Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Syracuse through Italian Eyes

Syracuse, like many other industrial cities of the United States, has a glorious future behind him. Preserve the memory of a waterway, the Erie Canal, which did great with his trade in the nineteenth century the entire region of New York, observes the slow factories to get rid of red brick and white colonial villas.

The above is a quote from an Italian Art Newspaper article about a retrospective of the painter Jerome Witkin held at ArtRage Gallery in Syracuse.  It loses a lot in the translation but gains in absurdity.

One of the things that is both sad and beautiful about my city is the decaying industrial infrastructure.   It inspires me as an artist, the old factories of crumbling brick, rusty smokestacks, parking lots full of puddles and weeds.

As a real estate person, I see a lot of promise.  The broken down factory would be great loft apartments, maybe with some retail on the bottom floor.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

First snow of the season

This is the view from the house I am rehabbing.  It is in Tipp Hill and will rent for 1000.  Hoping to show it tomorrow so theres a lot of work to do!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Open House Today!

Open house today!  Sunday December 4 from 12-2!  Holiday cookies!

Come see it - newly remodeled with a finished basement.  Updated kitchen with new appliances, ceramic floor and granite counters.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Productivity down

Why are my cats so drawn to the keyboard? I guess they want to be the center of attention but it makes it hard to get things done.

Friday, November 25, 2011

451 Bryant Ave Kitchen Remodel!

Sometimes you have a house for sale and there's one thing keeping it from selling. This happened on our listing on Bryant Street. Great location in Tipp Hill, where so many people are looking. House was fully remodeled, newly painted in decorator colors. Kitchen came with all appliances and had miles of counter space. But there was one problem. A chimney came through the middle of the kitchen. I would take people through the house and they would go "What is that????" Tour over, on to the next house.

I'm happy to report that the dreaded "thing" in the kitchen is gone, gone, gone.

Please give me a call if you'd like to come check out the property!  315-908-2287

Click the link below to get more info about the house.

BEFORE "What is that??"

AFTER "Nice kitchen"

AFTER "Look at all the counter space!"

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fall Color from the Inner Harbor Area

 This is a few days ago - now we are having freezing rain!  I haven't had as much time for photography as I would like lately.  Happy to be busy in my business though.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

North Syracuse Graveyard

This is the graveyard in North Syracuse.  It's right by my office.  I've been meaning to go out there and take some photos of it because the fall colors have been spectacular.  So yesterday I finally walked over there and realized that all I had was the camera on my phone!  I just took the one picture.  I think it turned out good for a camera phone.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I've started my property management company

I've called it Responsible Property Management, which was the fourth name change.  Now I have a DBA (doing business as) which lets me use that name on my bank account.  There's no going back!

I drew the logo for it myself.  It's the first artistic thing I have done in a long time, except for taking photos.  I've been neglecting other stuff too, like cleaning my house!

I'm doing a rehab of a 3 unit building on the northside.  It's had bad tenants and been really neglected.  It's nice to be able to be in charge of a project like this, where I can find someone dependable to do the work.  It will be done this weekend and I'm going to start marketing it and find some good tenants.

I've hired someone for a few hours a day to help me keep track of my schedule and all the things I have to do.  This is the busiest I have ever been and I am enjoying it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fall is here

I'm in  Lincoln Park.  I love this time of year when all of the sudden it really starts to look like fall.  Windy and rainy today.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Busy Week

No, I wasn't driving when I took this!
This is supposedly the last warm weekend of the year.  It's great convertible weather.

I've been busy with real estate stuff.  First, we have a lot of sales.  I have also a lot of photos to take of new listings.  I have spent the last two weeks recovering from a sinus infection and cough.

The big news is we have a new property management company.  It's called Clyde, which is named after my grandfather who was a real estate agent.  I'm not sure if it will be Clyde Properties or Clyde Asset Management.  I like Clyde Properties better but there is one in Scotland already.  I want to have the name of the company as the web page.

It was hard to chose a name.  I liked the name Access Syracuse but wanted to choose a name where it was not limited to Syracuse.  I wanted to call it 315 Properties, as that is the area code in all the areas I would be able to consider managing from a distance perspective.  I figured as soon as I did that we would get a new area code around here!

We have clients already, we are managing 32 units!  One of the buildings we have almost no idea who lives there, what rent they pay or if they have paid any rent.  So it's my job to get all that straightened out.  The other buildings we know who is in them at least.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Bumpy Pumpkin

It's fall and the kitty statue on my back porch has a new friend.
I found this at a farmer's market held at a church on Genessee Street.  I'm not sure what their schedule is but I see them there sometimes and have always meant to stop.  So last week I did.

I got a lot of apples and way too many tomatoes.  I will have to make them into sauce and freeze it.

