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tips

2018 Holiday Tipping Guide - How Much to Tip Building Staff and More

NYC Holiday Tipping Guide.jpeg

The Holiday Season has officially kicked off. With Black Friday and Thanksgiving over, holiday decorations are going up across town. With the arrival of the Holiday Season comes the question on the mind of many - “How Much Should I Tip?”

The holiday season is always a time to give back to those that had a positive impact on our lives over the past year. One question that always comes up, especially in New York City, is how much to tip the building staff and those that are intimately involved in day-to-day life? Tipping is a major part of the Holiday Season in New York, and is a way to show appreciation to your building staff. Thus, it is important to say that it is highly encouraged, but not required. As December rolls around, many begin to get anxiety about who to tip, how much to tip, and if he or she should even tip at all. 

Our friends at Brick Underground publish a go-to holiday tipping guide, which has been circulating since 2013. We condensed it, and put our take on what is appropriate as you budget for your holiday tipping. Remember, these are simply guidelines. There are many factors that can influence the tipping decision such as the size of the building (a larger staff equates to smaller individual tips), level of service, seniority, and time in building. Additionally, owning versus renting in a building can play a big factor as well.

Of course, if you live in a building with a part-time doorman, virtual doorman, or no staff at all, the below levels could be adjusted downward.

Renters: Tips do not have to equate to the dollar amount you are paying each month for rent. If you receive a lot of packages, have a stroller that is carried in and out of the building, etc., factor this into your tip. 

It is recommended that you tip in cash. Doorman, Concierge, Supers, etc. all of bills to pay like you and I- they are not looking for fruit cakes, cookies, or homemade gifts at the holidays!

 

 

Tipping Guidelines

 

 

Super: $150-200
Doorman/Concierge: $100-150
Nanny: 1 Week Salary
Housekeeper: 1 Week Salary
Dog Walker: 1 Week Salary
Driver: 1 Week Salary
Garage Attendant: $50-$100
Personal Trainer: $100
Chef: $300-500
Personal Assistant: 1 Week Salary
Hairdresser: $50-75
Manicurist: $25

 

Something to Consider: If you have been tipping throughout the year utilizing a "pay as you go" method, it is customary to tip on the lighter side during the holiday season.

How Much Should I Tip? - NYC Holiday Tipping Guide

NYC Holiday Tipping Guide

The holiday season is always a time to give back to those that had a positive impact on our lives over the past year. One question that always comes up, especially in New York City, is how much to tip the building staff and those that are intimately involved in day-to-day life?

Holiday tipping is an opportunity to give back to those that make running our daily lives a bit easier. Thus, it is important to say that it is highly encouraged, but not required. As December rolls around, many begin to get anxiety about who to tip, how much to tip, and if he or she should even tip at all. 

Our friends at Brick Underground publish a go-to holiday tipping guide, which has been circulating since 2013. We condensed it, and put our take on what is appropriate as you budget for your holiday tipping. Remember, these are simply guidelines. There are many factors that can influence the tipping decision such as the size of the building (a larger staff equates to smaller individual tips), level of service, seniority, and time in building. 

Renters: Tips do not have to equate to the dollar amount you are paying each month for rent. If you receive a lot of packages, have a stroller that is carried in and out of the building, etc., factor this into your tip. 

It is recommended that you tip in cash. Doorman, Concierge, Supers, etc. all of bills to pay like you and I- they are not looking for fruit cakes, cookies, or homemade gifts at the holidays!

 

 

Tipping Guidelines

 

 

Super: $150-200
Doorman/Concierge: $100-150
Nanny: 1 Week Salary
Housekeeper: 1 Week Salary
Dog Walker: 1 Week Salary
Driver: 1 Week Salary
Personal Trainer: $100
Chef: $300-500
Personal Assistant: 1 Week Salary
Hairdresser: $50-75
Manicurist: $25

 

Something to Consider: If you have been tipping throughout the year utilizing a "pay as you go" method, it is customary to tip on the lighter side during the holiday season.

5 Common Questions About Investing in a Home

5 Things to Know When Investing in a Home

Buying a home is one of the largest decisions and financial transactions in many people’s lives. Because of the scale of this transaction, stress and anxiety level can go through the roof with the question – Is this the right decision for me? Is this the home I should be investing in?

Whether a first-time home buyer, or a seasoned real estate investor adding to your portfolio, questions arise during every transaction. In our experience working with buyers, sellers, renters, and investors across all experience ranges, here is a list of the most common questions we get asked when it comes to investing in a home. 

