The Psychology of your Home

Every day, all day, we help people buy and sell real estate. So naturally it’s easy to get hypnotized into commoditizing properties and to think of them as nothing more than square footage or a bedroom count. We could all use a reminder that the space we live in is so much more than just space.

After members of our team sat with Interior Designer Benjamin Noriega Ortiz, we had a long, in-depth conversation about the impact that our living space has on our personal well-being. Jeff was only half-joking when he said an apartment could adequately function as a therapist. But, is it really a stretch to assume that science might actually support that hypothesis? We seriously doubt you could find any mental health professional who’d argue that someone’s environment has no impact on their emotional state.

After extensive research, we found dozens, if not hundreds, of articles, books, and scientific studies that draw a line between our living space and our mental well-being. We found studies that were conducted here in the United States, in Europe, China, India, Australia, and just about every corner of the globe. Some of the studies focused specifically on architecture, size of space and quality of construction, while others put an emphasis more on comfort, colors and other aesthetically pleasing elements.

With almost no exception, whether it was a blogger, an interior designer, a real estate agent, a doctor or a scientist, there is a consensus: Where we live affects the way we feel.

The conversation we had after Benjamin left our office was pretty amazing, and it made sense to think about real estate in such a personal way. Our homes are our physical and emotional fortresses. They should always be our safe place, but they also have the potential to be our happy place.

Our Homes are a lot like Yours

We love it when our conversations offer clear and obvious perspective. We can only do our job exceptionally when real conversations and real-life experiences provide that type of outlook and it becomes a part of our team’s collective mindset.

The talk we had about our living space provided the most amazing perspective. We thought about how important our own personal living space is to us; We thought about all the time and energy we’ve spent on the smallest details that transformed our own houses into our homes, and we thought about the way we feel when we’re at home.

Just a few weeks ago, Jeff was over-the-top excited about a new dining room table he ordered. On his computer screen, he showed it to the team from every possible angle. While he knew exactly how it would look in his apartment, it could have been the way it felt or the way it looked. But more likely, Jeff was envisioning the conversations and laughs he would share with friends that will gather around it for years to come.

We all have things that do nothing more than occupy our precious living space – things that serve no real purpose and offer nothing to connect with on an emotional level. But everyone in the office could tell by the look on Jeff’s face, that this table was going to make his happy place even happier.

This week Marie described chasing her new beagle puppies for several laps like a NASCAR car driver on a track that started in her kitchen and looped through her dining room and living room before zipping past the starting line somewhere near the dishwasher. When Marie suddenly reversed her course, she caught the puppies off-guard and their momentum made them slide across the kitchen floor and caused a doggy pileup at Marie’s feet that was gentler and happier than a wreck at Daytona. Marie was genuinely, laugh-out-loud happy in her home. And that’s how it should be for everyone.

Our homes play host to so many of our memories, and our friends and family members, and our alone time, and Sunday morning breakfasts, and birthdays and holidays, and children and pets, and home offices and inspiring views. Our homes are where we rest and recover and relax. It’s where we think quietly, away from the distractions of the outside world.

We have so much control over what our living space is, how it looks, and what it ultimately becomes. We control the way we arrange it, the colors we paint it, and the way we accessorize it. We even control the sounds and the smells that glide through and blend into the unseen air that we share the space with.

So much goes into turning your house into a home. But the very first step in making the perfect home is finding the perfect home. At every property showing, and during every phone conversation and every email exchange, it’s all about maintaining the proper perspective. We can never forget just how unique and personal your home will become to you. Finding your home is a huge responsibility; one that we’re honored you’ve entrusted us with.


At the Core: Espinal Adler Team Takes “Full-Service” to a Whole New Level

After eclipsing $100 Million in sales last year, the Douglas Elliman team led by Marie Espinal and Jeff Adler announced their relaunch as the Espinal Adler Team in January 2019.

The veteran duo credits the team’s success to its holistic and hands-on approach with its clients, resulting in consecutive year-over-year growth for a decade by toppling the impressive $100 Million annual sales benchmark.

“I think it’s a testament to the things that we’re doing right, and all the while without compromising the way we service our clients or how we want to run our business,” Espinal said. “We want to advise our clients the way that patients are advised by their doctors.”