It's definitely the start of fall.  Here you can tell it by more than just the stores having black and orange Christmas trees for sale.  There is a nip in the air, trees are just starting to turn and it just feels different.   I'm not a big summer person and I suffer in hot weather so it's a relief to me.  I want Fall to last as long as possible.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New Breed Meadows Subdivision

This is in Camillus! 1.9 acre approved building lots with forever woods in back! Country quiet and city convenient, with easy access to route 5 and 690. Minutes to shopping and dining. Please call me today with any questions! 315-908-2287. Or just drive by and take a look.

Fall Flowers

 Soon we will probably be getting some frost.  There's still a lot of flowers left in my yard.

Around this time of year a lot of people plant frost hardy mums and decorative cabbages because when the frost hits the summer plants will turn brown and die.

I have a big flower bed in my yard that is overgrown and crowded, but still has lots of nice perennial flowers in it.  I hate to dig it up because I don't know what is what.  It would probably be much better off if I just got rid of everything and started over.

Monday, September 26, 2011


These are in my garden.  Not sure what they are but I like them.  They have drama.

I really did almost nothing with my garden this year.  Next year I resolve to be a better gardener.  There's still plants left from when the last people had it, but they are growing into a jungle.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Taste of India Syracuse Buffet

I went to the buffet for lunch on Friday.  It's a small buffet, about six dishes plus rice, naan, condiments and salad.  There was also a desert Gulab Jamin - like donut holes soaked in honey syrup.  I didn't have the desert because I was trying not to overeat.

On the plate is Kadi Pakorda Gujarati (vegetable dumplings in a creamy mild sauce), Tandoori Chicken (cooked in a clay oven), Raita (yogurt sauce) Saag Paneer (Cheese the texture of tofu in spinach) Chicken Vindaloo (very hot) Vegetable Pakoras (vegetable fritters).
Buffet costs $8.95 per person.

I liked being able to get Raita and Tamarind sauce with the meal.  Raita is yogurt and it is good to eat alongside spicy foods.  Tamarind sauce is a slightly sweet sauce I like to put on the Pakoras.

Most of the food here was pretty mild, with the exception of the Vindaloo which was hot, and the Saag Paneer which I would say was a medium spice.

The buffet is a good value and gives you a chance to try small amounts of dishes to see what you like.

I prefer the buffet at Sahota Palace in Liverpool because there are more than twice as many selections, so I'd probably be more inclined to eat there.  They have a buffet for both lunch and dinner.

I would come back here to try it again, especially if I was in the Westcott Street area around lunchtime.

What I really need to do is spend less time obsessing about Indian food and more time at the gym.

Review of Taste of India Syracuse dinner

Friday, September 23, 2011

New listing - just remodeled in Baldwinsville

Open house Sunday Sept 25 from 11:00 - 1:00

So much new in 33 Edgewood Drive, Baldwinsville!  Brand new appliances, bathroom fixtures, carpet, lights, kitchen cabinets.  New paint from top to bottom, including garage and basement floors.  In desirable Candlewyck Neighborhood.  Baldwinsville Schools.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Taste of India Restaurant Review

This was taken before it opened!
I forgot to take a new one last night.
Last night we went to Taste of India, the new Indian restaurant on Dell at Westcott that opened a few weeks ago.  The building is a converted mechanic's garage and it sits back from the street with parking in front.

We were hoping to have buffet because we didn't have that much time.  Buffet is only for lunch though.  We decided to stay and have dinner.

We were quickly seated in a comfortable booth.  I ordered a Mango Lasi, a drink made from yogurt, milk and sweetened mango pulp for $2.95.  I always get this in Indian restaurants.  They are a good companion to spicy food -- if something is too spicy they also take away a little of the burn.

We ordered the taste of India Special Appetizers for two at $6.95, Plain Paratha bread for $2.95, Lamb Biryani at $11.95 and Chicken Shahi Korma at $9.95.

Our order was taken fairly quickly.  The food did not arrive quickly, though certainly within an acceptable amount of time.  A pleasant young woman apologized for the delay and informed us that our food would be there in a few minutes.  I appreciate when places do this as I don't mind waiting but want to know that they are working on it and that the food isn't sitting there getting cold.

Note TV on left side!
Taste of India has a large screen TV on the wall playing Indian Music Videos.  This seems to be the new thing for Indian restaurants, several that I have been to in the last year have added this.  I like Indian music and it adds to the atmosphere.  I don't like watching TV or videos while I eat usually but since I can't understand what they are saying and there are no commercials I like having it on.

The appetizers were my least favorite part of the meal.  They were very fried.  However, my dining companion enjoyed them and was happy to eat most of my share.

The main courses were served in little brass pots, with a dish of rice.  My dining companion at first said he didn't like the biryani, then changed his mind and said he liked it a lot.  I thought it was a good basic biryani.

He ordered it medium spicy and we thought it was mild, so if you want spicy food here you might tell them that you really do want it spicy.  They tend to adjust for upstate NY palates at many restaurants here, and though many people will have no problem with super-hot Buffalo wings they seem to be scared to eat spicy Indian or Thai food.