Was housing crisis during the financial crisis just a black swan event to be put behind us, or did it show that homes are not the safe and profitable holdings?

Not all those that purchased homes during the crisis of ‘08 were negatively impacted, however, the ripple effect did bring down the overall market. Those that were hit hardest were buyers that stepped up to buy properties they could not afford, largely amplified by mortgage lenders who had much more relaxed lending guidelines and approved individuals for mortgages they could not truly afford. The latter was largely responsible for the subprime mortgage crisis during this time period.

The crisis revealed the dangers of over leveraging. While a mortgage can be a great thing, taking on too much debt can lead to many issues, especially in a home purchase. A large majority of those severely wiped out by the housing crisis mortgaged the purchase of the home with minimal equity down, thus they had no skin in the game so to speak and we were willing to just walk away from their payments as a result. This is why so many homes went into foreclosure.

Any market, financial or otherwise, is subject to a crisis, however, the housing crisis has resulted in more restrictions imposed on lenders, and is certainly more prevalent in the back of buyers’ minds as they asses what they can afford.

Now that home values have recovered, what's the smartest home owning strategy going forward? Is it safe to assume a home will steadily appreciate?

Plain and simple – buy what you can afford! Consult with a mortgage advisor to receive a pre-approval letter if you are financing your home purchase. The pre-approval letter will reveal in what price range you should be shopping.

Time horizon is certainly a contributing factor to price appreciation. Because of the additional costs of a real estate transaction, a timeline of at least 5 years is usually a standard outlook to outweigh the costs of buying versus renting. This, of course, varies from market to market, and even neighborhood to neighborhood. If you envision yourself staying put for quite a while, we tend to see real estate prices appreciate over a long time horizon.

Is it safe to assume the home will be a substantial asset for funding retirement through a downsizing or reverse mortgage?

Owning a home is credited as one of the largest contributions or “escalator” to wealth. With that being said, substantial price appreciation can be observed on homes owned for multiple decades. Upon retirement, some individuals do not need the large family home they used to raise their families, and downsize. Downsizing generally results in additional gains pocketed from the price appreciation of the original home versus the price paid for the new, smaller home. Again, this is very market dependent as a smaller home in a different market may not equate to a smaller price tag all the time.

As to whether the additional “income” from a home sale can fund retirement, that is something the client should consult their certified financial advisor in regards to as everyone’s financial situation and needs in retirement vary.

As a young investor, what do I have to do to ensure I will be able to successfully purchase a home?

For many young couples looking to purchase their first home, the largest obstacle in achieving that is coming up with the down payment. There has been a definite shift towards this being a large struggle over the last decade as more and more young couples are burdened with large amounts of student debt given the increased costs of education. They are then forced to rent, which can be costly, and have minimal bandwidth to save for a down payment with all their various financial obligations.

A minimum 5-year timeline is reasonable in most markets in order to cover the costs of the transaction on both the buy side and the sell side if moving down the road versus price appreciation over that timeframe. Of course, the longer one stays in the home, the more the transaction costs are spread out over time which is coupled with additional time opportunity for price appreciation.

It does not necessarily always make sense to reach for the most expensive home. If buying the most expensive home they can afford means tapping out their budget and being on the line with meeting monthly expenses, this is probably not the wisest decision. Instead, buyers should look to purchase something in their price range that they love yet still allows them to live their daily lives while meeting financial obligations.

What kinds of misconceptions and fears are you seeing in the market among all your clients?

Working with buyers in the current NYC market, we would identify a lack of urgency as the biggest commonality across different price points. Buyers have an advantage over sellers in the current market as well as a large selection of inventory including both resale and new construction. This can lead buyers to stretch out a search as they feel what they are looking for will “still” be there.

In regards to young people taking on debt – as referenced in some responses above, we think the young buyer’s mentality towards debt has definitely changed living through the financial crisis as well as coupled with the increasing amount of student debt. As a result, some can be apprehensive to take on additional debt with a mortgage. However, talking through some of the advantages of mortgages, such as tax benefits, as well as reviewing the myriad of products available with a mortgage broker can alleviate some of these upfront concerns. We are seeing younger people having to rent longer than their predecessors given the inability to save for a down payment rather than aversion to taking on debt in the form of a mortgage.

