Archive for the ‘Real Estate’ Category

Service of Disregarding the Obvious: Laziness, Stupidity or What about Disengaged Travel and Real Estate Agents?

Monday, November 20th, 2017

Photo: business insider

News of two incidents fell into my lap at once involving agents, one travel, and the other real estate. Both could have caused costly inconveniences.

  • The first customer immediately discovered the omission made by the travel agent yet the agent fought tooth and nail not to fix it.
  • Luckily, in the second instance, the customer found the alarming basic oversights of the real estate agent before damage was done.

 Up, Up and Away–Almost

Photo: 123rf.com

A well travelled friend, Mary Joyce Smith–not her real name–has used the same travel agent for decades but the semi-retired expert was out of town when she needed to book a flight to Japan via LA. So instead Smith used a nationally known agency and was dismayed by the lackadaisical, inadequate service.

The tickets and itinerary came back with the name “Mary Smith.” Her middle name was missing. She asked for the addition of Joyce. She wanted her documents to match the name on her passport and official documents, especially important when travelling internationally in an age of hacking and stringent Homeland Security measures.

The agent told her, “I called Japan Airlines and they say it doesn’t matter.” [In the time this took, if she really called the airlines, she could have done what had to be done to add “Joyce.”]

More important: it mattered to Mary Joyce Smith, the kind of customer you want to have because she flies thousands of miles a year. She didn’t want the omission to delay her at airport security but really, she was the customer and the reason should not have mattered to the agent..

After numerous calls through “press one, press two” hell—she reached a supervisor who asked, “Why would they have left off Joyce? Of course it should be on the documents.” Nevertheless she received yet another email from the original agent who clearly has a hearing problem when it comes to customer requests. “The missing middle name doesn’t matter,” she repeated.

I was with Smith when she got this message and knew something was up as her lips tightened, her cheeks became slightly red and she rolled her eyes in irritation.

Open and Shut Case

Photo: thebalance.com

Another friend is selling his weekend house. On his return after a Sunday showing by a substitute real estate agent, he discovered one of the doors was left wide open to the elements, uninvited wild creatures great and small as well as humans. She also left lights on all over the house. What if he hadn’t returned until Friday?

The usual agent said she’d given strict instructions to the substitute—such as that the owners aren’t there during the week. But did she have to also tell the woman to close doors and turn out the lights? You wouldn’t need to go to real estate school to know this.

Why would someone in a service business fight a customer so hard when a fix is simple? How could an agency put a flake in charge of the security of a person’s home? As for both agents, is their approach due to laziness, stupidity or are they disengaged and in the wrong jobs? Can you share examples of fabulous agents?

Photo: thegrindstone.com

 

 

Service of Marketing That Misses the Mark

Monday, July 24th, 2017

Photo: 123rf.com

I love clever marketing ideas. This one was a puzzle and, as my friend Jim would say, “Amateur night at the Dixie Theater,” or my dad, “comme cheveux sur soupe” [like hair on soup i.e. out of place/irrelevant].

A clean cut young man rushed toward me on Third Avenue between 40th and 39th Streets holding out a brown thing wrapped in cellophane [photo left, below]. He didn’t say a word so I took it to be an intro sample for the unidentified object and kept walking. It didn’t look appealing.

A few steps later, a nice looking young woman reached out with the same brown object and I asked her, “What is it?” She replied that it was a pretzel wrapped in chocolate. [It also has some white marshmallow bits on top.] Now curious, I took it and the postcard that came with it [photo below, center].

Next I noticed, parked on the sidewalk, a cart similar to the ones that street food vendors use [photo right, taken later through a bus window]. This one wasn’t where such vendors usually park, at curbside, but well into a very wide sidewalk. It had the pretzel concoctions in the window and was decorated with images of a building like the ones on the postcard; copy from the card and a giant sign “House39.” There was someone inside but nobody around it or even noticing it.

This crew was promoting a new rental building around the corner and down the street. According to the postcard, rentals ranged from studio to three bedrooms starting at $3,910/month. The card lists amenities including a rooftop pool, hot tubs, yoga studio, children’s playroom and more. The postcard doesn’t say if the rent covers use of these features.

