FAQ – Conventional Wisdoms

Buyers Conventional Wisdoms
Town Houses and Loft-Lovers Conventional Wisdoms

Seller Conventional Wisdoms

Regarding interviewing brokers to find the person you’re about to trust to find a buyer for your property, and someone you care to work with closely over a substantial period of time, a better decision may come from looking at the interview from the broker’s perspective. A few truisms are in order.


Regarding assessing their pricing policy:

Any property must be seen to even venture a pricing estimate. An experienced broker does their homework beforehand: we don’t need to be told the building facts or the unit’s room count, the location in the building, or exposures.

We’re there to take in the overall, to see the specific condition of the kitchen and bathrooms for ourselves. We also assess the preparation needed before properly presenting the property by looking around. And, naturally, we’re there to meet the owner to get a sense of the circumstances: why they’re a seller.

Before walking into a property we’ll have reviewed the building’s recent sales history and the current inventory to have a sense of the current market. By the time we walk out, we can give a price range to consider, and we understand the information given has to be considered (and that other brokers will be given an opportunity to offer their opinion, too).


The selling broker is responsible to attract all the potential buyers out there to see the property, and internet exposure has altered the playing field somewhat. If the first step in marketing a property is to prepare the product, the second is to prepare the tools to do it. Each broker has a personal style when it comes to presentation: the photographs taken, the brochure’s written descriptions, and the pertainent facts display.

Regardless, the important factor is how the information on the show sheet is disseminated to the potential corresponding brokers.

Regarding assessing an effective marketing strategy:

The very key is attracting broker’s working with buyers. The tried-and-true broker’s open houses and broker’s tours for properties new to the market definitely serve their purpose. Recently, the visual presentation to which these brokers are exposed has become tantamount to success.

First of all, the camera doesn’t lie, and it is not a forgiving medium. (Although we quickly learn the photographic tricks to further marketing efforts—for example, experience has taught us that an empty room appears smaller without any visual reference; equally so, an overcrowded room looks smaller through the lens).

Moreover, while clutter can evoke a “lived-in” look, too often in pictures bric-a-brac doesn’t say quite that; knick knacks everywhere can scream confusion instead.

The property is best served when the physical brochure is directed to the brokerage community than the public at large. A brochure in the hands of the key brokers in the area will grab their attention by pointing out that this is not a run-of-the-mill unit within a particular building, and that its special qualities may appeal to their customer. Most likely the customer will have seen it on the website, or their broker can bring it to their attention.

Good brokers who work within a specific area of expertise understand their market have an active list of customers looking in the neighborhood or are looking for something specific—presented in the photographs on the brochure and on the Web.


Two truly well-worn real-estate-sales practices still hold, and when combined they can deliver a formidable punch. They are: advertising the property and hosting Sunday open houses for the public (without fail, except on holidays). When an advertisement promotes an upcoming open house the results can be far better than either can produce alone.

Regarding assessing their willingness to make the property available:

It has been said that a property properly priced, presented, and promoted only needs sufficient traffic to produce the desired results—a potential purchaser. Simply put: it requires the property is available to be seen.

Whether it is 50% or 90% of Manhattan properties that are sold through an open house hardly matters since either way it is too substantial a number to ignore. Every Sunday is not too often to guarantee the seller that anyone and everyone who might have an interest will have access to it isn’t unreasonable. That is not to say it is the only time frame needed.

A long-standing truism is after 25 potential customers have seen a property the first offer should be tendered.  Open houses alone aren’t the only road to reach 25 perspective buyers. The property has to be made available for any reasonable request taking into account the house rules on showing the apartments in a building. This means two things: the number of exclusives any broker can manage simultaneously is limited, and the exclusive broker needs a back-up system to accommodate all reasonable requests.

Buyer Conventional Wisdoms

There are as many different broker personalities as there are personalities among the population (even if a few underlying traits are a common thread). And there is a good fit for every buyer; it has to feel right.

It may take a few times out to find the right broker. Consider chatting up brokers when visiting open houses, and thereby getting a sense from them as to where the market is, and to get a sense whether or not they’re someone with whom you might want to go further with?

Regarding first-time buyers, from the mouths of brokers (oft times) come gems:

Right off the bat, a potential buyer has a must-have, wish-list agenda, so the inevitable next topic is their budget range—as a range, nothing imposing—followed by the cash portion, and whether a bank has been approached yet.

The financial picture—first at the bank—determines whether to better look primarily in condominium buildings. The cash portion further refines the right cooperative apartment houses to investigate. Ultimately, less than 25% of the total budget as cash-down, then the condo-direction should be highlighted, and the appropriate cooperatives emphasized.

Just as an exact financial statement comes later, so will working out of the trade offs, separating must-haves from really-wants, to a degree inevitable at every price point, and this part of the process is best determined by exposure to the available inventory.

Two typical examples are judging size by only considering square footage, and by not including the effect of layout and flow.

After all, how the space is to be used and what is out the window, along with the amount of light, are important considerations for buyers.

Not to everyone, and not in all cases is why they are trade-offs. For instance, by eliminating all low-floor properties out of hand a perfect space (with adequate light and a pleasant view) may be passed over.

Especially in Manhattan, finding the right home is a process, and it can be approached at a comfortable pace. To become educated, the same learning method does not fit necessarily all, but isn’t seeing always believing?

Even more telling is whether the proposed budget and must-have size can fit with the neighborhoods of choice. Location priority can be determined simply as that. It is an easy concept to grasp that while Fifth Avenue has a price-range, looking even just off Central Park, and the farther more so, the available properties will offer more space for a similar purchase price.

