Ryan Serhant Nest Seekers International, Executive Vice President
Gary Malin Citi Habitats, President
Douglas Heddings The Heddings Property Group, President
David Maundrell aptsandlofts.com, President
1 What types of marketing strategies are you planning for the Fall?
Malin: Citi Habitats recently underwent a complete rebranding initiative. We changed our logo, our tagline and mission statement, and are currently undergoing a gut renovation of many of our branch offices. As a result of these big changes, we are taking a multi-faceted approach to marketing this fall. We have purchased billboard space around the city, and will be doing some print advertising. However, the bulk of our advertising expenditure will go to online initiatives. It’s simply where the clientele is. Over 80% of home seekers begin their search online, so it makes sense to have a large presence there.
Heddings :Informative agent newsletters – including regular, real-time market updates and events for both buyers and sellers – are on our agenda. Of course, Heddings Property Group’s social media activity will remain prominent aspect of our marketing campaign.
Serhant: For starters, we are giving away about 1000 pumpkins out of our office on Reade Street on October 13th. There are a lot of families in Tribeca so we try to be as kid friendly of an office as possible (the whole office is a mural of the cities of the world with fun things for kids to find). We are also pushing out a large advertising campaign surrounding our recent successes with record prices per square foot in certain buildings. The market is incredibly active, and success begets success.
Maundrell: SEO and email marketing are two marketing tools of prominence for us as we continue to build the aptsandlofts.com brand. These tools are exciting because of the low cost / high results. We are also expanding our presence on Facebook as well as opening a second office in Cobble Hill Brooklyn this Fall to increase our storefront presence.
2 I believe that it is very important that consumers understand how they are being represented in a transaction. What do you do to insure this? Do you use the Agency Disclosure Form to accomplish this?
Heddings : First of all, it is imperative to explain the Agency Disclosure Form and what it means specifically for a buyer or seller. It is at this point that we explain our fiduciary responsibility and our allegiance to parties in a transaction. However, at Heddings Property Group, we believe that, following this discussion, our actions are just as important – if not more important – than the words on the disclosure form. Our actions are inspired by our clients’/customers’ best interests, and it is important to establish trust and make clear that we strive to put their desires before our own.
Serhant: We always use Agency Disclosure forms. We have to by law.
Malin: Clients are required to read and sign the agency disclosure form by New York State law, and I think it does a pretty effective job explaining whose interests a broker represents. Clarity is a very important component of our business, and we pride ourselves in our dedication to customer service. Our training program is rigorous and the most comprehensive in the industry. Our brokers are trained to always exceed expectations for their clients, regardless if they are a landlord, renter, buyer or seller.
Maundrell: It is always a priority that aptsandlofts.com agents always follow all NYS Guidelines. However, it is also extremely important that buyers / renters are fully aware of who is representing them. I think the law that went into place last year enforces that agents fully explain who they are representing early enough in the process that there should not be any confusion. We have implemented many checks and balances internally to ensure the Agency Disclosure Forms are signed, but the key will always be training the agents.
3 It seems that many new developments are being brought to market after a lengthy time of inactivity. Are you finding this? Are you working on any new projects?
Maundrell: aptsandlofts.com is bringing several new condominium projects to the market between now and the end of the year. Most of these projects are smaller boutique developments, which buyers really are gravitating toward these days. This fall we are seeing an average of nearly 300 people attending our Grand Opening parties for condominiums and we expect that trend to continue for our upcoming developments in Greenpoint and Williamsburg.
Serhant: Financing is easier now, for developers and end users, so we’re seeing projects come back to life. We’re actively working with a few developers to get projects off the ground. The market is in need of new inventory. It’s dead out there.
Heddings : There aren’t enough new projects to even make a dent in the dearth of inventory. We need supply! One57 is great for the billionaires and those of us who are fortunate enough to sell there, but ask the Upper West Side couple how their search for a Classic 7 is going and they will surely weep as they explain the lack of properties from which to choose.
