With inventory tight these days, don’t leave anything to chance


Thursday, October 10, 2013, 6:27 PM

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Jeff Bachner/for New York Daily News

Citi Habitats president Gary Malin.

The Money Pros are standing by to take your questions.

Q. With inventory very tight right now, I want to do everything I can to make sure my apartment deal goes smoothly. What are some tips for aceing the co-op approval process?

A. The co-op board approval process can be nerve-racking, and it’s important to know what the process will entail before placing an offer.

Co-op buildings are run by a co-op board, just like a company has a board of directors. This group of building residents reigns supreme, and has the right to approve or reject all potential buyers, and for any reason – as long as it is not in violation of fair housing laws.

Boards want to see that would-be residents are financially qualified to purchase the apartment in question (by examining pay stubs, tax returns, etc.), and that they will make good, quiet neighbors.

Financial qualification requirements vary from building to building. Typically though, most boards like applicants to have a monthly income that is four times greater than their total monthly housing expenditure (mortgage payment, plus maintenance fees/taxes and insurance), and in addition, have a full 12 months of housing costs available in liquid assets (cash, money market accounts, bonds etc.).

If you are working with a real estate agent, ask him or her to give you as much information as possible about the approval process for the board in question. It helps to know what you are walking into beforehand.

Meeting with the board is the most important step in the process. Remember that first impressions count. Be on time, be friendly, and be prepared.

Understand the ins-and-outs of all your required financial documentation, and be sure you can answer questions about it quickly and accurately. Be sure to dress appropriately, as you would for an important business function.

When in doubt, err on the conservative side.

Let the board ask the questions, and answer only what is asked of you. Volunteering additional information only increases the chance they will find something you say unacceptable. In most cases, a short interview is a good sign you will be approved.

Always have a positive attitude about the apartment and the building. Act like you wouldn’t change a thing about both.

Now is not the time to discuss your plans to knock down walls and gut the apartment. While renovating your unit is your right as an owner, its best to avoid bringing it up during the interview.

The goal is to act like you love the building and will be a no-hassle neighbor.

Keep in mind, co-op boards are allowed to ask personal questions. Asking what you do on the weekends and if you have frequent guests are common questions. While it’s okay to spin the answers a little, reply to them honestly.

While the co-op approval process can be a challenge, remember the payoff of a home you love is worth the short-term inconvenience. Keep the tips above in mind, and you should be in great shape.

Gary Malin

Malin is the president of Citi Habitats.

Do you have a question for the Money Pros? Send it to pfurman@nydailynews.com.

Citi Habitats going all Google on its uptown agents

10:06 am, October 23, 2013

By Holly Dutton

Manhattan brokerage Citi Habitats will open a new Upper West Side office in December, merging two of its current uptown offices into the new location at 157 Columbus Ave.

The firm just signed a 10-year lease for 8,335 s/f on the second floor of 157 Columbus Ave, on the corner of 67th Street.


It will replace both 465 Columbus Avenue and 222 West 72nd Street (two small offices) into one “mega-officeˮ at 157 Columbus Avenue.

“We were looking for a new space because one of our leases was coming up,” said Citi Habitats president Gary Malin.

“It’s an ideal location, an ideal space and it’s very quintessentially Upper West Side.”

Currently under construction, the state-of-the-art space will accommodate close to 100 agents once completed, said Malin.

“It’s going to have lounges and phone booth rooms for agents, and it’s going to have a lot of communal use space that will makes agents lives better, in a less formal environment,” he said.

“We’re taking a page from the way tech companies operate, having free-flowing space for people to give them a better and more enhanced lifestyle in the office.”

Citi Habitats currently has eight sales offices in all the major neighborhoods of Manhattan, plus a corporate headquarters in the Flatiron District.

“With past offices, due to the size or retail component of the space, it didn’t allow an office of the future concept,” said Malin. “We took a hard look at our business plan and what we were doing and where were going. We’re really just trying to enhance every angle of what they’re daily life should be like.”

The firm is planning to open the office for business the first week of December. “It’s going to be the latest and the greatest and we’re really excited about it,” said Malin.