 

10 Ways to Save for a Down Payment

Photo: ALAMY

Photo: ALAMY

Saving for a down payment for a home purchase can be one of the biggest obstacles for many in the home buying process. There are many factors that can determine which way of saving may be appropriate for you. If you have a longer time horizon for saving, perhaps getting into the markets may be a very viable option for example. It is always best discuss your savings and financial portfolio with a certified financial planner, however, there are many, easy way to save that you can implement in your daily routine to get you started on the path to home ownership. We aren't saying these methods will give you a $50,000 down payment overnight, but, if implemented, can certainly chip away at it over time.

Ways to Save for a Down Payment

1. Reduce Your Rent: If you are currently renting, review what you are currently paying and see what options you may have. If you have been a good tenant, use this as leverage to negotiate with your landlord for a better rate or no increase in rate. If it is feasible, have you considered living with parents or friends while you are trying to save?

2. Track Your Spending: In a so-called "cashless economy" it is easy to lose sight of how much you are spending, when most transactions are done on credit cards and Apple Pay. Consider making a spreadsheet to track expenses or using a tool such as Mint to keep track of your spending. You might be surprised at how much you are spending on Taxis or Ubers in a month's time. It is a great way to find areas to cut down on spending.

3. Make It Automatic: Take advantage of automatic savings that may be offered by your bank. Look into options such an auto transfer of X amount of dollar each month to savings or programs that round up each purchase to the nearest dollar and transfer that to your savings. Additionally, utilize your employer's direct deposit option and add your savings account as one of the accounts to receive the pay. You can specify the dollar amount to be deposited to your savings from each paycheck. This aligns perfectly with the old saying, "Out of Sight Out of Mind"

4. Tap Your IRA: If you have been saving for years in an IRA account, you may consider taking a withdrawal as part of your down payment. The IRS has an exception which allows first-time homebuyers to withdrawal up to $10,000 without facing the normal early withdrawal penalty for people under age 59 1/2. Your withdrawal from a Traditional IRA will be subject to income tax while a withdrawal from a Roth IRA will come out tax free (assuming the account has been established for 5 years). If you are considering an IRA withdrawal, speak to a qualified tax professional for your unique situation. 

5. Use Work Bonuses: If you receive an annual bonus at work, consider putting that into your down payment savings account each year. While it is important to have fun and celebrate your success, the wealth that owning a home generates will pay off more than that night out at the club.

6. Reduce Happy Hours: Everyone loves a good happy hour to help get through a tough week. If you are making it a habit 2 times a week it is costing you. Consider the average happy hour drink costing $7 with tax and tip. At twice a week, thats $728 a year on happy hour....assuming you only get one drink at each of those happy hours!

7. Check Monthly Bills: What monthly bills are you paying that might have areas to reduce the cost? Cable and cell phone bills are great places to dig deeper at the features you are paying for. Do you really need HBO at $12 a month PLUS Netflix for another $10 month in addition to the hundreds of cable channels you are getting? 

8. Don't Forget Family & Friends: Discussing money with anyone is always a sour subject, especially with family and friends. However, they can be an excellent source for help with your down payment. Consider asking parents for help as an early inheritance or as your wedding gift now in exchange for not receiving a a gift at the time of marriage. Instead of dinners from friends for your birthday or gift cards, let them know you are working towards purchasing a home and cash would be the best thing you could receive right now! True friends will understand. 

9. Gym Membership: Your gym membership is a great opportunity to cut down on monthly expenses. With so many fitness apps such as ClassPass, YouTube Videos, and equipment, exercising at home has never been easier. If you are an avid gym user, this option is probably not for you, but if you use your gym occasionally, it is something worth considering. Your $250/month Equinox membership is costing you $3,000 a year...that is a lot of money! If you cannot give up your memberships, look into options such as corporate discounts or special incentives that your gym or workout venue of choice offers. 

10. Get Your Caffeine Dose at Home: Sometimes a morning cup of coffee (or 3) feels like it is the only thing that will get you moving...trust us we know! However, your daily trip to Starbucks during the week for a grande nonfat latte at $4.78 is costing you $1,243. Save that money and drink your coffee at home and imagine how good coffee will taste in your new home!

 

When you make the decision to start saving for a home, speak to a real estate agent about what you are considering purchasing. They will be able to connect you with a mortgage broker so you have a full understanding of what you can afford, and, thus, how much you have to save.

5 Things to Know When Moving to New York City

moving from the suburbs to a city

So you decided to move from your quaint suburban home to the hustle and bustle of a large city. Perhaps its for that dream job or it has always simply been a dream to experience life in a big city, either way the move is highly stressful for many. What can you expect and what should you know to make your move a little easier? 

