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Priscilla Toomey: Avoiding Dangerous Assumptions in Real Estate: Part III PDF Print Email


By Priscilla R. Toomey, Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty  

Nov. 15, 2017:  This third article in the series explores dangerous assumptions you should avoid after you have received an offer.  

Dangerous Assumption #1:  Don’t assume that once you receive an offer at an acceptable price, you’re home free. An offer must also disclose the buyer’s terms: contingencies such as an inspection and a mortgage commitment, percent of cash to mortgage, a proposed closing date, and anything else you and the buyers need to agree on, and a copy of their pre-approval or proof of funds should be attached. The point is that you need to have reasonable certainty that the buyer is capable of closing the sale before you accept the offer.  

Dangerous Assumption #2:  If you are buying, don’t assume you can make your purchase contingent on the sale of your current property. Sellers in this area almost never accept that term. Figure out if you can go ahead with the purchase anyway or whether you are so sure of your financing that you can proceed regardless. 

Dangerous Assumption #3:  Don’t assume that accepting an offer but agreeing to continue to show your home won’t discourage prospective buyers from seeing it. It will have a “chilling effect,” although some buyers will come anyway.

Dangerous Assumption #4:  Don’t assume that once you have agreed on price and terms the parties are committed to the transaction. Not until there is a contract of sale signed by both buyer and seller and the buyers have submitted their deposit money (typically, 10% in this area) that your handshake is binding. Until that point, either party can change its mind without consequence.   

Dangerous Assumption #5:  Don’t assume that once you or your buyer is pre-approved either of you can change jobs. If you read the fine print in a pre-approval it will tell you that it is contingent on the status quo remaining in place. A job change during this period could jeopardize that.   

Dangerous Assumption #6:  Don’t assume that a pre-approval means you, as a buyer, are good to go ahead with the purchase. The pre-approval means that you are pre-approved. The other part of the process is that the house has to be vetted also, and this is done through the appraisal process, which is designed to protect your lender. So both you and the house need to pass muster in order for the bank to agree to make the loan, which it does by way of the mortgage commitment.   

Dangerous Assumption #7:  Don’t assume that everything will move forward as planned. Make yourself a timetable and monitor all parties to make sure they are sticking to it. It’s your money and your future at stake and you have every right to be involved and stay on top of everyone involved in your transaction. And be aware that in this area, either party can usually postpone the closing of the sale for up to 30 days without penalty, so remain flexible, make a contingency plan if there is such a delay, and stay focused on how happy you will be once the transaction closes!    

Pictured here:  Priscilla Toomey, licensed associate real estate broker, JD, ABR, Top5, certified EcoBroker, SRES with Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty, 2 Park Place, Bronxville, NY 10708; cell, 914-559-8084; email, CLOAKING .   

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

Priscilla Toomey: Avoiding Dangerous Assumptions in Real Estate: Part II PDF Print Email


By Priscilla R. Toomey, Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty

Oct. 25, 2017:  In this article, we'll explore some dangerous assumptions that real estate sellers and buyers often make – to their detriment – and how to avoid them. The assumptions below are most helpful to avoid at the time you think you are ready to put your house on the market:

Dangerous Assumption #1:  Don't assume that your home's condition will pass the buyer's inspection. Check the homeowner property disclosure statement for a list of conditions to review beforehand to make sure they are all in good working order. For example, if you have an underground oil tank, don't assume it has no leaks and don't assume a buyer will be OK with leaving it there.

Dangerous Assumption #2:  Don't assume that any work you had done that requires a permit will be accepted by a buyer if you don't have a permit for it that has been closed out. Even all-cash buyers think about what they will need to do when they eventually re-sell.

Dangerous Assumption #3:  Don't assume that there isn't anything left a stager won't suggest to make your sale easier. A stager's job is to see your house through the eyes of a buyer and make it as appealing as possible, which can make a big difference in how competitive your house is versus its competition on the market.

Dangerous Assumption #4:  Don't assume that if you decide on a high price, buyers will make offers or even come see your house. Most buyers shop by price category, say up to $XXX amount, so they don't often see higher-priced houses because they don't want to "insult" the seller. If you are a buyer, you should understand that ultimately the buyer controls the price, so start a negotiation – it's just a conversation with numbers. And study comparable recent sales so your price is as accurate as possible and so your home doesn't languish.

Dangerous Assumption #5:  Don't assume that your buyer is qualified. To make sure a buyer is qualified, the buyer's agent needs to ask of the buyer some hard questions: Are you pre-approved? Do you have at least 20% cash (or more if we're talking about a co-op and it requires more than 20%)? Do you have anything to sell or a lease that you are reluctant to break? When do you need to close?