Malin: Market conditions in both the city’s rental and sales markets have improved over the last few quarters. Projects that have been dormant are now ripe for completion, given the public’s demand for new housing options. The entire far West Side is poised for an incredible revitalization with the massive Hudson Yards project, and the Queens waterfront in Long Island City will be completely transformed with new residential towers in the next decade. Don’t forget about the area surrounding the Barclays Center, it’s another hot spot for new development – both residential and commercial.
The outer boroughs are hot. Manhattan has an “overflow” effect, meaning when people get priced off the island, they look for alternatives, generally along main transit routes. As a result, many neighborhoods in the outer boroughs – for example, Astoria, Queens and Bushwick, Brooklyn, are seeing a surge in new residents.
CHMG, our new development marketing arm, is currently leasing a variety of projects, most notably, the New York by Gehry tower at 8 Spruce Street in Manhattan. It’s the tallest residential building in North America, and has been attracting new residents from all over the world. We’re currently 87% leased. We also just bought to market the first phase of a 2 building complex at 11-15 Broadway in Astoria. In addition we recently re-launched a building on East 28th Street called The Grayson after a complete gut-renovation. It looks spectacular.
4 As the sales market is heating up, how are you finding the rental market?
Serhant: The rental market is trading higher than we’ve ever seen it, which in turn creates a more active investor buying market.
Maundrell: The aptsandlofts.com team is finding that the rental market is as hot as ever and could realistically be a record year again. We have seen rents rising approximately 10% annually for the past 3 years.
Heddings : The strong rental market coupled with low vacancy rates is fueling the sales market. In many instances, it is once again cheaper to buy than it is to rent. Interest rates remain at historic lows, the NYC real estate market remains a perceived safe haven for foreign money and buyers in general are attracted to NYC for all that it has to offer. Let’s also not forget how livable this city has become with low crime, more green spaces, excellent schools, cultural events, and an incredible transportation system that makes the city easily navigable.
Malin: The rental market has reached historic highs in terms of pricing. We have even surpassed the pre-recession heights of the market in terms of what landlords are able to charge for available units. At its core, the Big Apple is a renter-centric city. Give or take 70% of Manhattan apartments are rental properties, which is high in comparison to other cities.
The current tight rental market can be frustrating for would-be tenants. I advise clients to make a list of “needs” versus “wants,” be flexible and open to looking outside your target area, and begin the search ready to transact. Home seekers should have their relevant paperwork and funds ready before they start looking at apartments. The rental market moves fast.
5 What would be the single most important piece of advice that you would give to a seller considering selling their property? How about a buyer who was considering purchasing a home?
Malin: Apartment shoppers are more informed about the real estate market than they ever have been. For this reason, it’s important for sellers to price their home in line with current market conditions. Overpricing a home is a big mistake, but a very common one. The peak time for buyer interest is when an apartment just hits the market, and homes that have sat on the market for a while can be a “red flag” for many would-be buyers.
For buyers, they should be sure to get pre-approved for a mortgage before beginning the search. Bank qualification requirements are notably more strict than they have been in recent years. However, interest rates are at historic lows. If you have the means to buy, now is a great time to make the leap to ownership. Manhattan real estate is always a wise investment; and the lifestyle and opportunities available in our city are like nowhere else in the world.
Heddings : Inventory is LOW and if you are considering selling in the next six to 12 months, you may want to step up and list sooner rather than later. If you’re a prospective buyer, make sure to evaluate your priorities to make sure buying a home in this market makes sense for you. Consider the desired length of ownership, whether financing or not, current living situation and, of course, financial health.
Serhant: I give the same advice to every seller: Price to sell. If you don’t want to sell, don’t do it. If you do, then price right. Buyers need to pull the trigger. People are too afraid. It’s just real estate.
Maundrell: It is very important that you trust your agent is analyzing the market correctly and pricing your property in accordance to not just closed data, but also more of the real time activity happening. Pricing is a major component of the marketing strategy for any type of listing. Overpricing a listing will lead the property to becoming stale.
When buying a home, make sure you are working with a reputable and knowledgeable person regarding financing; it’s a common false belief that going to one of the major banks is the best approach. We have found that in many circumstances independent mortgage brokers who offer several banks as options is a great opportunity for many consumers as they offer some flexibility. Major banks have very specific types of criteria and property they will lend on, we see our customers finding out these specifics months into the process.