We’re expanding our spotlight series to shine more light on the vast real estate ecosystem in our own backyard.
Cindy Scholz was an obvious first choice to help us kick things off. She’s the founder of the Scholz Team at Compass. Under her leadership, they’ve closed millions in sales transactions across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Hamptons. Cindy is sought out by both buyers and sellers for her intimate understanding of the New York real estate process, and we’re excited to get a little more insight into her expertise.
What makes working in the New York market different from other places?
Everyone wants to own a piece of NYC. Working in NYC allows me to travel the world to meet new clients. New York has remained one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world, helped by foreign buyers. We’re a safe haven for international and domestic investors—stability and accessibility drive our market. There are not many places in the world that you can finance 80-90% of a real estate asset.
What is the biggest pain point for most people trying to buy a home?
Navigating the board process. Roughly 75 percent of the Manhattan housing inventory is comprised of co-ops. Buyers do not understand the additional financial requirements set the by co-op, such as minimum financing, which can be as high as 50% in certain Upper East Side buildings.
Most banks want to see one year of mortgage and maintenance in post-closing liquidity. Co-ops ask for a minimum of two years. Despite your assets, co-ops want to see a debt to income ratio of 25% or lower. Banks are happy with a ratio of 28-30%. I do my best to manage expectations upfront about the sweat equity required to purchase a co-op. Co-ops do trade at a 25-30% discount compared to condos, so the payoff is worth it in the end.
Where do brokers and agents provide the most value during the homebuying process?
Discovery alone isn’t a huge value-add, since finding a home is just the start of the process. Brokers add value by providing a holistic view of the process. A broker is only as good as their vendor list. Your agent should be able to provide you with references for an attorney, mortgage professional, accountant, and whomever else is necessary to help during the purchase process.
In our ultra-connected digital age, it’s generally not a lack of information, but the need to understand the relevant facts. The internet has brought radical transparency to real estate, but clients need help digesting this information. There's a lot of fake news out there,and it’s our job to cut through the noise.
An agent’s job should not end at the closing table. I stay in touch with my clients, and I appreciate when they reach out to see how their asset is performing. Many clients will ask for my advice on renovations to ensure they will see the best return on their investment.
What do you wish every homebuyer knew before putting an offer on a property?
To see a healthy return on investment you need to look at your purchase as a long term hold ~ 5-7 years—particularly when you're coming off a 9-year bull market.
Understanding dual agency is also essential. Buyers should always have their own representation. It is free! When a buyer goes directly to the listing agent, they engage in dual agency. The listing agent might be representing both parties, but their fiduciary responsibility is to the seller’s interest.
What is the most popular neighborhood to buy in NYC right now?
Money flows to value—half of my deals were in Brooklyn last year. In my opinion, Prospect Heights and Clinton Hill are seeing a rapid change in retail which continues to drive prices. The Upper East Side is on sale right now! If you can see past the maintenance fees, you can scoop up a spacious home at an attractive sticker price.
Where is real estate technology headed in 2019?
At Compass, we strive to build technology to enhance the broker experience and allow brokers to work smarter. We are seeing an influx of inventory which makes it vital to improve marketing. The days of print advertising are over. Print ads are vanity pieces for the broker. Digital advertising allows you to have insights into which campaigns bring in qualified leads. With these insights, the agent can create targeted campaigns. Artificial Intelligence will play a major role in the world of real estate in the next 12-24 months.
What are your biggest title and closing headaches and how do you think tech can help solve them?
There is a lack of transparency around the cost and process of running title. Title is a major expense for buyers, and I believe technology will eventually lower the costs if the buyer has more say in how title is ordered. Kickbacks are rampant in the title world and the buyer is never on the receiving end. I appreciate what Spruce is bringing to the market with a customer-centric product for both buyers and real estate institutions.
What is your favorite client success story?
Real Estate is a proven way to preserve and grow your wealth. I started my own real estate business at 20 years old, and I have had the privilege of growing with my clients. I am confident in saying that every buyer I have sold to has made a profit on their home.
I believe my career coincided with the start of a bull market and this might not always be the case. But, I love seeing my clients roll their profits into larger homes to start families or invest the proceeds into their business to create wildly successful startups. The investments I have helped clients make allow them the freedom to make choices.
Coffee, tea, or other?
My favorite coffee shop is Devoción in Flatiron. I appreciate good branding and excellent quality. With a Soho House type vibe and the freshest coffee around, you can’t beat it. They now have a sparkling Cascara drink which is high in antioxidants, and it's become my go to.
What’s the best part about working in New York?
NY is my home, and I love working at Compass HQ. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the most sophisticated buyers and sellers in real estate. My clients appreciate the forward-thinking approach Compass brings to what was previously an archaic approach to making the most significant investment of one’s life.
I am a huge proponent of financial literacy, particularly for women, and NYC allows me to connect my clients with the savviest wealth advisors in the world. My mission is to enhance my client’s lifetime real estate journey through financial literacy.