by Laura Matiz
There are two infrastructure projects underway on the Upper East Side. One of them is quite obvious on Second Avenue. (See: NYC Underground: New Transit Projects.) There, the new subway line installation requires massive equipment. A high level of street-side disruption is clear. Sidewalks, crosswalks, and businesses along the thoroughfare are greatly affected.
Along Third Avenue is the second infrastructure project. It is so unobtrusive that most people are unaware that it is already active and running. Of course, I am writing about the ambitious LinkNYC Public Wi-Fi program.
The LinkNYC web site explains that in 2014, the mayor's office announced a competitive request-for-proposals to reuse the ubiquitous pay-phone infrastructure to offer New Yorkers free Wi-Fi and phone calls. The city awarded CityBridge, a consortium of technology, media, user experience and connectivity companies, a 12-year franchise. LinkNYC offers super fast Wi-Fi — a hundred times faster than average public Wi-Fi — across New York City connecting about 7,500 kiosks. The free service will be supported with advertising.
LinkNYC has also been rolled out along Eight Avenue and will continue to expand in Manhattan before heading out to the other boroughs. A LinkNYC map provides information on kiosk locations. Connecting is quite simple and anecdotally, speeds have been impressive. See the video below explaining how to connect to LinkNYC. Happy surfing.
by Laura Matiz
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Know Before You Owe mortgage initiative aims to help consumers make informed mortgage choices and reduce confusion by providing easy to compare loan options and costs. The initiative simplifies and consolidates some of the required loan disclosures while changing the timing of some activities in the mortgage process. The new rules took effect on October 3, 2015 and applies to purchase and refinance mortgages from all lenders. It is important for consumers to question the preparedness of any lender they are considering in meeting all the new regulations. These new procedures should help consumers make one of the most important financial decisions of their life an informed decision.
A key simplification is that the CFPB has combined four disclosure documents into two while redesigning the application and closing pages to mirror each other for easier comparison.
Diagram source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
The CFPB provides an interactive detailed, section-by-section explanations for the Loan Estimate Explainer and the Closing Disclosure Explainer. It has also created this video explaining the new process.
The Loan Estimate
Lenders must provide a loan estimate within three business days once the consumer triggers the request by providing a required set of personal information, including the loan amount and property being considered. Lenders can no longer require additional documentation, making it easier to get multiple loan estimates. Lenders can't charges fees other than reasonable fees for credit checks. A loan estimate can be used by the consumer to understand the loan parameters, but doesn't imply an approved loan. Once the consumer is ready to proceed, he/she must inform the lender, at which point the lender can begin the process and charge fees. In fact, the lender can only request payment information after the intent to proceed is given.
The Closing Disclosure
Under the new rule, lenders must provide the new closing disclosure three business days before the scheduled closing. Much of this information used to be provided for the first time at the closing, a time not conducive to deliberate and careful examination of the figures and fees. It is important to note that most changes, as long as they don't alter the basic terms of the deal, will not require a new three-day review period. The only changes that require a new disclosure and a new three-day review period are:
Download a copy of the CFPB's step-by-step guides with interactive worksheets and conversation starters designed to deepen understanding of the mortgage market.
I am happy to help any of my customers understand and take advantage of some of the consumer-friendly changes to the process. Please reach out.
by Laura Matiz
Eight-hundred years ago, on June 15, 1215, Magna Carta was signed by King John of England on the banks of the Thames River in Runnymede. Thus, this iconic Great Charter, signed by the king under pressure from rebel barons tired of a king beyond the law, became an important symbol of liberty and property rights in the English-speaking world. We first learn about Magna Carta in history classes, but my guess is few of us really grasped the significance of the document's place in human history. Magna Carta spells out what we now refer to as human rights, something that still does not exist in some parts of the world where political systems undermine individual freedoms and the security of ownership.
Magna Carta was first published in the Americas by William Penn in 1687. He wrote that Magna Carta described Fundamental Rights given to Englishmen including "freedom of his person and property in his estate." With these rights, owning property becomes protected from the will of any monarch or government such that none can seize your property.
Of course, the importance of Magna Carta for this post is in relation to real estate property. It is the relative safety of these investments that drives individuals, families, and corporations to secure ownership of real estate property. Is it any wonder that pundits have recently described the new luxury developments in Manhattan as safe-deposit boxes for foreign money? Certainly, our deeds, titles, and contracts and their sanctity in the courts leads to a robust system that allows anyone to own a piece of land.
A history buff? Learn more about Magna Carta as it reaches its 800th anniversary:
by Laura Matiz
When showing apartments in the city, there are three things that sours a buyer's perception of a building and its vicinity, scaffolding, a garbage bag mound, and sidewalks full of dog dirt. I can usually convince people about the temporary nature of the first two, although some scaffolding seems to grow permanent status in front of buildings. Dog poop is another story, especially if on a second visit, the situation is the same.
Long-time NYC residents may recall 1978 when the pooper-scooper laws were enacted during the Ed Koch administration. Before that, the city sidewalks were a minefield. It was disgusting. Opponents of the law felt that picking up after your dog was also disgusting. So did the Department of Sanitation, who initially refused to pick up dog waste from public receptacles. At first, dog owners were instructed to bring home the droppings for disposal in their toilets. See FlushPuppies.
We have come a long way since the late 70s. Most dog-owners carry little baggies and willingly pick up after their pets. The City has a website with information on the law and a form where citizens can leave a complaint for dog waste. One presumes the complaint information will be used to canvas the affected area by one of the small number of Department of Sanitation employees who enforce the law. I have never seen one of these employees, so they may be as rare as Big Foot. I found some older articles that claim that much fewer than 1,000 summons are given out yearly in the five boroughs. That may be because scofflaws must be caught in the act of not acting. An amNY.com story tallied and mapped the number of complaints the city received for animal waste for the year ending July 2014. Manhattan had 220 of the total 2,442 complaints received.
Sidewalk cleanliness in residential areas is also probably a measure of the invisible socioeconomic boundaries that exist in the city. Most doormen buildings have sufficient staff to keep the front of their building clean. From anecdotal observations, most owners never let their pooches go in front of their own building. That would be uncouth. Also, residents of buildings on the avenues tend seek the quieter side streets to allow Fido to do his business and to hide from their neighbors during the act of bending down and picking up. Of course, there is always the park, but you have to pick up there too, or a Park Ranger will want to have a chat with you.
by Laura Matiz
If you do a Google search for "New York City property tax system," you will run across quotes from politicians and experts repeating statements such as, "the whole tax-assessment system is broken" or stating the system as a "mind-numbingly complex method of assessing property taxes." More importantly, the system has been broken for a long time with the last major correction enacted in 1996. That correction was known as the Cooperative and Condominium Tax Abatement.
Change may not be coming soon, but one thing all property owners can do is to educate themselves on the basics of the system. To start, all property is categorized into four classes, with most large cooperative and condominiums buildings in Manhattan falling under Class 2, as shown in the graphic below:
With the influx of foreign buyers to the New York City market and the addition of numerous condominium developments, it has been easy to spot the lackluster performance of co-ops versus condos. Warburg Realty president, Frederick Peters, takes this issue on in his most recent blog post, "Can Co-ops Keep Up?".
Peters points out that more buyers are "opting out for the simplicity of condo purchases." He lays out a series of recommendations that were part of a brainstorm among industry leaders. Unfortunately, he doesn't describe that forum, but the recommendations include some sensible changes. Here they are with our comments:
As anxious co-op sellers routinely watch qualified buyers opt for condos, we are pleased that an industry leader is trying to address these concerns.