Kelly Kreth

Sales in the City – How to Prepare Your Home for the Change in Season

Brrr! As winter’s chill slowly comes upon us, just as we collectively unearth our favorite sweaters and sip pumpkin-flavored beverages, we should also cozy up our apartments. Here are some tips we’ve garnered from design, staging and sales experts on how to warm up your home without sacrificing the chic!

Anjie Cho, Architect and Interior Designer, Holistic Spaces
Cathy Hobbs, Interior Designer, Cathy Hobbs Design Recipes
Cristina Dos Santos, Interior Designer, Cristina Dos Santos LLC
George Case, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson, Citi Habitats



Winter Greening

According to Anjie Cho, architect and feng shui interior designer, one should pay close attention to respecting the environment and conserving energy (and money), even before aesthetics. She suggests removing your air conditioner because air infiltrates through its vents; if it is impossible to remove it or if storage is a big problem, fit the vent with a fabric cover that can easily be found in a hardware store. Do not use plastic, as it is not breathable and may cause condensation, which can damage your appliance. “Heavy drapes will also help to keep the cold air out and heat in,” Cho advises. “Weather sealing on doors or getting a door sweep (or even putting a heavy towel at the bottom of the door) will block the gap, preventing cold air from getting in.” “Don’t forget about your foliage!” Cho adds. As it gets colder it is a good time to move plants from window sills or outdoor spaces. “The extreme difference between temperatures can kill your house plants. Instead, move greenery a foot or two from the sills or doors, or get an indoor grow light set on a timer for the colder months.”

Speaking of plants, George Case, a licensed real estate salesperson at Citi Habitats, suggests getting floral arrangements of seasonal offerings to help bring the outside in. Think tall branches, evergreens, eucalyptus. The smell will be amazing and conjure up images of the holidays.

Designer and stager Cathy Hobbs of Cathy Hobbs Design Recipes agrees, “Why not brighten up your décor by placing cut flower stems in colored bottles or short jelly or canning jars?” She adds that potted succulents– plants having some parts that are more than normally thickened and fleshy, usually to retain water, such as cacti– can be a nice alternative to leaves and foliage.

“Succulents are quite hardy. I especially love them because they last a long time and don’t require a lot of care. They are not only beautiful, but they look fabulous in everything from rubbed terra cotta pots to glass vessels filled with stones and moss.”

Yule Log

Once your environmental concerns are addressed, it is time to focus on the visual and tactile warmth of your space. If one is lucky enough to have a fireplace—either decorative or woodburning— a stack of fresh-cut birch logs “creates a narrative— bringing to mind cozy nights around a fire—and will be the visual focal point of your room,” explains Case.

Let There Be Light

Ambient lighting is important as the days grow shorter and darker. Adding low-key fill light—ancillary lighting that fills in where primary lights cannot – will not only highlight areas of the home that may get ‘lost in the shadows,’ but it’s a good way to romance a space on a grey, chilly day,” adds Case.

Seasonal Scents

Scents play a big role in the energy of one’s space. “I love introducing vanilla-based diffusers or candles with Bordeaux or fig notes into a home during the colder months,” says Cristina Dos Santos, an interior designer in NYC. With the prevalence of wool garb and textiles during the coldweather season, it is important to use cedar hangers, closet or trunks to prevent damage from moths. The added plus? That great scent permeating through the home on a cold day, conjuring up thoughts of brisk jaunts in the snow-covered woods.

Textural Healing

Thin, gauzy or flimsy bedding and curtains, be gone! “Winter is all about thick knits, fur, and wool styles,” says Dos Santos. “Exchange summer pillows and throws for rich and warm fabrics.”

“Interesting decorative pillows made from colorful scarves in gorgeous, fun, winter prints make for an affordable fabric choice when it comes to throw pillows,” says Hobbs.

She adds, “One of my favorite patterns right now is toile. Toile originated in France and typically depicts a scene or a story. Many toile fabrics also come in a myriad of colors (including warm colors like reds and oranges) and in some cases can even be reflective of a particular season.”

Hobbs sings the praises of velvet as well, whether cut or crushed. “I not only love the look and feel of velvet but also the versatility and richness of the fabric.”

