2019 was a great year, we were able to help 59 families accomplish their real estate goals, and we are very grateful for each and every client. This many sales does not come without it’s bumps in the road however, and our goal is to learn from every transaction so that we can continue to get better and better. Every December we get together to go over single transaction we had in the year and talk about what we learned from each deal. Below is a summary of our learning lessons in 2019. Read on if you want to learn from our real life experiences.

18th & 21st Dr – Two 3 families in Astoria 

Our learning lesson here was that you should not buy new construction while you’re in the process of selling your place, especially if your purchase is contingent on the sale of your home. What happened here was that we listed our clients’ property and fortunately we were able to find an all cash buyer within a month or two of listing. The problem came when they went to find their new place. Our clients were elderly so they were downsizing and looking to move into a 55+ community. They found a great development and went into contract on a brand new custom built home, but unfortunately the house was not ready to move in for over a year. They lost a lot of rental income throughout the process because the house was completely vacated, and the entire transaction was stressful because it dragged out for so long. The good news is that we finally closed and they ended up moving into the new place which they absolutely love!

209th & 18th Ave – 1 bedrm coop in Bayside 

Our learning lesson here was that sometimes the managing agent of a building is licensed and can have potential buyers so it’s important to reach out and let them know about any new listings we take in the development. 

83rd & Vietor Ave – Studio coop in Elmhurst

Our learning lesson here was that an all cash buyer may decide to switch to a mortgage after going into contract, and unless the contract specifically restricts it, they are within their rights to do so as long as they can still close within the specified timeframe.

62nd & 99th St – 2 Family in Rego Park 

Our learning lesson here was that if you wait too long to sell, the process can become very overwhelming for you. We also learned that disclosing your intent to sell to your tenants is very important. We sold this house with one tenant in place but our client did not want to let the tenant know that they were selling. Once we put the house on the market, people started coming to the house and one of them told her that the house was for sale. The tenant was confused but we were able to clear things up. The most important thing to keep in mind is that communication and disclosure to your tenants is key in making sure that you have a smooth sale.

69th & 60th Rd – 2 Family in Maspeth

Our learning lesson here was that a house can be completely converted from gas to electric and that can actually be hurt the value of the property. This house had no gas running into the house and most of the negative feedback we received was related to this because most people wanted to have gas in the home.

21-41 47th St – 2 Family in Astoria 

Our issue here was to make sure that we ask if there are any issues after the final walkthrough, that way we can address it and prepare our clients before we get to the closing table. What happened was that we had the final walkthrough, and everything seemed to be fine but then when we got to the closing table, the buyers brought up a bunch of issues and were trying to get credits for them. Our clients held firm and fortunately we were able to prove that all of the items were there before. Our clients did end up offering a credit, but only for $1,000. Either way, it was a learning lesson and from now on we will confirm at the walkthrough to make sure if there are any issues.

19th & 81st St – 1 Family in Astoria Heights 

Our learning lesson here was to make sure you have extra key copies in case anything happens with the ones you have in the lockbox. What happened here was that at some point while we were showing, one of the keys got lost and then we had to get in touch with our client to make another copy. So, moving forward we will always make an extra set of keys to keep in our office just in case something like this happens.

24th & 33rd St – 2 Family in Astoria 

Our learning lesson here was that an odd layout, or 1-2 family conversion can have a negative impact on value, especially if there is no bathroom on the main level. What happened was that our client had a property which was originally a one family and at some point it was converted to a two family. The converted set up was a 2 BR/1 BTH over a 1 bedroom duplex. The main issue was that the first floor apt had only one bedroom and the bathroom was in the basement. Overall the house was very good but this uncommon layout made it hard for buyers to envision themselves living there. Fortunately we were able to get it sold, but not at the price that we originally hoped for. Another learning lesson was that post close possession is a term that we have to negotiate for our seller if they need the proceeds from the sale in order to move to their next place. Our client here was in this situation so we negotiated two months post close possession so that she had her proceeds and enough time to find her next place. She is very happy in her new place 🙂

