New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide

HABITAT

NEW YORK CITY

If you're in the market for a broker to help you sell your co-op or condo apartment, and you think they're a dime a dozen, think again. Brickunderground.com writes that while brokers are more than used to sellers that are difficult, eccentric, or both, they keep their distance from the impossible ones. How can you put off a broker? Leigh Kamping-Carder offers seven solid reasons, among them being stubborn about the asking price, wanting to skimp on commission, and — New York City notwithstanding — "being the wrong kind of crazy." Ouch. It makes sense when you consider that time is money. If a seller's antics stall the process and keep a co-op or condo lingering on the market, the potential commission does start to lose a bit of its charm. 

Just because condo sales slowed down late last year doesn't mean they're going away anytime soon. The sales slowdown, we mentioned, is good news for buyers, who can get choosy — and it looks like they are going to have quite a selection from which to choose. The New York Times reports that 2015 may be the year of the condo: "At least twice as many new condominium units are scheduled to hit the Manhattan market this year as in 2014, the most since 2007." So why are so many condos being built if most forecasts point to fewer sales? It seems like a dose of optimism among brokers and new-development marketers. They concede that buyers may no longer have that sense of urgency to buy, but believe that condos will still sell, even if it takes a little longer than what they've been used to in the past few years. 

A co-op board's green initiative has brought the closing of a co-op apartment to a crashing halt just a few days before they were scheduled to seal the deal. In the latest "Ask Real Estate" column in The New York Times, the co-op apartment's seller tells Ronda Kaysen that their lawyer got a memo from the building's managing agent "saying shares could not transfer to the buyer unless [they] installed a low-flow toilet, added aerators on the faucets and installed Energy Star appliances." The seller says that while the toilet requirement was referenced in board minutes from February 2013, the Energy Star appliances were not, adding that the board did not notify any of them of these requirements in advance. Now the closing is delayed indefinitely, and they are facing thousands of dollars' worth of unexpected expenses. Kaysen explains that although the timing is pretty horrible, it's not illegal for the board to make these requests as long as it followed protocol. Some negotiating might be in order to see if the board is willing to make some concessions. 

Back in the summer of 2013, Gerard J. Picaso, a veteran property manager of New York co-ops and condos, was having a get-acquainted meeting with a board president and treasurer who had just hired Picaso's firm. At one point the board president asked, "What happens if you and your partner get hit by a bus?"

"Depends on how big the bus is," Picaso replied.

"Let's say it's very big."

At that moment, Picaso had a revelation. "I realized my partner, Susan Axelbank, and I had a plan if something happened to one of us, but we had no plan if both of us were gone. It was really something to think about when you get to be a certain age."

A READER ASKS: I've been on the board for a few years now. When I first came on board, we had to fix the roofing membrane thanks to leaks. Now some tenants have reported leaks, so the board is talking about fixing the roof membrane again. I suspect that the problem is bigger than that, but the board is not very keen on undertaking a massive and costly project. How do I convince them that it's better to spend a bit more than we may be comfortable with now rather than a lot more later on? 

It seems like just yesterday we were talking about how to get Christmas trees into co-op and condo units without totaling the common areas or being a drag on building staff. Alas, the holiday season is over, and it's time to get rid of those trees. The New York City Department of Sanitation (DOS) will start collecting them this Monday, January 5, through Friday, January 16. DOS is requesting that residents put out those discarded trees at curbside as early as possible during the collection period — that is, don't everybody wait until January 16. DOS is also asking that residents remove all tree stands, tinsel, lights, and ornaments from trees before placing them out for collection and to not place trees in plastic bags. Here we go again with the pine needles everywhere — poor common areas, poor building staff. Brickunderground.com reminds co-op and condo residents to check any policies the board may have put in place, so you're not leaving a trail of Christmas detritus all over the elevator, lobby, basement, or other common areas. If there's a service elevator, use it to minimize hassle for others, recommends Brickunderground.com, adding that if the super or doorman ends up helping you get rid of your tree, do tip them (yes, on top of whatever you gave them for the holiday). DOS will be turning discarded trees into mulch that will be distributed to parks, playing fields, and community gardens throughout the city.

It was one hell of a year for condo sales, so much so that one group of real estate execs talked them up big time. Another group, however, said to expect the luxury market to shrink thanks to a slowdown in condo sales. Just how much of a slowdown? The New York Daily News reports that condo sales dropped 26 percent between October and November 2014, following a seasonal high in October. "Colder weather and modest price growth put a chill on condo sales activity in November. That's not a surprise as October is typically the final push for home purchases before the end of the year," StreetEasy data scientist Alan Lightfeldt told the Daily News. "But the slowdown will likely continue through all of 2015. We predict condo prices will increase at just half their 2014 pace over the next year." Lightfeld also echoed the real estate experts who spoke with DNAinfo, adding that "greater inventory will give Manhattan buyers the opportunity to be more aggressive about negotiating asking prices." Condo sales may have fizzled as the year drew to a close, presenting sellers with bad news indeed; but one seller's misfortune is another buyer's gain.

The Salvation Army thrift shop at 176 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg was demolished last year. Talk about location, location, location. Williamsburg is pretty hot stuff and getting hotter by the second. So it doesn't come as a huge shock that the Sally has scrapped plans to build "a two-story, 10,000-square-foot building" (which were three years in the making), and opted instead to sell the prime piece of property, according to the New York Observer’s Commercial Observer. Major Charles S. Foster, the command property secretary major for the Salvation Army, confirmed to the Commercial Observer that "the site is being marketed by Steve Bodden and Jack Lerner of Sanchez Bodden Lerner." As far as buyer and price go, mum's the word. Brownstoner.com speculates that given the busy corner location, rentals would make sense, "but the market has been turning to condos lately so who knows." Looks like potential condo buyers have something to keep their eye on in the next few years.

Chicken-wing-eating rabbits in Gowanus, raccoons about to get busy in Harlem, and goats grazing outside an IKEA in Red Hook? Only in New York... When it comes to odd news, December certainly seems to have worked overtime. What a way to close the year. Of course, not all pests are unusual (and newsworthy), but they are still pests all the same. Do you know what to do if you have a rat infestation? We know how mortifying and embarrassing it is to seek help, so we did the legwork for you. Read about one Upper West Side condominium's battle with the horrible critters. Be sure, also, to check out what the Rat Academy is all about and how setting one up can put an end to your pest-related woes. As for the stigma of having rats, don't worry. It could be worse

As is expected when a year draws to a close, we look ahead to what's in store. The New York Times' Ronda Kaysen looked ahead to see what co-ops and condos could expect in the New Year — which will be here in just a few more hours. Energy is going to be the "hot-button topic" of 2015. Residential buildings account for 37 percent of the city's greenhouse gas emissions, Kaysen explains. Therefore, large residential buildings are going to have to brace themselves for "Local Law 87, which requires them to audit energy usage and keep systems running at peak efficiency." Energy efficiency pays off in the long run, she adds, but the challenge is the initial investment. You know what they say. Life in the big city ain't cheap, and it ain't gonna get cheaper any time soon. Silver lining, though. There are some incentives that might alleviate some of that sticker shock. Luckily for you we've got you covered

Ask the Experts

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Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

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