Larry Link

Larry Link


With a widely varied professional career that includes investment banking, photography, property ownership, business start-ups, real estate finance, and money management, Larry's broad experience makes him uniquely qualified to manage the complexities inherent in New York real estate. Larry, who is the company's co-principal broker and President, is actively involved in all areas of the company's direction including business development, branding, advertising, website development and recruitment. In addition, Larry is readily accessible to all the agents for consultation and guidance when needed.

Larry's real estate experience includes a broad range of rentals, sales, finance and development activity. As part of Merrill Lynch's real estate investment banking division, Larry was actively involved in numerous IPO and capital market transactions responsible for raising over $1 billion. His experience includes everything from apartment rentals to commercial leasing to townhouse and development property sales. He has consulted and worked with several large real estate developers on condo and mixed-use projects in both Manhattan and Brooklyn.

As an avid traveler and professional photographer, Larry has visited and worked in over 50 countries worldwide. With an open mind, easy-going attitude and insatiable curiosity, he thoroughly enjoys the challenge of managing Level Group and its entrepreneurial group of agents.

U.S. News (02/08/2017) - The Do's and Don'ts of Buying Vacant Land

The Do's and Don'ts of Buying Vacant Land

Buying a home can be complicated, but purchasing land to build on is a whole new ball game.

Finding your dream home isn’t easy. You'll spend a lot of time to scouring online listings, attending open houses and scoping out neighborhoods – and you may still come up empty-handed.

Maybe your dream home just doesn’t exist yet. In this case, building a home on a vacant piece of land may be the perfect option.

But before you get serious about laying a foundation, be aware that a land purchase may yield more surprises than buying a home – from easements and zoning restrictions to environmental conditions that could easily turn your dream build into a headache the size of a McMansion.

Whether you’re buying vacant land to build a home for your family or you hope to sell the plot for a profit in the future, follow these rules to avoid buyer’s remorse.

Do work with a pro who knows land. Working with a real estate agent when you purchase a home is important to help you navigate the finer details, especially when you’re unfamiliar with negotiations, due diligence and closing the deal. But when you’re purchasing land, hire an agent who has extensive experience negotiating land deals.

A common mistake many land sellers and real estate agents make is to advertise a plot of land as having the potential to be subdivided, says Neville Graham, a Realtor specializing in land sales and associate partner for Partners Trust in Beverly Hills, California. Buyers may be left with a plot of land that will yield less profit than expected, while sellers could easily face a lawsuit for false advertising.

Don’t expect to get a loan. A land purchase can’t be leveraged with a bank the same way a home purchase can, so you’ll likely have to pay cash if there’s no structure on the property yet.

An investor purchasing an apartment building, for example, “might be able to put down 20 percent and get 80 percent from a bank, putting up the land and the building for a mortgage,” says Larry Link, principal broker and president of Level Group in New York City. “But if you have a piece of land, you might be lucky if [a lender] gives you 40 percent or 50 percent of the value – and that’s typically if you have a good bank relationship or other collateral. You’re more likely to get zero.”

You'll have a much better chance of being approved for a construction loan on the building you want to put on the land, since the house you'll build serves as collateral on the loan.

Do consider the value of homes in the neighborhood. One of the biggest draws of building your home is the ability to customize it, but be sure you’re building your dream home in a neighborhood with similar taste.

Graham recalls working with a client who purchased land and designed a home only to be turned down for a construction loan because the cost of the land combined with the cost to build was about $2.2 million, significantly more than home values in the neighborhood, which were closer to $1.5 million.

“If it’s overpriced, then you’re not getting your [construction] loan,” Graham says.

Don’t skip the survey or environmental tests. Similar to a home inspection and background research on a house, a plot of land needs to be subjected to tests and checks to ensure you know what you’re buying and that you’ll be able to build on it.

Environmental tests check the soil for contamination from previous use. The site of a former gas station or auto body shop is more likely to have contaminated soil, for example, and residential homes can’t be built there. The land's potential for flooding or poor soil conditions for building are also of concern.

You’ll also want to have a surveyor take a look at your property to identify the boundaries. Especially if the land is in a neighborhood and has been vacant for years, neighbors may have encroached beyond the property lines, intentionally or not.

“You may be shocked that part of the garden and part of the birdbath that these people [next door] have been attending to for the last eight years is on your property,” Graham says.

Do take utilities and road access into account. It’s easy to take access to running water, electricity and sewers for granted when you’re buying an existing house, but with vacant land these are not always a given.

“Depending on how developed the area is around the land, you want to know if it’s going to cost money for infrastructure to be run to that land or if it’s already serviced,” says Michelle Farber Ross, real estate broker and managing partner of MMD Realty in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Don’t talk to the neighbors. While speaking to neighbors when you’re looking at a house may be a great idea to get a feel for the area, discussing your plans to build on a vacant lot with can easily lead to organized opposition to your future dream home.

Graham says it’s common for neighbors who are used to having raw land near their home to get upset when the status quo is about change and seek to keep you from building. “All they’re doing is gathering information to use against you,” he says.

Hold off on making friends with the neighbors until any home is built and you’re moved in. Otherwise, discussing plans could lead to a neighbor dispute before you’ve even broken ground.

Don’t assume you can have property rezoned. Your local governing body will have zones, codes and ordinances that limit what can be built on any property or require certain steps to build a sound structure.

For example, there may be required setbacks from the edge of the property, mandates to build a sea wall if you’re on the waterfront, or a percentage of the land may be restricted from development. Getting an exception to the rule isn’t easy, and there’s a good chance it will be denied, Link says.