That consistent, high-level of service allowed the team to stay focused and thrive in a year that volume was down for a lot of NYC realtors, according to Adler, who prioritized cultivating long-term relationships over chasing the immediate sale.

“Even with all the volatility in this industry and this market, we have consistently grown since we’ve partnered,” he said. “Last year, everybody was down and freaking out. But we were optimistic. Because the way we do business is what the market is shifting to.”

The Espinal Adler team is being built specifically with the client experience in mind. It already had its own Marketing Director, a powerhouse of multi-lingual agents and expert market analysts. But this month, the team took an unprecedented step in adding 15-year mortgage-industry veteran Matthew Jablonski to their roster. Jablonski will serve the team’s clients in an advisory role, completely independent from any bank or mortgage lender.

Jablonski will be tasked with having his finger on the pulse of a constantly evolving mortgage industry, identifying lenders who offer the most competitive rates with the most efficient process, all in an effort to spare the team’s clients from the time-consuming information gathering process. “Our clients should rest assured that we’re in constant pursuit of information that will help them secure the best available mortgage terms,” Adler said.

Jablonski will prepare clients for the mortgage application process and be available to conference with a buyer’s loan officer or mortgage broker to ensure all the right questions are asked and answered. He’s also a trained solutions expert, or as Espinal phrased it, “a thought partner” in the event there are any roadblocks during someone’s mortgage application process. “We want our buyers to get the best possible loan for their needs, and this will help them achieve that,” Adler said.

For sellers, Jablonski will carefully vet pre-approvals when offers are made. He’ll review appraisal reports if a listing property under-appraises and offer alternatives to unnecessarily lowering a sales price.

Espinal said she and her team have worked with Jablonski for over a decade during stops he had at Chase, Mortgage Master and most recently Citizens Bank. His addition to the team will change the homebuying process for clients working through the Espinal Adler Team. A real estate broker is there for their client at every step of the negotiation, both Espinal and Adler pointed out. But, for the most part, a buyer is on their own when it comes to securing funds for the transaction.

“This was the one missing component,” Espinal said. “With the inclusion of a mortgage advocator, it really does become a full suite of services. We think it’s going to make a monumental difference in how a client experiences real estate through us.”

“It’s unparalleled,” Adler said. “How many other real estate teams have their own mortgage specialist?”

Many real estate agents have a decent understanding of mortgage finance, especially in New York City, Jablonski said, but getting to the closing table can be like navigating through a minefield of potential pitfalls. With 15 years and more than 1,500 mortgage transactions under his belt, Jablonski said his familiarity with the process, his understanding of mortgage guidelines and his ability to think like a mortgage underwriter will undoubtedly enhance the customer experience, and just as importantly, Espinal Adler clients will ultimately save money.

“I was in the mortgage business for a long time, but I never crossed paths with anyone that performed the role that I’m taking with this team,” Jablonski said. “It’s new and it’s exciting and it makes all the sense in the world.”

In addition to Espinal and Adler, and now Jablonski, the team includes Marketing Director Cortnie Schultz, and salespeople Joseph Chaplin, Ya (Amy) Wang, Jessica Escobar and Jennings Lee Culver.

 


ASK THE EXPERTS | HOW HAS THE NEW TAX LAW EFFECTED NYC REAL ESTATE?

Trump’s Tax Reform and New York City Real Estate

 The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed by President Trump on December 22, 2017, has initiated numerous changes to how residential property owners can write off their local taxes and mortgage interest payments on their federal tax returns. It caps state and municipal property tax deductions on federal tax returns at $10,000, reduces mortgage interest deduction caps from $1.1 million to $500,000, and prohibits such deductions on second homes.

But what does this really mean for the Manhattan and Brooklyn real estate markets? Well, we’re here to ask the experts just that: does this new tax law have any effect on the real estate market here in NYC? Initial views on this were mixed, and current market trends reflect those prognostications.

The fourth quarter of 2017, when New York buzzed with a mix of suspicion and sanguinity about its native President’s impending tax overhaul, saw Manhattan housing sales activity at its lowest fourth-quarter total in six years, Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel reported. This included a 12.3% sales volume softening from Q4-2016 to 2,514 closed sales from 2,868 in Manhattan real estate, an average sale price drop to $1,897,503—the first below-$2M figure in two years—and a 13.2% increase in luxury listing inventory to 1,439, the first increase in nine consecutive fourth quarters. To circumvent the lack of tax-write-off incentives for homeownership the Act would create, cash buyers purchased 51.2% of all co-op and condo units sold.

