07/17/13 9:00am

David J. Maundrell III, founder and president of Aptsandlofts.com, isn’t sure what home hunters want, but he knows what they don’t want, he says:

People don’t want apartments with very little closet space. They don’t want strip kitchens. They don’t want these small, cramped rooms. People also don’t want one person’s vision. We try to help design a product that we can cast a wide net and bring in many people. Sometimes certain designs alienate. It may only be for one type of buyer or renter.

The company, which started in Williamsburg, has become known for its influence in shaping the look of conversions and new buildings there and throughout Brooklyn. It was one of the first to work with developers early on in the process and help steer them away from the Home Depot look, which their customers didn’t like, as we know from conversations with the firm’s brokers over many years. In a New York Times question-and-answer interview, Maundrell said the market is swinging back to condos, with some projects that were formerly built as condos then switched to rentals now switching back again. Maundrell details some buildings they will soon be leasing out, including 50 North 5th in Williamsburg, pictured above, and other buildings in Park Slope and Flatbush. The first two will rent for $60 a square foot or more; at a 62-unit building in Flatbush close to Brooklyn College, two-bedrooms will go for $1,900 a month. “We’re going to push close to 800 apartments to the market over five projects or so in the next 45 to 60 days,” he said. They plan to open a third Brooklyn office soon in an undisclosed location (current offices are in Cobble Hill and Williamsburg).

The 30-Minute Interview: David J. Maundrell III of Aptsandlofts.com [NY Times]

04/11/13 11:30am

Today we bring you an anonymous weekly column about real estate by one of the most experienced agents in Brooklyn:
I’ve written before about there being no barriers to entry to becoming a real estate agent. Virtually no capital is required. The New York State required education is pathetic — when I took the state test, there were hordes of people taking it who needed instructions on filling out a bubble answer sheet. Really? Did they not complete 4th grade? And getting hired is easy since no one has to pay you a cent until you produce. Little wonder that the quality of agents varies widely, to say the least. (more…)

04/04/13 11:30am

Today we bring you an anonymous weekly column about real estate by one of the most experienced agents in Brooklyn:
All is us making our living selling real estate here have been hired at one time or another by the children who have inherited a Brooklyn townhouse. It is always interesting to see how the process works amongst them and certain dynamics occur over and over.

Usually we are called in while the children are clearing out the house. As you can imagine, there is a lot of squabbling about who gets what. “Mom always said she wanted ME to have the Danish modern dining set.” Nobody, and I mean NObody, wants the 40-piece Hummel collection. The out-of-town sibling usually gets the worst of the lot.
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03/21/13 11:30am

Today we bring you an anonymous weekly column about real estate by one of the most experienced agents in Brooklyn:
WHAT is going on here? This week I listed a new house. It is on a previously shunned Carroll Gardens block and it is small — 2,000 square feet. It has been totally renovated and has a large, lovely garden. The sellers and I agreed that we would reach a bit and price it slightly above where we felt the market is at right now. Fingers crossed.

I arrived for the Sunday open house 10 minutes before the start time. Cars were double parked and people were bunched up outside, all waiting to see it. That was a first for me in all these years — a crowd waiting for an open house?
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03/07/13 11:30am

Today we bring you an anonymous weekly column about real estate by one of the most experienced agents in Brooklyn:
Unusually, I have spent the last two weeks working with a number of buyers in failed attempts to become owners of Brooklyn real estate. Boy, is it brutal out there.

Since when does one have to have all cash to be a successful bidder? Sellers have raised their expectations so fast and by so much that we all know bank appraisers will not be able to keep up. So now unless a buyer has at least 50 percent cash, their bid is not going to be accepted, no matter how high they go. For normal working people, that much cash is hard to come by. (more…)

02/28/13 11:30am

Today we bring you the 16th anonymous weekly column about real estate by one of the most experienced agents in Brooklyn:
One reason inventory is so tight in brownstone Brooklyn is that there are so many downsides to downsizing. Here are a few — maybe a creative type might use them to drum up a great purchase.

When a brownstone becomes an empty nest, thoughts turn to downsizing. Visions of high sales prices turning into bulging bank accounts abound. I have been called in to discuss the sale many times. Once the subject of taxes comes up, the visions are deflated. (Please note that I am NOT a tax advisor.) Capital gains taxes will eat a substantial amount of profit and real property transfer taxes will be due. Many sellers stop dead in their tracks when they learn those numbers and vow to be carried out of the house on a box. (more…)

02/21/13 11:30am

Today we bring you the 15th anonymous weekly column about real estate by one of the most experienced agents in Brooklyn:
Well, it has come to this. Inventory is so tight that we brokers are scrounging for listings by going to people who hadn’t considered being sellers at this time and begging them to consider a deal. Is this a good thing? Maybe, maybe not.

