Erin and Chip Gaudreau definitely had to sell. They had two kids in a junior four, and the baby was sleeping in the entryway. But they never expected to have a signed contract within a week, and then “the head of the board thought she was doing us a favor by pushing it through,” says Erin. It happened so fast that they didn’t have any time to find a new place, and the family ended up bunking with her parents—in Massachusetts. Chip, an attorney, spent four months going back and forth on Amtrak, staying with friends and in hotels during the week.
Even in the best of circumstances, synchronizing selling and buying is nearly impossible. Co-op boards drag. New construction is delayed. But in this market, full of mixed messages and mortgage fear, sellers are prone to jump at a solid offer, even without a place to land. Often, the result is chaos, particularly if there’s no money left over for a sublet. But even if you have the means, finding a place fast isn’t easy. When Scott Letcher and his partner sold their 3,000-square-foot Chelsea penthouse, they expected to buy a new West Village loft. Then the developer backed out. “His wife found out about our girls,” says Letcher, referring to two pony-size Labradors, a Vizsla, and a Weimaraner (pictured). “She figured no one would get in the elevator with us.” After several rental buildings refused them, their broker, Elliman’s Toni Haber, called a friend at Furnished Quarters who set them up in a garden apartment for $10,542 a month. Sixteen months later, they’re in another rental, bracing themselves for a third move.
Hoping to avoid such a situation, Julie Elizabeth Cohen, vice-president of Dowling Realty Group, advised Tamara Behar to stay in her Cobble Hill one-bedroom after she bought a place in the Smith, a slow-rising condo nearby. Eventually, Behar got anxious and put her place on the market. It sold instantly, and she ended up in a Craigslist sublet that ends soon. “It is the opposite of freeing,” says Behar. “My life’s on hold. If this guy comes back in January, I’ll probably have to move in with Julie.”
“If you want to win on price, you have to be flexible,” says Elaine Clayman, a broker with Brown Harris Stevens. Usually, anyway. Clayman once listed an apartment with one major catch—that the closing couldn’t take place for a year, giving her sellers time to buy and move. “Everyone thought I was crazy,” she says. Eventually, a couple agreed, paying all cash. “I remember them not being happy about it,” she says, “but they accepted it. And that’s all that counts. ”