69th & 78th St – 1 Family in Middle Village 

Our learning lesson here was that some buyer attorneys will require a CO or letter of no objection for a detached garage. Normally this isn’t the case, especially if the garage was built prior to CO requirements but this attorney made a stick about it so we ended up having to get a Letter of No Objection for it. Another learning lesson, and probably the more important one we learned here was that you should vacate your house prior to selling. We always suggest this but obviously most owners don’t want to lose the rental income. In any case, what happened here was that we listed the property while it was tenant occupied, the tenants cooperated with us for the first week or two, but then they refused to cooperate and ended up turning on the owner. We had to take the property off the market, the tenants stopped paying rent, and the owner ended up having to go through an 8 month eviction to get them out. Once the tenants were gone we relisted the house and got it sold but as you can imagine, the whole process was very challenging for the homeowner. Fortunately she is doing good now 🙂

90th & 210th Pl – 1 Family in Queens Village 

The learning lesson here was that it is very important to have a good network of home pros on your team. What happened here was that as we were selling the property, we had a plumbing issue, a roof leak, and a lot of clutter in the home. The sellers lived out of state so we had to help them take care of any issues as they came up. Fortunately we had our plumber take care of the plumbing issue, we had our roofer take care of the roof leak, and we had our clean out company rake care of all the clutter in the home. This made the entire process much smoother for the sellers, and it is a reminder of why we have to continue to grow our network of reliable home pros.

110th & 56th Ave – 2 Family in Corona 

Our learning lesson here was that homeowners should sell their home while they are still fairly strong. When homeowners wait too long, the selling process can become very daunting and overwhelming. We see this time and time again, and this one was another reminder. Our clients here were an elderly couple who’s children did not live in the area. As a result, they had to take care of a lot of things that are challenging to take care of at their age. We ended up helping them as much as we can and fortunately we were able to get it done, but no matter what the process is very overwhelming when the sellers are much older. Another learning lesson was that some banks will require for a basement stove to not only be removed, but they can also require for the gas line behind the wall to be completely covered and finished. 

98th & 63rd Rd #8C – 1 BR coop in Rego Park 

Our learning lesson here was that you shouldn’t wait until the last minute to clear everything out. What happened was that we came to the final walk through and our clients had still not finished clearing everything out. As a result, the attorneys ended up having to hold money in escrow until everything was cleared out. Moving forward we will be setting reminders and checking in with our clients so that they don’t wait until the last minute.

86th & 86th St – 2 Family in Woodhaven

Our learning lesson here was one that we’ve learned time and time again, the importance of hiring a Queens real estate attorney. What happened here was that our client hired a general practice attorney from Long Island and they made everything way more complicated than it needed to be. We recommended one of our attorneys who specializes in real estate and is based in Queens but the seller wanted to use their own attorney instead. Ultimately we were able to close, but the entire process was much more complicated and stressful than it needed to be because their attorney was not a Queens real estate attorney. When we were at the closing table, our client acknowledged that they should have gone with Our recommended attorney instead.

22nd & 76th St – 1 Bedroom condo in Astoria Heights 

Our learning lesson here was that bedrooms for condos and coops, need to be verified in the bylaws. What happened was that the sellers converted a 1 bedroom apt into a 2 bedroom, and it looked like a true 2 bedroom, but once we were going into contract, it came to our attention that in the condo’s bylaws, that apt was listed as a 1 bedroom. This caused our first buyer to walk away from the deal. Fortunately we were able to find another buyer and close. Another learning lesson was that if you are in a condo or coop, you HAVE to make sure that you do renovations in accordance with your development’s rules. If you do things on your own it come back to bite you in the butt. These sellers created a second room and changed some of the plumbing. Once we were in contract the condo did an inspection and found out about the non-permitted work, as a result, they made the owner hire licensed professionals and get everything permitted. This caused a long delay in closing because we had to wait until everything was completed.