Rather than trying to rezone property, it’s best to keep your vision within existing limits. Seek land that will allow you to build the home you want, but know your plot’s restrictions before finalizing the plans.

“You can start with a conceptual idea of what you want to build with your architect, but to get real specific you’d almost need to identify what piece of land it is,” Farber Ross says.

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Real Estate Weekly (12/23/2016) - City’s big-hearted brokers celebrate the season of giving

Real Estate Weekly


City’s big-hearted brokers celebrate the season of giving

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Real Estate Weekly (12/23/2016) - Level Group holiday party benefits Bowery Mission

Real Estate Weekly


IN PICTURES: Level Group holiday party benefits Bowery Mission

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CityBizList (11/28/2016) - Level Group Will Collect and Donate Cold Weather Items for The Bowery Mission During Its Annual Holi

Level Group Will Collect and Donate Cold Weather Items for The Bowery Mission During Its Annual Holiday Party




Level Group, an innovative, full-service commercial and residential real estate brokerage company that introduced the 100% commission model to New York City, today announced that its annual, invitation-only December 8th holiday party will benefit the historic Bowery Mission, the 137 year old, award-winning non-profit that provides food, shelter, clothing, medical services, employment assistance and residential recovery programs to New York City’s working poor and homeless citizens. “We are asking guests to bring new and unused cold weather clothing, such as gloves, hats and scarves, and we’ll donate the items to The Bowery Mission,” says Michael Barbolla, COO, Level Group. The brokerage will have two large boxes at the event – to be held at the firm’s headquarters at 370 Lexington Avenue – to collect the clothing. “We don’t want to fill the boxes – we want them to be stuffed with cold-weather items,” says Barbolla.

According to the Coalition for the Homeless, the city is experiencing the highest level of homelessness since the Great Depression. In September 2016 alone, there were nearly 61,000 New Yorkers without a home, including approximately 15,600 homeless families and about 24,000 homeless children.

“This should not be,” says Michael Greenberg, CEO and General Counsel, Level Group. “New York City is one of the wealthiest cities in the world, and to have this problem is unacceptable. Working with The Bowery Mission is Level’s opportunity to give back in a manner that makes a difference.”

Level Group’s relationship with The Bowery Mission is ongoing, and has included real estate agents volunteering with the organization; providing pro bono legal services; and donating its $70,000 commission when the firm’s commercial division secured The Bowery Mission’s new office space.  Recognizing their efforts, The Bowery Mission honored Link and Greenberg at its 2016 Valentine Gala.

“The Level Group has been a steadfast partner,” says David Jones, President and CEO, The Bowery Mission. “We appreciate their dedication and ongoing support for our work.”

Notes Larry Link, Level’s President, “It’s very important to us to assist The Bowery Mission in its work of feeding, sheltering and serving the disadvantaged, at risk and homeless New Yorkers and their families. We know that our colleagues in the New York real estate community will be glad to do their part.”

About The Bowery Mission

The Bowery Mission has served homeless and hungry New Yorkers since 1879. This year, The Bowery Mission provided more than 505,000 meals to men, women and children, 97,300 nights of shelter and 56,200 articles of clothing, as well as showers, haircuts, and expert medical and optometric care. Each meal and every night of shelter is an invitation to residential recovery programs, where men and women get a second chance and lives are transformed from hopelessness to hope. Last year, the Mission’s residential programs served nearly 300 men and women who are regaining sobriety, reconnecting with family and faith, pursuing educational goals, and preparing for work and independent living. To ensure that at-risk children have a positive first chance at life, The Bowery Mission’s city camp and summer camp serves nearly 1,200 at-risk children from poor city neighborhoods.

About Level Group

Founded in 2004, Level Group was the first firm in New York City to offer the 100% commission model. It handles the full spectrum of real estate brokerage work, including residential and commercial leasing and sales. Known for its open door policy to senior management, the firm has attracted more than 230 brokers, many from the city’s larger brokerage firms. Level Group recently launched “Level Group Spotlight Series,” a bi-annual symposium dedicated to educational topics of interest to the commercial and residential real estate community. The program complements its in-depth, ongoing education and training program for its agents.

Level Group has been featured in such media as Bloomberg Radio, MarketWatch Radio Network,, The Real Deal,, Real Estate Weekly, Mansion Global, USA Today, BrickUnderground, DNAInfo and WPIX TV.

To learn more about joining Level Group, contact Michael Barbolla at either 212.994.9965 or

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DNA Info (11/15/2016) - Here's How a Trump Presidency Could Affect the City's Real Estate Market

Here's How a Trump Presidency Could Affect the City's Real Estate Market

By Amy Zimmer | November 15, 2016 4:43pm
 A view of Manhattan's east side, with the copper-tinted Trump World Tower a few blocks north of the United Nations.

A view of Manhattan's east side, with the copper-tinted Trump World Tower a few blocks north of the United Nations.

DNAInfo/Amy Zimmer

MANHATTAN — A New York City developer will soon be in the Oval Office.

From his glass perch in Trump Tower, at Fifth Avenue and 56th Street, to other buildings like Trump SoHo on Spring Street and Trump World Tower near the United Nations, President-elect Donald Trump’s signature is stamped across the city skyline.

His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is reportedly playing a significant role on his transition team, is also a major developer here, with trendy projects like the Puck Building on Lafayette Street, Williamsburg’s Austin Nichols House at 184 Kent Ave., and Etsy’s new headquarters in DUMBO's former Watchtower building.

It remains to be seen, however, what having New York City developers in positions of national power means for the city’s local housing market.