1. Plan on Downsizing

Life in a big city is more crammed, from your actual living space to the packed subway cars. When searching for your apartment, do not be shocked by the size of what your broker shows you. Unless you have a very high budget that affords you a spacious apartment with multiple beds, baths, and closets, space will be at a premium.

  • Closets can be hard to come by, even some of the largest apartments in NYC have smaller closets than you might currently have.
  • Go through your belongings before the move- this is a great opportunity to declutter and get rid of things that you no longer need or use.
  • Consider placing items in storage that will not fit into your new space.

 

Interested in moving to New York City? Contact Us and we can created a customized offering list tailored to your unique needs.

 

2. Visit Your Building Before the Move

After you officially secured your apartment, visit the building before the move to get acquainted with the location of freight elevators, loading docks, etc. This is also a great time to find out about building cable and internet options.

  • Introduce yourself to doormen, supers, and maintenance staff before the move. A smile can go a long way, and you will come to find that these individuals can be very helpful!
  • The friendlier you are to building staff, the more likely they will be give you “inside information” about move-ins in regards to elevator reservations, fees, etc. Knowledge is king in big cities!
  • Find out what cable companies your buildings support as well as if these companies offer preferred rates for building residents. Once you have made a selection, schedule an installation as soon as you know your move-in date as many companies are booked afew weeks out.

3. Fees

Big cities and luxury condo buildings seem to have a fee associated with everything. Try to understand what fees you may run into during your move so you can be better prepared.

  • If you are renting, ensure you have enough money in your checking account before you start your apartment search to cover things such as 1st month’s rent, security deposit, and broker’s fee. Do not be scrambling at the last minute to transfer money and get certified bank checks….you will need these!
  • Be aware of building fees associated with elevators if your move runs over schedule or outside of normal elevator operation hours
  • Have cash on hand at all times during your move for tipping

4. Known Your Building’s Moving Requirements & Be Prepared

Buildings have different requirements for moving in as well as logistics for move-ins. Be sure to review all this information so you can pass it along to your movers. Additionally, make your move less stressful by having an inventory system in place for your belongings and your valuables.

Check your building’s elevator schedule and schedule a move with them based on available timeslots. As soon as you have your date and time, pass this along to your movers so they can schedule their route accordingly to ensure timely arrival.

  • Verify if your building requires a Certificate of Insurance (COI) from the moving company as well as the amount. If required, ensure your moving company can provide this document. Insurance amounts vary from building to building.
  • Consider using a box numbering system for your belongings, so you can easily take inventory once your items arrive to the apartment.
  • Take caution with valuables! Keep all jewelry, watches, etc. on your person. Ladies- consider using your expensive bags rather than packing them and leaving them with the movers.

5 Tips for Making a Home Office

Home Office Tips

With all the technology it is no surprise that 'telecommuting' or working from home is on the rise as it can provide more work-life balance. Additionally, many run their business from their homes full time. A home office can be a valuable and productive space when done correctly, whether you are sitting down to pay the occasionally bill or running an empire from your home. Here are five things to consider when designing your home office.

Location: Consider what space within your home you are thinking about transforming into a home office. Consider spaces with large windows and light. Your surroundings can highly impact your work ethic and attitude, so if you are going to be spending a large amount of time in your office it is important to ensure it is positioned correctly. Have you given thought to separating your work space from your spouse's? Our 166 Perry Street listing incorporates an office for him as well as a "woman cave" for her which can be a functional work space.

Functionality: Having a balance between design and function is important when it comes to an office since the ultimate goal is to get work done. Of course we all want our spaces to be aesthetically pleasing, but keep functionality in mind when shopping for furniture, accessories, and decor. 

Organization: Make your space organized! It will eliminate clutter and allow for a more efficient work environment. Consider using your space wisely, as many home offices are on the smaller side. Shelves are a great way to use vertical space above a desk. There are some great desks that have a shelf system as part of the desk which is great for storage and organization. We love the amount of storage this Restoration Hardware desk offers.

Color: Paint the wall a color by which you will love to be surrounded. Different colors have different effects on mood and the feelings they evoke. The psychology of color certainly affects each one differently, however, blue is generally said to be the most productive color.

Equipment: Just like functionality vs. design, strike a balance between equipment and accessories/decor. It can be easy to spend on accessories to add to the space, however, it is important to ensure you have the proper equipment first so you can get work done. Invest in a good desk chair such as this one by Herman Miller.