Category Archives: Selling tips

Manhattan market reports as of April 19

According to the latest market reports, the average listing price is down about 10% compared to last year, but 25 contracts over $4 million were signed last week. $849 million dollars of contracts have been signed in the $4million and up segment since the last week of March which is the best start of the Spring market since 2015. What do these seemingly differing numbers mean? The luxury/new development market has been in a buyer’s market for about 2 years now. As a result, the buyer and seller expectations are more inline with each other than lower price points. For the last year or so, new developments have been open to negotiations. Additionally, some projects have been paused or never got off the ground. So the existing inventory is being sold.

This is unlike the below $4 million price market where sellers’ expectations needs to adjust to the current reality and that they will not achieve the same prices that were reached a year ago. Manhattan buyer’s market tend not to last very long.

Additional data here

Broker confidence up according to latest study

The Author-  Brian Silvestry , a licensed real estate broker, has been selling residential and commercial real estate since 1999. He has sold in every neighborhood from Battery Park City to Washington Heights.

 

Thinking of selling your Manhattan brownstone without a certificate of occupancy?

If you are thinking of selling your Manhattan 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, Manhattan townhouse broker can advise you  on what is customary as far as paper work and what would cost you money in terms of marketability.

The Author-  Brian Silvestry , a licensed real estate broker, has been selling residential and commercial real estate since 1999. He has sold in every neighborhood from Battery Park City to Washington Heights.

 

 

Is a renovation necessary to sell your Manhattan property?

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?

5- What is your current market value completely as is?

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.

If you examine your current market value as is, then you can see if it makes sense to do a renovation, knowing the cost and time involved. For example if the current market value is $2,500,000 and you want to do a $500,000 renovation that will lead to a $3 million sale, it obviously does not make sense. But also consider the time of the year now, market conditions and the time of the year when the renovation has been completed. The purpose of any renovation, large or small prior to selling your Manhattan property is to widen the buyer pool, and make it easier to sell and this has to lead to at least a dollar for dollar return, otherwise save your money and sell as is.

The Author-  Brian Silvestry , a licensed real estate broker, has been selling residential and commercial real estate since 1999. He has sold in every neighborhood from Battery Park City to Washington Heights.

 

Is Spring time the best time to sell Manhattan residential property?

Many times, I am asked this very question by potential sellers and the answer is it depends. Right now we are heading into the spring and a shifting market.

In the beginning of the year, sales usually start to slowly build momentum as we climb out of the winter/holiday doldrums. We are seeing that right now as activity has picked up but with the threat of rising rates, who knows?

In the Spring, more sellers tend to enter the market also due to their desire to move during the summer when children are off from school. More competition is not necessarily good for sellers. I usually like to start working on a listing right before the Spring rather than wait. My advice is to look at your needs as a seller, current market activity and not position your listing to be forgotten because there is a major holiday in one week. I would like to also add that assessing the competing properties for yours will help too. For example, a few years ago, there was a glut of 2bd/2ba apartments in 400 Central Park west. This rarely ever happens. As a result, buyers had more choices. My recommendation was that if the seller could wait 1 month or so, some of these other properties might be in contract and as a result we would have less competition.

Two years ago, I sat down with another seller and there was only 1 similar property in the market in Park West Village on Manhattan’s Upper west side. I advised them to go for it. They did and as a result, we got a very high price due to the lack of competition.

The Author-  Brian Silvestry , a licensed real estate broker, has been selling residential and commercial real estate since 1999. He has sold in every neighborhood from Battery Park City to Washington Heights.

 

 

How to choose a real estate attorney

Let’s assume you are doing a residential purchase or sale and need a Manhattan real estate attorney to represent you. How do you find one and what should your criteria be? Let’s take a simplified look at what they do first to assist the process.

On a purchase, your attorney will review the proposed contract and examine the financial information of the co-op or condo building which might entail going to the building to read the minutes of the Board meetings. If there is some project coming up or a noisy neighbor that is wrecking havoc,  it might show up in these minutes.  Your attorney will meet you to sign the contract and fedex/messenger the contract and deposit check to the seller side. After that, assuming it’s not a complicated transaction that will be about it until you go to closing and then he will reconcile the numbers at the closing table and provide you with a closing statement.

On a sale of a Manhattan co-op/condo, the attorney or assistant will prepare the NYS contracts, then will negotiate any changes proposed by the buyer side. You will meet your attorney once the buyer signs and counter sign the contract. If there are issues with the mortgage or closing, the attorney will intercede and if not your attorney will attend the closing and reconcile the numbers with the other side.

Attorneys charge generally as low as $2000 for this transaction and generally an average fee is closer to $3000 or more.

The easiest way to find a good real estate attorney is to ask a friend, family member or your real estate broker for the name of someone that they have used and had a good experience.

You want to make sure that any attorney you use specializes in real estate so that you have a true expert on your side. Sometimes your family attorney also “does” real estate transactions but if there is an issue along the way, experience in doing many transactions may be an asset that you are happy that they have or may hurt you if they do not. So choose someone with experience.

Find out if there is an assistant or someone that you can speak to in case you need a quick question answered. If your attorney spends all day in court and is unreachable by phone/email, it may add stress unnecessarily to the process. Most attorneys will have staff and in some cases they will be able to answer your questions.

Lastly, while you might be recommended to a big name law firm, ask who will be the one handling your transaction. A big name firm that delegates you to a junior attorney or paralegal may not be the wisest choice. Much in the same way, a big name real estate brokerage that passes you off to the 3rd assistant may also leave you feeling that you are not receiving the service you expect.

So while the description I have given of what an attorney is very simple, it is not easy and you never what bumps you will hit on the way so it’s always best to have an expert on your side. To find the right person may take a little bit of research.

The Author-  Brian Silvestry , a licensed real estate broker, has been selling residential and commercial real estate since 1999. He has sold in every Manhattan market from Battery Park City to Washington Heights.

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.