www.marksiwiec.com  ●  (585) 218-6825  ●  Pittsford, NY

Something For Your Stocking…

December 23, 2011 by Mark Siwiec  
Filed Under: Buying & Selling, Full Blog, Mark & the Market

something-for-your-stocking

I’ve been selling real estate for about 20 years now with some success. Enough success to make me the number one agent in Rochester, and one of the top in the state. And when you sell that much real estate, you work with a lot of mortgage companies. Some I like more than others, but by and large, most are fine, providing reasonable customer service and decent rates.

And then there’s Chase.

Chase, you see, is the banking industry’s answer to the Hindenburg. Each time I have a buyer or seller who is getting their mortgage through Chase, we always go past our scheduled closing dates waiting for approval. And each time I call, I’m told it will be tomorrow. And then tomorrow comes and goes, with nothing. Then you’re told next week….and nothing. Then people get angry, and deals start to fall apart. So you call and plead….and you’re promised, promised tomorrow….then nothing. This has happened far too many times to be a series of isolated incidents. At Chase, this is how business is conducted.

So, some words to live by:
If you’re an agent, don’t allow your clients to use Chase.
If you’re a buyer, don’t use Chase.
If you’re thinking of refinancing, don’t use Chase.

Combine that with “always cook chicken to 160 degrees” and you should lead a fairly happy life. Thanks for listening.

Oh…and Happy Holidays.

Circular Logic

September 16, 2011 by Mark Siwiec  
Filed Under: Buying & Selling, Full Blog, Mark & the Market

circular-logic

Houses, more than any single thing I’ve ever encountered, are reflections of people’s personalities. And when it’s your job to sell them, you finish the week with a lot of interesting stories. It’s the reason I started this blog in the first place. Unfortunately, experience has taught me that I can’t share 80% of these stories for one of two reasons; either a) the humor is subtle or esoteric enough as to be tough to convey on the written page, or more commonly….b) names really couldn’t be changed enough to protect the innocent (or guilty).

One thing that gave me a chuckle happened yesterday, however, that I thought I’d convey.

I started the week with a fantastic listing in the city for $320,000. A really spectacular house—great layout, appealing lot, a real winner. An offer came in from a buyer for $310,000, we countered at $317,000. Their comeback? $314,159.26. It was the oddest number I’d ever seen written on a contract. We were puzzled, but we accepted.

The next day, I learned that the buyer was a Mathematics professor at a local university. True story. Some light fare that I thought I’d share with you as we head into the weekend….which I hope you enjoy.

Pi


Buying or selling a home? Give us a call today at (585) 218-6825 or visit our website at www.marksiwiec.com

Reconcilable Differences

September 14, 2011 by Mark Siwiec  
Filed Under: Buying & Selling, Full Blog, Mark & the Market

reconcilable-differences

As a real estate agent, it often becomes my job to help divorcing couples divest themselves of assets. Sometimes those sales go so smoothly and amicably that you’re left wondering why the people are getting divorced in the first place. Other times…well…it’s a divorce. It can get a little (read “a lot”) ugly, and the bickering, wrangling, and vitriol can sometime slow things down to the point that finally pinning down a closing date can take months.

But I’ve never had one take 20 years. And that’s probably because I’ve never had to broker a divorce between five people. You probably weren’t aware that five people could get married, and the good news is, they can’t. The bad news, however, is that they can form a country. And while the dissolution of a marriage rarely ends in bloodshed, the dissolution of a country almost always does. Allow me to whisk you back to the delightful closing days of the Republic of Yugoslavia.

Family portrait, circa 1987
Yugo Map

Yugoslavia, that doomed former Balkan State best known for ethnic cleansing and really happening cars, broke up into five separate nations (Serbia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Croatia, and Macedonia) in 1992 after decades of political and religious strife. And as with most divorces, the former unified nation state had assets. And as with most divorces, the competing parties….a) hated each other…..and b) believed no one deserved anything but them (fortunately, there were no kids or pets).

That formula usually means fighting over the house. And in the case of our five newly minted countries, that meant fighting over the house; namely, the former Ambassador’s residence on Park Avenue in New York. The once harmonious government of Yugoslavia bought the 2400 square foot apartment in 1975 for the quaint price of $100,000 to house its Ambassador to the United Nations. And with six bedrooms, five baths, and a balcony overlooking Park Ave, Yugoslavia had a seriously palatial pad from which to conduct international relations.

Original Owner: Yugoslav President Josip Tito, who’s 1980 passing marked the beginning of the end for the Republic
TitoTito4Tito 2

But when things began to crumble in the Balkans, the once buzzing Ambassadorial abode was vacated, and following competing claims for ownership, all parties were prevented by court order from using the property. That was 1992, and the apartment is still empty today.

Yugo Apt 3 Yugo Apt 1

And those two decades of vacancy have done wonders for the condition of the place.
From the New York Post:

Paint is peeling from the ceiling of the salmon-colored living room. Silver serving pieces, desperately in need of a polish, sit on a buffet in the formal dining room. The kitchen contains a microwave oven the size of an air conditioner, and the pantry still holds a jar of maraschino cherries and Thai pepper paste.

Reality: “Wow, what a shame to see such a nice place drop in value like that.”
NYC Real Estate Alternate Reality: “I know. Now it’s worth only 250 times more than its purchase price instead of 300 times more. C’est la vie.”