Weekly Interest Rate Overview

The Markets. Rates increased in the past week, but this data was released before the effects of the budget settlement were factored into the equation. Freddie Mac announced that for the week ending October 17th, 30-year fixed rates increased to 4.28% from 4.23% the week before. The average for 15-year loans also rose slightly to 3.33%. Adjustable rates were mixed, with the average for one-year adjustables falling slightly to 2.63% and five-year adjustables increasing slightly to 3.07%. A year ago 30-year fixed rates were at 3.37%. Attributed to Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac — “Rates edged up leading to the federal budget deadline this week. Recent confidence measures depict some of the effects of the government shutdown and uncertainty of the budget impasse. For instance, consumer sentiment in October fell for the second straight month to the lowest reading since January, according to the University of Michigan. Similarly, October’s homebuilder confidence fell to a four-month low. However, despite these downturns in confidence, applications for home loans rose for the second consecutive week as of October 11th, elevated by increases in applications for refinancing.”   Rates indicated do not include fees and points and are provided for evidence of trends only. They should not be used for comparison purposes.

Current Indices For Adjustable Rate Mortgages
Updated October 18, 2013

  Daily Value Monthly Value
  Oct 17 September
6-month Treasury Security 0.08%  0.04%
1-year Treasury Security 0.13%  0.12%
3-year Treasury Security 0.61%  0.78%
5-year Treasury Security 1.35%  1.60%
10-year Treasury Security 2.61%  2.81%
12-month LIBOR    0.653% (Sept)
12-month MTA    0.144% (Sept)
11th District Cost of Funds    0.956% (Aug)
Prime Rate    3.25%
Amy Zimmer

By Amy Zimmer on October 10, 2013 7:14am | Updated on October 10, 2013 7:14am


Price Per Square Foot Might Not be the Best Gauge for Value, Experts Say
Price Per Square Foot Might Not be the Best Gauge for Value, Experts Say

MANHATTAN — Take a tape measure on your next open house visit.

Though popular real estate websites such as Trulia, Zillow and StreetEasy often include an apartment’s price per square foot, many brokers warn that the art of calculation is imprecise at best.

Some listings might use closets, hallways — inside or outside the unit — and even elevator shafts in their measurements. Others might just include usable space.

Then there are questions about how to include terraces or outdoor areas.

There are no rules that dictate how to measure square footage, experts told DNAinfo New York. Because of that, some brokers discourage buyers from relying on the price-per-square-foot figure to gauge whether they’re getting a good deal.

“Buyers and sellers are always asking about per square foot,” said Dan Bamberger, of CitiHabitats. “It’s the most common way people try to make a justified analysis of how much they should be paying for an apartment.”

“I hate to put it like this, but it’s really more trickery than anything else.”

Usually when an apartment is listed, brokers hire someone with a tape measure — rarely a licensed architect — to create a floor plan, explained Bamberger, who recently wrote about the murkiness of square feet in a newsletter he sends to clients.

For his piece, he randomly selected four Greenwich Village apartments currently on the market and found that the floor plan, on average, was nearly 44 percent smaller than the listed square footage.

Bamberger also found discrepancies of nearly 12 percent in square footage between the same unit listed at two different times or similar apartments on different floors of the same building. Yet in many cases, buyers would pay a premium based on price per square foot, he said.

There are few references for homebuyers to check apartments’ square feet. Co-ops — which represent three-quarters of Manhattan’s housing stock — have no public record, and measurements for condos are included in their offering plans, explained Jonathan Miller, president of the Miller Samuel appraisal firm. 

Jackson Heights History 2
Many real estate experts say that calculating square feet of apartments is an inexact science. There’s no public rec…

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Queens Borough Public Library/Images of America: Jackson Heights

“If you put two licensed architects in a room, you would not get identical measurements,” he said. “You would get a close measurement, but there isn’t a level of precision available.”

Miller said measurements in listings tend to be between 5 and 10 percent higher than the actual size.

“A 2,000-square-foot apartment might be closer to 1,800,” Miller said. “That doesn’t mean that apartment in that building sold for 10 percent more than it was worth.

“I think there’s an expectation of precision that doesn’t exist. But it’s not like [the space] was hidden from you when you bought. It’s just another rating for the apartment.”

A lot of brokerage firms don’t include square footage in their listings or are cautious about the numbers being approximate, because they’re worried about being sued, he said.

