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By fanny montalvo | Broker in New York, NY

    Posted Under: Home Buying in New York, Home Selling in New York, Moving in New York  |  June 13, 2014 7:22 AM  |  344 views  |  No comments

    While there are those who choose to live in their homes for a lifetime, in the last decade, the selling or buying market has been composed of a large population which has, in itself, become its own market...TODAY'S SENIOR CITIZEN!

    When you are ready to retire, your home could be one of your most valuable assets. Therefore, selling your house at retirement age presents a different set of considerations than when you were younger. Whether you're downsizing, buying in a new community or moving in with family, it takes careful planning to get the most out of your equity.

    Seek Specialized Real Estate Assistance

    It is critical to find a real estate agent knowledgeable about the specialized needs of seniors. Through experience or specialized training and credentialing programs, such agents are familiar with senior housing options, the Housing for Older Persons Act, possible schemes and scams and the implications of various financial transactions. A specialist can guide you in making appropriate sales decisions and refer you to other experts as needed. Check your prospective agent's marketing information or talk to her broker to confirm that she has credentials or experience working with senior clients.

    Know Your Home's Current Value

    Having lived in your home for many years, it is natural to be unsure of its current value. However, lack of knowledge about current prices could cause you to accept much less for your home than it is worth. You also might wait too long to accept a fair offer under the mistaken belief that a higher one may be around the corner. To find out the current price for your home, so that you don't lose out on a sale, review the comparative market analysis, or CMA, provided by your real estate agent. The CMA, compiled from data in your region's multiple listing service, includes the most up-to-date information about homes in your neighborhood, similar to yours, that have sold.

    Investigate Incentives and Pitfalls

    As a senior, you should be aware of the pitfalls and incentives associated with buying and selling a home at this point in your life. Seek advice from your financial adviser about the consequences of these transactions. Pensions, IRA accounts, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and estate planning could be impacted by a real estate sale. Additionally, should you plan to buy a new home in a retirement community, you could be eligible for perks such as reduced upfront fees and closing-cost assistance, depending on the community.

    Pack Up Memories and Valuables

    Selling your home presents an ideal time to sort through your belongings. "Decluttering," a term used by real estate agents, means removing knick-knacks, excess furniture and family photos from your home before putting it on the market. Decluttering makes a house look spacious and helps potential buyers picture their belongings in the house rather than yours. You may have accumulated many mementos through the years that you may wish to sell, giveaway to family members or donate before moving. While the house is on the market, keep items you wish to retain in storage. Valuables, medications and other personal items should be kept out of sight.

    When you sell a house, you pay capital gains tax on your profits. There's no exemption for senior citizens -- they pay tax on the sale just like everyone else. If the house is a personal home and you have lived there several years, though, you may be able to avoid paying tax. The benefit isn't based on your age, though.

    Capital Gains

    Seniors, like other property owners, pay capital gains tax on the sale of real estate. The gain is the difference between the "adjusted basis" and the sale price. The basis is the original purchase price; adjustments include losses from storm or earthquake damage and improvements added to the building. A $250,000 house with a $25,000 kitchen remodel has an adjusted basis of $275,000, for instance. The selling senior can also adjust the basis for advertising and other seller expenses.

    Personal Home

    The IRS does give one very large tax break if the house in question is your personal home. If you live in the house at least two of the five years before the sale, you can exclude $250,000 of gain from taxes. A personal home that sells for $150,000 gain, for instance, doesn't produce any taxable income.

    Special Cases

    If you're married and file a joint return, you may be able to exclude $500,000. Both spouses must have lived in the house for two of the five years; otherwise you have to take the smaller exclusion. If you and your spouse file separately, each of you can only claim $250,000. If you lived more than three of the past five years in a nursing home, you can still claim the exclusion if you owned the house five years and lived there at least one.

    Widows and Widowers

    When someone inherits a house, the basis becomes the market value on the death date of the previous owner. If you own the house jointly with your spouse, the basis changes when he dies. That may mean a higher or lower basis when you sell, depending on the market. If you and your spouse qualified for the $500,000 exemption, you can still claim that much if you sell within two years of his death.