But why? These trends were due largely to the market cautiousness the Act’s reduction of tax benefits provoked in the minds of many buyers, Miller Samuel’s CEO Jonathan Miller told The New York Times in January. Our very own Steven James echoed this sentiment to Bloomberg and Newsweek: “The buyer is very worried about overpaying.”

The Brooklyn market fared a bit better, perhaps due to its up-and-coming status in New York’s higher-end real estate market compared to Manhattan’s long-established one. Brooklyn’s Q4-2017 closed with 2,627 sales, a 1.7% increase from 2,582 in Q4-2016, causing a 23.1% reduction in inventory over the past year. Brooklyn’s $948,706 average sales price was up 0.1% from Q4-2016’s $947,553, and its median sales price rose 2.7% from $750K to $770K over that period. Its luxury median sales price, however, went down 1.9% to $2.4M over that time frame.

Now let’s dive into the 2018 numbers. Elliman and Samuel’s Q1-2018 reports generally indicated continuation of these cautious trends. Manhattan’s home sales dropped 24.6% from 2,892 sales in Q1-2017 to 2,180, which included a 24% fall in luxury home sales. The average sales price dropped from $2,104,350 in Q1-2017 to $1,933,198 (slightly better than the Q4-2017 showing, however). Brooklyn’s market growth slowed its pace but remained strong: the average sale price reduced from $993,955 to $982,093. Then we have the luxury sales, where the median sales price fell 4.7% to $2.425M.

These reports painted quite a different picture from Dezeen’s rosy reportage that Manhattan’s high-end residential real estate market was “booming, thanks to President Donald Trump’s economic policies and tax cuts for the wealthy,” with a reported overall 27% sales volume increase by the beginning of March. Whatever truth those findings hold may be partly attributable to the downward pressure the market’s highest end was already under, pricing-wise.

Prices in the over-$8M+ market have dropped significantly over the past 18 months, possibly to move inventory faster in light of the Act’s diminution of homeowner tax benefits, even though many of these sales involve cash purchases that make the lowered interest expense write-off irrelevant. (In fact, 90% of Q4-2017’s over-$5M sales were cash transactions, Elliman reported.) To boot, some buyers are actually using Trump’s tax reforms to bargain down home prices so they hopefully won’t get socked with higher taxes once the sales are closed, The New York Times reported in June.

Manhattan’s individual neighborhoods varied in RE market sales percentages over the first half of 2018, most showing incremental increases. Downtown consistently held the largest share of the borough’s market, 36% in January and 40% by May. The East Side carried 19% in January and 20% in May. The West Side went up from 18% to 20%, Midtown increased from 16% to 20%, and Upper Manhattan dropped from 7% to 4%.

Brooklyn’s market softened slightly as well. Q2-2018 sales were 5.7% down from last year’s second quarter, from 2,845 to 2,683, the first such decline after ten consecutive year-over-year gains, though sales increased 11.3% from Q1. Inventory rose 18.5% from Q2-2017’s 2,257 to this second quarter’s 2,675, which was up 30.9% from Q1. This significant inventory expansion followed 11 consecutive quarters of year-over-year depletions. Median and average sales prices both dropped from Q2-2017—$997,654 to $984,047 and $795K to $780K, respectively—with very minimal differences from Q1.

With all of this data being enough to make your head spin, what does this mean to our buyers and sellers who are uncertain about the effects of Trump’s new tax law on the NYC real estate market? The answer is, of course, nuanced, like any complex market. Because of the multiple up-and-down pressures the real estate market must weather consistently, assigning responsibility to any individual cause, trend or force wouldn’t be fair and/or accurate.

“External influences outside of the vibrant city economy such as rising mortgage rates, the potential impact of the new federal tax law, and an unclear direction of the national economy have continued to remain a concern of market participants,” Miller reported in the Q2-2018 Elliman Report on Manhattan sales. Another external influence could be a predicted mass exodus from New York to lower-tax states like Florida, where “you can save a million [dollars] a year,” our own Richard Steinberg told The Real Deal.