My dining companion said the korma looked like chicken pot pie filling and it did somewhat.  I liked the korma, it was mild and creamy with cashews and was perfect over the rice.

Biryani and Chicken Korma
The Plain Paratha bread was thinner than naan bread, more along the lines of a tortilla.  It was slightly crispy and very buttery.  I'm not much of a bread person and the thinner it is the more I usually like it.  I would order this again.

We were unable to order most of what I would have wanted because my companion hates tomatoes, cheese and yogurt, and a lot of things I would have liked have these ingredients.  I will have to come back for lunch and try some more things.

Note: We went back on Friday and had the Buffet Lunch.  Click to read review of Taste of India Syracuse Buffet

This restaurant is a welcome addition to the Westcott area and I'm glad they opened.

Click for Taste of India Syracuse Menu

View Larger Map

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Assessment Does not Equal an Appraisal

An assessment and an appraisal are both valuations of properties, but they are not the same.

An assessment is the value that a home is taxed on.  It's set by the assessor's office.

An appraisal is an opinion of what the property should sell for, given by an appraiser.  That is someone paid to analyze property values based on features of the property and comparable sales in the area.

Many times in Syracuse Real Estate ads you will see "Priced Under Assessment".  That doesn't mean it's a bargain, it just means that it is over assessed.

Similarly, sometimes people are alarmed that they may be paying more for a house than it is assessed at.  That doesn't mean the house is not worth the asking price.  It means it probably hasn't been assessed for a while.  What you have to watch out for here is that the assessor may re-assess your house and your taxes will go up.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Went to the Irish Festival tonight

I drank beer for the first time in years.  Usually I drink cider or vodka.  I saw the band The Elders.  I had a good time.  Irish festival is a great place to people watch.

The Elders.  One of them is so elderly that he is in fact, a ghost.

I forgot the name of this band but I really enjoyed their music.  Someone tell me in the comments, please!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Second North Deli

London Broil Sandwich 
I've always wanted to try the Second North Deli at the corner of Second North and Wolf Streets.  Today my car was overheating and I had it towed off to Dr. Fish the Mechanic.  I was in Mattydale and decided to walk as far as I could down Route 11, which is Wolf Street in Syracuse.  I made it for 1.7 miles, just as far as the deli.

It's a place where you order at the counter and they bring it to your table.  I got the house specialty, a London broil sandwich for $6.95.  It comes with sauteed onions, bell peppers and mushrooms on top, though you can easily leave any of those off.  There is a small container of au jus gravy.  This is what I would call a French Dip sandwich.  It was a guilty pleasure.  I loved it.  Meat was tender, the peppers, onions and mushrooms were cooked just enough that they were nice and mellow.  Bread soaked up the juice nicely.  I would go here again.

They also have a full bar!

A lot of people get takeout here, while I had lunch they were doing a steady business.

They have a web page Second North Deli which is pretty good.  It's actually a blogger blog, and they just have photos, their menu (in HTML), their hours, their location and phone number.  That is important because if you are on your phone you can still read the menu and call them!

They have a link to their youtube ad and their facebook page.  The photo slide show on the first page takes a little too long to load but other than that it's perfect.

The other thing that is perfect is this local commercial for them, which shows people who probably really eat there and gives you a very good idea of what it is like.

Second North Deli Is Open:
Mon-Sat: 11:00-7:00
Sun: Closed
*Extended Bar Hours on Friday
You can call or fax ahead your orders:
Phone: 315-472-7429
Fax:      315-473-9923
Free Delivery Mon-Fri,  11-2 for all orders over $30
Second North Deli | 625 Wolf Street, Syracuse, NY 13208

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Big Dip and Big News

This is up the street from my new office in North Syracuse. I was enticed in by the sign that said Pumpkin soft serve ice cream. I had the pumpkin and vanilla swirl. Next time I would just get the pumpkin because it was so good!

Our whole office is moving. We are going to be the McKenzie Group at Syracuse Realty Group. So instead of being a tiny stand-alone company we will be a team in a small office. I think it's a great new step for us. Nothing else will change, Christopher Moreland and I will still work together and I will still be in charge of marketing our listings. I will continue to work with buyers in the same way. I'll just have a fancier office with more parking!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Taste of India buffet restaurant coming soon

This is on Dell right off Wescott- it says GRAND OPENING on the sign but it doesn't say when.  It doesn't look ready yet, but the chairs and tables are there so probably wont be too long.

Taste of India Syracuse is now open - click here for Taste of India Syracuse Restaurant Review

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Regulate Bank's Behavior in Short Sales

Once again, I have a client who wants to buy a short sale property. I spoke to the listing agent about it. There was accepted offer on it before, and the bank got back to them quickly on it - only one month!

That's right, responding to a purchase offer in one month is considered fast.