The only interior photo of the apartment yet released
Yugo Apt 2

That’s right, the hopelessly outdated, musty, dilapidated Park Avenue apartment with slightly less square footage than your home is currently valued at a little over $20 million. Which explains the real estate cold war between the children of the former republic.

So why is it in the news now after all these years? Because it’s being listed, of course. A deal brokered between the five nations way back in 2001 has been resurrected, allowing all of the former Yugoslavia’s international assets to be divided between the sister states based on regional economic standing. The big winner? Serbia with 40% (which is only fair since they’ve been the ones paying the $1000 per month of fees and taxes on the property for 20 years).

Word on the street is that the apartment will be listing this month for a price somewhere north of its $20 million appraisal—just a hair out of my Park Avenue price range. I am considering making an offer on the leftover Thai pepper paste, however. Given the property’s overall appreciation it shouldn’t go for much more than $5,000 or $6,000, and it’s the least I can do to ensure the health of the Serbian government.

Otherwise, they might consider producing cars again.

Buying or selling a home? Give us a call today at (585) 218-6825 or visit our website at www.marksiwiec.com

Claustro-tel

September 10, 2011 by Mark Siwiec  
Filed Under: Buying & Selling, Full Blog, Mark & the Market

claustro-tel

I haven’t been everywhere in the world, but for a 40 something guy with a full-time-and-then-some job, I’ve traveled quite a bit. And if you’re going to travel quite a bit, you’re going to stay in a lot of hotels. Some have been great and have really enhanced my enjoyment of a trip. Others, well…whatever doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger. But of all the rooms I’ve ever called home for 10 hours, I’ve never had to slide lengthwise off the bottom of my bed in the morning to get up. And I count myself lucky for being able to say that, because thousands of people in Asia cannot. Intrigued? Of course you are. Introducing 9 Hours, the newest and trendiest addition to Asia’s growing list of capsule hotel chains.

Clock

Haven’t heard of capsule hotels? Allow me: From the country that brought you Hello Kitty and full-contact game shows comes the capsule hotel, an urban inn that offers about as minimalist an approach to overnight accommodations as one can possibly imagine. Instead of a room, the patron is allowed the use of a “capsule”—a 3 foot by 7 foot chamber made exclusively for sleeping. Your numbered capsule can be found in a wall with hundreds of others, creating the appearance of a poorly lit but very stylish morgue.

Capsule Room Sleeping 2

Though they haven’t (yet) made their big break in the United States, capsule hotels have been around since their debuted in Japan in 1979. Though still not wildly popular or widely accepted, capsule cabanas now number in the hundreds, with locations concentrated in Scandinavia and Asia. And true to the capsule hotel blueprint, they offer limited to no services with limited to no attention to aesthetics.

The proprietors of 9 Hours, however, are seeking to maximize the minimalist experience, putting a trendy spin on the cheap (you know those giant hipster-hamsters that drive around in a Kia Soul? Kinda like that).

Front Lobby

As the name implies, your stay at 9 Hours lasts exactly 9 hours, a concept based on the idea that humans spend about 9 hours in their rest routine: 1 hour of showering/dressing/grooming, 7 hours of sleep, and 1 hour of leisure (a.k.a., “rest”). And why waste useful minutes in a hotel that could be spent walking purposefully through the streets of a crowded city with a bag on your shoulder? Click Here to take a look at a comprehensive 9 Hours video tour, taking you from check-in to climb-in to slide-out to check-out, all in about 4 minutes…

Logo

One critic described designer Fumie Shibata 9 Hours layout as having “a feeling of openness and uniformity, where everything is laid out in such a way that your purpose is always clear.” Uniformity? No argument there. Purposeful layout? I suppose. Openness? If your idea of openness is to pass through a windowless and oppressively monochromatic sea of hard surfaces to spend 9 hours in a 30 inch tall sleep casket, then yes. Hell yes.

A 9 Hours sleep capsule: An excellent opportunity to practice being dead.
Capsule Interior

Japan is a colorful place full of colorful people. Except at 9 Hours, where only two colors were worked into the design plan. Black and white. Oh…..and black.

Bathroom Lockers Products Elevator

Care to make the 20 hour flight for the 9 Hours experience? The good news is that your accommodations will only cost you $80, less than a quarter of what most big-city overnights will cost you in Japan.

Sleeping

Perhaps places like 9 Hours are just the next natural step in our continual digression toward a dehumanizing, homogeneous existence; a future devoid of color where Enya plays in a continuous loop from unseen speakers all the time. Or maybe it’s just an idea whose time has come. Either way, the next time I’m in Japan I’ll probably just grit my teeth and pay the $450 to stay at the Hilton.

I’ve seen The Matrix. I know what direction this is going in.

Buying or selling a home? Give us a call today at (585) 218-6825 or visit our website at www.marksiwiec.com

Dumpster Dwelling

September 7, 2011 by Mark Siwiec  
Filed Under: Buying & Selling, Full Blog, Mark & the Market

dumpster-dwelling

Back in July, I did a story about the cottage industry that has sprung up around converting shipping containers into homes (Click Here to read Recycled Packaging). Now, Gregory Kloehn of Berkley, California is one-upping those insipid entrepreneurs and has converted a dumpster into a living space that looks just like my old college dorm room, only with granite countertops.

