Archive for Selling


Staged with Young Kids: Mission Impossible?

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We’re often asked how much needs to be done or how little can the owners get away with when staging an apartment for sale when they have young kids.  The answer is it depends.  You want your apartment to show at its best, yet you still have to live there.

Here are a few recommendations:

  • Declutter – Take a hard look at the kids’ toys and determine what their absolute favorite toys are, then cut that number in half, and store the rest in a storage room or rented storage.  That way you can tidy up quickly, and give the appearance of having more space.  When the kids get bored with those toys, let them choose something to come out of storage, but something has to go in storage.
  • Re-paint the apartment – The walls take a beating with toys and little hand-prints.  Painting is the least expensive thing you can do before putting the apartment on the market.
  • Before showings begin – Take a good look at your entrance hall.  Large strollers and sports equipment should be stowed elsewhere – perhaps a neighbor or the super will allow you to store those bulky items for an hour or so at a time.  A buyer’s first impression is right inside your door.  Put your best foot forward.
  • Storage – Multi-purpose storage such as benches or ottomans with storage can help hide the toys out of sight but still accessible to the kids.  Pretty baskets and bins also work on bookshelves, and allow for the quick pick-up before a showing.
  • Keeping the floors clear is essential – enlist the kids’ help in picking up before showing.  If you make it fun, they might actually want to help with the clean-up.
  • Make sure the linens are crisp and clean before showing.

You don’t have to live like you’re in a museum while you’re trying to sell, but you do need to keep everything as tidy as possible.  Your home needs to be as ready as possible for a showing so you don’t need to rush around like crazy to get ready at the last moment.


Inspired by New York Times article by Tim McKeough

Categories : Properties, Selling, Staging
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Thinking of Selling Your Apartment with a Neighbor?

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With larger Manhattan apartments generally selling for more per square foot, this question comes up from time to time.

Suggestions to consider:

  • Would the 2 apartment layouts work well together?  Some really don’t.  According to some experts, the straight line – horizontal feel does not really work well.
  • Consult an architect or professional designer to see if the combination would create a desirable space.
  • Bigger combinations are more desirable than smaller combinations.
  • Consider the cost and amount of work that would be necessary for the renovation.

Other points to ponder:

  • Be objective when determining  whether the combination would be more valuable
  • Have a good working relationship with the other owner
  • List both apartments with the same broker and make sure an architect has reviewed the proposed combination to make sure it is feasible.
  • Make renderings and floorplans available to prospective purchasers
  • Hold open houses at the same time for both units.
  • Make sure you have a written understanding on how any sales proceeds will be divided prior to marketing the units.
  • Make sure the combination would be approved by the co-op board.  If this is the first combination in the building, definitely make sure the board is in agreement prior to marketing them together.
  • Consider offering the units individually as well as in combination with the neighbor to cover your bases.
  • Financing is trickier when purchasing two apartments that will be combined to one.  Make sure your lender is on board.
  • Have an architectural plan created for marketing purposes that achieves the multiple bedroom apartment with the least amount of renovation necessary.  Consider getting a proposal from multiple contractors based on the plan.  Avoid the lowest priced contractor which may be unrealistic in price.
  • Consider purchasing part of the common area from the board or association to enhance the layout.


Excerpted from article at the Brick Underground

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Emotional Pitfalls to avoid when Selling

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It’s easy to become attached to your apartment.  You live there, it gives you shelter, you made memories there, it’s your home.  When it comes to selling, the stakes are too high and the emotional attachment must be broken. If you allow yourself to make decisions based on your attachment you may fall into these pitfalls:

