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Real Estate

Priscilla Toomey: What the Internet Doesn't Tell You When You Search for Real Estate PDF Print Email

Aug. 27, 2014:  These days an overwhelming percentage of buyers begin their search for real estate on the Internet. They may put a key word or phrase into Google and they may use Zillow, Trulia, or to get started.

With so much reliance on technology today, many people assume it tells them what they need to know. In fact, it only tells part of the story.

Most people don't realize that search engines like Zillow and Trulia are "lead generators." They are less concerned about the accuracy of information than they are about whether the people searching on their site contact them so they can sell that "lead" to a real estate agent. In reality, neither the lead nor the agent is "scrubbed," or screened.

As a result, there is no way to tell if a cliff drops off behind the house, or if the house is located near a noisy, busy highway or railroad. Although the photos may not be Photoshopped, a good stager and photographer can improve the "natural" looks of a house considerably. Moreover, the house is likely to appear larger than it is when you see it in person. HGTV is there to create the same illusions. They all do it very well.

The question is: How do you, the consumer, find out what you want to know about the "reality" of the house?

The best way is to look upon a home search as an interactive process. Find a good real estate agent to work with, get advice to focus your search, and be an enthusiastic and very interactive participant in the process of finding a home that fits you or that you can change to "fit you to a t."

The Internet is a very useful tool to help you focus on what neighborhood, schools, and amenities are important and affordable to your particular family and circumstances.  After that, it's an interactive process--a live human being who knows the area and the houses in it well and will work with you in a team effort to accomplish your home finding dreams.

Pictured here:  Priscilla Toomey, associate broker, JD, ABR, Top5, certified EcoBroker, SRES with Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty; cell, 914-559-8084; email, CLOAKING .

Photo courtesy Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty

Priscilla Toomey: The Why, When, and How of Mortgage Pre-Approvals; Prerequisite for Buying a Home PDF Print Email

Aug. 6, 2014:  With the fall market only a few weeks away, it's time to address the why, when, and how of pre-approvals. When people are eager to find a house, they think "real estate," but the best thing for them to do is think "money."

Specifically, they need to know what they can afford. The operative word in that sentence is "know," not "estimate" or "guess," and that's a very important distinction. Why say this? Because people so often say, "I know I can get a pre-approval when I find the right house."

Why: A couple of things to keep in mind about "why" when it comes to pre-approvals. Many "all cash" buyers intend to get a mortgage anyway; they just want to be in a stronger bidding position by not having a mortgage contingency. Yet, among the important reasons to get a pre-approval is that it is a way for the lender to "vet" a buyer. Sellers want to know that a buyer is financially qualified before they accept that buyer's offer.

The lender is also advising the buyer on what that lender believes the buyer can afford. Better to shop for a house knowing this than guessing. Of course, the buyers can provide "proof of funds" as an alternative to the pre-approval in order to show that they have sufficient assets to close on the purchase. Not everyone wants to disclose all of that information up front, however.

When: Getting pre-approved before, or as soon as, a buyer starts looking is wise. That's because sellers don't want to accept an offer from someone until they know that buyer has sufficient funds to complete the purchase. People who start to shop without a pre-approval run the risk of finding the home of their dreams only to have to wait until their pre-approval comes through before they can make a serious bid. They then run the risk of losing the house to a better-prepared buyer in the meantime.

How: Find out what the lender requires you to submit. Pre-approvals are based on verified documentation. If a so-called pre-approval letter is based on a conversation, it's not a pre-approval and seasoned real estate professionals know it. Gather all the documents, submit them to the lender, and find out if the lender needs anything else.

Ask to be pre-approved for the maximum your can qualify for, not the price of a particular house. That's because you don't want to have to go back again and again as the price point changes, for example, in a bidding war.

If a buyer needs to get the pre-approval updated from time to time, the lender can do that. That way it will stay current without having to start from scratch. Sellers know a buyer may not be willing to pay a particular amount, but this way they'll know that the buyer is qualified up to that amount, and that gives them a greater degree of comfort. A pre-approval meeting these parameters puts a buyer in the best position to make a strong offer and gives the buyer credibility with a seller. It's worth the effort.

Pictured here:  Priscilla Toomey, associate broker, JD, ABR, Top5, certified EcoBroker, SRES with Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty; cell, 914-559-8084; email, CLOAKING .

Photo courtesy Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty

Priscilla Toomey: Village Real Estate Market as of July 1, 2014: Prices High PDF Print Email

Jul. 16, 2014:  As of July 1, 2014, there were 25 single-family homes on the market in Bronxville Village, including five townhouses. The high end is up significantly. The asking price for single-family homes, not including townhouses, averaged $4,535,263. This is more than $1 million higher than it had been toward the end of 2013. Of the 20 single-family homes, not including townhouses, 12 of the 20 had asking prices above $3 million. The average asking price for the townhouses was $1,178,429, and five of those seven townhouses had asking prices above $1 million.

For the first half of the year, of the 27 single-family homes (not including townhouses) that have sold, eight of them sold at or above their asking price at the time of sale. Of these, three sold between $1 million and $1.999 million, three sold between $2 million and $2.999 million, and two sold over $3 million. Of the nine townhouses that sold during the period, six sold at or above their asking price at the time of sale.

There were 31 houses in contract at the end of the second quarter, of which eight were townhouses. During the period, 36 single-family homes had sold, including nine townhouses.

During the first half of 2014, the median price of single-family homes (not including townhouses) that sold was $2,250,000, versus $1,900,000 for the same period in 2013. In 2014, there were 27 homes in this segment, versus 33 in 2013. Their average selling price was $2,213,068, versus $2,135,773 in 2013.

