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Archive for November, 2012

Lower Manhattan’s Early November Rental Activity Down 70% Y-O-Y

November 29, 2012 | 12:40 pm | Charts |

I took a look at closed rental activity for the first part of November, two days after Sandy left us to observe it’s impact of rental activity in Lower Manhattan. For these purposes, I defined this area as the 4 zip codes of 10280, 10004, 10005, 10006 when trying to show a before and after metric. I could have gone later in the month (ie today) but I wanted to have a good week of data to fall in after the expiration of the period analyzed so the year-over-year was more comparable.

There were 199 closed rentals in this period in 2011 compared to 60 closed rentals in 2012, a 69.8% drop in rental activity. However, the decline is due to buildings being off line and there being initial access issues, not lack of demand. With 40 something commercial and rental buildings off line in a more broadly defined Lower Manhattan, inventory remains tight and it is hard to see much in the way of a reprieve in rental price levels as a result of the storm.

The mapping software I have isn’t able to reflect multiple apartment rentals in a building. Still, you can see fewer locations represented in 2012.

November 1-21, 2012

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November 1-21, 2011

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[Three Cents Worth NY #219] Manhattan v. Brooklyn Rental Smackdown

November 27, 2012 | 3:56 pm | curbed | Charts |

It’s time to share my Three Cents Worth (3CW) on Curbed NY, at the intersection of neighborhood and real estate in the capital of the world…and I’m here to take measurements.

Read this week’s 3CW column on @CurbedNY:

We’ve been delivering the monthly rental news that vacancy is falling and rents are high, but I also thought I’d show the relationship between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Admittedly I am comparing all of Manhattan with what we call the North and Northwest regions of Brooklyn, but it’s the trend I am after (the trend is your friend), plus I’m still working off my Thanksgiving spread.

I compared the monthly median rental price (face rent) for Manhattan (teal) and Brooklyn (purple) from January 2008 to October 2008 and simply trended the difference (pink)…


[click to expand chart]



Today’s Post: Manhattan v. Brooklyn Rental Smackdown [Curbed]
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed NY
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed DC
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed Miami

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Get Down With It: Falling Mortgage Rates Are Not Creating Housing Sales

November 27, 2012 | 11:16 am | wsjlogo | Charts |

Inspired by my analysis of yesterday’s WSJ article, I thought I’d explore the effectiveness of low mortgage rates in getting the housing market going. I matched year-to-date sales volume where a mortgage was used and mortgage rates broken out by conforming and jumbo mortgage volume.

Mortgage volume has been falling (off an artificial high I might add) since 2005, while rates have continued to fall to new record lows, yet transaction volume has not recovered. I contend that low rates can now do no more to help housing than they already have.

Even the NAR has run out of reasons and is now focusing on bad appraisals as holding the market back (I agree appraisal quality post Dodd-Frank is terrible and is impacting the market to a limited extent – and I secretly wish appraiser held that much sway over the market).

I’m no bear, but the uptick Case Shiller’s report today (remembering that Case Shiller reflects the housing market 5-7 months ago) still shows slowing momentum and all 2012 year-over-year comparisons in the various national reports are skewed higher from an anemic 2011.

Five years of falling mortgage rates have only served to provide stability in volume. The monetary and fiscal conversation ought to be on ways to incentivize banks to ease credit – falling rates only makes them more risk averse.

Of course a significant drop in unemployment would likely solve the tight credit problem fairly quickly.

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Jumbos Fell Harder, Now Rising Faster, But Off Low Base

November 26, 2012 | 8:30 am | wsjlogo |

In the WSJ, FNC reported that jumbo mortgages saw a larger year-over-year gain than conforming:

Home sales using a jumbo mortgage had year-over-year growth of 7.9% through September, compared with 2.7% for nonjumbo sales, according to an analysis for The Wall Street Journal by mortgage-technology company FNC.

Could this be a sign that credit is thawing a bit more quickly at upper end of the market?

Capital Economics Ltd., in a recent research note, found that jumbo loans are going to borrowers with credit scores as low as 700, compared with 720 or higher previously, and that financing has generally reached $2 million from a previous upper limit of $1.5 million.

Anecdotal sure, but when looking at the actual jumbo mortgage data, it appears that from 2005 to 2012, mortgage volume for jumbo fell 83.1% and non jumbo fell 46.9%. In other words, jumbo mortgage volume fell 2x further than non jumbo from peak. Also, a number of the high cost markets had their base level lowered expanded what is now considered a “jumbo loan”:

Also, the floor for a jumbo loan fell in some high-cost areas last fall. In Los Angeles and New York, for example, the definition of a jumbo dropped to $625,500 and up from $729,750 and up. With the lower floor, a loan of $700,000 would now be a jumbo loan.