So what was wrong with the promotion?

  • The youngsters hired to pass out the treats didn’t mention anything about a new apartment down the street.
  • Pretzels or sweet treats have no connection, clever or otherwise, with apartment sales.
  • People walking down Third Avenue are random and just because they are in the neighborhood during the day they are not necessarily the demographic for apartments with rents that start at almost $4,000 for one room.
  • The beneficiaries of the idea were the cart rental and pretzel companies; the kids who made a day’s wage on a nice summer day; the postcard graphic designer and printer and the marketing company that was paid to create and implement the idea. I doubt that the building saw a viable visitor as a result.

Photo: mponstage.com

The real estate developer, if fixated on doing something on the street, might have skipped the cart and had young people in a striking tee-shirt passing out key rings with the apartment’s address and copy that touted “find the key to happiness in your new apartment.” Or given the name of the structure, “House39,” they might have placed 39 self-stick, removable footsteps between Third Avenue and the front door with—if it’s not too obscure and vintage–references to the iconic spy film, “39 Steps.” A key ring to echo the “39 Steps” theme would suggest that readers “take the mystery out of where your next, best apartment will be.”

Can you find the connection–that passed me by–between the cart, the sweets and luxury apartment rentals? Have you noticed cockamamie, half-baked marketing ideas that people pay good money for and that make you scratch your head?

 

Service of It Must Work Because I Keep Hearing It

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

Some commercials have always irritated me and they don’t get better with time. The adverts must do well or they would either be pulled or changed. For me they cause one action: I change stations.

I never again want to hear about My Pillow. While clearly a great success—bloomberg.com reported that Michael Lindell has sold 26 million of them at $45 or more each and has a workforce of 1,500–I’m not tempted and I’m clearly alone. According to Josh Dean in “The Preposterous Success Story of America’s Pillow King” “…a huge number of them [are sold] directly to consumers who call and order by phone after seeing or hearing one of his inescapable TV and radio ads.”

FortuneBuilder seminar Photo: pinterest

In the Flip This House commercial you learn that the company is looking for “a few good people,” to join them. By now, in the NY Metro area alone, they must have found thousands or, based on years of hearing the same ad, they are really selling something else, like classes, which they are. FortuneBuilders is the name of the company that produces free 90 minute seminars offering the opportunity for more that you pay for. The Central Texas Better Business Bureau president Bill McGuire, with 22 years as a banker under his belt, told Brooke West, a reporter at theeagle.com “‘if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Most of the folks [who will attend the seminars] are regular people interested in making money, and that’s what their focus is,’ McGuire said. ‘But these [FortuneBuilder representatives] are going to get into their back pockets.’” ‘Nuff said.

I haven’t heard lately the incessant jingle for “Kars4Kids.” This might be related to recent publicity. I read on nonprofitorquartely.org Ruth McCambridge’s article “Kars4Kids: What the Jingle Leaves Out,” that first appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She wrote “…. how many among the general public know that Kars4Kids is directly affiliated with—and sends 90 percent of those proceeds that go to charity to—Oorah, a single youth charity in New Jersey which, according to tax forms, is “a Jewish outreach organization for the purpose of imparting Jewish education, values, and traditions, as well as guidance and support, to Jewish children who lack access to these fundamentals?” Key words in this quote are “that go to charity.”

Photo: youtube.com

McCambridge continues to share the findings of a 300 page report by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. For example: “out of $3 million raised in that state from 2012 to 2014, less than $12,000 went to children’s services in Minnesota…. She additionally found that though Kars4Kids reports spending 63 percent on mission, in actuality, of the $88 million raised nationally from 2012 to 2014, only 44 percent was given to charity, with $40 million going to Oorah. (When it comes to car donation programs in general, that 44 percent probably puts it on the high side, actually.)”

Do some commercials that you’ve heard for years drive you up walls? Have you bought anything after you heard or saw an ad for the billionth time? Does Genucel’s Chamonix cream really remove those bags under your eyes?