  • Keeping Kibble for Fido & Kitty

    Posted Under: General Area in New York, Quality of Life in New York, In My Neighborhood in New York  |  June 1, 2014 5:18 AM  |  385 views  |  No comments

    New York... A city where whiskered family members rule. Walk along any street and in the cold and stormy months, furry friends are dressed in rain gear; snow boots included- in the summer months, bandanas and even sunglasses adorn. Dog walkers, groomers and day cares have become million dollar industries. Yes, New Yorkers care for and about their beloved pets!

    You rent, own or sublet in NYC. Amongst your coveted lease, deed, and paperwork might there be something you've neglected to think of having? Read on...

    For Pet Loving New Yorkers and Everywhere...

    A Pet Power of Attorney: AKA Making Plans for Rover Before You’re Covered in Clover

    By Lynda Shrager

    Not many of us could (or would) do what hotel magnate Leona Helmsley did for her Maltese pup Trouble: She left $12 million in trust so the little white dog would never want for anything. But even if you’re not a millionaire, you can make plans to ensure your pets are well taken care of after you’re gone

    Says Ms. Shrager, "As an occupational therapist providing rehabilitation in the home,  I often hear from people that they fear that their pet may outlive them.  While a family member or friend may be willing to care for your cat or dog or cockatoo, that’s a commitment not to be taken lightly. Aside from the cost of maintaining a pet, there is daily care, and for any number of reasons you may not have someone you can depend on to take on this huge commitment."

    We should all take the time to organize important paperwork before a crisis occurs – and this includes estate planning for pets. The Humane Society of the United Statesrecommends choosing two people who will serve as temporary pet caregivers should an emergency arise. They should have easy access to your home, written instructions on feeding and care, the name and address of your veterinarian, and knowledge of your permanent plan for the pets. Neighbors, friends and relatives should know who the emergency caregivers are.

    Notes the Humane Society, “Because pets need care daily and will need immediate attention should you die or become incapacitated, the importance of making these informal arrangements for temporary care giving cannot be overemphasized.”

    A Trust to Keep Kitty in Kibble

    There are formal options for people who want to ensure that their pets are cared for in the manner to which they have been accustomed. Some people specify plans for their animals in their wills, but you should understood that such provisions take effect only when you die, and they may take days or weeks to be carried out depending on when the will is read. A power of attorney, which authorizes someone to conduct some or all of your affairs for you while you are alive, can include care for your pets should you become incapacitated.

    pet trust is a legal document that designates a trustee who will hold funds “in trust” to pay the caregiver for all of the needs of your pet. Unlike a will, a trust can provide for your pet anytime you are unable to do so.  The ASPCA suggests setting up the trust with a lawyer who specializes in estate planning as various states have differing laws. New York pet trusts cover the pet for its whole life, for example, but some other states only go up to 21 years, which may be of concern for horses or parrots or other animals with long lifespans.

    Directions left in the pet trust should be very specific. For example, the exact brand of food your animal prefers, as well as the quantity and how often the pet should be fed; its daily activity habits; health issues and anything else you think will maintain consistency in its quality of life.

    Pet Estate Planning Checklist

    For everything you need to know on estate planning for pets, check out Fat Cats and Lucky Dogs by Barry Seltzer and Gerry Beyer. Here are a few tips:

    • Stay in touch with your designated pet caregivers in case their situation changes over time and they can no longer be your pet’s guardian.
    • Choose at least one alternate caregiver.
    • When creating a trust, you will have to identify the pet to prevent fraud. Have labeled photos and consider microchip identifications.
    • Choose a beneficiary to receive any remaining funds that were not used by the pet trust.


