Daniel Gershburg meets the Bamberger Group
I recently spoke with Murray Hill’s real estate brokerage, The Bamberger Group, to discuss the challenges facing first time buyers and sellers, and how to better understand the culture of a co-operative building. The full article can be found on their blog, Bamberger Answers.
[The Bamberger Group] “What are some basic ways an inexperienced buyer or seller can prepare themselves for a real estate transaction?”
[Daniel Gershburg] “For sellers, the most important thing to do is to keep your emotions in check. Everyone thinks their place is worth more than what it is, and that’s because they have an emotional connection to the place. What they should be doing is be speaking to at least one or two real estate brokers in that specific area that they’re dealing with, to get a sense of what that place is going to go for. The reason is that brokers– if you get a good one– take a sober look at what’s out there. They’re going to look at the particular building, they’re going to see the comparable units are in that building. They’re going to say, ‘the unit above you sold for $1.2 million, and it’s been freshly renovated, so yours is probably going to be more in the line of $1.05 million.’ So it’s incredibly important for sellers to have someone else that’s not connected with the transaction tell them what they’re going to be selling for.
On the buy side, when you’re buying your first place, there’s no such thing as too much research. I would spend some really good, quality time on Brownstoner, on Curbed, even on Trulia and Zillow, just to get a good idea of what it is you like, and what you don’t like. And then again, just to echo this: back in the day I thought real estate brokers didn’t bring much value to a real estate transaction. I was horribly wrong. If you get a good one, they can navigate you and help you find something that you actually like. Everybody and their mother wants a place with big closets, bright lights, a good neighborhood, a doorman– oh, and also it should be pretty cheap, and you should be able to do whatever alterations you want on the place. These places don’t exist. So what you should be doing is doing research on what is important to you. And you list those priorities: everything from space, to proximity to a good school, to proximity to trains, and you say, ‘This is what is the most important thing to me, this is the second, and this is the third…’ Because that will allow you to break down specifically where you’re looking and what you’re looking for.
And you could speak to couple attorneys, too. I have many clients that sit down with me, prior to them even searching for anything, because they just want to know what the process is. Like anything in life, the more familiar you are with the process, the less stressful it’s going to be. Familiarizing yourself [with the buying process] and putting together a good team, as cliche as that sounds, is a really good step.”
[TBG] “Do you have any advice for purchasers or new shareholders who are inexperienced with dealing with a co-op board?”
[DG] “On a purely general basis, my advice to you is: anything the board wants, goes. Absent any specific pattern of discrimination based on race, sex or [any other protected class]– whatever the co-op wants to do, it will do, and you’re not going to make them stop. So if a co-op wants to reject you because they don’t like the dress that you’re wearing, so long as they’re saying it has nothing to do with the dress that you’re wearing– then you have no recourse whatsoever. That’s one of the cons, and one of the pros, when it comes to a co-op. So if you’re applying to a co-op, and you’re going into the interview, you have virtually zero power whatsoever. You can be incredibly nice, incredibly sweet, but if the co-op looks at your financials, and they don’t like the fact that you have three kids and two of them are newborns– and they think they’re going to make a ton of noise– there’s not much you can do. Go into the process eyes wide open, knowing that there’s a potential for the co-op to say no, and it’s just because the co-op is the co-op and they have their own preferences. The co-op at 2 Main Street may not like something, and the co-op at 1 Main Street may be totally OK with it. Just roll with the punches.
And there’s nothing wrong with getting to know your neighbors once you’re in there. You want to get alterations done? Say hello in the elevator. I’m not even kidding, if you make pies for people in the building, or you bring coffee– you’re just being a normal, decent human being– that goes a long way I’ve seen, with some of my clients. And honestly, the one thing you should really think about doing is running to be on the board. Once you’re in that building, and you want to have a say in the way it’s run, get on the board. There’s so many people that complain about board politics, but they’re just shareholders. They never run for positions of power, and so they become victimized by it rather than actually saying ‘You know what, I want to change the way things are run,’ and getting a position on the board where they can have a say in the way things are run.”