With the collapse of the sellers' market, real estate agents are finding themselves in the driver's seat when it comes to charging fees.By Les Christie, CNNMoney.com staff writerOctober 31 2007: 1:57 PM EDT
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- During the housing boom, home sellers were in the driver's seat with real estate agents courting them - often at bargain commission rates. But now that the bubble has burst, the tables have turned.
In 1991, the average commission rate was 6.1 percent, according Steve Murray, of Real Trends, which tracks the brokerage industry. The rate inched down to 5.4 percent by 2001 and by the end of 2005, it stood at 5.02 percent.
Twenty-five years ago, no one was rushing to settle down in West Harlem. “My neighbors and friends who
lived here in the ’70s and ’80s said it was pretty bad,” explained resident James Pelfrey. “These days
people aren’t afraid to walk to the store or take their kids to school.” Though Nieuw Haarlem was
settled by the Dutch in the 17th century, it wasn’t until the 1880s that the area began exploding into
blocks of tenements, apartments and townhouses. The Depression helped drive what had become a political and
cultural hotbed for New York’s black community into the ground, giving way to decades of crime and helping to form the neighborhood’s nasty reputation. But because West Harlem’s unpleasant nature discouraged new real estate developments, it inadvertently led to the preservation of the area’s lovely century-old structures. Today, it is these desirable houses— as well as somewhat lower rents and a relaxed atmosphere, undisturbed by the same degree of
noise and bustle that characterizes Manhattan south of here — that are luring new residents to the area, which includes Hamilton Heights with its college-town feel and charming Queen Anne architecture, Manhattanville, site of Columbia’s
proposed expansion, and the historically tony enclave of Sugar Hill. “Originally, it was a matter of affordability; I was shocked at the prices,” said Pelfrey. “I stayed because of the old buildings and churches and the area’s diversity.”
Longtime resident Lula Rigby believes that the newer residents have led to positive changes. “I have always loved it here, but it’s definitely changed for the better,” she explained. “Old neighbors are moving out, and new ones are moving in.” While some residents fear continuing gentrification, others are quick to point out that that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “When I was younger, there were tons of drug dealers here,” explained Giovanni Pimentel. “They were like roaches. The new residents have caused them to disperse.” Though the area has mostly shed its lousy reputation, there are still a few remnants of its crimeriddled days. It’s rare, but there’s still an element of open substance abuse and crime and some old, abandoned buildings that look dangerous and filthy,” said Pelfrey. “But Harlem is changing, and so will this.” So what’s in store for the area? “One word: Gentrification,” said Pelfrey. “You can already see the luxury sales offices cropping up; people really see a lot of potential.