February 11th 2015
New York Daily News
Listings remain well below historic norms in Manhattan — the fourth-lowest on record in 2014
It’s the real estate equivalent of marrying the first guy you meet in a bar. He might be handsome, but is he really marriage material?
More and more buyers are taking a daring approach to the market and snapping up the first and only properties they see. Call them impulsive or foolhardy, but as inventory hovers at record lows, these devil-may-care purchasers are beating their rivals to the punch — and reaping the rewards.
“A switch just flipped inside of me and I knew I had to seize the day,” said Comanche Weaver, a wine industry executive who impulsively snapped up the first apartment she saw on the Upper West Side last year. “The next thing I know, I’m on the phone with my fiancé and my dad saying, ‘We have to make an offer.’”
It may seem wild, and even risky, but these so-called “one-and-done” deals are becoming increasingly common, experts said.
The typical U.S. homebuyer looks at close to 10 homes before signing on the dotted line — and some serial househunters look for years without ever buying — but these “one-and-done” buyers often agree to ink a contract after a single 20-minute showing.
And, with few apartments available for buyers to choose from, it’s no wonder.
Listings remain well below historic norms in Manhattan — the fourth-lowest on record in 2014 and 23.9% below the 16-year average, according to the brokerage Douglas Elliman. Buyers struggled to find — and win — the right apartments and weren’t cut a break on pricing, either. The average sale price was just 2.2% lower than the ask, compared with 3% in 2013.
“If you’re in a white hot neighborhood, you have to act quickly because there are a hundred other buyers right there with you,” said broker David Gomez Pearlberg of Town Residential. “Do you have the stomach to take the chance? If not, there’s going to be someone else right behind you who does.”
The number of days a property stayed on the Manhattan market also dropped to the second-lowest level in two decades. It’s now just 102 days, a 5.7% annual drop in the last year.
The situation is even more dire in Brooklyn, where the average number of days a property spent on the market dropped by a whopping 20% over the last year to just 78.
The realities of such a market proved devastating to one Brooklyn couple, who recently decided to explore the market further, despite having loved the first apartment they saw. When they came back to buy apartment number one, someone else had gotten there first.
“They didn’t know how good the first apartment was until they saw the other options,” said the couple’s broker, Emily Yaffe of the Corcoran Group. “They’ve been looking for more than a year and they’re still talking about that first place. They’ve regretted it ever since.”
But the rise in “one-and-done” deals is not just down to inventory.
Some even say the internet may be to blame. Instead of enlisting brokers early on and starting a physical search, buyers and renters are trawling through online listings, educating themselves, and seeing only properties that meet their specific criteria before pounding the pavements.
“A lot of these people have grown up on ‘The 4-Hour Workweek,’ where quick instinctual decision-making is rewarded and your gut is correct most of the time,” said Karla Saladino, a founder of brokerage Mirador Real Estate. “They book their hotels and flight plans online and now they find their homes online, too. They narrow their search at home and, if they show up and the property looks like it did online, then they’ll take it.”
Buying the first apartment you see is risky business, but Weaver said she’s had no regrets since buying her two-bedroom pad, at 61 W. 62nd St., last year with the help of Town Residential broker Samir Mahadin.
Similarly, Meg LeVeen looked for an apartment last year and pulled out her checkbook to put down a deposit on the first and only unit she saw.
“This is a friend who can’t even commit to dinner,” said her broker, Gino Filippone of the Corcoran Group. “We literally walked in the door and I could see her face go ‘Oh my God, this is it.’ Everything just immediately fell into place.”
In his sideline job planning weddings for out-of-towners, Filippone said he’s well accustomed to watching people fall in love, whether it be with a wedding dress, a venue or a piece of real estate.
“Once I saw the place, I knew I didn’t have to look any further,” said LeVeen, who owns her own dog-walking business, Bark-A-Holics.
LeVeen’s story has a happy ending, but not everyone is so lucky. Experts cautioned that love at first sight can be exhilarating, but it’s still important do your research on the building and its neighbors.
“It’s like a car. You drive it off the lot and it’s yours. No returns,” Weaver said.
When Jason Haber, a broker for Warburg Realty, took a tall finance executive to see a sexy loft on the Upper West Side a few years ago, the executive fell hard for the property, so much so that he didn’t bother to explore the upstairs landing. When he came back to walk through the apartment before the closing, he discovered that the ceiling was so low that he couldn’t stand up straight. It was too late to back out of the deal.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Can you fix this?'” Haber recalled. “I said, ‘If I could fix this, I could fix the Knicks.'”