Sibley Square Tour

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When you hear "Sibley's", what comes to mind? Perhaps you remember stories of your grandmother popping into the Tea Room after a long day of shopping to enjoy some cucumber sandwiches. Or maybe you think back to the elaborate Christmas displays as you hustled past on your way to work. Or, it’s possible that nothing comes to mind at all, in which case, you’re much, much too young…

Established in 1868, Sibley, Lindsay & Curr was once an iconic Rochester-based company with the largest department store between New York City and Chicago. Their flagship store was originally located in the Granite Building until a devastating fire in 1904. The company then rebuilt itself at the northeast corner of East Main Street and Clinton Avenue in the building that came to be known as the Sibley Building. After incredible success, Sibley’s sold their company to May Department Stores in 1986 and the Sibley Building closed its doors to retail. As many of you know, Wilmorite’s acquisition of the building in the late 1980's resulted in a vacant building idly collecting dust while property tax bills went unpaid. Eventually, Monroe Community College chose to establish their Damon City Campus in the Sibley Building in 1991 and continued to operate there until just recently, when they relocated to a building across from Kodak Tower.

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So what's next?

The Sibley building, now referred to as Sibley Square, was acquired by WinnDevelopment five years ago for just $5M with hopes of restoring the landmark to its former glory. Before diving into any detail, you should know that Winn has already spent upwards of $100 million on this renovation, with no intention of letting up. Their plans for the building are to re-establish it as a mixed-use centerpiece for downtown. Unlike so much of downtown revitalization, Winn has remained true to their reputation and are sparing no cost or expense in making their lofty pronouncements a reality. Ken Greene, whose company, Greene RE Solutions was just assigned as the Asset Manager for the 1.1M sq ft property, was kind enough to walk us through the plans! Ken is in the process of collaborating with the broker community and a full 6% commission is available for office and commercial space!


So what does Winn plan on doing? 

In addition to mechanical and structural renovations (roof, floors, elevators, HVAC, windows, etc.), much of the revitalization of Sibley Square will focus on how to transform this incredibly large property into a place that serves the community. To do so, Sibley Square will become home to a combination of business, retail, and residential space. 

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  • Residential - Spectra at Sibley Square will soon become one of Rochester's most beautiful luxury apartments. Floors 9-12 feature over 104 apartment units, and let me tell you... they are spectacular. No expense was spared, no detail unnoticed, and the finishes are top-of-the-line. Floor to ceiling windows allow for panoramic views of the city. There's a 24-hour fitness center, a rooftop deck, media theater, onsite daycare, attached parking garage, and even an indoor pet playground. Yes, you read that correctly. A place where your furry friend can play or even get walked by a staff member. The apartments will be officially complete by year's end and at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, they may be the nicest apartments to rent in downtown Rochester... In addition, there will also be 72 affordable apartment units for the 55+ community complete by year's end.
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  • Business - The 6th floor of Sibley Square will be home to High Tech Rochester, a nonprofit organization that acts as an incubator for innovation-based development and entrepreneurship. This is where local scientists, entrepreneurs, and high-tech businesses will be able to rent office space. This floor includes what used to be the Tea Room, so Winn has made sure to carefully preserve all of the incredible historic details that helped make Sibley's so iconic (including the egg-and-dart molding pictured below!). To give you some reference, Winn spent $100,000 just to restore the ceiling! Renters on this floor will also have access to their own rooftop garden which includes a rare glimpse of the back of the Clock Tower! 
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  • Retail - Once a booming retail-driven institution of Rochester's downtown, Winn hopes to re-establish Sibley Square as a desirable epicenter for shopping and dining. With over 50,000 surrounding residents with a median income of $67,000 and an average work commute of under a half-mile from the building, there certainly appears to be a demanding demographic. Ken described plans to welcome various local restaurants and regional markets for an indoor public-market-type feel. Trendy boutiques, local eateries/bistros and art galleries are the goal for this section of the project.

In short, my team and I were incredibly fortunate to catch a glimpse into what will surely be one of Rochester's most exciting revitalizations. I look forward to seeing what Sibley Square is able to do for our city and can't wait to revisit in the very near future!

For any further questions or details, feel free to visit sibleysquareroc.com

Price Reductions

Remarkably, just two short months from now, the aisles of your local Wegmans will be filled with shopping carts bursting with succulent turkeys, decorative pumpkins, and aromatic apple pies. With the arrival of the holiday season, we say goodbye to the real estate year that has been and, we as agents, begin to focus on reclaiming our lives. The months of November and December are typically spent with family and friends, getting reacquainted with our loved ones while listening to hosts of angels singing about peace on earth.

