michael roche


Getting Inventive to Seduce Buyers


THESE are nerve-racking times for NYC Real Estate brokers. Although prices are higher this year than last, the average sales price for luxuryManhattan apartments slipped 17 percent, to $6.4 million, from the first quarter of the year to the second, according to Prudential Douglas Elliman. Though many brokers and developers insist they feel no serious qualms yet — they are counting on the weak dollar to keep attracting foreign buyers — some are unveiling new stratagems for luring higher-end clients and the brokers who know them.

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NYLS Commentary:

Incentives to buyers are not new to the NYC residential real estate market. With residential rental apartments we tend to see a cyclical cycle in the overall volume of rental transactions. The Summer months (April – September) tend to be very active with a large number of out of town renters coming to New York City many for the first time. Generally in the summertime Landlords have the leverage and rent prices go up. The Winter months (October – March) are notoriously slower and the volume of transactions is almost cut in half. It is during this time when Landlords offer incentives to Brokers and tenants alike. 

Right now in the Financial District, The type of incentives being offered have not been seen since after 9/11 when many residents of Lower Manhattan were offered a 2 year grant by the Government as incentive not to abandon the area. Examples of Incentives downtown include 1 – 3 Months of FREE Rent, 1 Month Paid Broker Fee, Free I-Pod, etc…

In the Sales Market we have not seen a tremendous decrease in prices, Instead Developers have chosen to increase the incentives to Brokers raising commissions from 3% in some cases all the way to 6%. Incentives are also being given to potential buyers such as increased negotiating power, Developer picking up transfer tax, Free Vacation, etc…


Experts weigh in on how to fix industry crises…

The biggest problems in New York City real estate

Following criticism, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has vowed to crack down on shoddy construction and is instituting greater scrutiny of developers who break the rules. He is also trying to speed up the new condo approval process, and has introduced reforms targeting the appraisal industry.
By Dorn Townsend

In the wake of the subprime and credit crises, problems are becoming apparent even in New York City’s usually buoyant real estate market. Although real estate in New York City has escaped some of the ravages the rest of the country has suffered, cracks in the façade are starting to show. 

For this supplement, The Real Deal has chosen to bring some plaster: First, we home in on macro difficulties, as well as some less-discussed problems. We then weigh in with the advice of experts on ways to solve these issues. 

We take a look at the problem of the liquidity crisis. In the article Crisis or Correction, financial whizzes contemplate how they think the financial markets can ultimately return to a state of normalcy. For example, experts say the only way for the broader housing market to recover is by restoring confidence in lenders’ processes to securitize their mortgages. 

At the heart of the matter is the role of independent appraisers. Without appraisers capable of standing up to pressure from mortgage brokers to price unrealistically, it will be hard to restore confidence. Insiders consider how to make this happen in Restoring credibility to appraisers

Besides impacting banks and their ability to make informed investments, the present crisis is triggering fear among homeowners that they may lose their homes. In How New Yorkers spell foreclosure relief, we probe what’s being done to control the growing number of foreclosures — and experts share their views on whether the present actions are sufficient. 

In addition to these sweeping problems, the city’s real estate industry is facing some more local conundrums. One lingering difficulty is the manner in which different real estate firms arrive at different outcomes in their market reports. In Making sense of market reports, analysts reflect on whether the city needs a comparison-providing multiple listing service. Another growing difficulty emanates from spiraling energy costs, and the responses of commercial landlords to those costs. When it comes to energy costs, landlords over a barrel shows that many are turning to alternative energy sources and long-term fixed contracts as solutions. 

Finally, no problem has had a more tragic impact and received more recent coverage than accidents at construction sites stemming from crane malfunctions. In Shoring up construction safety, we review suggestions for reforming the city’s Department of Buildings and creating a culture of safety and accountability.

Two other stories discuss the mysterious flexibility of offices’ floor area over time and the new wave of scrutiny shoddy developers could soon see from the Attorney General’s office and the Department of Buildings.










NYLS Commentary:

This countries economic crises and the  government “recovery” plan (aka. the bailout) has rocked Wall Street this month and will undoubtedly affect NYC’s residential real estate market. As banks continue to fail and confidence continues to waiver, real estate in NYC remains as good an investemnt option as any for those who deposit more than the $100,000 limit in FDIC insured banks. Real Estate remains a great way to preserve money over time.

There are some great examples of this over time. During the most severe recession post WW2 (1975 to 1981) Markets slowed dow with interest rates reaching highs of 18% and declining home values of close to 30%. The market rebounded nicely during the 1980’s with home prices rebounded by as much as 400% and interest rates declined to around 8%. The best way to preserve money over time and hedge against inflation remains Real Estate. Again after the attacks of 9/11 real estate declined slightly (10%-15%) in Lower Manhattan yet over the past 7 years those who bought in Lower Manhattan neighborhoods (FiDi, TriBeCa, Battery Park) have seen their investments triple in value.

