Matrix Blog

Archive for October, 2008

3Q 2008 Queens Market Overview Available For Download

October 29, 2008 | 1:36 pm | | Reports |

The 3Q 2008 Queens Market Overview [pdf] that I author for Prudential Douglas Elliman [PDE] is available for download. Due to demand, I expanded the Long Island/Queens Market Overview into two separate reports.

To review the report methodology.

An excerpt

…Both price indicators have declined nearly every quarter since the first quarter of 2007. Median sales price in the current quarter is $400,000, down 11.4% from the $451,250 of the prior year quarter and down 20% from the $480,000 market peak in first quarter 2007. Average sales price reached $436,575 this quarter, down 8.8% from the prior year quarter average sales price of $478,752 and down 11.2% from the $485,455 average sales price for the first quarter of 2007. The market trends by quintiles showed a wide range of price trends. The entry level or first quintile was $175,000 and showed no change in median sales price from the prior year quarter. The weakest segment was the third or middle quintile, that saw a 25.8% decline in median sales price to $335,000 from $451,250 in the same period last year…

Download report: 3Q 2008 Queens Market Overview [pdf]

3Q 2008 Long Island Market Overview Available For Download

October 29, 2008 | 1:32 pm | | Reports |

The 3Q 2008 Long Island Market Overview [pdf] that I author for Prudential Douglas Elliman [PDE] is available for download. Due to demand, I expanded the Long Island/Queens Market Overview into two separate reports.

To review the report methodology.

An excerpt

…The median sales price for the fifth consecutive quarter has fallen from the prior year quarter and seven of the last eight quarters. The Median sales price at $415,000 was down 6.2% from $442,380 in the same period last year. Median sales price is off 7.8% from its peak two years ago during the same period when it was $445,521. Average sales price saw a similar pattern suggesting that the price decline was not due to a skew in the mix of what sold over the quarter. The average sales price was $508,936 this quarter, down 7.3% from the prior year quarter result of $548,883…

Download report: 3Q 2008 Long Island Market Overview [pdf]

[Fee Simplistic] The Greenspan Doctrine: “Protecting The Stockholder’s Interest” Or Watch Those Assumptions

October 29, 2008 | 1:00 pm |

Fee Simplistic is a regular post by Martin Tessler, whom after 30 years of commercial fee appraiser-related experience, gets to the bottom of real issues by seeing the both the trees and the forest. He has never been accused of being a man of few words and his commentary can’t be inspired on a specific day of the week.

…Jonathan Miller

For those who saw former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan’s testimony before Congress on Thursday October 23rd it was almost a mea culpa but no cigar. When queried by Congressman Waxman as to why he did not intercede with regulations to prevent the banking world from continuing its underwriting and issuance of CMBS & CDO sub-prime bonds and their toxic derivative permutations Mr. Greenspan answered that he believed the market would prevail to correct abuses as Wall Street would act to protect its shareholders. Those of us who dealt with the investment banking community knew that it was really the year end bonus pool that governed Wall Street’s actions and not stockholder interests.

The failure of the Fed and the SEC to act in a situation absent loan underwriting standards coupled with off-balance sheet securitization where the underwriters and lenders had no “skin in the game” defied logic and economic reality much less common sense. You did not need a PhD in economics to understand that disaster was lurking around the corner which FEE SIMPLISTIC called attention to on several postings. It was all based on an underlying assumption that the market would be on a perpetual rise and values would escalate so why worry?

All of this pales against more astute commentary from my country weekend neighbor who is employed by a major equity buyout firm. As we were discussing the state of the real estate market this past July I commented on the Blackstone Group’s purchase of Sam Zell’s Equity Office Properties portfolio back in early 2007 and how they immediately sold off groups of properties to other investors at substantial markups. FEE SIMPLISTIC (May 2007) noted it was like buying wholesale and selling at retail. One of the buyers at $7.25 billion for 8 midtown Manhattan buildings was Macklowe Properties who ended up having to surrender title because they could not sustain the debt service. My neighbor commented that the “smart money” guys that he worked for in the buyout firm always said, “when Sam Zell is selling you don’t want to be buying”.