Price per square foot also increased, to $629.54 from $608.38. Nine townhouses sold during the first half of 2014, versus 11 in 2013. Their median price rose to $1,155,000 from $917,500 in 2013. Their average price also rose--to $1,227,222 from $969,045 in 2013, and their price per square foot rose to $624.11 from $526.94.

The rise in both asking and selling prices indicates the strength and optimism that characterize the Bronxville Village real estate market at the end of the first half of 2014.

Pictured here:  Priscilla Toomey, associate broker, JD, ABR, Top5, certified EcoBroker, SRES with Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty; cell, 914-559-8084; e-mail, CLOAKING .

Photo courtesy Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty

Manhattan Real Estate Brokers Introduced to High-End Bronxville Properties by Houlihan Lawrence PDF Print Email

Jul. 2, 2014:  Last week, Houlihan Lawrence hosted an open house for real estate brokers from Manhattan to introduce them to Bronxville. Approximately 30 brokers from Westchester, Manhattan, and Connecticut who have a particular focus on the sale of high-end properties toured two very special homes currently on the market.

The tour began at 279 Pondfield Road, a magnificent Lewis Bowman home built in 1926. The home was meticulously renovated by the Cox family and is listed for $5,595,000. After a discussion comparing Manhattan and Bronxville Village real estate markets, the tour continued to 33 Valley Road, the Epley family's stunning, completely renovated 1896 Hilltop home designed by William Bates and listed for $5,695,000.

Jim Gricar, the president of New York-based Halstead Properties, a firm that spans three states and 30 offices, spoke about the current Manhattan real estate market and was joined by Liz Nunan, vice president of global business development at Houlihan Lawrence.

The Manhattan market, after a robust 2013, remains strong. The average price and price per square foot has remained relatively steady over the last six months, reflecting stabilization following record-breaking price growth during 2013.

The average apartment sale in Manhattan is $1.8 million, which includes co-ops (75%) and condos (25%). The average co-op price is $1.2 million, and the average condo price is $2.3 million. Jim compared the co-op and condo markets, which are very different in Manhattan. There are reports of many new buildings and record permits, but he stated that Manhattan is very supply-constrained and needs all the new construction to replenish the low inventory levels. Liz Nunan gave a similar snapshot of Westchester. Last year was a very strong year in Westchester, and 2014 is strong but more restrained than 2013. The high-end market is stable, with sales similar to those of last year.

For many of the Manhattan brokers, this was their first visit to Bronxville. They were surprised by Bronxville's proximity to Manhattan and how special and "comfortable" a community it is. They appreciated information on our excellent public school, comparing it favorably to the private school situation in New York City, which remains very competitive and expensive.

The tax burdens of Bronxville and Manhattan were also discussed. Bronxville property taxes constitute approximately 2.2% of the purchase price, which can be high, especially for the higher-end homes, but often less expensive than Manhattan, which has a 4.5% city income tax. Obviously, depending on one's income, the New York City income tax can be very high, especially when the cost of private school tuition for multiple children is added. Many of the Manhattan brokers did not equate the Bronxville property taxes to the New York City income taxes, so it was an eye-opening comparison for many.

The strength of the Manhattan market benefits Bronxville--we are the first stop when people think of leaving Manhattan. Houlihan Lawrence will continue to host more events such as these to further educate the New York realtors about what makes our community so special.

Pictured here: Jim Gricar, president of Halstead properties.

Photo courtesy Sheila Stoltz, Houlihan Lawrence

Priscilla Toomey: June Is Unusually Busy Month for Bronxville Village Real Estate PDF Print Email

Jun. 11, 2014:  When we looked at the market at the beginning of January, there were only nine single-family homes on the market in Bronxville Village, of which two were townhouses and two already had accepted offers. We noted that inventory was painfully thin at that time. But times have changed!

As of June 1, there were more than four times the number of single-family homes on the market--39--of which five were townhouses. The average asking price was over $3MM, driven in significant measure by a larger than usual number of higher-end listings--fourteen above $3MM as of June 1.

According to past patterns, the Monday after Super Bowl Sunday would have been the start of the spring market, with sellers putting their homes on the market and buyers out looking so that they could be sure to have their children settled well before the start of school--assuming time to find a home and another 60 to 90 days for their purchase to close.

But this year, Mother Nature intervened. It was so cold, snowy, and icy that both buyers and sellers seemed to be hibernating until the weather improved in April. Then the frenzy began, with homes coming on the market almost daily and buyers pursuing them vigorously. Bidding wars were commonplace.

In addition to the homes currently on the market, another 30 were under contract, and the sales of 25 had closed since the beginning of the year. The single-family-home market in Bronxville Village is now more balanced between sellers and buyers and is not the strong sellers' market it was just a few months ago.

The average price of homes sold year-to-date is $2,045,913, and the average price per square foot is $632.24. These figures include both freestanding homes and townhouses.

For coops, the average price of those whose sales have closed since the beginning of the year was $496,109, and the average price per square foot was $382.13. However, these numbers don't reflect the premium prices for the larger three- and four-bedroom apartments for which strong demand has driven up prices to, in several cases, over the $1MM mark. Very few condo apartments have been on the market for sale since the beginning of the year.

June is traditionally a quiet month in Bronxville Village real estate. This year, June remains busy and is expected to pick up even more once graduations and the usual June events are behind us and the drive to be settled before school resumes.

Pictured here:  Priscilla Toomey, associate broker, JD, ABR, Top5, certified EcoBroker, SRES with Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty; cell, 914-559-8084; e-mail, CLOAKING .

Photo courtesy Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty

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