A look at buyers and sellers

A look at buyers and sellers

A snapshot of how buyers and sellers are reacting to the bleak economy — and to each other


 By Lauren Elkies

The bleak economy and credit crunch have claimed their share of victims in the New York City real estate world, but under the surface they have also shifted the foundations that buyers and sellers became accustomed to when the market was peaking.

This month, The Real Deal offers a series of stories about how buyers and sellers in the five boroughs and in the surrounding suburbs are dealing with one another and with the new financial terrain a little over a year into the crunch.

While prices have softened in some neighborhoods, first-time buyers are having more trouble than ever securing mortgages and getting a piece of the action (see Amid mortgage woes, first-time buyers seek solutions).

As their purchasing power has decreased, the pace of sales of the smaller units they tend to buy has slowed, creating a pileup of inventory. In Manhattan, there has been a sharp drop in sales of studios and one-bedrooms this year.

Meanwhile, some buyers fear more foreclosures could result in a growing number of vacant buildings, particularly in fringe areas of the city, which could contribute to an uptick in crime (see Watching for broken windows).

Experts weigh in on whether the so-called “broken windows theory,” which suggests that crime increases in areas of neglect, will play out in places like Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick and other neighborhoods with high foreclosures rates. Crime, of course, can put a damper on the appeal of a neighborhood and depress prices, driving away potential buyers.

In more prime areas, foreign buyers, who have been capitalizing on the weak dollar and propping up sales activity in the city, are now starting to pull back. As the dollar has started to rebound (at least a little), brokers say those with primary addresses in other countries are finally starting to hesitate and wait for deeper price cuts (see Fewer foreign clients buying).

On the seller side, market conditions and anxiety about the economy are causing some to drop asking prices to increase their chances of a sale, and prompting others to take their listings off the market altogether and wait until the market swings back (see Sellers feeling the pressure).

Even buildings are being put through the wringer. Co-ops have long put potential buyers through a rigorous board approval process. But now, lenders are turning the tables on them and more closely scrutinizing their books.

And, whether at a co-op or condo, gentrification continues to cause tension between existing board members and new residents, especially when the newbies push for expensive cosmetic upgrades for the building (see New buyers clashing with the condo board).

In the Financial District, the credit crunch has translated into fewer buyers at open houses (see Open house traffic hits wall in Financial District). And in the South Bronx, it has put activity on hold. The difficulty in securing cash has made it harder for small investors to buy into the area and stymied new residential development and rehabs there (see South Bronx buzz fizzles).

Beyond New York City, in suburbs like Westchester and Nassau and Fairfield counties, foreclosures on the rise are helping depress the overall market for sellers (see New York City’s suburbs slip).

And in parts of New Jersey and Long Island, there’s a real estate domino effect taking hold for so-called “trade ups” (see Trading up slows down).

Experts told The Real Deal that some sellers looking to unload their “starter homes” are out of luck, in large part because the buyers they need are unable to secure mortgages. And, until they pull their equity out of their homes, they don’t have the money to become buyers themselves.

20 Exchange Place

Streetscapes | Exchange Place

An Early Tower That Aspired to Greatness

Architectural Forum/Library of Congress; G. Paul Burnett/NYT

SURPRISING FIND The City Bank-Farmers Trust building, at left and above in 1931, has a plain facade except for 14 hooded figures at the 19th floor. The building’s two lavish lobbies were fashioned from 45 different kinds of marble. Today, the tower is being renovated for rental apartments and retail space.


 Published: July 20, 2008

FIFTY-NINE stories does not seem like much now, but when planned in 1929, the City Bank-Farmers Trust Building was to be the tallest skyscraper in the world after the Empire State Building. With its sheer limestone facade, haunting sculptural treatment and rich marble halls, the building — which is being converted to residential use — is a surprising find on its cramped, odd-shaped block at Exchange Place, at the conjunction of Beaver, Hanover and William Streets.
Underhill/Library of Congress 

In 1929, the financial district was booming. The architects Cross & Cross were at work on a 50-story office building for Continental Bank at Broad Street and Exchange Place, which ultimately wasn’t built.

Then the National City Bank of New York merged with the Farmers’ Loan and Trust Company, and entered the skyscraper sweepstakes. When their architects, also Cross & Cross, filed plans at the Bureau of Buildings on Oct. 2, The New York Times described the new structure, at 71 stories and 846 feet, as the highest ever officially proposed.

The design for the City Bank-Farmers Trust tower called for an illuminated globe on top, but the stock market crash a few weeks after filing brought the project up short, and it was reduced to 59 stories.

