A home is not a home because of its room dimensions or the color of the walls. It is about how you feel when you walk through the front door. And the way you can instantly envision your life unfolding there.Phone: 914-500-9198Office: 120 Bloomingdale Road, Suite 101,
White Plains, NY 10605
Great looking listings don’t just happen they are created. It takes professional stagers, copywriters and editors, marketers, and especially professional photographers, the unsung heroes behind a listing that attracts a lot of showings and buyers.
Check out this video to see how it all comes together, and the article from the NY Times below will explain the importance of a great photographer and what they do to help get your home sold.
You’ll never settle for an agent with a point-and-shoot 5 minute tour of your home again.
Our photographers even scout out your home prior to the shoot and confer with the agents and stagers before hand, taking neighborhood and town shots to accompany the listings, virtual tours and narrated videos.
To Sell a Luxe Apartment, No Ordinary Snapshot Will Do
David Paler purposefully strode through the cloud-nipping stretches of an $8.25 million Manhattan apartment, took in the set before him and called out demands with the directorial authority of Martin Scorsese. Then he assumed his position behind his camera, nodded in satisfaction and began shooting away.
While Mr. Paler may not be a renowned filmmaker or the favored photographer of the model Gisele Bündchen, his work is as scrutinized and touched up as any feature film or Vogue shoot. Mr. Paler photographs apartments for sales and rental listings.
These photographs, the real estate equivalent of head shots, are the bait that lure buyers to Sunday open houses. When these photos work, they help buyers picture themselves holding parties in their dining rooms.
Brokers hope that these photos will persuade bidders to pay more. At their worst, they invite derision for trivialities like a preponderance of throw pillows, causing buyers to move on to other listings.
“They’re huge,” said Suzanne Johansson, a broker who is selling an apartment at 111 West 67th Street that Mr. Paler was photographing. Photographs, she said, determined whether buyers were “going to be interested or not.”
It does not take much time with a real estate photographer to learn how deceptively hard taking marketable shots can be. Mr. Paler compares some shoots to “diplomatic missions” where you are “walking on egg shells.” Even at a professionally designed apartment like the West 67th Street home, Mr. Paler negotiated with two brokers and a stylist about dragging an elaborate dog bed out of a shot, moving around chairs and risking the safety of the selling family’s pet frog by unplugging its tank.
He tensely called for colorful items like plants and cookbooks to enliven the apartment’s neutral shades and added a basket of lemons in a photo because, “Lemon fresh — it’s psychological.” (He turned down a stylist’s offer to add a Buddha.) Toilets and trash baskets never stay in the picture. Through the shoot, he periodically glanced up at the horizon to track the ominous, chalky clouds. He would brighten skies later by combining shots and adding in light. In this market, he said, sellers and brokers were especially concerned that photos were flawless.
“It’s very acute right now,” he said. “Brokers are the psychiatrists. We’re kind of like the psychiatrists to the psychiatrists.”
Some of these photographers, not surprisingly, also do fashion and magazine work, but a few focus on only real estate. They are paid by brokers, and their fees vary, but a typical two-hour assignment, including travel time, may cost $250 for four published shots, and editing may take one more hour.
Caryn Leigh Posnansky has spent the last 16 months shooting apartments for sale, ranging in price from $250,000 to $19 million, for VHT, a Chicago-based real estate photo agency. Her less glamorous assignments have included scooping soap out of New Yorkers’ soap dishes and persuading one seller to throw away the bouncy chair he kept for his 3-year-old.
At a 19th-floor studio at 150 West End Avenue, she found herself with plenty of clutter to clear. The apartment had a renter who was less concerned about making the place listing-ready. Ms. Posnansky and a Corcoran broker, Sheila McCarthy, feverishly moved around books, took out recycling, removed mementos from the refrigerator and even pushed a desk chair into the hallway to present the portrait of a pristine and uncluttered apartment. After capturing her shots, Ms. Posnansky returned every book, magnet, fortune cookie and dead plant to its original location.