And one additional suggestion:  Don't assume that all real estate agents are the same. Choose one with care who will provide you with sound counsel and regular feedback, and pay attention to what the feedback tells you. Once your house is on the market, it is a commodity – leave it every morning as if you have a showing. This is tiring, true, but you won't miss a showing and you will always present your house with its best foot forward.

Pictured here:  Priscilla Toomey, licensed associate real estate broker, JD, ABR, Top5, certified EcoBroker, SRES with Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty, 2 Park Place, Bronxville, NY 10708; cell, 914-559-8084; email, CLOAKING .

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

Marriott in Tuckahoe to Proceed with Construction; Concerns about Contamination Linger for Bronxville Residents PDF Print Email


By Carol P. Bartold, Senior Reporter

Oct. 18, 2017:  As construction proceeds on the Marriott Springhill Suites hotel in Tuckahoe, questions remain for Bronxville residents about how the migration of soil and groundwater contamination on the site could affect the village. The hotel, at 109-125 Marbledale Road, will sit atop the former Tuckahoe marble quarry, which ceased operations in 1930. Beginning in the 1950s, the pit was used as a commercial landfill and dump.

The $31 million, 91,000-square-foot hotel will contain 163 rooms, include a 6,400 square-foot restaurant, and provide 208 parking spaces. Remedial excavation and testing of the site was completed in early spring of 2017 and drilling work for the two hundred pilings, which will support the hotel building, is complete.

David Burke, Tuckahoe village administrator, reported that the full building permit, along with electrical and plumbing permits, were issued the week of October 9. Framing the hotel building will most likely begin when concrete work is completed. Burke projects a fall 2018 opening for the hotel.

To educate and inform the community about ongoing concerns arising from the contaminated site in Tuckahoe, the organization Greater Bronxville Indivisible sponsored a presentation by Donald J. Hughes, PhD, on October 14 at the Bronxville Public Library. An educator, chemist, environmental engineer, and principal of Hughes Environmental Consulting Services in Syracuse, New York, Hughes has thoroughly assessed the known environmental hazards of the former quarry site and offered extensive public testimony on its known contaminants and risks.

Known contaminants at the location, per Hughes, include ash and other burned debris from the Eastchester municipal incinerator, Freon from Revlon, and pharmaceuticals and manufacturing byproducts from Burroughs-Wellcome. He also stated that the Village of Bronxville dumped waste at the site.

Although remedial cleanup work on the site is complete, Hughes emphasized that the very general term "cleanup" does not necessarily mean that the site has been cleaned up. "Remedial cleanup means anything that is done to help fix the site," he said. "It doesn't necessarily mean addressing the contamination." He added that fencing off a site and telling people to stay away is considered remedial cleanup.

"Although the quarry was largely ignored for more than fifty years, there are some very dangerous contaminants there," Hughes said.

He reported that very high levels of soil vapors, particularly from perchloroethylene (PCE), a chlorinated solvent, and trichloroethylene (TCE), a solvent used to degrease metal parts and in the manufacture of other chemicals, were found in the former quarry area. These volatile organic compounds vaporize quickly into the air, he said.

PCE and TCE, as well as metals, hydrocarbons, and vinyl chloride, have contaminated two aquifers, a shallow one and one at bedrock level, in the quarry area, Hughes noted. He explained that contaminated groundwater can get into sewer lines and that the substances have possibly been moving very rapidly with the groundwater since the 1950s.

Bronxville resident Betsy Harding pointed out that that the groundwater flow from Marbledale Road proceeds in a general southwesterly direction through the Midland Valley and through Bronxville to the Bronx River. "The only testing I know of is the very limited testing."

Next steps recommended for Bronxville are to identify sources and levels of vapor and water contamination and determine if sewers and underground utilities serve as conduits for volatile organic compounds.

Photo by A. Warner

Real Estate Market Report for Third Quarter Shows Mixed Results in Westchester County PDF Print Email


By Dean Bender, for Houlihan Lawrence

Oct. 18, 2017:   The third quarter saw mixed results for the Westchester real estate market, with some communities, notably Yonkers and White Plains, seeing significant sales growth, while others experiencing declines.

The number of single-family home sales in Westchester declined 5.5 percent, from 2,111 in Q3 of 2016 to 1,995 in Q3 of 2017. The median sale price for single-family homes in Westchester rose 1.8 percent to $680,000. 

The Westchester luxury market ($2 million and higher) remained steady but is showing signs of softening, with a 13.5 percent drop in the number of sales. Yet the median price went up 5 percent, to $2,625,000.