Photo: parenting.com

Service of Leave it Alone, Already

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Waldorf Astoria

Waldorf Astoria

I thought, “Why did they have to pick on this house to ruin?” I’ve written before about the Brooklyn Heights house that had one thing going for it: All of the original plaster and woodwork were intact, which was unusual. We didn’t get the house but revisited it during a house tour. The new owners had stripped away every trace of original architectural element and transformed the 19th century brownstone into a 20th century monument to the innocuous and bland.

Wall Street Journal Urban Gardner columnist Ralph Gardner Jr. similarly mourned the news of the Waldorf Astoria’s conversion to condos and reminded us of the Plaza’s—that took the soul out of the place. In “Another Condo-Conversion Casualty The Waldorf Astoria is going the lamentable way of the Plaza,” he spells out his prediction.

He pointed out that Paris and London have their grand hotels and now New York no longer will have any. Like fortunate people of a certain age who grew up in NYC or visited, he reminisced about having lunch at the Plaza with his father when he was a child. I remember tea with my mother.

Vintage photo of Plaza Hotel. Photo: boweryboyshistory.com

Vintage photo of Plaza Hotel. Photo: boweryboyshistory.com

“These days the Plaza feels like the victim of some genteel version of a neutron bomb—the property remains intact but the people are largely missing.” Gardner wrote, and he asks: “Aren’t there enough shiny new billionaire condo developments rising along 57th Street and Central Park South to satisfy demand? Must we squander our inheritance?”

A few days before Gardner’s article, the New York Post covered the demise of the Campbell Apartment. In “Cocktail Shakeup at Grand Central Terminal,” Julia Marsh and Laura Italiano reported that the 1920s glam office-turned vintage bar–and Mark Grossich—lost the lease after 17 years. Grossich’s rent was $350,000/year and he offered $800,000 on a 10-year lease, but  Scott Gerber, who said he was approached by MTA advisors and didn’t seek out the property, will pay $1.1 million/year. Grossich said he’d counter offer on the highest bid plus 2.5 percent. He said the MTA told him: “They way overbid you. We can’t do that.”

The reporters wrote that last year “the MTA began aggressively overhauling Grand Central’s restaurants and bars hoping for higher rents and ever-more-high-end lease holders.”

Campbell Apartment. Photo: alamy.com

Campbell Apartment. Photo: alamy.com

After years of neglect, Grossich restored the space almost two decades ago. It had served for a while as a “pokey; a cell for all the wastrels and drifters that came through Grand Central.” He spent $millions. Marsh and Italiano described him as a “master of the timeless, intimate cocktail lounge, temples to single-malt scotch, fine cigars and tufted upholstery.”

The new lease holder “plans to modernize.” Marsh and Italiano described what Gerber—who runs “hip, jangly and galvanic lounges”—has in mind. It will be “something less Brooks Brothers, more limited edition sneakers and Gucci-T-shirts.” He caters to athletes, musicians and celebrities who don’t wear jackets. The space is landmarked, so he can’t touch the walls, ceiling or windows. “But he’s installing a costly new stone bar top, new bar and kitchen equipment, a new heating and air conditioning system.” He’ll add chandeliers, high-tech lighting and instead of big band tunes Gerber promises “eclectic music.”

Funny. Americans travel the world to visit and admire ancient ruins, churches, mosques, estates, chateaux and celebrated historic landmarks but they don’t seem to have the same sensibility about their own history. Increasingly the past is considered fuddy duddy and proponents are fatally old fashioned and terminally wrong. And there are fewer and fewer places for them to enjoy around here. Why is this? Will we eventually be sorry? Will you miss NYC’s last grand hotel? Does the city need yet another luxury condo?

Fendi leather Bugs, $1,000

Fendi leather Bugs, $1,000

 

Service of Retail: A Bellwether of the Economy’s Health, Impact of Shifts in Purchasing Habits or What?

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

empty store in manhattan

On a recent weekday we walked down First Avenue from 70th to 53rd Street in Manhattan and were alarmed by the number of empty spaces where stores, restaurants, nail salons and other business once thrived in a neighborhood swarming with people.  The worst was an entire block with rental signs in all the street level windows.

