Category Archives: Selling tips

Thinking of selling your Harlem SRO townhouse?

SROs or single room occupancies have a wide range of value in Harlem.  SROs are typically set up as rooming houses where there might be several rooms per floor with a common bathroom or kitchen. The most valuable SRO will have a certificate of no harassment and be delivered vacant. The least valuable will have non-paying tenants and be delivered without the CONH. What is a CONH and why would having it add at least $100k to the value of your SRO?

A CONH is granted after an investigation or look back by NYC’s Housing Preservation and Development of approximately 3 years. They are looking at your history of tenants to see if any tenants were forced out or harassed. Some of the questions on the application ask if you have had a discontinuation of service like heat, hot water or electricity, a potential sign that the tenants might have left due to poor living conditions. It takes approximately 7 months according to reps at HPD to get a CONH assuming the application is in order. You can have an experienced lawyer do this for you and they will charge $3k-$5k depending on how complicated the case is. So if you have some advance notice you might want to apply for this prior to putting your house on the market. If you are a DIY’er then you can fill in the application yourself and can visit the HPD during the week between 9-11am with your walk in questions. Make sure your property is registered with HPD. The CONH is valuable because the purchaser of your property will not be granted building permits to alter the SRO without a CONH. Also, while it may be difficult for you to come up with the names of all the tenants who lived in the property, it is impossible for the buyer so in some cases they may even just decide to sit on the house for 3 years before applying for the CONH. For that, they will expect a severe discount.

Certificate of no harassment application

As you are arranging your future plans to sell, you will want to maintain an excellent relationship with your tenants so they vouch for you if contacted by the City. Also, if they are not a rent stabilized tenant then you might not want to renew their lease which will give you the option to ask them to vacate with a 30 day notice. If you can get by without the income, vacating the house just prior to listing will make it easier to show and sell, but certainly ethically empty out the house prior to closing. If the tenants are rent stabilized then you may need to offer them a buyout or leave that up to the next purchaser. If you must deliver the house occupied make sure that your tenants are current. A building full of non-paying tenants will be only taken on by investors if the price is very low.

As this sale is a complicated one, you will need a team to insure the most lucrative sale including an experienced and knowledgeable real estate broker, a real estate attorney plus perhaps even an architect or expediter. Even though it may seems like a burdensome effort, it will be worth it in the end especially if you know that you have lead time. If you have even only a few months before you will sell, it makes a lot of sense to plan ahead and get a CONH and get the house vacant for closing.

The Author-  Brian Silvestry , a licensed real estate broker, has been selling SROs and Harlem townhouses for more than 12 years and has helped owners to apply and obtain the certificate of no harassment.

How to sell your Manhattan apartment guide

by  Brian Silvestry

What must a seller do to sell their apartment right now and for the most money? Follow through on these 5 musts and you will be well on your way to a successful sale.

1-Price right from the beginning. If you are going to sell your Manhattan apartment now, you need to look at the latest sales and with an unbiased eye come up with the right price and perhaps be a little aggressive. When you move past the initial marketing period it becomes harder to sell an apartment and listings can go stall. In order to price right from the beginning, look at the similar apartments preferably in your building and adjust the values. Typically appraisers will adjust 1% per floor. So if you own 10F and 15F was sold then it was worth at least 5% move. Appraisers will also adjust for view sometimes 5-10% of value. Apartments that are renovated versus not renovated often carry a premium of cost of renovations plus cost of the inconvenience. So, a buyer might need an additional 100k to renovate an apartment but what about the time and hassle? That factors in as well. So consult with your broker to arrive at a market price.

2- Consider staging or at least organizing. Apartments that are staged sell for more and quicker than vacant apartments. Two years ago I sold a loft that was basically a large one room (1000sqft-93m2)studio.  By staging it, we were able to define for the buyers where the living room, bedroom, and dining rooms should be. To stage an apartment of around 1100 sqft, will typically cost around $10k but worth every penny. There are less expensive alternatives around as well which range from virtual staging to systems that cost in between. If you can not stage then at least remove the excess clutter, put away the dirty dishes, and family photos. You really want a buyer to be able to visualize themselves in your home. If they can not do that, they will not buy.

3- Make sure to have professional photos and a video done of the space. Your broker will handle this but only a small percentage will do a professional video that can be shared on social media and used as a tool to qualify buyers. If there is a professional video available, a buyer can see it before the showing/open house. Take a look at the below video example.

