Exec. Vice President
Moderated By Neil B. Garfinkel
Neil serves as Residential Counsel to the Real Estate Board of New York ("REBNY), New York City's leading real estate trade association. In addition to counseling REBNY on the vast array of laws and regulations that affect the real estate brokerage community, AGMB hosts the REBNY Legal Line, a daily legal hotline provided exclu¬sively for residential members of REBNY.
Lic. Assoc. RE Broker
Exec. Vice President
Tel (212) 381-6671
Charlie Homet is a specialist in the vibrant neighborhoods of downtown Manhattan, where he regularly sets record prices, and Dumbo, Brooklyn, where he resides with his wife and daughter.
In 2011, he was recognized by Streeteasy.com as the #1 top selling broker In Dumbo for the prior two years. He is a frequent commenter on market trends for the NY Times, New York Magazine, the Wall Street Jour¬nal, Washington Post and In¬dustry publications like The Real Deal. He is invited to pro¬file his exclusives regularly in print and on television chan¬nels like NBC, NY1, HGTV, and many others.
Charlie was one of only 30 top brokers selected to be the first to receive the advanced des-ignation N.Y.R.S. (New York Residential Specialist) from the Real Estate Board of New York.
1. In your opinion, where are the best value's in your market?
Charlie Homet: This is a broad question, and I think there are values to be found across all price points and neighborhoods. I am a fan of exploring “up-and-coming’” areas− our perception of “good” in terms of location is much more varied than it was 10 or 15 years ago. DUMBO in Brooklyn is a great example of that.
Carol Friedman: Clinton, midtown east, Upper East Side, upper Fifth Avenue, Harlem, Kips Bay area.
Alan Schnurman: The most active part of our market right now in the Hamptons, is the lower end. Primarily houses in the villages, which would be the village of Sag Harbor, East Hampton Village and Southampton Village. The most volume is under 2 million dollars.
Michael J. Berman: Old Westbury, Brookville and other North Shore Gold Coast communities on Long Island are off by 20-30% from their prices from about 5 years ago. This area is one of the most exclusive and desirable areas in Long Island if not the United States. Many of the Estates in Old Westbury and other Gold Coast communities offer at least 2 plus acres of land and are situated in very serene picturesque settings. A majority of these properties are located in a great school system as well or they are within 5 miles or so from some fantastic private schools.
2. What advice do you have for a seller that is preparing to list their home?
Carol Friedman: “Less is more." Remove personal objects, no clutter, a fresh coat of paint goes a long way. Since you want your home to look as spacious as pos¬sible, remove any excess or very large furniture. Make sure that table taps, dressers and closets are free of clutter. Make sure walls and doors are free of smudges and look for anything that might indicate a maintenance problem. Patch and paint holes in the wall or stained ceilings, clear counter tops, replace burned out light bulbs, no dirty dishes in the sink, remove or replace worn carpets
Charlie Homet: Edit, edit, edit. Go through your home and remove any personal pictures of things that might distract the potential buyer. Talk with your broker about your perception of the end buyer and stage the property to appeal to that buyer. And have a great broker- so much is available online from their bios to their past sales. Be sure to review them carefully as you need to have a good relationship with your broker.
Michael J. Berman: Today's buyers are very savvy these days as they are armed with lots of information from the Internet (comps, availabilities, etc.). I believe the statistics thrown around out there is about 85% at the buyers today start their search on the internet. You need to differentiate your house from the competition so you need to make sure that your agent makes your online listing look compelling or buyers won't even consider your home to even look al it. In order to do this, the pictures for your house need to be very good and you need plenty of them.
Buyers on the internet want to see pictures. 8-20 pictures are usually a must for most homes. Also, make sure your home is immaculate inside and outside. A house with great landscaping and great curb appeal is very desir¬able for most buyers and will attract a lot of attention. Make sure your backyard looks good (a beautiful deck or patio is very appealing to buyers who often try to vi¬sualize themselves enjoying a backyard barbecue or just spending time outside. A fantastic backyard just be¬comes an extension of the house in the spring, summer and fall seasons.) Most importantly make sure your home is priced right. As stated earlier, today's buyers are very educated. Make sure your agent keeps your home competitive to other comps in the area. The homes that look like a good/decent deal are the ones that are going to receive the most visits/activity. One more piece of advice for sellers is to make sure you make your home easily accessible to your agent to show. Most buyers have a certain time fame when they want to search for a new home and making it as easy as possible to show is a must!
Alan Schnurman: It has to be priced correctly and you have to have knowledgeable brokers come in who know the market, who advise you and you have to listen to them. There’s no secret in this business, if you price your house too high, it’s not going to sell. It’s going to sit on the market and it’s come to become “stale.” It’ll sit for 6 months to a year, everyone’s going to know about it and start thinking “Oh, I know that project!” and before you know it people are going to think there’s something wrong with the project. Really the only thing wrong with it is it’s been priced incorrectly.
3. Financing is cheap, with many loans in the 2-3% range. Do you feel this has played a factor for buyers?
Alan Schnurman: A very significant factor! In years to come I think if you take out a mortgage in the 3-3.5 percent range, that will probably be one of your biggest assets. I say that now because inflation is now at 3-3.2 percent, and if you’re getting a 3.5 percent mortgage that means there is not cost of your money. If you’re locked in to 7 years, or 10 years or even 5 years, and inflation will come, we just don’t know when, but when inflation goes to 4%, 4.5% or even 5%, not only will it be no cost to your funds, but it’ll be an asset.
