Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mindfulness: Just Breathe....

I have been practicing mindfulness for about 10 years. It is essentially the practice of paying attention, usually to your breath. You can sit, lay down be on the train, there is never a bad time to be mindful. It can give relief to an immediate stressful situation, however over the long term you wake up one day and realize you are calmer, happier, lighter...

This is an interesting article from the WSJ on the benefits of practicing mindfulness meditation by school children.

Living in NYC is very stressful to say the least and certainly our children have a lot on their plates as they navigate the city, play dates, school, clubs, sports and friendships etc. I think many of the stresses build up slowly over time, years of exposure to the sights, situations and sounds of city life. It can take a toll on you both physically and emotionally (and you may not even be aware of it).  I would become very aware of it on our trips to Costa Rica. After a day there I felt as if a heavy coat had been removed from my entire being!

What initially drew me in was the science behind it, I think it was a study done by Harvard researchers on the brains of Buddhist monks in Tibet. They learned some things that were thought not possible regarding brain function.

Finding and actually closing on a home in this market, mindfulness may be a worthwhile consideration! Even my beloved, yet not very mindful mother would say "Breathe" Keith.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Clear, Legal Explanation of Commission Rebates in NYC from REBNY

Question:  I am a New York real estate broker and will be closing a transaction in a few days.  Am I allowed to share a portion of my commission with either the seller or the buyer in the transaction?  I was informed that the law in New York on this issue was recently amended.

Answer:  Yes.  The New York State Department of State (the “DOS”) has consistently taken the position that New York real estate brokers may share a portion of their commission with a purchaser, seller, landlord or tenant in such transaction (a “Party to the Transaction”).  For example, a real estate broker who is representing a purchaser may give the purchaser a $5,000 gift card.Recently, Section 442 (2) of Article 12-A of the Real Property Law was amended to reflect the position taken by the DOS. Section 442 (2) now states, in part:
“…nothing in this section shall prohibit a real estate broker from offering any part of a fee, commission, or other compensation received by the broker to the seller, buyer, landlord or tenant who is buying, selling, exchanging, leasing, renting …. Such fee, commission, or other compensation must not be made to the seller, buyer, landlord or tenant for performing any activity requiring a license under this article.”
Accordingly, New York State law is consistent with the DOS position regarding real estate brokers sharing their commissions with a Party to the Transaction.
Important Tips:
(1)    The commission may only be shared with a Party to the Transaction.  The Party to the Transaction cannot direct that the commission be shared with a non-party (for example, a purchaser cannot direct that the commission be shared with a favorite charity of the purchaser).
(2)    The real estate broker must make the decision to share the commission with a Party to the Transaction.  The real estate salesperson or associate real estate broker cannot make such a decision.  Similarly, the sharing of the commission must come from the real estate broker.
(3)    The sharing of the commission could take many forms; for example it could be an incentive (i.e. “use my services and I will pay you $5,000 from my commission”), a gift (i.e. a vase) or a gift certificate (i.e. a $5,000 gift certificate to Home Depot).
(4)    It is strongly recommended that if a real estate broker is representing one party and decides to share a commission with the other party, such decision should be disclosed to the party that the real estate broker is representing (i.e. a real estate broker who is representing a seller and who decides to share a commission with the purchaser, should disclose to the seller such decision).  Such disclosure prevents any appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest.
(5)    A Party to the Transaction cannot be acting in the transaction in any capacity that would require a real estate license (i.e. a seller holding themselves out as a real estate broker).

Best and Final? No, Highest and Best...

Boy, we have all been down this road a few times! This can be one of the most frustrating, emotionally draining aspects of a NYC apartment purchase. We recently went through a rather troubling situation that really gutted our client which I recently blogged about here. This is a nice legal explanation from REBNY:

Legal Line Question: Best and Final Offer
Q.  I represent a purchaser who is looking to purchase a condominium unit located in New York City.  There were several offers placed on the unit and the seller’s real estate broker, who is a REBNY member, requested that all prospective purchasers submit their “best and final offer.”  My purchaser’s “best and final offer” was accepted.  A few days later, I was informed that the seller elected not to sell the unit to my purchaser.  What, if any, binding effect does the acceptance of a “best and final offer” have on the seller?
 A. The acceptance of a “best and final offer” does not have any binding effect upon the seller.  Pursuant to New York State General Obligations Law (the “GOL”), an agreement for the sale of real property will not be binding or enforceable upon the parties unless the parties enter into a signed written agreement setting forth the “essential terms” of the real estate transaction.  In support of the GOL, New York courts have stated that until a written agreement is fully executed by the parties, the seller is free to sell the property to another party and the real estate broker is free to negotiate with other prospective purchasers on behalf of the seller.  Towards that end, courts have articulated that the purpose of the GOL is to distinguish provisional agreements (like a term sheet) from a final and binding contract.      Important Tip: The term “best and final offer” should not be used by real estate brokers as the term is misleading and may imply that the seller will be bound by the acceptance of the “best and final offer.”  Instead of using the term “best and final offer”, real estate brokers should consider using a term such as “highest and best offer”.  Real estate brokers should also make it clear to all parties to the transaction that the parties will not be bound by any agreement unless and until a written contract of sale, setting forth the essential terms of the transaction, is signed by both parties. less

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

We Have a New Website!