So the fact that jumbo volume is up 7.9% versus 2.7% reflects it being calculated from a much lower base number, and with lower jumbo thresholds, more loans are being classified as jumbo. This likely resulted in a somewhat larger jumbo market share, reaching 5.5% of total mortgages in 2012 compared to 5.2% in 2011.

My takeaway here is that jumbos are not growing at 3x the rate of conforming as FNC seems to be suggesting, but jumbos (5.5% of the first mortgage market) are more likely consistent with the balance of the mortgage market.

Since jumbos have no real secondary market to allow mortgage lenders to free up their capital to lend more, jumbos are actually performing amazingly well however you slice it, just not better than conforming mortgages.

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‘Structured By Cows’ and other Candid Catchphrases

November 26, 2012 | 7:00 am |

American Banker has a great slideshow on catchphrases that evolved during the financial crisis. Check it out. Some of my favorites are:

Structured By Cows“We rate every deal. It could be structured by cows and we would rate it,” said an S&P analyst discussing a questionable securitization that a colleague called “ridiculous.”

High Speed Swim Lane, or HSSL Countrywide’s way of describing the way they stripped QC of loans going to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Friends of Angelo Named for Countrywide’s CEO Angelo Mozilo in which government officials like Chris Dodd (ie Dodd-Frank) got better mortgage terms than they should have.

Close More University Subprime lender New Century (out of business) brought together mortgage brokers to encourage them to throw away any standards to bring more volume.

Jingle Mail When borrowers mailed their keys to the bank if they were hopelessly underwater.

Liar’s Loans Standard mortgage industry practice that encouraged borrowers to exaggerate their qualifications in order to get the loan.

Incredible and hard to conceive of now but this was common practice only a mere 5 years ago.

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The Good Life Magazine – The French View of NYC

November 25, 2012 | 7:53 pm |

I provided some insight to a recent edition of a new French Magazine called The Good Life – the issue was dubbed 100% New York.

Since we make so much of the influence of international buyers in the New York City market, I found the issue to be refreshing as I flipped through it in its entirety, as if providing some sort of validation that the way we see the market as locals is how others outside of the US see it.

Of course this is a stretch because the issue is entirely in french, but hey, I took five years of french in school and on a good day can remember how to ask for permission to sharpen a pencil.

For the real estate portion, you can open it here, for the entire magazine – you can buy it here.

With the recent ratings downgrade to French banks, I wonder if the flow to US assets will accelerate.

Jonathan Miller
fondateur et président de Miller Samuel Inc.

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[In The Media] CNN’s “Your Money” With Ali Velshi 11-24-12

November 25, 2012 | 11:22 am | Public |

Ali Velshi does a great recap on various elements of the economy including what I call “happy housing news.” CNN brought in both Chris Mayer of Columbia University and me to poke holes in it and talk “what if.” Chris and I were nearly identical in views, but I was tagged as the more negative because I hate the use of the word “recovery” to describe the current state of the market. I prefer “stabilized” or “recovering” over “recovery” since we haven’t dealt with the excess distressed sales and tight credit yet which is what is perversely driving up prices.

We taped this on Wednesday and it aired yesterday at 1pm and will air again today at 3pm. Ali tackles energy, manufacturing, the economy in addition to this housing segment. My friend Dan Gross of Newsweek/Daily Beast was in the economy segment and we got to catch up in the Green Room.

The taping was a two-fer for me – I got to meet Ali, a take-no-prisoners media personality who lays things out with great clarity. Plus I got to meet Chris, one of the sharpest minds in real estate policy. All-in-all, fun!

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Manhattan’s 1% Prefer Proximity to Central Park Over Waterfront

November 20, 2012 | 5:40 pm | Charts |

With the post-Hurricane Sandy heightened awareness of waterfront living and flooding risk, I thought I’d provide a visualization of where the top 1% most expensive properties in Manhattan are located. Manhattan’s top 1% of the housing market starts at $10M. I presented all the co-op, condo and 1-3 family townhouses that closed at or above January 1, 2003 in Manhattan. I used the same data set (but updated) when I presented the Tallest Chart in the History of Manhattan Real Estate a while back.

Fairly consistent pattern – clustered around Central Park and lofts downtown with only a handful along the waterfront.