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Yes. That all sounds wonderful – and it will be. Unfortunately, in the meantime, the fast arrival of the holiday season poses a tremendous challenge to those hoping to sell their home before the end of the year. Given the astonishingly short period of time that remains in this year's market, sellers intent on finding a buyer for their property need to focus on how, specifically, they are going to secure an offer. What strategies does one need to employ in order to transfer title before the conclusion of the year? More likely than not, the seller has done all that they need to do in order to prepare their home for market. And, if they’ve chosen the right agent, marketing strategies have been employed to drive prospective buyers to the homes that are available for sale. So, what's left?

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Unfortunately, the one quiver that remains in the arsenal of strategic options has to do with price reductions. Yes, we realize how painful this decision can be. However, holding one’s breathe while sitting on one’s hands, waiting for a buyer to come along and write an offer on your property that has been idly sitting on the market, collecting dust, probably isn’t the best strategic option. Here’s why…

First, let’s talk about sample rates. If one wants to determine who will be the next U.S. President, theoretically, he or she could ask every registered voter who it is that they intend to vote for, come Election Day. Despite that being nearly impossible, it is also the least efficient and intelligent option for determining outcomes. Instead, one could simply poll a sample of prospective enrolled voters. If a large enough sample is secured then more likely than not, you’ll have an accurate snapshot of who’s going to be the next U.S. President. In other words, you can extrapolate the data from your first sample of voters and determine, ultimately, what the entire electorate will be doing when they go to the polls.

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  • Likewise, in real estate, when you want to find out what it is that the buying public thinks about a home, it’s not necessary to ask each and every buyer that walks through, ad infinitum. Instead, you can simply rely on a sample rate of 20 prospective buyers. What it is that they say, or more accurately, however it is that they behave will remarkably forecast how it is that the next set of 20 buyers will react.

  • Another sample rate that we rely on has to do with Days on Market (DOM). Whatever it is that takes place in the first 30 days that a property is on the market for sale, you can be absolutely certain that the exact same response will play out in the ensuing 30 days. Stated another way, if during month one, buyers are reluctant to write an offer on your property, then the exact same outcome will play out in month two.
     
  • Two phenomena are at play here. The first, and most obvious is that, if buyers feel that a property is overpriced or in need of too much work (which amounts to the exact same thing given that both are related to money), they won’t write an offer, no matter how much time passes. However, the more insidious concern has to do with perception. Specifically, the longer that a property remains on the market for sale at the same list price, the more likely it is that buyers will perceive it as “damaged” or “stale”. At this point, buyers and their agents have a tendency to fill-in-the-blanks or craft stories (“Oh, that’s the property with difficult sellers…” or “That’s the home that must not be selling because of the smell of mold in the basement” …You get the point).

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For these reasons, it’s important that sellers behave in a manner that is reflective of what it is that the market is saying to them. This is the most important piece of advice to remember. And also the most difficult to swallow. Unfortunately, every 30 days that a property is on the market, sellers need to decide whether to

a) Improve the property so that it’s worth what it is that buyers are saying it is currently not

b) Rent the property (A really, really terrible idea for reasons that I will disclose in another blog…)

c) Take the property off the market

d) Reduce the price

Unfortunately, as a result of the rapid pace at which pages of the calendar are moving forward, I traditionally advise my clients not to wait a full 30 days during this time of year. A change in price is probably warranted after only 3 weeks on the market at a given price. By acknowledging reality and making the difficult decisions today, this will, almost always, result in more money in sellers’ pockets on the day of closing. The $5,000-$10,000 that you lose today is almost always less than the cost of carrying the house and making mortgage and utility payments for the next 6 months…

Market Update

If, over the course of the past six months, you've had the opportunity to speak to someone who was in the process of looking for a home to purchase, my guess is that you’ve heard a lot of rumbling and grousing about how difficult the process has been. In extreme cases, perhaps even a tear was shed or a profanity exclaimed… It’s true. The market has been tough for prospective buyers, to say the least. It turns out that second quarter statistics in Monroe County show that the number of properties on the market for sale is down a whopping 37.5% from the same period of time last year. Of course, this has greatly impacted the total sales volume and number of properties that have transferred title. That figure has fallen a full 12%.

What's remarkable about these numbers is that they exacerbate a problem that we began to experience last year. As anticipated, the local real estate market began to falter in the summer of 2016. Why? Well, every four years, Americans refrain from making large financial decisions in the months preceding a Presidential election. So, it would make sense that home-buying, one of the largest financial transactions that one makes during the course of a lifetime, would take a hit. And let’s face it – the uncertainty associated with Clinton versus Trump didn’t make things any easier. In fact, last year’s campaign encouraged more people to move to the sidelines and wait to see how things played out than we’ve experienced in elections past.

