Real Estate Market

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At new developments, anyway. According to The Real Deal, developers with a lot of units to move have been sweetening the deal for brokers by increasing the standard 3 percent commission to 4 percent, or even 5 percent. “It’s the norm for buildings that were undersold when the crisis hit,” said Michael Signet, of Bond New York. Both the Belltel Lofts in Downtown Brooklyn (which is now about 50 percent sold) and NV in Williamsburg have upped the ante so far.

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After ramping up in the spring and summer, residential rents in Brownstone Brooklyn began to ease in October and continued to decline through the end of the year. That’s the big take-away from Ideal Properties‘ year-end report. Not surprisingly, supply was up by more than 50 percent over 2007 for one-, two- and three-bedrooms; the number of available studios rose only 17 percent. With greater competition for tenants, the percentage of No Fee apartments also rose from about 2 percent to over 20 percent. Landlords aren’t getting too desperate yet though. According to the report, “unlike their Manhattan counterparts, Brooklyn’s prime neighborhoods’ landlords have not started offering ‘first month free [rent].'”

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While prices were only flat to down across various categories in Manhattan in the fourth quarter of 2008, the graffiti was on the wall in the form of declining volume and much longer times on market. The worst is yet to come; there is a blood bath coming, said Matthew Haines, a founder of the real estate site Propertyshark.com who prepared the Corcoran report. Corcoran reported a 30 percent decline in the number of sales from the fourth quarter a year ago, while Prudential Douglas Elliman came up with an estimate of 25 percent. Price data was not as gloomy: The average co-op price was $1.1 million, 8 percent lower than the third quarter but 3 percent higher than a year ago. Looking at prices of properties currently in contract, however, paints a different picture: Jonathan Miller said that these numbers fell a whopping 20 percent between August and December of last year. While real estate pros have a hard time agreeing on what the future holds for sales, they probably all concur with one comment made by Corcoran honcho Pam Liebman: A lot of brokers are making friends with lawyers and doctors and all those people who were left behind in the heyday of Wall Street, three months ago.
Striking Declines Seen in Manhattan Real Estate Market [NY Times]
Reality Hits Home in Manhattan [NY Post]
City’s Housing Market Hammered [NY Daily News}

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Without any fanfare that we’re aware of, the New York Times launched a new version of its real estate classifieds yesterday. The result? A mess, as we found yesterday afternoon as we tried to look for House of the Day candidates. Putting in a price range of $500,000 to $2 million yielded an error message; narrowing the list of available listings using the fields in the left-hand sidebar was a cumbersome, time-consuming and often error-prone process. As one reader pointed out to us via email, you can no longer select multiple property types at once; in addition, her saved searches and alerts were wiped out in the “upgrade.” The list goes on. All we want from the site is to be able to select multiple property types and multiple neighborhoods within a certain price range and see the results. This is no longer possible. Why did they do this? Our best guess is that it has something to do with trying to broaden the geographic reach of the service, based upon the prominence given to the initial search box. Unfortunately, they may have jeopardized a much sought-after local monopoly in the process. Or, as the reader who wrote to us said, “I would imagine that others, like myself, will be very disappointed at their new real estate site and be less likely to use it in the future. [The new site] is not in the interest of regular readers and users of The Times real estate site and searches.” Let’s hope they can rectify the problems quickly.

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We featured this brownstone at 69 St. James Place in Clinton Hill as an Open House Pick back in June when it hit the market with a price tag of $1,995,000; it was reduced in September to $1,895,000 and again in November to $1,750,000, where it remains today. The house is in beautiful shape, with lots of original details and a recently resurfaced facade. We’ll see whether this will need another downward nudge to get a deal done. The fact that 298 Lafayette Avenue sold for $1,895,000 in August is encouraging, but that was pre-Lehman. Waddya think?
69 St. James Place [Brown Harris Stevens] GMAP P*Shark

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When the developer of 330 Park Place started butchering the charming house he had just bought back in the fall of 2006, alarmed neighbors wrote in to us about it. Their alarm proved to be justified, as the developer proceeded to lop off the second story of the hundred-year-old house in preparation for stacking four new levels on top of the existing parlor floor. Last year wrote this about the building: “Not only does the building feel more out-of-scale in person than on film, one can also see certain details which reveal the extent of the developer’s slavish devotion to FAR maximization at the expense of proportion, design and neighborliness.” Now the property is on the market as five condo units ranging in price from $695,000 for a 1,087-square-foot duplex to $899,000 for a 1,671-square-foot duplex with garden. Judging from the quality of the kitchen cabinets and the choice of baseboard heating, this conversion isn’t exactly screaming “high end” to us.
330 Park Place Condos [Ahrlty.com] GMAP P*Shark
Overbuilt in Prospect Heights: 330 Park Place [Brownstoner]
330 Park Place: As Bad As Everyone Feared? [Brownstoner]
Developer Non Grata: 330 Park Place Destruction [Brownstoner]

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While most of the 190 or so units at One Hanson Place have sold by now, there are still a few left, and the developers have decided they’d rather earn some income on them than have them just sit empty. So as of Friday, there are now 19 apartments available for rent from the developer through Stribling, ranging from $3,400 to $4,900 a month. (Three other units have been for rent by owner since the fall.)

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Young lovers, beware of the brownstone! This, apparently, is the fable of this week’s Habitats column in The Times. I will never live in another Victorian brownstone, Serine Hastings told the paper of record. I have had two failed relationships while living in them. So what’s a modernist-leaning empty-nester to do? This devoted Brooklynite decided to trade in her Fort Greene brownstone for a sixth-floor two-bedroom at The Smith, in part because she found that it had the best finishes of the other new construction projects she was looking at back in 2006. She also has some perspective on how her decision must look from the outside: I know people must drive by and think, I could never live in that cookie-cutter building, she said. I used to be one of those people.
After All Those Brownstones, a Blank Canvas [NY Times] GMAP