The Mt. Kisco Daily Voice reported last week that the Poughkeepsie Kmart branch is one of 78 to close around the country in May. I’ve driven by it a few times a month for years. The times I dropped in I found that the supposed value priced store offered cheap fashion and home fashion with no flair and commodities at far from discount prices which, in part, may account for this news.

On to another retail scene. “Upscale Shopping Centers Nudge Out Down-Market Malls: Some retailers are closing stores in weaker-performing locations to focus on Web sales and more luxury spots,” was a Wall Street Journal headline for Suzanne Kapner’s article. She wrote “Once-solid regional ‘B’ malls that thrived for years are losing shoppers and tenants to the ‘A’ malls—those with sales per square foot in excess of $500, according to Green Street Advisors.

“The research firm estimates that about 44% of total U.S. mall value, which is based on sales, size empty store 2 ave 1and quality among other measures, resides with the top 100 properties, out of about 1,000 malls.” Kapner continued: “Mall owners disagree about whether the Internet is their main problem. They point to demographic changes that redirected population and income growth away from malls built years ago, along with a real estate glut that has left the U.S. with 24 square feet of retail space per person, compared with 15 for Canada, 10 for Australia and 5 for the U.K., according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.”

A few days later, also in The Wall Street Journal, Kapner wrote “Glut Plagues Department Stores,” where she reported that hundreds will close “to regain the productivity they had a decade ago.” Green Street Advisors was again her source. Some 800 are expected to close representing “a fifth of all anchor space in U.S. malls.”

The developers will figure out what to do with these properties and customers will find other places to buy what they need but what about all the employees–how will they make a living?

I wonder if these retail signals representing mom and pop enterprises to major brands reflect shifts in purchasing habits or a canary in the economic coalmine–or both? Politicians and their followers looking for easy answers and quick fixes will blame increased minimum wage laws and the greater cost of health insurance for employees under Obamacare. Others will fault the closings on the massive shift of disposable income from the middle class to the extremely rich, which has occurred over the last 35 years. What do you think?

empty store 2 ave 2

Service of Strings Attached

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

 

Ball of string

Most of the things we buy we own and can do with what we wish. Art isn’t one of them, especially works by famous, living people. If they didn’t know it before, the developer planning to convert the Sony Building on Madison Avenue to a hotel and luxury apartments knows it now.

Sony commissioned Canadian artist Dorothea Rockburne to create two fresco murals for its lobby in the 1990s. The Chetrit Group, that bought the building from Sony in 2013 for $1.1 billion, has her to deal with according to Peter Grant in his Wall Street Journal story, “Artist Skeptical Over Murals’ Fate.” 

Robert A.M. Stern, architect

Robert A.M. Stern, architect

Grant wrote: “The fate of [the] murals has been uncertain since earlier this year when Ms. Rockburne set off a furor in the art world by saying they were being endangered by the conversion project. That led to a series of meetings in February and earlier this month between Ms. Rockburne and Joseph Chetrit; his son, Jonathan; and their architect, Robert A.M. Stern.”

Rockburne wants control over lighting and doesn’t want the murals moved. Grant wrote that her “artwork is grounded in astronomy and mathematics” and that the murals were “designed in part to reflect their exact locations in the cosmos.” As for the lighting, “getting it wrong would be like leaving out a color” she told Grant. “It can’t be seen unless it’s lit by me,’ she said.”

Architect Stern told Grant “that his firm is making sure that the lighting and other design elements complement the murals, which will ‘give this lobby a wonderful glow and make it something everyone will want to enjoy and experience.’ He added: ‘I am the architect and interior designer for the project and not Dorothea.’”

Rockburne, whose work is found at topflight museums such a MoMA and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, didn’t care for photos she saw of the model lobby—due to be completed in 2018—because high desks “obscured the view of the mural.” Rockburne posited, “Would you put desks in front of the ‘Last Supper?’”

