Thursday, April 16, 2009

Susan Boyle - From Anonymity To Stardom In The Blink Of An Eye

Just who is Susan Boyle? That's a question on the minds of many just days after she rose like a phoenix on Britain's Got Talent. A more unlikely star in the making would be hard to find. A middle aged woman, with no great style or distintive look, yet dressed in her Sunday best, she walked onto the stage and ultimately into the hearts of millions on that fateful Saturday April 11, 2009.

It was painful to watch the early moments of her interview with Simon Cowell as snickers and rolled eyes greeted her, from the judges and audience alike. I cringed as she stood bravely, facing the disbelief etched in the faces of the as yet uninitiated. The last time I felt this intensity of emotion was when Paul Potts metaphorically slipped out of his cell phone salesman persona and into the regalia of the anointed on his fateful night just two short years ago. I wanted her to be good. I wanted us all to be bigger than we are and not judge by appearances alone. Then the music began to swell.

As the richness of sound filled the suddenly quiet auditorium, the mellifluous tones emanating from this unlikely source at once turned a jeering crowd into wildly applauding fans and insured Susan Boyle's rise to exalted heights. There were tears in my eyes as she masterfully performed "I Dreamed A Dream" from Les Miserables. It was a defining moment, both for her and for me, though I'm not alone in this. Standing before us was "Rocky." We wanted to cheer her on. This was one of us, just an ordinary person getting a chance to live her dream . . . a one in a million chance.

But who is this person? Bits and pieces of her life begin to emerge as we search for background. She's an almost 48 year old woman from West Lothian, Scotland, who to date has lived a totally unspectacular, if sometimes painful life. She is unmarried, cared for her mother until her death and lives with a cat named Pebbles. We see the makings of a Cinderella story. There's no doubt we want more. Her YouTube video has been watched over an unbelievable 11 million times in a few short days. She's being interviewed on both sides of the Atlantic, giving an a capella rendition of I Dreamed A Dream on CBS early this morning. Without benefit of musical accompaniment one could appreciate it was no fluke, her rising to sudden fame.

I for one eagerly await her next performance as this very talented lady emerges from her chrysalis into the bright star she is destined to become.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

If New Construction on Long Island Is For You . . .

You've picked a great time to be shopping for a new home on Long Island. Builders, finding themselves in the same crunch as the rest of the market in much of the country have not only reduced prices to make their offerings very desirable, but the savvy ones are offering incentives to prospective buyers.

Case in point. We have a truly beautiful home currently on the market in which the contractor's attention to detail is visible at every turn. It's unlike any of the other newly built homes in the area. What makes it different? Where do I begin? Let's start at the driveway. The common treatment is blacktop, an inexpensive alternative, which looks fine at the start but begins needing maintenance before much time has passed. On this one you'll see a paver driveway framed by two pillars with lights that come on at dusk. The facade speaks volumes as well, with a stucco finish, embellished with quoined corners and framing long and elegant Pella windows and a double door entry with sidelights.

Other points of difference: 9' ceilings on both levels, a gourmet cherry kitchen w/top of the line Bosch appliances, a huge center island w/granite counters, stainless and glass adjustable hood, custom moldings, designer door handles, 2 panel solid wood doors. Typically, in new homes you'll find basic inexpensive door knobs, hollow core doors, a single door entrance, eight foot ceilings, if not on both floors, on the second level, baths with tile only in tub and shower areas, average appliances. As you approach many new homes you'll find a front porch of varying sizes, constructed of wood or engineered wood, with steps to match. The paver porch on this home, designed with pergola and custom railing is a far cry from the average.

My point here is, you'll be faced with more options than you've had in the past several years. When you look, compare apples to apples. Though two or more homes may be in a similar price range, make sure you're getting filet mignon for your money, not hamburger. And remember, you're in the envious position of being in the driver's seat, a situation not always in the purview of the buyer. So, if you find the new construction you want, at a price you can afford, try to negotiate something extra for yourself. You just might get your first year's taxes paid or alternatively an appliance package you'd be happy with.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

December Doldrums -- Not This Year!

It's the middle of December, with the holidays looming large on the horizon. The business of real estate is supposed to be in the doldrums by now, just ask anyone. Surprisingly, in my world it's exactly the opposite. If it were not for television shopping channels and the Internet, my family would have been unhappily searching for some indication that the holidays had not completely passed me by.