I’ve never had a quote-of-the-day, but if I did, Wednesday, September 7th’s would be, “I think I’ve made a nice little home out of a garbage can.” This guy has a hobby, and hobbies are important. Without them, you run the risk of wasting your time on really stupid stuff.

Not really enough here for a full story, but I couldn’t stand to not share the video. Enjoy.


Buying or selling a home? Give us a call today at (585) 218-6825 or visit our website at www.marksiwiec.com

This Week’s Runner’s Up

September 6, 2011 by Mark Siwiec  
Filed Under: Buying & Selling, Full Blog, Mark & the Market

this-week%e2%80%99s-runner%e2%80%99s-up

Once again, the honorable mentions from the last couple of weeks in real estate news. Hope you enjoyed Monday’s holiday monsoon as much as I did. Click the text to visit the story.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Home Conversions
Strange home conversions. Can you believe it’s taken me this long to cover one?


Rihan
Rihanna sues her home builder for rain damage. Insert “Umbrella” joke here.


DSK
Dominique Strauss Kahn’s New York townhouse hits the market for $14 million….and he’s taking his housekeepers with him.


Tacoma Narrows
A really great slideshow of modern architectural disasters.

Buying or selling a home? Give us a call today at (585) 218-6825 or visit our website at www.marksiwiec.com

Epilogue Update: The Final Word on Huguette’s Final Say

epilogue-update-the-final-word-on-huguettes-final-say

Frequent readers of the blog will recall the short series of stories that I wrote a couple of months ago on the estate of Huguette Clark, the reclusive and incredibly wealthy copper heiress who passed away after nearly 75 years of isolation in her New York City apartment. If you have a minute and didn’t get a chance before, here are the links to those posts—a quick and fascinating read.
                                                                 

Stranger Than Fiction: The Estate and Estates of Huguette M. Clark (June 11th)

Stranger Than Fiction, Part II: The Estate and Estates of Huguette M. Clark (June 14th)

Epilogue to an Heiress (June 24th)

If you had a chance to read them (or if you just read them), you’ll recall that Huguette had a handful of prize possessions that had both the real estate and the art world all abuzz at the news of her passing. The biggest prize (arguably, of course)? Her absolutely enormous, 15,000 square foot, 42 room Fifth Avenue penthouse which some estimates valued at $100 million. Who would it be left to? A foundation? The shady lawyer and convicted felon accountant? An Upstate real estate agent with a blog and incredible taste in both music and clothes?

907 Fifth Avenue, one of New York’s most celebrated addresses
Clark Apartment, 907 Fifth Ave 907 Fifth Ave Awning

Sadly, no. The big winners in the Huguette Clark Last Will & Testament lottery are her personal nurse Haddassh Peri and her thirty-something goddaughter, Wanda Styka. This isn’t the first trip to the bank for the pair, having already been named as major beneficiaries of the heiress’ will in early readings back in June. The fate of the airport-size apartment, however, remained shrouded in mystery until this week when the remaining “unaddressed” assets of the will were released by the court. The announcement threw cold water on months of excited chatter and speculation about the apartments next owner and their plans to market it. What will Haddassh and Wanda do with their new crib? They—excuse me, their people—aren’t saying, but it appears they have no plans to list it in the near future.

907 Fifth Ave 3 907 Fifth Ave

This will probably be my last post on Huguette Clark, a woman who I’ve come to know well this summer (or at least as well as anyone ever knew her). And that’s too bad, because she’s been a lot of fun to hang out with. I can only hope that Wanda and Haddassh move into their new apartment this weekend, draw the blinds, and don’t come out again for about 80 years.

It won’t do much for their social lives, but man…what a great week of stories I’ll have in 2091.

Buying or selling a home? Give us a call today at (585) 218-6825 or visit our website at www.marksiwiec.com

Cooper Vision

August 31, 2011 by Mark Siwiec  
Filed Under: Buying & Selling, Full Blog, Mark & the Market

cooper-vision

There was a time when New York City had so many significant and historic buildings sitting around that there wasn’t enough spray paint in America to deface them all–and believe me, they tried. That was back when Greenwich Village was a depository for actual starving artists and Times Square was more of a place for buying drugs and weapons than t-shirts and hotdogs. Then, beginning in the early 1980’s, the whole gentrification thing happened and those buildings went from being monuments of decline to hyper-appreciating, prized pieces of real estate. One by one, they disappeared from the market until the only way you could find a vacant building in the Village was if it was in the process of being renovated by Robert De Niro.

But not all of those buildings were gobbled up so readily. Some of them were simply off limits because they were still being used by the same struggling non-profits and community organizations that had been using them for a century. One of these time-capsule gems to hit the market last year was the historic Fire Patrol Building on West 3rd Street.

Cooper Before Skinny Front Before

Though that’s not to say that everyone was happy about it, especially the West 3rd Street Fire Patrol. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t really have a say because the taxes and upkeep were being paid by an insurance company with an unhealthy disdain for redundant overhead.

A quick history lesson for those readers unfamiliar with early American fire practices: Beginning at the dawn of the 19th century, insurers hired people to walk about cities at night to look out for fires–an idea first floated by one Benjamin Franklin. These Fire Patrol people would spot the fires and get them extinguished readily, thus saving the insurance underwriters significant money (sort of like an early version of Excellus trying to get you to actually exercise). By the time the 20th century rolled around, inventions such as the telephone and electric streetlights made the Fire Patrol largely obsolete, but the tradition continued for many years in some cities, with it’s last remaining holdout in New York….the home of so many last remaining holdouts.