4- Choose your broker carefully. Some simple questions that you can ask to distinguish one broker from another:
a-  How long have you been in real estate in Manhattan?
b-  What is your marketing plan for my property?
c-   Who will handle the showings? Yourself personally or someone on your team?
d- Will you follow up with the attorneys, bank and help to coordinate closing?
e- Have you sold other properties like mine?
f- Do you live in this neighborhood?
g- How many listings do you have right now? This is a key question because if the agent has too many then you are just going to be one of many of their clients.

5- Once you have selected your broker, and chose an appropriate price, you will want to make showings as easy as possible. By giving your broker a key and allowing showings even on short notice, you can make your property one of the favorite listings for buyer brokers to show because they know that they can get in easily. You never know who will be the buyer. It only takes one.

Uses these basic steps to position your Manhattan co-op, condo or townhouse appropriately in the market and you will maximize your chances of selling. Good luck!

Thinking of selling your Manhattan townhouse?

Here is one simple tip that will help you when you are selling your Manhattan townhouse. Take a look at your certificate of occupancy (coo)and see how it complies with your actual usage. You might have a coo that says 3 family  but you have 4 apartments. You might have a coo that says SRO and you have a 2 family. The ideal is that you have a coo that agrees 100% with your usage.

If you have plans to sell and have a cushion of time, getting this in order before you list the property, will have an impact on how much the next buyer is willing to pay.

What if the Department of Buildings does not have a coo on file for your property? Now it’s more complicated. What is the history of your building as per other city agencies such as HPD? What is your building registered as assuming it’s a 3 family or higher? How many years have you owned the property and would a letter of no objection assist in clarifying this issue?

Consult with your attorney who should be very knowledgeable in these matters as well as a real estate broker experienced in townhouse sales who can assist you with the steps to take here to increase your marketability and what will add value and what will not.

 

What time of the year is the best time to sell a Manhattan apartment?

Many times, I am asked this very question by potential sellers and the answer is it depends. Right now we are heading into the holidays and the coldest part of the year and a shifting market. As the market shifts more heavily in the favor of buyers, starting to sell an apartment in late November,December is like riding a CitiBike uphill with a cold wind blowing in your face. It can be done but it might be better to pursue a different strategy.  I have already advised a couple of potential sellers to start late January or February. The reason is that the holidays will be past and that timing will be just prior to the Spring selling season.

Typically, also starting right before a major holiday is not ideal like Memorial Day, July 4th or Labor day. However, in those cases you can start right after the holidays as potential buyers return from their vacations or long weekends.

 

Thinking of selling your Harlem townhouse without a certificate of occupancy?

If you are thinking of selling your Harlem townhouse one of the first things you should verify is your certificate of occupancy. A certificate of occupancy tells a prospective buyer what the legal use is. The challenge is that the certificate of occupancy rules came about in 1938 and many homes were built before that. As a result, you may have a building without a certificate of occupancy. Department of Buildings site  Go to the DOB site and enter the address of the property then click on certificate of occupancy link. Many properties will not have a certificate of occupancy on file. In some cases the CofO may contradict the actual use. Consult with your lawyer and architect and your real estate broker to see what would be required to modify the CofO and if it can be sold without bringing the C of O inline with the actual use.

If there isn’t a CofO on file then it may get even more complicated. Consult with your attorney/architect to see what the DOB records indicate. Sometimes, it can be confusing due to different NYC agencies classifying your Harlem townhouse as different usages. Recently, I met a homeowner who said his building was “registered” as a 4 family with the City. Upon initial research he was being taxed as a 4 family by the NYC Department of Finance but his CofO says 3 family home. If your CofO says 3 family, you have a 3 family.

As always, this blog is intended for informational purposes and not as a substitute for legal advice so please consult your attorney. Your real estate broker can normally recommend an attorney for you who specializes in real estate and hopefully can shed some light on any CofO issues that you might have. Additionally, an experienced, Harlem townhouse broker can advise you  on what is customary as far as paper work and what would cost you money in terms of marketability.

 

 

Thinking of selling your Manhattan apt-Does it make sense to renovate the kitchen?

A kitchen renovation can cost you anywhere from as little as $15k to $100k  or more depending on the size of your kitchen and materials that you choose. Doing the work can help you to stand out in a Manhattan building where there are a several similar units for sale. From what I have seen, it also depends on how long ago you renovated your kitchen. If it was within the last 10 years you may be able to leave it alone especially if you are going to be selling a Manhattan apartment under $1.5 million.

