New York's Coolest Hood

New York's Coolest Hood

There’s no doubt that Brooklyn is the reigning King of Cool when it comes to New York City neighborhoods. But within Brooklyn there are dozens of outposts that vary dramatically in tone and vibe. One neighborhood to visit is Sunset Park, which offers great views of the Manhattan skyline. “Sunset Park sits below Park Slope on the south and western borders of Green-Wood Cemetery, and hosts a heady mix of cultures and traditions,” says New York-based Robert Balkovich, a Lonely Planet writer. This area cuts a wide swath through Brooklyn, with Green-Wood consisting of 478 acres. You can even take a trolly tour of the ground and see some of the famous burials, including artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and musician Leonard Bernstein.

Read more at Time's 10 Coolest Neighborhoods in America

So, how has Sunset Park fared?

Property values have risen 100% in the last 5 years! 

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Have you missed the boat, or are rising property values just getting started Get in touch to speak with a local expert and get an insider's view.

10 Ways To Increase Home Values

10 Ways To Increase Home Values

Your goal is to make the most amount of money on your sale, and our job is to help you achieve that goal.  Take these 10 tips that we've found make the difference between a listing that sits for months and one that sells over its asking price with multiple offers in just a few days.


1. Market timing is critical.

A good agent will help you determine timing as it relates to the other properties on the market, and seasonality. Choosing the right time to market, such as Spring, when there is limited inventory and abundance of buyers may be better for some, while a market with limited inventory may be better for others.

2. Spruce up the interior: paint touch ups, all neutral colors.

A little paint job can go a long way. Light colors will help mask that purple cabinetry, appealing to everyone's taste.

3. Update kitchens and baths.

Sometimes all it takes is resurfacing cabinet doors and installing new hardware. You don't need a new slab of marble or a $15,000 budget to see results.

4. De-clutter and organize your closets.

Buyers will look everywhere! If your closets look like a dump, they'll wonder how the rest of the house has been kept.

5. Stage your home for sale by hiring a professional. Best money spent!

An awkward layout, furniture that doesn't fit, or drab furnishings can be the difference between a bidding war and a price reduction. You want to get it right the first time around.

6. Get a professional to deep-clean.

Make it sparkle. 

7. Check lighting to make sure all bulbs match and are working.

The importance of lighting cannot be understated! For such a minimal cost, your return is a well lit and nicely presented property. 

8. Consider your own inspection.

If you have any concerns about the mechanics, structure or electrical systems, have a professional home inspection done to ensure that all systems are running properly or be able to anticipate what will turn up.

9. Add potted plants and flowers to empty spaces and remove any unhealthy plants that detract from your home's appearance.

A nice touch of green creates a welcoming environment.

10. Get professional photos taken.

Perhaps the largest impact on your sale will be how it presents online. A professional will know the right angles, and lighting to show your home so that buyers will want to see it.

 

5 Reasons Why You Need A Buyers Agent

5 Reasons Why You Need A Buyers Agent

Using the listing agent means I'll save money... is the most common fallacy in real estate.

YES, you read that correctly. The truth is that you stand to lose way more than you could possibly gain without having an agent on your side to walk you through the process.

To prove it, we talked to both buyers agents and sellers agents with more than 30 years of experience and shared their thoughts below:

1. It has absolutely no affect on the purchase price. 

None. The buyer does not get a better deal or price when making an offer with listing agent. The total commission is already included in the agent’s agreement, regardless of whether or not there is a buyer’s Agent involved. We know it sounds repetitive...

2. You want to see the entire market, not just one listing.

The listing agent has less motivation to show buyer comparable properties or proper comp data! This means you're often taking cherry-picked listings that support pricing and have no objective source of advice! Sellers agents are often so preoccupied with their own listings that they won't bother to show you listings that aren't theirs.

3. Due diligence is absolutely necessary!

A buyer's agent will do their own due diligence to research everything about the particular property. Working with a selling agent guarantees that you won’t see the full picture (in fact, you'll probably be lucky to see half of it). According to the Realtor Code of Ethics, a seller's agent must disclose only what he/she knows about the property, or what the Seller has shared. Having your own agent will ensure that you turn over every stone.

4. You need their experience. 

You may buy or sell one to five properties in your lifetime. A good agent sells that many each month. The amount of knowledge and expertise that an experienced agent has built through the years just can't be replaced. 

You need someone on your side that knows the neighborhood, understands pricing and deal structure, and will go to the mat for you to help you negotiate a better price and beat competing offers. If something goes wrong with the financing, taxes, title, insurance, contracting, building code or the contract, do you really have the knowledge or the time to handle the matter without an expert?