Cooper Before Door

But alas, the bean-counters at the Board of Fire Underwriters finally persuaded the powers-that-be that paying a ton of money to maintain a historic institution “just for the fun of it” was bad business in the new economy…and just like that, the historic building was on the market.

And the place needed work. Built in 1906, Fire Patrol Station Number 2 had last been updated in 1906. The buildings 8,240 square feet had original wood flooring and windows, and the exterior was covered in many layers of lead paint. So dated was the facility that the stables that once housed the patroller’s horses remained intact in the rear of the building. On the bright side, it also had its original spiral staircase, brass fire poles, and open hand-hewn ceiling beams.
Detail Cooper

Not surprisingly, the $4.75 million listing sparked immediate interest, with one unknown investor quickly closing the deal for $4.3 million. At first, no one knew who the deep-pocketed mystery buyer was until CNN’s Anderson Cooper was seen visiting the site with designers and contractors a dozen times in the span of a few weeks. By the time the sale became public record, Anderson was well on his way to completing a total, yet historically deferential, renovation and conversion of the building into his new NYC home.

Working Cooper

And as it turns out, he isn’t just good at reading a teleprompter without moving his eyes. He’s also got an interest in historic restoration and a talent for design, enlisting some of the country’s best known architects including Cary Tamarkin, a man famous for residential conversations. Despite initial public outcry at the sale of the historic building, Chateau de Cooper has proven to have been a good thing for the history conscious, with the façade being returned to it’s original 1906 appearance and most of the original features of the building maintained and restored both inside and out.

Working Cooper 3 Working Cooper 2

I’ll be in the Big Apple in two weeks, and while there I hope to have a chance to swing over to the Village and check out Cooper’s new digs. And just for the record, if a Rochester man ends up being issued a citation for trying to make off with a brass fire pole, it wasn’t me. Seriously.

Buying or selling a home? Give us a call today at (585) 218-6825 or visit our website at www.marksiwiec.com

On the Waterfront

August 28, 2011 by Mark Siwiec  
Filed Under: Buying & Selling, Full Blog, Mark & the Market

on-the-waterfront

You read the last post. You found the photographs inspiring. Sensing the onset of another mid-life crisis, you assail your spouse or partner with liberal doses of reverse psychology—a skill that you’ve mastered over the years—and you’ve convinced them to sell your boring, land-locked home and find a monstrous yacht to convert into your next residence. Damn, you’re good.

But now, you find yourself in a quandary. You know from experience that the effects of your passive aggressive persuasion techniques only last for so long, and you must strike while the iron’s hot. You need a boat…and you need it fast. But it’s not like these things are just laying around all over the place, right?

Yacht Wreck

Well, actually, laying around all over the place is exactly what many of them are doing. In fact, there are a ton of these wonderful floating flats for sale right now at rock-bottom prices. Why? Part of it is because maintaining old boats is a little (ok, a lot) like maintaining an old house…but that won’t matter to you because you’re looking for a house conversion anyway. And then there’s the issue of those tandem 300 gallon fuel tanks.

NY Launch and Engine Co. 78'

It probably slipped right by you, but gas has gotten a little more expensive in the last three or four years—and by a little, I mean a lot. And if you spend any amount of time driving, those miles can add up to real money in a hurry. But no one’s getting rid of their cars (yet), choosing instead to engage in that most American of traditions: uttering profanities under their breath while “removing their card quickly” from a sneering, cynical gas pump. It’s really made owning a car that gets 20-ish mpg a lot more difficult than it used to be.

But ya know what would be worse? Driving a car to work that got ½ of a mile per gallon.

A quick lesson for my fellow land-lovers: In a boat this size, fuel consumption isn’t measured in miles, but in hours. Your average 80 ft yacht will generally have two rather hearty gasoline or diesel engines with a combined full economy of 30 gallons per hour (gph), give or take.

Drinking problem
Twin Engines

After some relatively simple math that I forgot how to do shortly after college, you come out with a total gas mileage of about ½ a mile per gallon (assuming low RPM’s, light winds, and friendly currents, of course). Multiply that by the price of gas in a marina—which makes that sneer on the face of your local gas pump look like a warm smile—and you have a commute to work that runs you about $275 a day (if, that is, your commute is around or under 20 miles round trip). If that were a car, you probably wouldn’t keep it very long. And neither would a lot of other people.

Tah-Dah! Your new home awaits. And besides, starting those thirsty hippos below decks and going for a spin isn’t mandatory. Knowing that you’re just a 401K cash-in away from a trip down the coast is just as satisfying, isn’t it?

Of course it is. So just for fun, I thought I would help you start your search and show you some current options that you have available, from floating fixer upper to move-in ready port palaces. Click the description above the photos to visit the online classified. Bon Voyage.