While many developers based here may be looking forward to big tax cuts promised to the nation’s top earners, other ripple effects that could hamper a market that is already seeing a bit of a slowdown.

“If you’re in real estate development, you don’t believe it’s going to have a negative impact,” said Zach Ehrlich, CEO of Mdrn. Residential. “But the New York market is affected by currency exchange and market fundamentals,” he added, noting that the market here was already starting to slow down before the election and that the dollar had already started to rise, making it harder for foreigners to invest.

“We’re 7 years into an expansion, and the average expansion lasts 7 to 9 years,” Ehrlich believes.

Here’s what people are talking about when it comes to the president-elect:

1. Uncertainty about the market will likely linger.

During the run-up to the election brokers noticed a pause in the market, with sellers and buyers putting things on hold, as is often the case during time of political uncertainty, many said.

This might continue for a while.

“The uncertainty will remain into next year as policy changes continue to shake out,” real estate expert Jonathan Miller said.

“It's beginning to look like there will be a lot of deficit spending such as infrastructure,” he noted, which means that interest levels could rise to “more normal levels” up from the historic lows we’ve been seeing the last few years.

“In the short term that could slow volume and price growth,” Miller said. “In the long term it could help ease credit conditions which would help normalize the housing market.”

2. People were likely putting decisions on hold anyway.

Once we head into the holiday season, the real estate market typically slows down — which is why brokers often advise renters looking for deals to search in November.

“This time of year, you tend to stay indoors after work,” said Aleksandra Scepanovic, managing director of Ideal Properties Group, which specializes in Brooklyn neighborhoods. “You’re probably doing preparation for Thanksgiving and you’re more likely to be more of a homebody.”

The added layer of the election only compounds this impulse, she believes.

3. The rental market could see a boost as interest rates rise.

Interest rates — which have already jumped sharply one week post-election — might also change the “rent versus buy” calculus for many New Yorkers.

“Interest rates impact almost everything in real estate, including how much the owner must pay to also carry a mortgage, and how much buying power potential purchasers can bring to the table,” Lee Lin, co-founder of the online rental platform RentHop, wrote in a blog post. “When looking at the rent vs. buy tradeoffs, renting will likely seem better as interest rates rise.”

4. Foreign investment in real estate might dip.

Because low interest rates the last several years made it cheaper to borrow, investors saw a quicker return on investment, which in turn propped real estate values up, said Larry Link, president of the Level Group. 

But as rates jump, investors won't see returns as quickly and values will drop. Along with general fears about uncertainty, this is resulting in “caution” on the part of foreign investors, especially those who viewed New York City’s real estate market as a safe haven to park their money, Link said.

His firm’s team focused on the hospitality industry noticed an immediate pulling back of foreign investors in hotels the day after the election, he said.

“They are very concerned that the risk and uncertainty is not fully factored in, so they’re hitting the pause button,” Link said.

Having someone with such a "brash" style in the Oval Office might also create more “hostility” toward the U.S., Ehrlich said.

“There’s going to be a different dialogue with other countries,” he said, noting that could affect foreign investment.

5. Inflation could hurt renters and developers.

With Trump's promises of tax cuts and possible big spending on various projects — without concrete plans to balance the budget increase — many experts are predicting inflation.

That means the nominal rent is expected to go up, while wages tend to be “a bit stickier when the prices of everything else is increasing,” Lin said. “Bottom line, you are unlikely to get a raise at work that properly match your rent, healthcare, insurance, and food costs, so plan ahead.”

Also, if Trump is able to change international trade policies and increase tariffs on imports, it could drive up the cost of goods and labor here, Link said.

That could have a significant impact on the city ability to construct new housing, he believes, especially as costs for labor and materials have already been increasing.

“If you have increased protectionist policies, it can increase inflation and lead to lower real estate investment and development,” Link said.

6. Immigration policies could hurt the market, too.

Trump’s campaign promises to limit immigration could effect the construction industry, which relies heavily on immigrant labor, many say.

“Any job site in New York City, especially smaller non-union sites, there is a large proportion of new and recent immigrants,” Link said. “If there are policies aimed at blocking immigrants, or worse, of the deportation of law-abiding immigrants, it could lead to greater shortages of labor in construction and increase the cost of labor.”

But James Parrott, of the Fiscal Policy Institute, found that the growth of jobs in New York going to immigrants in the 1990s and 2000s has largely leveled off in the last decade. Even in the construction industry, native-born workers — including many second-generation New Yorkers — have been getting more jobs than immigrants, according to the data, he said.

7. People will seek comfort.

People seek comfort when faced with the unknown, and how this affects their real estate decisions remains to be seen, said Lynn Saladino, a psychologist who does wellness workshops for agents at Mirador Real Estate.

“Sometimes when things get a little uncertain, people gravitate toward things that are comfortable,” she said. “I don’t know how that will impact how people will move or not move, but a lot of times when people are fearful, they make sure they’re around friends and family.”

People, she said, want doughnuts in times like these.

Perhaps, we can expect more kitchen renovations.

8. Trump could prop up development.

Trump talked about investing in infrastructure on the campaign trail, which didn’t surprise many real estate experts.

“Once a developer, always a developer,” Scepanovic said, adding that besides focusing on infrastructure, “He’s sure to be sympathetic to developers.”

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Real Estate Weekly (11/11/2016) - Opinion split on election’s real estate impact
Real Estate Weekly

Opinion split on election’s real estate impact

Two days after Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton to the presidency in an unexpected upset, the Real Estate Board of New York hosted a panel luncheon in the grand ballroom of the midtown Hilton Hotel, the very same spot from which Trump gave his victory speech on election night.