    Posted Under: Home Buying in New York, Home Selling in New York, Design & Decor in New York  |  May 25, 2014 4:36 AM  |  576 views  |  No comments
    From Studio to Classic 6 or 8. From Rentals to Sale or Purchase- The Best Ageless Products for Your Home- because your skin gets creams and potions, your home deserves some love, too, to keep it looking fresh. (Courtesy of Amy Posner)

    1. A sleek, lovely white paint. The simple backdrop is, and will always remain, the ultimate design classic. 

    2. Stripes. Yes, there are a 101 patterns we love, but elegant stripes — particularly rendered in blue- or black-and-white — are the perfect print to make sure your home looks fresh no matter what the year.

    3. Wood floors. Rugs, tile, and marble all have their place in many stunning homes, but if you're after a look that's timeless (or looking to only make your investment once), beautiful hardwood floors will never date your home.

    4. Sun-resistant fabrics. Even the most beautiful, classic piece of upholstery can look aged if it's enjoyed a life in direct sunlight...and the fabric shows it. 

    5. Seasonally updated throw pillows. No, it's not one piece you buy now to keep your home looking "young" forever — it's the idea that a rotating display of cheerful, daring, and most importantly, adored by you, pillows can make a room feel lively and fresh without a major investment. 

    6. Books. Say it with us: Books will never, ever go out of style. And we love them for that. Display them with pride!

    7. Imperfect pieces. The minute you bring home something that needs to stay pristine in order to stay attractive, you're asking for trouble (where do you think plastic covers for furniture came from?). A chicly distressed leather chair has much more staying power than must-be-starched-at-all-times window treatments.

    8. Art you love. The minute you buy a piece of art that's trendy, you're counting down the moments until it's out of style...and the room it's in along with it. Keep your home looking eternally up-to-date by making sure every piece on your wall is one you love. Change of heart? Swap it with something new.

    9. Minimal tech support. The more you invest in furniture to support your current technology, the more you'll have to give up when the next latest TV/computer/sound system comes out. Instead of clunky media cabinets, think a sleek armoire that can be used elsewhere in your home after TVs start, say, beaming from our cell phones. 

    Refresh. Revive. Happy Spring into Summer!



    Posted Under: General Area in New York, Quality of Life in New York, In My Neighborhood in New York  |  May 13, 2014 10:43 AM  |  591 views  |  No comments

    BROUGHT TO YOU BY Anna Poaster who is the Farm Manager at Hellgate Farm in Astoria, Queens and coordinates the garden-based nutrition education programming for the Children’s Aid Society. In her spare time, she is an avid composter.

    Lobster is unloaded at a seafood market in New York City, 1943. Image via The Library of Congress.

    New York has always been a food city; whether it be Halal off a street cart or a five star dinner in a world-renowned restaurant, New Yorkers love to eat. According to Columbia University, there are “approximately 20,000 restaurants, 13,000 food retailers, 1,600 public schools, numerous hospitals, and other nonprofit service providers, as well as 90 farmers’ markets” in New York City.

    We are lucky to delight in the colossal variety of foods from all over the world that are available to the city. To feed New York, over 28.6 million tons of food enters the city every year! About 18% of food in New York City came from international sources, while more than half of our food comes from the United States, and a good and growing proportion of it comes from the Northeast.

    A fruit stall on the Lower East Side in the 1930's. Lower East Side Tenement Museum Photographic Collection.

    96% of the food coming into the city is driven in on trucks, and this places a big burden on the city’s infrastructure and on us as consumers. Our roads are clogged with big 18 wheelers, and for every toll bridge and gas price hike, our food prices sneak up.

    But New Yorkers also grow their own food, and have for a long time. Much of New York City was farmland for centuries! You can still visit the remnants of that culture through the Historic House Trust of New York City, a non-profit organization that works with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to protect over 20 historic homes and cultural sites in all five boroughs. One of these homes that are open to the public is theQueens County Farm Museum in Little Neck, which dates back to the 1690’s and still has a fantastic and hugely productive farm (with adorable animals!).

    A school victory garden on 1st Avenue between 35th and 36th Streets, New York City, ca. 1944. Image via the Library of Congress.

    Despite the fact that New York is the most urban city in the country and it might seem like there is not much space on which to farm, there are an incredible number of food producing gardens currently operating in the all five boroughs and on all sorts of land.