25th & 49th St – 1 Family in Astoria 

Our learning lesson here was the importance of pricing right. What happened was that we suggested a list price of $799K and we were sure that we would have had multiple offers at that price so we likely would have sold over asking price. However, the seller wanted to list at $850K instead and what ended up happening is that we had very little activity on the house, only a few showings but fortunately one of the buyers decided to make an offer. They made an offer of $790K and only came up to $800K, no higher. Since we didn’t have any other offers and the seller was motivated to sell, the house ended up selling for $800K. The good thing is that we sold for a fair price, but we believe that if we would have priced at $799K, there would have been multiple offers and we probably would have ended up selling over asking price.

23rd & 33rd St – 2 Family in Astoria 

Our learning lesson here was the value of good record keeping, and how valuable a Family home can be to some people. What happened here was that our client had a lot of records for the house, it was a Family home held since the home was built. Our client had records dating all the way back to the 1920’s which was great because it helped us with documentation to prepare for the sale, and it also made the house more marketable because we were able to tell potential buyers that we had a lot of records and documentation on the house. They had a record of all home improvements and repairs that have been done throughout the years and that was very helpful as we were showing the house. It made the house more marketable and attractive, especially since potential buyers could tell how well maintained the home was. As for the other learning lesson, this deal just reinforced the fact that to some people, a home is literally priceless. Our clients were two brothers selling their long time family home. One of the brothers wanted to sell and the other didn’t. In the end, even though we sold the house for $1.5M and the net proceeds for each brother was substantial, the brother who didn’t want to sell was still not happy. He was walking away with over half a million dollars but to him, that home was more valuable than any amount of money he could have made. It’s an eye opener to us, and just reminds us that to some people their emotional connection to a house can be worth more than any amount of money.

216th & 68th Ave – 3 bedroom coop in Oakland Gardens 

Our learning lesson here was that coops, as we already know, can take a LONG time to close. If you’re selling a coop, just be prepared for a long and drawn out process. This deal in particular took over 6 months to close, because the development was very slow in process the application and scheduling a board interview.

88th & 32nd Ave – 1 bedroom coop in East Elmhurst 

Our learning lesson here was that coops at Northridge take at least 6 months to close. Future sellers should have the expectation that the process is not quick in this development. Moving forward we are letting sellers in this development know that it will take them 5-6 months from contract signing to close. We’ve sold several apts here so we know that this is a realistic timeline to expect. We also were reminded that some coops do not want to see sale prices below a certain amount (i.e. Minimum sale price) and if they have one, the buyer’s application can be rejected. This development has an unspoken minimum sale price and as a result, the apts tend to take a long time to sell.

86th & 111th St – 1 Family in Richmond Hill

Our learning lesson here is that sellers should put away any religious artifacts before selling. What happened was that our clients received a very good offer in the first two weeks of selling, but at the inspection, the buyer noticed religious artifacts in their finished attic and they ended up backing out because they did not feel comfortable with what they saw. Moving forward, we will let sellers know that the best strategy is to depersonalize and remove any religious artifacts so that potential buyers do not feel uncomfortable or get turned off. 

111th & Francis Lewis Blvd – 1 Family in Queens Village 

Our learning lesson here was that a seller’s attorney can get upset if you negotiate something while the deal is under contract. What happened was that our client’s house under appraised and as a result, we had to renegotiate the price with the buyer’s agent and the seller. The good news is that we were able to get the buyer to come put of pocket for most of the difference and our seller only had to come down $5K, however, when we notified the seller’s attorney, they got very upset and were not happy that we did not include them in the negotiation. 