Low inventory in Westchester:  Low inventory, especially for the more affordable "starter homes," continues to be a problem in Westchester. For homes priced under $500,000 in Westchester, there was a 25.1 percent drop in the number of active listings (686 in Q3 2016, compared to 514 in 2017).

Westchester's highest sale of the quarter in Bronxville:  Westchester's highest sale of the quarter was a 1927 brick Georgian at 11 Eastway in Bronxville. This is also the highest sale of the year in Bronxville. Houlihan Lawrence agents handled both sides of the sale, with Susan Kelty Law representing the seller and Sheila Stoltz, the buyer. 

Strong sales numbers in Yonkers and White Plains:  Some areas of Westchester had particularly good sales numbers for this quarter compared to the same period last year. In Yonkers, the number of sales of single-family homes rose 13 percent and in White Plains, they went up 19 percent.

Mixed bag for local school districts:  Certain school districts also had strong numbers, with the number of homes sold going up 13 percent in Ardsley, 14 percent in both Rye City and Eastchester, and 27 percent in Briarcliff Manor. But the numbers of sales dropped 23 percent in Somers, 21 percent in Lakeland, and 19 percent in both the Dobbs Ferry and Katonah-Lewisboro districts.

Condo prices rise:  The Westchester condo market remained steady, with 405 sales recorded this quarter compared to 404 in Q3 of 2016. The median condo sale price in the county rose 4.3 percent, to $385,000. The Westchester co-op market fared better, with the number of sales going up 10.1 percent; the median price rose slightly, to $165,000.

Buyers seeking value in Putnam:  In Putnam, the median price remained steady at $340,000, but overall home sales dropped 11 percent. Low inventory is a problem here, too, with a 15 percent dip in the number of active listings and a 15.8 percent decline in pending sales.

Surge in Poughkeepsie and East Fishkill: In Dutchess, single-family home sales rose 2.5 percent and the median price went up 7 percent, to $269,950. The number of active listings dropped 9.2 percent. Highlights in Dutchess include a 24 percent increase in the number of sales in the Town of Poughkeepsie and an 11 percent rise in East Fishkill.

Pictured here:  Bronxville office of Houlihan Lawrence.

Photo by A. Warner

Kensington Road Garage Opens to Merchants, Resident Commuters, and the Public PDF Print Email


By Carol P. Bartold, Senior Reporter                      

Oct. 4, 2017:  Almost three years to the day after excavation began on the site of Villa BXV and the Kensington Road garage, the upper level of the garage is open for parking, and the first of the north building's units have been inspected and issued certificates of occupancy.

Village Administrator Jim Palmer reports that, according to the construction agreement between the village and Gateway Development Group, Inc., the developer, 203 parking spaces on the garage's upper and lower levels are allocated to the village. To date, he said, 55 of those spaces have been designated for merchants, 55 for resident commuter permit holders, 30 for the public, all on the upper level, and 63 spaces for 24-hour resident permit holders on the lower level. Parking space allocation between merchants and residents will be somewhat fluid, he said, based on demand.

"The garage's public spaces are already freeing up spaces in the Garden Avenue lot," Palmer said, "and the feedback from merchants about that is positive." He anticipates that more commuter spaces will begin to be available in the Kraft Avenue lot.

Parking spaces on the lower level for 24-hour resident permit holders will come online over the winter. These permit holders were displaced from the lower Kensington parking lot when excavation for Villa BXV began. They were relocated to on-street parking for the duration of construction. Palmer noted that contractors are still using the lower level, so, for the time being, it is somewhat of a construction area.


Palmer estimates that the garage, when in full operation, will generate approximately $285,000 in revenues annually. He reported that the maintenance agreement for the garage, which stipulates responsibilities between the village and what will become the homeowners' association, was finalized last week.

Surveillance cameras have been installed, which allow the Bronxville Police Department to monitor the garage 24 hours a day. The garage will not be locked overnight.

Most of the residential units on the north wing's first and second floors have received final inspections. Several first-floor units have been issued certificates of occupancy and could close the week of October 9. Palmer anticipates that certificates of occupancy for some second-floor units could be issued the week of October 9.

Units in the south wing, where construction crews are still working on unit interiors, should be ready for inspection and occupancy over the course of the winter.

Based on the village assessor's early estimates, the full market value of the Villa BXV property stands at $47.5 million, which translates to approximately $746,000 in village and school property taxes. Palmer stated that the assessor would revalue the property in January of 2018.

The last phase of construction, which the village is still finalizing, includes the resurfacing of Kensington Road, new curbing and sidewalks on the east side of the street, and new parking to be installed on both sides of the street.

Pictured here: Top: Villa BXV; in text: entrance to the garage on Kensington Road.

Photos by N. Bower

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