    A poster encouraging people to plant victory gardens, 1941-1943. Image via the Library of Congress.

    Five Borough Farm, a report by the Design Trust for Public Space, is a beautiful record of the many different kinds of urban agriculture projects in New York City and their diverse goals and methods. It identifies 4 types of farms (Community Gardens, Community Farms, Commercial Farms, Institutional Farms) of which there are hundreds in the city, growing food. And there are more projects blooming every year!

    A garden in Bryant Park at 42nd Street in 1918. Image via the Library of Congress.

    Says Anna, "I am the Farm Manager at Hellgate Farm in Astoria, Queens. We work in residential lots and on rooftops to grow vegetables, fruits and flowers, as well as keep chickens and bees. We sell our produce to people who live nearby through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model. A CSA model is where a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public, which typically consist of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (sort of like a membership or a subscription) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season."

    CSAs are great ways for people in the city to eat ultra-fresh food, to get exposed to new vegetables, and to develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food. Participants usually get to visit the farm at least once a season and they find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat! Farmers also benefit from CSAs, because they can sell their foods early in the season and get to know the people who eat the food they grow.

    Washington Market at night, 1950's. Image via the Library of Congress.

    Growing food in the city has real limitations: instead of deer to worry about, cats and rats are our main scourge. Like all New Yorkers, we have to be incredibly creative to maximize our space in the most efficient ways, and are always pressed to grow in smaller spaces than we would like. But despite the challenges, urban agriculture is a wonderful movement in the city.

    Most exciting is its potential to encourage healthy behaviors, like eating fresh produce, caring about your community, and spending time outside. And the production is not just token: we have the ability to grow a lot of food in this concrete jungle. During World War II, Americans grew 40% of the food they consumed, including in New York!  Growing food is an important part of New York’s past, present, and future.

    A victory garden at the West Side Center, tended by the children of the Children's Aid Society, 1943.

    Thanks, Anna! - Originally Posted by Anna Poaster and Lib Tietjen




    Posted Under: General Area in New York, In My Neighborhood in New York, Moving in New York  |  May 6, 2014 3:53 PM  |  653 views  |  No comments

    First Months Rent Free, But No Security

    New Yorkers love talking real estate – this might be the only place on earth where it’s not only polite, but practically required to ask all your friends what they pay for their apartments. Every renter has their own idea of how to best secure their dream abode – some prefer to move in late summer or early fall, when more apartments are available, but more people are looking, so the pressure is on and rents can be high, while some like a leisurely move in the winter months when fewer people are looking for apartments, but fewer are available.

    Moving Day, 1869.

    This decision was easy to make for much of the 19th century, because May 1st was Moving Day for nearly all New Yorkers. February 1st was known as “Rent Day,” when landlords would give their tenants notice of what the rent of the apartment would be in the spring. In the months between February and May, New Yorkers would look for new, cheaper dwellings. At 9 a.m. on May 1st, all yearly leases expired simultaneously, sending hundreds of thousands of tenants spewing into the streets, all over the city, in search of cheaper rents and more commodious dwellings.

    Moving Day, 1859.

    Business came to a halt as legions of New Yorkers emptied into the streets with carts jammed full of their worldly possessions. Because there weren’t enough carts and horse-taxis to handle the demand, farmers from Long Island and New Jersey would come into Manhattan and rent their transportation at exorbitant prices – sometimes more than a week’s wages for the person moving! Fights with these rented cartmen occurred often; sometimes the cartman would drive a family’s possessions right to a police precinct to settle the quarrel over payment there.

    Cart troubles on Moving Day in the 1830's.

    In what observers remarked was an unrivaled scene of chaos and disorder, liquor flowed freely, streets and sidewalks became impassible, and tensions rose to the point of an occasional brawl. The New York Times offered some advice in 1855, “Keep your tempers, good people. Don’t growl at the carmen nor haggle over the price charged. When the scratched furniture comes in don’t believe it is utterly ruined, – a few nails, a little glue, a piece of putty, and a pint of varnish will rejuvenate many articles that will grow very old ‘twixt morning and night, and undo much of the mischief that comes of moving, and which at first sight seems irreparable.”

