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November 2006

Nov. 8, 2006 - glass is much more than half-full / glass building fashion is reviewed

 
Newsday’s review of all the glass-this-and-glass-that in lofts and condos
I am not going to add more commentary to Newsday’s review, as they are much more comprehensive and concise than I can be about architecture. I will just note that they talk about the fashion of glass curtain walls in new Manhattan developments and cite (and comment on) the lofts at Phillip Johnson’s Urban Glass House, 497 and 505 Greenwich (about 497: “the curio look of a building in a bottle”; and about 505: “a brace of dark-glass boxes on sturdy-looking bases”), 255 Hudson, 40 Mercer, Blue Condo (“a piece of live-in costume jewelry”), and –of course – Gwathmey Siegel’s much-maligned Design For Living (“It's a curtain without a show”) as examples.
 
THX to Brownstoner for pointing me to it.
 
© Sandy Mattingly 2006
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Nov. 8, 2006 - more rich data and comps / 718 Broadway sales history

 
4 completed sales this year help with ‘comps’
With three lofts offered for sale, four sold between June and October 2006, three sold in 2005 and two sold in 2004, the 40-unit 718 Broadway may be undergoing something of a generational shift.
 
a generational shift?
The four very recent sales can provide additional context for looking at the three currently on the market [see the recent comparing lofts and lofts ain’t so easy] and also illustrate how values differ in the same building, in the same line.
 
The confirmed 2006 sales and their estimated sizes were:
 
8B      June 29         $1.2mm         1325’
10B     July 12          $1.505mm      1400’
10D     Sept 20         $1.21mm       1180’
6B      Oct 18          $1.156mm      1325’
 
First, all four of these substantially overlapped with the efforts to sell 3B and 2A over the last year, and the last two may have actively overlapped with 2C as well. That is a lot of inventory in a 40-unit building. And note that the agents for the three “B” line lofts could not agree on the size of that line.
 
I do not recall having seen any of these four sales while they were active but the agent notes still in our system provide some information about their condition.
 
some information about their condition
10B was renovated 2005 and went for the best price. In fact the price is so good (more than $100k over ask) that the renovation must have been very nice.
 
6B was said to be a gut renovation, while 10D was a “stunning“ renovation with “meticulous” attention to detail.
 
8B, in contrast, had a kitchen that needed upgrading but was in “move-in” condition (they didn’t brag about a renovation, so there could not have been one recently).
 
The “B” line looks over the parking lot that fronts on Lafayette and there should be little difference in light among the 6th, 8th and 10th floors, and little difference in views (the buildings on either side of the parking lot are 6 and 10 stories, and the buildings across Lafayette are no more than 6 stories, but higher is always better).
 
major differences, but in an efficient market??
Perhaps the virtually simultaneous $305k difference between 10B and 8B is accounted for by the renovation plus the extra view, but the renovated 6B still went for less than 8B. This is not an exact science….
 
10D is smaller, but had that stunning renovation, earning its parity with 8D.
 
So what?
 
Buyers with easy access to each of these contemporaneous listings in the same building – listings that were different in size, level of finishes and (possibly) light or views – established the market price for these units. Those marketing conditions were as close to an efficient loft market as you could expect in Manhattan.
 
So one “identical” unit (at least an identical floor plan) sold for 205 more than another two floors below and another four floors below that had also been renovated – evidently in a bidding war.
 
I wonder if any disappointed 10B bidders bought 10D or 6B, and if they bid on 2A or 3C….
 
© Sandy Mattingly
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Nov. 8, 2006 - dreadful irony / demise of a lovely garbage website

 
I have considered http://www.garbagescout.com/ to be one of the more unusual god-bless-‘em-entrepeneurial sites. They posted tips from folks who saw (or put) ‘stuff’ on the Manhattan sidewalk for trash pick-ups, in some cases starting races for the ‘stuff’ with the Sanitation Department, in special cases starting races between lucky scavengers.
 
Turns out this ‘garbage’ site (I mean the term with all respect) was done in by garbage (I mean the term with all disrespect): spam! The site couldn’t filter out the spam fast enough to make it worthwhile to keep the site up. Now that’s a garbage problem!
 