Why is this? I don't think banks are that inefficient that they couldn't deal with this in a reasonable amount of time.

The more time you leave a short sale hanging the worse it is for the owner, for the neighborhood and for property values.

Most buyers can't wait that long or deal with the uncertainty.  Anyone who is moving to a new area or has a lease needs to have a set date range where they can expect to take possession of a house.  This means that short sale properties are mostly bought by investors.  If the banks were forced to get their act together and had a time limit to reply, owner occupants could purchase short sales easier.  Since they usually pay higher prices than investors it would actually benefit the banks.

Short sales are frequently vacant, and empty houses deteriorate much faster. They get broken into and have copper pipes and appliances stolen. No one is there to notice the small leak that turns into the big leak that brings down the bedroom ceiling. The house gets damp, moldy and musty. It's a downwards spiral.

Once the house goes into foreclosure it really hurts property values. Plus now we have another former home owner with a foreclosure on their record. One who is probably pissed off at the bank and may damage the house on the way out.

It seems reasonable - more than reasonable - to give banks a time limit to reply to a short sale contract. One month is more than enough time. I think banks should be regulated on this.

You might also want to read: What is a Short Sale

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chinese Lantern Flowers out in Pompey

I took this out in the country, at our listing in Pompey, NY. It's a 5 bedroom 3.5 bath house on three levels! The lot is set back away from the road and is surrounded by woods on three sides. That is a good feature in an area where a lot of the houses are close to the road on busy roads. People want to go out to the country for peace and quiet and they end up with traffic noise instead! In addition to being away from the road, Cemetery Road is pretty quiet.

In the yard there's this huge patch of black eyed susans and Chinese Lanterns. They are the orange pod-shaped flowers like papery balloons. I have never seen them growing before, just at the florist.

The house is about a half hour drive from Syracuse.

It looks small from the photos, but it actually is three stories - it's on a slight hillside so the lower level is walkout and has big windows.

It's $129,777. It is a short sale, so the property will take longer to close.
Property has an offer on it and is now pending!  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The House We Didn't Buy

New House, originally uploaded by Melsky.

Don't get too attached to any house until you have closed on it and the keys are in your pocket.

If you are too attached it's easy to rationalize away any defects or problems. You can end up making a decision based on emotion instead of logic and financial sense.

Almost exactly three years ago, I was so excited about our new house. Our offer was just accepted and I was already planning what I would do to it.

In New York State most contracts have a home inspection contingency. That means you get to hire an inspector and they will give you a report on the condition of the house. If the house has problems, you can ask the sellers to fix them or to give you money off the price of the home.

So we had the home inspection. First we find out that the roof was bad. It had 5 layers of previous roofs on it, and they would all have to be removed and then a new roof put on.

But the real deal killer was the two story garage. The top floor of it was totally unstable, to the point where it shouldn't be walked on. It also needed a new roof.

We didn't think the sellers had been honest about the condition of the property. There were a lot of places where they had tried to cover up problems like water stains.

We were already suspicious of them because there was a city code problem with the sidewalk. You are not allowed to put asphalt over your sidewalk, though many people in Syracuse do. Somehow, these people had gotten tagged for that and the city was requiring them to put in a new sidewalk, which was several thousand dollars. They neglected to tell us this for the first week, though they had known for months. They did not intend on paying for it so basically it added the cost to the price for the home. This is something that should have been disclosed in the listing.

We opted not to buy the house and used the home inspection contingency to cancel the contract.

It's not that far from my current house and I always wonder what it would have been like if we bought it. I think not buying it was a good choice and I'm glad I wasn't too emotionally attached to it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Onondaga Lake

Syracuse doesn't make much of it's lake. Other places I've lived like California and Toronto make a big deal of having a "water view". Syracuse pretty much turns it's back on Onondaga Lake - there's no housing developments or condos which advertise lake views, and Carousel Center Mall is right on the lake but you'd never know.

Instead of being built so you could see the lake it has a big ugly parking lot buffer between itself and Onondaga Lake.

There is a Lakeview Street in Syracuse but oddly enough you can't see the lake from it.

The main exception to this is Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool, where it's built around the lake. However, you can't swim in the lake from there, or anywhere else due to pollution.

For most of the history of Syracuse, Onondaga Lake has been an industrial disposal ground. If you drive up Milton Avenue in Solvay you'll see factories and industrial properties lining the shore. I think that's a lot of the reason it's not used as an asset when developing real estate - it's viewed as an industrial waste site.

