that answer will guide me in recommending the proper professionals needed to complete the job. The three professionals most often needed either individually or in combination are: an architect, an interior designer and a contractor.
Once a decision is made on who they want to use, I always recommend to ask for referrals within the person’s network of friends and colleagues. It is always a good idea to ask people whose renovations were similar in scale and price level to what you are planning. There is a wide range of professionals who charge different prices and may deliver varying quality from whom to choose.
Aside from friends and colleagues, there are other resources that will help guide you on your search for the right person or professional team. If you are working with a higher budget, The Franklin Report’s Portfolio Browsing is a good place to begin your search. The Franklin Report site is where homeowners can look up architects, decorators, electricians, plumbers, and other home professionals and visit their individual websites and see reviews on the professionals listed. Houzz is another great site for research and inspiration regarding home remodeling and for finding professionals.
If you are working on a lower budget, it will require a little more creativity and thorough research for the professional you’re looking to hire. Real estate agents are often a good source of referrals. They have seen many renovations and have heard stories of people’s experiences. Other online resources such as Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor may be of some help as well.
When you interview a professional, especially if your budget is tight, make sure the professional you are selecting is someone who has been able to complete projects within a predetermined budget, has maintained an accurate timeline, and has been and to be easy to work with and reliable. Ask for references.
It is common and expected that in any renovation that there can be setbacks or miscommunication along the way. Therefore, it is imperative to check the references of each of the professionals you intend to hire. It is prudent to visit homes and apartments in which the professional has performed their work. Remember to look up the professional online because if there have been issues with a professional they often show up somewhere on the internet.
If you have any questions, please email me at email@example.com or call 646-665-4961.
All the best–
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 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.
Elaborately-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
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
• 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.
Hänsel 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 firstname.lastname@example.orgRead More »
One reason many buyers are willing to pay the premium prices commanded by new construction is for the convenience of moving into a freshly minted home built with top-of-the-line materials and systems.
Yet there is another category of buyer–a rare, determined and fearless type looking to create a unique space that speaks to his own sensibilities and needs. This is the buyer in search of a renovation project. If you are such a buyer you will come across many properties in need of work, requiring anything from a mild makeover to a full blown gut renovation. With 25 years of experience, I feel strongly that knowing what you are getting into from the start is a crucial first step in the renovation process. I strongly recommend that you should not commit to a renovation until undertaking a thorough assessment of the condition and the scope of work required to realize your vision.
So, what are the first things that you should take into account BEFORE you begin the process of renovating?
Top 5 Planning Phase Tips:
Number 1: Conduct a bank reference on everyone on your design team.
The architect. The contractor. Everyone. No matter how creative or inspiring the team members are, no matter how many recommendations they produce, or magazines and reality TV shows they have been featured in, at the end of the day this is a business transaction. As the saying goes, “funding makes the rocket ship fly to the moon,” and without proper financial backing—with their money, not yours– I guarantee the job will never get done. Under-funded architects and contractors are the single greatest reason why projects drag on, and ultimately don’t get done.
Number 2: The change order.
Imagine going into a fine restaurant, ordering a steak for $50 and while you are eating, the waiter comes back to your table over and over again to explain that the chef didn’t realize his cost for the steak was higher, the cost of gas for the stove went up, and the busboy asked for a raise–so the $50 steak will now cost you $110. Sound ridiculous? Well, in the design and construction business this goes on every day. There is nothing that strikes fear in the hearts of those about to renovate than horror stories about change orders derailing budgets and schedules. Change orders are very unwelcomed surprises and they kill projects. The easiest way to avoid change orders is to be sure to work with an architect/design/contracting team that prohibits them unless you, and only you, change your mind on a specification.
Number 3: Planning ahead pays off.
A successful renovation project is all about thoughtful design, sourcing and specifying BEFORE the hammers start swinging–not after. In the absence of exacting specifications, placeholders for materials will always result in change orders, additional costs, project schedule overruns and unnecessary contention. Resist any temptation to work with someone willing to start a project without exact specifications and pricing in place with the expectation that once things get going everything will miraculously “figure itself out.” This never happens.
Number 4: Numbers don’t lie.
In a market that is highly competitive for architects and contractors it is not uncommon to receive an unrealistic initial price for a project, only to have the budget double, triple and sometimes worse. It happens every day and it turns what should be a creative and enjoyable process into a true nightmare. Be aware that quality materials and workmanship cost reasonable amounts of money and low budgets from the outset never pan out. Don’t be seduced by a lowball estimate – it never turns out well.
And the final and potentially most important tip?
Number 5: Be realistic and manage expectations.
Simply stated, a 4,000 square foot apartment cannot be gut renovated in 3 months for $250/square foot, no matter what an architect, designer or contractor might tell you. If you start with a realistic timeline and budget you will avoid the feeling that everyone you meet is telling you a different story once work begins. While each project is different and budgets vary, a good estimate for a gut renovation at the basic level starts in the mid-$300/square foot range and climbs from there. Unless you aspire to have your new home featured in Architectural Digest the high end of a gut renovation tops out at around $725/square foot. After that, it is less about the value of the engineering and more about very specific designs and unique finishes and materials that surpass even the high end of the spectrum.
Many thanks to Lee J. Stahl
President, The Renovated Home