5. It will save you time, stress, and money! 

Buying real estate, with a great team alongside you is tough enough, why would you want to make it harder? You, as the buyer do not need to run around getting in touch with each individual listing agent on a property. It wastes a lot of time and in some cases the time can cost you to lose the opportunity to see and/or purchase the property. Anticipating every step along the way means that you'll be ready to have a fast and painless transaction. 

BONUS - It doesn't cost you a penny!

Since the seller pays the buying agent, this is likely the only time in your life that someone will pay for you to have your own representation, so take advantage of it! You wouldn't turn down a free attorney, would you?

 

Create a Bidding War in Just 4 Days

Create a Bidding War in Just 4 Days

When our seller approached us and said that he was willing to do anything to get the most value out of his apartment before listing, we knew we had the opportunity to shine.

A kitchen makeover, new tub and fixtures, a fresh coat of paint, the right furniture and some beautiful photography - all done for under $5K - resulted in a flurry of offers (more than 10% over ask) and a closing price of $30K more than what any previous unit in the line had sold for.

So what contributed to the perfect storm?

  1. A little reno goes a long, long way
  2. Priced accurately to get the most foot traffic
  3. Tasteful staging
  4. Availability to show at ALL times (8am to 8pm)
  5. Lightning fast responsiveness (less than one hour) with potential buyers

Finding Your Way

Finding Your Way

After the initial excitement of browsing online wears off, the path to home ownership can become overwhelming. 

  • What neighborhoods should I look in?
  • What will it get me? 
  • Are my expectations realistic?
  • Is there anywhere else should I be looking?
  • What professionals should I be talking to?

Our team addresses each one of these questions with data-based tools to help you get answers without the headache and hassle.

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What neighborhoods should I look in?

If you don't already know exactly where we want to live, we often look to friends and professionals who know the markets based on years of experience. However, for most of us, it can be overwhelming.  The good news is that if you know enough of the things that you really care about (e.g. home size, beds/baths, budget, school district, geographic proximity, etc.), the ability to find neighborhoods that have those home characteristics becomes very easy.

What will it get me?

Once you have your budget and a short list of neighborhoods, we can actually tell you, what you can expect to find at your price range. For example, a budget of $500,000 would likely be a 2 bed in Neighborhood X but a 3 bed in Neighborhood Y. We can also tell you what kind of amenities you would expect for that neighborhood, or average monthly fees as well.

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Are my expectations realistic?

Your best friend told you that they found a diamond in the rough last year, and that makes you incredibly envious. But was it really that rare? Are we talking 1 in a million, or was it actually closer to what you can expect for that area. It's important to know when you're wasting time searching for something that just may not be there...

Is there anywhere else that I should be looking?

As long as you know your budget and search parameters, finding similar neighborhoods doesn't become difficult, if you have the right information. While no single person can know the characteristics of every neighborhood, our extremely large database surely can! By using Machine Learning, finding neighborhoods based on similarities and characteristics has become a simple task - like finding other neighborhoods with tree-lined streets and townhouses from 1900, all within your budget.

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What professionals should I be talking to?

Now that you've thought about all of the considerations that go into where to focus your search, it's time to talk to the experts in those areas. Making sure you have a team with all the right pieces is important!

  • Your agent is your neighborhood and pricing specialist - they know the housing stock inside and out and have the experience you need to know how to structure and approach your negotiation.
  • Finding an attorney is just as important! They will be in your corner to protect you contractually and should have the experience necessary to guide you if something seems amiss. 
  • If you're financing, a mortgage lender that knows the neighborhood is imperative. Often, lenders may make promises to win on pricing, but may fail to get the deal done when it matters. Don't underestimate the importance of dealing with someone who knows the community or the building. 

 

Buying Your Vacation Home

Buying Your Vacation Home

Whether it's the lakefront getaway, summer beach home, or mountain retreat, you'll want to take these things into consideration before making the offer.

1. Know the Area.

Don't even think about buying until you've visited the area and spent a good amount of time there. No amount of research online or talking to friends or family will prepare you for spending weeks, or years, living in a new area.

2. Match your lifestyle.

Many first-time home buyers today are opting for vacation homes before they purchase primary residences. What's most important about this strategy is matching your lifestyle to your house purchase. If you live in a city, but want lots of space, a home in the country might be just what you're looking for while you keep renting. Or, if playing golf every weekend is part of your routine, maybe it's time to find a home near the links.