Michael J. Berman: Absolutely, years ago the interest rates for mortgages were at 5 or 6 percent. But now, the rates are much lower and people are taking advantage of that. It also helps that falling prices have helped lure in buyers even in these difficult times. The rise in demand for new homes is boosting builder confidence as well. Builders are steadily reporting numbers that show that demand is on the rise. Prices are definitely stabilizing in our market.
Charlie Homet: The historically low mortgage rates have been a boom, especially to first-time buyers. But escalating rents have played a factor as well. Many buyers like the idea of fixing their housing costs for the next 10, 20 or 30 years.
Carol Friedman: Absolutely, this makes homes so much more affordable and gives buyers an opportunity to purchase a higher priced home since rates are so low. For example if I use 1,200,000 at 3.5% for 30 years 20% down, monthly mortgage payment is approximately 4310.00. If this was 7% monthly mortgage would be 6386.00
4) Buyers seem to be in short supply. What do you feel is the most important quality a broker can offer to them?
Michael J. Berman: A quality broker has the education and experience to help you navigate what will be one of the biggest purchases of your life. They also have access to a wide range of properties both on and off the market and can guide you to those that are the best fit for you, which can save you time and energy. If you are unsure what type of properly you're interested in, an agent can help explain the pros and cons of things such types of homes, such as where are the up and coming neighborhoods, which areas are more walkable or have access to better schools, etc.? These are all issues an agent deals with daily. They can also ease the burden of buying by simplifying the process. They set up showings, drive you to appointments it needed, and help you handle the intricacies of nego¬tiations. They are your advocate. Today’s market also presents challenges that simply weren't present or didn't dominate the market a decade ago. Buyers are faced with going through some complicated channels in completing a transaction in today’s market. A qual¬ity agent or broker will know and help you navigate these waters.
Alan Schnurman: Credibility, Credibility, Credibility. I think the credibility of a broker is primary. You have to trust the person your dealing with and that the person is giving you the correct advice as far as pricing, location and the correct advice per that particular residence. You’re relying on the broker’s expertise in all these areas and it’s the credibility of the broker that’s so important.
Charlie Homet: A good buyer’s broker asks a lot of questions, and then keeps the buyer focused on their goals and needs. Also, the broker should be a keen negotiator, well-versed in the relevant comparables and a calm voice of reason on the way to the closing table.
Carol Friedman: Honesty, integrity, dedication, finding the client what they are looking for, market knowledge, keeping your client well informed, have answers to their questions, understanding clients’ needs and guide them through this process with as less stress as possible.
5) Where do you think values are heading over the next few years, and why?
Charlie Homet: I’m an optimist and a believer in the value of NYC real estate. We’re helped so much by the scarcity of product and the fact that this amazing city continues to draw the best and the brightest.
Carol Friedman: With inventory down 13.5% from last year at a fast absorption rate, and if we keep working off the excess inventory, I do believe prices will be heading up. I also see many new condo buildings in the planning stages, a sign of a stronger market. Bidding wards are happening pushing prices up.
Alan Schnurman: They’re going up. One caveat, no one can predict to you any market is going to peak tomorrow and if anyone says tomorrow it’s going to be higher, I would take that with some salt. However, I’m talking about the trend over a long period of time. I’m not talking about tomorrow; I’m talking about the days after tomorrow, a long term trend. The worst is over now I feel we’ll see an upward trend here in the Hamptons and all of the sudden I think you’ll see a “pop” like you’ve never seen before.
Michael J. Berman: I am always the eternal optimist and feel prices will rise in our North Shore of Long Island market over the next few years. They are already stabilizing from the downward spiral of the past 5 years. That being said, certain markets in Long Island have a huge inventory of foreclosures and short sale inventory to get rid of and I feel that it will take several years to clean this inventory up. I think we found a bottom in home prices in this area but we need an overall economic boom to see prices really start to rise to the levels we saw about 6 years ago at the top of the market. My gut tells me that we are headed for stabilization of prices over the next couple of years; nothing more.
6) Interest rates have to rise eventually. One would think there is a rush to buy now. Do you see buyers motivated by cheap rates?
Carol Friedman: Yes, it’s the perfect time to buy. Low rates, available inventory, room for appreciation. Buyers are more cautious today and looking for a good buy, but low rates are a factor in purchasing now. I do believe many buyers are holding off purchasing based on the unsettled economic climate and low consumer confidence.
Charlie Homet: Escalating rents and low mortgage rates have pushed a lot of buyers off the fence. The counter-force is the continued uncertainty in national and global economic markets. But I believe those buyers taking advantage of these great rates will be proven savvy in the long run.
Michael J. Berman: You would think there would be a rush to buy with rates so insanely low but I don’t see buyers pouring back into our market because of these rates. I don’t think most people thought about 6 years ago that rates would for below 4$. What’s tougher today is the level of scrutiny and documentation and analysis around assets, income, employment and appraisals. Lenders are terrified of making a mistake. Refi’s are making up most of the volume of mortgage activity. Obviously a sluggish economy with high unemployment rates is pulling interest rates down. So even though mortgage rates are fantastically low for those in a position to buy or refinance now, true housing recovery will be slow until the economy produces more jobs.
Alan Schnurman: There’s no question about it- buyers are motivated by the cheap rates and they should be motivated by the cheap rates. You should be buying at these low rates all day long. This is an opportunity that’s once in a lifetime.
Friday, August 03, 2012