by Laura Matiz
Going to an open house can be a hit-or-miss situation, but if you go prepared with the right questions, even an overcrowded affair can be useful to assess the unit with the few minutes you get with the listing agent. It is likely that that agent has done a fair amount of research in preparation to list the apartment. This may be your best opportunity to benefit from that agent's research while in the apartment.
Here are six topics that I want my customers to understand during an open house visit. You are trying to question the agent running the open house for the good and the bad, and possibly the ugly about the property.
While walking around the unit, ask the agent:
Some of these topics may need to be addressed indirectly and subtly, but if you get good responses, by the end of your visit, you will have a better feel for the unit's value. If any of these questions are unanswered after the open house, they should be the basis of follow up research.
by Laura Matiz
The most recent report (February 11. 2016) from Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows 30-year-fixed mortgage rates hitting 3.65%, near the 2015 low of 3.59%. Experts expect the rate to continue south, but whether we approach the 2012 historical lows (3.3%) is to be seen.
The lower cost of financing homes along with an improving labor market will offset home price increases expected this spring. Assuming global instability doesn't turn for the worse, I expect a robust spring in the Manhattan and Brooklyn apartment sales, especially in the $1M-5M market.
The best way to shop for a mortgage loan is via a mortgage banker. Please contact me if you need a referral.
Related market outlook reports from Freddie Mac:
by Laura Matiz
How did we search for information before the internet? I have a listing — a great studio — at the Parc Vendome Condominiums on West 56th Street, a building known for its amenities such as a private dining room with a butler's pantry, a music room, a billiards room, and to top it off, an English Garden. What is a butler's pantry you might ask? Well, that's easy. It's a transitional service room between the kitchen and dining room used for storage. The room a butler would have used in the times of butlers. Or you can select the link to butler's pantry to get a fuller definition from the internet. The English Garden at the Parc Vendome is nestled between the four pre-war buildings — two on each side — that make up the condominium complex with over 500 dwellings. This English Garden trades in the traditional lake for a beautiful fountain. I learned about the traditional lake when I looked up English Garden on the internet. And so it goes.
My listing at 353 W 56th is apartment 3G. A potential buyer asked me if I knew about the comic strip, Apartment 3-G. I had not heard of this comic strip. Of course, I went home and did a little research on the internet. And sure enough, I learned that it was a soap opera comic strip created by Nicholas P. Dallis with art by Alex Kotzky that started its run on May 8, 1961. It is about a trio of career women who share the eponymous Apartment 3-G in Manhattan. The three main characters were loosely based on real actors: Tommie is based on Lucille Ball, Margo on Joan Collins and Lu Ann on Tuesday Weld.
Kotzky's artwork is carefully drawn, realistic from a more elegant time. While these characters would have appreciated the 20s and 30s pre-war elegance of the Parc Vendome, my listing is likely a tad too small for all three, even if you converted the large closet — as others have done in this line — to a small alcove.
After the deaths of the original creators of Apartment 3-G, others have taken up the comic strip. It is still running today, but it has none of the sensibilities of the original artwork.
If you want to revisit that elegance, I would be happy to schedule a private showing for apartment 3G at the Parc Vendome.
(A repost from August 2015. Apartment now available with tenant. Perfect for investors.)
Categories: Selected Listings
by Laura Matiz
The new year has taken off like a rocket. I can't believe that today is MLK day. I already miss the bustle and energy that surrounds my children and friends who visit during the winter break. Most have returned to begin the spring semester at their respective colleges.
But, I am also glad to be back working with clients after taking a couple of weeks off at the end of the year to focus on family and holiday events. I cherish this time with family and friends, and it motivates me to do more in my professional life as well.
This past week I had the opportunity to share what I do as a real estate broker with a group of a dozen students from the Grace Institute that visited the Douglas Elliman mid-town office. The Grace Institute is a workforce development organization that helps women-in-need find their calling. It is a wonderful organization that I have followed and supported for years.
I shared a bit of my life story as it relates to selling real estate. I told them about my family and my schooling. I told them about my grandfather's natural food store in Queens—one of the first of its kind in New York in the early seventies. There, I absorbed many lessons on customer care. I described how I loved working the register, composing trail mixes, and helping customers even though I was only in junior high school.
After some personal anecdotes, I described what I do as a real estate agent in the greatest city in the world. I explained the difference between co-ops and condos. I shared with them that the most challenging, but rewarding task was negotiating on behalf of my customers. I also described how I help my customers compile the extremely complicated board packages that all buyers have to submit to co-op boards in order to get approval to purchase the apartment. I explained that buying a co-op was more like applying for membership to an exclusive club.
I discussed the serendipity of apartment searches, the explorations during showings, and how I often get to know my customers really well, many becoming repeat customers. I also explained how brokers work on commissions and that it is possible to invest many hours with clients that never purchase or sell an apartment. That was an opportunity to explain how important it is to stay positive and to be resilient.
The women asked a lot of questions and I was quite pleased and relieved with how things went. The next day, I was pleasantly surprised when I received a handful of wonderfully worded thank-you notes from students. The notes were a nice touch and most generous. They made my day knowing I had made an impact. What a nice way to start 2016.
Happy New Year!
by Laura Matiz
The Real Deal recently ran an article on this map of New York. The map, from around the turn of the 20th Century, is exquisitely detailed by the illustrator, Josef Klemm. His map is a bird's-eye view of the city before the rise of the skyscrapers. The map is meticulous enough that one can spend hours focusing on the details. Below is a screen grab of Central Park and surroundings.
