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What Your Real Estate Agent Won’t Tell You

When shopping for real estate in New York City, there’s one simple choice you can make to ensure you’re getting lasting value. Your real estate agent probably won’t tell you what it is.


On the left is union-built 33 bond street, a pinnacle of highrise construction featuring luxury and affordable housing. On the right is non-union built Hero Building, plagued by floods, broken elevators and endless complaints from residents. 

Would you pay the same price for a Casio watch as you would for a Rolex? Of course not. A Rolex represents timeless quality, craftsmanship, and enduring value. It was made by highly trained men and women, at the apex of their trade, with a company standing behind them refusing to cut corners on materials or quality. A Casio? It tells the time, but it’s not a good investment. It wouldn’t make sense to buy a Casio if you could have a Rolex for the same price.


We’ve got news for you: when you purchase non-union built real estate, you may be paying Rolex prices for a Casio.


In the world of watches— as with cars, suits, and other high-ticket items — the quality of the product is reflected in the price. And consumers generally understand the difference between high-quality and low-quality. But in the world of New York City real estate, this is not the case. "Rolex quality" construction and "Casio quality" construction cost about the same. 

Like a Rolex, union-built buildings are constructed to the highest standards, by the most highly trained and skilled workers on the planet. Union workers complete grueling apprenticeships and certification programs, and undergo yearly refresher courses to ensure they are up to date on the latest tools, techniques and materials.

In the world of watches the quality of the product is reflected in the price. In the world of New York City real estate, this is not the case.

The same cannot be said of non-union contractors, the Casio brand of New York City construction. There are no standardizations or requirements— non-union contractors often can’t even verify if a new hire has ever set foot on a construction site before. The result is often a lower quality build and costly headaches down the road that can turn your property from a sound investment, into a money-pit. 


There are often drastic differences in quality between union and non-union built construction projects, yet the price differential between the space in these buildings is negligible. When you buy non-union, you’re often paying the same price for lower quality.


US Customs and Border Protection officers found 19 fake Rolex watches on June 15 while inspecting a shipment from Hong Kong. No New Yorker wants to pay Rolex prices for a cheap knock off.

Far too many New York City real estate shoppers are unaware of these differences. And their real estate agents are not filling them in. Why not? According to Steve Hodson, the president of Hodson Realty with over 40 years experience in the business, it’s because real estate agents do not want to “bite the hand that feeds.” According to Hodson, real estate agents will often cover listings in both non-union and union-built buildings. If they start spilling the beans about the potential differences in quality between the two, they risk being cut out of the non-union built buildings— an outcome that could cost them dearly. 


So what can you do to protect yourself as a real estate shopper? Tell your real estate agent you want to see the Rolexes of New York City real esate. Insist that they show you union-built buildings. 


Mark Colangelo is a writer and blogger.

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