Also the likelihood that you will choose something that matches the taste of the buyer is small and if you pick too much of a low end kitchen the buyer may discount it and choose to renovate again. So pick something middle of the road that is not too flashy and not over the top expensive. If you put a $50,000 kitchen into a $1.5 million apartment chances are your return will be close to $35k-$40k. But if you put a $30,000 kitchen in, you will get closer to the $30k that you put in. A buyer purchasing in this range may not be willing to pay you extra for high end appliances and extra features so it will be harder to recoup your investment. Whereas a buyer shopping in the $3-$4 million range for a Manhattan apartment will appreciate the finishes and be willing to pay for the convenience of not having to do the renovation work themselves.

Consult with your real estate broker or attend open houses to see what would be customary for your price range in the way of finishes so as to not over or under spend.

Overall, factor in your cost and anticipated return and also the time that it will take to complete and if that will affect your ability to sell. As the market cools, it might be wiser to sell now and not do the renovation and just market it as is and let the next buyer do the work.

Take a look at the below kitchens and give your opinion. Renovate or sell as is…

Here is an older kitchen but well maintained. I wouldn’t renovate this one. What do you think?
Also a nice galley kitchen done within 10 years.
Windowed kitchen with room for a small table as well.
A kitchen also done within 10 years or so.

Thinking of selling your Manhattan apartment? Should you renovate?

Many times, prospective sellers ask if a full or partial renovation will help them to sell their Manhattan apartment? It really depends on several factors.

1-What is the competition like at your price point,neighborhood and building?

2-What is the age of your kitchen, bathrooms and flooring.

3-How long will the renovation take?

4- How much will the reno cost?

Let’s look at each one by one.

Competition- If there are several properties for sale that are similar to yours and many of them are renovated, you might have no choice but to do some work in your Manhattan pad before selling. However, if there is a shortage as can be the case for 2 bedroom/2 baths under $2 million for example,  the prospective buyer probably will be willing to do the work themselves.

Age of kitchens and bathrooms. If it’s been 30 or more years since the last renovation, you probably will benefit by doing the renovation. If it’s only been about 10 years then the answer is not as clear. Talk to your real estate broker to get an idea of how the apartment will be perceived by a prospective buyer given the age of the renovations.

Length of time for renovation to be completed-If it’s going to be a one year process due to building approval and contractor availability, it might be wise to forego it or scale it down a bit so that it can be completed in less time. Also, timing is an issue here. If the renovation completion date puts you right in the middle of the December holiday season, it might not be the best time to start marketing.

Cost of renovation- If you decide to complete a 6 figure renovation, it might or might not lead to a dollar for dollar return. It most cases it does not. For example if you have a studio apartment of 600 square feet with a value of around $800,000, a renovation of the kitchen, bathroom and flooring of around $50,000 may return dollar for dollar and also lead to a quicker sale. However, a $100,000 reno on the same apartment probably will lead to a quicker sale but not return dollar for dollar.

Sell as is? When you sell as is, you do not complete any renovation and just sell what you have. What you see is what you get and in some cases this might even be the best strategy depending on the above factors and your personal situation. Consult with your real estate broker.  Normally, they can recommend a good contractor to do work if that is needed as well as advise you as to what will yield a return and what will not.

How to pick a broker to sell your Manhattan apartment

I think when you are choosing a broker to sell your Manhattan apartment, it comes to 5 questions that you need to answered.

1- How long have you been working in real estate?

2- Do you work by yourself or in a team?

3- What experience have you had in my building or nabe?

4- What is your marketing plan to sell my apartment?

5- How did you arrive at your proposed listing price?

Generally speaking, you will be better off going with a broker that you get as a referral from a friend or colleague so at least there is a track record. Let’s take a look at the answers to the above questions that will give you  more of a probability of success in selling your Manhattan pad.

Real estate is cyclical and brokers with more years under their belt tend to have weathered more than one cycle. To be successful and continue to make a living generally means you at least are capable in your trade. If you have a $10 million Tribeca loft you might not want to hand that over to someone with 1 or 2 years in the business.

Working in a team can be an asset because you have more agents or assistants at your disposal. However, in a team with many listings you may want to ask if the primary agent will be working with you and handling buyer showings or if it’s one of the team members possibly a newbie. That can make a big difference.