The theme of the panel was new opportunities and challenges in the real estate market, but inevitably, the conversation soon turned to the presidential election.

“I guess the elephant in the room, or the elephant that was in the room two nights ago who’s now our president-elect,” quipped panel moderator Seth Pinksy of RFR, before asking panelists their thoughts on how the election results could impact New York City.

Kevin Hoo, founder and managing partner of Cove Property Group, said time will tell if Trump’s policies will have a positive or negative effect on the market.

“Some of his policies, if they do get enacted, potentially have some runway to increase employment and GDP growth, which is only good for us,” said Hoo. “New York as a city by itself is fairly insulated, to a large degree.

“I think the city itself as an infrastructure, as a community, will keep marching on and keep working it out ourselves.”

Taconic Investment Partners co-founder Charles Bendit said he had spoken to bankers, educators, real estate developers and foreign investment partners, and no one really knew what to think because of a lack of a “well-defined” policy agenda from Trump’s campaign thus far.

“I could paint a picture that would be disastrous, where we could see run-away inflation and high interest rates,” said Bendit. “I could paint a picture that could be recessionary, so it really depends on a lot of different things. A lot of the things he said could go one way or the other.”

One of the things Bendit was concerned most about was capital flows, especially from foreign investment.

“I think in the next couple months, until people start to get somewhat comfortable, I’m concerned condo sales might come to a screeching halt, at least as it relates to foreign investors coming in and buying,” said Bendit. “They want to wait and see what the impact of foreign policies will be and the impact of domestic policies.”

Leslie Himmel, of Himmel+Meringoff, who co-founded the investment firm along with Steve Meringoff in 1985, is in the “wait and see” mode as well.

“When you start reading his tax plan and repeal of Dodd-Frank, that all might be very good for New York,” she said. “Let’s see who he puts in the cabinet and listens to. Time will tell.”

Despite an unclear forecast for the market, Himmel advocated for a woman in the White House, and a show of unity.

“I think it is time, just being one of the few women actually in this room and a leader in this industry, it’s definitely time for a woman to be president,” she said. “Not this time, obviously she [Hillary Clinton] didn’t get it and her emails were clearly a problem. We’ll see what happens in the next few years, but we all have to be united and move forward.”

Broker’s Weekly reached out to members of the real estate industry for their thoughts on a potential impact.

Level Group co-founder Larry Link listed four areas that he thinks will experience the most impact as a result of the election: Investment, interest rates, inflation, and immigration, all of which intertwine and factor into residential real estate and development on some level.

Link said many brokers at his firm are concerned about a pullback from foreign buyers, in particular in the firm’s newly-launched hospitality division.

“We just launched a hospitality division and we have two hotel veterans running it, and they have several deals moving forward, and they both got calls from all of their foreign investors saying what they hell are you guys doing? What’s going on over there,” said Link. “They sought to reassure them that the government has checks and balances in place.”

Link and his co-founder received a worried call from one of the hospitality division heads who said her hotel buyers were “shaking in their boots” and putting things on hold.

“Because he’s a real estate guy and an egomaniac, he [Trump] might try to implement policies for himself. If he does, that potentially could offer some upside surprises,” said Link. “I do think he tends to think of himself first, and I think he’ll funnel decision making on how it will affect real estate. Making sure he comes out okay in the long run, which is completely counter to the role of commander in-chief and service to the people.”

Real estate appraiser Jonathan Miller has a theory about what often happens in the aftermath of a “milestone” event, and the first thing that usually occurs is a period of uncertainty.

“The first thing that happens is there’s a pause, and then it takes participants a few days, a few weeks, a few months to process it, and quite often it’s less about the event itself and more about the level of uncertainty they’re facing,” said Miller. “We’re only two days in, so really it’s going to be January 20 on his inauguration day.”

Overall, Miller said he has “little concern” for the housing market based on where the market is at the moment.

While initially stocks began to fall following Trump’s election night win, they rallied to actually go up.

“I think Wall Street businesses are maybe a little bit more sure of the direction that he’s going to take, or at least that’s the perception,” said Miller.

“The infrastructure investment, tax cuts, are generally neutral or positive to real estate, so once there’s a little bit more clarity on policy, there’s things coming out in little pieces every day — dismantling Dodd-Frank and regulations, and especially with Wall Street — at least in the near term, what we know, is probably not a net negative.”

Compass broker Victoria Shtainer was optimistic about Trump’s win, pointing out that his career in real estate means he will be good to the real estate market.

“I think that things will get better,” said Shtainer. “I think Trump has a very vast and skillful understanding of real estate and New York real estate.

“He knows about buying, selling, air rights, and how to put deals together. And I think he’ll be great for New York real estate.”

Shtainer said many brokers she works with are socially liberal and supporters of gay marriage, immigrants, and women, and were initially shocked and upset over his win. But they felt more positive when they thought about his background in real estate and how that could possibly benefit the NYC market.

Though some have expressed worry over a pullback by foreign buyers, Shtainer wasn’t anxious about it.
“The foreign buyers love the Trump brand and they’ve bought condos with him in New York City, in Florida, he helped do a building in Dubai. They admire him very much,” she said. “We’re optimistic, maybe foolishly optimistic.”

Image via Getty Images

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Real Estate Weekly (10/21/2016) - HAVE YOU HEARD? Level Group has Inside Information;

HAVE YOU HEARD? Level Group has Inside Information; The beat goes on at City Connections

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The Street (10/10/2016) - Distressed Condos: Great Buys or Sucker Bets?