Picasso "Le Tricorne," Photo: LA Times

Picasso “Le Tricorne,” Photo: LA Times

Developers have crossed swords before over artworks in buildings they’ve bought. Grant reminded readers of Aby Rosen who caused a kerfuffle when he removed Picasso’s “Le Tricorne,” from the Four Seasons restaurant when he bought the Seagram Building 16 years ago. Grant reported that the Picasso stage curtain is currently on display at the New-York Historical Society.

I’m not a lawyer but a quick scan of Google made clear that artists—especially high profile ones still living—own copyrights to their works which limit what those who have commissioned their work can do. Goodness knows whether there was legal mumbo-jumbo between Sony and Rockburne which covered what happened to the works if they sold the building or what, if any, control current laws give this artist. Grant wrote that she has asked the Chetrits’ for a contract in which they agree to preserve the murals, which leads me to believe the fate of Northern and Southern Sky isn’t as buttoned up as she’d like.

Do you think Rockburne—or any artist–should be able to direct furniture and lighting placement in the lobby of a building they don’t own? Should a developer/new owner have any rights when it comes to work that comes with a building? Would you be slow to commission artwork from a top-selling artist for a building you own because of potential future complications?

copyright

Service of Too Big to Question

Monday, October 12th, 2015

 

Due diligence

In the news last week were at least two examples of people who should have known better. They conducted zero due diligence on activities of an individual or about a company for which they were about to pay dearly either because of the stellar background of the former or the size of the deal in the latter instance–or maybe because they were gullible [unlikely] or lazy. In all cases people were not doing their jobs.

Anupreeta Das and Jean Eaglesham’s Wall Street Journal story, “Harvard, Goldman, VC…Fugitive,” is about Iftikar Ahmed, known as “Ifty” to his friends. [Shifty is more appropriate.] They report that he “allegedly stole $65 million” from his partners at Oak Investment Partners. He “exploited the trust-based culture of the venture capital firm,” they wrote. According to the reporters, “Mr. Ahmed’s former colleagues at Norwalk, Conn.-based Oak found that he used doctored deal documents, phony exchange rates and fake invoices to siphon off millions of dollars into secret bank accounts, according to prosecutors and regulators. Oak made the discoveries only after Mr. Ahmed was arrested on insider-trading charges unrelated to his work at the firm.” Nobody knows where Ifty is these days–India they think.

The article describes the fascinating details and is worth a read. What got me was a trustsideline detail. Ifty’s wife was able to buy a Manhattan apartment for $8.5 million cash weeks after he was arrested! The intrusive financial raking that small fries must go through to buy a co-op is insulting, so clearly, this purchase must have taken place at a condo whose board members wear blinders. They aren’t the only board so equipped. Please read on.

Next, I was glued to The New York Times article, “A Deal That Still Haunts Hewlett-Packard” which you should also read. The allegations illustrate inconceivable neglect by a CEO and board of a publicly owned company. To describe their vetting process as “scrutiny light” is an exaggeration in the $11 billion purchase of a British company called Autonomy, covered by reporter James B. Stewart. Most people would do more research before purchasing a vacuum cleaner than HP’s chairman Léo Apotheker and the HP board did before buying a foreign software company.

wearing blindersAccording to Stewart, “Some consider the Autonomy acquisition to be the worst corporate deal ever. Just how bad is confirmed by the latest revelations from a shareholders’ suit over the deal: Mr. Apotheker didn’t even read the due diligence report on Autonomy that H.P. commissioned from KPMG, the giant accounting firm. Nor did Raymond J. Lane, the board chairman, or any other member of the board, according to a report prepared by the law firm Proskauer Rose, which was hired to represent H.P.’s independent directors.”

Stewart notes that the executive summary contained “numerous warnings.” But they didn’t read the executive summary either. [Stewart did–as well as the full report.] He wrote: “The executive summary stresses repeatedly that Autonomy stonewalled KPMG accountants, who were granted ‘access to very limited proprietary financial and tax information.'” The summary questioned the “claimed stellar revenue growth” and Autonomy’s “revenue recognition practices,” crucial backup information to justify such an expensive acquisition. 

In the first instance, does a “trust-based culture” have a place in today’s world? Were the Oak venture capital partners asleep at the switch, busy doing similar fiddles or simply blindsided?