Sorry to see you go, Garbage Scout. While I never used it myself, I forwarded the link to someone just a week ago. Darn.
 
THX to the Inman blog for pointing me to the news.
 
© Sandy Mattingly 2006
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Nov. 7, 2006 - comparing lofts and lofts aint so easy / 718 Broadway as lab

 
rich data in one building but little comparability
I saw three lofts on the same building on Sunday, two of which are a little different from each other; the third was so different to the two as to be INcomparable in many ways. Which lead me to thinking about how much easier it is to compare units in an apartment building than units in a loft building.
 
718 Broadway (south of Astor Place) is either in Noho or the Village, depending on one’s geographic sensibilities. Regardless, it sits solidly in The Greater NYU Metro Area on one of the busiest streets in the city, with pedestrians, shoppers, buses and trucks, and a subway rumbling along Broadway.
 
a classic loft building
It was converted 25 years ago into legal loft residences (don’t know its prior history) as is in many ways a classic loft building. Footprint is small, with 4 units per floor (10 residential floors over a commercial space). Ceilings are high; hallways are narrow, hardwood, dark in places and (let’s just say) not overdone; double door-double buzzer security; lobby is nothing special; elevator is typical; and a finished roof deck. Front windows (at least) are both big and rather porous for sound.
 
#2A and #3B are -- to my eye – both in “good original condition”, meaning that they both could use an upgrade (2A especially). They are said to be of similar size (about 1500 and 1400 sq ft), but they are rather different. Both are set up with only one “bedroom” area, but in #2A it is a raised platform with half-walls, while with 3B it is a mezzanine loft (with 6 ft+ head clearance), open to the rest of the unit below. 2A has a very odd “box” with a second sleeping platform on top of it where the former freight elevator had been (odd, as I say). Both have original flooring, which could be revitalized. Neither has a distinguished kitchen, both have some nooks and crannies, but 3B is very quiet while 2A is … not.
 
2A is not quiet because its three windows look at Broadway from the second floor (and they are not thermopane windows). 3B is quiet because it sits over a parking lot that fronts on Lafayette.
 
different lofts for different buyers at different prices
While they may appeal to some of the same buyers, 3B is much more likely to appeal to someone who does not want to do that much work, or someone who needs two bedrooms. 3B has quiet, but presents the risk down the road that the parking lot will be developed. 2A is clearly closely involved with life on Broadway. In both cases, the sleeping areas are removed from the windows, which is where the air conditioning is.
 
3B is asking ‘only’ $1.175mm for its (estimated) 1400 s ft, while 2A is asking $1.399m for what is said to be 1500 sq ft (though some of it is unusable as it is). Both have some history: 2A has been on the market for more than a year (it started at $1.595mm), while 3B has technically been on since September, but has been on and off the market pretty constantly for two years.
 
While they have some similarities, I don’t know that the sale of one would have much predictive value for the sale of the other. Certainly, all the Corcoran agents involved feel that they are different enough at $1.175mm and 1.395mm.
 
meanwhile, a million miles away in 2C…
2C, in contrast, is as unlike 2A and 3B as can be. Once you close the door in 2C you would never think you were in the same building with the other two lofts.
 
Please, please, please look at the pictures, and then understand that – if anything --- the photos do not do justice to this space. This is a white-on-white museum quality minimalist renovation. While this unit looks over the same parking lot as 3B, I suspect that possible development has nothing to do with value or with the owner’s enjoyment of the space. Note the window shears – everything about this space relates inward, so what is outside the window will only detract from the space.
 
I am not saying I could live there (no way). I am not saying there are many people who can live there. I just hope that there are enough who can and that someone who can has the money and the opportunity to make a deal with these owners.
 
The care taken to eliminate detailing in closets, cabinets, and appliances is extreme. The walls ‘float’ off the floor the way museum walls do not touch the floor; the kitchen wall not only does that, but flares out at the bottom, while the upper surface of the cabinets also undulates.
 
I have no idea who could buy this amazing space
How unlivable is this space for conventional tastes? There are two sleeping areas in the upper mezzanine, separated (as I recall) by a few plastic containers (I am not doing them justice) but otherwise open to below. A low cough in one bed is heard distinctly in the other.
 
