February 23, 2017
I get asked a lot of questions. Tons actually.
I have no problem with questions. In fact I love questions-gives me the opportunity to be a big brain know-it-all. When I was a kid, my father called me a ham. I don’t think he was too far off. Whatever….here are some commonly asked questions asked by buyers and sellers and the most direct answers I can come up with- My answers are BOLD –
1) What will my future taxes be?
I dunno’ – I can’t see into the future.
2) Should I get a Lawyer?
Sure- IF you get a real estate lawyer 🙂
3) Should I have an inspection?
Yes- Please please do.
4) What will this condo be worth in 10 years?
Crystal ball broken- check back later.
5) Do I have to attend settlement?
Usually not. But a buyer who is getting a mortgage may have to attend.
6) Can I move in (either myself or my stuff) prior to settlement?
7) What are condo docs?
See the answer to question # 2 above.
8) Do I have to pay condo fees?
Yes. All condos have fees. All.
February 20, 2017
Scenario 1: Having the Last Word
Seller is asking $499k for a condo
Buyer and seller go back and forth on an offer and after a few days the buyer says -$480,000 is my “Highest and Best” offer for this parcel. And then seller comes back and says $480,001. Really? You really want to be a goof and say that? You are pissing the buyer off, and it will probably cost you much much more in terms of anxiety, anguish, and animosity within the transaction as you are locked into a legally binding contract with this buyer for say the next 60-90 days. Perhaps you should just zip your lip and take the freakin’ $480k instead of having to have the last word. Don’t forget, buyers still have to perform a home inspection.
Scenario 2: Can’t See the Forest For the Trees
Seller asks $499k for a condo
A condo that is a bank-owned unit that should be selling for $800k if it weren’t so dirty, missing all the appliances, and listed with Susy Bag O’ Donuts out of Erie, Pa. (it happens…bank foreclosures are often listed by those with no connection to the area). And as a buyer, you get the Big-Brain idea to come in at $400k…because after all, the market is slow, weak, and uncertain. OK….you are an idiot. If you can’t recognize such an overtly strong bargain, and see that the huge upside is the fact that the condo is grossly underpriced at $499k….then maybe you need to do a little more homework on prices and values here in Center City.
Scenario 3: Why Isn’t My Realtor Using a Magic Wand?
Sellers asks $499k for a condo
As a buyer, you top out at $480,000 and the seller will still not accept your offer. And recent “comps” suggest the seller is correct as no other unit in the building has sold for under $500k. You then turn to your Realtor and complain that you can’t get the property for $480k. And you are relentless. Even in the face of the facts. But you persist. You dump your Realtor because he or she refuses to wave their magic wand and make this deal happen. You then drive down the road, and see your Realtor Singing and Dancing in the middle of the intersection of Broad and Walnut. It happens.
Opportunity exists in all market conditions, and the current state of affairs in Center City should indeed be taken into account when negotiating the purchase or sale of any parcel in Philadelphia. But knowing when you have crossed the line and driven right into Crazy Town might be helpful when finding the perfect condo and help you negotiate the best possible and realistic terms.
February 15, 2017
What do I get for those super high %&%#)@$
I get it…everyone thinks condo fees are always higher than they should be and many folks are unclear about where their condo dollars go:
1) Master Insurance Policy – Depending on the size of your building, this cost alone can account for up to 50% of your condo fees. More spread out over larger buildings but still a huge proportion of your monthly fees.
2) Building Amenities- Pool, parking, elevators, doormen and any utilities that may be included in your condo fees like water & sewer, or maybe heat and central air. Unless of course elevators run on magic pixie dust- you are going to have to pay to keep them running smoothly and safely.
3) Upkeep and Maintenance- Of course this is the one factor that varies greatly and plays an integral part of your resale ability and resale price. You gotta’ pay to play folks- and value retention and upkeep of your common areas go hand in hand. There is no avoiding that equation.
IF YOU OWNED A SINGLE FAMILY HOME- YOU WOULD HAVE TO PAY THESE EXPENSES OUT OF YOUR OWN POCKET. THERE ARE SUCH THINGS AS
“SINGLE FAMILY HOUSE” FEES IN THIS WORLD
and buyers should know that!
February 14, 2017
Looking to just put your condo on the market and NOT actually sell it?
Here are some great tips:
1) Put a tenant in your condo who actually doesn’t want to move and therefore never cleans, never confirms an appointment, or locks the deadbolt to prevent Realtors from showing your condo. His pile of dirty socks strewn about the living room floor is a real plus as well.
2) Don’t bother to clean. The new owner can do that- right?
3) Be home and give the tour yourself. That always goes over well with a buyer and his or her agent.
4) Don’t declutter and for heaven sake- don’t stage! Because you think buyers can look past that superficial stuff.
5) Make sure you get the “last word” in on every part of the negotiating process. Forego the old rule of “bird in the hand.”
