Tag Archives: Real Estate

State of the Market

| helen.keit@kw.com

On 880 Radio today in a business segment it was stated that the stock market is up 24% since October and that investors should expect things to be bumpy over the next several weeks etc.  The question they asked is where do you put your money in this environment.  They mentioned Warren Buffet as saying he would buy single family distressed homes at todays 4% interest rates and rent them out , gaining good appreciation over time.


I would say this is an excellent strategy as long as you do your due diligence and buy correctly, analyze rental income for the area and size of apartment or house, and factor in repairs, periods of vacancy and other costs that could impact cashflow.


When you own rental property you at least have some control over your investment  as opposed to having your money subjected to the volatility of the market and politics beyond your control.

Hotel to rise on Skillman Ave in Long Island City

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


The City University of New York (CUNY) is aiming to check in to the borough’s new hotel hotspot.

CUNY recently sent out a request for proposal (RFP) to hospitality industry consultants, seeking ideas on how to develop its lot on Skillman Avenue in Long Island City nearLaGuardia Community College — with the goal of building a teaching hotel, as well as other academic facilities, for its students.

According to CUNY spokesperson Michael Arena, the facility would be both commercial and educational, with students comprising the staff of a fully-functional hotel.
“The hotel and tourism sector is rapidly growing in New York City. There are many jobs connected to it, and there is a strong need for it,” Arena said. “The idea of students being able to take skills they are learning in the classroom and use them in a professional environment is tremendous. That’s what internships are, but in this case we will have the facility connected to the academic program.”

Arena referenced the positive impact of similar facilities at both Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania as motivation to develop the lot.
Dr. Gail O. Mellow, LaGuardia’s president, also believes the educational opportunities would be vast and highly positive.
“The hotel’s location near LaGuardia would give our students hands-on experience in seeing and helping run a major hotel,” she said. “Students studying accounting, tourism, food and nutrition, marketing and more would have the ability to apply the skills they learned in the classroom to a real-world setting. The educational benefits would be outstanding.”

Zoning permits CUNY to use up to 600,000-square-feet of the lot — part of which is currently used for parking – without the trouble of variances.
Thus far, the response from the private sector has been strong.

“There has been a lot of interest in the site,” said Arena. “The response has been very positive. The RFP went out identifying companies that have expertise in the area, and those companies are responding very strongly.”

Rob MacKay, the director of tourism for the Queens Economic Development Corporation (QEDC), called the project “fantastic news.”

“The hospitality field is very stable in Queens right now, and residents should be able to have solid, long-lasting careers in the industry,” MacKay said. “Furthermore, with the Resorts World Racino, plans for two convention centers, new media interest and TV shows based in borough, I predict that the field will grow exponentially in the near future.”

According to MacKay, city records show more than 7 million visitors spent over $3 billion in Queens in 2010, and the travel sector currently supports roughly 16 percent of the jobs in the borough.

Arena says the decision to develop the plot was based on the premier real estate factor – location.

“It is in a vibrant community close to Manhattan – only a five minute train ride to Times Square,” he said.

A few things to keep in mind if you plan to sell your home in 2012

| helen.keit@kw.com

Listing your home now rather than waiting for the start of the traditional spring home-buying season could be a smart decision.

On average there are fewer homes for sale in January/February and a house that is priced right and staged well will stand out even more with less competition.

Lenders, home inspectors, movers and other vendors also see a seasonal dip in transactions, which could mean a quicker, easier and possibly cheaper time to buy, sell and move.

Even if you’re not quite ready yet it is a good time to start the conversation with an experienced real estate agent who will guide you as to timing of the sales process, accurate pricing in today’s market and which repairs and preparations of your home would net you the most amount of money for the least cost.

Market Update

| helen.keit@kw.com

One of the key drivers of homes sales, the employment rate, is beginning to show promising signs of a turnaround. The four-week average for jobless claims, as of November 19, was 394,250, a drop of 3,250 from the previous four weeks, and at the lowest levels since April. Consumer confidence also rose 15 points in the last month, and is now at its highest point since July of this year. Eric Green, Chief Market Economist at TD Securities Inc. said, “The trend remains very constructive. Jobless claims are back below 400,000, which seems to be the pivot point in terms of a strengthening labor market as opposed to a weakening one.”