    "The Last Load." Some moving traditions have not changed.

    Because the whole city was moving at the same time, landlords needed to provide incentives for new tenants to choose their buildings; the conditions of the privvys (outhouses), the number of windows, and more could be the deciding factor of one building over another. Many landlords even offered the first month free of charge! However, the annual practice of moving on May 1st also allowed landlords to set rents at whatever price the market could bear.

    New York’s immigrant residents likewise took the opportunity May 1st offered to look for better accommodations. When the Irish immigrant Moore family moved into 97 Orchard Street in 1869, it was their third home in four years. But they weren’t there for long; the Moores were on the move again in 1870, this time to 224 Elizabeth Street.

    Another drawing of the chaos of Moving Day. Courtesy the New York Public Library.

    Moving Day hit its peak in the early 20th century, when it is estimated that over a million people looked for new living quarters on the same day! It wasn’t until the Second World War that Moving Day finally came to an end, when moving companies had a difficult time finding able-bodied men to work for them, and the custom faded away. The death knell for Moving Day was the beginning of rent control and a housing shortage in the 1940’s.

    Of course, there was one upside to Moving Day – the rush for all tenants to move out in one day in May caused a greater ease of apartment-hunting for those who wished to move in the winter months.

    (Brought to you via our friends at The NYC Tenement Museum & Lib Tietjen)

    And in honor of one of the most special days in the month of May...
    Wishing all and my own A

    And A 


  • A Brief History of A Large Melting Pot...NYC

    Posted Under: General Area in New York, Quality of Life in New York, In My Neighborhood in New York  |  April 28, 2014 7:16 AM  |  818 views  |  4 comments
    From lush hills to Skyline...
    Diversity shapes the Isle of Mannahatta

    The Lenapes, a north eastern Native American tribe, were undoubtedly the original New Yorkers. 

    Dutch colonial Director-General Peter Minuit purchased the island of Manhattan from the Lenape in 1626. The legendary price was $24 in trinkets or glass beads. The actual price was 60 guilder (about $1000 today). The contract is on display in the Hague, Netherlands.

    Resettlements and hundreds of years of immigration from people all over the world have transformed the original island of the Lenape from its original demographic origins to what we know NYC to be today- a diverse melting pot made to be so by a multitude of ethnic groups who first made NYC their home and those groups which continue to metamorphisize the island originally called Mannahatta - or 'Good Home', by its Lenape.

    Today, 37% of NYC'S population is comprised of various immigrant groups:
    Puerto Rico-778,628, Italy- 684,230, Dominican Republic-602,093, China-445,145, Ireland-443,364, Germany-296,901, Mexico-289,755, Russia--260,821, Poland-237,919,India-226,888. There are more groups, of course which comprise the more than 8,000,000 residents of this city.

    It might come as a surprise to many, however, that the YESTERDAYS of NYC, were shaped by not Dutch settlers, but in fact, some of these very ethnic groups largely represented in our census today.

    -Puerto Rico- NYC's largest ethnic group began arriving in the mid 1800's. It was Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, of Latin and African heritage, who arrived in this very month in 1891, to become known as the 'father' of black history in America.
    -Italy- Crushing poverty in southern Italy brought more than 4 million Italians to our shores from 1880 to 1920, the majority settling in NYC. Among them, The Barbera family- whose son, Joseph went from a childhood spent on Manhattan's lower East Side to form the first powerhouse animation company in America- Hanna-Barbera, or as we all know them today as creators of..."The Flintstones"!

    -Dominican Republic- Many historians believe the first non-native immigrant was Juan Rodriguez in 1613, from what later would become The Dominican Republic. 
    City University scholars say Rodriguez landed on Manhattan island a year before the first European settlers and 12 years before the founding of New Amsterdam. A stretch of upper Broadway is named for Rodriguez.