“They’ll never know we were here,” she chirped while wheeling a desk chair back into the apartment.
Some photographers spend more time physically transforming spaces. When Nico Arellano, a former set stylist from Uruguay, came in to photograph an eighth-floor, $2.3 million three-bedroom at 530 East 72nd Street, he realized that a couch and a pair of chairs swallowed up the space and did not show how large the living room actually was. Mr. Arellano, with help from two Halstead brokers, Ann Bialek and Madalyn Robbins, moved an entire living room of furniture. He would later edit the flat-screen television out of the shot.
“Sometimes we literally just change everything around,” he said.
There are more technical ways to make, say, a Lilliputian bedroom look merely small: using a wide-angle lens to fit the entire room into a single photo, or shooting the room at an angle from a corner rather than straight on.
“The wide angle is a must,” Mr. Arellano said. “The corner thing is my preference.”
Even a meticulously kept $1.15 million one-bedroom at 39 East 12th Street, with an accepted offer no less, benefited from a little magic. Its Halstead broker, Jane Greenberg, said that in this market she did not want to take any chances. So she hired Jay Bierach to take additional photographs highlighting the renovated windows and kitchen. On a recent overcast morning, Mr. Bierach wheeled in his camera and lights. For nearly an hour he snapped away and tried to add light with camera and flashes. Then he wrapped it up. He would have to find more sunshine back at his studio.
“I try to use as much daylight as possible,” he said. “I do what they want, and then I do what I need to do.”
A version of this article appeared in print on June 22, 2010, on page A22 of the New York edition.
BUYERS of distressed homes or any other fixer-upper not only face the daunting task of turning a run-down property into a livable one, but often worry about paying for it all.
There’s a way to make essential repairs and add other accouterments without dipping into savings or taking out a home-equity loan. The Federal Housing Administration’s 203(k) rehabilitation program provides for loans covering renovation costs as well as the purchase price of a primary residence — investors excluded — and it allows for just a 3.5 percent down payment.
“It’s a fantastic program, one that hasn’t been fully utilized by the American public,” said Arthur Hood, the owner of the Vanguard Inspection Group in Teaneck, N.J., which is certified by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help borrowers with the program.
Although the program has been around since 1978, it is not well publicized, and many borrowers mistakenly think they have to buy a wreck in order to qualify. They don’t.
The house “doesn’t have to be falling apart; it could just be outdated,” said Joseph Latini Sr., the president of Hartford Funding, a lender in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. “It just has to appraise below market value and then at market value with the repairs.”
While “run-down” typically means a foreclosure, the program also applies to many historic and older houses as well as short sales and bank-owned homes. HUD outlines the rules on its Web site.
Luxury improvements are ineligible, though the program has wide definitions of “repairs” and “modernization.” Covered repairs include a new roof or heating system (geothermal ones too). Decorative changes, like replacing vinyl with ceramic tile on the kitchen floor replacement, or painting the interior, are covered.
The loan rates typically run around a percentage point higher than conventional ones, and come in 15- to 30-year terms, either fixed or adjustable. Additional paperwork for inspection, appraisal, title updating and the like pushes closing costs $1,000 or more higher than average. Most borrowers, however, refinance to a conventional loan after a few years, Mr. Hood said.
Demand for 203(k) financing has been on the rise, although experts predict some contraction given the major banks’ current moratorium on foreclosures. For the first nine months, HUD insured $2.9 billion in 203(k) loans, compared with $3 billion for all of 2009 and $401 million in 2005.
Home buyers must put down at least 3.5 percent of the current value of the property and use a HUD-approved lender, appraiser and a contractor approved by the lender for the repairs. One list of approved businesses can be found at 203kcontractors.com.