Recently the Post Standard had an article on stuff found at the bottom of the lake:
Photo of Lake above taken from this article

My prediction is in the next ten years there will be a lot of Lake View developments here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Strong cider

I'm at colemans bar and I noticed the Woodchuck from Woodchuck cider has had it's little woodchuck arms removed and replaced with rubber muscled tatooed arms.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Lovely House is in True Move In Condition

This 4 bedroom 2.5 bath house has been truly updated from top to bottom! Features all new bathroom fixtures, new paint, new carpet, wood floors refinished. Bedrooms are spacious and have huge closets! Has a living room, dining room, eat in kitchen, family room, deck, entryway, 2 car garage and a finished basement. It's very close to Liverpool high School. There is a pedestrian path that leads to the local schools right next to the house.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rainbow over Syracuse

My husband took this from our back yard yesterday while he was barbecuing.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What is a short sale?

A short sale is usually not short, and sometimes it's not even a sale.
The “short” refers to the owner being short on their mortgage. They owe more on their house than it is currently worth. They cannot afford to pay their mortgage.
A short sale starts out with the homeowner calling an agent. First the agent must try and market the home for the amount owed, to show that it cannot be sold at that price.
Then, they apply to the bank for a short sale. There are a lot of documents to fill out, and there must be a hardship letter, showing that the owners are not able to pay the money back on their own.
The house is then marketed as a short sale. Offers are submitted to the owner, and then must be approved by the bank.
Once they are approved by the bank, the sale proceeds somewhat like a normal sale.
This sounds very simple. Unfortunately it is not. The bank can take as long as it wants to approve a sale. They are frequently very uncommunicative. For example, it is now August 9. I wrote an offer for a short sale July 27th, which was accepted by the seller and sent to the bank. We have heard nothing. All the other agent will tell me is that it is now at the bank and the ball is in their court. There is nothing we can do to speed up the process. The bank really does not care.
Edited to add: This sale closed on December 29, 2011, six months after writing the offer!
This is a sale that was previously approved by the bank for another buyer. By the time it was approved, the buyer had walked so it was put back on the market. Now my buyer wants to look at other homes.
By no means is this a long delay in the world of short sales. It can take months to hear back from the bank.
There has been numerous cases where the bank has taken so long on approving short sales that all the buyers have walked and the property goes into foreclosure. So the seller gets a foreclosure on their record, the bank has to pay an asset management service to take care of the property, and the house will be vacant and subject to break-ins and vandalism. Sometimes the owner will strip the house of all fixtures and /or vandalize it on the way out. It will almost always sell for less than the short sale.

This makes no sense at all.

Banks are also very different in the way they deal with short sales. Some will go out of their way to make it work and some seem determined to have as many delays and hold ups as possible until it goes into foreclosure. Banks have different procedures for document submission and will reject submissions for the most petty reasons. They are also notorious for “not receiving” documents that they have been sent.

It is possible that a short sale could proceed along well and close with limited problems. It's also possible that I will win the lottery tomorrow or that leprechauns have buried gold in my back yard. Nice to think about, but don't count on it.
Sellers will not do any work on a short sale property. They are sold “as is”.
Short sales can be a good deal. Not all of them are though. Never assume that it is a bargain just because it is a short sale. It's important to look at what other comparable properties are selling for.
Who should buy a short sale?
Do you need a home to move into soon, and want a place that is in perfect move in condition? Don't look at short sales.
Do you have a place to stay where you do not have to be out by a certain time, such as living with relatives? Or perhaps you are an investor who is willing to wait. Are you handy and want a good deal? Do you have a lot of patience? You will probably be able to get a good deal with a short sale. You can call or email me and I'll send you a list of bargain properties which will have short sales and foreclosures.
Selling your Syracuse home as a short sale:
First, beware of some foreclosure prevention companies. They work by telling the seller they will negotiate with the bank on your behalf and the fee will be paid by the buyer. Then they put an addendum with the sales contract that the buyer must pay a percentage of the fee to the foreclosure prevention company as a “bargain” fee because the company has worked so hard to make this a great deal for the buyer.

This is a real deal killer. I have had someone ready to make an offer on a property who declined after we found out there was a buyer's fee. There are a lot of real estate bargains to be found and buyers do not need to pay for the privilege. It is the responsibility of the listing agent to negotiate with the bank. If there is a fee for this, it should come out of the listing agent's commission and not be paid by the buyer. I think it's very likely that house will go into foreclosure.
Secondly, “short sale specialist” agents have popped up like mushrooms after a spring rain. Many of them have no idea what they are doing, but they have heard that is where the money is now. People take a three hour class and think they can just wing it.

I don't do short sales from the listing side by myself. I co-list them with my broker, who has many years of short sales experience and a proven track record. I do the marketing for the sale and he does the paperwork and negotiations with the bank. Since I'm an excellent real estate marketer, you have the best of both worlds in dealing with us as a team.
If you want to list your home as a short sale, call me at 315-908-2287 and I will help you get started on the process.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day Trip to Seneca Lake Wineries for Grapehound Wine Tour

The Grapehounds Wine Tour is a fundraising event for Greyhound rescue. Greyhound racing is not kind to dogs (to put it mildly) and they need to receive vet treatment and find loving homes afterwards.