Having already had success in your building or in your neighborhood can also be a strong indication that they are familiar with both. Selling is transferring emotion and in some cases a long term owner in your building may be the best person to transfer that good feeling to a potential buyer.

As far as marketing goes, I think that listing in streeteasy, ny times or online sites, is something that everyone does. Intangibles may be important like doing a video tour of the property or a social media presence. In any market, extra service does not cost more but it might be the difference in procuring a buyer for your Manhattan apartment or having it languish on the market. I think you should also ask about the follow up. If a buyer goes for financing, will your listing agent call the bank to see how the process is moving along. Will they speak to the other attorney to help expedite closing? Typically, the answer will be no but some agents will go the extra mile.

Lastly, the asking price is very important as an overpriced listing will just sit on the market only to have it’s price chopped while delaying your plans to move. In some cases, there may be lots of similar properties and it’s a matter of calculating price per square foot and making adjustments. However, pricing more expensive properties can be almost like pricing art. It’s just not that simple.

I think if you ask some of the questions, and get a recommendation, you will definitely increase the chances that you will be successful in selling your Manhattan property.

Thinking of selling your Manhattan apartment? Staging 101

If you are selling your Manhattan apartment does it make sense to stage it? In many cases, the short answer is yes. Staging can really help buyers to visualize the apartment and see themselves in it. I have shown many Manhattan properties when parties have really admire a good staging. Not that long ago, I was selling a loft apartment on Manhattan’s upper west side at 370 Central Park west. Since it was one big room, and empty, it was wise of the owner to go ahead and stage it. The company did such a good job that everyone that saw it, loved it. The staging in this case clearly defined the living, dining and sleeping areas. Below is a video of that property.

 

Another benefit of staging a home is that minor imperfections will not pop out as much as they would in a vacant apartment. Every apartment has some minor perfections even new construction. But when the apartment is empty, those items can really stand out.
For sellers that might not want to shell out $10k-$30k on professional staging, your agent can have the property virtually staged for around $100 per room which normally would be the agent’s cost.

Thinking of selling your Harlem SRO?

SROs or single room occupancies have a wide range of value in Harlem.  SROs are typically set up as rooming houses where there might be several rooms per floor with a common bathroom or kitchen. The most valuable SRO will have a certificate of no harassment and be delivered vacant. The least valuable will have non-paying tenants and be delivered without the CONH. What is a CONH and why would having it add at least $100k to the value of your SRO?

A CONH is granted after an investigation or look back by NYC’s Housing Preservation and Development of approximately 3 years. They are looking at your history of tenants to see if any tenants were forced out or harassed. Some of the questions on the application ask if you have had a discontinuation of service like heat, hot water or electricity, a potential sign that the tenants might have left due to poor living conditions. It takes approximately 7 months according to reps at HPD to get a CONH assuming the application is in order. You can have an experienced lawyer do this for you and they will charge $3k-$5k depending on how complicated the case is. So if you have some advance notice you might want to apply for this prior to putting your house on the market. If you are a DIY’er then you can fill in the application yourself and can visit the HPD during the week between 9-11am with your walk in questions. Make sure your property is registered with HPD. The CONH is valuable because the purchaser of your property will not be granted building permits to alter the SRO without a CONH. Also, while it may be difficult for you to come up with the names of all the tenants who lived in the property, it is impossible for the buyer so in some cases they may even just decide to sit on the house for 3 years before applying for the CONH. For that, they will expect a severe discount.

Certificate of no harassment application

As you are arranging your future plans to sell, you will want to maintain an excellent relationship with your tenants so they vouch for you if contacted by the City. Also, if they are not a rent stabilized tenant then you might not want to renew their lease which will give you the option to ask them to vacate with a 30 day notice. If you can get by without the income, vacating the house just prior to listing will make it easier to show and sell, but certainly ethically empty out the house prior to closing. If the tenants are rent stabilized then you may need to offer them a buyout or leave that up to the next purchaser. If you must deliver the house occupied make sure that your tenants are current. A building full of non-paying tenants will be only taken on by investors if the price is very low.

As this sale is a complicated one, you will need a team to insure the most lucrative sale including an experienced and knowledgeable real estate broker, a real estate attorney plus perhaps even an architect or expediter. Even though it may seems like a burdensome effort, it will be worth it in the end especially if you know that you have lead time. If you have even only a few months before you will sell, it makes a lot of sense to plan ahead and get a CONH and get the house vacant for closing.