Bad online property reviews hurt resale
2009/05/04, 8:12 pm
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Some sellers of real estate in New York City are facing unknown online enemies who critique their properties for sale and potentially harm their ability to find buyers.

Discussions of listings on Web sites like,, and are full of hundreds of comments about the condition and basic design of properties that are for sale. The commenters attend open houses, study listing sheets, and view Web sites, then post analyses.

Their snarky opinions can draw lots of attention. Dawn Doherty, the vice president for strategic development at, says her Web site attracts 10.5 million page views per month.

Recent postings include:

  • “The layout is downright medieval; totally irrational.”
  • “The penthouse is a joke. Bachelor pad central, but ’70s style.”
  • “If I am paying 1.6, I want my own washer/dryer in the apt. and to live in a building that doesn’t look like a leftover from the Lefrak housing plan.”
  • “The bathroom looks like a Chinese bordello.”

Real estate professionals who must deal with these attacks of their listings say the best thing to do is just to ignore them.

“We basically do not allow our [associates] to post comments without prior approval, because we think it’s a can of worms,” says Diane Ramirez, the president of Halstead Property. “Unless something is egregiously incorrect, it’s almost better to let it die, because if you comment on it, it takes on a life of its own.”

Source: The New York Times, Teri Karush Rogers (05/01/2009)


Winks make developers smile
2009/03/25, 1:56 pm
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IN a generally weaker market for condominiums, one type of buyer is showing increasing strength: WINKs. Housing trend analysts came up with the acronym for “women with income, no kids.”

Last year in New Jersey, almost half of all condominium buyers — 45 percent — were women in this category, analysts say. That fact dovetails with the findings of various national studies that over the last decade, the number of unmarried women buying housing of any type increased 20 percent.

The Otteau Valuation Group in New Brunswick recently reported that in New Jersey, WINKs represented 21 percent of all buyers last year, up from 14 percent the year before.

The percentage of single male buyers rose to 10 percent from 9 during that period.

“Amongst all single-woman buyers, condos are far and away the most popular choice,” said Jeffrey G. Otteau, who heads the group, a housing-trend analytical company.

Of the studies bolstering that finding, one conducted two years ago by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies has been described as the first major analysis of female buyers.

The terms “unmarried” or “single” include the not-yet-married, the divorced and the widowed, Mr. Otteau said. Women with grown children or children who do not live in the household are also included.

“I didn’t know I would be called that,” said Luma Oweis, who recently bought a two-bedroom condo at 40 Park, a building now under construction in Morristown. “But it fits.”

Ms. Oweis, 36, a geotechnical engineer who founded her own company four years ago, is single, childless and a first-time buyer. She said she decided on a condo because, “I think it’s a good lifestyle for me: convenient, in the center of town, only two miles from my office.”

She said she preferred the “social atmosphere” of a condo to the relative isolation of a single-family house, and wanted to “look out the door and see action, and buzzing around.”

Also, Ms. Oweis said, she often works 18-hour days and eats out a lot during the week, so she is excited about the prospect of being able to walk to restaurants in downtown Morristown.

Unit prices at 40 Park start in the low $500,000s and exceed $1 million for penthouses overlooking the historic Morristown Green. But market analysts say that the surge in WINK condo buyers holds true across the price spectrum.

In addition, some brokers said they had already noted that single women were increasingly part of a separate recession-related mini-trend: shared housing.

At the Mill Pond at Eatontown, a newly built development where two-bedrooms start at $252,990, Nancy and Ann Mareska, sisters aged 48 and 45, each bought condos.

Also at Mill Pond, Joan Marangella, 68, and Liz Campoli, 52, who are longtime friends, became joint purchasers of a two-bedroom. Every unit in the complex has nine-foot ceilings and a patio or deck.

All four of the women are divorced. As the Harvard study noted, women who owned homes while married frequently have equity available to invest in new homes.

“Lizzie and I were both looking to downsize,” said Ms. Marangella, who has grown children and is a supervisor at a cardiology group.

“I felt the economy and everything was going downhill. It is important to foresee these things, and make a conscious decision.”

Several studies of female buyers have noted that while unmarried women have lower average incomes than unmarried men and couples, they are less likely to finance their home purchases, and that if they borrow, they borrow less.

Tara Gellatley, who set herself a goal of having a custom-built abode by the age of 35, is currently picking out tiles, trims and fixtures for the condominium that she is buying at Water’s Edge at Point Pleasant, a Pulte Homes development.

“I’m proud of buying as a single woman,” said Ms. Gellatley, 33. “You put yourself on a tight budget, set guidelines and boundaries, and you can do it.”

Ms. Gellatley, who is employed in her father’s maritime shipping business, bought her first condo in Brick 10 years ago when she worked in the hotel industry.

The Harvard study found that unmarried women are much less likely to live with their parents than single men are.

But the question of whether WINKs are more likely to receive financial help from family members to establish their own households was not addressed.

Certainly, it happens.

“I really wanted to have my own place,” said 25-year-old Christine Corrales, who owns a one-bedroom apartment at the Trump Plaza in Jersey City. “My mom became an investor so I could do that.”

Ms. Corrales says she is thrilled with the secure, “hotel-like” atmosphere at Trump, where the 24-hour concierge is there should she forget her keys, and the people from the in-house dog-walking service always say hello.

Ms. Gellatley, meanwhile, is financing her own purchase, but moving into the same complex where her father bought a penthouse condo last year.

And Ms. Oweis will be living just two blocks away from her parents. They recently bought a condo at the Vail Mansion development in Morristown.

How will foreclosure affect credit scores?
2009/03/16, 6:28 pm
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The amount of damage to a credit score caused by foreclosure, deed in lieu or a short sale during 2008 and 2009 may be mitigated by the slower economic times, say some credit and legal experts.

FICO may have to adjust its credit scores to lessen the impact of a foreclosure in the last two years, says Todd J. Zywicki, a professor of law at George Mason University.

”It just seems obvious that a foreclosure in 2008 or 2009 doesn’t have as much information value as a foreclosure five years ago,” he says. ”To the extent that foreclosure doesn’t predict future behavior as much as it did in the past, you’d expect that the FICO algorithm would change to adjust for that.”

One of the country’s largest credit unions Golden 1 has already figured out a way to lend to people with a foreclosure on their record by offering a mortgage repair loan specifically for those who have lost a home to foreclosure and who want to buy a new one.

BECU, another large credit union based in Washington State, is about to present a program to fellow lenders, ”How to Lend to the Newly Credit Impaired.”

Source: The New York Times, Ron Lieber (03/14/2009)