Participants are given a goodie bag of greyhound related items, a special wine glass with greyhounds on it, 6 tickets for wine tastings and a map of the participating wineries.

I wish I could caption the photos on this page but Blogger really doesn't make it easy to post more than one photo and do a good layout. So below are photos of the gardens in various wineries. Greyhounds all lay down like the one in that photo. I call it the fossil position. The photo that looks like a giant clarinet is the equipment at the Seneca Lake Liquor Distillery.

As usual, my camera was out of batteries. I've had several Kodak cameras and bought them because they had the best battery life. I'm always taking photos for my blog and for real estate, and it's important to have a camera always ready. Sadly this latest model needs to be charged every single day. So I end up taking a lot of photos with my smartphone, which is not a great camera.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

I'm in Baldwinsville waiting for the Mountain Goats

The Mountain Goats are a band, I haven't started a new career as a goat herder.  They are opening up for Bright Eyes at the Papermill Island Ampatheater.  Theres a couple of other bands before the bands I want to see so i'm just going to stay in my hotel room for a while.  We are at the Red Mill Inn which is right by the venue.  The photo is the view out my window.  I was hoping i'd be able to hear it from my room but all we can hear is rushing water.

Friday, July 29, 2011


"Can I get a good deal by buying a HUD home?" Here is how the process works, you will have to decide for yourself. This is information you should have before jumping into the world of HUD Foreclosures.

In Onondaga County, the vast majority of HUD foreclosures are in the City of Syracuse.

It seems like a lot of them are on the internet as a "for sale" property long after they have been sold. I've been contacted several times by people interested in a HUD home that were sold months ago.

These are usually not in live in condition - there are repairs that have to be made. There is a sheet called a PCR (property condition report) for each house, which briefly outlines the condition.

Many HUD homes in Syracuse have had frozen pipes. The water is shut off, and if the PCR says there’s plumbing problems you are not allowed to turn the water on for an inspection. So you really have no way of knowing the extent of the damage.

You are allowed to turn the power and gas on for a home inspection, but you will probably have to give a deposit to the management company.

You put in a bid through a HUD certified broker. This is entirely online. Then, like a regular offer, they can accept, reject or counter offer.

If they counter, you have one day to get your bid in again. If your bid is rejected, you can bid again.

After a bid is accepted, your agent has 48 hours to get the contract to HUD. They are very picky on the paperwork, and there is a lot of it. Paperwork must be filled out in blue pen with no mistakes. There has to be an original letter from the lender signed in blue ink. If it is cash you just need proof of funds. A certified check or money order must be sent in with the contract. If it’s under 50k, check is for 500. Over 50k, check is for 1000. The contract is usually sent by overnight mail.

You don’t send the contract to HUD, it is sent to one of their many management companies. The various management companies may have slightly different policies.

This is the point where it differs according to the various classifications of houses.

There are three types: Uninsured (U), Insured with Repair Escrow (IE), and Insured (I). IE is the most common type that I see here in Onondaga County. I haven’t been keeping records of it, but right now we have 10 houses on the HUD list, and 8 of them are IE and 2 are UI. There are no insured houses right now and I can’t recall seeing one.

It’s hard to find out this information on their site. It would be nice if they would just say on the listing exactly what the classifications mean.

Uninsured is in very poor shape. This is pretty much for cash buyers. Uninsured buyers do not have a chance to get out of the contract due to a home inspection, though they can have one if they want.

Insured with Repair Escrow is much more complected. If you are getting a loan, it is a 203b with repair escrow. The repair escrow is an amount of money that the buyer must deposit into an escrow account with their lender. Some lenders require 1.5 times the amount of the repair escrow. Then you have to complete certain work within a certain time period, and they will give you the money back from the repair escrow. You must turn in bills from a contractor.

You can also get a 203K loan, which is a more common type of loan. They loan you the money for the purchase and the repairs. They have a list of what repairs will be done, and you will have to get each stage of the project approved before they will give you more money.

For this type of property, if you are an owner occupant you have a 15 day window from when the contract was signed to get a home inspection done. You can get out of the contract if the home inspection finds serious problems in the roof, mechanical, plumbing or foundation. However, the water is not allowed to be turned on if there are plumbing problems so usually you wouldn’t be able to use that.

If you are an owner occupant with a loan, you may be able to use not being approved for your loan as a reason to get out of the contract with your deposit back.

You are allowed to have a mold inspection, but cannot use the presence of mold as a reason for getting your earnest money back.

Here is a list from one management company - there may be slight differences in other management companies policies.