This has been on the market ‘only’ since June and has come down to $1.495mm for what they say is 1200 sq ft. Having criticized agents who were selling more than 100 “unique” lofts a while back [unique ain’t what it used to be] I can say that this one is ‘very’ unique (remember, in my business “unique” has many modifiers). Unique properties have fewer potential buyers, so this may be on the market for a while regardless of price. BTW, price is $1.475mm and mother-daughter team Eunice and Stephanie Turso of Custom Brokers do not use “unique” in marketing this loft, bless their hearts.
 
The sale of this one will have no effect on the sale of the other two, and vice versa.
 
oh-oh, agents with rulers…
2A is said to have “towering 14 foot ceilings”, while down the hall 2C claims the “highest ceiling height in the building – 12.7 ft”; the 3B agent measured there at a “soaring” 12’ 9”.
 
numerous number anomalies?
The quoted maintenance for these three lofts don’t fit their claimed footprints, either. Something is wrong with this data:
2A      1500’   $1187/mo
2C      1200’   $1275/mo
3B      1400’   $1292/mo
 
open houses again on Sunday Nov 12:
3B from 2 – 3:30
2A from 2:30 - 4
.
 
© Sandy Mattingly 2006
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Nov. 7, 2006 - another illustration from Sundays Times / the pitfalls of paying to impress someone else

 
make improvements that make your life better, not that might increase ‘value’
Front page Real Estate Section article in Sunday’ NY Times was entitled “Which Building Improvements Really Pay Off?” This article illustrates how misguided it is to pay money for fashion rather than utility or pleasure.
 
The thrust of the article is that a building should pay for things that increase resale value. The top value is assigned to a doorman, but (for some reason) the ‘big three’ are identified as gyms, roof decks and children’s playrooms. I am not sure exactly what these amenities can add to resale value (the article reports that Jonathan Miller provided data for a study about the value added by doormen that won’t be published until next Summer), but I think it is wrong to chase Other People’s Value – whether for a building or an individual owner.
 
why spend money to please other people?
The Real Estate Industrial Complex is full of advice about what kind of kitchens to have because they enhance resale value, or how to remodel a bathroom to increase resale value. I just don’t get that.
 
It is OK to think about resale value when you contemplate a capital improvement, the driver for any decision should be whether it makes your loft a more pleasant place to live. Period. (Except if the property is an investment/rental property.)
 
If a funky color makes you happy – go for it! If your tastes are very idiosyncratic about appliances or built-ins or lighting, go for it!
 
pay for more smiles
The highest value is for things that make you live more comfortably and make you smile more when you come home. Everything else is secondary.
 
Then there is the problem that if you make decisions based on anticipated resale value, the tastes in the market may change before you sell. The stainless steel beauties that you put in because everyone has them (even though you preferred a calm white) may be out of fashion when you try to sell. The children’s playroom that a building spent $50k to build because someone on the board read the NY Times on Sunday may never get used, or may get turned into a humidor in five years to chase the next trend.
 
playroom math gets dicey
Don’t get me wrong. If the families in the building will get value out of a play room (or the grandparents who live there will more often get their grandchildren to visit), that might be a sensible decision. (I would think very hard about the age range of kids who would use such a facility; especially in a small building, there may be only two or three families who might use a playroom in any three year period.)
 
Same thing with the roof deck issue. That 120 unit prewar on West 81st St that built a beautiful roof deck for $259k might find that it enhances the living experience of shareholders enough to be “worth it” (as they anticipated when they went ahead with the project, no doubt), but it may never be proven to increase resale value. If I am a shareholder there, that is not a bad thing.
 
I know from personal experience that the availability of a roof deck (even if not used frequently) can provide a relief from life in ‘the city’. Whether one goes up once in a while on a Sunday with the newspaper or a cup of coffee or a glass of wine at sunset, or just feels better because you know you can, there will be added value if the shareholders find value in that.
 
hubris is thinking you can predict future tastes
Especially on loft buildings of 50 units or fewer it can be a big mistake to try to guess what the future market will value.
 
another hot topic: generational differences in spending common funds
The issue of differences of view about how to spend building money is another very pertinent point for loft buildings that was addressed in the Times article, but that is for another post.
 