The best place to start is with a buyer who has very specific needs and a clear budget. Without this in mind it can be very difficult to entice a seller. This buyer must also be able to make decisions fast without having to visit many, many properties. Let’s say we have a family relocating from London who lived in Brooklyn before. They’ve got the cash to avoid a mortgage and they want a prime neighborhood. This is an ideal situation to lure a seller into action. (more…)

02/14/13 11:30am

Today we bring you the 14th of an anonymous weekly column about real estate by one of the most experienced agents in Brooklyn:
On Valentine’s Day my thoughts turn to the way in which relationships affect real estate transactions. It is no surprise that buying property is a lot like falling in love; a new home is like a new lover. You can’t help but imagine that you will be a different and better person with this place (person).

A starry-eyed young couple came to me looking for a place to buy together. Their likes and dislikes could not have been more different. I was relieved when they decided to rent instead. Unwinding a failed relationship is hard enough. Add owned real estate into the deal and you’ve got a full-fledged divorce on your hands.

Then there was the married couple. She would look at any and all house listings in Brooklyn Heights. She liked them all. Master of the Universe husband would then visit and reject every one. One day, in the garden of the 14th house, the wife burst into tears and told me they were seeing a counselor to determine why he wouldn’t agree to buy a house. TMI, for sure. (more…)

02/07/13 11:30am

Today we bring you the thirteenth of an anonymous weekly column about real estate by one of the most experienced agents in Brooklyn:
This is a topic that causes a lot of unnecessary anguish for buyers and sellers of Brooklyn townhouses. More than any thing else, it is a reason to hire a Brooklyn real estate attorney to represent you. Their years of experience can be a tremendous help.

Let’s say you decide to put your house on the market. You have lived in it for a good many years and you have always had a tenant. Your real estate tax bill says it has been taxed as a two-family house. So it is reasonable to represent that it is a two-family house, right? Not necessarily.

Or, suppose you have an accepted offer on a house which has only one kitchen and has been occupied by one family for years. It seems reasonable to assume that it is a one-family house, right?  Maybe not. (more…)

01/31/13 11:30am

Today we bring you the 12th of an anonymous weekly column about real estate by one of the most experienced agents in Brooklyn:
Following last week’s column on the difficulties of being a buyer of real estate in brownstone Brooklyn, I want to share my thoughts about competitive bidding. Unfortunately there are as many approaches to this as there are sellers and brokers.

This is how I do it. When I first meet a seller, we discuss the possibility of multiple bids. Usually the seller becomes gleeful at the prospect and wonders how that could possibly be a problem. Then we discuss how to approach it. This is one of  those subjects which is best addressed ahead of time. I recommend that if we get multiple bids we will hold a “best and final” round, asking buyers to give it their best shot and promising to accept one of those. It takes some convincing — the seller often wants to know why it isn’t best to just show each bid to all the other bidders. I explain that revealing other bids is so difficult on buyers’ psyches that many good ones drop out. Most sellers get this. I really mean it when I say “best and final.” The process will be over and the best offer will be accepted. 
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01/24/13 11:00am

Today we bring you the eleventh of an anonymous weekly column about real estate by one of the most experienced agents in Brooklyn:
With short inventory now the norm in all of our brownstone neighborhoods, it is very difficult to be a buyer. I’ve started to advise buyers I’m just beginning to work with to expect a tortuous process. They need to expect bidding wars, reneging by the sellers, unpleasant financial scrutiny and more.

A young couple with a new baby wanted to move from their one bedroom apartment in Soho to one of several Brooklyn neighborhoods. Over the course of a year they submitted offers on five properties, mostly houses in need of restoration. After the first one failed, they started making offers above the asking price in ever larger increments. Their mortgage approval was sound and the jobs were solid. They were outbid all five times. As their broker, I failed in two ways: I counseled caution on the ever increasing offers, and I did not help them get a house. Finally, in disgust, they bought a coop in Soho where they faced no competition at all. (more…)

01/17/13 11:30am

Today we bring you the tenth of an anonymous weekly column about real estate by one of the most experienced agents in Brooklyn: Last week I wrote about basements. Commenters were quick to point out that the proper Department of Buildings terminology for the entirely underground space I discussed is cellar. Basement refers to space which is partially underground but does have windows.

What is possible and or legal in terms of usage for Brooklyn basements? This is a complicated question. Buyers and sellers want simple answers but there are none. I’ll mention a few situations which recur frequently to try to shed some light. (more…)