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Corcoran's CEO Answers Your Real Estate Questions

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Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a home or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to tips@curbed.com. Today's topic: Pamela Liebman answers your questions!

Corcoran Group president and CEO Pamela Liebman stopped by a recent Curbed University open thread to answer your questions about residential real estate. We passed the questions on to her; read on for her answers. (And if you have a guest to suggest for a future Curbed U open thread, please be in touch.

What do brokerages offer buyers in the age of StreetEasy and similar sources that justifies their commissions?

Brokerage firms provide what on-line data sources can't - the human touch.   Firms offer buyers the personal service and professional expertise of a real estate agent who will guide a client through the home buying process.  Available data from on-line real estate sites is staggering.  It is voluminous and can be accessed from many sites.   But data is simply that – just data.  An agent takes the data and makes it valuable by analyzing and interpreting it so it is relevant to their buyer's or seller's needs.  Data is just one of many resources agents use during the sales process.

The service agents provide clients goes far beyond data analysis.  They have an in-depth knowledge of properties, neighborhoods, market conditions, the rules and procedures required for financing and create the advertising and marketing strategies to best promote properties.  

And then there is negotiating.  Agents negotiate on behalf of their clients; they are dispassionate in what can be a very emotional event for both sides of a sale.  They know what it takes to close a deal, how to overcome obstacles and find solutions to issues that can arise - even at the very last minute.  Agents are the people who get the deal done and welcome the client to their new home.  

In general, how long is the sponsor of a condo responsible for building repairs?

The sponsor's responsibility for repairs will be spelled out in the condominium offering plan and purchase contract.  By checking these documents, you should be able to confirm the information as it applies to your building.  In general, for new construction buildings with fewer than six stories, New York State's Housing Merchant Implied Warranty will apply.  But my best advice is, whatever the size and configuration of your building, have your lawyer confirm what the building's offering plan and your purchase agreement say.

?What's the top 3 things a seller needs to consider when choosing a broker?

· A seller should associate with a reputable brokerage firm that has two things:  an established reputation and a very strong on-line presence.
· Select an agent from that firm whose qualities and qualifications best suit the seller's needs and requirements.  The agent's on-line profile will present professional and personal information a seller can review which will help in choosing the agent that is right for them.
· A seller should choose an agent whose opinion the seller trusts and respects.  An agent is a seller's guide through the process.  If you can't respect their opinion or be guided by their expertise, then this is the wrong agent for you.  

There is an apt I am extremely interested in. I researched it and found that the owner first listed it fsbo 2 years ago, and then 3 months later listed it under a brokerage. It looks like it never got sold, and is now marked temporarily off market. Is there a way I could find out if the unit will become available anytime soon!? Or is it frowned upon to proactively contact the apt.'s owner about the unit? Once I do so, if I am so lucky that the apt is available, would I still be able to bring in my broker? Is there a "right way" to approach this situation?
 
The right way is the polite way.  Send the owner a letter telling of your interest in the apartment.  You would be surprised at the power a sincere, hand-written, letter can have.  The worst that can happen is you receive no reply and will have to continue to watch to see if the property goes back on the market.  The best case scenario is you get a positive response from the owner that the apartment is for sale.  In that case, you have the right to bring your agent to represent you whether the apartment re-lists with a brokerage firm or it resorts again to FSBO. 

My wife and I are in contract to purchase a co-op apartment on West 12th St. The apartment walls have many layers of paint, and we've been told that some of those layers contain lead paint. We have a young son, so we're wondering if it's safer to leave the paint undisturbed, or if it's better to have all the layers of paint completely stripped away.
 
For homes built before 1978, federal law provides a 10-day period after a contract is signed for buyers to check for lead paint.  We always recommend that concerned buyers have an EPA-certified, lead-based paint professional conduct a risk assessment.  He or she should be able to advise you as to whether you are better off leaving the paint as is or abating it.

?We have an apartment for sale in our building, which was an owners unit in the 70's. Grandfathered in is the fact that none of their outdoor space is included in the maintenance, and the outdoor space is about 2000 sq. ft. What can we do to amend this now that the apartment is being sold? ($5.5 mil, 5,000 sq. ft. apt, paying about $4,000 in mtn.)
 
This is a question for the condominium's lawyer.  He or she can advise what is necessary to amend the condominium documents in order to change the designation of the outdoor space, if possible.   
 
How come brokers can't seem to get basic stuff like ceiling heights and floor areas correct? We've all wasted time going to see spaces with "soaring 15 foot ceilings", only to be shown something with 11 foot ceilings. It's not that hard to use a ruler with precision.

When it comes to ceiling heights, I've never heard of a four-foot discrepancy between description and reality.  However,  reputable professionals – architects, interior designers, and engineers – frequently come to different conclusions about exact dimensions when they measure apartments. That is why the square footage of the properties on our website is always listed as "approximate."  We encourage our clients to consult what the building's offering plan has to say about an apartment's dimensions.  They also should have their own architect or engineer brought in to measure the property for comparison.   
· Open Thread: Ask Pamela Liebman Your Real Estate Questions [Curbed]
· Curbed University archive [Curbed]