In addition to improving employment conditions, home affordability also improved as interest rates fell further, opening the door for more first-time home buyers who accounted for 34% of the sales in October, an increase from 32% last month and over last year. The western United States saw the greatest increase in home sales, which were up 4.4% month to month and up over 15% from last year.

A strengthening job market, along with encouraging signs from the housing sector, including a 10% jump in pending sales for October, are strong economic forces. While mortgage lending still remains a challenge, these forces may send a signal to banks to relax lending regulations and allow for a more rapid recovery.


Interest Rates

Mortgage rates continue to push lower, dropping to 3.98% from 4.23% in October of 2010, offering historic affordability to today’s home buyers. While mortgage lending conditions continue to be a challenge, more and more people are seeing the advantage of buying a home sooner rather than later. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said, “Home sales have been plodding along at a sub-par level while interest rates are hovering at record lows and there is a pent-up demand from buyers who normally would have entered the market in recent years. We hope this indicates more buyers are taking advantage of the excellent
affordability conditions.”


Home Sales

Existing homes sales improved 1.4% in October, or to an annual pace of 4.97 million, a 13.5% increase from October of last year. Even more dramatic, was the jump in pending home sales, which surged in October by 10.4% from September, and were up 9.2% from October 2010. This jump in pending sales could lead to a strong fourth quarter as signs continue to point to a pent-up demand brought on by current lending conditions of mortgage providers.




Home Prices

The national median home price in the U.S. saw a small decline in October to $162,500, from $165,800 in September. This number can be affected by the sale of distressed properties, which typically sell at discounted prices. Distressed properties accounted for 28% of homes sales in October. Yet despite a drop in the median price from last September, the Federal Housing Finance Authority reported that seasonally adjusted prices rose 0.2% in the third quarter from the second quarter in 2011, which could be an early sign of appreciating home prices.




By the end of October, the total number of homes on the market had fallen 2.2% to 3.33 million homes, which represents 8 months of inventory at the current sales pace. Since a record high of 4.58 million homes in July 2008, the inventory of homes for sale has been steadily declining. When homes sell faster than they come on the market, the market comes from its current favor toward buyers into balance or in favor of sellers. This can trigger an appreciation in home prices and lead the way to a stronger recovery.




Deciding to Buy

When first-time home buyers decide they are ready to buy, it is important for them to begin the process by carefully assessing their values, wants, and needs—both for the short and long term. This is a critical step since consultation sessions normally start with the buyers’ values. Afterward, buyers can explore their wants and needs and, once defined, determine actual criteria.

A recent study shows how important the following home-buying factors were to buyers:

• List Price: 72%
• Location: 69%
• Neighborhood: 55%
• Floor Plan: 37%
• Square Footage: 28%
• Schools: 22%

By having the home-buying criteria in mind before walking into a consultation, buyers are off to a better start when meeting with their real estate agent. The consultation allows buyers to fill in any missing gaps within their values, wants, and needs.


Brought to you by KW Research. For additional graphs and details, please see the This Month in Real Estate PowerPoint Report.
The opinions expressed in This Month in Real Estate are intended to supplement opinions on real estate expressed by local and national media, local real estate agents and other expert sources. You should not treat any opinion expressed on This Month in Real Estate as a specific inducement to make a particular investment or follow a particular strategy, but only as an expression of opinion. Keller Williams Realty, Inc., does not guarantee and is not responsible for the accuracy or completeness of information, and provides said information without warranties of any kind. All information presented herein is intended and should be used for educational purposes only. Nothing herein should be construed as investment advice. You should always conduct your own research and due diligence and obtain professional advice before making any investment decision. All investments involve some degree of risk. Keller Williams Realty, Inc., will not be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on information contained in This Month in Real Estate.

How Much Is Your Home Worth in Today’s Market?

| helen.keit@kw.com

In the November 30 Wall Street Journal article “Home Prices Edge Downward,” the S&P/Case Shiller home price indexes show that New York metropolitan area home prices have declined 2.6 percent since September 2010; many metro areas have seen steeper declines. National statistics show home values are down 31 percent from their 2006 peak.