    (Juan Rodriguez (center, holding pan) in a Charles Lilly watercolor painting. The painting is titled: “Juan Rodriguez, first merchant and non-Native American resident of Manhattan Island in 1613.")

    -China- Originators of Manhattan's first "Chinatown" and eight others within New York's five boroughs.

    -Ireland- New York ranks as the highest Irish population than anywhere else in the United States, being the originators of it's police and firefighter force in the city.

    Of course, it is no wonder that NYC was built with hard work by the hands of those with humble beginnings and continues to flourish as the powerhouse of cities it is because of the reshaping done by our diverse population. Being a first generation Hispanic-American, I eagerly look forward to sitting on a panel to an upcoming event on 'Diversity in The Workplace', which I was recently invited to be a part of. As a "Native New Yorker", Diversity... it's right up 'my alley'!



    Posted Under: General Area in New York, Home Buying in New York, Home Selling in New York  |  April 14, 2014 6:20 AM  |  1,090 views  |  2 comments

    April- Fair Housing Month- The 46th anniversary of The Fair Housing Act and it's additional federal, State and City protected classes against discrimination. What does that really mean to real estate licensees? To the average consumer who looks for that place to call home? As real estate licensees and practitioners, it's more than knowing this city, neighborhoods, and market prices- it's about knowing the 'what not to dos',  in this city and industry that sets us apart as consummate and knowledgeable professionals. A brief history on how the 'fair' in Fair Housing came to be, and what it means to you and me...

    Civil Rights Act of 1866

    This is the law that declared all people born in the United States are legally citizens. This means they could rent, hold, sell and buy property. This law was meant to help former slaves, and those who refused to grant these new rights to slaves were guilty and punishable under law. The penalty was a fine of $1000 or a maximum of one year in jail.

    Fair Housing Act of 1968 (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968) 
    extends the protection to color, religion, sex and national origin.The New York State Human Rights Law extends the protection to marital status and age, aimed to prevent non-racial discrimination.Section 236 and 237 of the New York State Property Law further extends the protection to include dwellings with children and mobile home parks. This is meant to protect renters and sellers from discriminating based on number of children in a family. Currently the Fair Housing Act protects against discrimination of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. The law applies to all types of housing, rental homes, apartments, condos and houses.

    We know as Real Estate licensees it's a must to complete 22.5 hours of approved continuing education credit every 2 years including at least 3.75 hours of approved fair housing and/or antidiscrimination training, within our license period to renew our real estate license in New York State. Brokers who were exempt as of June 30, 2008, will still be exempt from these requirements. 
    Ask most people, however, how many protected classes there are in NYC-  the answer varies- some believe it to be 7, while some even believe there to be 100! The answer- there are 15 protected classes in NY covered by Federal, State, and City laws combined, with 'Source of Income' the last to recently be added:

     race, color, religion, national origin, sex or gender, disability, familial status (having or expecting a child under 18), NEW YORK STATE: age, marital status (including domestic partnership status), sexual orientation, military status,  NEW YORK CITY: alienage or citizenship status, lawful occupation, gender identification or lawful source of income.

    The 1959 play and subsequent film,  'A Raisin in The Sun' is perhaps the best example of what strides have been made since in enacting and regulating Fair Housing laws, as it is similarly based on an actual lawsuit of it's time: (Hansberry v. Lee, 311 U.S. 32 (1940)), to which the Hansberry family was a party when they fought to have their day in court because a previous class action about racially motivated restrictive covenants (Burke v. Kleiman, 277 Ill. App. 519 (1934)) was similar to the case at hand. This case was held prior to the passage of the Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968), which prohibits discrimination in housing and created the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. The Hansberrys won their right to be heard as a matter of due process of law in relation to the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court held that the Hansberry defendants were not bound by the Burke decision because the class of defendants in the respective cases had conflicting goals, and thus could not be considered to be the same class.

    Fair Housing month is a reminder for us all to abide by treating one another fairly; a reminder that we all have a right to rent and purchase and to ultimately have a place we call home without the barriers of discrimination- that every month then, is to be considered Fair Housing Month!

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