3. Understanding Fixed and Variable Costs.

The purchase price is just the beginning of your budget. Your costs to use and maintain your home are also a significant expense to consider and may vary entirely from what you are used to. The expenses of a summer home versus a winter home can differ greatly when it comes to maintenance (snow removal, storm-proofing, flood insurance, fire, etc.), frequency of use (property management costs and security and alarm systems), and taxes.

A good rule of thumb is to set aside ~2% of the property's value for maintenance costs annually. Budgeting for taxes are a bit easier (though subject to change), but taxes can also weigh heavily and differ year to year, as well - and more than 2% at the State level alone

4. Ease of Access.

How easy will it be to get to your getaway? A beachfront home in Costa Rica may sound like a dream, but how willing are you to take that trip if it requires two flights, a rental car, and a three hour drive? It's also possible that the 30 miles of dirt back-roads that require a 4 x 4 takes the same amount of time as the 3 lane highway (with or without traffic).

You can use a site like Travel Math or Google Maps to estimate the time and cost of getting between two places to help compare apples to apples.

5. Generating Income.

So, you want to AirBnB? Better check your ROI and the local regulations. You should have a strong understanding of the local rules (and costs) that may turn a great investment idea into a legal nightmare.

In addition to knowing the estimated income, you should factor in occupancy rates during high and low season, and marketing costs. Just because a home is listed for $1,000/night online, doesn't mean it's renting...

Local laws can also put a damper on your investment use.  For example, under the NY State Multiple Dwelling Law, rentals of a duration of less than 30 days can cost you up to $7,500 per violation. Local town laws can be even more restrictive, like those in the Hamptons that require you to register all rentals, pay a registration fee, and ensure your dwelling is up to code - failure to comply can carry a hefty fine, or even jail time. Looking to purchase a co-op or condo? HOA or board rules may outright preclude you from renting altogether, unless certain requirements are met. 

Lastly, it's worth noting that any rental income on properties rented for more than 15 days/year require you to file taxes when April 15th rolls around, so you'll want to keep records.

It's always important that you make these decisions alongside a professional who can help answer all of your questions. Whether it has to do with the local area or the financial implications, a great agent will help guide you.

Disclosure of Assets

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Disclosure of Assets

Do I have to disclose my assets to my real estate agent/broker?

QUESTION:

I am looking to hire a realtor to buy a home but I do not want to reveal to them how much cash I have and how much money I am looking to borrow. I only want to give them a dollar amount for what I'm ‘approved‘ for. Is it possible to work this way with a realtor?

Historically, realtors have tried to push me to reach out to certain lenders. I think who I am borrowing from is none of their business and how much cash I'm spending is none of their business.

If realtors continue to try to get me to 'up my spending threshold' by finding different 'sources' or things like that, I may just have to find a way to buy a home where I don't have to interact with a realtor, because I'm getting sick of it.

ANSWER:

Finances are a very private matter, but are also critical terms when it comes to the purchase of a home.

The purpose of disclosing a financial snapshot to your agent is so that agent can craft an offer that shows your qualification as a purchaser and gives the seller the confidence that you can close on the deal. Often times, an incomplete picture of assets will preclude a seller (or agent) from taking your offer seriously. 

Additionally, when financing, an offer MUST include the purchase price, amount financed, and down payment - there is just no way around that, if you want your offer to be taken seriously. In the event of a condo or coop purchase, a financial snapshot is also usually a board requirement, as is showing reserve funds in an account to cover monthly fees for a certain period of time.

We always suggest asking the agent why they are requesting certain information. If they can't give you a good answer, it's probably time to move on.

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The Home Stretch

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The Home Stretch

11 days before closing, what can go wrong?

QUESTION:

Aside from ensuring we have our down payment funds in order prior to close, what actually has to happen to receive a "clear to close" at this point?

FWIW - The seller picked the end of the month as she is closing on the purchase of her new home and moving in a week before we are scheduled to close.

ANSWER:

The good news is that you're around 95% of the way there. While it is still possible to hit a snag, it sounds like you're in a great position to close on your side (Assuming all is clear with your Commitment Letter, down payment, and any inspection / appraisal items have been settled).  The seller's side, on the other hand, may be in a position to delay closing if their purchase / move-in timeline gets pushed.

Outside of a force-majeure or a seller delay, the most likely barrier to close, at this point, is your final walkthrough. In the event that something happens to the house in the next week, you'll have to address it between close and the walkthrough. These items are often small, but can end up being contentious for various reasons (proximity to close, additional paperwork, and nature of negotiation). 

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