Allison Jaffe | Bronx Real Estate, Westchester Real Estate, Manhattan Real Estate



Whether you spend most days of every year working in real estate as I do or you embark on the process of buying or selling one property, you’ll have stories to tell. In most instances, you won’t know whether to laugh or cry; eventually, you’ll probably do both. I file these true tales of the unbelievable under the heading: ‘You Can’t Make This Stuff Up’. 

A Missing Shareholder During one recent August, the adult son of a co-op owner long-retired to Florida readied the family’s two-bedroom co-op for sale. The father signed a Power of Attorney enabling his dutiful son to sign a listing agreement with a local agent and negotiate the sale on his behalf. By Thanksgiving, the father signed a contract to sell the co-op to buyers represented by Key Real Estate Services. The buyers submitted their mortgage and co-op applications, the bank gave conditional approval, the co-op processed the application, snow melted, the co-op’s dogwood trees bloomed, the co-op Board approved the buyers’, and as Memorial Day approached a closing date was set with the father’s Power Of Attorney allowing his son to act in his stead at the closing. On the last workday of May, the son, the buyers, three attorneys, the mortgage broker, and the co-op’s closing agent all packed into a small closing room. Documents were signed, checks were passed, the son surrendered the decades-old stock certificate naming his father and mother as shareholders, and when he was asked for his mother’s death certificate, ten months of slow progress came to a sudden and full stop. Not wanting to burden the family’s ailing matriarch, the father and son had unwittingly violated several legal requirements by signing and acting under a Power of Attorney, a listing agreement, and a contract signed by only one of the shareholders. And their consistent omission of the wife and mother had given everyone else involved in the sale – agents, lawyers, buyers, and management – the distinct impression that she was deceased. In fact, neither the father nor the son had the unilateral right to list, negotiate, contract, or sell the co-op without the participation of the co-shareholder. Fifteen days later -- after an amended contract, extended mortgage commitment, and about $2000 in additional fees – with both shareholders present, the closing was reconvened and completed. You can’t make this stuff up. 
A Timber Tale A husband and wife walk into a 96-year-old house . . . No joke. When touring a vintage, attached, brick row-house on a landmarked block in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx with my clients, we were all predictably concerned about a noticeable dip in the ceilings and slop of the floors at the rear of this house on all three levels. The cause of our concern was found in the basement where we discovered that the rear twelve feet or so of the structure’s 12”-square solid timber central support beam seemed to have been surgically removed at some point in the house’s more recent past. Why would someone do something so obviously destructive? Had the beam failed due to some flaw; was it somehow catastrophically damaged without any evidence in other parts of the structure? No, apparently, it was in the way of PVC pipes run to connect an added bathroom upstairs to the existing basement plumbing. We knew it was true, because there just aft of the remaining section of the central support beam, hung a questionable plumbing installation and nearby on the floor, snug against a foundation wall, laid the amputated length of support timber. It could all be fixed and my clients went to contract on the house. You can’t make this stuff up. 
A Unit Number Riddle When is a three-family house a one-family home?When it’s a one-family house with three apartments. Get it? This real estate riddle is frequently played out in the New York metro area where one or more illegal apartments are created in a house to help the property owners generate income from their home. The problem comes when that homeowner attempts to sell their illegally divided house with or without tenants. Banks don’t make loans when an appraiser’s description does not conform to the property’s legal status. What defines an illegal apartment? An extra kitchen with a working stove is the "tell” even though there are certain situations where an appraiser will accept two kitchens in a one-family house. But three kitchens in a legal single-family home are pushing it; four kitchens in a legal two-family house are pushing it exponentially; I’ve seen both. While the solution involves removing the offending kitchen(s), this needn’t mean major renovation. Usually the removal of a stove and capping its gas line will do the trick. Think of it not as losing a kitchen, but gaining a wet bar – and there are no restrictions on that. You can’t make this stuff up.