However there is one tool that you can use to overcome these obstacles- Price your condo so low that a buyer just can’t resist. All joking aside, there is a fine line between serving up bad ideas and giving your condo away. Listing your condo for sale is like negotiating any contract- there has to be some give and take on both sides. Much like any good marriage where you give 60% and take 40% and you call it a day. That is pretty much how the Real Estate world turns.
February 2, 2017
There are a number of buildings in town whose tax abatements have run their course and an even bigger pile whose abatements expire over the next few years. The net effect on resale values and demand comes into question for many buyers. Here is my opinion:
Buildings such as The Phoenix at 1600 Arch St
. and Dockside at 717 S. Columbus Blvd
. have expired abatements. Buildings like York Square, WaterFront Sq
(in the Peninsula and Regatta towers),many Naval Square units-as well as many other buildings erected here in town in the mid-2000’s are soon to expire. I have heard (though I certainly am usually not one to speak on behalf of city hall) that the tax rate for condos will be 1.34% of assessed
value when abatements expire.
If we look at the sales data from buildings whose abatement has expired over time, the net effect of an expired tax abatement is almost nil when looking at resale prices, demand and values. I have not seen any instance of value dropped solely based upon the expiration of a tax abatement. Why, you ask? Here is what I gather from my many condo buyers in town:
Lee Iococca adopted a theory he called “The Equality Of Sacrifice” – which I interpret to mean that as long as everyone is in the same boat (of an unabated tax bill) – then any fears of inequity are diminished. And I believe that to be true. FULL ten-year tax abatement offers are few and far between in town these days
…. Except for maybe the last three units at WaterFront Square in the Reef building and a smattering of smaller new construction projects here and there.
I think that buyers generally do not expect to see a “game changing” benefit from the balance of any tax abatement. The entire market is rapidly aging in the expiration of the abatements and therefore I believe that any partial abatement period is kinda’ icing on the cake. It certainly can sweeten a deal for many, but I don’t think this is the end all, be all determining factor if a buyer buys “this unit or that”. But again, it certainly does not hurt to inherit the balance of an abatement 🙂
Center City is more attractive than any abatement. We’re growing in size and popularity and the expiration of abatements and almost certainly isn’t going to keep anyone out of town or out of any specific building in town.
February 1, 2017
You’re out of your mind if you think you
are going to know who lives on your floor…
I live in a high rise and besides the elderly couple who live next door and
often ask if I can help them with miscellaneous computer issues,
I truly have no idea of anyone else’s name on my floor. And we have
been here for FIVE years.
And that is pretty much where the familiarity begins and ends.
Not that I don’t want to get to know them- I think they are all very aware
of the communal living aspect that condo living affords and seem like great people.
But unlike a suburban house with windows and a yard- there are no windows that look out onto my hallway. I have no idea who is coming or going and I rarely see them. It is not like I put a lawn chair in the hallway like Kramer from Seinfeld. So where they work, what kind of car they drive, when they leave in the morning- I don’t have a clue.
And that is OK with me.
And don’t even think of asking who lives above or below me because
I have never seen them in my life. They could be from another planet for all I know.
If I want to socialize, I will go to one of the parties or hang around the lobby and
chit chat with past clients or those I see at the dog park.
You can “blend” in a high rise if you choose, or you can be the head of the social committee. The choice is yours. But neither is mandatory.
January 30, 2017
One way to ostracize yourself fairly quickly in your new condo building would be to get on the wrong side of the staff. If you want your packages and your guests to come and go without being tortured or be put through a lengthy inquiry, then perhaps you should listen up.
Folks who live in doorman buildings quickly learn that the way to get anything done through the building is through the doorman. From allowing your guests access through the front door to helping you with you packages, a great relationship with staff can certainly make your living arrangements more enjoyable. And from fetching your car, to walking your dog- doormen can make your life easy and they often will go the extra mile for Philly condo
owners who are friendly. And being greeted with a smile each time you come home is a nice thing. Having a doorman who doesn’t like you is not a walk in the park. Believe me, I learned the hard way back in the late 1980’s by being rude and pushy. I no longer live in that building, and I now treat doormen with respect. You should too. Your life will be made much easier if you never piss off your doorman. They are great for learning of building gossip too…they seem to know everything. Oh, and tipping is generally done at the holiday season either via a pooled fund which is collected by the building, or done individually. I would suggest you get yourself a stack of $20 bills and pass them out like Halloween Candy. This is not the time or place to be stingy 🙂
January 24, 2017
Almost any Center City condominium
with a smattering of exposed brick may attempt to pass itself off as a loft. Often sought after as an expression of one’s own style, loft living has taken off in downtown Philadelphia. Lofts vary in look, layout, and location throughout Center City. Some loft condos impress mightily while others are cheap imitations of highly unique urban treasures hidden in pockets of Old City
, Bella Vista, and The Loft District
around 13th and Vine Streets.