Investor Purchasers:
Uninsured Sales: 100% of the deposit will be forfeited to HUD for failure to close regardless of the
Insured Sales: 50% of the deposit will be forfeited to HUD for failure to close if the purchaser is
determined by HUD to be an unacceptable buyer.
100% of the deposit will be forfeited to HUD if the sale fails to close for any other reason.
Owner-Occupant Purchasers
Return 100% of the deposit when:
• There has been a death in the immediate family (purchaser, spouse or children living in the same
• There has been a recent serious illness in the immediate family that has resulted in significant
medical expenses or substantial loss of income, thus adversely, affecting the purchaser's
financial ability to close the sale.
• There has been a loss of job by one of the primary breadwinners, or a substantial loss of income
through no fault of the purchaser.
• For an FHA insured sale, HUD (or a D.E. underwriter) determines that the purchaser is not an
acceptable borrower.
• For an uninsured sale, the purchaser was pre-approved for mortgage financing in an appropriate
amount by a recognized lender and, despite good faith efforts, is unable to obtain mortgage
financing. "Pre-approved" means a commitment has been obtained from a recognized mortgage
lender for mortgage financing in a specified dollar amount sufficient to purchase the property.
• There is other equally good cause, as determined by management company, in keeping with the spirit and intent of the above policy.
Return 50% of the deposit when:
For an uninsured sale, despite good faith efforts by the purchaser, there is an inability to obtain a
mortgage loan from a recognized mortgage lender.
Forfeit 100% of the deposit when:
• No documentation is submitted.
• Documentation fails to provide an acceptable cause for the buyer's failure to close.
• Documentation is not provided within a reasonable time following contract cancellation.

I have never seen or dealt with an Insured property, so I’m not going to write about them.

I think that HUD homes are probably best for people who are experienced rehabbers and able to take a gamble with the condition of the house. It’s really not a good choice for someone looking to buy their first home, especially if they have no experience in home repair or plumbing.

If you are an experienced contractor who is used to rehabbing properties, you may be able to get a great deal on a house.

If you are looking to buy a house and want to get a good deal on one but have it be in better condition, contact me. There are bank foreclosures, short sales, and other deals to be had out there which are a lot easier to deal with and carry much less risk.

Call Melissa at 315-908-2287 or email syracusemel@gmail.com

Monday, July 25, 2011

BEWARE Craigslist Rental Scam

I got a call about my rental house on Tipp Hill! I don't have a rental house on Tipp Hill right now. I have one for sale... But the woman insisted she had seen it on Craigslist. So I looked, and sure enough, this house:
Except they had taken the photos and information from the craigslist ad I wrote and used their own email. The woman who wanted to rent it googled the address and came up with my listings for it.

This is not even the first time that this has happened to me. It's a really common scam. When you email about these ads it's always someone who just had to leave the country. Many times they say they are missionaries who just got sent to Africa and they didn't have time to rent the house before they left. They need you to wire money to them and they will send you the keys.

You should never wire money for a rental or anything else over Craigslist.

Since this happened I've been reading a lot about rental scams. There are a lot of them. There's many cases people wired money for a house that is still occupied. They arrive in town and are shocked to find they spent money for rent and deposit on a house that is not even available. Sometimes people break into a vacant house, show it, and get deposits from a bunch of people. Or they may even be renting a house and then rent it to several different people.

You should either rent from a licensed agent or the actual owner. Ask to see identification from them before signing the lease. Agents in NY State have a photo ID card that shows they are an agent. If you are renting from an individual, look up the tax records online and make sure the names match.

And for any suspicious rental ads, google the address. If it comes up listed for sale or rent with an agent, give them a call. I'm glad this woman called me instead of sending the money to criminals.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thai Flavor on Erie

This is Thai Flavor on Erie Boulevard. There used to be another Thai place here, but it closed and this one opened up. This one is much better. It reminds me of the ones I used to eat at when I lived in California and Toronto.
They have done a nice job on the interior. Sorry for the terrible camera phone photos!
On our last visit, we had a curry and a salad. I can't find these items on their online menu, I think we ordered from their special items menu which is not online. The curry was amazing.
My husband and I have eaten here three times and we have been happy. The people here are friendly and the service was attentive. We plan on coming back frequently.

Actually I'd eat here a couple of times a week if I had more money and wasn't on a weight loss/fitness plan. Luckily my plan allows me a free day once a week so I can eat out!

Thai Flavor of Syracuse website and menu

Location: 2863 1/2 Erie Blvd East
Syracuse, New York 13224

Tel : 315-251-1366

Hours: Mon 11:00-3:00 and 5:00-10:00
Tue Closed
Wed 11:00-3:00 and 5:00-10:00
Thur 11:00-3:00 and 5:00-10:00
Fri 11:00-3:00 and 5:00-10:00
Sat 11:00-3:00 and 5:00-10:00
Sun 11:00-3:00 and 5:00-10:00

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Smorals: Comfort food and good service = relaxing night out

Smoral's is a restaurant that seems like it is in the 1950s. I mean this in a very good way. It has an old fashioned air about it. I just love it.