With a new listing in tow and a surprising number of offers coming in on another property I represent, I'd have to say the local market, like the weather on Long Island is uncharacteristically warm for this time of year. It's a boon for homeowners who've done everything right, only to be forced into a state of limbo, their future plans on hold while their houses vie for attention as the market sorts itself out. As the year comes to a close I'm happy to see more of a balance, with buyers in increasing numbers inviting sellers to dance. Whichever side of the transaction you find yourself on, enjoy this moment of sanity.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Staging Hits The News

The mass media is finally picking up the "news" that staging can help homes sell faster . . . especially in slower markets. To those of us in the trenches, there's nothing new about it. In most of the country staging is a viable marketing tool and one that's been used successfully for years. Admittedly, New York is often late to the party when it comes to innovation in real estate sales.

For years, long before it had a name, I've been "staging" homes to get my sellers top dollar in any given market. For most people, walking into a warm and lovely space excites their emotions and keeps that property top of mind. Builders have known this all along. That's why most developments have model homes, beautifully decorated, maximizing the space and characteristics of that particular architectural design.

Let me show you a recent, yet modified update I did to a space to make it competitive in today's market. Without changing the homeowner's furniture, I removed 40 year old flocked wallpaper, old carpet, worn down to the floor in the high traffic areas and replaced the equally worn kitchen floor. We painted the walls Linen White (not usually my first choice), had the floors scraped and polyurethaned and I brought in accessories to bring the house into the twenty-first century. Does it make a difference? You bet it does! Though this home is not yet sold, we've had two offers on it and positive feedback from buyers and Realtors alike.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, probably my favorite holiday of the year. My early memories play like an 8 millimeter movie with my mother in the lead role as she valiantly carried the enormous turkey to an overcrowded table. The cast remained the same over the years, revealing style changes and age as it crept up on mom and all the supporting players.

For me it was a gift since time couldn't pass fast enough to make me believable as I lied about my age. In those days I could often get away with adding four or five years if I sported the right clothes and hairstyle. Needless to say, I'd willingly give those back now, but without benefit of a plastic surgeon's knife, the only person I'd be likely to fool these days would be me.

My mother, weary from the burden of producing a huge meal for extended family and friends without any help, was exhausted and it showed on her face as she placed and replaced serving dishes to make room for the mountain of food we consumed as a group. My father stood at the head of the table sharpening his carving knife and grinning from ear to ear as he prepared to perform surgery of his own on the poor departed turkey.

I remember animated conversation, laughter and the clanking of glasses as toasts were made, one after the other. And though it's been many years since the family gathered, disappearing one by one, they remain with me today in the theater of my mind. I warm in the glow of the love shared at that table and I'm grateful for the many gifts in my life.

Tomorrow, when I join my own family at an overcrowded table I'll smile and I'm sure my mother will be there to see us, even if just for a moment. For those of you spending this special day with your loved ones, enjoy it all, and for all of you who are less fortunate, I'll hold you in my thoughts.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Gift From The Blogosphere

Even though Thanksgiving looms large on the horizon, I suddenly find myself busier in my real estate practice than I have been for awhile. Buyers and sellers are picking up the phone and calling, or emailing me to get information and begin the process. This at a time when I'm doing my best to gear up for the holiday. So imagine my surprise when I sat down tonight to do a quick check on my stats for this blog. Lo and behold, the numbers are way up. Why?

Never one to accept a gift horse without staring it straight in the face I found, to my great surprise, a link from Hanan Levin's famed Grow-A-Brain blog. I'm honored by the notice and hope this is one of the "unique and mostly intelligent sites" to which he refers.

I thank you sir for the nod. The ripples created by your significant presence in the blogosphere have been felt in my little corner of the universe.

Friday, November 17, 2006

How Fitting Just Before Thanksgiving!

There's a lot of love to go around today and the lucky recipients are two three week old mixed breed puppies rescued from a New York City shelter by a worker at Little Shelter Animal Adoption Center on Long Island. About to be euthanized, these miracle pups, Magic & Merlin have many benefactors in their corner, from Plastic Surgeons to Veterinarians to folk just like you or me offering help to give them a chance at life. Read the story in Newsday.

We tend to forget in our every day lives how willing we are as a society to step up and lend a helping hand. No one can convince me that there wasn't some divine guidance in this one.