So there you go. No omens of a recession or bubble-burst are on the horizon, but cards are being played cautiously in NYC real estate investment, yet with hopeful signs that Brooklyn could be a worthy “Trump” card for the homebuyer or investor. Looks like we’ll have to stick around and see what happens in Q3 and Q4.

Sources


ASK THE EXPERTS | WHAT NEGOTIATIONS IN REAL ESTATE LOOK LIKE

As seasoned real estate brokers here at Douglas Elliman, we are often asked the question of what it’s like negotiating during the buying or selling process. People seem to want to be a fly on the wall to hear exactly how the magic happens, so we thought we’d pull together a sample scenario that does just that: realistically conveys the back and forth between seller, broker and buyer (because let’s recall:  the broker isn’t just negotiating with buyers but is always also negotiating with the seller in terms of what the market can bear).

Therefore, we welcome to the first micro-episode of “Ebb and flow: negotiations in real estate.”

Broker: We have run the comps on your apartment, and after visiting the apartment various times and assessing its value, we believe that the apartment should be listed at $1.495M, considering that its value ranges from $1.3M-$1.6M.

Seller: I have lived in this building for over 22 years and I am not selling it for under $1.6M.  Plus, it’s a renovated apartment.

Broker: We understand, however your renovation is over 5 years old now and no longer feels new to prospective buyers.

Seller: But everyone wants to be in this building; the parquet floors and the location are real attractions.  This apartment has fantastic space! I am not selling it under $1.6M so let’s price it high so then we can absolutely get the $1.5M you’re talking about.

Broker: Mr. and Mrs. Seller, nothing has sold in the building for over $1.5M but we will price it where you want it.  We do want to reiterate, that buyers today are knowledgeable and research savvy – brokers are even more so…If we go on the market at that price, we will get offers on where the property should actually be priced.  Not to mention that when buyers are researching properties below $1.5M, your property will be missed despite it being overpriced.

Seller: Let’s try $1.6M

(Hits the market at $1.595M…)

Broker: Mr. and Mrs. Seller, our Open House was well attended with 30 people.  We received four offers, one at $1.3M and three at $1.4M.

Seller: The number has to start with a 1.5 in front of it.  We put $300,000 into the renovation.  I have to have a number starting with 1.5.

Broker:  Mr. and Mrs. Buyer, thank you for your offer at $1.4M but my client is countering at $1.5M.

Buyer: The trades don’t support that price.  There is a unit in the same building, on the same line that is trading at $1.3-$1.4M.  We can come up to $1.43M

Broker: I will revert back to my client with your counteroffer.

Seller: I know what my apartment is worth and we must have a 1.5 in front of it.

(A few weeks later)

Broker: Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Buyer – I have good news, my client has lowered the price to $1.45M.  Are you still interested in the property?

Buyer: I’m sorry but we have moved on.

Broker: Mr. and Mrs. Seller, we need to move on from that offer, they have already placed an offer elsewhere.

Seller: Great, because I want an offer with a $1.5 in front of it anyhow.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…


Monthly Gem | 40 Bleecker

Noho’s new 12-story condo at 40 Bleecker Street is our pick for February’s Gem. Broad Street Development brought on Ryan Korban as the interior design master, who Architectural Digest just named on its AD100 list yet again.

While Korban is predominantly known for his work with celebrities like James Franco, Kanye West, and Alexander Wang, along with top fashion labels, the interiors at 40 Bleecker mark his first full condo building. The overall design team on the project is rounded out by Rawlings Architects and Hollander Design, the latter of which will work on landscape at the project. When complete, this 12-story building will bring 61 one- to three-bedroom apartments to the in-demand neighborhood.

The photo the developers shared in the hyperlink above is a mock-up of the building’s lobby that’s currently located at the sales gallery for the project, which is nearing completion. Sales of the condo are expected to be underway early next year.

This is Jeff’s new development obsession for 2018, and rightfully so. It’s a must-see!


Monthly Gem | 135 W. 79th Street, #12C

We often feature shiny new developments as our monthly gems, but they’re not the only kind of real estate that inspires us.  This month, we want to highlight a listing of ours that has truly caught our attention:  apartment 12C at 135 W 79th Street.