Hazy Shade of Winter:
The Dos and Don’ts of Color

Christina Dos Santos says color is a major way to modify an apartment’s look for the change in season. “Add deep/bold colors to enrich your space. Changing your accessories to deep charcoals or earth tones brings warmth and comfort to your home.” Here are some easy and quick ways to update your home for the cold-weather season that don’t require a major commitment and can be easily updated every season–all according to Cathy Hobbs.

• Do consider using neutrals such as black, white, charcoal, gray or beige and accent them with a “bold color.”
• Do select a signature bold accent piece and build a color palette around it.
• Do consider an accent wall if you’re afraid to commit to a strong accent color in the entire room. You will probably want to change your colors somewhat for spring again.
• Do bring color into your décor through accent pieces such as artwork and accessories.

• Don’t just tie yourself into one shade of a bold color; consider tints and tones of the same color.
• Don’t use colors that are too grayed down or muted.
• Don’t use colors that are too warm in small rooms; it can make a room look smaller.
• Don’t paint your ceiling a color; it will automatically close in a space.

Sales in the City – Fall 2013

The residential sales market traditionally heats up after Labor Day, and because this year our Summer selling season was just as active as Fall usually is, firms are gearing up for a wild ride.

We interviewed four NYC real estate experts to get the lowdown on what buyers, sellers and agents can expect.

Michael Signet, Executive Director of Sales, BOND New York
Susan Abrams, Senior Managing Director, Warburg Realty
Edan Pinkas , Friedberg Pinkas PLLC
Douglas Heddings, President, Heddings Property Group

What should an agent, buyer and seller be doing to prep for Fall?


Signet: Fall is typically the busiest time of year. Agent preparation would include doing extra networking and more marketing, such as soliciting buildings they’ve done business in before and sending out line letters for the buyers that have not found their dream home yet. Sellers should take some time this summer to stage their apartment, put a fresh coat of paint on the walls and get rid of any clutter they may have.

Abrams: Sellers should use the summer to wash windows and make any necessary repairs to their property and they should also have a conversation with their accountant and attorney about closing costs and taxes incurred in connection with a sale. Buyers should interview and select a buyer’s broker. A good broker will help a buyer navigate the process, understand the nuances in neighborhoods, price ranges, pre-wars, post-wars, co-ops and condominiums and prepare a buyer for the condo or co-op board application process. A buyer should also pre-qualify for a loan and have their financial information in order. Agents should be thinking about what properties will be coming on the market in the Fall, what new developments are coming to market and what properties that have lingered on the market may be ripe for negotiations and price reductions.

Heddings: My best advice to everyone regarding the early fall market is that it is never as active as people anticipate it to be. In NYC, summer continues through September and combined with the Jewish holidays it generally means that inventory doesn’t pick up until mid-October. Likewise, the number of buyers doesn’t increase until about the same time.

What do you expect for Fall in terms of sales?

Signet: We normally expect the Fall season to be the busiest of the year. As sellers return from summer vacation, more inventory comes to market, which in turn brings out more buyers that have run out of things to see and have been waiting. This year I expect the Fall selling season to be all of this but on steroids. We have predicted that there are currently six real buyers for every property and the multiple bid scenarios that have become common place prove this prediction. So, as more and more home owners that have been watching prices rise decide that now is a good time to cash out, more inventory will appear and more deals will get done.

Pinkas: I expect all facets of the real estate market (both the high-end market and regular market) to pick up where it left off in July and to really pick up steam. This will lead to many people trying to close before year end.
Abrams: . Inventory is at historic lows, especially in the two and three bedroom markets. As such prices will continue to be steady and may even rise due to low inventory in many sub markets. Properties that are priced right will experience competitive bidding.

Heddings: The Fall should be interesting based on what the economy is looking like and where mortgage rates are at the time. Any significant pop in rates will create even more of a buying frenzy (it always does) and with inventory still low we could see further price appreciation. If there is no viable threat of rates rising, the market will remain on an upward trajectory due to the continued inventory shortage.

What factors are coming into play when getting sales done this autumn?

Signet: The rules and procedures don’t change from season to season. Buyers need to have their pre- approval letters ready, their financial statements filled out and their real estate attorney in place.
Sellers, on the other hand, need to price their property correctly. Even though the market is hot, buyers are more educated now than ever and overpriced property will just sit and get stale.

Pinkas: Now that summer is over and people are back from vacation I expect contracts and closing to start happening at a faster clip.