So the question is: after all these years of listening to the former Fed chairman spout his inscrutable prognostications about the economy, the credit markets and interest rates should we have been listening and watching Sam Zell?

And the corollary is: will the recessionary cycle end when Sam Zell starts buying again?

Tags: , ,

[NYT] Expert Q&A: A Downturn for New York Real Estate? Part II

October 24, 2008 | 12:41 am | | Public |

Here’s the remainder of the Q&A column I was invited by the New York Times to participate in, along with Vicki Been of the NYU/Furman Center.

I enjoyed the process and was asked to do more in the future.

Expert Q&A: A Downturn for New York Real Estate?

This is the second session. There were originally supposed to be three, but they asked more questions in each of the two so I suppose they felt they had enough.

And who needs reality television when you’ve got Karl Rove speaking at the Mortgage Bankers Association’s annual convention.

[Getting Graphic] GDP Size Matters (Bailout-wise)

October 24, 2008 | 12:32 am | |

Getting Graphic is a semi-sort-of-irregular collection of our favorite BIG real estate-related chart(s).

Zubin Jelveh’s Odd Numbers blog at from has a terrifc chart that ranks countries with a bailout in place by percentage of GDP.

Staggering – it makes the US $700B bailout seem like a drop in the bucket relative to other countries. Of course, more drops are coming. Incidentally, those countries on the list have been on a US consumer buying spree, including real estate.

Check out the Paulson interview on Charlie Rose on Tuesday. Is it just me, or was US Treasury Secretary Paulson’s defense of the current administration’s handling of the credit crunch and his job exit strategy strange? I wonder why he would not consider remaining in office (assuming the new president wants him) to oversee the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression?

This just in: The evil man theory of failure.

UPDATE: If you are feeling a little upbeat today – confidence feeling better, likely because it is Friday, I have just the thing to knock you down. No I am not talking about the Dow Futures falling 500 points overnight. Next year, someone is predicting the Dow to drop another 41% over the next year because earnings estimates are too high.

Click here for original graphic.

At some point down the road, albeit later than sooner, won’t we see a surge in real estate activity? Stock market volatility is crazy and borrowers are restrained from financing now. Pent up demand and bloated inventory…

Tags: ,

[Palumbo On USPAP] USPAP, No, You’re Misleading Me.

October 23, 2008 | 11:36 pm |


Palumbo On USPAP is written by Joe Palumbo, SRA, a long time appraisal colleague and friend who is also an Appraisal Qualifications Board (AQB) certified instructor and a user of appraisal services. Joe is well-versed on the ever changing landscape of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice [USPAP].

…Jonathan Miller

Although I am supposed to be managing a process, it is quite often that I “get my hands dirty” and dive in.

Reviewing appraisals and conversing with appraisers keeps me close to the issues of the market as well as helping me get a handle on the realities and challenges of dealing with a nationwide professional vendor panel. Most of the time this is a pleasure and very reassuring: I get to observe new markets, some of which are NOT declining, yes that is correct, not a typo, and I also have discussions with highly skilled appraisers who enlighten me on their markets via articulate thorough (appraisal) analysis so my risk is mitigated as best it can be. To those TRUE business partners I say thanks and I look forward to the next challenge for us to work on TOGETHER.

Unfortunately, like always here are some bad apples. Those who accept appraisal assignments with a sense of entitlement, who also tend to fail miserably in communicating let alone solve the appraisal problem. And just so we are clear here we are NOT talking about questioning someone’s “value”. In the relocation business it is standard protocol to obtain two or three appraisals and then query each appraiser based on what was observed as it relates to facts about the subject, market conditions, trends, common comparables used etc. The summary of responses is recorded so that the “intended user”, an employing corporation, can (try) to make sense of this highly subjective process. A lot of the questions we (in-house staff) ask we already know the answers to and how they impact the analysis (if at all) but we ask anyway so the client and employee can gain some reassurances on some real estate related misconceptions and such. We are not a management company and we pay market fees and allow for ample completion time. All we ask in return is thorough credible appraisals in a timely manner and endurance of the back-end process.