Maps like these are enjoyable to explore and many such maps are accessible from the expansive David Rumsey Map Collection. Map enthusiasts are likely to be aware of this source, but if you are not, it is worth checking out. The online collection houses over 150,000 maps.
For example, doing a quick search for New York City maps, I found this map from 1926 by Charles Farrow titled, "A Map of the Wondrous Isle of Manhattan."
Below, I share some highlights. First, the map's medallion has such nice touches, including the warning, "The scale is all askew," which is true. An elevated train circles the medallion's top border and a subway is below ground on the bottom border. The couples from the Roaring Twenties add to a feeling of the Jazz Age. This is the kind of map that could be used as the background for an opening sequence for a movie adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Another detail is the northwest corner showing the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Columbia University. It also shows the infamous S (for Suicide) Curve of the Ninth Avenue El (see photo).
The map's border also caught my attention. The strip of antique cars and pedestrians is energized and active. You can see why the pedestrians need to move out of the way—fast. The whimsical drawing reminds me of the illustrations in old Monopoly sets.
I hope you take some time to look around these two maps and the full Rumsey collection, just make sure you have a few hours.
by Laura Matiz
I am glad Thanksgiving Day is around the corner. It is my favorite holiday, certainly a holiday that allows a little time to reflect on the positives and not on the barrage of disturbing events dominating the news.
This year I am without a stove because of a building gas leak. For the first time in over 25 years, I won't be spending all of Thursday in my kitchen preparing food. I will miss the early morning turkey preparation, stuffing it, and then putting it the oven before most of the kids and family guests have gotten up, but I hope that taking a break from the usual will give me an even greater appreciation that Thanksgiving is about family and friends. My usual guests are visiting other family members or staying put. I am sure they will also reflect on the change in the routine, even my nephew who has decided to travel to Thailand during the holiday.
Cooking at St. James Church
While I won't be busy in my kitchen, I did get my fill of cooking this past Friday, cooking for 100 at the St. James Church on the Upper East Side. Of course, when you prepare a meal for 100, it is never a solo task. With friends and family helping alongside program chair Faith Fraser's regular team we served a delicious three-course plated meal for people in need. Below, some photos taken by Emily and Brook, clearly show our joy and fun.
After the salad was served, Faith pulled me out from the kitchen to introduce me to the guests in the dining room. She usually does this and it feels nice to get the appreciation. Friday night, she also asked me to say a few words about the meal. On the spot, I was able to convey that what I had cooked was one of my family's festive meals, usually prepared around Christmas. I mentioned how the meal was my son's favorite and how I had learned it from my grandmother. The sfingi I was preparing for desert took a little explaining, but when I compared it to a zeppole, I could hear some acknowledgements. I said nothing special other than sharing our family story and headed back to the kitchen.
Later, during cleanup, some guests asked Faith if they could thank me in person. Because the guests are not allowed in the kitchen, I stepped out to meet them. I was surprised that they wanted to thank me for sharing the family story and how much it meant to them that I had shared my traditions with the group. They also wanted to share their own stories reminding me of the amazing power of story telling to unite.
A Thanksgiving Family Recipe
Last year, I released a blog post with the recipe for our favorite Thanksgiving staple, Nana's Pumpkin Bread. We will certainly miss that treat this year. I hope some of you reading this might try the recipe and comment on how delicious it came out. Here's a quick slideshow showing the steps from preparation to heaven-with-milk.
Savor the moments with your friends and family. Wishing all of you an enjoyable and relaxing Thanksgiving Holiday.
by Laura Matiz
I enjoy looking at films or photos that depict well-known New York buildings or structures in an earlier time. Not long ago, I ran into the Guggenheim Museum's posting by Francine Snyder on their opening day film, "Building and Crowds," shot on October 21, 1959. I posted on Twitter a link to the film noting some of the obvious changes.
Soon after that tweet, I happened to be in the park near the Guggenheim Museum and I took the opportunity to take some photos matching scenes from the film. I selected these two sets of pics to share: one from Fifth Avenue looking down 89th Street and one from 88th Street.
The 1959 film was shot on a beautiful fall day. There's even a stylish 1950s convertible driving north in the 88th Street frame. There are some notable differences from 1959: two-way traffic on Fifth Avenue, green and white New York City buses, and few lampposts and street signs. In 1959, the museum tower on the 89th Street side did not exist. (A tower was added in 1968 over the garage entrance, constructed by William Wesley Peters, Frank Lloyd Wright’s son-in-law. That was replaced by the current tower in 1992.) Another difference is that the trees were mostly bare on October 21, 1959. Today, with photos taken a week later in October, the trees are still full and mostly green.
You don't have to fight the traffic to get out of the city to enjoy amazing fall colors. There are numerous city parks that are excellent for watching the leaves turn glorious. The Parks Department offer a helpful fall foliage guide covering the five boroughs.
The city's centerpiece, Central Park, becomes a sight to behold when the sunlight hits it just right. Besides observing the trees at the park, we also have a balcony view from the many buildings that ring the rectangle—a number of which are open to the public—such as Top of the Rock. The home page for the Central Park Conservancy features some inviting photography to remind us what it will be like in a couple of weeks.
To plan your visit, download the Central Park's fall foliage map and then get out and take in the glowing golds, purples, bronzes, and reds as the trees begin to change color. Below is an excerpt from the map showing the description of locales and trees to look for. Bring a camera and happy leaf peeping.