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After the election concluded, our country was suddenly focused on the Macy’s Day Parade, Sugar Plum Fairies, and weight loss resolutions. Once the New Year took hold, the pent-up desire to purchase or sell property that had been growing in the preceding six months started to begin its release. Diverging from previous markets, this year’s spring market began, in earnest, the third week of January. This may have been due to the fact that, regardless of one’s political leanings, consumers took some comfort in knowing that, yet again, the peaceful transition of power from one president to another had taken place. This particular set of circumstances helps us to understand the local real estate market during the first six months of the year. Then, everything seemed to change…
 

So why is it that the stock market is dancing with historic highs while home sellers are behaving with a lethargy not seen since 1997?

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My personal theory has to do with the fact that Wall Street, an industry obviously populated by CEOs, tech titans and other big business hot shots, have applauded our current President’s pro-business agenda and as a result, the stock market has been sent soaring upward. Main Street and residential real estate, on the other hand, are industries populated by average Americans whose personal fortunes and sentiments don’t reflect the mindset of New York's financial district. Wall Street, for the moment, seems willing to ignore some of the uncertainty emanating from Washington, hedging their bets on the fact that the President’s pro-business agenda will ultimately lead to higher profits. Ma and Pa homeowners, however, seem less willing to risk potential loss. The President’s underlying “renegade approach” to governing is concerning to many and unfortunately, perpetuates the phenomenon that began to define the real estate market beginning 12 months ago. As a result of this mindset, average Americans are either

a) Remaining in their residences or,
b) If not currently a homeowner, are looking to the safety that is traditionally associated with homeownership.

In other words, high demand and low supply.
 

So where are we headed? 

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In all honesty, for twenty six years, I've written these updates and prided myself on having a very accurate crystal ball into the future of the real estate market. Going back and rereading, I was always pleased to see that, indeed, my previous newsletters and posts were surprisingly accurate. Unfortunately, my crystal ball is now a bit foggy and I’m unable to discern where it is that the market is headed. In the short term, it looks as if the next two and half months will be very strong. Personally, my team and I are listing sixteen new houses for sale in the next two weeks. As a result of the lack of good product, we're fairly certain that these properties will sell rather immediately.

Once November 15th arrives, we will, of course, experience the traditional slow down that sets in during the holidays. That brings us to the New Year and, unfortunately, anything beyond January 15, 2018 is an uncertainty. Your guess is as good as any… That being said, my gut tells me that it won't be all doom and gloom for the real estate market. The stock market continues to do well, unemployment numbers remain low, and despite Janet Yellen's stated desire to raise interest rates, a homeowner's ability to borrow money will still remain an incentive to purchase. An enormous uncertainly remains – Donald Trump. Let's face it. The first year of most presidencies is rocky until our Commander in Chief learns to navigate the hallways of our nation's capital. If the current occupant of the White House is able to learn from his missteps or, at the very least, create a greater sense of stability in the minds of Americans, next year's real estate market could be rather spectacular. Only time will tell! 

Client Appreciation Party

One of the difficulties that my team and I are facing as we approach $70,000,000 in annual sales is the fact that, unfortunately, time constraints prevent us from connecting with our clients in the way that we had grown accustomed. Still to this day, some of my very best friends are people that I met as a result of selling them a house 20 years ago. As our business continues to grow and expand, we are constantly looking for new ways to reconnect with our clients on a personal level in the same way that I was able to many years ago. This is one of the reasons that we created the Client Concierge position. And why it is that I try to take clients out to dinner at the conclusion of a transaction.

That being said, I’ll be the first to admit that we’re not always successful. We still have a long way to go in order to achieve our goal of becoming the “Wegmans of local real estate”. Nevertheless, our intention is always good and we make a solid attempt at providing our clients with exceptional service. If you are a former or current client of our team, please know that you are more than just the next ticket in line at the deli counter. You’re our friends and our biggest supporters. This event on August 20th is simply a means by which we’d like to convey our sincerest appreciation and gratitude!  

I was hoping and intending to have this party last year in celebration of my 25th year selling real estate. Unfortunately, our database was corrupted, so we’ve tried our best to recreate it over the course of the past year. We’re relying on word-of-mouth and social media to help fill in the gaps. Whether you sold a home with us 20 years ago, or are currently in the process of finding your next home with us, we’d love to see you on August 20th and hope that you can make it! Shoot me an e-mail, send me a Facebook message, or give me a call if you’d like some more information! (mark@marksiwiec.com, (585) 218-6275)

 
 

So, who is Howard Hanna?

 
 

Just like Nothnagle, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services is a family-owned company. Established in 1957, Howard and Anne Freyvogel Hanna opened a single office in Pittsburgh, PA to start. They are now the 3rd largest real estate company in the nation. Why does this matter? This merger will give our clients access and support from 259 offices and more than 9,000 agents & employees nationwide. The Howard Hanna website (howardhanna.com) has a monthly average of 1 million visitors.

While you may not notice a direct impact or change, this merger is an incredibly advantageous move for our local real estate market. That being said, please know that we are committed to offering the same extraordinary service to our clients and look forward to what our new name has in store for us!