Matrix Blog

Archive for September, 2013

[Video] Talking Housing on CNBC TV’s Street Signs 9-25-13

September 25, 2013 | 7:29 pm | trdlogo | Videos |

I’m not quite ready to use the word “haunted” in my housing language, but I had a nice chat with Brian Sullivan and Mandy Drury of CNBC TV’s ‘Street Signs’ – 30 Rock is always quick walk from my office to do the remote. Although my firm’s name was announced backwards on air (It’s really “Miller Samuel” I swear), I think my logic was forward (sorry).

Fun. Plus Mandy gives The Real Deal Magazine a shout out.

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[Video] Talking Housing on Bloomberg TV’s Surveillance 9-24-13

September 24, 2013 | 12:10 pm | bloomberglogo | Videos |

Always fun (and refreshing) to talk housing with Tom Keene, Sara Eisen and Scarlet Fu on Bloomberg TV’s Surveillance. I always watch or listen to the show on their apps as part of my morning routine. Got to meet and hear great insights from Jim O’Neill, Bloomberg View columnist and former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management as well.

Did I tell you I am still the mayor of the Bloomberg Cafeteria on Foursquare?

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[Three Cents Worth #247 NY] Manhattan Unit Sizes No Small Change

September 20, 2013 | 3:52 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.

Check out my 3CW column on @CurbedNY:

After last week’s rental market report release, I thought I’d take a look at the average size of a sale and a rental over the past 20 years. Sales (blue line) represent co-ops and condos that closed during each period. Rentals (pink line) represent rentals that closed during each period…

[click to expand chart]

 


My latest Three Cents Worth column on Curbed: Manhattan Unit Sizes No Small Change [Curbed]

Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed NY
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed DC
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed Miami
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed Hamptons

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Talk Like A Pirate Day 2013

September 19, 2013 | 12:05 pm |

What started as a simple tradition among friends, was embedded into Internet lore with an article by humorist Dave Barry. Talk Like A Pirate Day has been going strong for about a decade.

While there are signs the homespun viral trend is abating, it’s still an important holiday to all of us (even though most don’t know it).

Here’s a prior year’s comprehensive post.

Like the Fed, you never know what a Pirate will do.

Arrgh.

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The Low Appraisal “Hassle” is a Symptom of a Broken Mortgage Process

September 16, 2013 | 3:58 pm | nytlogo |

Last week we saw a chorus of “appraisers are killing our deals” stories in some major publications:

  • When Appraisal Hassles Tank a Home Sale [WSJ]
  • When Appraisals Come in Low [NYT]
  • Appraisals Scuttle Home Sales Where Prices Rise Fast[IBD]

I’ve long been a critic of my own industry. Like any industry there are terrific appraisers, average appraisers and form-fillers. Post-Lehman there are a LOT more of the latter.

The scenario that prompted these articles and others like them occurs when a sale is properly vetted in the market place and an appraiser enters the transaction and subsequently appraises the property below the sales price. It supposedly is happening in greater frequency now, hence the rise in complaints.

My focus of criticism has largely been centered on appraisal management companies (AMC), who have tried to convert our industry to a commodity like a flood certification or title search rather than a professional service. AMCs serve as a middleman between the bank and an appraiser and they have thrived as a result of financial reform. Most only require an appraiser to be licensed, agree to work for 50 cents on the dollar and turn work around in one fifth the time required for reasonable due diligence. Appraisal quality of bank appraisals has plummeted in this credit crunch era and as a result has prompted growing outrage from all parties in a transaction.

Of course, the market value of the property may not be worth it. But the real estate industry doesn’t trust the appraiser anymore so we point them finger at them automatically.

Yes, it’s a hassle. So let’s decide what the problem really is and fix it.

A long time appraisal colleague and friend of mine once told me before the housing bubble burst:

“Jonathan, you as the appraiser are the last one to walk into the sales transaction. Everyone involved in the sale is smarter than you. The selling agent (paid a commission), the buyers agent (paid a commission), the buyer (emotionally bias), the seller (emotionally bias), the selling attorney (paid a transaction fee), the buyer’s attorney (paid a transaction fee) and the loan officer or mortgage broker (paid a transaction fee) all know more than you do.”

The appraiser in this post-financial reform world doesn’t have a vested interest in the transaction like they did during the housing boom – some could argue they are too detached. The vested interest I speak of occurred during the bubble when mortgage brokers and most banks generally used appraisers who always “made the number.” Incidentally, many of those types of appraisal firms are out of business now.

Let’s clear something up. The interaction an appraiser has with a lender when appraising below the purchase price now is not that much different than during the boom. When an appraiser kills a sale, the appraiser is generally hit with a laundry list of data to review and comments to respond to questions from the AMC, bank or mortgage broker who use the “guilty until proven innocent” approach even though the bank likely won’t rescind the appraisal. The additional time spent by the appraiser is a significant motivator to push the value higher to avoid the hassle if the appraiser happens to be “morally flexible.”

And by the way, sales price does not equal market value.

The sources for most of these low appraisal stories I began this post with come from biased parties so it makes it clear that low appraisals are the problem. In reality, the low appraisal issue is merely the symptom of a broken mortgage lending process. The problem is real and becomes more apparent when a market changes rapidly as it is now. Decimate the quality of valuation experts and you generate results that are less consistent with actual market conditions and therefore more sales are killed than usual. Amazingly the US mortgage lending infrastructure today does not emphasize “local market knowledge” in the appraisers they hire no matter what corporate line you are being fed. This is even more amazing when you consider that most national lenders have only a handful of appraisal staff and tens of thousands of appraisals ordered ever month.