The specifics of my “bad experience” involve my query of an appraiser’s room count as it related to what was reported by the two others. Seems this gentleman included both an above ground laundry and utility room as part of the “room count”, where HIS local peers did not. Item of note here is the both realtors did NOT exaggerate the room count via this method of counting. When I pointed that out and merely suggested that he “clarify, explain why, or possibly modify his room count”, I was met with a terse one line response “per USPAP to change the room that would be misleading”. The terse response to that one question was followed by a petulant response to the several other items noted in contrast to the other reports. Since this is not my first day on the job, nor the first such role I have had as a manager of the appraisal process, I promptly finalized the summary of my findings internally so as to “pull up the anchor” and move on. CLEARLY this is not even a USPAP I figured I would have some fun with this guy. This kind of response to this kind of issue makes me wonder what some people are thinking and why there is such a sense of entitlement. I wrote back: “thank you sir for your response, I appreciate it. No worries on the room count issue, but I just want to clarify one thing: Acting unprofessional and petulant and providing a response like this the worse USPAP crime going: YOU”RE MISLEADING ME into thinking you belong in the appraisal profession!! Maybe you have done the best appraisal I will ever read, and the valuation conclusion is rock-solid but that gets lost in dialogues like this”.

Don’t get me wrong, I know everyone has a bad day every now and then. Unfortunately unlike my last appraisal management gig where fee panels can cover 90% of the (pre-determined) lending area, I have no idea where the next “move” will be. We qualify and engage within a small window and trust tremendously in those we engage. 2008 has revealed this type of response and attitude more than one would like to see. I get it: is very tough out there right now. Just remember no matter what business you are in that angry and unprofessional does not work. Angry sends a message beyond what you think and begs the question of empathy VS apathy. Also. when you quote USPAP be carefulthere may be a hidden meaning to what you quote.

Tags: , , ,

[Commercial Grade] I-Rate Over The Agencies

October 23, 2008 | 11:08 pm |


Commercial Grade is a post by John Cicero, MAI who provides commentary on issues affecting real estate appraisers, with specific focus on commercial valuation. John is a partner of mine in our commercial real estate valuation concern Miller Cicero, LLC and he is, depending on what day of the week it is, one of the smartest guys I know. …Jonathan Miller

There is no shortage of villains in this market meltdown (see CNN’s 10 Most Wanted Culprits of the Collapse). Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, even got a concession from Alan Greenspan that he was “partially wrong in opposing regulation of derivatives” and acknowledged that financial institutions didn’t protect shareholders and investments as well as he had expected.”

Though there has been lots of finger pointing, I think that the rating agencies are getting off way to easily. Sure, they’ve been scolded, but considering the extent of the fallout and their role, more than a slap on the wrist is in order. Today’s New York Post reports how the credit rating analysts saw the collapse coming years ago, but did nothing because it was such profitable business.

Over the years, I couldn’t understand how so many inflated appraisals prepared for the investment banks got by the rating agencies, the supposed watchdogs. As I’ve said in past posts, my firm sat on the sidelines when it came to CMBS appraisals because we didn’t play the game, and the rating agencies, who were supposed to be the game referees, were on the take. Where is the outrage over their conduct and why haven’t those senior executives been shown the door?

Tags: ,

[NYT] Expert Q&A: A Downturn for New York Real Estate?

October 22, 2008 | 12:41 am | | Public |

Been crunchin’ two new market reports 24/7 (one is a re-design) to be released very soon so my posts have been few and far between. In the meantime, here’s a Q&A column I was invited by the New York Times to participate in, along with Vicki Been of the NYU/Furman Center.