Distressed Condos: Great Buys or Sucker Bets?

 The housing meltdown has caught up with many condo complexes. Will they turn around or go under?


Across the country, there are literally millions of distressed condos with seriously reduced selling prices but before buying know this: you are climbing into deep waters with lots of sharks.

Can a distressed condo be a good deal? You bet. Said Arthur Cantor, with William Raveis Real Estate in Chestnut Hill, Mass. "Many properties that are in crisis and distress are often a good investment," he said. "However, properties in crisis can also be a money pit, a bad investment and not worth the trouble."

Understand this: we are not talking about a neglected condo unit. What we are talking about is a unit - that may be in terrific condition - that is in a complex that is imploding, usually in a delayed reaction to the housing crisis and foreclosure wave of eight or so years ago.

But as the association sinks, so goes your unit - even if the mortgage is paid up and so are its condo association dues. Said Sally Balson, owner of Condominium Business Management in Wisconsin: "When you are buying a condo you are becoming a shareholder of a corporation." That's every bit as true for buyers in cooperatives that are common in the Northeast.

Many financial fates are linked together. And around the country a lot of condominium complexes are crapping out. The signs - frequently - are plain. The grounds are overgrown. The pool is not filled and even if water is in it, it's definitely unheated. The roof needs repair. Matters may be so bad that lights in common areas such as hallways are off because the electric bill has not been paid by the association.

A recent Washington Post report documented many condo communities around the District - even in Virginia and Maryland suburbs - that are near implosion as bad luck multiplies.

It unfolds like this: a unit owner loses his/her job, can't pay the mortgage and of course not the condo association fee. Multiply that across enough units and suddenly that complex is in a mess. Unit prices fall. More default. More dues go unpaid. Soon the complex can't pay its bills.

Question: is now the time to buy?

Know that in Florida, lawyers Barry Lapides and Jeffrey Margolis with Berger Singerman told TheStreet that they have worked multiple deals with developers who buy out an entire condo complex and turn it into rental apartments.

That's an end game. A lot of misery comes before that resolution. But know that for some condo complexes a kind of suicide is the only option.

Most of the complexes in dire straits are older - think 40+ and generally without architectural significance. Most were built to give the lower middle and middle class a path to homeownership - meaning they lack luxe amenities that appeal to today's condo buyers.

In some parts of the country, you won't find complexes in this mess, mainly because of robust real estate prices. In New York, for instance, Larry Link, president of Level Group, an New York-based residential and commercial brokerage, said that there essentially are none in the five boroughs. "Rising equity values help you out of the problem."

Ditto for San Francisco.

But look in just about all the rest of the nation and there are plenty of condo victims.

When units go up for sale, however, the price can be very right. Tempted?

Word of warning: if a unit is available only for all cash buyers that may be a sign that the complex is in terminal distress. That's because when an association's books get too filled with red ink, mainline lenders stop issuing mortgages.

Another red flag that says don't buy here: if more than 50% of the units are rentals. Most lenders also won't write mortgages on units in such complexes.

A simple step will keep you from going into a condo deal without knowing the financial reality of the complex: ask for and read the financial documents that the seller should make available on request, said Heather McRae, a senior loan officer with Chicago Financial Services.

Do buyers actually look at these docs - which should detail the financial status of the association, including its cash reserves for dealing with emergencies? "Less than 5% do," said Balson.

Be in that 5%. Read the docs. Look for warnings such as the number of units in arrears on dues (when it hits 15%, run for cover). Also ask what the association's plans are for dealing with deferred maintenance. Are assessments for repairs - which often can be upwards of $10,000 per unit - in the offing?

Bottomline: carefully go over the numbers and, just maybe, you found that dream condo in a town where you thought you'd never afford to live.

Or maybe you are looking at your personal financial Waterloo, and it's time to keep your checkbook closed.

That's your call. Just make it knowing all the relevant numbers.

Oct 15, 2016 1:20 PM EDT


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Real Estate Weekly (09/24/2016) - IN PICTURES: Level Group summer soiree












































































































































































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image of businessman touching screen with finger

Young brokers crafting personal brands in social media

For young brokers, the real estate trade has migrated to social media, and it goes beyond selfies a
nd funny memes.

VJ Jose, a broker from Mountainside Realty, is currently grappling with “personal branding” issues, something that he believes can only be remedied by a strong presence on social media platforms.

“I definitely want to stand out amongst the millennials. I think the best way to do that is social media, utilizing Facebook, Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat. To stand out with millennials, you need to do stuff like that,” he said.

All of those tools are designed to lure in fellow millennials on the buying and renting side of real estate transactions.

According to the National Association of Realtors’ data for 2015, this is a tricky proposition.
Millennnials, who are defined as people who were born after 1980, make up 32 percent of homebuyers, higher than Baby boomers at 31 percent and Generation X buyers at 27 percent.

While they constitute the largest portion of the market, getting their business is difficult compared to other groups.

Aside from the fact that millennials take their time settling down, they are also notoriously fickle and hard to please. In fact, most are not even convinced that they need an agent at the start of the home buying process.

According to the NAR study, only 10 percent contacted a real estate agent early on, which is lower than the 15 percent average for all buyers.

The properties they bought also needed to conform to the right specifications. About 58 percent of millennial buyers identified “finding the right property” as the most difficult step in the home buying process. Again, this is higher than the 53 percent average for all buyers.

However, if a broker plays the cards right, closing a deal may be as simple as posting on Instagram.

