Experts advise buyers and sellers to get back to basics

By Sara Polsky | March 06, 2009 10:50AM

Clockwise, from top left: Pamela Liebman, Jonathan Miller, Paul Purcell and Alan Rosenbaum

Industry experts urged buyers and sellers to get back to real estate basics last night at “Changing Market: Making Sense of Manhattan Residential Real Estate,” an annual panel at the 92nd Street Y hosted by Paul Purcell, co-founder of Charles Rutenberg Realty in New York. The speakers, Pamela Liebman, president and CEO of the Corcoran Group, Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel and Alan Rosenbaum, president of Guardhill Financial, spoke to a crowd of more than 125 people, including many potential buyers and a few hopeful sellers.

“We lose sight of what real estate is really interested in doing,” Purcell said. “To my parents’ generation, their goal in buying a home was to give their family a place to live … they bought it for the long-term hold.”

New Yorkers tend to view apartments like stocks, Purcell said, looking at the value of their apartments every day. But, he said, apartments shouldn’t be treated like commodities.

“You’re buying it to live in it,” Liebman said. 

At the same time, the panelists said, there are significant opportunities out there for buyers who are willing to look at the buying process as a business decision. 

“Buyers are very empowered. They can be very aggressive in their bidding,” Liebman said. Many sellers are a year behind the market and co-op boards are a year behind the sellers, Miller added. But other sellers are responding to buyers’ lower offers.

For a buyer, “it’s still important to have an emotional connection to the apartment — as long as it’s at the right price,” Liebman said.

Manhattan home prices are down about 25 percent compared to February 2008, Miller said. He said he sees particular opportunities for first-time buyers.

Most sales now are taking place in the under-$2 million market, and many of those sales [are] in the under-$1 million market, Liebman said.

As the market drops, so will what Liebman calls the “peripheral stuff,” like the amenities in many Financial District buildings. “It’s all about the basics: good floor plan, nice view.”

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