It works like this: NYT announces the Q&A session and then picks out questions they want the experts to answer. It’s really a format I enjoy.

Expert Q&A: A Downturn for New York Real Estate?

This is the first session. There will be two more over the next several days.

Of course, Gossip Girl was also on many people’s minds.

[Jackass Analogy] Securitization Explained

October 20, 2008 | 10:49 am |

Matrix is the blending of economics, real estate and of course, farm animals. Here’s the latest low-brow explanation of how the bailout works, as passed around that series of tubes (Hat tip to Marty).

So here goes:

Young Chuck moved to Texas and bought a donkey from a farmer for $100.
The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day.

The next day he drove up and said, ‘Sorry son, but I have some bad news, the donkey died.’

Chuck replied, ‘Well, then just give me my money back.’ The farmer said, ‘Can’t do that. I went and spent it already.’

Chuck said, ‘Ok, then, just bring me the dead donkey.’ The farmer asked, ‘What ya gonna do with him? Chuck said, ‘I’m going to raffle him off.’ The farmer said You can’t raffle off a dead donkey!’ Chuck said, ‘Sure I can – watch me. I just won’t tell anybody he’s dead.’

A month later, the farmer met up with Chuck and asked, ‘What happened with that dead donkey?’ Chuck said, ‘I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at two dollars a piece and made a profit of $998.’ The farmer said, ‘Didn’t anyone complain?’ Chuck said, ‘Just the guy who won. So I gave him his two dollars back.’

Chuck now works for Goldman Sachs.

Tags: ,

[The Navigator] Strategic Planning Can Get Appraisers Under The TARP

October 20, 2008 | 10:13 am | |

Joseph P. Egan is a Massachusetts Certified General Real Estate Appraiser with over 25 years of professional valuation experience. The assignments performed by his firm, Joseph P. Egan & Associates, cover a broad range of commercial real estate properties as well as family and closely-held businesses in Cape Cod, Nantucket and Southeastern Massachusetts. This experience intersects with all major industries such as the automotive, food service, healthcare, lodging, marine, professional services, recreational, and retail sectors. Joe is a thoughtful and thorough writer who draws on this experience when delivering unique insight on issues that impact appraisers in today’s market. I am deeply grateful to have Joe’s to help us “navigate” this challenging environment for appraisers.
– Jonathan Miller

Earlier this month the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) became a done deal and the U.S. Treasury has since been diligently crafting a global strategy to implement the greatest government bailout or rescue since the 1930’s.

Despite the many unknowns of the $700 billion program, one underlying theme being increasingly acknowledged is that TARP related assets will stimulate demand for experienced workout related professionals. Given what we know, it appears the increase will largely concern asset collateralized by commercial real estate and new construction assets.

One piece of evidence of the growing demand are the widely published reports of the FDIC’s efforts to employ more workout professionals beginning with retirees possessing prior on the job experience gained in the prior S&L bailout. In the private sector, Anthony LoPinto of SelectLeaders a leading commercial real estate recruiter stated in a recent blog post that due to “a meltdown of the financial system” and the need to “contend with the large pools and billions of dollars of commercial real estate loans that will be maturing over the next 12 to 36 months”, demand for experienced workout and restructuring professionals is expected to increase. An anecdotal review of available job postings, hiring news, and general industry dialogue all seem to corroborate Mr. LoPinto’s front line perspective.

The positive news is advisory and valuation companies of all types will likely have opportunities to meet the growing need for workout services. Professionals and organizations with prior workout exposure may have a leg up and perhaps be most inclined to seize opportunities. Less experienced professionals seeking to diversify into the arena can still adopt strategic and focused measures to explore opportunities.

Regardless of your level of workout experience, before dipping into this inviting yet clouded pool, it may be best to develop a reasonable short list of what we currently perceive to be in store under TARP and highlight a few differences between the last time workout services was a growth industry. Armed with this perspective (which is being further refined at this moment) a range of possible workout opportunities likely to be offered in the marketplace can be brought into closer focus.