The best example of a hard loft in Center City might be The Old Shoe Factory at 314 N. 12th St. From an unadorned cavernous lobby area, up to the eighth floor via a converted oversize warehouse lift, the units are characterized by huge windows, exposed brick, minimalist kitchens and bedrooms that are open to the living area. Fantastic city views, high ceilings and a few units with polished cement floors. Minimal at best, these condos truly tag at the definition of a live/work open space where room size is valued over room count.
A fair example of a soft loft might be BridgeView Place at 315 New St.
in Old City. With the prerequisite high ceilings and touches of exposed brick these condos have been compartmentalized to include bedrooms, walled off kitchen areas and walk-in closets. Some units at BridgeView do indeed have a loft bed perched above the living space but those units are few and far between. The conversion to condominiums in the mid 1980’s at 315 New St. is a good example of a reasonable living space with a bit of “lofty” flair.
A Center City Philadelphia loft can come in a variety of sizes, styles, and locations throughout downtown. Some more true to their “lofty roots” than others and loft living of all proportions is gaining popularity among the empty-nester set moving into town from the suburbs and elsewhere. Many of the available loft condos today didn’t exist in the early 1990’s when the very first empty nester/baby boomer began trickling into Center City. And judging from the success of many loft and loft-like sales throughout the area, buyers are finding individuality can be expressed through the (loft) style in which they choose to live.
January 18, 2017
Having sold over a dozen units in the building, I can say for certain that I am a fan of the Phoenix condos. And here is the inside skinny as I know it-
The Phoenix was an existing office building when it was converted to apartments just over fourteen years ago…say around 2002. Then around 2006, the usage was altered to be condominiums. The Phoenix performed fairly well at its introduction to the public and is fully sold out. The building has a great mix of one, two and three bedroom condos- though the 3 bed units are rare, as are a handful of studio units in the building. A fair number of one bed plus den styled units…around 1100 sq ft (the den is a bedroom, but doesn’t have any direct sunlight or windows..but the size of the den is similar to the bedroom). Values can be contingent upon which direction a condo faces, but in reality- interior condition is king. The costliest views are east and north…and resale prices are reflective of such. The building has valet parking- condo owners could have either purchased a rental license or were given the option to rent a parking spot. The tax abatement for the building expired in 2013 and I do NOT think that values have been affected in any way by that fact. The condos at the Phoenix provide direct access to the train station (you don’t have to walk outside to catch a train to say NYC). The front desk staff is very friendly and have never given me any crap….and I can see that the residents of the building like them as well. There is a Starbucks and a restaurant down the first floor corridor which is nice for owners and residents.
The building kinda’ sits close to Jefferson Medical, U of Penn and Hannemann which draws from those three crowds…almost like a “built-in resale market.” The Phoenix at 1600 Arch has the best and largest common roof deck of any condo building in Philadelphia and has lounge areas as well as a BBQ station which is nice. There is also a fairly good sized gym and conference rooms. The common areas are done nicely and retain a fair amount of their pre-war grandeur, but the interior units don’t reflect that fact. The top floor condos at the Phoenix are unique in that they preserved some of the original detail of the building and incorporated it into the condo units. The condominiums are pet friendly and I am unaware of any rental restrictions for owners.
And my clients should feel free to email me if they would like to chat with someone who lives in the building in order to get their two cents on the Phoenix condos at 1600 Arch St. I recently sold a unit to a lovely couple at the Phoenix and their condo is NOTHING short of stunning and is magazine quality (I mean you Joan).
January 16, 2017
Next Page »
I am generalizing here but you’ll get my drift…
1) When a couple get into my car- the quiet one in the backseat is usually the one making the decisions. The one in the front seat just thinks he or she is doing so.
2) I like to look for listings that say “corporate addendum” attached. This usually means the condo is owned by a non-emotional third party who is generally more motivated to sell.
3) Some of the best deals are the condos that have been on the market for a long time with continual price drops. Might signal a fatigued seller.
4) When a buyer says to me “I have to see the condo today” or “I have to buy a condo by tomorrow” – usually these are non buyers and rarely ever turn out to be a real buyer.
5) If you think that getting a mortgage from a bank where you hold a savings or checking account is a bonus- it isn’t. Ever.
6) Wall art does not magically levitate on a wall. Yes there will be nail holes in the wall when you move in. It’s just logical to assume.
7) Within a specific building, condo fees are based on the square footage. But that same square footage in any other building will result in different condo fees.
8) Most sellers don’t need to be at settlement. Most buyers do.
9) You almost always have to pay 2 months into the condo pot when you buy. You don’t get that back when you sell.
10) The old real estate saying “buyers are liars” is usually not the case. More often they just don’t know their options in terms of what is available to buy.
11) I like to look for listings that are with specific agents in town- the ones who primarily work with foreclosures and Relo properties.
12) I put up with a lot of sh*t in my job. You being late for an appointment is not one of them 🙂
13) REMEMBER ONE THING IN REAL ESTATE:
All is well that ends well. The middle part of the transaction may suck but the end result is the goal. In a month from now, you will forget what a pain in the ass this transaction has been for you. I promise.