“If you look at some of the people on Million Dollar Listing, you go on their Instagram pages and they have hundreds of thousands of followers. And you’ll see comments from people saying, ‘Hey, I want to list with you. Hey, I’d like to buy with you.’ Just because they have that image. It definitely works,” Jose said.

While veteran brokers don’t question the effectiveness of social media marketing, they still consider traditional means of relating to clients as the best way to close deals.

“Setting yourself apart, I think, is something really important. Social media is great. The Internet is great. But doing things outside of that, I think, can really draw attention to you as well,” said Level Group COO Mike Barbolla, referring to small gestures such as hand-written notes and follow-up calls.

“We’re in a society that is connected by the Internet, where a Google search can easily find somebody. But once you’re found, you have to have some kind of a message that is meaningful and connected to who you are,” added Larry Link, Level Group’s president and principal broker.

Barbara Corcoran


Jennefer Witter, the head of public relations firm Boreland Group, echoed Link’s advice. Authenticity is a common component of effective brands, she said, and it’s something that requires a gestation period.

“First and foremost, a personal brand must be authentic in order for anybody to truly believe that you are who you say you are,” she said.

“Test it out on a couple of people. If you need make little tweaks, that’s okay. Make sure that whatever you do, you are comfortable with it, so that you’re not shoe-horning yourself into something that doesn’t really reflect who you are.”

Witter said that once the pursuit of a personal brand starts, it requires an initial stage that then stretches to eternity.

“The initial part of developing a brand, it probably takes a few weeks to do it. It’s not something that you can do in two or three days. Maybe four to six weeks, that’s what it takes, and then forever onwards to keep it fresh,” she said.

Witter points to Barbara Corcoran as the gold standard for continuously evolving one’s hallmark. She applauded how the executive successfully pivoted her branding from real estate mogul to reality TV star.

However, the personal brand is just a calling card, a way to get your foot on the door, so to speak. After that, the real work starts.

Larry Link


According to Link, this is a lesson that’s lost on young brokers. “I think one of the big mistakes that younger brokers make is that they don’t realize the connection between marketing themselves and what they do as a marketer of property or representing people,” he said.

Link added that the best way to benefit from a strong brand is to have the operations to back it up. He said that the best way to do so is to form a “tag team” with the client.

“You can no longer use the proprietary holding of information as something that distinguishes you. You have to work with the information that is free flowing out there,” he said.

“So your customer is much more likely to have the same information that you have. And some of the time, they’re really more motivated to get certain bits of information.?

Link explained, “When a customer’s looking for a home, for example, and they’re looking for a good deal, they have every alert set up, they have every website bookmarked, they are on there ten to 15 times a day searching to see which new listings came up.

“You have to work in a tag team way with the customer using the same kind of information but adding to it, being the knowledgeable guide about how that information can best serve them.”

A personal brand may be the life raft that floats young brokers into improbable longevity. The odds for any newcomer can be daunting. There are 13,532 real estate brokers working in the city, according to data from the Department of State last June. This represents the highest number of agents in the past 15 years.

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Real Estate Weekly (01/01/2016) - 2016 Forecast: Insiders predict boom and bust in varying degrees

2016 Forecast: Insiders predict boom and bust in varying degrees

Depending on who you ask, residential real estate in 2015 was either the apex of a continuous rise — or the start of a downward slide.
The headlines were devoted to some of the biggest deals in the city, such as the penthouses in Extell’s One57 tower and the $30 million condos scattered along Park Avenue.

However, with it came worries over the supposed thinning ranks of $10 million-and-above condo buyers.
There were also external worries from the strength of the US dollar, which experts say makes New York real estate less attractive to foreign buyers, and the Federal Reserve’s recent 25-basis point rate increase, which pushes up mortgage rates.
The outlook is similarly mixed for the next year.
We spoke to some of the city’s top real estate executives, and the prevailing tone is that of cautious optimism.
There was confidence over the strength of the New York City market, particularly based on the performance of the outer boroughs, matched by fears over the weakening appeal of the luxury real estate market. We’ll see who’s right over the next 12 months.

Dottie Herman, President & CEO,
Douglas Elliman

“It will be a repeat of this year: healthy, strong (and with) sustainable growth.

“Because of all the wars and things that are happening all over the world, when things like that happen, people tend to find refuge in their home and then their neighborhood. And they?re more likely to travel inside the States than outside.

Dottie Herman


“I think that second homes are going to continue to rise because I think people are going to feel like they want their family around them.

“I kind of saw this after 9/11, when people would call me and say, ‘You know what, I have this home, can you get me another place. I want to build a home that my family can come too.? Many people want to have their kids and their grandkids visit them, so they tend to go to places where their kids would want to come to, so New York City, Vermont, Miami, things of that nature. It’s always been the American dream.

Ian Bruce Eichner, Founder & Chairman,
Continuum Company

“I think you’re going to see more demand for products in the middle market, $1,800 to $2,500 per s/f, as

Ian Bruce Eichner


opposed to only super-luxury. And I think you’re going to see an adjustment of the product that’s coming

to the market to match that demand. I think you’re going to see a stable stream of purchases, but not a frantic rush like we saw in certain parts of 2015.

“I believe there?s a certain number of buyers that will stay in the (high-end) market. But I think in the New York area, every developer wanted to develop ultra-luxury. And so I think that there’s a bit of oversupply of product in that super-luxury market. There?s strong fundamental support in the New York market, but I think we?re overbuilt in super-luxury.?

Jonathan Miller,
President & CEO,
Miller Samuel, Inc.