  • Price reduction indecision.  If your apartment was priced based on your sentimental attachment to the property it could be priced too high.  When your broker recommends a price reduction, it is generally because the apartment is not getting enough traffic, or the right kind.  Delaying a decision about a reduction results in more days on the market, and often desperation as the number of days climbs to a level that is inconsistent with the comparable sales within the neighborhood and price range.  A reduction in price widens the pool of available buyers, and is not a decision to be taken lightly.  The best way to combat the indecision is to have a plan in place before the need arises.  Your broker will be able to guide you and provide you with information before the time comes.  He or she would not recommend a price reduction if they didn’t think it was warranted, and in your best interest.
  • Excessive attachment.  The buyers won’t figure into their price the fact that your baby grew up in that apartment or that it was your Grandma’s apartment way back when.  They are looking at plaster and floors, kitchens and baths.  While the stories may be compelling buyers will not pay extra for your memories.  Your decision to sell must be faced in a business-like manner.  If you are excessively attached to your home, you might be inclined to overprice it, disregard your broker’s staging advice; be irrational about negotiations about price or repairs; or fail to respond to market feedback.
  • Ignoring your target market needs.  Your broker will be able to help you with this part.  If your target market is pied-a-terre or young professionals because of size or location, make sure that audience is captured by integrating these points in your marketing; i.e. proximity to subway and other mass-transit, great neighborhood amenities, and built in storage.
  • Celebrating too soon.  It’s tempting to look at national market data and conclude that over asking price offers or multiple offers are the norm.  But it’s not sold until the deal actually closes.  Sellers who ‘celebrate too soon’ run the risk of losing out on a deal because they might fail to stage the apartment properly or fail to do the tasks recommended by their broker to ready the apartment for showings; overprice the apartment; not keep up the appearance of the apartment for showings; or spend the proceeds of their sale before the buyer’s financing and inspections are pending and before the deal closes.  Sometimes deals fall apart.  You need to work with your broker and follow their lead when it comes to the progress of the sale.
  • Price confusion.  Fair market value is defined as what someone is willing to pay for a given item at a given time.  A good way judge is to review comparable sales with your broker to determine a fair market price.  Set the listing price after you’ve been presented with the evidence.    Do not make the listing price decision based on what you think you need to ‘get out’ of the apartment or based on what is next in your life.  Pricing decisions are best made with the cold eye of a business person making a deal.

Inspired by Trulia article by Tara-Nicholle Nelson

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Lawyer’s Tips for Preparing for Appraisal

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The appraisal is an important piece to the financing puzzle.  The price on the appraisal is the figure upon which the financial intuition bases their funding decision.  A failed appraisal could kill the deal.

  • Make sure your broker attends the appraisal.  This gives him the chance to present a neat package of all the comparables for the transaction price and show off the property.
  • Show off features of the apartment that may not be so obvious like deeded storage or a second dishwasher.  This is even more important if the appraiser is not familiar with New York City.
  • Explain negative comparables.  For example the apartment in the same line that sold for a great deal less that needed to be renovated needs to be pointed out.


From article by Jerry Feeney

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…But there’s no pleasing everyone all of the time, especially in real estate.  Buying real estate is mostly about personal preference, from location to décor.  Some things can be changed, true, but you can’t just move an apartment to a different location.  So we’re going to focus on tips for the things you can change.

  •  Odors:  Your apartment is all spruced up and ready to show, but buyers use all their senses when looking for a home.  Nothing sends people running faster than powerful odors.  Cigarette smoke and pet odors cause people to think the odors are permanent.  Invest in professional cleaning to address the challenge.
  • Extreme Overpricing:  If buyers and their brokers are constantly commenting on the price or worse, nobody is even looking at it or you continually get lowball offers, you may have a challenge on pricing.  Make sure your apartment represents value for the price.  Make sure you listen to your broker’s advice when it comes to pricing.  He’s the expert in your neighborhood, and can bring you comparable prices to similar apartments.
  • Dirt and mess:   Buyers get distracted by clutter and dirty dishes, piles of mail and books in plain view.  Make sure everything is neat and tidy before every showing and open house.
  • Lots of little malfunctions:  Buyers will almost compulsively open and close cabinet doors and drawers, flick light switches and hold handrails as they go up and down stairs.  Drippy faucets  and uneven tiles will sometimes send buyers running, or at the very least subconsciously start tallying up the cost of all the little fixes and drop their offer accordingly.  To sidestep this pitfall, walk through the apartment with your broker and have him show you all the little fixes that need to be handled.  Check with your building Super to see if he can fix them for your inexpensively.

 Inspired by Trulia article by Tara-Nicholle Nelson

Categories : Build Your Team, Selling
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New Federal Tax on Investment Income

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On January 1, 2013, a new 3.8% Federal tax on the investment income of individuals, estates, and trusts is scheduled to come into force.  The tax was enacted in 2010 as part of the Administration’s health care legislation, and there is of course some political uncertainty regarding whether Congress will amend or repeal it before it comes into effect.  For the time being, though, we need to be prepared for this new tax that will be imposed on interest, dividends, annuities, royalties, rents, capital gains, and certain other items.  The tax will be in addition to all otherwise applicable Federal, state, and local income, transfer, and other taxes.