Regarding the second example, I Googled “most expensive vacuum cleaners,” and saw one that cost $5,599.99. Would you pay that much based on a brochure claim that it was worth the money with no other information? Stewart wrote, “I’d say that for $11 billion, HP should have been able to see whatever it wanted.” Do you agree?

warning

 

 

Service of a Bad Sign

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Luxury for blog

A business can so easily give the wrong impression. Here are photos I took on my walk to and from work that illustrate the point.

The sign featured above inspired the post. It touts luxury apartments for rent. The fact that this dirty sign has drooped in this manner for weeks tells me that as a potential tenant, my leaky faucet, broken toilet or elevator, lack of hot water or heat will suffer similar neglect.

Nail sign for blogNot sure I’d want to have my nails done at a place with insufficient soap and water to keep its unprofessionally hung sign clean–photo right.

New Yorkers are chomping at the bit to enjoy a spring sidewalk drink or meal but would anyone consider this place featured below? Chairs and tables have been laced with boxes and filled garbage bags for days.

Have you noticed similar easy-fix neglect in neighborhoods in which you hang around?

 Restaurant sign blog

Service of the [Very] Good, the [Extremely] Bad and the Ugly: A Real Estate Tale

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

real estate

We recently worked with two New York City-based real estate agents. Rating their performances from one to 10 they represented the top and bottom of the spectrum. One agent, Linda Gawley, Managing Director, Charles H. Greenthal Management & Residential Sales, spent hours mopping up the mess left by the other who was careless and disrespectful of both our agent’s time and of us.

Her aggressive lack of participation was clearly a cause for kudos by the agency she works for. Make money by doing and spending nothing? Congrats! That’s the crystal message we got from the executive at the major New York real estate company who responded to our complaint letter.

Do nothing and get paidIn our letter we asked that this agency refund the fee. We heard that it’s not a practice for one agency to pay another in such an instance so we offered the option to return the money to us. Their answer: “No.”

The agent lived in her client’s condo apartment and was leaving. We wanted to sublet it and to do so we needed approval of the apartment owner and the building’s board of directors. Following is an abbreviated list of her elementary mistakes that jeopardized our move-in date and caused us inordinate stress.

Our agent remained calm and courteous even when snapped at. We knew something was up when Ms. Gawley questioned the spelling of the apartment owner’s name on the lease. It was an unusual interpretation of a French name. [My father was French so I noticed it.] “It’s correct,” barked Ms. ___ during a conference call we were in on. In fact, it was incorrect, so our certified deposit checks were inaccurate as well. This kind of sloppiness followed and tripped us up throughout the process.

The  apartment’s owner–Ms. ____’s client–wanted to meet us across the street from her office/apartment. She wasn’t free so Ms. Gawley squeezed in the appointment to her schedule. Ms. ___ had not given her client a copy of the lease we signed nor had she warned Ms. Gawley to bring one so when he asked for one, Ms. Gawley appeared unprepared—something she never is.

Because of delays caused by Ms. ___’s carelessness on February 1 we did not know whether we would have access to the apartment or if we had been approved by the building’s board of directors and therefore, whether the movers would be allowed in the building on Monday February 2.

Our board package was not submitted promptly because Ms. ___ hadn’t counseled her client to sign either the standard lead paint or child guard disclosure forms, discovered at the final hour. In the response, the real estate executive did not refer to this glitch.

She brought up another one. She wrote: “Unfortunately, we sleeping at desk 2encountered a big snag at this point which caused us a delay. Upon review, the managing agent discovered that the owner of the apartment was not carrying the proper insurance. This is highly unusual, because it’s imperative for all owners to have valid insurance at all times, so of course it was completely unknown to Ms. ____. This is the purview of the managing agent, not the listing agent, and it would not be in Ms. ___’ typical scope to verify the insurance.” I underlined the words “typical scope” because I thought they were clever. What is her scope? How seasoned an agent was she?  Since she lived in the same place for a period of time, was she there legally?