Research by the Landmarks Preservation Commission gives the height as 685 feet, although just before completion The Times reported it as 750 feet. A partial set of engineering drawings from 1930 by the firm of Purdy & Henderson shows the 54th floor — several levels below the roof — as 670 feet high.

The exact height of the building remains unclear. But it is safe to say that, when completed, it trailed the Empire State Building (1,250 feet), the Chrysler Building (1,046 feet) and the Bank of the Manhattan (927 feet).

In August 1930, The Times reported that Gilbert Nicoll, a 20-year-old messenger, was near death after being hit by an iron bolt dropped from the 57th floor. He had been unemployed for months, according to the article, and the accident happened on his first day as a bank messenger.

The building was completed the next year. The outside is plain, even ho-hum, except for 14 moody hooded figures at the 19th floor. The magazine Through the Ages said in 1931 that they represented “giants of finance, seven smiling, seven scowling.” Figures of coins on the ground floor represented countries in which the bank had its main branches. The Times called the building “conservative modern.”

According to a 1931 article in Architecture and Building, the two lavish lobbies were fashioned from 45 different kinds of marble, quarried in Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia, France, Spain, Belgium and elsewhere.

The brothers Eliot and John Walter Cross formed a talented and versatile partnership. Well born, well educated and socially connected, they did in-town mansions and country estates, banks and garages, lofts and skyscrapers — like the 1931 General Electric building at 51st Street and Lexington Avenue, with its Art Deco radio-wave imagery.

The architects’ niece Sarnia Marquand told a reporter in a 1980 interview that John Cross was the designer in the firm and Eliot handled the business side. Their most recognizable design is probably the sumptuously plain Tiffany & Company store at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, which dates to 1940.

According to the 1996 Landmark designation report, City Bank-Farmers Trust went through several changes, evolving into First National City Bank, and then, in 1976, Citibank. Its move out of the skyscraper happened in stages, the last one in 1989.

The tower is easy to see from a distance but hard to find on the ground in the maze of irregular downtown streets. The City Bank-Farmers Trust banking hall runs along William Street. It is a high, columned space in English oak with polished marble and nickel trim, all handled in the Art Deco classicism that had become a safe alternative to radical European modernism.

At Exchange and William, the main entrance to the banking hall is a high rotunda, flush with varying marbles, the most striking a golden travertine from Czechoslovakia, quite different from the pallid ivory-colored stone popular in the 1960s. From the tower there are wide views to the harbor and around to old skyscrapers on the land side.

Today, a real estate firm, Metro Loft Management, is renovating the tower for rental apartments, and has 350 units ready on the floors from 16 to the top.

A second phase, lower down, will involve office tenants; the company that takes the high banking hall will have a most spectacular retail space.

Celebrity Listings Fix

Recent Celebrity Listing Activity


Actress from hit TV series ‘24′ sells LA beach bungalow

sold for $1,200,000

2br / 2ba 762 sqft 

Multi-millionaire Sidney Kimmel sells Palm Beach mansion for $77.5 MM to former Goldman Sachs COO

sold for $77,500,000
9br 18,437 sqft

E! ‘Talk Soup’ host Joel McHale unloads Glendale, CA home

sold for $732,000
2br / 2ba 1,634 sqft

MTV Reality TV star Lauren Conrad buys Spanish-style home in Hollywood

sold for $2,360,000

3br / 1ba 2,166 sqft

Actress Sharon Stone slashes price on Mediterranean mansion – again!


7br / 8ba 

Former home of Rat Packer, Dean Martin, just listed


5br / 6ba

Disco queen Diana Ross lists French Normandy-style mansion

15br / 14ba

Bravo’s famous flipper, Jeff Lewis’ TV home on the market


3 br / 3.5 ba 3,024 sqf


Jersey City vs. Manhattan

Jersey City vs. Manhattan

Median price for a condo in a new development in downtown Jersey City: $579,900

Median price for a condo in a new development in Manhattan: $1,475,000

Average price in Jersey City: $640,864.

1br: $539,304
2br: $656,795
3br: $1,231,666

Average price in Manhattan: $2,184,928.

Studio: $891,441
1br: $1,020,626
2br: $1,992,638
3br: $3,751,874

More Real Estate News !!!

Mayor Bloomberg warns that property taxes might have to be raised [Crain’s]

A look at architect Enrique Norten’s One York, where telecom mogul Michael Hirtenstein bought six apartments for $25 million [Curbed]

The rezoning proposal for Victorian Flatbush takes shape [Flatbush Gardener]

Ridgewood, Queens, offers bargains [NYDN]

Is the condo market really saturated? [NYMag]

Developer Aby Rosen talks about the Chrysler Building and Tom Wolfe [NYO]