Robert D. & Annie B.
Robert and Annie were looking for a Manhattan pied-a-terre and had very specific needs regarding location and the type of building that would make sense for them. Although familiar with Manhattan, as Westchester County residents and newbies to the NYC real estate market, they knew that this purchase might be a bit daunting.
After finding the perfect apartment and in a famed mid-town building, there were some hoops to jump through and some special requirements as well. Dealing with estate executors as sellers can prove to be a bit difficult.
"We loved working with Michael and his team when we purchased our pied-a-terre. He was very responsive and very understanding, as we were new to buying in Manhattan. Michael made this purchase and the process a pleasant experience, considering all the moving pieces of an estate sale.
He listened to us, had a sense of humor, and understood irony which was important in dealing with us and this particular transaction.
The Team was particularly adept with the co-op application and approval process. There were some rather odd requests and strange requirements from the board and they guided us beautifully and successfully."
Margy & Ed Pisani
“I could not stop crying the day we moved out of New York City,” says Margy Pisani. That was in 1984 and Margy and her husband Ed Pisani were forced to leave Manhattan because they couldn’t afford the space they needed for their growing family. They bought a house in Croton- on-Hudson, a river town about 35 miles north of the city. They settled in and began to enjoy their lives there. Fast-forward to 2010, with their two kids now 25 and 28 and out of the house, they began to think about selling the house in Croton. The Pisanis had an embarrassment of riches as far as their real estate choices were concerned. In addition to the Croton home, they owned a home in Jamesport, Long Island, where Margy grew up and where much of her family still lives. Initially they thought they would sell the Croton house, move to Jamesport and get a pied-a-terre in Manhattan because Ed was still working in the city and they both enjoyed the rich cultural life there. It was a difficult decision because they had put down roots and made friends in Croton. But “once I made the decision I was done,” says Margy.
As it turned out, they did not move to Jamesport and buy a pied-a-terre in the city, but ended up buying a three-bedroom on the Upper West Side. Both of the Pisanis are retired now, although Ed serves on various Boards. Mostly they enjoy the very full social and cultural life the city affords. Their adult children live in Brooklyn and they often visit. “It’s Disney World for Seniors, “ Margy says of Manhattan, citing the many plays, concerts, and restaurants the city offers. And it’s not all expensive, she says, mentioning free Juilliard performances and deeply discounted rehearsals of the Philharmonic. “Another thing I didn’t mention--you have world class doctors here,” she adds.
Chapter 3--Closing the Circle
Judith Friedman probably has more experience than most people in completely changing her life. From 1973 to 1996, she lived on Park Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, first as a young single person then with her husband. They both were high-powered professionals working long hours and taking advantage of all the city offers in the way of networking, restaurants, and culture. But in 1996, after adopting their daughter, Julia, the family decided to radically change their lives and left Manhattan for Roxbury, Connecticut. “It’s not a suburb,” says Friedman. “It’s country.” Friedman and her husband John both retired and settled into life in a large 6500 sq. ft. house with tk acres of land. Book clubs, town meetings, gardening, bake sales, and school fundraisers largely replaced the theatres, restaurants, and museums of Manhattan as their favored pastimes. For the next 14 years, they enjoyed that idyllic life as much as they had earlier enjoyed life on Park Avenue.
Then, in 2010, her husband died, and Friedman was left to figure out how to go on. “When John got sick he said ‘You should move back to the city,’” recalls Friedman. But her daughter was in high school at the time so she decided to wait until she left for college before taking her late husband’s advice. “I literally dropped her off at Bucknell and I drove to New York and rented an apartment.” She wanted to test the urban waters again before making a permanent move away from her Connecticut home. She ultimately ended up spending four years in that rental during which time she sold her house and began to put down new roots in New York. She found her dream space, a 2100 sq. foot classic six on Central Park West, in 2016. She had no preference as to neighborhood. “It was going to be all about the apartment,” she said. When her agent, Michael Shapot, called and said, “I have something I think you should see,” he was completely on the mark. Friedman loved the apartment and immediately put in a bid. She closed on the deal in February 2016. After an extensive renovation, she moved in in March 2018.
Now she’s back in Manhattan, this time on the West Side, with an expansive view into treetops and a playground in Central Park. Does she miss Roxbury? She doesn’t, although she loved her time there. “This is the third chapter,” she says, referring to how she sees her life evolving. “The thing about New York is there are so many things you can avail yourself of,” she says. In contrast with Connecticut where much of their social lives revolved around school related activities. “There’s a vibrancy, ease, convenience, here,” she says. “Living here now is a very different experience than it was in my 20s, 30s, 40s.” But a very interesting one.