60′ Pacemaker Yacht. Fresh off a $1 million re-fitting job. Yours for $100,000.
Ebay1 Stateroom1 Living 1 Living 1(2) Ebay1(2)


Retired 85′ USN Search & Rescue (ASR) boat in perfect operating condition. Does it need some work to become a home? Sure. But for a current high bid $17,000, you’ll have some cash to invest.
Ebay2 Bedrooms2 engines2


Kicking it up a notch: A full floating manse for those disinclined to start from scratch. Buy it now for $250,000
Ebay3 Dining 3 Bedroom3 Bar3 Bow 3


A truely classic 2 deck harbor boat for $99,000.
Harbor 4 Deck 4 deck 4 (2) Bar 4 staircase 4 Harbor 4(2)


Neptune’s Lady hasn’t felt like a lady in a long time. Fortunately, you came along with $50,000
Boat 5 Living 5 Boat5 (2)


Remember, people buy houses that need this much work that aren’t 140′ long and 3 stories high. $200,000
6 6-2 6-5 6-3 6-4

Buying or selling a home? Give us a call today at (585) 218-6825 or visit our website at www.marksiwiec.com

Home Ship Home

August 25, 2011 by Mark Siwiec  
Filed Under: Buying & Selling, Full Blog, Mark & the Market

home-ship-home

You know what the problem with a house is? It doesn’t travel well. Once built, it takes a herculean effort or a natural disaster to move one. Even mobile homes aren’t really mobile once you get them in place, and no matter how spartan your domestic existence, moving, to put it plainly, is a royal pain in the ass. But what if you could find a house that could provided you with a fresh view every week from your front door?

I know what you’re thinking; motor homes, right? No. Paying $250,000 to live full time in a 400 square foot steel sleeve with 3-tone vinyl interior is a step too far. I’m talking about something grander (or at least bigger): Boats. Ships really. Of course you’ve heard of a houseboat, but what we’re talking about here is a little different. We’re talking about a boat-house……OK wait, that didn’t work…….we’re talking about really unique boats that people have converted into homes. Really nice homes.

One of my favorites to make the real estate voyeur news over the last couple of weeks was completed recently by Victoria and Richard MacKenzie-Child, proud owners of the Yankee.

Life Aboard a Historic Ellis Island FerryAll photography by Navid Baraty

Originally dubbed the Machigonne, the 130 ft. vessel was built in 1907, and in its century afloat has served as everything from an armed patrol vessel during WWI to an island charter boat before being retired from commercial service in the 1980’s.

The Yankee in her youth, as the Machigonne in the 1920′s
Historic

In fact, the Yankee served for many years in the early 20th century as an Ellis Island Ferry, with tens of thousands of soon-to-be Americans getting their first glimpse of their new country from her decks. Photographer Navid Baraty was invited aboard last month and took the following pictures of this spectacular—yet historically reverent—conversion.

The “mess hall.” Note the grand piano in the front room.
Life Aboard a Historic Ellis Island Ferry Life Aboard a Historic Ellis Island Ferry Life Aboard a Historic Ellis Island Ferry Life Aboard a Historic Ellis Island Ferry

The Yankee spent her career working all over the New England coast until she was purchased by Jim Gallagher in 1990. Intent on a full restoration, Gallagher towed the tired and tattered Yankee to Tribeca, Manhattan, and began a years-long restoration of the once proud craft, even getting her entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 1992 (yes, a boat can be a place). Yankee was sold to her new owners in 2003 for an undisclosed sum, with the promise that the new owners would continue the restoration work that Gallagher had spent a decade moving forward. All of the ship’s systems are now fully updated and operational.

In case you were wondering about the tires on the pier, that’s the MacKenzie-Child’s “polka dot garden,” complete with irrigation system.
Life Aboard a Historic Ellis Island Ferry Life Aboard a Historic Ellis Island Ferry Life Aboard a Historic Ellis Island Ferry Life Aboard a Historic Ellis Island Ferry Life Aboard a Historic Ellis Island Ferry

So there you have it. An incredible conversion carried out on an incredibly historic ship. Now, if only you lived in a city near the water……

Buying or selling a home? Give us a call today at (585) 218-6825 or visit our website at www.marksiwiec.com

Farewell To A Friend

farewell-to-a-friend

Mark Siwiec & Associates grew a great deal in 2011, adding three agents and one new member of the support team, bringing our total up to twelve full time staff. I’m blessed because each of them is a pleasure to work with, and they’re blessed because I’m a pleasure to work with….just ask them (please note; it works better if I’m prominently displayed in the room when you submit your inquiry). Like many businesses, we have a small staff, with each member playing a vital role in the day to day operations of the office, keeping sales running smoothly, responding to questions and requests, and giving me the ability to place my focus where it belongs: On clients.

This past Friday, our small but industrious family said goodbye to one of our most valued members, Becky Pecora. After two blissful, leisurely years as the Transaction Coordinator in our Pittsford office, Becky is going to work full time with her husband at their business, P3 Systems in Henrietta (Click Here to visit the website). There, she’ll be in charge of warehouse operations and assist in finance and sales. P3 Systems, which specializes in technology reallocation, is one of our city’s growing number of bright spots, taking on so much work in the past 12 months that they could no longer due without a Becky. So they took mine.

Family photo. Becky is to my left, fabulous as always
Group

Becky came to us two years ago when my partner Duffy discovered her working at the Baker Street Bakery, her family’s business. Sensing that he was in the presence of a person who could balance the dual tasks of managing the workload while handling me, Duffy suggested that I speak to her about a recent vacancy that I had in my office. So we met. I was, of course, charming….and I choose to believe that she knew she had to work for this guy.

Becky 3

Readers who’ve conducted transactions through the office are familiar with Becky and her pleasant, patient, and helpful personality. She’s been an incredible asset over the last two years, keeping the trains running on time with regard to closings, inspections, and the myriad contractual details that need to be addressed during price negotiations. She’s organized, thorough, methodical, and punctual, but perhaps most importantly, she’s just nice. People like her. And she likes people. And you just can’t beat people like that.