© Sandy Mattingly 2006
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Nov. 6, 2006 - a very fruitful article / NY Times gets into generational conflict in lofts

 
the third angle: when ‘old’ people like it ‘as is’ and ‘new’ people want to upgrade
The front page Real Estate Section article in Sunday’s NY Times entitled “Which Building Improvements Really Pay Off?” has been a very fruitful source for discussion about lofts (although it did not focus on lofts).
 
My two earlier posts were about how this article illustrates how loft-buyers are different from apartment buyers and about the mistakes to be made when making improvements to increase Other People’s Value.
 
Actually, I thought this was the most interesting point in the article, and one that is very relevant for lofts:
 
On one side of the deepening schism are boom-era buyers seeking to spruce up their buildings to protect resale values and surround themselves with a level of grandeur commensurate with the size of their investment.
But some of their more tenured neighbors (a portion of whom continue to be branded themselves as “yuppie scum” or worse by the renters they displaced) resist fixing what doesn’t seem broken. Some also shrink from anteing up for what they consider frivolous plastic surgery on top of maintenance charges already swollen by the spiking costs of fuel, taxes and insurance.
 
I think this has the potential to be a much bigger problem for many loft buildings – more so than for apartment buildings, for entirely impressionistic reasons.
 
It is my sense that there are a good number of smaller loft buildings (under 30 units) in which there are a significant number of owners who have been there more than 10 years, and even some owners who are there 20+ years. For lack of a better term, we will call them Old Owners.
 
loft building demographics
Compared to people who have bought into these buildings in the last three years (“New Owners”), the Old Owners likely paid 30% or less of what the New Owners paid, and less than 20% of the current market value. Clearly, the Old Owners bought when the street life was different in many loft neighborhoods, and when the notion of “amenities” in lofts had more to do with working street lamps and regular trash pick-ups than with concierges and Fresh Direct lockers. Let's just say that their attitude about what is ‘necessary’ may be different from that of recent purchasers.
 
In terms of income and working lives, rather more of the New Owners are monied professionals, while rather more of the Old Owners are retired or in the arts. The capacity of Old Owners to pay continuous maintenance increases may be strained, and their ability to pay an assessment for a capital improvement may be difficult.
 
I won’t identify the building (so as not to air laundry) but I am aware of a loft building of 15 – 25 units in which about one-third of the units are owned by old-timers. Every other year there are fights over efforts by relative new-comers to upgrade the lobby and hallways (last renovated at least 10 years ago) and to create a roof deck.
 
I love you, you’re perfect, now change!
New-comers who paid $1.5mm to live in an ‘authentic’ loft building, would like to see some upgrades, commensurate, they believe, with the investment they have in their living space. For old-timers this is frivolous at best, if not financially ruinous.
 
I see this as being more and more common in future years.
 
© Sandy Mattingly 2006
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Nov. 6, 2006 - Emily Litella and the PS 234 Annex new date is the old date (Sept 07)

 
The on-again-late-again schedule for the annex for Tribeca’s PS 234 is on again. The 10,000 sq ft annex is now expected to open next September, so ignore the warnings that it would not open for a year later.
 
Something to do with the developer’s work schedule for the condominium in which the annex will be housed. Here’s the bottom line from the Tribeca Trib, quoting PS 234 Principal Lisa Ripperger:
 
 
The current enrollment of the school is 695 students, according to Ripperger. That is over the stated capacity, but about 25 students less than the projected enrollment for the year.
The school has become squeezed for space in recent years. Two years ago the computer room was eliminated and last year the school was forced to eliminate pre-K classes. It was likely that the science or art rooms would have been lost next year if the annex were not ready.
Ripperger said they are planning to move the five kindergarten classes to the annex. She is hoping that by having more classrooms available in the main build- ing next year, they can add another 5th grade class and reduce class sizes.
 