“New development entering the market will likely match the volume we saw in 2015, so expect a more

Jonathan Miller


polarized environment, with more developers negotiating to keep sales moving while a smaller subset will continue to sell without discounts. Existing inventory will continue to remain low as mortgage

lending conditions will largely remain unchanged (tight).

“I would expect the continued sales expansion of the suburbs as the emerging alternative to those challenged by the city’s shrinking affordability. Look for continued growth in Queens and a lot more rental development in the Bronx.?

Sherry Tobak, Senior Vice President,
Related Companies

“Due to the continued strength of the US economy, there will certainly be more and more foreign investors seeking a safe haven for their money.

Sherry Tobak


“We are seeing a more diverse, cross generational and sophisticated population of buyers than we have in recent years, but these buyers now have more options than ever before.

“Whereas traditionally prices are driven by a shortage of supply, the tremendous influx of super luxury developments in New York is pushing prices to new levels causing some concern for 2016.
“However, I agree with the optimistic economists and predict a robust and very energetic market in 2016.”

Aleksandra Scepanovic, Founder & Managing Director, Ideal Properties Group

Aleksandra Scepanovic Headshot


“In the residential market, I think the market is picking up steam. What I think is going to happen is that prices will definitely continue to increase. and we’re going to see the pace that we have seen over the last few years, especially the last two years. So we’re probably talking about a smaller rate, but still, we’re going to be seeing an increase in price.

“The only thing that I would exclude from this is the high-end [and] single-family townhouse market, because that market is so specific and there is such a shortage of supply. If it’s a really nice renovated townhouse that happens to be a single-family townhouse hits the market, it’s going to command a real high price. I’m thinking that’s where we’re going to be seeing a lot of aggressive brokers.

“I expect Brooklyn to continue to become steep. Again, not as steep as the last few years we have seen. But we would still be seeing high prices, lots of transactions.

“Williamsburg and Park Slope will continue to have a very high number of transactions happen compared to the other markets around them.

“In terms of the residential development, there is this really strong push, with people having already bought their homes in Brooklyn, for that to be complemented by commercial development. So I think we’re going to be seeing an increased demand for a lot of new offices, a lot of commercial spaces.?

Robert Nelson, President, Nelson Management Group

“I think that it’s going to be a little bit more tepid than it has been over the last 12 months.

Robert Nelson


“We’re already starting to see signs of that. These multi-million dollar apartment sales seem to not be faring so well, and rent seems to be slowing in terms of growth.

“If you look at some of the reports that have come out recently, rents are not moving as much as they were over the last 12 months. It seems that things are slowing down.

“ And interest rates that are going to go up, as far as that is concerned, certainly seems to suggest that we’re going to have a more tepid market.?

Larry Link, President, Level Group

“2016 is sure to be an exciting year for the residential real estate market.  Of course rising interest rates are on the top of everyone’s mind right now and this will play a major factor in the upcoming year.  Interest rates have been either flat or dropping for most of the last decade, so I expect an environment of increasing interest rates will begin to change the dynamics of residential transactions by limiting slightly what buyers can afford.  This will lead to a psychological impact on the market as sellers begin to feel less confident about the relatively high asking prices which have been the norm for the last several years.  The impact of this psychological shift will be most prominent for luxury properties where pricing has seemed to know no bounds.


Larry Link


Another trend in 2016 will be the continued rise of the “Wellness Building”. Traditional amenities like doormen, gyms, elevators and outdoor space will continue to be in demand, but buyers will also be expecting systems that contribute to their wellness in unique ways.  These systems may include water and air purification systems, more robust soundproofing of walls and windows, and lighting systems within apartments that consider the impact of circadian rhythms.  Advances in technology and materials also offer the promise of safer living environments.  For example, expect certain buyer to demand their entire apartment to be constructed of materials with zero VOC’s with no off-gassing, which is possible now, or at least much closer to reality than it was previously.
Technology will continue to have an impact on residential real estate and brokerage companies in particular will have to keep up.  Firms that continue to do things in the same way, offering the same model for marketing property to both their agents and their customers will fall by the wayside. Since so much property information is available directly to customers now, the search for a new home has become a “tag-team” effort; agents and buyers searching together for the right property and sharing information across multiple platforms and communication methods.  This trend will continue and agents will naturally migrate to more forward thinking companies that offer more flexible ways of working and higher payouts for those efforts. “
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The Street (12/21/2015) - Fed Hike Means Adjustable Rate Mortgages Will Rise and Increase Monthly Payments

Fed Hike Means Adjustable Rate Mortgages Will Rise and Increase Monthly Payments


The first interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve in nearly a decade means consumers can no longer take advantage of a zero interest rate environment. Particularly challenged will be homeowners who have adjustable rates and stand to face higher mortgage payments.

Record low mortgage rates are set to be thing of the past as the Fed raised rates by 0.25%, which appears to be a nominal amount initially. Of course, consumers need to consider the cumulative effect of the central bank's decesion to increase rates periodically over a span of two to three years. The consecutive rate hikes will affect homeowners with adjustable rate mortgages when they reset, which typically happens once a year.

“The initial interest rate move is very modest and consumers will see a corresponding increase in their credit card and home equity line of credit rates within one to two statement cycles,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate, the North Palm Beach, Fla. based financial content company. “The significance is in the potential impact of whatever interest rate hikes are put into effect over the next 18 to 24 months.”


The Fed will continue to raise rates several times next year since yesterday’s move is not a “one and done” move, said Robert Johnson, president of The American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pa. The Fed will likely follow with a series of three to four rate increases in 2016 if the economy continues to improve. The central bank could raise interest rates to a total of 1.0%, which will cause mortgage rates, auto loans and credit card rates to rise in tandem.