I’d love to say she’ll be back. But she won’t be. And that’s ok. I’m just grateful that I had the opportunity to work with someone like Becky, and I know that she’ll be successful in everything she does. Becky, I speak for the whole team when I say that you were an asset to the company, a pleasure to work with, and that you will be missed.

Farewell old friend (and see you at dinner next week).

Buying or selling a home? Give us a call today at (585) 218-6825 or visit our website at www.marksiwiec.com

This Week’s Runners Up

this-week%e2%80%99s-runners-up

Once again, here is the interesting real estate kibble from around the web. Enjoy, and hope you’re enjoying the weekend.

                                                                                                                                


Park Place, near Henley, which after many years  of decline, has
A Russian oligarch buys the most expensive home in British History (Moscow, it seems, is no place for a miniature giraffe).


Arch Home
A photo gallery of the personal homes of some of the world’s top architects. Prepare to be inspired to buy a 4 bedroom colonial.



I’ve written about water-tower house conversations before, but I still wanted to share this one. Were I to live in something unconventional and couldn’t afford a doublewide in Malibu, I’d live in a water tower. In Malibu.


Rent
Remember the “Rent is Too Damn High” guy from last November? He’s losing his rent-controlled apartment in New York City. Guess why.


Buying or selling a home? Give us a call today at (585) 218-6825 or visit our website at www.marksiwiec.com

$ingle Wide

August 17, 2011 by Mark Siwiec  
Filed Under: Buying & Selling, Full Blog, Mark & the Market

ingle-wide

When mobile homes first came onto the market in large numbers in the early 1950’s, many people believed that they were the future of real estate in the US. The country was experiencing an unprecedented growth spurt, demand for residential housing was soaring, and given the choice, who would want to have all that yard maintenance, painting, and upkeep anyway? Trailers were mobile, so if you moved, you could take your house with you without ever having to pack. You could rent rather than purchase your yard, paying nothing in property taxes. And best of all, trailers were cheap, allowing their lucky owners to save their money for important things like Seeing The USA In their Chevrolet. Like so many things in the early 50’s, house trailers were the next big thing–like having a toaster in your nuclear powered silver streamlined car.

Early Advert


But no one ever owned a nuclear powered silver streamlined car with a toaster. And mobile homes, well, they never really hit the big-time either. That’s not to say that they didn’t sell a few of them (there are, after all, some 38,000 trailer parks in the nation today), but few people dream of living on one, and given the opportunity to own a quality site-built home, most folks who live in trailers probably wouldn’t.

Vintage Trailer Park 2


Most folks, that is, but not everybody. In fact, some people pay surprising amounts of money for these 900 square foot aluminum abodes. How much is surprising? In many cases, over $1 million. Well over. Think they’re crazy? Well, they’re not…….Ok, they are….but it goes to show you just how much some people are willing to pay for a zip code, and just how out-of-whack real estate prices can sometimes seem to the average, market-insulated Rochesterian.

For this posting, I thought it might be fun to take a quick tour of some of the mobile homes being offered in Malibu, California– home to the nation’s most expensive trailer parks. Mr. Leach, take it away…

Paradise Cove Trailer Park
Malibu, California


Paradise Cove on Bing

If one town in America could cop the prize for million dollar trailers, that town would be Malibu. Now to be fair, their isn’t much square footage in Malibu that doesn’t sell for seven (or nine) figures, but honestly–a gated trailer park?

Two, actually. And if you paid $1.4 million for your previously-enjoyed mobile home, you’d want it gated too. Paradise Cove trailer park, the most exclusive trailer park in America (thank-you-very-much,) has seen over a dozen of its 250 plus units sell for over a $1 million in the last two years. When asked why people pay so much for the privilege of living in a trailer, a local Realtor replied, “Because its easily the most affordable housing in Malibu, and the beach is beautiful.”

Though not currently listed, this tidy little double wide–with garage–sold in late 2009 for just under $2.3 million (what part of garage did you not understand?)

Paradise Cove $2 million

I can hear the aguish in your voice: “Mark, why tell me about a double wide for $2 million, and then tell me that it’s no longer available. Have you no humanity?” Not to worry, the little number below just hit the market this week for $2.55 million. More than the 2009 listing, of course, but that was when the housing market in California went bust and the trailer parks filled up with jettisoned CEO’s and bonus-high investment house managers.

Paradise Cove $2.5m

Can’t afford $2 million for a trailer? Perhaps one of these more budget-conscious Paradise Cove offerings are for you (Click Here to view the full listings).

210 Paradise Cove. Price: $695,000
210 Paradise 210 Paradise 2

31 Paradise Cove. Price: $545,000
31 Paradise 31 Paradise 2

191 Paradie Cove. Price: $495,000
191 Paradise 191 Paradise 2

Point Dume Club Trailer Park
Malibu, California

Just not feeling it in Paradise Cove huh? No worries, a five minute drive west will bring you to the lovely trailer court of Point Dume. Here are some of PD’s current offerings.

147 Point Dume. Price: $1,250,000
147 Point Dume 147 Point Dume 2

197 Point Dume. Price: $760,000
197 Point Dume 197 Point Dume 2

129 Point Dume. Price: $645,000
129 Point Dume 129 Point Dume 2

And while it may seem hard to believe, buyers are reported to be lining up to pay the $500,000 to $2.5 million to live in an oceanside trailer park…..all while fine site-built homes sit idle on the market for months.