111th & Martense Ave – 2 Family in Corona 

Our learning lesson here was the importance of pricing right. What happened was that we suggested a list price of $1.45M and we were positive that we would have sold at or above the asking price, but the sellers wanted to try $1.6M so we did so. As you can imagine, we had no activity at $1.6M. Then we dropped it to $1.5M and still had very little activity. We ended up getting two offers while we were priced at $1.5M, one at $1.4M and one at $1.42M. Neither buyer was willing to come up higher than that. We ended up selling for $1.42M but that is lower than what we think it would have sold for if we originally listed at $1.45M. At $1.45M we probably would have had multiple offers and driven the price up over asking. Also, we learned that if you have a door that is a safety hazard, the bank will most likely require that it be completely covered and sheet-rocked over so that the door is not accessible. 

66th & Garfield Ave – 1 Family in Woodside 

Our learning lesson here was the difference of a child who is hands-on during the sale and transition for their parent(s) vs a child who leaves their parent(s) to handle everything on their own. This client was very hands on in helping their mom sell the house, clean everything out, and relocate her to another state. Their proactive approach made things much smoother for us, and for their elderly mother who was making a big life change. We’ve seen several children who leave their parents to handle everything on their own and this sale was just a reminder of how much easier a sale can be if the parent(s) have help.

Vacant land in Hamilton Beach 

Our learning lesson here was that vacant land in Hamilton Beach takes a while to sell because land in the area is not highly sought after. What we learned was that if vacant land is located in an area that does not have high investor or builder activity, then it needs to be priced right. Aside from that, it is important for all parties to be patient because it will likely take a little longer to sell. As long as it is priced right, it will sell, but it may take longer to find your buyer than it would if you were selling a residential property or piece of land in a more desirable area. 

146th & 221st St – 2 Family in Springfield Gardens

Our learning lesson here was the importance of treating your tenants with respect and communicating with them properly. What happened was that our client was a little misleading with the tenant about his intentions to sell, and when we met them for the first time, he made things awkward because of the way he was communicating with the tenants, in front of us. This led to a problematic situation with the tenants and made the house much harder to show and sell. Fortunately we were able to get it sold, but not without complications. The learning lesson here is that when you are planning to sell, the best strategy is to vacate your entire property and the sell the house vacant. Now, if vacating the property is not an option, then the next best strategy is to be as friendly and accommodating to your tenants because at the end of the day, they are being inconvenienced by the process. I addition to that, given the way that rental laws are crafted in NYC, the Landlord does not have much leverage in the process so you will save yourself a lot of headaches if you just communicate them, accommodate their schedules, and do your best to help them with in any way possible.

73rx & 66th St – 2 Family in Glendale

On this property sale we learned that if there is a door or gate leading into or out of one of your neighbor’s yards, then the title company will most likely require that you receive a signed letter from the neighbor stating that they do not use or intend to use that door. What happened was that the survey was ordered, and when it came back, it indicated a fence door in our clients’ driveway and this door opened up into the neighbor’s backyard. This caused a delay because the seller was an absentee owner so we ended up having to track the owner down so that they could have the affidavit signed by him. Took a while but fortunately we were able to get it done. Just another issue that can come up with title/survey. 

We also learned (once again) that sellers should not rush into buying a new home once they go into contract, and if you do, you should negotiate a 90 day closing date so that your sellers don’t become frustrated when you can’t close on time. One of the sellers of this property went right into contract on a property after we found our buyer and that’s okay, but the issue is that he went forward with a standard 60 day closing date and here in Queens, we rarely see a closing within 60 days. So, obviously the sellers from his purchase became frustrated when he couldn’t close and he almost lost the deal because of it. To be safe, sellers should make sure they find a property after going in to contract on their house, and then make sure you negotiate a 90 day closing so that you have enough time to close on the sale of your property. 