The axiom applies all over town.


A second broker’s opening approach may sound tougher, at first, but in the long run is it?

In today’s environment both banks and boards scrutinize applicants with an eye to the recent past. While an individual may be comfortable allotting 30% or a little more of their income to housing, in general, depending on such factors as length of employment and liquid assets, institutional lenders and the board of governors are pegging 25% or less as their comfort zone. Whenever financing is a part of the mix, I suggest going immediately to your personal banker, and perhaps a mortgage broker early-on, preferably before even seeing properties first-hand.


Here’s a third take on where to begin.

Location, and, for example, if it’s important to be close to transportation, whether certain neighborhoods appeal more than others, and number of many bedrooms almost always are priorities. From those parameters alone the financial issues may not necessarily get in the way of finding the right property. With a dash of flexibility by the buyer an appropriate building, maybe not at the heart of every neighborhood, but certainly at the fringes of most, offer what most people really want.

It’s so important to learn to recognize a good value, a superb location, the right alternative to another neighborhood, or an example of the apartment “type” a buyer thinks they want. With a relatively inexperienced buyer, I first select properties within their parameters, and second I make recommendations which ones among them to see; all done by e-mail.

From there we review the pros and cons of each selection, and then I suggest seeing a variety of properties having open houses. It’s a convenient and expedient way to get out there, to see an adequate number of apartments, to refine the search.

While some brokers would prefer to stay home on a Sunday afternoon, I need to see a buyer’s body language when they cross that threshold; it takes the guess-work out of the equation. Something goes off when anyone (seriously looking) sees a space they could call home. It just is, and it comes across differently in everyone.

The tell-tale sign is when somehow the same person suddenly carries themselves differently, they somehow seem more comfortable, or they stand-taller, or perhaps they indicate they want to sit and take in the property.

Often, suddenly, that same person no longer seems adamant every kitchen drawer opens smoothly and the bathroom fixtures are just so.

Small things take on new proportions, and it shows, while nothing much might have happened—their demure had remained standard—except suddenly when they hit on the just the right thing (for them).

Town House and Loft-Lovers Conventional Wisdoms

Among the most prevalent personality traits that town-house owners hold is their privacy. A town house’s interior remains a well-guarded Manhattan mystery—the lifestyle inside is private, off limits; only those asked in can experience the elegance behind those walls, and many of those rooms, even behind a crumbling landmark-designated façade, are indeed spectacular!
From outside any mere passer-by can see (only) the envelope, and only few native-born New Yorkers have ever been inside even one town house—not once in their entire life. Out-of-towners rushing to a nearby museum or strolling by a five-story building rarely associate a 22-foot-wide building with museum-quality art, customized with an elevator, graced with a rear garden, an occasional bowling alley or indoor swimming pool, and on the market for sale at $40,000,000.00.


Relatively few houses have a turnover ratio as high as apartments do, because the single-family homeowner—whether a row house, brownstone, with a stoop, and especially a town house, with its custom façade and street-level entrance—is far more attached to the house as the centerpiece of their life, more so than apartment-house dwellers are. For the most part, a Manhattan town house owner raised their children there, gather their grandchildren there. Furthermore, they’re under no pressured to move.


Each historic town house housed the wealthy upper-crust who engaged the same architects to design their stupendous new homes as the mansion-dwellers along Fifth Avenue. Therefore,  a renowned late-nineteenth-century architecture firm, perhaps Richard Morris Hunt, C. P. H. Gilbert, John Russell Pope, Governor Atterbury, Carrere and Hastings, Walker & Gillette, Delano & Gilbert, Kimball & Thompson, or Kim, Meade and White, had a hand in all the details. Moreover, over time the luster developed a patina of a special quality that shines through even today.


“If you have to ask the price of such a yacht, you can’t afford it,” J.P. Morgan once offered. Property taxes alone on a Manhattan town house prove his point. Property taxes are absolutely arbitrary—the assessed tax rates are all over the place—so while town-house owners, in general, are moneyed, they also have a busy business life, they travel a great deal, and often they overlook property taxes that aren’t regulated properly for individual owners, the tax-payer.

Two houses standing next to one another, of the exact same size, even boasting the same features, everything tangible is the same however the taxes may vary enormously door to door. Whenever the City needs money, it looks to the town house owners.

It is a tertiary law firm who understands confronting the City to have the property taxes reduced. It requires a healthy fee, though over the long run the taxes are lower, and the value is higher.


Overall, lofts are kept in good shape, look great, and appear very comfortable, yet a few things always need adjusting to accommodate a new owner’s needs. Loft-lovers inevitably know what they want regarding size, for example not less than 2,000 square feet, and with or without certain amenities provided.

A second important factor is whether or not to renovate your new home.

It plays the largest part in how much to expect to spend for the space: one needing a total renovation so you have it the way you want it, one that needs a little bit of renovation to meet your needs, or one that requires no renovation and is to your taste.

In addition, the asking price (especially for that absolutely perfect space with a view, and it has been updated in the last five years) reflects its condition.

A triple-mint loft means no renovations are necessary, so the current available inventory will be limited, which inevitably drives up the price further.

Excellent or good condition are the spaces that have been kept up, including the kitchen appliances, the mechanical, including the heating and air-conditioning systems function properly. While there is no way to move in with just your toothbrushes, as the new owner, the major fixes can be done over time.

The third category is when the entire space requires extensive work (more than cosmetics) to occupy. It may need portions updated or to be gutted—wall to wall, top to bottom—and its condition is also reflected in the asking the price, which will be pegged at lower price point.