The cynical side of me thinks that rise in low value complaints reflects an over-heated housing market – that the parties are getting swept up in the froth and the neutral appraiser is the voice of reason. The experienced me realizes that financial reform has brought new appraisers into the profession that have no business being here (and pushed many of the good ones out) and that the rise in the frequency of low appraisals has only seen the light of day because housing markets are currently changing rapidly.

Here’s my problem with the mortgage lending industry today as it relates to appraisers:
• Most of the people running bank mortgage functions are the same as during the bubble, only see appraisal as a cost, not as eyes and ears.
• Banks love the current state of appraisals because the values are biased low (banks are risk averse) and they fully control the appraiser.
• Appraisal Management Companies themselves have no real oversight (some are very good, most are terrible).
• Banks no longer emphasize local market knowledge in their appraisers or they pay lip service to it.
• Short term cost savings trumps emphasis on quality and reliability.

Every now and then (like now) everyone seems surprised and feels hassled when appraisal values don’t match market conditions. However the bank appraisal process has largely morphed into an army of robots on an assembly line – either because we are unaware of the problem until it affects us directly or we just want it that way.

Let’s focus on fixing the mortgage lending process or stop complaining about your appraisal.

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Impact of Lehman Collapse on Housing Prices in Europe

September 13, 2013 | 3:52 pm | kflogo |


Source: Knight Frank [click chart to expand]

This chart could also be called “Why International Demand for US housing is Elevated” since many European investors are looking for safe places to park their money.

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[Upside] 8-2013 Manhattan/Brooklyn Rental Report

September 12, 2013 | 11:28 am | delogo | Charts |

Douglas Elliman just published their Manhattan/Brooklyn rental report. This monthly report is part of an evolving market report series I’ve been writing for Douglas Elliman since 1994. We discontinued the quarterly rental report series but still present the information in our aggregate database.

MANHATTAN

  • Rising interest rates, an improving economy and tight credit are placing upward pressure on rental prices.
  • Rents continued to show modest gains.
  • 26th consecutive month without a year-over-year decline in median rent.
  • Nominal use of concessions by landlords remain in place.
  • Rise in number of new rentals reflect resistance to rising rents at time of renewal.
  • Vacancy rate edged up from year ago levels as this year’s spring market demand pushed later into summer than last year.

BROOKLYN
[North, Northwest Regions]

  • Rents continue to rise faster in Brooklyn than Manhattan.
  • Highest median rental price in over five years.
  • After a brief respite in early summer, renewed resistance to rising rents as evidenced by jump in the number of new rentals.
  • Days on market and listing discount fell.
  • 2-bedrooms showed biggest year-over-year gain of all size categories.

Here’s an excerpt from the report:

MANHATTAN The Manhattan median rental price increased by 1.8% to $3,150 from the same month last year. The last time this metric posted a decline was in June 2011, resulting in an unprecedented 26-month run. The average rental price increased 7.8% to $3,860 over the same period. Concessions from landlords continue to be rare with only 2.5% of all new rentals having some form of rewards, averaging the equivalent of 1 month of free rent…

BROOKLYN All rental price indicators showed year-over-year gains. Median rental price increased by 4.6% to $2,850 from the same month last year, reaching record highs in over 5-year period. The year-over-year average gain of this price metric during this period was at 3.4%. Average rental price and average rental price per square foot both increased 3.6% and 6.9% respectively from the same period last year…




The Elliman Report: 8-2013 Manhattan/Brooklyn Rentals [Miller Samuel]
The Elliman Report: 8-2013 Manhattan/Brooklyn Rentals [Douglas Elliman]
Miller Samuel Aggregate Database [Miller Samuel]
Chart Gallery (Brooklyn Monthly) [Miller Samuel]
Chart Gallery (Manhattan Monthly) [Miller Samuel]
Chart Gallery (Manhattan Quarterly) [Miller Samuel]


[Three Cents Worth #246 NY] Considering Manhattan as a Boom Town

September 11, 2013 | 1:47 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.

Check out my 3CW column on @CurbedNY:

I thought I’d present some metrics across all all five boroughs to show a little context to Manhattan. This chart trifecta shows market dollar volume, change in sales and change in prices by borough since 2004…

[click to expand chart]

 


My latest Three Cents Worth column on Curbed: Considering Manhattan as a Boom Town [Curbed]

Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed NY
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed DC
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed Miami
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed Hamptons

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Images of 9/11

September 11, 2013 | 12:25 pm |


Some of these images were taken by myself or my staff during, to and from property inspections. Some were sent to me by friends and colleagues back then but I didn’t keep a record of where they came from, hence the lack of attributions. Unfortunately I’ve got a lot more photos but these are enough.















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[Country Life article] Once upon a time in the American market

September 10, 2013 | 9:11 pm | nytlogo |

I wrote a brief article for Country Life Magazine – a weekly glossy magazine based in the UK but distributed globally. Country Life is a beautiful publication chock full of luxury housing imagery. This edition (9/4/2013) had a US property focus to which I gave an brief overview of the US housing market over the past decade.

Note: I agreed to allow the editors “Briticise” my writing to match their audience but I had final approval of the content. So if you notice anything, ie Mortgage criteria” v. “Mortgage underwriting guidelines”, that’s why. ;)

Once upon a time in the American market:
Jonathan Miller retraces the history of the American property crash and examines what is driving fresh price rises [Read the article]

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