Has the internet ushered in a golden age of transparency for real estate sales? Today, prospective buyers and sellers have access to a variety of websites providing the same information which was formerly the exclusive purview of real estate agents. I assumed that most consumers, as well as real estate practitioners, accepted that this greater access to information has been a good thing for everyone. So why is the pendulum moving, gradually but clearly, in the other direction? Welcome to the world of the “whisper” listing.
February 20, 2014
In October of last year, my daughter came to do strategic work at Warburg. She has never been, and may never be, a real estate broker as I am. But she is a brilliant strategist with an MBA from Columbia, and she learned an enormous amount about process as a management consultant with the Boston Consulting Group, where she worked for three and a half years (which is the equivalent of about six years in a normal 9-6 job!) I had always hoped to have one or both of my kids work with me, so to me this seemed like a great idea. And it is! Not only do I get to see her highly honed skill set in action, but I feel that she, for the first time, really understands what I do all day, and have been doing for most of her life.
February 13, 2014
Why do we so often start with the conclusion? Today, at a retreat for a non-profit Board I chair, we had to struggle throughout the day with the danger of believing we already knew the answer and then framing the questions accordingly. I see this often in my professional real estate life as well. And sometimes I am certainly guilty of it myself.
February 10, 2014
Income inequality is as old as income. It will always exist, since people aspire to different things, which they pursue with differing levels of ability. In the real estate business in New York, we work with the most fortunate members of our economic society. The price points even of smaller units rule out home ownership in Manhattan and its close environs for any but the wealthy or well compensated. This IS a problem, for both our city’s economic and moral future, and this problem requires a solution.
January 29, 2014
Every year, new real estate companies appear on the New York scene. Often they fail. One way or another, they tell us in their promotional materials, they are going to revolutionize the industry. First Foxton’s came in with their ultra-reduced commission model. They could not get traction in either the broker or the exclusive marketplaces: good agents did not want to go to work for them and so they were unable to list good properties. Soon they were gone. Then there was a wave of firms whose differentiating allure was a radical and pumped up approach to marketing. While mostly these firms and their CEOs were savvier, they too did not fundamentally alter the marketplace (although seller expectations about marketing have become more sophisticated in recent years.) Some of these firms are still around, some not. For many, it has been easier to penetrate the rental than the sales market, rentals being much more transient and less relationship-focused.
January 22, 2014
My favorite new word this week is “akrasia.” I learned it while reading Ian McEwan’s novel Sweet Tooth; it’s Greek and means acting against one’s better judgment. I have been guilty of a certain amount of akrasia in my professional life: the person I probably knew I should not have hired, the person I probably knew I should have fired, the e-mail I wrote but should probably not have sent. And I see it all too often in the sellers, buyers, and agents we work with. Here are some common examples of real estate akrasia for which we should all be on the lookout:
January 15, 2014
In my early years as a real estate agent, I never had a plan. Or if I had a plan, it did not rise much past the level of “make more money than last year” or “remember to take people out to lunch after the closing.” Over the years I have come to understand just how important planning can be. It requires you to visualize your goals. It forces you to think in an analytical and (hopefully) even-handed way about your time management skills. It necessitates an analysis of your current business practices to determine if they will be effective in helping you attain those goals. In short, a business plan provides both a blueprint and a measuring stick.
January 14, 2014
My favorite restaurant near our home in Connecticut is called Serevan. In an old farmhouse in Amenia, New York, it serves brilliantly imaginative Persian/American food created by the chef, our friend Serge Madikians. Whenever we eat there, Serge comes out not only to chat but also to debrief us on the success of the food. Did these spices work well? Was that cooking methodology successful? Too much cinnamon? Did the preserved lemon successfully flavor the dish?
December 31, 2013
New Year’s Eve on Tuesday will usher out 2013, one of the most complex and surprising years in Manhattan real estate history. Inventory was at all-time lows while prices leapt to all-time highs. Brooklyn, Harlem, the Lower East Side, Washington Heights - all saw a major increase in million and multi-million dollar home sales. Fifty Seventh Street is turning into not only Billionaire’s Row, but also into a row of absurdly high, shadow-casting towers catering primarily to foreigners eager to invest in a New York in which none plan to spend more than a few weeks every year. Perhaps in reaction to the dark windows these buildings present to the street after dark, many new condos outside the midtown area are now looking for buyers who plan to use the units as primary residences. And increasing numbers of primary residence purchasers in these buildings are ASKING about this when they buy!
December 23, 2013
During Christmas week, as I bake and wrap, I try to plan. What exactly are my priorities for Warburg Realty, the company I have been proud to lead since 1991, for the coming year? What is urgent? What can wait a few months? I take stock of my personal behavior: what am I doing well, what can I be doing better? Am I listening hard enough? (the danger of running an organization, I have learned, is that people are reluctant to disagree with you.) Am I staying true to my internal compass, making certain that I don’t veer from a path of integrity in which I and the company are guided by doing what is right rather than what is expedient? And of course, part of this taking stock involves looking at the world around us.