My Decision to List at the Bottom of the Market

 By Bill Primavera

The Home Guru

 Almost two years ago when I was invited to develop a column devoted to the real estate industry and care of the home and garden, I shared with readers that I was planning to sell my own home and that some of my columns would focus on the various steps I took to get ready for that.  Those steps have been taken, and I’m now listing my antique home, which includes an apartment and professional offices, on the very day this column appears.

But wait a minute, aren’t we at the bottom of the market?

Actually, the housing market was already well into its decline when I anointed myself The Home Guru, and since then, it has further eroded. Home values have plunged as much as 20 percent in my town, Yorktown, but that is not as bad as in some other communities served by this newspaper. While it might not be the best of times to venture forth as a seller, it’s not the worst of times either. It all depends on a number of factors including how any property fits into the mix of availability, its features which perhaps no other house on the market might offer, and the seller’s personal objectives.

The housing market in this area is really a mixed bag right now, where home values and sales can vary greatly just by crossing a town line.

For instance, in the area that we realtors refer to as the “golden triangle,” comprised of Larchmont, Rye and Harrison, sales and home values have actually increased significantly since this time last year, reflecting the recovery of Wall Street. But just 20 miles north where I live, the market is still on a bumpy kind of bottom. Here a house will still sell if priced right, but normally it takes longer and the buyer is in the driver’s seat.

Some potential sellers have decided to stay in place until the market recovers.  Just this month, I advised a family whose mortgage is now higher than the value of their home, to do exactly that, because they really don’t need to sell at this time. Sure, I may have lost a sale, but I know I gave the best advice I could. There will be another day to be of service to them.

While I have decided to list now, I’m not just jumping blindly into the fray. Even though the market for antique homes is small, perhaps only one percent of home buyers at any given time, my property also includes an apartment capturing a good rent and professional offices, placing it in a different category of offerings. In fact, with a special use permit, the entirety of the property can be utilized as professional offices where the owner does not have to live on the premises, as formerly required.  This capability was adapted into our town code recently as one way to help preserve large historic homes.

Some of my friends question why my wife and I would want to move from such a beautiful home that has been so good to us, literally paying for itself many times over in rent and business deductions. I in turn joke that I need more material for this column, but for us, it’s more an emotional and philosophical decision rather than a financial one. 

Many years ago when I was considering the public relations field, I was told that each project would be like having a new job, and I could roll many careers into one.  I have found that to be true. Likewise, I feel that enjoying a new living environment is like living a new lifetime. And both my wife and I are ready for yet another one.

Our move involves two transitions, actually, because my public relations business is housed in the office suite where much of my real estate business is carried out as well. When we had 12 staff members here, we needed the space, 3980 square feet to be exact, which is a larger home in my town. With the advent of new technologies, we don’t need as large an office.  If my next home is a smaller one, and I plan that it should be, I may simply rent the office space I need.

Here’s how the plan has gone so far, much of which I’ve reported. We did the “big” stuff like  replacing the roof, the boiler and oil tank, and restored a really gorgeous in-ground pool.  We cut down large trees that had gotten too close to the house and refreshed the gardens. Then we layered that with most of the preparatory work that I advise sellers to do. 

I invited in a professional home stager, and in the ensuing weeks have followed most of her advice, including de-cluttering, de-wallpapering, and painting both inside and out.  And where we could, we de-personalized, mainly by removing many personal photographs of four generations of our family, all in antique frames. 

So, I’m having a broker’s open house this Thursday and we’re almost ready to show. We’ve hidden much of our collectibles that we’re not quite ready to let go of and, as long as agents are asked not to open our closets, our secrets of concealment remain safe.

The weekend that this is written is filled with a mad dash of jobs nobody likes to do, such as cleaning the basement and attic.  Indeed, we didn’t do them but hired a terrific handyman, Ralph Nappi, to get them done which he did skillfully and in record time (for contact information, call me).    My wife and I just continued to organize the house and clean, clean, clean.

The hardest part was pricing the property “just right” for today’s market, considering that there are no comparables right now with other income properties. The easiest part was selecting which realtor to go with! 

If I don’t get an offer in a reasonable amount of time and at my price, which I think is right on target, I won’t be terribly disappointed. As my promotional flyer states, “this house isn’t for everybody, but for just one special family who needs a large home or for one business practice that requires professional offices in a high visibility location.”

If that special buyer is not out there right now, that’s okay.  We’ll enjoy living and working in the spruced up, new look of the house for a while longer, maybe slowly re-personalizing it by retrieving and displaying all those family photographs! 

Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® (, affiliated with Coldwell Banker, and a marketing practitioner ( For questions about selling or buying a home, he can be reached directly at 914-522-2076.