Fully recognizing that the range of differences is an evolving topic, as TARP unfolds the short list of current differences include:

  • The financial and systemic magnitude of the TARP program and the solution it hopes to provide are much larger and more global than the S&L bailout. From a structural perspective, the range and diversity of market participants, stake holders and service providers will be broader as well.
  • Using the establishment of FIRREA in 1989 as the starting point, the S&L bailout lasted into the mid 1990’s. The timeframe for the TARP program is unknown due to dependent variables such as the type of assets to be acquired, price levels achieved, the degree to which assets are performing, holding periods (some assets may be held to maturity), and the manner in which Treasury adjusts their terms over time. Continued bank mergers and failures along with the dysfunctional state of the commercial credit pipeline, thus triggering the degree to which banks will need to participate in the TARP program, all remain significant variables as well.
  • In the S&L bailout, the bulk of assets acquired by the RTC and resold comprised whole asset sales acquired from a neat profile of U.S. banks. A significantly higher percentage of the troubled assets to be acquired under TARP, however, are expected to comprise internationally held whole mortgages and other financial instruments of many blends, rather than primarily hard assets such as real property. In addition, the troubled assets will be divided among the yet to be named asset managers in two groups handling either whole loans or securities backed by a multitude of mortgages.
  • Based on available information, gaining adequate control of securitized assets, aptly assessing risk, and developing reliable pricing and buy/sell mechanisms, particularly for securitized assets, will be the major challenges.
  • Through the consistent introduction of “innovative debt” structures and greater reliance on private rather than institutional capital, a broader pallet of international stakeholders now exists. The consistent formation of new private venture funds keen on opportunities to acquire distressed assets at favorable terms is just one example of how this realm is already expanding. Another stakeholder may comprise tax payers like you and me under a plan being considered where Treasury financing would be provided in selected joint venture transactions. The equity partnerships are aimed at promoting assets sales while providing the opportunity for tax payers to be a stakeholder.
  • Qualifying banks deciding whether to retain or acquire collateralized assets not sold to Treasury will represent another type of potential workout client. Certainly, the relaxing of market to market requirements, changes on the treatment of distressed assets in whole mergers, along with restrictions on executive pay, equity participation, and recoupment could provide incentives for banks to strongly consider holding or acquiring assets, except for the most seriously impaired. As part of this decision making process, banks will require workout related guidance on assets collateralized by real property.
  • The range of sophisticated analytical tools and the level of readily accessible public and proprietary market data, software applications and information technology have significantly increased since the 1990’s. Consequently, on the regional or local level appraisers providing the most sought after workout services will be required to demonstrate the high value capabilities and specialized technical expertise not readily decipherable from third party data sources or based on remotely developed software models.
  • Participating appraisers must fully understand the needs and structure of this evolving process which over time will ultimately become a sophisticated and highly channeled niche market. Consequently, a new long-term commitment to being properly positioned on the right regional and national radar screens will be paramount. Getting there first, establishing your targeted expertise, and being “top of mind” is even better.
  • Due to the magnitude of the current rescue plan as we know it, efficiency and credible assignments results will even rank higher. Project management skills, accountability, the ability follow defined scope of work requirements, and the willingness to provide high touch follow up service will no doubt reign supreme.
  • Given the volume of assets to be managed and Treasury’s emphasis on the “paramount need for expeditious implementation”, asset managers and other workout clients will seek out service providers with the capacity to reliably complete multi-property or portfolio assignments in the most optimum manner possible.

