Friday, February 28, 2014

Is your buyer precluded from buying US Real Estate?

Check with the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the US Treasury before you help your client buy.

To use the Office's search features by person and country, click Resources on the page and find the feature that fits your need.

Remember, The Office of Foreign Assets Control administers and enforces economic sanctions programs primarily against countries and groups of individuals, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers. The sanctions can be either comprehensive or selective, using the blocking of assets and trade restrictions to accomplish foreign policy and national security goals.

So, its important to check the Office's Resources frequently as sanctions change and you need to know what the rules are today when working in real estate brokerage.

Taxation of Foreign Investors in Real Estate

Today we are teaching our course, Foreign Buyers, in NYC. Our students will begin to understand the implications of alienage in terms of real estate. We will also discuss the different rules for passive investments v. active investments. Real estate can be held in both fashions and its imperative to understand whether a 30% flat tax will apply on Gross Revenues or if instead a graduated tax will apply to Net Revenues. To help our students understand this topic further, we recommend reading U.S. TAXATION 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

DECISION: A Licensed Building on Public Land is Allowed Without State Approval

Licensing a building on parkland has been addressed by New York’s Court of Appeals last Thursday. If you ever have a commercial client who is interested in building a restaurant or food stand on public land, this is an important case to be familiar with.

In 2008, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation renovated Union Square Park with the intention of building a restaurant on the pavilion in the northern part of the park. When Chef Driven Market, LLC was given a license to run a restaurant on the pavilion in 2012, the community rose in an uproar, claiming that such a restaurant does not have a purpose in the historic park and hence violates the “public trust doctrine.” The community groups exclaimed that a restaurant in the park itself was unnecessary since there were many restaurants to choose from in the nearby area. The pavilion could be used for better purposes, such as dance classes or debate sessions.

However, New York’s highest court has ruled in favor of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, disagreeing with the community groups that the restaurant is in violation of the public trust doctrine. The restaurant, with its reasonable prices, outdoor seating available to the public, and charity events, would add to the park’s appeal beauty, and safety and improve the community as a whole. The community groups may have a different opinion as to what the pavilion should be used for, but this does not mean that the restaurant itself is illegal.

It is also important to note that if the Department had leased, not licensed, the pavilion to Chef Driven Market, LLC, then the restaurant would certainly be unlawful without approval from the State. However, since Chef Driven Market, LLC holds a valid revocable license to run a restaurant with ample oversight from the Department of Parks and Recreations, there is no need to get the state’s approval at all. The difference between a license and a lease is that the license gives the Department ultimate control over the day-to-day activities of the restaurant, even the right to terminate the agreement at will. A lease, on the other hand, would give Chef Driven Market, LLC control over the restaurant and use of the property instead.

Brokers, keep in mind that a brokerage license is required for leases, but NOT for licenses, pursuant to RPL 4401(1). If you know anyone that would like to obtain a license to operate a building on parkland, he or she does not necessarily need the help of a licensed real estate broker to do so!

Continuing Education Q &A: NY Real Estate Salespersons that hold 2 licenses

Question: I hold two NY Real Estate Salespersons licenses with different expiration dates. Do I need 22.5 credits of continuing education for each license? If not, do I have to track my credits against both licenses or one, if so which one? Please help clarify...

Answer: Generally it is the first license issued which sets the cycle for continuing education. This isn't an exact science as sometimes agents let either license expire for periods of time. See below example for clarification:
  • If an agent is renewing license B, but they completed education within two years immediately preceding renewing license A, then license A set the two year cycle for CE and no education would be required for renewal of license B. Of course, the licensee would continue to use license A as the term in which CE must be completed prior to renewal.

Why Should a Homeowner Hire YOU to Sell Their Home?

Part of my regular reading is a wonderful blog from a local real estate brokerage analytic company called Keeping Current Matters. While browsing the blog I found an infographic from a Park City Utah based real estate brokerage titled "Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Real Estate Agent". The list discusses the value a seller obtains by hiring a real estate agent instead of listing for sale by owner. The list is helpful in establishing the basic value of a real estate agent, but in my opinion it does not go far enough. Any real estate agent can convince a homeowner why hiring an agent is better than listing for sale by owner, but a superstar can convince a homeowner why hiring them is the only option.