It is important to realize that a home’s market value is dependent on many things — price, supply and demand, seasonal markets, mortgage rates and financial markets, condition of the property and location, location, location.  Real estate prices vary neighborhood to neighborhood and block to block.

Reports on national statistics and values stated on web-driven companies such as Zillow, Homes.com and Realtor.com are generated from computer-driven models which estimate values.  These are many times “off” the true value of the home by thousands of dollars.

The December issue of Smart Money cites this problem in “The Fuzzy Math of Home Values,” stating that “these estimates are adding confusion to an already tricky housing market.”

To get a more accurate value for your home call your local real estate professional for a CMA — a Comparative Market Analysis. This analysis will look at the most relevant sales and inventory levels impacting your home’s current value and there is usually no cost for this.

NY’s Middle Class of Real Estate

| ddynak@queenscourier.com

A taxi cab fleet owner told that when he first came to NYC in 1986, he drove someone else’s cab, and by 1994, he managed to own two, managing the business best he could after long shift behind the wheel. By the late 1990’s he owned several and using cell phone and computer, he was able to still drive one of the cars, while managing the others from the road. Today, he owns a fleet of 150 taxi cabs, his own maintenance shop and even a towing company. Recently, he purchased his first commercial property, a large, totally renovated warehouse and office inLong IslandCity. The rate of growth: from 1986 to 2001, he went from owning zero to ten cars. From 2001 to 2011, he went from owning ten to 150 cars. How did he do it? He ignored the doom and gloom forecasts after the 9/11 attacks on the WTC, and he utilized mobile technology, not manpower, to manage his business.

Several construction companies I work with have been founded just in the 90s and today its proprietors own hundreds of thousands of square feet of real estate. Every penny they made, they used to acquire real estate. Every time construction business slowed down to a crawl (every recession and bubble), they kept their men busy building on their own lots or renovating their own properties. Steadily, their real estate holdings grew and grew.

I’ve also met some business owners who over the years ended up purchasing buildings they rented, eventually becoming serious property owners. Even those whose business died out completely (garments, printing and most manufacturing in NY) did well by becoming professional landlords, making a transition from owning a business that needed space, to a business that provided space to others.

The folks mentioned above are not 3rd generation real estate families. They did not get into the real estate game as deep-pocketed multi-national companies or wealthy investors. Most of them are first or 2nd generation immigrants who started their careers in the 80s or 90s, many with zero assets at the start line. They are inspiring individuals who, through hard and smart work, and disciplined investing, show the power of real estate as means of building tremendous wealth. And inNew York City, cumulatively, they play a significant role in shaping the market, alongside of government, old and still-powerful real estate families, and institutional investors. They are the middle class of real estate.

Technology in Real Estate

| ddynak@queenscourier.com

It is difficult to pinpoint what one technological advance made the greatest impact on the good ole, brick-n-mortar and relationship-based real estate industry.

The Internet made access to information easy and universal. As recently as 20 years ago, a handful of commercial firms and a few hundred residential firms controlled 90-plus percent of the real estate sales and rental market in New York. Today, not only do we have Internet advertising available to landlords and any agent, but we have Property Shark, MLS and Google Earth – affordable or free tools that allow many more folks to peek at any neighborhood’s properties without leaving their desk.

I keep hearing stories of fax and paper document exchange limitations of the recent past, where submitting an offer or sharing research between agents and architects, attorneys and tenants took days instead of minutes. Times when driving around the neighborhood block by block (a practice many local tenants continue today) was the only way to see what is available besides hiring a broker.

At a recent real estate conference I attended, a large, international commercial brokerage firm executive spoke about his company’s new way of doing business. A team based approach to servicing nearly every territory and client is necessary, he said, because the amount of information, tools and knowledge demanded by clients is simply impossible for any one broker to deliver at all times. “The old days of lone wolf broker who controlled the whole neighborhood is over” he stated boldly.