It's not like one of those fake 50s diners where they have waitresses in poodle skirts and jukeboxes, but more the quality of a family restaurant where people go to eat tried and true good food. It's fancy enough for a nice dinner out but not so formal that you can't bring your kids or that you have to dress up.

The food is kind of typical old style family restaurant/steakhouse - steaks, shrimp cocktails, seafood platter, some pasta and chicken dishes. That's why it reminds me of the 50s - there's really no fusion food or innovative new tastes. It strikes me as something that would have been cutting edge in the 50s. I can imagine someone saying "I went out on a date last night and he took me to a restaurant with crab stuffed mushrooms and I had a lettuce wedge salad!" but now we have become more sophisticated with our celebrity chefs and gourmet cooking shows. Smoral's harkens back to a simpler time, and I like that.

The food is well prepared. Steaks are tender and you don't need steak sauce. Clam chowder (Friday only) has big clams.

Pies are the desert specialty here. They are made on the premises and the crusts are perfect - nice and buttery. Pie selection varies by what they have on hand, and sometimes they run out. If there is a particular type of pie you want, order it when you order dinner so no one else gets it!

There is also a bar, with a bar menu of appetizers and light meals.

The wait staff is friendly and competent. I've only had good service and good meals here.

This is what we had last time we were here: fried seafood platter and chicken Avery. The chicken dish is in a wine cream sauce with mushrooms - my husband loved it. I actually think the broiled seafood platter is better than the fried one, but this night I was in the mood for fish and chips!

These are the salads that come with dinner.

So if you are looking for comfort food in an old fashioned place with good service, head over to Smorals.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cinema North

Cinema North, originally uploaded by Melsky.

This is an abandoned movie theater in Mattydale - very cool looking but sad it has been abandoned. It's way off in the corner of the lot behind Kmart.

Tiger Lilies - easy to grow in Syracuse

These are Tiger Lilies - they grow almost like a weed here! Right now they are in season and all over.

These are in my yard. I'm not showing you a photo of the whole yard as I've sadly neglected it and it looks like a jungle! I truly meant to do a lot of gardening this year but I have been so busy with real estate, art, and working with Spay and Neuter Syracuse that the whole gardening thing just dropped out.

Oh well, I have someone coming to help me clear away a lot of the overgrowth and I'll make sure to find time to plant bulbs this fall.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Buying a House in the Syracuse Area - the Short Version

The first step is talking to a mortgage agent. They will be able to tell you how much house you can afford and what type of loan you qualify for. There's no point looking at homes that you are not going to be able to buy. I can send you a list of loan agents if you do not already have one.

Next, you need to decide what features are important to you in a home and what areas you want to look in.

I will send you listings of homes that fit your criteria. These will automatically be delivered to you every day. When there is one you are interested in, I can send you more information and we can make an appointment to see it.

When you find a house you like, it's time to write an offer. We will sit down and decide how much to offer and what other conditions

In New York State, most offers will have some contingencies. That means there are conditions that must be met or you can cancel the contract.

The first one is that both parties lawyers must approve the contract. In New York, the buyer and seller each have their own attorney. Usually it's just a formality to approve the contract, but sometimes the lawyer doesn't like some of the conditions. The sellers can also use this to back out of the contract if they have another offer.

The next contingency is usually the home inspection. As soon as the contract is approved by both parties lawyers an inspection is scheduled. After the inspection you can ask the owner to make repairs or to credit money for repairs. They do not have to make the repairs and the contract can be cancelled.

The most common other contingency is sale of the buyer's current house.

After the contingencies are closed, the next step is for the Mortgage Commitment Letter. That is the real approval for the mortgage, where all the conditions have been met. Then the closing is scheduled.

Be aware that the mortgage call still be denied any time up until closing. So don't make any large credit purchases or open new accounts, and especially do not buy a car!

A day or two before the closing a final walkthrough is done, where the buyers and their agent make sure the house is in the same condition promised in the contract.

The closing is usually scheduled in one of the attorney's offices. Get ready to sign paper after paper!

At the end of this marathon signing session, you get the keys and you are a home owner.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I'm looking for houses to rent!

I've been contacted recently by two people looking for 4 and 5 bedroom homes to rent. It's hard to find good places to rent in the Syracuse area right now.

Syracuse has a lot of people who relocate here for a few years. Many of them are stable professional people who have been sent here by their employers to go to grad school at Syracuse University. I get calls from these people all the time! They have money, good references and jobs.

The problem is that a lot of people can't get a loan to buy. The banks were giving money to anyone who could sign their name a few years ago! That was obviously a mistake, but they have over-corrected themselves to a ridiculous extreme. So people that would have bought with no problems are now looking to rent. This has given us a tight rental market, and pushed rental prices up. At the same time, it's harder to sell a home. If you have planned to sell, or had your house on the market with no success, consider renting. You might be very surprised how much you can get for your home!

If you have a larger home (or any home!) that you would like to rent, please call me at 315-908-2287.