There are many reasons why we’re enamored with this 1-bedroom gem.  First is the combination of 10-foot ceilings and abundance of natural sunlight that floods the apartment.  Second are the custom beams and dark hardwood floors which create a wonderful blend of elegance and pre-war charm, augmented by exposed brick walls and custom beamed millwork. (Those looking for modern touches will be pleased by its windowed kitchen featuring dark granite countertops, a Viking four-burner stove-top and a Sub-Zero refrigerator, among other updated features) Third is the location of the Lyons, which is on one of the most desirable blocks on the Upper West, moments away from Central Park. Last, but most definitely not least, is the flexible co-op policy that allows both pied-a-terres and pets.

The combination of these features have created a special place in our heart for this listing, that we’re certain will create incredible memories for the next owner to live here!


Ask The Experts | “Ready To Sell” To-Do List

So you read our piece last month about now being the time to plan your sales strategy for the fall, and you’ve decided “yes, I want to list my home in September.” Great! “And I want your team to be my partner.” Even better! “What should I absolutely do now to make my home sell faster when I do list?”

What a great question! We wish more savvy sellers like yourselves would be open to truly embracing the answers to this pro-active question. There are several things to tackle that, if you do so now, will play to your benefit come fall.

  • Have us walk through the property with you. A broker walk-through will give you all of the tips you need to have your apartment look as fresh and appealing as possible when you pull the trigger. This way, you benefit from the daily experience we have showing and viewing properties, to help your place stand out (or at the very least meet the bar) in the market.

 

  • Paint. You know that incredible hue of red you and your partner found together that just screams “you”? Well that’s precisely the kind of shade that may scream “run” to one too many prospective buyers out there. Although it may seem bland and boring, the primary purpose of the paint is to create as neutral a palette for the apartment to appeal to the most number of people. This is not the time to squeeze your creative juices or exercise your interior design courage.   The secondary purpose of the paint is to help the place look crisp and clean, so it pays to hire someone truly qualified to make sure those edges are sharp and the coats are even.

 

  • Fix. You know that chipped baseboard corner that you stubbed your toe on more times than you can remember? Or that cracked mirror in the bathroom? Or how about the nicked kitchen countertop? Now is the perfect time to fix those little things that you think only you notice. They, in fact, accumulate little by little and add up to an “eh” feeling from buyers walking through your property. There should be as little as possible left for anyone to “fix” when buying the place; you want to make the apartment turn-key, making the decision to buy as seamless as possible.

 

  • De-clutter. We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again, and again, and again. The minute you decide to list your apartment for sale, it is no longer “your” apartment but a product to sell. You are looking to create a neutral space that when others walk in, they think “aaaaah, I can live here.” This means a picture of you on a sailboat or of your parents in Paris shouldn’t bring that vision to a screeching halt. Those kinds of personal items serve as an heavy reminder to others that someone else lives there, an obstacle to their seeing themselves in the space already. Further, look at all of the “things” you have in your place, and try to get rid of 20-40% of it. The extra shelves, the extra side table, the excess seating, the storage containers … and the closet contents, especially the closet contents. You want to leave room for additional clothing to go in there, sending the message “oh, the closet it so big, they didn’t even fill it.” Ultimately, you are looking to create the physical and mental space necessary for others to insert themselves into it. (Yes, we’re often psychologists in our role.)

 

  • Photograph. Schedule a photography session of your apartment now. “Now? But we’re two months away!” you say. Yes, but flowers are in bloom and the light of the summer sun always helps to show your building off, especially the exterior. Further, you benefit from photographers being far more available now, with more flexible schedules, than they are when everyone is rushing to list in the fall. Take your time, do it right, do it when the time suits you best, and you’ll be better off for it.