Using a HUD-approved consultant like Mr. Hood, who charges a flat fee of $400 to $1,000, is not required, but the agency recommends it to expedite processing. A HUD-approved inspector will make around four trips to the home to ensure that renovations are being properly done; each trip costs the borrower around $150.
Most 203(k) lenders are smaller regional and community banks. Loan limits vary by geography, and range from $271,050 to $729,750, which covers the total mortgage. The first $5,000 must go toward the more substantial repairs like roof replacement. HUD insures the loan.
Once the borrower receives the mortgage, money owed the contractor for repairs is held in escrow by the lender until the work is completed; all work must be finished within six months.
Today FHA Loans are readily available to people with credit ratings of 620 and above.
A miniversion of the 203(k) — called a Streamline (k) — has a repair-cost limit of $35,000 and restricts upgrades to minor improvements like replacing gutters. In this case, the do-it-yourself approach is permitted.
One of the factors in determining what price you can get for your home is certainly the overall economy and within that the unemployment levels. Many potential buyers are being scared away from the housing market, especially in higher priced areas like Westchester, because they are worried about the big financial commitment while their employment picture might be shaky.
On the other hand, interest rates have never been lower and thus the monthly cost of owning a home for those 60-70% or so of the population with more secure jobs hasn’t been this low in decades. While, over the next few months interest rates may go lower they can’t get too much lower and will eventually go back up, way back up, as we start paying off some of our national dept and paying for the stimulus package that hasn’t worked so well.
So, as the accompanying graph shows, if you’re waiting for the unemployment picture to improve before putting your house on the market, you may have a very long wait indeed. And while you’re waiting it out, your maintenance costs and mortgage payments probably aren’t getting any cheaper and unless you are pouring money into your home it’s only getting older and in need of more updating and repair work.
Calculated Risk compares the current unemployment situation with previous recessions:
As you can see by the long deep and flattened out red curve on the graph, our current recession is the worst yet, and any type of normal progression projects unemployment extending years. If you are waiting for the employment situation to get better before putting your home on the market, you may have a long wait on your hands.
So, bottom line, selling now to more than 2/3 the potential buyer pool makes a lot more economic sense than holing out for years for the other 1/3, many of whom have had their credit ruined by the recession anyway. You missed the peak of the previous market 2+ years ago, most people did, but you don’t want to miss the interest rate opportunity as well.
I’m sure we can help you sort this our better if you’d like to meet or talk on the phone at 914-500-9198.
Many homes in Westchester (and around the country) lag on the market for months, even years, chasing endless price reductions. If they end up selling at all it’s usually for much less than if they we priced appropriately and treated properly in the first place. We specialize in those home that have previously failed to sell, the “expired listing” homes. Homeowners are usually blown away by what we do for them, but more so because their home gets SOLDin 30 DAYS or LESS.
As you can see in this video, what we do differently is professionally: 1) stage (prepare) the home for sale; 2) photograph it and its neighborhood; 3) develop a narrative or story-line about it; 4) put together a comprehensive marketing package around it with personalized property websites (like 109Elk.com), narrated virtual tours, brochures, and even business cards; 5) then we get the word out EVERYWHERE on the Internet where 89% of home buyers are shopping; 6) reach out to our broker networks in Westchester and nationally, but especially in Manhattan where so many buyers move here from; and then 7) we reach out personally to the neighbors who may have friends looking to move closer; and if that’s not enough we use our extensive media and PR contacts to get the property into the press.
This should help if you’re on the fence between renting again and making that move to own your own home. If you live in Manhattan and have a family, or have one on the way it’s an easy decision: for the price of a 1 bedroom apartment, you could own a renovated 5 bedroom3600 ft 1/2 acre home in a great Westchester mansion area less than 30 minutes from midtown. Regardless, the formula below will give you some guidance, and we’ve analyzed a few of the Westchester communities for you already.
