Ray Feagin isn’t afraid of a challenge. As a retired Marine of 20 years, and now the site security manager for the World Trade Center, he’s grown used to high-stress environments.
For instance, New York City’s real estate market, where he was looking to buy a home in February 2020 — right before the coronavirus hit.
The Big Apple is notorious for its expensive and competitive real estate market. But the coronavirus threw everything for a loop. Back when the virus hit in March and April of 2020, tens of thousands of New Yorkers fled the city, causing real estate prices to drop.
Yet once coronavirus restrictions started lifting during the late spring and early summer, a flood of real estate activity kicked off, with many buyers entering the market at the same time.
Buyers began looking for outdoor spaces, home offices, access to parks, and homes located in smaller buildings so they could avoid the crowded lobbies and elevators of larger ones.
That means many Manhattanites began looking to the outer boroughs and suburbs, and Manhattan housing inventory is actually rising — a stark change from the market prior to the coronavirus.
For now, it seems the city’s hardest-hit market is luxury homes, while more affordable homes — in New York City, that means all properties priced below $2 million — are still selling just fine.
So don’t be too quick to believe the think pieces popping up declaring that “the city is over.” New York City is far from over.
In fact, top New York real estate agent Raja Tayeb, who worked with Feagin on his Queens home purchase, says he’s never seen anything like the frenzy of the current market.
“I’ve been doing this for 16 years, and I’ve never been busier,” he reveals. “It’s incredible.”
Let’s dive into how Tayeb helped Feagin capitalize on the unique opportunities of the coronavirus-fueled real estate market and realize his lifelong homeownership dream.
Before coronavirus, Feagin couldn’t gain traction with sellers
Feagin started his home search back in early February of 2020, well before coronavirus shutdowns began to sweep the nation.
“Rates went really low — extremely low — so I felt like it was very important to take advantage of that,” he reveals.
“I was just tired of throwing away money in rent. I thought, why pay somebody else’s mortgage when I could be paying my own?”
Feagin says owning a home has always been an aspiration, and when he retired from the Marines after 20 years of service, the timing just felt right.
Unfortunately, he didn’t have much success — that is, at first.
“Pre-COVID, it was very difficult for us to lock in a deal. We lost on several bids,” explains Tayeb. “Even though he had great income and great credit, nobody wanted to go with his offer because he had zero down, and he was asking for a seller’s concession.”
In this case, the seller concession Feagin sought was asking the seller to cover his closing costs (which add up to between 2% and 5% of the loan amount), so he wouldn’t have to pay them out of pocket.
Typically, sellers are only willing to consider closing cost concessions when there’s little competition for a home and they’re trying to entice buyers.
In a multiple offer situation, it’s unusual for a seller to concede on closing costs. To that end, Tayeb estimates that he and Feagin looked at around 40 properties, and unsuccessfully bid on eight of them, prior to the initial coronavirus shutdowns.
Striking while the iron was hot (and competition was low!)
When the coronavirus hit Queens in mid-March, it hit hard. New York City became the epicenter of the virus, and extensive lockdown measures were put in place to slow the spread.
With in-person meetings and home showings unable to happen, real estate activity basically slowed to halt.
But by early April, things were slowly starting to open back up. Tayeb realized that he and Feagin had a unique window of opportunity.
“I called Ray and I said, ‘I think this is going to be the opportunity; I think this is going to be the time for us to really shine,” Tayeb recalls. “Reason being that a lot of buyers are on the fence. There’s a lot of uncertainty, so they won’t be coming out and looking at properties.”
Tayeb knew sellers would be extremely motivated, and there’d be little to no competition for Feagin. Given their unique no-money-upfront offer strategy, it was an important moment to seize.
So they decided to continue their search.
Finding an unexpected dream home
Feagin and Tayeb hit the ground running, driving around Queens seeking for-sale signs, and viewing homes during a time when most buyers were nervous to enter even an empty house for a real estate showing.
Throughout his search, Feagin had been insistent on only looking for two-family homes, to the point where he wouldn’t even consider single-family options.
That is, until Tayeb reached out with a unicorn opportunity.
“Just out of the blue, one day, my agent said, ‘You know what, Ray? I know you’re only interested in two-family homes, but I’ve got one single-family home I want to show you,” Feagin shares.
He wasn’t convinced at first, and didn’t want to waste anyone’s time looking at a home he had no intention of buying. But his agent finally talked him into the showing.
“He said, ‘Trust me, I’ve been with you for months now and I know what you’re looking for. I know your style. Come with me,’” Feagin remembers. He decided to give the home a shot.
Needless to say, it was love at first sight.
The single-family duplex had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a finished basement, a one-car garage, and was set in the popular neighborhood of Richmond Hill, a mere ten-minute walk from the nearest subway.
As soon as he walked through the door, Feagin knew he wanted to put a contract on the home (not without an “I told you so” from Tayeb, of course).
“If this house was a woman, we would have been married that day,” Feagin jokes.
Timing the offer just right
The timing of finding “the one” really paid off. He immediately put in an offer for $665,000 — just over the asking price. The seller accepted.
Best of all? Feagin got exactly the deal he was hoping for.
“He got zero down, he got the seller’s concession that he wanted on the closing costs,” Tayeb shares. “And he came out with nothing out of his pocket.”
Getting the whole package — and then some
But Feagin’s luck didn’t end there.
One of the sellers happened to be a popular interior designer with a cool 200,000 Instagram followers. She’d completely renovated the home and decorated it with beautiful furnishings and top-of-the-line finishings (for example: the finished basement was decked out in white Italian marble).
The sellers were moving to Miami and didn’t need the furnishings, so Feagin was able to negotiate buying the home completely furnished — all decor included — and even got a car!
“I ended up buying their car, too, because the driveway was so tight; it was just too much to try to keep going in and out with my truck,” Feagin shares.
His excitement for the home is palpable.
“When I posted the pictures on social media, I ended up getting close to 2,000 comments,” he says proudly.
A special closing
Despite the fact that he was buying a home in a time of uncertainty and upheaval, Feagin says his closing went off without a hitch.
“I was in the military for 20 years, so I took advantage of the VA loan,” he reveals. “And that was as smooth as possible.”
By the time he reached the closing stages of the process, many of the real estate services that had previously been held up by coronavirus restrictions had adapted to the new “normal.”
For example, Feagin signed his purchase contract over Zoom, and he didn’t meet his real estate attorney in person until closing day. According to Tayeb, Feagin remained adaptable and focused throughout the transaction.
Finally, after all of the disappointments, searches, and setbacks, Feagin realized his dream and closed on his first home. And he did it on a special day: “Believe it or not, I ended up closing on July 28, which is actually my birthday,” he says. “We were all working to try to make it happen for my birthday. So it worked out!”
Perseverance pays off
It’s easy to look at Feagin’s story and think that he just happened to have really great luck, buying a fully furnished dream home with zero competition.
But Tayeb insists that Feagin’s determination and flexibility played more of a role than one might expect.
“Ray was flexible with his search, and he looked at many different neighborhoods and types of properties,” Tayeb explains. Not only was he willing to change the type of property he was looking for, but “he was willing to adapt to the Zoom conference calls and jump in and go over the properties.”
Feagin is just as complimentary about working with Tayeb and his team.
“They were extremely patient and we traveled all throughout Queens to look for homes over several months,” he shares. “They were the best!”
All in all, it took them six months from search to close, and Feagin couldn’t be happier with his decision.
“Best birthday gift ever, right?” he says proudly.
Header Image Source: (Courtesy of Ray Feagin)