I must admit I sort of liked our dated, bare bones website.  For me it was just more confirmation that nothing trumped providing a high level of service for your clients. You could be very successful without a lot of glitz, we grew very organically. However to keep inline with our efficient, cost effective principles we built this ourselves. Lance Piebenga who is our newest team member took the lead and built it out using Squarespace with an assist from me on design.

We kept it simple as well as clean with a link to StreetEasy so with one click you have access to all NYC property listings. Perhaps in the future we'll add some additional tools and features to enhance the experience.

Our business model was created by listening to buyers and sellers express what they liked and did not like about their experiences in real estate. Please feel free to contact me with any suggestions regarding our website.



                  The Burkhardt Group

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Smiths Famously Said : "How Soon is Now?"

"Keith, Christian and Lance,

Thank you for all the help with our search and the purchase process. With the market being so crazy it took a long time but we did finally make it! Losing almost 10-11 bids to all-cash offers over 1.5 years we were so disheartened that when we found this place on streeteasy we were wondering if it would be even worth going to the first open house. But I am glad we did :)

Seeing the rebate check after spending so much money felt really nice. Thank you! 

We also want to invite you guys to come over to the apartment for a house warming party in a few months once we get done with all the renovations. (We'll send out the the actual invites later)

Thank you!

Chandini, Pratik, Eva and Arya"

We simply strive to provide our clients with the absolute best level of service; knowledge based with a heaping teaspoon of integrity. Our clients highest and best needs ALWAYS come first and we deal in honestly and fairness with all other parties involved.

We have created a business model based on the information available to all buyers with a keen focus on total transparency throughout the process. As we always state we feel we are not the only way to transact real estate, however we are a much sought after platform for many buyers. We have quite a fan base on line, my blog receives close to 1000 unique visits a month.  The same sort of buyers that shops for diamonds at, trades stocks at or buys their airline tickets via Our model fully exploits the internet, current technology and the availabilty of what was once hard to find information. 

Even a high ranking attorney that interviewed me from the NYS Attorney Generals Office said "If  I were to ever purchase real estate again in NYC, I would certainly use you". 

I love real estate and look forward to meeting new clients and interacting with the rest of the NYC brokerage community. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Best and Final: Would You Trade Your Word For Money?

Another 'Best and Final' with a promise that we had a deal and there would be no backing out by the seller and still I get a call telling me "the seller has elected to proceed with another deal". Buyer beware, even after you go through a gut wrenching bidding process and receive the great news that 'You won!' it ain't over til the fat lady sings(meaning you close). Yet again we have learned this the hard way. I knew something was up when it had been 3 days and no contract, though I thought they were waiting for the results from our inspection before sending one out. I discussed this with my client however she was confident the seller/broker would honor their pledge to us, hey, they even let us go ahead with a planned inspection that cost my client $800, then pulled the plug on us the following day!

Not very cool to say the least. They were obviously working on this deal while we had an inspection and interior designer visit the apartment. Unfortunately my very rational client had become emotionally attached at this point, imagining her new life in Brooklyn. A sort of reality check on buying real estate in NYC in today's low inventory, strong demand market.

I am 100% for free markets. I'll even go as far as to say I don't take issue with the 'best and final process'. We all know what can transpire and 'best and final' is just a sort of vague idea, not an absolute end. What I do take issue with is when we have what I call a 'cyber handshake' from the seller, when we are given an assurance that we have an ironclad deal, no mucking around once it is accepted. Ivan Boesky  infamously stated that "Greed is good", I don't necessarily agree with that. I think our word is priceless and mine is not for sale.

I'll add that I don't think this is a broker issue, this is a seller issue. For many reasons a broker wants to proceed with the accepted deal. They know this is usually the best course to follow ethically, karmically and financially. Financially meaning that if the newly accepted offer blows up, you most likely will lose the original deal. The saying "what a tangled web we weave" could be inserted here, nothing like a few botched negotiations to throw a listing into the abyss.