We wanted to know where we would be living in the city [our weekend home requires a five hour commute round trip] but that was only the half of it. Should we cancel the movers [who had already stored our belongings for a week] and Verizon/Fios, which we ordered for move-in day so we might be connected to the world? What about business appointments  later that week–would we be free to make them or would we be waiting for the movers?

In the agency’s response, the executive wrote: “On the 30th, Ms. ____ received verbal confirmation from the Board President that the waiver had been signed, which she immediately relayed to your agent.  Did your agent not relay that information to you?”

Given Ms. ____’s slipshod track record, and the fact that the building’s managing agent couldn’t verify the information, Ms. Gawley wasn’t about to suggest that our movers park outside the building first thing Monday February 2 until she knew for sure they would be allowed in. She asked that we delay the movers to Monday afternoon. They lost a morning of work and had to leave [house rules] before they were done. When the Fios technician came he didn’t have our computer, phones and TV to connect them causing costly repercussions for us.

411 sink Feb 1“Broom clean,” was not the way Ms. ___ left the apartment. Illustrative of her modus operandi see the photos at right and below left of just some of the things we found. They don’t capture the dirty towel on the bathroom floor and filled coffee cups and water bottles. In her letter the executive wrote, “she apologizes that her movers left a few items behind.” 

Ms. ____ had told us she was moving a few blocks away as well as to Connecticut but obviously didn’t relay the former info to her employer who claimed that from Connecticut she couldn’t have conveniently checked how the movers left the apartment. Funny: We’d just moved out of a city apartment followed by a two hour drive upstate in a blizzard and left not a spec of dust behind much less garbage bags worth of stuff.

411 stuff left behindThat Ms. ___was snarky and never apologized to us for her [in]actions was as grievous to me as the time she stole from Ms. Gawley and the stress she caused us. I also had a bad reaction to the patronizing tone of the executive’s letter, i.e. “Moving is always stressful.”  Between us my husband and I have moved some 50 times, sometimes across oceans, into property we’ve rented or owned, yet neither of us has experienced a move as bad as this.

I am tempted to write “The Haggler” in The New York Times’ Sunday Business Section but I want the episode behind me. If you need a great agent to buy or sell property I’ll put you in touch with Linda Gawley. Bad agents work all over, not just in NYC—I’ve hired and heard about lousy ones. Haven’t you?

Does someone in a service business–like real estate agent, PR or advertising exec–owe counseling to their clients or has it become yet another area where the client is expected to know everything and to get zero guidance and direction from the specialist?

Service of a Divine Location

Monday, September 8th, 2014

 

St. Mary's Cathedral, Hamburg. Photo: Wikipedia

St. Mary’s Cathedral, Hamburg. Photo: Wikipedia

If you’ve glanced at real estate sections over the years you’ll have seen advice against buying a house too close to the road, how a swimming pool lowers a property’s value and so on. Since hurricanes and oil leaks have more frequently had their way with beachfront properties, many are taking a second look at oceanside homes, once coveted by me especially.

On the brighter side Stefanos Chen shared highlights of a German study on the benefits of owning a condo near–though at the right distance from–a place of worship. It doesn’t matter what religion. He wrote “A study of the housing market in Hamburg, Germany, found that condos located between 100 to 200 meters, or 109 to 219 yards, away from a place of worship listed for an average 4.8% more than other homes. The effect was similar across all religious buildings studied, including churches, mosques and temples.” 

Temple Emanu-El. Photo nycago

Temple Emanu-El. Photo nycago

Continued Chen, “But live too close to the religious building—within 100 meters—and the premium is erased, they found. Sounds associated with houses of worship are only part of the problem. The effect of bell ringing, for example, wasn’t statistically significant, he said.” The “he” is Wolfgang Maennig a German professor in the University of Hamburg’s economics and social sciences department who co-authored the journal report that appeared in Growth and Change.

Maennig told Chen that being close to transportation and sports arenas also adds value. I’d question the latter. Surefire gridlock when the local team was playing at home would make me want to rent or buy far, far away.

The jury is still out as to whether the divine proximity phenomenon affects US real estate. Can you conjecture? When moving to a condo, co-op or house, what do you look for in the location?

 

Photo: bananas.org

Photo: bananas.org

 

 

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