Well now I’ve heard it all. I mean, I’ve always known that oral sex was illegal in several states, and I was not surprised when the Texas Board of Education erased Thomas Jefferson from their textbooks, but this morning I learned that in New York City it is illegal for more than three unrelated people to live together in an apartment or a house! Don’t believe me? Here’s this morning’s NY Times article:
Here’s a quick anecdote from one of my clients:
I think you’ll get a kick out of this. We are refinancing our home through a mortgage broker that shall remain anonymous. Among the mountain of paperwork they asked for, we were asked to provide our most recent bank statement. It had to be an official bank statement with the full account number (like the ones the bank sends monthly) not a download from online banking. So we sent them our February 2010 bank statement. It was rejected…want to guess why? February only has 28 days and the mortgage broker insisted on 30!
Anyway, just wanted to send this your way. We still love our apartment!
Fig 1-5, An unidentified broker documents his time at a recent open house.
Pssssst. Hey you. Yeah you: Mr. Buyer. Want to know a secret? Come over here. A little closer. Closer. Clooooser. Now listen carefully. We are not very busy. No- scratch that, we are not busy at all…OK, it’s dead out here. August is always dead. Really dead. Our open houses are poorly attended. Our blackberries aren’t buzzing. Our sales figures are down. Our sellers are not happy, so we are not happy. Our sellers are worried. We are worried. Our sellers want to make a deal. We want to make a deal.
Are you still listening? This is an opportunity for you. Here’s a suggestion: this year, why don’t you and your brethren close up the beach house early and, instead go shopping for a real estate bargain?
Here’s another secret: about two weeks after Labor Day, everything changes. Things pick-up, office phones ring, websites get hits. More of you go to our open houses. More of you make offers. And more of you actually purchase a home. How do I know? Just like August is always slow, September is always better.
So make a deal while you can – the Brooklyn Real Estate Sale ends September 14th!
The author demonstrates the Take Five method
People often solicit my opinion about a given neighborhood. “Is it safe?”,they ask. “How is the area? What are the locals like?”, etcetera, etcetera,… I flat out try to evade these questions and I have my reasons. For one, I’m very fond of the neighborhoods I work in and don’t feel capable of answering objectively (It would be like bad-mouthing a family member to an outsider). For two, other than the number of times I’ve been fleeced by the Department of Finance (see How to Park It), I don’t worry all that much about crime in my neck of the woods. And three, the locals question? I don’t even want to know what people are getting at there. So I don’t answer any of these questions. But this is what I do say. I say, “because everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to these things, you need to explore the neighborhood yourself. That means more than just a cursory look. You need to take five extra minutes with some of the residents and get to know them. Doesn’t matter how you do it, but you need to engage a few locals. Ask for directions or the best place to get coffee. Say good morning or good afternoon. Whatever it is, just talk to people. If you do this, I guarantee, that if you really do this, you will see the neighborhood and you will see the entire city of NY in a very different light.”
I can hear the collective moan coming over the big T1 line in the blogosphere. You are out of your mind Jim. This is New York City! You can’t just talk to people on the street. You’ll scare them, or they’ll be suspicious, or they’ll get mad. My experience has taught me otherwise. When I first started exploring Crown Heights, I would stop random people on the street and ask them what they were paying for rent. If anyone asked why, I would simply say that I was thinking of buying a three family building in the neighborhood and wanted to know what I could lease the apartments for. And you know what? People talked to me. They were friendly. They were nice. They were very helpful. I even got invited into someone’s apartment to have a look. I couldn’t believe it either, but I learned a valuable lesson about my city. Nowadays, I almost always say hello, good morning, and good afternoon and my neighbors usually say it back.
So you want to know about a neighborhood? Take five extra minutes and get to know its residents. Thanks for reading, Jim.