Monthly Gem | 527 W. 27th Street

This month’s gem is paying homage to the summer, and reveling in the indoor/outdoor experience that is all too often rare in the city.  We’re focusing on Jardim at 527 W. 27th Street.  This West Chelsea development truly is a little oasis in the heart of one of the most dynamic neighborhoods of the city.  Home to Hudson Yards, the High Line, and plenty of galleries, this City nook is rapidly developing into its own destination.  When we say it’s a little oasis, we are also referring to its size of 36 units, ranging from 1 to 4 bedrooms, albeit at a generous average of 2,500 square feet.  Isay Weinfeld designed it to maximize the use of greenery in our concrete jungle (which is also the visual reference of its concrete boxy exterior).  An interior garden, the roof top and its terraces will all be overflowing with trees, plants and hanging, lush greenery.  Its interiors are defined by simplicity and warmth, two attributes that rarely come together in such a complementary way.  Amenities include a stunning indoor pool, a spa-like fitness center with a steam-room and sauna, a children’s playroom, and automated parking.  All of this comes at an attractive, accessible price-point as a contrast to the ultra-luxury new development inventory that has dominated the market for the past several years.  If you’re in the market to buy, Jardim will be well worth a look.


At The Core | Now Is The Time To Engage Your Broker

Last month in this section, we strongly advised against betting on NYC, articulating the transition we see occurring in the markets.  Based on the many conversations we’ve had since, this month we’re urging you to engage us if you are in any way considering entering the market as a buyer or seller over the coming months, especially as a seller.  With no further ado, our official headline is “Now is the time to engage your broker!”  There, we’ve said it quite explicitly.

“Why now?” you might ask. “I have plenty of time before the fall.”  It’s very funny for us to talk with clients as they tell us in a relaxed, sit-by-the-pool kind of voice, “we are more than 10 weeks away from Labor Day”, and have us respond in a pot-is-boiling-over voice “you are a mere 10 weeks away from Labor Day!”.  Same facts, different perspectives.

You see, our team believes in being prepared; we believe in doing our homework, being strategic, and doing everything in our power to hit the ground running successfully, selling your property of the highest price we can get you in the shortest period of time.  Doing so doesn’t happen in one week; being prepared takes time, research and planning.

The markets start significantly picking up with the pitter-patter (more often stampede) of buyer feet pounding the pavement, en masse.  We want to capitalize on that increased volume of demand to your advantage starting late-summer, early-fall, when prime listing season beings.  This means:

  • We need to begin talking to you about valuations and real-time trends and metrics we’re seeing.
  • We want to start creating tailored marketing plans that speak to your specific property, in your specific building, in your specific neighborhood.
  • We want an effective narrative that speaks to your target buyers, that’s relevant and impactful.
  • We need ample time to assess any repairs or requisite work that will, in turn, optimally position your property to achieve our objectives.

If you’re even considering upgrading a kitchen or updating flooring, this takes time.  You want to be in the market come fall, not working with contractors and running into the holiday season.

Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, and we like to think that we help our clients maximize their luck of finding “that all-cash buyer” who is looking to pull the trigger next week; or “that quirky family” who wanted that exact ratio of outdoor and indoor living space; or “those empty nesters” who really want that large living area for entertaining in their golden years and don’t care about the small bedroom size.  Real estate is made up of stories that seem anomalous, that seem like the stars all aligned in just the right way to make a deal happen; those lucky sellers!  We like to believe that we create our sellers’ “luck”, and are ghost-writers of such stories …  so long as we have the time and trust to do our jobs the best way that we know how – through hard work, research and preparation.

So let us help all of your stars be aligned and let’s have a conversation sooner than later about how to hit the fall listing season with a magical story of your own!


Monthly Gem | The Bryant

Bryant Park … it’s one of the go-to destinations in NYC, and it’s no wonder.  Its European-style seating, its fountains, its programming and nibbles, they create a year-round draw to the area.  Its location only elevates this destination status, with the diverse shops, public spaces and transportation options that abound in its neighborhood.  It is why we were moved to name as our monthly gem the last available development space on the park and the first in NYC to be designed by the award-winning British architect, David Chipperfield.

Located at 16 West 40th, Street, The Bryant sits high above a new boutique hotel, with nearly every residence enjoying a panoramic city skyline or park views. This is true NY living at the literal center of it all: Grand Central and Times Square are steps away yet un-intrusive. Deceptive simplicity, representative of Chipperfield’s brand, abounds in this impressive new development marked by crisp frames, concealed storage and appliances, herringbone floors and full floor-to-ceiling windows.  The Bryant offers 57 units over 34 full-height stories soaring above the park, itself.  At an average of under $3,000/sq. ft., it’s no wonder that so many of the units are already in contract.  All in, this is one of the more spectacular monthly gems we’ve shared in some time!