I bet those people have toasters in their cars.

Buying or selling a home? Give us a call today at (585) 218-6825 or visit our website at www.marksiwiec.com

Tooting Their Own Horns

tooting-their-own-horns

Telluride, Colorado has a problem. For the second time in as many months, the exclusive Rocky Mountain town is losing another celebrity resident to the East Coast (soon, only hedgefund managers and exiled former CEO’s will make up the local PTA). Who’s leaving this time? Roxanne Pulitzer and her husband Tom Boberg, who just this week listed their 23,000 square foot cabin….just a couple of doors down from Jerry Seinfeld’s place which hit the market a month ago (Click Here to view the listing or Here to see the video, which I believe was shot during the first earthquake to hit Colorado in centuries). To be sure, Jerry’s place is nice. But Roxanne’s mountain cabin may be Telluride’s most lavish home (borderline Middle Eastern dictator, actually)—which is a bold statement given the typical property in that zip code.

But Roxanne and Tom’s mountain compound wasn’t always so exclusive. When they bought the property for $5.5 million in 2001, it was a claustrophobic 8500 square feet and lacked even the basic amenities like a 100’ lap pool or a bowling alley. After a year of roughing it, the pair began renovating, expanding the homes square footage by a factor of three, spending untold millions on furnishing and remodeling, and adding the essentials. One architectural journal referred to the home’s styling as “log-mountain-lodge-meets-Palm Beach” (which is a little like pairing ice cream and grapefruit juice in my opinion, but whatever floats your boat).

Pulitzer Garden

Can’t quite put your finger on where you’ve heard the name? For those whose memories may still be blocking it out, the 1982 disunion of publishing heir Herbert Pulitzer and his commoner wife Roxanne set the standard for salacious divorce proceedings, bringing to light details of Roxanne’s outrageous behavior and kicking off the “ugly divorce” craze that dominated both the remainder of the 80’s and country music lyrics for a generation.

Pulitzer Back

Though it’s unlikely that anyone ever considered the Pulitzer marriage the Rockwellian ideal, the trial brought sensational allegations to light about Roxanne Pulitzer’s behavior during the 5 year union. In addition to prerequisites like $100,000 shopping trips and multiple adulterous affairs, she purportedly uploaded cocaine like a shopvac and participated regularly in occult activities. But just so you don’t group her in with everyone in Palm Beach in the 1980’s, it’s worth mentioning that some of those affairs were alleged to be team sports, including sapphic encounters with other trophy wives.

People


Then, of course, there was the trumpet. The one she slept with. Because apparently she was really, really into brass. And the fact that I’m not going into detail about it is all the detail I need to go into for you to understand the graphic details. The New York Post, that bastion of journalistic integrity, immediately put out a headline dubbing her “The Strumpet with the Trumpet,” a handle that a quick Google search will reveal follows her to this day.

So outrageous was the case against her that the judge actually suspended the “tender years doctrine” (the Florida statute stating that custody of children under five should always be awarded to the mother), awarding full custody of the couple’s two young boys to their aging father for their own wellbeing. And to add insult to injury, she was denied any property and granted only $2000 per month alimony for 24 months. The girl couldn’t catch a break….so she did what anyone in her situation would do.

She posed for Playboy. With a trumpet.

Playboy


Then she wrote a series of tell-all books about both her marriage and the ugly underbelly of Florida’s moneyed aristocracy (one of the more charitable critics raved “Short…and probably not the worst book ever published”), married and divorced two more times, married again, and then renovated this house, which she’s now selling.

The seven bedroom, 10 bath estate sits on just under 8 acres and includes virtually everything you could think of, including an indoor shooting range, a solarium, and a 4000 square foot master bedroom.

Some pics of this incredible house in the Colorado hills…

Pulitzer Patio Pulitzer Patio 2 Pulitzer Atrium Pulitzer Bedroom Pulitzer Kitchen Pulitzer Pool Pulitzer Wreckroom Pulitzer View Pulitzer Living Room Pulitzer Fron Door

Care to make the happy couple an offer? The price for their mountain playground is set at $19.9 million—an ask they’re unlikely to slash drastically due to Roxanne’s stated reluctance to leave the property, calling it the only house she’s ever become truly attached to. And good luck coming up with a pejorative descriptor that rhymes with ‘lodge’ or ‘cabin.’

Believe me, I tried.

Buying or selling a home? Give us a call today at (585) 218-6825, or visit our website at www.marksiwiec.com

Mirror Images

August 10, 2011 by Mark Siwiec  
Filed Under: Buying & Selling, Full Blog, Mark & the Market

mirror-images

A lot of interesting things were happening in 1891. The industrial revolution was in full swing, transforming America into an manufacturing giant. Sherlock Holmes made his literary debut. Basketball was invented, and the Rolling Stones recorded December’s Children. Rochester had come into its own as a city as well, with many of today’s well known landmarks just beginning to appear. In fact, 1880 to 1900 was one of the largest construction booms that our city has ever experienced, with thousands of homes being built on what had been farmland only months before. Virtually all of these houses were charming in their own right, but some were magnificent, exhibiting all of the elaborate ornamentation and architectural detail found on the finest of Victorian homes.

And then 120 years went by.