This memorandum focuses on the tax’s application to owner-occupied residential property (including single-family homes, condominiums, and cooperative apartments).1   Although the tax is complicated, here are a few simple rules to guide you:

  • In general, if an individual’s home is sold, the 3.8% tax will be imposed on the gain “recognized” by the seller (and not on the gross purchase price).
  • As you are aware, a limited portion of an individual’s gain on the sale of a primary residence (generally, $250,000 for a single individual, and $500,000 on a joint return) may not be taxable for ordinary Federal income tax purposes.  The same rule applies for purposes of the new tax.
  •  If the seller’s “adjusted gross income” (with certain modifications) is below specified levels (generally, $200,000 for a single individual, or $250,000 on a joint return), the seller may be exempt from the new tax.

We hope that this general guidance is helpful to you.  However, each seller should consult with a qualified tax advisor to determine the application of the new tax, as well as the application of all other tax rules, to the seller’s particular circumstances. 

For more information on this Federal Tax,  see our post “The New 3.8% Real Estate Tax Is Coming” and the document explaining the new tax with examples.

From newsletter

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Staging more Prevalent in New York Real Estate

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Thanks to realty TV shows that have convinced us that aesthetics is paramount when selling a home, stagers have become visible part of the New York City real estate scene.  And they don’t come cheap.  Most charge a consultation fee of a few hundred dollars then hundreds to thousands to follow through with the vision they created. 

Stagers see their job as stripping apartments of anything that might distract a buyer; strong paint colors, distracting artwork, family photographs and personal items.  Then they add small touches to win over buyers.  Mostly the job is to show buyers how a space can be used; creating a vision of what life could be like in a particular apartment.

Usually brought in by brokers, stagers are  paid by owners, to hopefully sell apartments for more than they could have or more quickly than if they had not set the stage.  They have to be part best friend, part worst enemy, and tread carefully around sometimes fragile egos.  Who wants to hear their decorating taste isn’t up to the challenge?  Sometimes a stager’s advice is unwelcome, even completely disregarded, causing the loss of a listing because the seller is offended.  Occasionally, the seller falls back in love with their apartment after staging, and decides to stay, taking the apartment off the market.

In New York City, stagers have the added challenge of dealing with co-op rules, freight elevators and superintendents.  Their costs include overhead, storage units for the furniture, artwork and linens, labor, paint, and the little touches that most people can’t even imagine.

Sellers don’t need to go overboard with the staging.  In most cases buyers aren’t interested in buying what’s there.  They just need to see the space in a positive light.  Whether the seller runs with the advice from the initial consultation, or goes for the full package, staging can help the buyer see the possibility of their family in the space.

When prepping your home for buyers, some areas need special cleaning efforts.

Lose the clutter:  It distracts buyers. 

First Impressions:  The entry sets the first impression for any potential buyer.  Make sure it shines.   Lose the clutter, polish the furniture, vacuum the rug, and clean the floor.

Kitchen:  Make sure the dishes are done, and the counters are clear, clean and sparkling.  While on the market, try to avoid making or serving meals that give off strong odors that linger for hours.

Bathrooms:  Make sure the tile and grout are sparkling clean.  Mildew is a big turn-off.  Clear out the personal paraphernalia and make sure your medicines are locked up and out of sight.

Everywhere else:  Spotless is the way to go.  Clean the windowsills, picture frames, light fixtures, baseboards, cabinets and shelves (yes people will look in your medicine and kitchen cabinets!).  Wipe the doors around the doorknobs, the walls around the switch plates, and the front of appliances.   Make your bed with fresh linens.  If time is an issue, occasionally skip the upper shelves and tops of cabinets.


Inspired by New York Times article and New York Times article.

Categories : Manhattan, Selling, Staging
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Seller, is Your Home Being Setup?

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With the improving conditions in some markets this spring, a potentially growing number of setup homes are popping up.  When an apartment is on the market with an unrealistically high asking price, has many showings for buyers and agents but no offers, the home could be a setup.  Some Real Estate agents will use the overpriced home as a negative example to sell other, similar homes that carries a more realistic asking price.  It makes the lower priced home look more attractive.

 How to avoid having your home being used as the Setup:

  • Make sure your home is realistically priced.
  • Ask your broker for the Competitive Market Analysis for other homes sold in the area that are similar to yours.
  • Remember there is no way to put a price on sentimental value.
  • Follow your Real Estate Broker’s advice in pricing.
  • If you are getting a lot of showings but no offers, start asking why that may be.

In the end, it is about selling your property and moving on.  Educate yourself on the market.  If you’re holding out for an unrealistic price, your home will probably become the home that everyone loves to visit.


Inspired by Miami Herald article.