As a real estate agent, it is crucial that you maintain a constant self awareness of the value you provide above and beyond any other real estate agent or brokerage. Create a list of things that you do better than any other real estate agent. Always work to expand that list and focus on building upon the strengths you already possess. If you are aware of the value you provide, it will naturally find its way into your representation. As your network and reputation grows, these value adds will stay attached to your name and brand.

This self awareness of what makes you indispensable and unique not only makes it easier for you to pitch your services to a potential client - it also helps you grow as a professional. Why should I hire you when it's time to sell my home?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are Setting Records in Profits

Due to the housing bubble burst in 2008, the federal government took ownership of the mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and bailed them out of financial ruin. Not only did this bailout cost $187.5 billion in taxpayer dollars, but it also took years for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to recover from their monumental losses and begin to profit again.

However, there is good news! Now that the mortgage giants are profitable again, they have more than repaid the government for their 2008 bailout by paying dividends to the U.S. Treasury of $192.5 billion. Fannie Mae alone broke records with its $84 billion profit in 2013, completely exceeding the government’s expectation of recovery.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not expect to make as huge a profit in 2014 as they did in 2013, but they are hopeful that they will remain profitable in the long run. The Obama Administration, however, still wants to overhaul the mortgage giants and take away their monopoly on the mortgage market. There is currently a bipartisan bill in the Senate called the Housing Finance Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2013 that focuses on financial reform and will hopefully take center stage this year.

Brokers, keep in mind that the housing market may drastically change in the next 5 years as private lending replaces the government-sponsored enterprises. However, now that the mortgage giants are turning such huge profits, reform may experience some delays. It is difficult to enact reforms when times are good, even though another financial crisis always looms on the horizon. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Google's Project Tango & The Interior Design Profession

If you haven't yet read up on Project Tango, you should.

This technology will enable 3D scanning of indoor environments with your cell phone or better yet, Google Glass, in the very near future.

Imagine a world where you put on your Google Glasses and its Apps suggest furniture that fits the space and thereafter places visuals of the furniture before your eyes.

Will you need an interior designer in the future?

As we always say to real estate brokers at our School, we are out of the days when you could simply match clients to earn money as a professional and we are now part of a value-add industry.

Perhaps, you will still need an interior designer in the future, but their job will have a different purpose.

Only the future can tell.

Your Property Has No Access to a Public Highway or Street - What to do...?

You just bought your dream summer home right after the completion of a subdivision of an old grand estate. You knocked down some walls to modernize the place, put in a hefty amount of trees and hedges for privacy, and even replaced the exterior wooden shingles. After leaving the city in rush hour and spending hours sitting in traffic, you drive up to your home to discover your driveway has been replaced with a vegetable garden enclosed by monuments. Your lawyer informs you that the survey of the property clearly shows that the driveway is outside of your boundary line and reminds you that you decided to cheap out on Title Insurance (no Fee or Owner’s policy). There is no way the insurance company would ever provide coverage.

Ultimately, you decide that your next course of action is to approach the neighbor who planted the vegetable garden with freshly baked cookies and pray on sympathy to access the street from your house. Remember, people are quite possessive of their property and don't like to share especially when they pay taxes on it, right? Guess what. The law offers you a solution for this problem called an Easement by Necessity. This legal right can free the landlocked property owner and give them the access that they desperately need to the street regardless of the neighbor's gleaming personality.  

So, regardless of your neighbor, you can still get from your car to your house. An Easement means a right to use someone else's land for a specific purpose and the word Necessity means that the right that you seek is indispensable. So, the legal solution says exactly what you, the homeowner needs; a right to cross over someone else's property because it’s an indispensable need to use one's own property. And it gets better. While an Easement is typically something bought and sold as it limits the property owner's right to their own property, an Easement by Necessity is granted by a Court in what is called a Declaratory Judgment Action, wherein the Court declares a right of a party. In New York, this action would be brought pursuant to a statute called the Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law at Article 15, which deals with claims to real property. Other States have similar laws on this topic, it is important to check your local State's laws and regulations with a qualified attorney before making any claims about any rights that you may have.