Many of those homes, particularly those in the neighborhoods surrounding East Avenue, remain today as monuments to a grand era in both craftsmanship and architecture, where no design was considered too bold and no expense was spared in its execution. Others have not been so fortunate, having been cut up into apartment buildings, fallen victim to decay and neglect….or fallen down entirely. One of these grand homes, however, was spared this terrible fate by two local preservationists with an eye for period detail and polyurethane in their blood.

Meet Rochester’s own Nick & Rick Perlet, saviors of 9 Granger Place.

Outside 1

Built in 1891, this incredible 4 bedroom, 3 bath brick Victorian was walked back from the brink by this father and son team after they purchased the property in late 2009. At that time, the home was in a state that could be described as….shall we say, “distressed”…after decades of neglect and a previous owner who stripped the interior of much of its original hardware and moldings.

Outside 3 Outside 2

“The place was in pretty rough condition when we started work on it,” Nick explained. “Spindles on the staircase were broken and missing, a lot of the original moldings were torn off and ruined, most of the hardware on the doors, windows, and woodwork were gone. It was a mess.”

Staircase

Originally the home of a prominent local architect, Rick and Nick spent the next two years working on the property as a full time job, stripping paint, restoring moldings, replacing hardwoods, and refinishing surfaces to bring it to the impeccable condition that it enjoys today. And while some of the woodwork and much of the original hardware was missing, the pair was able to scour local architectural salvage yards to find the materials they needed to match the originals.

One of the home’s most impressive features is the incredible three turn staircase, complete with must-have Victorian detailing like landing seating, stained glass windows, and deep relief coffering
Stairs 2 Stairs 4 Stairs Looking Down Stairs Detail

When they couldn’t find what they needed, as was the case with the missing staircase spindles, Rick turned them by hand on a lath—from an original hardwood tree harvested on site.

Two of these spindles were made by Rick. Can you guess which ones? (Me either).
Spindals

But its beauty is more than skin deep. It’s also received all new plumbing and electrical systems, new high efficiency heating and cooling systems, and insulation throughout its many rooms.

And that’s to say nothing of the two kitchens and three bathrooms that were torn out and completely redesigned and installed to the highest standards.

The downstairs kitchen, with custom cabinetry, stainless steel appliances, and travertine floors.
Kitchen

The 3600 square foot home is a striking example of Richardsonian Romanesque Victorian architecture, rich with the geometric ornamentation, high relief carvings, and heavy block styling that characterized the complex 19th century movement. In addition to this, the property features an original carriage house that was converted to a three car garage.

Outside 5 Outside 7 Outside 6 Outside Garage

Perhaps the most striking feature of the house is the ornate parquet hardwood floors, which Rick cut and laid by hand. Each floor has over 800 hand laid pieces of select hardwood, with each piece requiring a minimum of two cuts before fitting. And it looked great….so they did it again upstairs. Twice. The only thing more remarkable than the finished floor is the fact that both men are still able to walk upright.

Front Room


If it seems like these guys have done this before, it’s because these guys have done this before. In fact, they’ve done this seven other times, with their passion for restoring homes turning into a business over the years. “There’ve been a lot of long days….and nights….and a lot of frustration, but in the end, when it all comes together and you can actually begin to get a sense of the place in its finished form, nothings more motivating. It’s a labor of love.”

Two of the home’s bedroom suites have their own fireplaces with impeccable hardwood detailing
Bedroom Bedroom 1 Bedroom 2 Bedroom 2 Fireplace 2

How much do they have invested? “Good question,” said Rick, “Somewhere between $70,000 and $80,000, but that doesn’t include the purchase price obviously.” Nor does it include their 2010 purchase of the neighboring lot, which nearly doubled the size of the yard. And while that might sound like a lot of money, consider this: Because Rick and Nick do all the work themselves, that sum includes absolutely no labor costs whatsoever, which would total thousands of man-hours.

One of the homes five beautifully restored fireplaces.
Living Fireplace

Left: Hardwood crown molding adorns virtually every room in the home.
Right: Ever seen a birdseye maple door knob? Now you have.

Molding Door Knob

So what are the pair’s plans for their latest resto-creation? “This one we’d like to rent to someone who could appreciate the place, its furnishings, and the history here,” says Nick. “Down the road we might consider selling it, but right now, we just want someone to enjoy it.”

Nick (left) and father Rick in front of the main parlor fireplace.
Nick & Rick


The monthly rent for this impeccable home is set at $3500. If you’d be interested in leasing the property, give us a call today at (585) 218-6825 for more information and to schedule a showing. Who knows, maybe after a year at 9 Granger Place you’ll be ready to take on your own restoration project.

You’ll never be able to get those thousands of hours back, but you’ll know where they went every time you check your hair in the woodwork.

More photos of this stunning East Ave neighborhood home:
Newel Stairs 3 Dining Bench Chandelier

The dining room fireplace after being stripped of a dozen layers of paint.
Fireplace Dining 2 Fireplace Dining Detail 2 Fireplace Dining Detail 3 Fireplace Dining Detail 1

Wallboard was removed to reveal original embossed leather paneling in the dining room, which was carefully restored
Embossed Wall Dining Doors

The second floor laundry and floor detail.
Laundry Floor Detail

Chandiler Bedroomo 1 Bath

Outside 2


Buying or selling a home? Give us a call today at (585) 218-6825 or visit our website at www.marksiwiec.com

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