Adjustable rate mortgages, or ARMs, are popular among many younger homeowners, because they typically have lower interest rates than the more common 30-year fixed rate mortgage. Many ARMs are called a 5/1 or 7/1, which means that they are fixed at the introductory interest rate for five or seven years and then readjust every year after that, said David Reiss, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School in N.Y. The new rate is based on an index, such as the prime rate or the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), as well as a margin on top of that index. LIBOR is used by banks when they are lending money to each other.The prime rate is the interest rate set by individual banks and is usually pegged to the current rate of the federal funds rate, which the Fed increased to 0.25%.

Must Read: How the Fed Makes It Tough for Millennials to Get Married

The prime rate is typically used more for home equity lines of credit, said Reiss. LIBOR is typically used more for mortgages like ARMs. The LIBOR "seems to have had already incorporated the Fed's rate increase as it has gone up 0.20% since early November," Reiss said.

Other Rising Rates Stories

“The prime rate is influenced by the Fed’s actions,” Reiss said. “We already see that with Wednesday's announcement that banks are increasing prime to match the Fed’s increase.”

The main disadvantage of an ARM is that the rate is only fixed for a period of five or seven years unlike a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, which means that monthly payments could rise quickly and affect homeowners on a tight budget.

Over the course of the next couple of years, the cumulative effect of a series of interest rate hikes could take an adjustable mortgage rate from 3% to 5%, a home equity line of credit rate from 4% to 6% and a credit card rate from 15% to 17%, said McBride.

“This is where the effect on household budgets becomes more pronounced,” he said.



Refinancing Sooner Rather Than Later

Homeowners should start researching mortgage rates and refinance out of ARMs and lock into a fixed rate, said McBride. The 0.25% rate increase equals to a payment of $0.25 for every $100 of debt.

Since many factors impact the interest rates of mortgages, consumers need to examine the actual benchmark used by their lender since some existing interest rates already priced in some of the anticipated rise in the federal funds rate, said Reiss. While ARMs expose the borrower to rising interest rates, they typically come with some protection. Interest rates often cannot rise more than a certain amount from year to year, and there is also typically a cap in the increase of interest rates over the life of the loan.


An ARM might have a two point cap for one year increases if the introductory rate of 4% increased to 6% in the sixth year of a 5/1 ARM, he said. That ARM might have a six point cap over the life of the loan, which means a 4% introductory rate can go to no higher than 10% over the life of the loan.

Must Read: Wedbush Analyst Predicts the Fed Will Feed the Bear in 2016

Based upon the current Fed increase of 0.25%, a homeowner with a $200,000 mortgage would pay an additional $40 a month or $500 a year when the rate resets.

“While this is not chump change, it is also not immensely burdensome to many homeowners,” Reiss said. “The bottom line is that it is worth figuring out just how your ARM works so you can understand what your worst case scenario is and then plan for it.”

Since rates are expected to continue rising, refinancing into a fixed rate mortgage now can prevent further increases, said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist of, the San Jose, Calif. real estate service company. Fixed rates rose slightly from last week and "actually declined slightly after the Fed's announcement, so rates remain very low," he said.

Since ARMS have been much lower than fixed rate mortgages, refinancing from an ARM to a fixed rate would likely push payments higher.

"Given forecasts for higher rates in the years ahead, that lower payment today will eventually exceed what a fixed rate now could lock in for the rest of the loan," Smoke said. "By 2017 or 2018, rates will likely be 2% or higher than they are today."

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate is 4.09% while a 5/1 ARM is 3.42% and a 7/1 ARM is 3.65%, according to’s national survey of large lenders.

Refinancing an ARM is the right move currently if you are planning to live in your home for more than a year or two after the ARM expires, said Michael Goodman, a New York-based CPA.

Waiting until rates have already risen to refinance means, “you will be worse off generally speaking,” he said. “If you think you will be moving before or within a year or two of the ARM expiring, then the rate changes do not matter to you.”

Interest rates remain a key factor for the real estate industry as the amount of demand is largely based on lower borrowing costs, which allow for more consumers to be approved for mortgages, said Larry Link, president of Level Group, a NYC residential real estate firm.

“The most important thing to keep in mind is that rates are still low and will likely remain low for the foreseeable future,” he said. “If you look back over the last 10 or 20 years, mortgage rates were anywhere from 50% to 100% higher than they are right now.”

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Commercial Observer (12/11/2015) - Celeb Chef David Chang’s Food Delivery Company Opening Fourth Kitchen

Less than a year after launching, celebrity chef David Chang’s food delivery app is already opening its fourth location.

Maple, which prepares and delivers top chef-curated meals that can be ordered online, has inked a 4,200-square-foot deal at 196 Stanton Street between Attorney and Ridge Street, a source familiar with the deal told Commercial Observer.

The company, which officially started cooking in April, signed a 10-year lease for a commissary kitchen in the retail section of the Lower East Side building. Maple will have 10 ovens at the site, which is part of a 55-unit residential building. Asking rent in the deal was $80 per square foot, the source added.

Larry Link of Level Group represented Maple, while Albert Manopla of Kassin Sabbagh Realty represented the landlord. Mr. Manopla declined to comment.

Mr. Link said the company now serves all of Manhattan south of 14th Street, and plans to soon cover the entire borough, followed by the rest of the city.

“They’re expanding quickly in New York City,” Mr. Link said. “And they’ll soon cover all of Manhattan.”

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