Abrams: The biggest challenge in the fall will be inventory, especially in certain markets. Most of the new construction coming to market is serving the very high-end of the market. The very wealthy seeking new construction will have more options. It will continue to be a challenge to find properties in the $1-4 million dollar range that meet buyers’ requirements.

Heddings: DUCKS IN A ROW! To compete in the Fall market, buyers will have to make sure that they can present a clear, accurate and positive picture of their finances including pre-approval for a mortgage when submitting a bid. Sellers need to work with someone who has a reputation for solid and accurate pricing strategy.

What neighborhoods may have the most and least sales traffic and why?

Signet: The most sales happen where there is the most inventory, so right now: Upper East Side, Midtown East, Midtown West and Chelsea. Trendier neighborhoods such as Soho, Tribeca and the West Village where there is very limited inventory will see the biggest spike in prices, but the fewest number of transactions.

Pinkas: I think areas that do not have much new development or conversion going on will stall slightly in sales traffic and one such neighborhood is the East Village.

Abrams: Today almost all neighborhoods are desirable. Traffic is strong on the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, all over downtown, Harlem, prime Brownstone Brooklyn and Williamsburg. The fact that homes are priced at $1.5 million in Bedford Stuyvesant is proof that neighborhood boundaries have virtually disappeared.
Due to the construction of the Second Avenue Subway, sales traffic is not as brisk along York, First and Second Avenue. However, the neighborhood is changing. The Second Avenue subway is bringing transportation and an influx of new and interesting retail to the area. This location is one to watch and I predict home prices will increase.

Heddings: The Upper West Side should remain consistently sought-after because of the demographics, proximity to parks, schools and transportation. I doubt we will see any immediate stalls in sales anywhere barring a spike in interest rates or a major political or world event.

Sales STORIES in the City

Top producers across NYC share some of their favorite sales stories.

NICK JABBOUR, CRS, Nest Seekers International

I was with a longtime client viewing a $7 million boutique condo conversion on the Upper East Side. My client, a hedge funder, had come on his lunch break and was in full suit, as was I.

The project was under construction and had plywood and fencing on the front. We went upstairs to view the penthouse, and during the time that we were there the construction crew finished up for the day, locking the fence and plywood gate from the outside with a chain and padlock. We went to leave and found that we were, in fact, locked inside.

The selling broker made frantic attempts to reach the foreman, but with no luck. After about 30 minutes, someone did come by with what they believed was the key, but it wasn’t the right one. Tensions growing higher, with the need for the client and I to return to work, we began to look around for things we could use to get over this eight-foot fence.

Finally, the client and I began assembling a teetering staircase of sorts, composed of bags of concrete, a toolbox, two buckets, and cinderblocks made it to a point that we were able to straddle the fence (again, both in suits) and launch ourselves onto the ground. We both landed feet first, luckily, and took off, leaving the selling broker to figure out what to do on his own.

Needless to say, this property wasn’t the one.

Susan Holman, AKAM

A number of years ago, I was selling a two-bedroom in a Lenox Hill high-rise co-op. The owner was a European avante-garde sculptor who lived in Germany, and the place showed like a dungeon even with bright sunlight coming through. The whole interior was comprised of trendy black spray painted pieces of furniture that looked like they were used for submission and domination play. It was hilarious to see how varied the clients’ reactions were. Some were so polite they pretended the furnishings weren’t there; others laughed and pondered why they were in this apartment at all.  In reality, it was an art installation and it achieved its purpose of shocking everyone who saw it. Ironically, the apartment sold for asking price to a very reserved young couple that completely gut renovated it. They saw beyond the unusual décor and pretended it was not there.  Talk about a makeover! This apartment totally transformed into a gracious Upper East Side sprawling abode with not a single remnant of what was before.

Here’s another:

I worked with a woman who wanted a pied a terre with a view for her dog, a poodle named Puffy. Their price range started at around $4 million.  We searched high and low and the dog would literally start barking loudly when it liked the view! We must have looked at 70 apartments and Puffy would bark when a view made her happy.  She even signaled to the owner when she was done and wanted to go home. Everyone in the office said I would never close this sale because the poodle–a miniature poodle, no less–would be so fussy and impossible to please. Apparently Puffy had great taste and proved them wrong; they ended up raising their budget from $4m to $9.6m and finally settled on a cool sprawling West Village loft with a stellar view of the Manhattan from the big bay window, including stellar Hudson River views from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Nataliya Fullerton, City Connections Realty

“While I was doing onsite sales for a Brooklyn Heights development, I was walling an apartment that was a $3.5m 3400sf duplex in a beautiful converted garage building with doorman and private resident indoor parking.