 
© Sandy Mattingly 2006
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Nov. 6, 2006 - NAR pumps up the volume / the politics of boosterism

 
The National Association of Realtors® ran the first of six full page large newspaper ads last week about now being a great time to buy or sell real estate, which has generated a lot of commentary.
 
I have previously posted about the NAR’s superficial boosterism and the tendency of many on the Real Estate Industrial Complex to use happy-talk, so I get what the critics are saying (See Matrix for the ad copy and a typical discussion, and a spoof.)
 
“we’re sorry we’ve worn rose-colored glasses” (not)
I don’t expect the NAR to take out an ad that says “we’ve been too bullish”, but there are other ways for NAR to boost business for its members.
 
The first thing to realize about NAR, however, is that it is looking out for me and the other 1 million+ members (errr, thx but…). I suspect that the primary motivation for this ad campaign is that the members are so frustrated with the national media and have complained to NAR to do something!
 
I think it has had that morale boosting effect for many Realtors®, but at too great a cost.
 
hum along with Bernstein
I used the term “Pollyanna” in the Matrix thread, but I think a better reference is to Dr. Pangloss of Candide (“this is the best of all possible times in the best of all possible worlds”). NAR risks insulting everyone’s intelligence by insisting that one is a great time for all buyers and all sellers in all local markets.
 
If I were running the show I would (1) talk about some favorable data/trends, but (2) drive people to their local Realtor® for advice about determining whether this is the best time for them to buy or to sell given their local market conditions.
 
you need an expert in perilous times dadgummit!
Pump up the need for expert advice, rather than insist that everything is wonderful for everyone (why can’t we all just get along?). Something that says (1) the market has changed in most of the country over the last year or so, (2) conditions are favorable for many buyers and for many sellers in many places, (3) call 1-800-REALTOR to get the kind of expert help you need about an important decision in a complicated world.
 
Fact is, in every set of market conditions in every local market, the times and circumstances are right for some buyers and some sellers. But you gotta know what you are doing.
 
© Sandy Mattingly 2006
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Nov. 5, 2006 - NY Times on what building improvements pay off / lofts are different

 
Loft amenities are not like other amenities / and “value” does not equal resale
Front page Real Estate Section article in Sunday’ NY Times was entitled “Which Building Improvements Really Pay Off?” This article illustrates how lofts (and loft buyers) are different from “apartments” and apartment-buyers.
 
The clear thrust of the article was that the most valuable amenities are (1) a 24 hour-doorman, (2) a gym or health club, and (3) “the lobby, the lobby, the lobby”. Reporter Teri Karush Rogers lined up lots of people supported this trinity of value-enhancers.
 
no doorman? no problem – for many lofts
I have previously posted about how loft buildings tend not to have doormen (other than very new or rather large buildings). It is probably difficult to sell an apartment on the Upper East or Upper West Sides above $1.5m if there is no doorman, but this is not an impediment n downtown lofts.
 
I will grant that many loft owners may see value in having a gym on-site, but except for large and new buildings, few loft buildings have that amount of common space that can be converted to gyms – which were not the fashion ten or more years ago. (Let’s not even discuss children’s play rooms.)
 
is a ‘done’ lobby mandatory? not so much…
“Apartment” owners prefer nice lobbies (and nice lobbies with door folk). Loft entrances end to be much more utilitarian, and loft hallways been more spare. That is part of the ‘charm’ of the ‘grit’ in buildings such as 718 Broadway, 1200 Broadway, 38 West 26 St, 4 West 16 St, or many SoHo lofts.
 
There is a little bit of a “trust me on this” to this discussion, as agents do not brag about the lobbies or hallways n these buildings and never take pictures. So, trust me on this.
 
loft-y roof decks
Curiously, the one enmity that the Times article debunks is one that – for lofts – adds significant value if done well – a common roof deck. In many small oft buildings (15 – 30 units), neighbors rarely see each other in the elevator or in their (small, utilitarian) lobbies. They are much more often to ‘hang’ with each other in common space when there is a planted or beautiful roof deck.
 
I am thinking of loft buildings in the greater- Chelsea area in particular, such as 40 W 24 St and 22 W 26 St.
 
Whether that benefit translates into greater resale value is for a different post, but I think it interesting how different loft owners and apartment owners approach the question of amenities.
 