52-26 70th St – 2 Family in Maspeth 

The main learning lesson here was the value that modern renovations can have on a property. What happened here is that we listed a two family detached house in Maspeth with a party driveway, 3 bedrooms (2 over 1) and a finished basement. It was a medium sized two family, not large by any means. The second floor was in original condition and the first owner unit was completely renovated. Now, the issue was that the owner unit was converted from a 2 bedroom to a 1 bedroom and in our opinion, this would not be the ideal set up for an end user, or investor. The good thing is that the first floor and basement were completely renovated with modern finishes. Due to the fact that our property only had 3 bedrooms and the second floor was in original condition, we decided to list the house at $899K. Once we hit the market, we had a frenzy and multiple offers ensued. We ended up with about 11 offers, and the best one came all the way up to $970K! We didn’t think it would appraise so we were able to negotiate a no appraisal contingency. 

So, the learning lesson here is that if a house is renovated nicely with neutral and modern finishes, then that can make up for any lost value for condition, less bedrooms, etc. FYI: We’re pretty sure that the buyers were planning to convert the first floor to a 2 bedroom again. 

148-49 58th Rd – 1 Family in Queensboro Hill 

Our biggest learning lesson from this sale was that getting gas turned back on after a gas leak is very hard and expensive. What happened here is that we were helping the executor of an estate and being that she lived out of state, she was limited in what she could do or spend on the property. The house itself needed a lot of work, and at one point there was a gas leak so the executor called it in to Con Edison. Once ConEd came in to the house, they detected a gas leak and immediately closed off all the gas lines. Now, we initially planned on selling the house as a standard sale but after learning of the gas being shut off, we had to notify the executor that banks would not be able to finance a home without a functioning boiler. Our client did not want to spend the time or money to get the gas turned back on so our strategy changed from targeting end users, to targeting all cash investors. In order to do so, we priced the home $200K below the ARV (After Repair Value). The strategy worked because we ended up with a mad house, over 20 offers, and eventually sold the house for $71K over asking price. 

33-33 70th St – 1 Family in Jackson Heights 

The aha from this sale was just how valuable an English Garden Home on 70th St can be. What happened here is that we listed a well maintained english garden home on 70th St between 34th Ave and Northern Blvd. The block is gorgeous, with huge trees on both sides and beautiful attached rowhouses with deep front yards and charming architecture. What was surprising is that we had recently sold two houses just one block over and those sold for $915K and $925K respectively. The main difference with this one was the block, and the style of home. As a result, we listed this one at $950K and we had a lot of activity at the first open houses. We ended up with multiple offers and eventually sold for $25K over asking price. This one sold quicker, and for more money so it just goes to show how desirable pretty blocks and charming architecture is worth. 

117-52 127th St – 1 Family in South Ozone Park

Our main learning lesson here was that in the Wakefield area of South Ozone Park, there is a high demand for detached brick ranch homes on 40 x 100 lots. The reason why (as we found out) was that a lot of people in this area are buying these homes, adding a second floor, converting it into a two family with 3 bedrooms over 3 bedrooms, and then living in them. This made sense once we started receiving offers because if you run the numbers as a developer, there was not much profit if the plan was to buy, build, and sell. However, being that these buyers were looking to buy, build, and live, the value was there for them. The result was this, the house needed work so we listed it at $599K, after the first two open houses we had about 17 offers and eventually sold it for $685K! 

114-45 208th St – 1 Family in Cambria Heights 

Our main takeaway from this listing was the impact that a small third bedroom can have on a home’s value. We’ve experienced this in the past, but this one just reminded us of what happens when you sell a home with a small/junior room. What happened was that we listed a single family house in Cambria Heights, completely renovated with a newly finished basement and private driveway. Only downside was that the third bedroom was very small, about 8 x 8 or so. As you can imagine, the pictures looked amazing, and we had a ton of showings (over 25 in the first two weeks), but very few offers. Most of the feedback had to do with the smaller bedroom so and we anticipated that, but this was just a reminder of what to expect. The good news is that we eventually sold it, close to asking price and within 60 days. In the future, when we have similar situations, our plan is to look at the 2 bedroom house sales to see what they went for because it is very likely that a 3 bedroom with one junior room will end up selling closer to the price of a 2 bedroom house than to that of a true 3 bedroom.