10/11– Here is Forbes’ take on both Zillow and Trulia’s Rent vs Buy calculations. (h/t Cliff Freeman)
We have done many posts on the benefits of homeownership believing that owning a home remains a major piece of the American Dream. We have also posted on the pure financial benefits of purchasing a home. Today, we want to concentrate on one aspect of the financial decision in buying: is it less expensive to rent or to buy.
According to the new Rent vs. Buy Index by Trulia, it depends on where in the country you live. Pete Flint, CEO and co-founder of Trulia explains:
Choosing to buy a home or continue to rent is a highly personal financial and life decision that many people are grappling with right now. In the wake of the foreclosure crisis and ongoing struggles in the industry, we created the Rent vs. Buy Index to provide a bit more context about current marketplace conditions to help prospective buyers make the right decisions for their own personal situations.
Trulia calculates the price-to-rent ratio for the 50 largest U.S. cities using the average list price compared with the average rent on two-bedroom apartments, condos, townhomes and co-ops listed on Trulia.com. This Index considers both the total cost of home ownership against the total costs of renting (examples of costs for both home ownership and renting outlined below).
Sample Price-to-Rent Ratio Calculation:
Average List Price: $90,445.60
Average Rent: $936.30
Price-to-rent ratio: $90,445.60 ÷ ($936.30 x 12) = 8.05
Trulia then takes each region and grades it by the ratios below:
Price-to-Rent Ratio of 1-15: It is much less expensive to own than to rent a home in this city.
Price-to-Rent Ratio of 16-20: It is more expensive to own a home in this city. The total costs of ownership of a home in this city are greater than the costs of renting, but it might still make financial sense depending on the situation.
Price-to-Rent Ratio of 21+: The total costs of owning a home in this city are much greater than the costs of renting.
To see how the largest 50 cities in America ranked on this month’s rent vs. buy index, click here and scroll down the page.
We still believe that the majority of the more important benefits of home-ownership are non-financial. Below you’ll find the above analysis done for single family homes in several Westchester communities, with New Rochelle proving to have the strongest statistical advantage for BUYING of any of them. Don’t pass up the record low interest rates. With the price of homes rolled back to 2003 and the current record low interest rates, the cost of owning your home haven’t been this cheap since the 1990′s.
Last 6 month Monthly Annual Sale Ratio
Averages Rental Rental Price ASP/AR
In New Rochelle 10804: $4999 $59988 $733,000 12 : 1
Price-to-Rent Ratio of 1-15:It is much much less expensive to own than to rent a home in New Rochelle.
In Larchmont 10538: $6252 $74024 $1,158,860 15 : 1
Price-to-Rent Ratio of 1-15:It is much less expensive to own than to rent a home in Larchmont.
In Scarsdale 10583: $6110 $73320 $1,475,338 20 : 1
Price-to-Rent Ratio of 16-20: It is relatively more expensive to own a home in Scarsdale, but with the record low costs of financing, and the track record of Scarsdale home prices, it still makes great financial sense to buy in Scarsdale vs laying out the cash to rent.
In Pelham 10803: $4415 $52980 $827,000 15 : 1
Price-to-Rent Ratio of 1-15: It is much less expensive to own than to rent a home in Pelham.
In White Plains 10605: $4103 $49236 $717,882 15 : 1
Price-to-Rent Ratio of 1-15: It is much less expensive to own than to rent a home in White Plains.
If you own a home or thinking of buying one in Westchester chances are you feel your property taxes are too high, and you’re right. While property values were skyrocketing, most buyers and homeowners did not complain to their town about increasing taxes. Then when the market shifted 3 years ago, property values declined, but property taxes didn’t, leaving most of us paying thousands more annually than we should, and also making it much harder for anyone to sell their home. Fortunately, there is a solution that our towns and cities would like to keep secret. In most of the towns there is a small 2 week window from June 1st – 15st in which you can grieve your taxes, and if you get the right help, you can save yourself thousands-every year from now on. The tax grieving window in White Plains is much later in the year and a few other town do vary, but you nevertheless want to be prepared for it. Call (914-500-9198) or email us and we’ll tell you which town is when and what you can do.