© Sandy Mattingly 2006
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Nov. 2, 2006 - Open House brunch selections $1.8-$2.3 (careful with the coffee)

 
I picked out four lofts with open houses around noon on Sunday. Prices vary from $1.825mm to $2.295mm; sizes vary from 1670 sq ft to 2300 sq ft; locations vary from Broadway at Bleecker to Vestry. If you take the tour after brunch, be careful about how much coffee you drink (you’ll see why).
 
Some of these are poignant examples of the charm and the limitations of classic lofts. Pay attention to the floor plans and note where the windows are (sometimes, only on one wall, far from everything else), and note how inconvenient a long-and-narrow layout can be if you want more than 1 bedroom.
 
Typical of lofts downtown, there are no doormen in these buildings, and the level of other services and finishes (roof deck, storage, lobbies ‘done’ or not) varies.
 
 
11:30 - 1
$2.2mm coop ($1,750/mo) 1700 sq ft w 4 exposures
truly the heart of SoHo
all tricked out with custom hidden cabinetry, 'discreet' latches
cast iron bldg, arched windows,
one bath ('easy to add' 2d bath, but where??)
 
12 - 1:30
77 White St #2 (in the MUDD Club of days of yore)
$2.295mm condo 2285 sq ft
east of Bway ('heart of it all??)
classic loft plusses and minuses; brick and beams and columns and windows and height, and flooring; but long + narrow, one bath now; keyed elevator; 2005 conversion; one bath, 2d risers
 
12 - 1:30
$1.995mm coop ($1,600/mo) 2300 sq ft
"back to the 70s" classic Tribeca loft w only 1 BR; beams and columns and (only 4) big windows
 
12 - 1:30
$1.825mm coop ($310/mo -- not a typo; deductibility = 0%) 1670 sq ft
classic loft pros and cons; 4 huge windows (26') but only on one end; 2d "BR" is on way to MBR
 
 Enjoy!
(C) Sandy Mattingly 2006
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Nov. 1, 2006 - raise lower the roof beam, seminary / Chelsea receptive to new tower plan?

 
smaller tower to provide seminary bucks
Newly renamed Chelsea Now has been following the reaction of neighbors to the General Theological Seminary’s efforts to reap some economic rewards from its holdings by having a developer build a 17 story tower (bigger than allowed without a variance under the 75 ft height limitation). Things are moving ahead toward what looks like an acceptable compromise between the Seminary and its neighbors, according to Chelsea Now, a very different posture from when The Villager reported on this project in June.
 
neighbors reported as polite
The new proposal was presented to “a fairly receptive crowd of 100 people”. It cut the bulk and height of the tower (now to be 15 stories) and added a low building to replace the ‘lost’ bulk in the tower. met a favorable neighborhood reaction
 
According to Susan Rodriguez, the Polshek architect … the tower portion is not only shorter and less bulky … but also features less glass and more brick to make it more contextual with other buildings on The Close.
 
“We’ve taken the community’s concerns to heart while trying to generate the revenue needed for renovations of the historic buildings at the seminary,” said Rodriguez.
 
The revised plan also sets the tower portion back from 20th and 21st Sts. by 58 feet and 38 feet, respectively, forming what Rodriguez calls “a perimeter frame around The Close, which preserves views of the chapel tower.” The chapel view is also enhanced by a newly designed entrance on Ninth Ave., which was moved farther north toward 21st St. than the original proposal had stipulated.
 
Apparently some neighbors – at least -- are receptive to the seminary’s position that it is in dire need of the revenue from this project.
 
Matt Foreman, a longtime Chelsea resident and L.G.B.T. activist, congratulated the seminary on doing “a good job trying to compromise with area residents by altering its plan” yet again. “The bulk on this tower design is slimmer and lower, which I really like. Anyone who’s holding fast to the 75-foot law should read the seminary’s financials. They can’t survive with that low a building,” he said.
 
how well will well drilling go down?
The seminary’s plan to drill 1500 foot deep geothermal wells might interest the folks in Tribeca near the Zinc Building construction.
 