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[Three Cents Worth NY #218] Manhattan’s Thanksgiving Listing Spread

November 20, 2012 | 4:39 pm | curbed | Charts |

It’s time to share my Three Cents Worth (3CW) on Curbed NY, at the intersection of neighborhood and real estate in the capital of the world…and I’m here to take measurements.

Read this week’s 3CW column on @CurbedNY:

I started off trending the month-over-month percentage change in doorman (green line) and non-doorman (orange line) listings and they showed a very similar pattern [yawn] so I left the lines alone and looked at the larger pattern of peaks and troughs in listing activity at the end of the year. I’ve been tracking listing trends for more than a decade on a quarterly basis but only on a monthly basis since 2008 so I can’t go back pre-Lehman. I am especially interested in each fall market’s second sales hump (spring is hump number one) of the annual two-hump sales camel that occurs before the Thanksgiving holiday…


[click to expand chart]



Today’s Post: Manhattan’s Thanksgiving Listing Spread [Curbed]
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed NY
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed DC
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed Miami

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Luxury Real Estate as the New Global Currency

November 18, 2012 | 5:46 pm | delogo | Articles |


[click to read article]

Over the summer Camilla Papale, Douglas Elliman’s CMO asked me if I would present something about the state of luxury real estate for their Elliman Magazine (and iPad app!). The finished result contained 3 parts:

  • I wrote a brief piece about the influx of international demand as high end consumers were seeking a safe haven from the world’s economic problems. I called the piece: “LUXURY REAL ESTATE AS THE WORLD’S NEW CURRENCY” This post’s title was my working title which I also liked.
  • Plus I did a little research on housing prices across the globe using Knight Frank’s resources and
  • I moderated a discussion on the subject with Dottie Herman, President & CEO of Douglas Elliman, Patrick Dring, Head of International Residential at Knight Frank, and Liam Bailey, Head of Residential Research at Knight Frank. They all provided great insights to the subject.

Here’s the full piece in Elliman Magazine . I’ve inserted a portion of the presentation below in 2 parts:

LUXURY REAL ESTATE AS THE WORLD’S NEW CURRENCY

Since the beginning of the global credit crunch in 2008, luxury real estate has morphed into a new world currency that provides investors with both a tangible asset and a cachet that cannot be found within the financial markets. It’s as if these emboldened investors zoomed out of their local Google Earth view to discover the wider global perspective on luxury real estate.

HOW DID WE GET HERE? The US dollar has weakened in the years following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the onset of the global credit crisis. The S&P downgrade of US debt in August 2011 from its benchmark AAA rating brought a flood of investors into US financial securities. That meant that our currency allowed us to buy less abroad, and the strength of other currencies provided international buyers with large discounts when purchasing property in US dollars. But it went further than that.

THE RISE OF LUXURY REAL ESTATE AS A “SAFE HAVEN.” The volatility of global financial markets and the resulting political fallout shook investor confidence, which in turn spurred a rise in foreign buyers seeking a safe haven to protect their assets. A wave of international buyers from Europe, South America, and Asia entered the US housing market, helping set record prices and revive luxury markets including New York, The Hamptons, and Miami.

SUPPLY-DRIVEN DEMAND. The luxury real estate market has become defined by the supply of available properties. While demand has remained constant and elevated, inventory has become a critical variable, particularly at the very top of the market, where surging international demand for one-of-a-kind properties has surpassed the limited supply. The resultant record-breaking sales of “trophy” properties have enticed more owners of luxury homes to make them available for sale.

THE RISE OF THE “TROPHY PROPERTY.” The trophy property has become a new market category that does not follow the rules and dynamics of the overall marketplace. One stratospheric price record is being set after another, and it is not only the list prices that are defining these record sales; the rarity of location, expanse of the views, quality of amenities, and the sheer size of these unique homes have all played an important part in attracting the interest of foreign buyers.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Driven by the global credit crunch and political instability, the two factors that are expected to remain unchanged for the next several years, the US luxury housing market is expected to remain a “safe haven” for foreign investors for quite some time.

A CONVERSATION ABOUT THE COMMERCE OF GLOBAL LUXURY REAL ESTATE

I sat down with Dottie Herman and our friends across the pond, Patrick Dring, Head of International Residential, and Liam Bailey, Head of Residential Research at Knight Frank, to chat about the state of real estate in the prime markets across the globe and the rise of a foreign investment phenomenon.

