OUT AND ABOUT: LOCAL “FOR SALE BY OWNER” SELLER WILL GET WHAT HE DESERVES

By Malcolm Carter

The owner of a one-bedroom condo on a corner of Broadway in the mid-90s was telling me how he had carefully done his research before setting the asking price for his pied-à-terre in a post-war building with a health club and other amenities.

Jeff had looked at comparable prices online, checked sales in his building and decided on $669,000 for the apartment, which has maintenance of $735 and real estate taxes of $375 a month.

“But,” he volunteered, “I don’t know the condition of the other apartments. What do you think?”

The view from Jeff's apartment.

Since I spend an enormous amount of time checking not only prices but a variety of other properties in person, I equivocated. That’s some of the value I bring to the table.

In any case, I noted the axiom that an apartment is priced too high if it doesn’t attract offers after a number of prospective buyers have seen it.

“I know,” he replied. “I’m an economics professor.”

“Ah,” said I knowingly, “Keynes.”

Jeff, who lives with his wife in Douglaston, Queens, smiled in response. There had been some 30 visitors to the apartment, he confessed, and some offers. But the offers were too low for the couple.

“We’re in no hurry,” he declared. “We don’t have to sell.”

I shrugged and went on my way, thinking how foolish Jeff is. Anyone who is not motivated to sell just shouldn’t bother: That owner never will be satisfied with an offer.

Moreover, such an owner is neglecting three important precepts. The first one is that the earliest offer frequently will prove to be the best one. Second, prices in the local housing market could decline. And third, not only will the perception that a listing is stale prove detrimental to the best price, but fewer prospective buyers will bother looking at the property.

Worse for Jeff, his apartment is nothing special.

I’m somewhat doubtful that the pass-through kitchen was gut-renovated only the “four or five years ago” that they reported. Even so, the kitchen, which has black granite countertops, lacks high-end anything else.

In addition, the ceilings are at a minimum height, the bath has had minimal improvements and built-ins are limited to a couple of slim floor-to-ceiling bookcase. In its favor, the unit has exceptional closet space and a balcony.

The perch from a relatively low floor makes the balcony of questionable usefulness, however, facing as it does the noise of bus and other traffic close at hand. Some folks won’t mind the clamor, but I wouldn’t find it possible to have a leisurely cup of coffee while reading a newspaper any morning.

I have to say that the unit is not unreasonably priced, but I’ll venture that it won’t sell for anything like what the economist hopes.

Below are other units that I recent visited and that are listed by various other brokers (prices and other details may have changed since I originally saw them):

Malcolm Carter is a real estate broker and columnist for the West Side Rag. A version of this post was first published at Service You Can Trust, Malcolm’s blog.

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