26 February 2010

OT: "Facebook weiss alles über uns" (Facebook knows everything about us)

This is the title of a very interesting article which appeared in two weeks ago in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the (at least in my opinion) German equivalent to the NY Times.

Without translating the whole article into English, here are some key points that may interest you, in case you are on Facebook or consider signing on:

  • Facebook may send invitations to join the site to people who you know, without your knowledge or participation
  • Facebook uses any of your own data you enter in your profile, including results of “what type of dog am I” or “my favourite quotes” etc.
  • Facebook will store any address book data you uploaded. That includes your gmail- or MSN address book, including all data attached to your friends’ addresses, such as birthdays etc.
  • If you sync your mobile- or PC-address book through Facebook, the site will keep any data, Facebook-member or not, and use those data for their own purposes
  • Facebook offers every non-member an option not to store their data. How you would know about this option if you are not already a member is unclear.
Facebook-founder Mark Zuckerberg stated in an interview this January that for him, the concept of privacy is outdated.

I'm a Facebook member, and this post is not about Facebook bashing. Just be aware: it's up to us users to determine how much privacy we keep to ourselves or let go off. Our – the users – behaviour influences not only our own data, but also the personal data of those people we interact with.

Have a good weekend.

19 February 2010

Modernism everywhere

Last week, I had clients in town looking for a condominium with ocean views.

At the second appointment, the listing Realtor showed us her father’s place; dad wants to move in with his family. A nice apartment with good ocean views from every room. 

When we walked into the second bedroom, we stepped into a time bubble. The room was completely wallpapered in grass-cloth; it looked fabulous.

The agent opened a cabinet door of a big old wall-unit, and very sweetly explained that she had promised dad to show us his built-in bar.

There it was, complete as when he set it up: liquor bottles, slightly blind-looking glasses, old-fashioned stirrers, cocktail napkins. All a bit dusty, all there. I wasn’t the only one who felt dad’s presence and the spirit of the room; we quipped that it was time to play a Rat-Pack LP, sit down and enjoy a whiskey sour.

Later that day in Fort Lauderdale, we entered another condominium, owned by Canadians who haven’t used the place enough to justify keeping it. They furnished it when they bought it, and have not updated anything since.

And that made it a modernist’s dream. Little swiveling red club-chairs, lucite, chrome-and-glass tables, a squarish yellow sofa. Incredible. I had to bite my lip not to ask if I could buy some of the furniture right off the spot. But that’s not really professional, so I kept my mouth shut and biting my lip instead.

More showings the next day – and that sound again, the one you only hear when being transmogrified. It happened, innocently enough, in a bathroom.

I beamed from ear to ear entering the bathroom and seeing this wallpaper, but then cringed, thinking about a buyer remodeling the place and ripping out a precious detail like this. Sigh.

As a Realtor, you can’t really walk around asking sellers to sell only to certain types of buyers. But I sure felt like it: Please sell only to folks who appreciate late 50’s wallpaper, 60’s club-chairs and grass-cloth. And who promise to leave them intact.

For those of us who love and appreciate mid-century modernism, sometimes you can stumble across it everywhere – if we just open our eyes. And to us, it’s worth saving.

05 February 2010

Property Values: What you pay for New Modern Construction

“A man, who every morning gets five slaps in the face from his grumpy wife, one day gets smacked only twice. For him, it’s a relatively good day.” – my dad, explaining the word “relative” to us when we were kids.

I often get inquiries for brand-new modernist homes, with a budget of, say $300,000 to $550,000. Good time for a reality check.

First off, let’s agree that new is relative and often means newish – say 2007 and younger. It also hints upwards of not-so-new: per square foot, 57% more than the median for all modern homes on the market. You may want to dig a bit deeper in the folds of your sofa if you look at median asking: $3.5m versus $1.3m; more stats below.

Aiming for a teeny tiny house-lette won’t get your wallet off the hook, but you'll have lots of room to roam. New homes are spacious: 5,425 sf or 499 sqm under air (median size; too many outliers to use average. – For new modern townhomes, see this previous post.)

Some of the new modern homes are simply spectacular – thank goodness, it’s all a matter of taste. If you are in the market for a newish modern home, here is a peek at what to expect.

At the upper end: 
Miami Beach waterfront, with 10 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, 20,000 sf (1,840 sqm), pool, 5-car garage, built in 2008. On 260' of water, two docks, lap pool and spa, elevated guest house/cabana, oversized rooftop terrace, double high-end kitchen appliances, staff house, generator. Asking $19,500,000 ($975/sf).

At the lower end:
Southwest Miami, 4/2 with 2,220 sf (204 sqm), built in 2008. New home on corner lot, by award-winning builder, never lived in. Features high ceilings, porcelain bathrooms, European cabinetry, alarm- and surround sound pre-wired, recessed lighting, stone counter tops, stainless steel appliances, washer & dryer, California closets, wood wall paneling, 8 ft. tall doors, well-ready, has natural gas. Asking $390,000 ($176/sf).

Typical median-priced:

Fort Lauderdale waterfront, 5/6, built in 2009. Located in a cul-de-sac on 206' of water, with top-of-the-line appliances, pool, hot pool, high ceilings, marble and wood floors, audio/visual wiring throughout. All window and doors are commercial grade with impact glass. Asking 3,750,000 ($571/sf).                                                                                                           
Statistics: Modernist Single Family Homes ≤2007

Currently available: 41
Asking prices: $390,000 - $24,000,000, median $3,500,000
Asking per sf: $167 - $2,191, median $658
Size under air: 2,220 sf - 20,000 sf, median 5,425 sf
BR/BA: 3/2.5 - 10/12 with 3 guest bathrooms

Source: own data, compiled from SEF-MLS


A quick reminder to all prospective buyers: 


$8,000 First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit, means if you did not own a home in the past three years. And up to $6,500 for existing homeowners looking to buy a different primary residence. Details are here.

– Have a great Superbowl-weekend!