With these observations in mind, in addition to appraisals, some ideas on the types of targeted workout related services to be requested will include:

  • Liquidation Value The ability to estimate reasonable and adequately supported liquidation values will be needed area of expertise. Assisting banks in the development of “fair value” estimates on ORE properties could perhaps be another related service to be requested. (See FDIC, FIL 62-2008, Guidance on Other Real Estate, issued July, 2008)
  • Development Consulting Professionals and organizations with a firm local and regional grasp on absorption rates, development costs, unit pricing, sales concessions, bulk sale analyses, etc. or the more encompassing market and feasibility studies, will be sought out. Depending on your geographic region, through properly developed scope of work scenarios this niche service sector can offer good opportunities for developing a solid niche and attracting ongoing and repeat assignments.
  • Market Analysis Providing market data and specialized analysis to a range of clients are examples of the type of work out related assignments likely to be requested. Possible scenarios include requests for supplemental market data and analysis to be considered by a client in connection with an existing appraisal they are currently reviewing. Individuals and organizations performing advisory or valuation services in a market area where you have superior expertise or better resources may comprise another client group. The need for up to date and reliable market data and trend analyses to be utilized in connection with a client’s internal portfolio review processes is another area where market analysis services will have a good fit in the workout arena. Since the ability to assess a borrower’s capacity to continue to pay on a performing loan will be front and center, one offshoot in this area could possibly involve assignments supporting the underwriting and risk assessment processes with greater precision. Recognizing that the original mortgage was created at both a different time and underwriting scenario, such clients may require more on the ground intelligence addressing critical topics such as the state of the immediate market area and the competitive environment.
  • Property or Subject Specialization Professional advisory and firms with specialized areas of expertise will be sought out to provide reliable solutions concerning unique properties and problems. And based on what we already know about lax underwriting and loose credit standards, there will be many unique properties and problems. In a workout environment, prudent asset managers realize they cannot know every market or every property type and are inclined to turn to specialists for answers. The byproduct — timely and sound decision making is what they need most. One obvious example of specialized subjects involves the broad category of distressed properties with the possibility of further segmentation. Additional examples may include specialization by property type (e.g., gas stations, net leased restaurants, lodging properties, recreational properties, food processing plants, interval ownership resorts, etc.), by region or perhaps based on very specialized knowledge within a closely aligned field (e.g., geology, agriculture, environmental engineering, etc.).

The preceding review of the major aspects of the TARP program and brief list of likely workout services serve as only a brief back drop to the anticipated growing need for professional workout services. Certainly, many other key observations are worth noting and no doubt these waters will become clearer in coming weeks. Nevertheless, the preliminary list serves its purpose of being a vehicle to inspire interested professionals to begin to strategically consider the key questions surrounding the future for workout assignments, essentially the who, what, where, when, how, and why of it all. Naturally, for those among us already experiencing a steady increase in workout related assignments sharing your valued observations would be a true reflection of professionalism as we join together and prepare to meet the serious challenges before us in the coming financial and economic environment.

Tags: , , , , ,

Crains New York Business Economic Spotlight Chart – October 2008

October 20, 2008 | 12:01 am | | Charts |

I have had the pleasure of providing a monthly chart for the Economic Spotlight section of Crain’s New York Business magazine since September 2003. Here is the latest, which appears in the current issue of Crain’s New York Business.

Source: Crain’s New York Business

Go here for a complete archive of my Crains’s New York Economic Spotlight charts that have been published. They are organized by year.


[Commercial Grade] The New York City Income Property Market Report – First Half 2008 – is available for download

October 19, 2008 | 11:01 pm | Reports |


Commercial Grade is a post by John Cicero, MAI who provides commentary on issues affecting real estate appraisers, with specific focus on commercial valuation. John is a partner of mine in our commercial real estate valuation concern Miller Cicero, LLC and he is, depending on what day of the week it is, one of the smartest guys I know. …Jonathan Miller

The semi-annual market report that I prepare on behalf of investment sales brokerage firm Massey Knakal Realty Services is available for download. This report was particularly interesting in that it reflected the multi-family and mixed-use sales market in New York City post “credit crunch.” We found that the number of sales was down significantly, 31% overall from the same period last year, with the biggest declines in Northern Manhattan and the Bronx. The median price per square foot was $222/SF, down 5% from the prior period, while the median cap rates increased to 5.8% and the median GIM declined to 11.5.

Download full report

Tags: , ,