Case in point: David Wilkenfeld, founder of PromGirl.com, a major formal dress e-tailer, agreed to pay $13 million for a penthouse at 200 Chambers St. in TriBeCa that was listed at 4,700 square feet.

But only after he agreed to the deal, he learned that the condo’s offering plan listed the unit as having 4,548 square feet, according to a lawsuit he filed against the broker in March, essentially seeking a $2.08 million refund based on the smaller size.

The lawsuit claimed the 2012 sale of the condo was “hurried” by email during the “traumatic period of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath in New York City.” The case was dismissed in April.

Especially in today’s market, with its lack of inventory, using such questionable numbers to base home-buying decisions may not make for the most solid foundation, the experts agreed.

When he works with sellers, Bamberger tries not to disclose the square footage since it could present issues or disputes down the road, he said.

When he works with buyers he encourages them to assess the apartment on its merits rather than on the listed square footage.

“You have to make a subjective opinion on what an apartment is worth,” Bamberger said.


Q3 2013 Brooklyn Residential Sales Market Report

The Q3 2013 Brooklyn Residential Sales Market Report is now available.  This report provides a comprehensive overview of current sales market conditions and tracks trends market wide and by neighborhood. 

Intense buyer demand for housing drove pricing trends as it was met with limited available properties; the result was rapid absorption and price increases across the board.
A few report highlights:
·         Market-wide closed sales totaled 1,146, a 9% increase year over year and a 16% increase compared to last quarter.
·         The market-wide average price per square foot rose to $693 this quarter, a 9% increase year-over-year, while the average sale price of $662,000 increased 8% year-over-year.
·         Prices for townhomes displayed year-over-year improvement, particularly the two-to-four family townhouses market, where double-digit median sales price increases were recorded throughout the borough.
Full report is available here

Weekly Interest Rate Overview

The Markets. Rates stabilized in the past week after dropping for the previous three weeks. Freddie Mac announced that for the week ending October 10th, 30-year fixed rates increased slightly to 4.23% from 4.22% the week before. The average for 15-year loans also rose slightly to 3.31%. Adjustable rates followed fixed rates slightly higher as well, with the average for one-year adjustables rising to 2.64% and five-year adjustables increasing to 3.05%. A year ago 30-year fixed rates were at 3.39%. Attributed to Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac — “Rates on home loans were little changed amid the federal debt impasse in Washington, D.C. and a light week of economic data releases. Of the few releases, the private sector added an estimated 166,000 jobs in September, which were fewer than the market consensus and followed a downward revision of 17,000 workers in August, according to the ADP Research Institute. The Institute for Supply Management reported a greater slowing in growth in the nonmanufacturing industry in September than the market consensus forecast.”  Rates indicated do not include fees and points and are provided for evidence of trends only. They should not be used for comparison purposes.

Current Indices For Adjustable Rate Mortgages
Updated October 11, 2013

  Daily Value Monthly Value
  Oct 10 September
6-month Treasury Security 0.07%  0.04%
1-year Treasury Security 0.14%  0.12%
3-year Treasury Security 0.68%  0.78%
5-year Treasury Security 1.44%  1.60%
10-year Treasury Security 2.71%  2.81%
12-month LIBOR    0.653% (Sept)
12-month MTA    0.144% (Sept)
11th District Cost of Funds    0.956% (Aug)
Prime Rate    3.25%

The Q3 2013 Manhattan Residential Sales Market Report


A few highlights from the Third Quarter:

·         Despite diminishing inventory levels, the Manhattan sales market thrived in Q3 2013 with 4,164 closings recorded, 5% higher than the same period a year before.  Last quarter also marked the highest level of sales activity since Q2 2008 – the last time there were more closings in a single quarter listed inventory was 73% higher.

·         Prices reflected strong local, national and international demand, historically low interest rates and a continued influx of all-cash buyers.  Market wide average price per square foot reached $1,170 – an increase of 11% from Q2 2012 and 5% from Q2 2013.

·         Market wide median price for resale co-ops and condos both reached an all-time high this quarter – at $720,000 and $1,220,000, respectively.

·         Inventory continued an established decline with 20% fewer listings available than a year prior.

Full report can be accessed here.

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