Technology and globalization of assets changed the game too much for any one broker to be able to service his clients based on “street cred” and relationships alone. Add mobile computers, cell phones, electronic measuring tools (size, humidity, radioactivity, noise levels, etc.) and ever-more powerful and flexible calculation programs, and figuring out even the most complex lease structures or projecting expenses over 10-year lease has become not only easier, but often expected by landlords and tenants alike. Certain commercial brokerage professional designations, such as SIOR or CCIM, actually demand that the agent be proficient in very complex financial modeling based on Excel, and able to provide detailed research on properties and neighborhoods to clients. Without the tools technology invented only in the past 25 years, the number of real estate professionals able to deliver such high level of service to clients would have been simply impossible. Makes me appreciate those who came before me… How in the world did they ever do this job without GPS, computers and cell phones?

Appreciating New Yorker’s Work Ethic

| ddynak@queenscourier.com

I recently went on vacation to South Florida to visit family and take in the sun before winter takes full hold of us in New York. But as one addicted to work, I always find myself talking to locals about real estate related topics, regardless of where I travel. And, as if work had to find me, I ended up sitting in on a meeting my uncle set up with an air conditioning company that had botched an HVAC job at his vacation condo.

Now, my uncle happens to live in, of all places, Germany — arguably the most perfectionist-driven and regulated construction and business place on earth. So, naturally, he was it his wits end with a contractor that: was way behind an agreed-upon timeline, did a poor job and appeared to be playing games on price.

In Germany, according to his stories, this company would not only never find customers, but would be charged with business misconduct, heavily fined and forced to close down. In the end, they negotiated corrections at no charge and the contractor ended up making things right, and my uncle was happy.

This post, however, is not about the botched job, but about my conversation with the owner of the AC firm. He explained to me that in the 17-plus years he’s been installing air conditioning systems in South Florida, he has never encountered — not once — anyone as detail obsessed and as demanding of perfection as my German-brainwashed uncle. He did not think my uncle was unreasonable or crazy. To the contrary, he thanked my uncle for “lessons in business” and for tips that, in the future, may help him differentiate himself from the competition.


Drastically different window views from a condo in South Florida and one in Long Island City is one set of contrasts. Work ethic (on average) may be another.

In all the years he’s been doing this, he found clientele always focused on the cheapest, fastest possible fix, not long-term, best quality solutions. So, he built his business cutting corners, finding acceptable, but not necessarily good ways, to install and repair AC systems, all while providing best value. And, more interestingly, he complained to me how difficult it is to find dedicated perfectionists, workers proud of their craft.

He had grown up in Upstate New York and was raised in the construction business that demanded high quality craftsmanship first. Yet, in his opinion, to find employees with the same mentality as folks up in the Northeast, he’d have to, well, import them toFloridafrom the Northeast. “Here Down South everyone is laid back and focused more on their leisure than their work. Good way to live, not good for business.”

Sure, it’s just one story and we have bad contractors up here in New York as well. Yet hearing him say that 15 percent leakage of ductwork is considered standard made me cringe and made me glad the real estate I sell and rent is mostly leak-free, built of masonry and steel, and the ductwork made of aluminum sheet, not flex cardboard covered with aluminum foil like they do it in South Florida.

If you build it, they will come

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Last week’s State of the State address by Governor Andrew Cuomo promised big things for Queens, chief among them building the country’s largest convention center on the former site of the Aqueduct Racino.

The 3.8 million-square-foot convention center would accommodate the nation’s largest events, up to 3,000 hotel rooms and many restaurants, and create new tourism revenues. The project would be a $4 billion investment financed by Resorts World that the governor said is estimated to generate 10,000 construction jobs and 10,000 direct, permanent jobs and thus create new economic activity throughout the state, especially in our own backyards.

The project would be headed by Genting America, the same company that conceived and constructed the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct.

We say bravo to Cuomo, to Genting, the elected officials in support and to the project as a whole.

The New York International Convention and Exhibition Center will put Queens on the map and make us a “destination location.”

The first phase, 2.6 million square feet, is set to be completed at the earliest, in November 2014.

But before that can happen, certain improvements must be in place.

Traffic and road conditions need to be ameliorated on the Belt Parkway and local streets need to be studied and prepared for the additional traffic, including extra parking spaces.

The good news is that Resorts World and the state have already agreed to work alongside the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to help fund and introduce uninterrupted subway service between Midtown Manhattan and the center.

Our borough is bustling and bourgeoning, and a convention center will be the perfect way for Queens to hit the jackpot!

Meanwhile, on the other end of the borough, 13 acres of waterfront property — the single largest building site in the borough — is now for sale in Whitestone.