A family that was not yet working with a broker owned a condo in a new development in DUMBO and were looking for more space. Apparently their hardwood floors warped shortly after they moved in and it was such a hassle to get the developer to replace them that their main priority was to ensure this did not happen again.

At our open house, the whole family walked over to a corner of the room, took off their shoes and socks, and started to slowly trace the floor with their feet, looking for imperfections. If one of them thought something was off, they would bounce over the spot a few times. It was quite comical. Luckily it was a fairly quiet open house!

In the end, they actually really liked the floors but the layout of the unit did not work for them. ”

Michelle Sedlitz, Citi Habitats

“I had a lovely couple from London looking to buy a pied a terre in NYC.  The husband was ADAMANT about not buying in Murray Hill.  He only wanted to live on the Upper East Side and would not consider anything else.  He told me that he just hates everything about Murray Hill.  It doesn’t offer the elegance that the Upper East Side offers.  The element of people is different as well.  I think I remember him saying that it was more of a working neighborhood than a residential neighborhood.  What was really ironic about this story, is that we communicated for a few months and he would repeatedly remind me of his thoughts of Murray Hill.

Yes when we visited our last scheduled appointment, while in the cab, a broker called me and asked if I had any customers for a listing she was marketing at 45 Park Avenue.  I said that I didn’t at the moment but that I couldn’t talk then because I was with clients.    She told me to bring them by.  I told my customers that it was worth seeing being that was their first day looking. I also explained that although it is in Murray Hill, and I know he doesn’t want that location, it will give him more insight as to the market.   He agreed.

As we’re riding, I heard a gasp from the back seat.  His wife said ‘Don’t mind him.  He always gets like that when he sees the Chrysler bldg.  He loves that bldg!’

He said ‘It lets me know that I’m in NYC, which I love!’

I gave them a bit of information about the apartment: It is a 970 sq. ft. one-bedroom, 1.5 bath condo built in 2006 priced at $1.8m. I explained it is located on the 21st floor of the building.

We arrived at 45 Park and we all gasped!  The central view from the living room windows was a panoramic picture of the Chrysler Building!

They bought the apartment!


Kelly Kreth

Kelly Kreth

Every few issues, top producers across NYC share some of their favorite sales stories with us, so we can share them with you.

If you’re an agent and would like to share something, feel free to contact us via our editorial page.



Sales in the City – Summer 2013

The residential sales market traditionally cools just after Memorial Day and then picks up again after Labor Day, but apparently this year, with a market this bright, one has to wear shades.  We interviewed four NYC real estate experts to get the lowdown on what buyers, sellers and agents can expect during this summer selling season and how all can prepare for the upcoming fall.

Michael Signet, Executive Director of Sales, BOND New York
Susan Abrams, Senior Managing Director, Warburg Realty
Edan Pinkas , Friedberg Pinkas PLLC
Douglas Heddings, President, Heddings Property Group


What are you seeing in the market as we head towards the summer selling season?

Signet:  The state of the market as we head into June is “frenzied.” At BOND we are currently doing 40% more sales transactions than we did in the Spring of 2012. Our fees are up dramatically; our average sale price has doubled and we are getting almost every accepted offer into contract. The most noteworthy part of this equation is the number of different agents that are participating in the feast. Naturally the top-producing agents in each of our offices continue to impress, but the real indication of an unusually hot summer sales market is the number of deals being done by agents doing their first and second transactions. BOND is also listing more properties than ever—and continuing to get new exclusives even as the temperatures rise and sellers traditionally want to wait until the fall. Open houses continue to be very busy, multiple bids continue to be the norm and all-cash buyers are heading to the front of the line. With everyone talking about lack of inventory, our new listings are not sitting on the market for very long. While the summer is typically a slower time of year for sales, I see no slow down in our future anytime soon.