The green energy initiative calls for five wells to be drilled on Tenth Ave., followed by three wells on 21st St. Each well will take about a week to drill and will extend 1,500 feet below the earth’s surface.
 
… Drilling will occur on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
 
Burnley took pains to assure area residents that vibrations will be kept to a minimum and will be monitored at all times by the engineers.
 
“We’ve got four teams of engineers who will minimize the impact on neighbors in every way, and no drilling will take place under houses or property lines,” she said. “Drilling will occur on sidewalks only, about 6 to 7 feet form G.T.S.’s walls and 60 to 70 feet from neighbors’ buildings. Plus, bedrock absorbs vibration, so the deeper we drill, the less the vibration.”
 
Stay tuned for future reports about any cracks….
 
© Sandy Mattingly 2006
 
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Nov. 1, 2006 - a giant step for REBNY, but how big a step for humankind? Listings web portal coming in the Spring

 
Springtime data shower expected
This afternoon brought an email and press release to us members of the Residential Division of the Real Estate Board of New York about the deluxe spanking brand new (in Spring 2007) “web portal” to be established by REBNY through which members of the public will be able to access “accurate and current” information about the exclusive listings of REBNY member firms. Presumably, REBNY will post the release on its website soon.
 
“Creating an easy-to-use interface for the typically more than 10,000 listings will put the comprehensive data at the public’s fingertips.” [says REBNY President Steve Spinola]
 
The service will provide New York homebuyers with a useful tool that arms consumers with a wealth of valuable information about prices for comparable homes. Visitors to the portal will be able to specify the characteristics of their ideal home, such as number of bedrooms and bathrooms, location, price and other amenities. The portal would then generate a list of homes meeting the specified criteria and supply broker contacts for each.
 
The 300+ members of the REBNY Residential Division whose exclusive listings will populate this web portal include all of the major firms doing business in Manhattan and nearly all of the moms-and-pops. The web portal will feed through the inter-broker system that member firms use to advise each other of exclusive listings under REBNY’s “three day rule” for sharing information.
 
A few first-blush comments:
I hope REBNY will make more of an effort to make sure the information is both “accurate and current”. I frequently hear agents complain about information shared through the REBNY Listing Service that is neither accurate nor current.
 
This should NOT be confused with the classic Multiple Listing Services that serve brokers in the rest of America, as this will be for current listings only. REBNY firms do not share closed sale information with each other, though the change in NYS law this year means that coop sales data will dribble into the public as the city’s data base spits it out. It remains to be seen how much information that agents share even about current listings will be in this public web portal.
 
The 30+ members of the Manhattan Association of Realtors® (probably all of whom are also REBNY members) already maintain a Manhattan Multiple Listing Service that provides public access to member firms’ listings (about 15% of the market) and even have an Internet Data Exchange system (IDX, like out there in America) in which member firm listings appear on each other’s websites directly. MANAR firms also share closed sale information with each other immediately. My understanding is that MANAR was formed, in part, because REBNY did not want to share more than its member firms were already sharing. So the politics of this will be something to ponder over the coming days.
 
What will the New York Times think? Currently, NYTimes.com is the closest thing there is to a public “web portal” for listings. (NYTimes.com is notorious for running ads for properties that do not exist, as well as ads for properties that have long since gone into contract or closed.) I have been told that the Times was able to charge the big firms to create that website at the Times And – obviously – it charges to have listings put up there. Will this kill NYTimes.com?
 
Cynics might wonder whether there is any connection between this proposed web portal (why announce six months in advance??) and the inquiries by the federal Department of Justice into Manhattan real estate practices.
 
No word on whether there will be a REBstimate tool, but don’t count on it.
 
© Sandy Mattingly 2006
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Sandy Mattingly is Manhattan Loft Guy; now with The Corcoran Group (http://corcoran.com/ ; but see the disclaimer at the bottom of the page), he can be reached most easily at Sandy@ManhattanLoftGuy.com or 917.902.2491, and followed on Twitter @ManhattnLoftGuy (note "mis-spelling"). After 7+ years, the blog has moved. Links here on RealTown will work for the foreseeable future, but new posts (and all the old content) has migrated to ManhattanLoftGuy.com.

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