According to Massey Knakal Realty Services, the site has already been approved for the construction of 52 single-family homes by the City Planning Commission.

The area, according to locals, is one of the most desirable in the borough, with houses selling for $2 million. And the development of the 52 homes, according to one local official, would “set a precedent for future development.”

And in Astoria, the Lincoln Equities Group, a real estate company based in New Jersey, hopes to build seven residential towers, dubbed Hallets Point, a supermarket and a waterfront park along the East River.

This would create roughly 2,200 units of housing. Approximately 1,800 of the units would be market rate, with 400 to 500 – or 20 percent – reserved for affordable housing. The privately-financed project, which is expected to create 1,400 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs, has an estimated cost of over $1 billion.

With all these development projects, it’s clear that Queens is the place to be!


Whitestone waterfront for sale, development

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy of Massey Knakal Realty Services

House hunters searching for outer-borough bliss may soon find sanctuary on a scenic Whitestone cove, as 13 acres of waterfront property — the single largest building site in the borough — is now for sale.

The site, located at 151-45 6th Road, is currently overseen by real estate agent Stephen Preuss of Massey Knakal Realty Services. He is confident that sale price maximization will be possible over the next few months. Preuss alleges the property, which became available via short sale, has already been approved for the construction of 52 single-family homes by the City Planning Commission as well as the “proper community channels,” including Community Board 7.

“We shouldn’t have any problems picking up these plans and moving forward,” said Preuss.

According to Preuss, the land will most likely be purchased by a single developer rather than broken up into smaller plots, adding that the buyer may choose to build in phases as opposed to assembling the entire area at once.

Five of the 13 acres are submerged underwater, which, according to Preuss, the builder would most likely convert into a marina or boat slips.
“It’s one of the most desirable areas in the borough,” he said.

The average waterfront home in Whitestone sells for $2 million, according to Preuss.

State Senator Tony Avella supports the development so long as it adheres to the current plan of 52 single-family homes. Straying from this, Avella threatens, will meet “fierce opposition from the community and me.” As the land is currently an industrial site, Avella believes the addition of a well-thought-out housing complex will be an asset to the community, rather than a detriment.

“A lot of work was put into this plan which will match the character of the neighborhood and set a precedent for future development,” said Avella.

More housing coming to Astoria?

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Halletts Point - Waterfront Park - by James Corner Field Operations

The proposed development of a rarely traversed section of Astoria may “point” to significant upgrades in amenities for the neighborhood.

The Lincoln Equities Group, a real estate company based in New Jersey, hopes to build seven residential towers, dubbed Hallets Point, a supermarket and a waterfront park along the East River.

Hallets Point, which would be near the Astoria Houses, would create roughly 2,200 units of housing. Approximately 1,800 of the units would be market rate, with 400 to 500 – or 20 percent – reserved for affordable housing.

The privately-financed project, which is expected to create 1,400 construction jobs and 300 permanent jobs, has an estimated cost of over $1 billion.

“This project will bring much-needed economic development to a section of Queens that badly needs it and will incorporate things like a supermarket, affordable housing and new parkland to greatly improve the Hallets Point community,” said Andrew Moesel, a representative of the project. “Astoria Houses is a large development, but the peninsula itself is a collection of rundown warehouses and mechanical shops. There aren’t many things adding to the community, but this development, along with bringing new residents to the area, will bring the much needed amenities this community has not had for many years.”

The public review process for the project is expected to begin next year; however Hallets Point, which will offer panoramic views of northern Manhattan, has reportedly received mostly favorable reactions.

“I’m excited about the development, because I think it is long overdue and the area is most definitely in need of redressing,” said Claudia Coger, president of the Astoria Houses Residents Association. “This development will create a state of connection between the waterfront and the rest of western Queens. But I am most excited about the supermarket, because that has been an absentee in our community for over 25 years.”

Senator Michael Gianaris, who is “cautiously optimistic” about Hallets point, says his main concern is ensuring the transportation infrastructure of the neighborhood is able to sustain the additional residents.

According to the senator, shuttle bus service to the Astoria Boulevard subway station is among the proposed solutions to the increase in traffic.