Pinkas: I (along with my colleagues that have similar practices to mine) always hear that the summer market is “slow,” but for the last three years that could not be further from the truth. For starters, my firm has traditionally had the three busiest months of the year in terms of new transactions and closings during June, July and August.  This year is no exception and judging by the month of May so far it seems like it may be even busier than normal.

Heddings:  The most telling statistic for Heddings Property Group is that we are on pace to do more sales volume in our Manhattan office alone than we did all of last year in Manhattan, Hamptons, Westchester, Greenwich and Rockland combined.  We have also had a three-month run of properties selling in 1-4 days at prices over the asking price that have shocked both us and our sellers. My agents and many of my colleagues have shared anecdotes of properties with 6 or more bids and after all settles, it is the 4th or 5th offer that ends up going to contract.  Emotions are running high. I believe that this year’s summer market will provide more of what we have seen in 2013 thus far with the exception of the rampant bidding war scenario in which we are currently experiencing. Mortgage rates will remain low and inventory will likely shrink further after a slight pop this spring. Sales volume should remain steady to slightly lower through the summer.


What should buyers, sellers and agents be doing to prepare to compete in this market?

Signet: Because there are no indications that the market will cool as we head towards the solstice, buyers should get a pre-approval from a lender, have a real estate attorney in place and have a REBNY financial statement filled out and liquid assets ready at a local bank. Agents should take this time to preview properties for their buyers. Wasting time showing properties that don’t meet buyers’ criteria makes no sense. Agents should thoroughly know the summer inventory.

Pinkas: Because people do tend to vacation in the summer months, it is prudent for agents, buyers and sellers to speak with their attorneys in order for the attorneys to obtain power of attorney from their clients (this enables them to close transactions on their client’s behalf when they are away). One warning that I can give is that it can take co-op purchases much longer to close in the summer months since members of the Board are away on vacation (instead of the normal 60 day closing it can take upwards of 90 days very often).

Abrams: Agents, buyers and sellers should prepare for the summer sales season just as they do for the other seasons because this summer things are not slowing down. Sellers and their agents should price properties within realistic ranges by carefully analyzing the recent sales history of similar-type apartments. Overpriced properties rarely attract bids in any season. Agents should educate both buyers and sellers on the process, what to expect and manage expectations along the way. Sellers should streamline and edit their properties of clutter and make any necessary repairs before marketing their properties for sale.

Heddings: Buckle in!  In all seriousness, with the exception of the bust years (2008ish-2010), the local Manhattan real estate market doesn’t seasonally slow down as a whole. There is typically less activity with larger family-style apartments because parents want children to be relocated prior to the start of the school year.  The one, two and even three bedroom properties – particularly condo units that attract both foreign and domestic investors – continue to sell over the summer.   Sellers, particularly those who own properties with “special” private outdoor spaces need to make sure that the space looks its best and is marketed during the time when most people would be interested in those outdoor spaces.


What benefits might there be to listing and selling in the summer?

Signet: With the lack of inventory we are currently experiencing, I believe the summer is as good of a time as any for sellers to list. New properties coming to market have been inundated with buyers and their brokers in the hopes of doing a deal prior to the ‘word getting out.’

Pinkas:  People tend to be in better moods and more likely to go shopping for apartments when the weather is nice. A bright, sunny day always makes a difference!

Abrams: The benefits of listing and buying in the summer are that sellers and buyers who are active during the summer season tend to be serious.  During other seasons both sellers and buyers can be testing the market; going to brunch and visiting an open house on a beautiful fall Sunday may be a hobby, but during the summer it is a serious endeavor. Buyers who are pounding the pavement in 90 degree weather and sellers who decide to market their property during the summer months want to make a deal. Since there is typically less property on the market in the summer, a seller will have less competition; buyers will also have less competition and may be able to negotiate more favorable terms.


 What neighborhoods are getting the most traffic?

Pinkas: I am seeing the downtown market (below 14th street) – specifically SOHO and Tribeca – have a huge increase in transactions and in price point.

Abrams: New York has become a city where virtually all neighborhoods are getting traffic. There are no longer unacceptable areas in which to live. Open houses have been crowded on the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, all over Downtown, Harlem and Brooklyn.  We expect more luxury new development condominiums to come to market in Tribeca than we have seen in a long time. Most of this product, however, will be in the luxury price range, so it won’t be appropriate for other market segments.

Heddings: Upper West Side is off the hook!