Our Euphoric Empty Nest Expedition
It began more than 25 years ago. As we decamped our Manhattan nesting pad for a house, we vowed to return. In style. And once the chickadees grew and flew, after our suburban chapter ran its course, our opportunity knocked, and we embraced it. We grabbed the brass ring, with every intention to live to the max, balls to the floor, to take advantage of the life we always aspired to. To seize the day. Carpe diem. The empty nest life - bring it on!
The time was now. Both kids were working, living with their loves in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The dream home in the country had already been expanded, renovated and decorated, and was our primary base of operations. The suburban family memory maker, dust collector and money pit? Sold and traded for a suburban loftlike rental. An interim step until the final piece fell into place - the perfect spot in The City. The home of our dreams. Let the process continue.
We consulted with our peeps - our financial advisor, estate attorney, CPA and mortgage professional. They each provided some needed encouragement and confidence that we were doing the right thing. We set a budget of $600, 000 - $800,000 for a modest 1 bedroom. "Totally doable" promised Michael, and we began looking both online (totally addictive - real estate crack, anyone?) and in person. But as we got deeper into our search, we learned the following:
- if we chose to travel, we'd want to rent it out, so we needed a condo rather than a coop. KA - CHING - This would cost more money.
- we couldn't share just one bathroom. KA -CHING - more money.
- we needed private outdoor space. KA - CHING
- we needed some extra square footage wiggle room.
The budget doubled. After all, we reasoned, weren't really "spending" our money, rather we were redistributing our investments from stock and bonds into residential real estate, an asset we could use and enjoy.
Still, the pickin's were slim, and though we were tempted by a few, we held back. There was the penthouse which was a total wreck, but we became overwhelmed by the idea of remodeling and renovating given our circumstances - planning a wedding and being distracted with business and other endeavors. We needed move-in ready. KA - CHING.
I was easy and could make anything work as long as it was inexpensive; she was always, "Meh". Both of our hearts needed to be on the same page, and we both needed to be all in.
There were a few other false alarms. For example, the one located off the beaten path. If we were doing The City, shouldn't we be right in the middle of The Action? Another was almost perfect except for being on a low floor. We were worried about noise and privacy but we bid nevertheless, thinking we would make it work at the right price. Alas, the seller wouldn't play ball. We just missed out on one which we loved online. It sold before we could visit. Funny, properties that offer quality and value always sell quickly, even in a strong buyer's market.
Finally, we found one which checked all the boxes (aside from some hideous wallpaper, bathroom fixtures and countertops). It felt like home and, well, we just really liked it! We negotiated a killer price (I was goooood!) and envisioned ourselves in our "happily ever after" home. But, shock - we were Gazumped! Blindsided by another, much higher all-cash offer before our lawyer could complete his due diligence and we could sign the contract. And just like that, we were "out". Back to square one. And heartbroken. The blame? Everywhere! The lawyer who dragged his feet. Our broker who negotiated too good a deal, Our own greed. Lesson learned - there are truly no steals. When a deal seems too good to be true, it is. Buyer beware indeed!
Alas, like losing your one true love in high school, there's always another. Remember the condo that was perfect aside from being on a low floor? The same footprint on a high floor came on the market at a fair price. We pounced. Offered, negotiated, researched, signed, applied, resubmitted, mortgaged, closed and moved in.
Was there anxiety at each step of the transaction and beyond? You bet! We went into contract pre-COVID and closed in June. Did we overpay? (Well, we didn't quite renegotiate, but the seller did sweeten the deal slightly.... We still feel good about the final price.) How would we get those little things done in the apartment? When would we be able to take advantage of NYC's culture and energy?
We felt the energy from Day 1, including the daily 7pm cheers for essential workers and the resiliency of our building staff and neighborhood retailers. Restaurants pivoted to deliver and offer outdoor dining. Discovering the hidden wonders of Central Park, and the beauty and tranquility of our morning walks along the East River in Carl Schurz Park. Our building staff helped with everything, including repairs, taking deliveries, and even finding street parking for us - valet service for a $20 tip. The building's gym reopened, and we're finally back to our daily Peloton routine. And perhaps most importantly, our No Dog building welcomed Hallie, our 13 year old Chocolate Lab Service Animal fur baby.
We spend time visiting with our family and City friends, being socially distant, of course. And we still have so much that we're looking forward to as things open up and it is safe - live theater, concerts, lectures, dance performances, in-restaurant fine dining, professional sporting events and, of course, entertaining at our new home.
The journey that began all those years ago continues. We're living the adventure with childlike wonder, learning and experiencing things as if for the first time. The finishing touches in the apartment aren't yet in place, but that's okay. There's plenty of time, and we know that we're headed in the right direction. Until we arrive at the final destination, we'll treasure the joy that is the journey itself, appreciate those that join us along the way, and cherish each new memory that we create. Empty nest - bring it on!