JONATHAN MILLER: Douglas Elliman has a broad coverage area that includes some of the most affluent housing markets in the US. Are you seeing any short-term issues that may influence luxury investor decisions over the coming year?

DOTTIE HERMAN: At the end of this year, we may see a repeat of the consumer behavior we saw at the end of 2010 when US capital gains tax rates were expected to rise. Ultimately, the rates did not increase, but many consumers in the luxury market took preventative action before the potential tax increase and raced to close their sales by the end of 2010. Despite the ups and downs in the quarters that followed, the luxury housing market was not adversely impacted in the long-term.

JM: Paddy, according to Knight Frank’s Global Briefing blog, housing prices in central London are up sharply, but the pace of growth appears to be slowing, perhaps because of the new stamp duty (a tax on properties priced at £2M–the equivalent of $3.15M–or more). What does this mean for the luxury market?

PADDY DRING: In short, the £5M ($7.85M) market is up year-on-year. The new stamp duty on property sales above £2M seems to be having an impact only on the band just above the new £2M threshold. Foreign demand remains high and, notably, we have sold to over 62 different nationalities within the last 12 months. They are less affected by the changes in stamp duty, since the rates in London are still in line with many other European countries.

JM: Dottie, your firm has sold a large number of luxury properties this year, despite a lukewarm economy and tight credit conditions. Record sales and listing prices are becoming nearly commonplace and a significant portion of this demand for luxury real estate is coming from abroad. Do you see this developing into a long-term trend?

DH: It’s certainly been a year of records and I do think we are embarking on a period where luxury real estate has the potential to outperform the rest of the housing market. Several of the markets that we cover, Manhattan and Miami in particular, have been firmly established as highly sought-after international destinations. As much as we fret about how slowly our economy is recovering, the US has proven itself as a “safe haven” for many international investors who are concerned about the turmoil of the world economy and political stability. Luxury investors from much of Europe, Russia, Asia and South America have been buying here at the highest pace we have seen since the credit crunch began.

JM: Liam, the US is seeing a higher-than-normal influx of real estate demand from foreign investors who seem to be focusing on the upper end of the housing market. These investors are well represented from Europe, Asia and South America. Are you seeing the same phenomenon when it comes to luxury properties in the UK? What are the primary regions where this demand is coming from?

LIAM BAILEY: The focus of demand continues on London and its easily accessible suburbs. London is facing even higher global demand than New York, with the top end strongly led by Russia, Europe, Canada, and the Middle East, and demand in the new development investment market very much led by Asia.

JM: In the US, access to financing is a key challenge to domestic purchasers, including luxury investors. What are some of the key challenges facing your clients who are looking to purchase real estate outside of their own countries?

PD & LB: Financing remains a consideration for many, although mortgages are more available in many of the markets than people are led to believe. Of course, the property needs to be quality and in a core location and have a more conservative loan-to-value ratio, however, many of our clients purchase in cash, so they are more affected by market sentiment and, of course, liquidity if they need to sell unexpectedly in the future. Factors affecting market sentiment include the usual considerations, such as exchange rate, a stable political base, as well as a sound legal system that guarantees clarity of title and tax considerations. The latter of course is affecting not only the cost of acquisition (stamp duty), but also, in some countries, the cost of holding (wealth tax) and ultimately selling (capital gains tax). Access, infrastructure, and climate (if lifestyle-driven) all remain key, as do low crime rates as people become more aware of their privacy and personal safety.

JM: Since the beginning of the credit crunch, you’ve constantly stressed to your clients that the terms of a sale are just as important as the price of a sale, given the challenges of obtaining financing. How do international buyers fi t into this new world defined by tough lending standards?

DH: Despite mortgage lending in the US remaining tight, luxury markets in the areas we cover have improved quickly. I can only imagine how much stronger the US housing market would be if we saw credit ease to historically normal levels. International buyers tend to pay cash or obtain financing from their native countries, which has given them an advantage over many domestic purchasers. Combine the ability to pay in cash with both the weakness of the US dollar against many of their native currencies and a volatile global economy, and you can begin to understand why we are seeing a strong presence of international buyers in our markets. Like our friends at Knight Frank, these luxury investors are interested in our proven core markets that already have a large concentration of luxury properties. Overall, we continue to be excited about our market’s expanding presence in the global luxury housing market—there are many opportunities out there for this new international investor to explore.



Luxury Real Estate as the World’s New Currency [Miller Samuel (pdf)]
Luxury Real Estate as the World’s New Currency [Douglas Elliman]
Elliman iPad App [iTunes]

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