In New York, a claim similar to this one was just addressed by our Appellate Division, Second Department, in a case called Faviola, LLC v. Patel. Therein, the Appellate Court explained that a property owner who seeks an Easement by Necessity must establish the following to prove their case: "there was a unity and subsequent separation of title, and that at the time of severance, an easement over the servient estate was absolutely necessary to obtain access to the party's land". In English, this means your little property was once part of the property contained within the estate, but that when the properties were divided, the only way to get to your property was through the property that remained part of the mansion and was not subdivided away with yours. In Faviola, the Court made clear that you will only get this Easement by Necessity if the right-of-way was absolutely necessary and "not a mere convenience" to you. 

So, the law understands your plight and levels the playing field between you and your neighbor. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Welcome to Hamptons Rental Season

East End Landlords - its time to make sure your rental permits are in order, you have a valid Certificate of Occupancy, and you have a sample lease / house rules drafted to rent out your place for the season.

Real estate agents should ask their clients to see the rental permit / Certificate of Occupancy to avoid their own License Law liability.

Throughout the coming months, this blog will focus in on the tricks of the trade to enhance landlord profitability & to minimize landlord exposure.

Starting this up with a bang, Lieb School just submitted a new continuing education course, Property Manager Liability, to kick the season off.

In this course you will learn NYS laws for property managers license requirements, security deposit rules, unique exposure for offering services to foreign owners, premises liability, and fair housing / discrimination.

Most of all, you will learn to make your landlord money so that they can increase their portfolio of properties.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Gold Cost Mansions on PBS

This program is a must watch for anyone involved in New York real estate.

Simply put, to not understand the treasures of New York's grand mansions is to not understand our market in the first place.

PBS is airing this program twice; first on 2/17/14 (Monday) at 9:15pm on WLIW/21 and again on 2/21/14 (Friday) on WNET/13.

Hope you get inspired and find the right mansion for you.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Fire Insurance Issues - Leverage the Law to get Commissions

Fire insurance policies were just addressed by NY’s highest Court. Real estate agents should get familiar with these policies because value-add agents are successful agents, particularly in the commercial setting where fires often spur relocations and the availability of multiple brokerage commissions.

In the case before the Court, the insurance company disclaimed coverage because its policy had a time limit for claims, but required that the cost of replacement be known in order to recover for a loss. However, the cost wasn't known until construction was complete, which didn't happen until after the time limit for the claim. Hence the predicament for the insured building owner.   

Specifically, in Executive Plaza LLC v. Peerless Insurance Company, it took the building owner over 3 years to renovate over one million dollars in damages to its property, but the policy only gave the owner 2 years to submit its loss.

Great news – the Court ruled that “such a contractual limitation period, applied to a case in which the property cannot reasonably be replaced in two years, is unreasonable and unenforceable.”
So, the policy’s purpose of insurance except where you need it was negated by the Court.

Now, you understand a predicament faced by your commercial building owners and you understand that in NY, insurance companies can no longer play the game of impossibility to avoid paying out a claim. So, go armed with knowledge when you help commercial tenants relocate after a fire and when you help a new building owner with their purchase and getting insurance.  

StreetEasy is Free

Zillow just announced that StreetEasy is now a completely free service and no longer has its $10 per month fee for advanced search features.

Plus, StreetEasy now has a terrific new website - so, go check it out!

Now users can get access to past sale prices, building permit applications, tax abatements and much more.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lieb at Law, P.C. is hiring a Litigation Attorney

Energetic, collaborative and technologically advanced law firm with a focus on real estate litigation seeks attorney with 1- 5 years of experience in litigation to join a team of driven professionals in representing brokerage companies, landlords and individuals. Trial experience a plus but not required. Excellent career opportunity. Firm culture: No case, no statute, no talk.

Send cover letter and resume to

*Office location in Center Moriches with cases throughout NY Metro Area.