That’s a lot of money that you can better spent elsewhere.
And if you have any intention in selling your home in the next year, the property taxes are one of the top 5 questions buyers ask before determining which properties to see. Why? Because there are only 2 components that determine what the buyers’ can afford to spend on a home: the monthly mortgage payments and the taxes. The lower the taxes, the more they can spend for your home. Simple. Most people don’t realize it, but a small decrease in the monthly mortgage payments may mean the buyer can afford to pay another $80,000 for the home of their choice.
The lower the taxes, the more they can spent for your home.
Of course, our towns could just lower our tax rates, but we know that’s never going to happen, so it behooves us to act for ourselves and request those tax grievances. And by making the windows of appeal so short–come on, 2 week out of an entire year–and by making the process a bit complicated the towns know that most everyone will miss out. But you don’t have to. We’ve arranged for some of the best tax grievers–the guys that know their way around the system–in Westchester to process your claims for you. There’s no charge for getting a pretty accurate estimate to how much you’ll save and nothing to pay if they can’t reduce your taxes. Call us at 914-500-9198 or email us at debbieM@KW.com and we’ll get you set up right away.
Not everyone is overpaying to be sure, but you don’t want to be the homeowner who is. And not everyone is comfortable asking for help so at the bottom of this article we’ve provided a link to a step by step do-it-yourself guide for New Rochelle as an example. But beware, it’s not simple and you’ll have to deal with a bureaucracy, and if you make a mistake it’s another year you’ll have to wait, which is why we’re offering to help.
Let us help you with both your tax situation and your possible real estate needs. Call now, the June 1st window closes very quickly and doesn’t open for an entire other year. You pay nothing if we can’t help get your property taxes reduced, or your home sold. We want to help, but you need to take the first step. Call us at 914 500 9198 (or email at debbieM@KW.com) and we’ll make sure you maximize the value of your home and are paying the least property taxes while doing so.
You enjoy your home; now you can enjoy it even more. But remember, June 1st is just around the corner.
If you are considering whether or not to purchase a home in the near future, let us discuss why this might be the optimal time to do so. There are five excellent reasons to buy a home now instead of waiting until later. Let’s go over them quickly in this post.
1.) The Homebuyer’s Tax Credit
The federal government, in hopes of stimulating the economy, has made available to eligible first-time homebuyers a tax credit of eight thousand dollars ($8,000). The tax credit also makes six thousand five hundred dollars ($6,500) available to eligible move-up buyers. This tax credit is scheduled to end this spring. The home in question must be in contract by April 30, 2010 and you must close the transaction by June 30, 2010. To see if you are eligible, you can go to http://www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com/home.html
2.) Low Interest Rates Currently Available
The Fed has announced that they will be definitely exiting their plan to purchase mortgage-backed-securities. That plan has lowered interest rates on a 30 year fixed rate mortgage by two full percentage points since its inception in October, 2008. Almost every expert believes interest rates will increase immediately once the Fed backs away. Some, like Morgan Stanley, believe rates can return to the seven percent level that existed before the Fed involvement. What can that mean to you? In the adjourning graph, we can see that even if prices continue to soften, the change in interest rates could dramatically increase your monthly costs.
3.) Location, Location, Location
There is a tremendous selection of properties currently available. More and more buyers are seeing the opportunities that exist in today’s real estate market. As more purchasers enter the market, many of the best values (determined by price, location, or both) will be gobbled up first. This is an opportunity for you to purchase that dream house your family has always relished.
As the Washington Postreported last week, waterfront properties are at bargain prices:
For investors, second-home buyers or retirees who have been sitting on the sidelines for years, 2010 may be the time to dive into the beach market. Prices are now almost back to 2001 levels, and buyers previously priced out of this market may now be able to afford their dream home. In addition, the sheer inventory of available homes is quite favorable to a beach buyer.
