Small and cheap Boston apartments
Aug 2011 08

Well, not in Boston … yet.

But, if the cost of housing continues to rise in Boston as it has in other cities, such as New York, you’re bound to see something like this.

I could live in a space that small, maybe. But, he lost me when I saw that he kept his sneakers next to his microwave and that he had to share a bathroom with three other people … which, I guess, is actually like having roommates, but seems kind of gross.

His rent is $750 per month, and the room looks to be in good shape. He lives in Hell’s Kitchen, which is a popular but not most-popular neighborhood in NYC. New York is very different from Boston, with much higher density in Manhattan than we have in any Boston neighborhood.

Could you live in a small space?

If you live in Boston, contact me to learn more about the cost of housing and how to save yourself money when renting an apartment.

Buy a condo, get a car! Homebuyer incentives return
Aug 2011 02

What would you do in order to get buyers interested in your property?

The #1 way to get someone to look at your home is to price it appropriately at what it’s worth. You can pretty it up, you can make repairs, but the price is most-important. The location is most important to what people are looking for, but your price should be set at what it’s worth, inclusive of location.

But, often, you aren’t trying to convince a buyer to come to your property, you’re trying to convince his or her real estate agent.

And that’s where incentives come in. Offering an agent a high commission rate, or a bonus, can go a long way to making your property stand out. (Some states ban certain types of gifts.) You can also try offering an incentive to buyers, but probably with fewer results.

Unless your incentive ends up being part of a New York Times article.

Which is what happened to one homeowner in Brooklyn. He’s offering the buyer of his co-op a free car, with purchase.

… [A]long the humble byways of Kensington, Brooklyn, a man named Gary Parker is offering a more budget-minded incentive to buy his tidy one-bedroom co-op. It, too, is a car, but one befitting a more down-market lifestyle: a claret-colored 2002 Hyundai Elantra, a hand-me-down from his mother that has more than been around the block, its odometer clocking in at some 79,000 miles.

You read that right; he’s offering a used car, a Hyundai, with 79,000 miles on it, to the buyer.

A very unique situation. Kind of fun, if you think about it. Of course, you’ll need a place to park that car. Fortunately, the purchase price of $298,000 for the one-bedroom co-op includes the right to rent a parking space for $100 per month.

What types of incentives have you seen? What would convince you to take a look at a property you’re not that interested in? Would you prefer a lower price to an incentive? Have you received an incentive before?

Image above from the Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate website. Scott Klein is the listing agent for 370 Ocean Parkway, Unit 11F, Brooklyn, NY.

The War of the Roses, New York City version
Apr 2011 28

The War of the Roses is a 1989 film starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. In it, a once-loving couple turn into mortal (literally) enemies.

A similar story is being played out in New York City.

The New York Daily News ran an article about a couple who once lived in holy matrimony in a Brooklyn brownstone. Eventually, they had irreconcilable differences. But, instead of getting a divorce and selling their property, they used Sheetrock to split the house in two and both continued to live there.

Since 2007, it’s been estimated that, combined, they have spent more on attorneys and litigation than the house is actually worth.

After visiting “civil court, family court, housing court, bankruptcy court and appellate court”, a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge has decided enough is enough and is forcing them to sell the property in order to satisfy outstanding debts and, hopefully, put an end to the entire episode.

Or, not.

While Chana was angry with the ruling and vowed that it would not be final, Simon, who owns three other Brooklyn buildings, was “very happy” with the decision., according to The Real Deal.

There’s a moral here. Actually, probably more than one.

More: “War of the Roses”over as sweater-mogul Simon Taub, wife Chana finalize epic, nasty divorce – New York Daily News

New York lawmaker threatens Realtors with death
Apr 2011 26

A New York City lawmaker is threatening the very livelihood of real estate agents across the country by proposing legislation that would ban the invention of neighborhood names that have given us SoHo, TriBeCa, and DUMBO.

According to the New York Times, state assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries is writing legislation that “would punish real estate agents for inventing neighborhood names and for falsely stretching their boundaries. It would also require that name changes get city approval.”

That sound you just heard was a collective gasp from hundreds of thousands of real estate agents across the country who live and die by coming up with creative names for otherwise moribund and boring neighborhoods.

But, seriously, the obvious silliness of this should be obvious. No nickname has ever been forced on anyone, anywhere. No one has to call the area South of Houston Street “SoHo”.

Here in Boston, of course, we have our own nicknames. In the South End is “SoWa”, the work of Mario Nicosia of GTI Properties who thought it made sense to brand an area where he owned a lot of property. It only stuck because people thought it made sense. It narrows an existing neighborhood into an even smaller one.

You have to be a real pessimist to think that real estate agents spend their days just dreaming up new neighborhood names. It doesn’t work like that. And, when they do offer up suggestions, it’s mostly tongue-in-cheek, like when I wanted to call the area between the South End and South Boston “SoSo”, because the neighborhood is, eh, just kind of so-so.

I’m not sure how the assemblyman thinks he can punish the agents and developers. Put them in the stocks? Fine them? Send them to Long Island?

ProCro, SoBro, FiDi, BoCoCa: A Lawmaker Says, ‘Enough’ – Cara Buckley, The New York Times

Low rents can be had … if you’re lucky (and live in NYC)
Apr 2011 19

Rent control is banned from being instituted in any Massachusetts’ town or city, courtesy of a law enacted as a result of a voters’ referendum passed in the mid-1990′s.

However, it, and it’s bigger sister, rent stabilization, still exists in New York City (actually, throughout New York State, wherever enacted by individual cities and towns). There are over 37,000 rent-controlled units in NYC and over 1 million rent-stabilized apartments.

Rent control limits the amount a landlord (owner) can charge a tenant (renter) and how much the rent can increase, each year. Stabilization regulations are somewhat looser. Rent control is what it’s called if a tenant has been living in a property continuously since 1971. Once that person dies/leaves, the apartment is removed from the rolls (unless it’s in a building with fewer than six units) or moves into the rent stabilized pool (if it’s in a big building). (Wikipedia has all the specifics.) Locally-allowed increases are limited by amounts determined by a state-run board. And rent control generally does not exist for buildings put up post-1947.

And, that’s just the short description. In reality, it’s a byzantine puzzle of rules and regulations.

But, that’s not the point of this.

What is the point is that Curbed.com has found two rent stabilized apartments in the West Village where one tenant is paying just $615 per month while another is paying just … wait for it … $128.

Commenters on the blog post were understandably in awe. Some, downright angry.

Point made by one commenter, which seems to be logical and reasonable, is that the property tax on that one unit must be well above the $128 paid by the tenant, each month. (The estimate is $750.) This, of course, does not allow for any amount above that, say for profit, maintenance, insurance.

No one likes paying rent. What people hate more is someone (not them) getting something they don’t.

Above image from the Curbed.com entry, which had this story, originally. The building in question is listed for sale with Massey Knakal.

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