“If done properly, this can be a development that benefits the entire community, while creating affordable housing, which is in desperate need,” said Gianaris. “But the devil is in the details, so I want make sure that as we go forward, all [the developer’s] promises are kept.”

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., whose father’s law firm is acting as a consultant to the developers, says the potential strain the buildings could place on community services has prevented him from fully committing to the project.

“I’m undecided at the moment,” said the councilmember, who claims every other elected official and community group has supported the project. “It has a lot of pros and a lot of cons. The pros are that it will bring needed development to an underserved area and will provide amenities, like a beautiful waterfront park. The cons are that there will be a very large series of buildings that will place a strain on the services to the community, like transportation and schools. It’s going to be such a neighborhood changer. Whatever ends up happening, a lot of people are going to be happy and almost as many people are going to be upset.”

Queens’ Tallest Building Sold by NYC’s Largest Office Landlord

| ddynak@queenscourier.com

Photo of SL Green Realty & Citi Bank Building

Earlier this week, SL Green,New York’s largest office landlord has announced it will sell the iconic One Court Square,Queens’ highest building fully occupied by Citibank.

The 1.4-million-square-foot office tower inLong IslandCityis selling for $340 per square foot to a group of Israeli investors that includes Joel Schreiber, the owner of Waterbridge Capital and David Werner, a private real estate investor from Brooklyn (who closed on1700 Market StreetinPhiladelphiafor $143 million just this September).

SL Green has owned the 50-storyt building since 2006. It is estimated that the company will net approximately $43 million. Not bad of a return in 5 years!

The company announced a few high-profile purchases so that’s where the proceeds from the Citibank building will be going.

As a publicly traded REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust), SL Green has access to financing like no other office landlord in NY. It’s too bad such a company is divesting itself of its flagship Queens property and putting more money in places like downtownManhattan. I wonder if they will continue to manage the building.

Give it a few weeks and check the metal plaques on the façade.

Key Real Estate Actions to Consider in Today’s Market

| helen.keit@kw.com

Check if you can refinance your current mortgage.

Call a mortgage professional to see if you qualify for refinancing and what the monthly savings will be.

Consider closing costs and the length of time you plan to own the property to fully understand if refinancing makes sense.

To speed refinancings Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac yesterday 11/15 said they would allow refinancing regardless of property value, lower some fees and uniformly waive most requirements that lenders be responsible for the original loan.

This should help the approximately 10.9 million borrowers whose residential mortgages exceeded the value of the property at the end of second quarter 2011.

One Hunters Point: From Parking Garage, to Olympic Village Hotel, to Condo

| ddynak@queenscourier.com

Original concept rendering vs. actual building today (Can you spot the differences?)

Did you know? One Hunters Point condominium building, located on the corner of Vernon Blvd and Borden Avenue, was originally designed to house Olympic athletes.

Back in the year when New Yorkers dreamt about hosting 2012 Olympics, Alayo Architects designed loft style hotel building on site of a former garage lot. Excerpt from the cmpany’s website reads: “The building sits opposite the proposed Olympic Village, and takes advantage of the site’s panoramic views across the East River to Manhattan.

The building’s design is an interpretation of the traditional loft buildings that have been typically built in the area.

The building’s technical challenges include locating the building partially over the Queens Midtown Tunnel and utilizing a steel and plank superstructure.”

After our city’s bid for the games failed in July 2005, the entire Hunters Point area’s Olympic dream had to be rethought and repurposed. But rezoning was in place and Simone Development, an office developer from Westchester, purchased the lot and rights to the architectural plans, and built a condominium we see today.

Estimated cost to build was $35,000,000 and by April 2009 the building was completed. If you compare the original rendering and the finished building, you will notice that that they are not that different.

Trade the crest for balconies, change stucco color, and remove some glass, add rooftop cabanas, and you’ve got today’s 5-49 Borden Avenue.

Consider Owning Income Producing Property

| helen.keit@kw.com

As prices on multi-family homes have come down and rental apartments in demand, owning a rental property makes more sense than in years past.

This type of asset can help balance your volatile stock portfolio and low-to-no-income producing bank or money market accounts.

Speak to a real estate professional so you fully understand what being a landlord entails and how to choose a good investment property.

Are you ready to be a landlord?