4.) Real Estate Has Always Been a Good Long Term Investment
Though prices in many markets will continue to feel downward pressure in 2010, in the long term real estate will eventually return to historic returns. Even in the past decade, real estate was a better investment than the stock market as shown by the table below:
5.) The House Is a Home First and an Investment Second
In our culture today we are moving away from extrinsic values (power, money and prestige) and moving back toward more intrinsic values (wanting meaning in our lives). The home has always been a place where friends and family gather to share our live experiences whether at a party or over a simple dinner. We may be too focused on the cost of a house without taking into account the cost of delaying a return to the more fulfilling experiences a home brings with it.
What does this mean to you?
Only you truly know. But if you have a desire to settle down in your own home and enjoy everything that comes with the homeowner experience, this is probably the time to act.
ABC News Does the Home Sale Slump Have You Stumped? Close the Deal With Expert’s Tips
If You Want to Sell, Show a House That’s Free of Clutter, Expert Says
By BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CHARLES HERMAN and SUZAN CLARKE
New home sales are at an all-time low, and the market isn’t expected to recover anytime soon.
With the housing market so slow, homeowners who have to sell — perhaps to move for a job or because of a looming foreclosure — may not see much interest in their property. If there is interest, buyers may offer considerably less than expected.
It’s a tough situation, and it places people under enormous pressure, but it’s not impossible.
“Good Morning America” spoke with some of the country’s top real estate brokers, including Gary Keller, the author of the best-selling “Shift: How Top Real Estate Agents Tackle Tough Times.”
Keller, Chairman of Keller Williams Realty, explained how people can sell in a buyer’s market.
‘Good Buy’ Market
“If a seller wants to sell their home and say goodbye to it, the buyer is going to have to perceive it as a good buy,” he said.
Keller is the chairman of Keller Williams Realty Inc., one of the largest real estate franchises in North America. He shared some tips for sellers:
1. Don’t try to make money. It’s counterintuitive for most people, but sellers will do better if they don’t ask for too much money. Listing a home at just below what a similar home in the area sold for will increase the odds of closing the deal, he said.
2. Don’t be lazy. Even though buyers may be looking for bargains, your home shouldn’t look like a warehouse sale. Because presentation matters, sellers should get rid of any accumulated clutter. Take the magnets off the refrigerator, take down photos, open windows and take trinkets off bookshelves, Keller said.
While basic is better, Keller pointed out that some photos may help show a home at its best. For example, Dennis and Josephine Hahn’s real estate agent put together a photo album of the couple’s New Jersey home during various times of the year. The album showed the home when the flowers were in bloom and when the swimming pool was sparkling.
Don’t Neglect Repairs
3. Don’t be cheap. Sellers should perform simple renovations and repairs — from fixing leaky faucets to replacing appliances — before placing their homes on the market.
Linda Dore, a real estate agent with Re/Max Team 2000 in Chicago, even suggested that sellers conduct a home inspection before listing their property.
“Have your home pre-inspected,” she said. “If there are any surprises, deal with it before it hits the market. … If the buyer finds it, they are going to ask you for a larger credit or they are going to ask for a more expensive repair than you would have to do if it were done beforehand.”
4. Be available. Real estate agents across the country tell sellers they need to be available for showings and willing to negotiate prices. Sellers should be able to answer prospective buyers’ questions about schools and the neighborhood — and even the neighbors themselves.
Here Are Some Web-only Extra Tips:
” Because competition is higher in the summer, some agents believe that now is an excellent time to list homes. Also, interest rates are near historic lows and the first-time homebuyer tax credit eligibility ends soon.
” In “Shift,” Keller says sellers shouldn’t ask for too much money up front. If someone sets an initial sale price that is too high and potential buyers lose interest, it will be that much harder to get them to take a second look — even if the seller continues to lower the price.
Click here to return to the “Good Morning America” Web site.