[Video] Providing the right context for Manhattan and Miami housing markets

April 2, 2016 | 11:48 am | yahoofinance2 | Favorites |

I really enjoyed my interview over at Yahoo! Finance this week discussing the release of the Elliman Report: Manhattan Sales 1Q 2016. Love their longer interview format.

Note the “two comma” reference taken from the HBO show Silicon Valley:

Miller also rejects the thesis that Manhattan’s two-comma real estate prices were being fueled solely by foreign money and are now jeopardized by global uncertainty and a stronger dollar versus emerging market currencies.

Additional insights on the report shared on the recent edition of Housing Notes. Sign up here.

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New Yorkers Are Busy During Week So Big Snowstorms Need to Occur On Weekends

March 7, 2016 | 1:20 pm | fedny2 | Favorites |

snowstormCP
Source: Jackson Fine Art

Even though housing market talking heads are known for dramatizing the long term economic impact of a big snow storm, it’s basically a “snow ball’s chance in hell” that it has a lasting effect.

Given that it is early March and it is 54 degrees outside in NYC as I write this, it’s hard to think about snowstorms. However Mother Nature has a way of messing with us so I’m optimistic that we’ll get socked with at least one more big storm this month.

My friend Jason Bram, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, was interviewed for his views on NYC snowstorms and their economic impact in Hey, Economist! How Well Do We Weather Snowstorms? He found that:

  • 81% of major snowstorms (over 15 inches dumped in Central Park) began on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday
  • there is no evidence that major snow storms disrupt the economy more than a few days.

In fact, the odds of repeating NYC’s snowstorm history is 0.2% or 500 to 1.

FRBsnowstorms

“The bottom line is, when you look at monthly or even weekly economic indicators, you rarely see a blip, even after the most severe blizzards.” —Jason Bram

This is why I go crazy at the beginning of every calendar year listening to housing prognosticators fret about severe winter weather having a far reaching long term impact on the housing market and the economy.

Consider this scenario by a couple looking to purchase their first home:

Tuesday
Husband: Hi honey, ready to go look for houses this weekend?
Wife: Yes, I can’t wait! We’ve been saving up for a long time and we are finally at the point where we can buy!

A big snow storm hits on Friday night…

Saturday
Husband: Ugh, this snowstorm is really bad. We’d better cancel our appointment with the real estate agent to view homes.
Wife: Yes, that’s a good idea. This is so frustrating!
Husband: I know! Now we have to wait another year!
Wife: I just can’t believe it. Just when we were ready to buy, a snowstorm hits and now we have to wait another year!

Of course you can see how ridiculous this scenario is despite my John Grisham/Stephen King – like story telling skills. These buyers will simply wait until the following weekend.

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Tracking the Flock of (Ultrawealthy) Seagulls

March 6, 2016 | 10:02 am | nytlogo |

There has been voluminous discussion in recent years about following and marketing to the high end of the demographic scale, especial the real estate market. It’s been the focus of much of the new housing development action of the past five years, especially in big U.S. coastal cities. The high end development market has been widely chronicled here and within my weekly Housing Notes newsletter.

For buyers in the super luxury housing market, owning multiple homes is less about a primary residence with a second home and more about owning “stops on the big circuit.”

And as the rich own a greater share of real estate, major cities like New York, Los Angeles and London are going through a kind of “resortification,” familiar to posh beach towns or ski resorts, as their populations become more seasonal.

For Manhattan, these birds are rare in February and squawking on all treetops (bad pun for super tall condo penthouses) at full capacity in June.

nytcityhopping

And no, I never liked that band.

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Greenwich CT Pre-Lehman “Reno, Then Flip” Mentality Is Long Gone

February 26, 2016 | 9:41 am | delogo | Charts |

Fairfield County, CT is one of the more recent editions to our Elliman Report series. Greenwich, CT as a submarket has proven to be a market still strongly linked to the heady days before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and the beginning of the financial crisis. There remain many owners of high end homes purchased a decade ago that remain value-anchored to those days of yore.

I took a look at the last 15 years of residential sales, measuring the amount of time that passed from a home’s prior renovation to sale. From the late 1990s to Lehman, there was a compression of time from renovation to eventual sale, reflective of the speculative conditions leading up to Lehman. Reno a home, then sell it. During those days, business cards passed out by doctors and lawyers at Greenwich cocktail parties were either “hedge fund manager” or “developer.” Not so much anymore.

Subsequent to Lehman, the late 1990s pattern that preceded the U.S. housing bubble returned by 2010 and has remained remarkably stable since.

4Q15GR-sincelastreno

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Contrarians React to Quicken Loans Rocket Mortgage Outrage

February 16, 2016 | 2:30 pm | Favorites |

During the Super Bowl advertising blitz, the most controversial advertisement seemed to be (no, not Mountain Dew’s PuppyMonkeyBaby) Quicken Loans RocketMortgage Super Bowl Ad: What We Were Thinking

David Stevens, CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association was annoyed at the public outrage.

Even the Urban Institute’s Laurie Goodman who is another voice of reason, writes a blog post on Why Rocket Mortgage won’t start another housing crisis.

I am one of those who were angry after seeing the QL commercials that aired before the Super Bowl and my disbelief continued after watching the Super Bowl ad. I lived the insanity and the QL commercial was completely tone deaf and gave me great concern about repeating mistakes in the past. In fact I was so concerned that I made the QL Super Bowl commercial the cornerstone of last week’s Housing Note: Rockets Engineered to Amaze Housing: What was Quicken Loans Thinking?

A week later my view on the ad hasn’t changed and in all due respect to Laurie and David, I think they missed the forest for the trees (there’s a digital v. paper pun somewhere). I’ll explain by going through their own points:

  • Borrowers can give lenders easier access to bank information – this is one of those wiz bang promises we always see with new technology (assuming this product is new technology). But I don’t think anyone is arguing to keep the process arduous.
  • Approvals might be less prone to human error. – Sure, that’s entirely possible although this argument is like saying if there was less air pollution we might all feel better. We would have to assume that borrower data entry is better and it matches up to official documents like tax returns and pay stubs – something that was not a lender concern in the last cycle.
  • Automation may ease tight credit. That’s another one of those wiz bang assumptions that any technology gain – automation is better – remove humans and the process gets easier (again, we don’t understand what the details are of this wiz bang new technology). EZ Pass scanning technology on the highway is far better for toll collecting but it took a few decades to perfect. The mortgage lending process is full of judgments that need to be made and common sense has been removed from the mortgage underwriting process so it can be completed with checkboxes. I contend that automation will NOT ease credit any time soon because automation means a series of lending rules and it will take years to iron out. It may even delay credit normalization as lenders are reluctant to fully trust it. Plus lending continues to remain tight because of bad decisions made in the past and a weak outlook for the future (30 year fixed is below the level just before the December Fed rate hike), not because the process needs to be more efficient. Mortgage origination volume has fallen nearly every year since 2006 so I can’t see lack of automation as holding back the normalization of credit.
  • Digital lending is here to stay. No one is really arguing against digital lending per se. The future across most industries is digital and that transition can be good and bad. The mortgage process is much more digitized than it was a decade ago so disagreeing with the Rocket Mortgage message doesn’t make someone anti-digital.
  • Make a complex process easier for qualified buyers. Of course! If that is what is actually being delivered. It’s a black box and the consumer is getting their information from a commercial that conveys dated message. If David gave a speech in a 1970s era polyester suit with bellbottoms, would his current information leave the audience with a current market impression?

The real reason for the pushback on this rocket thing is not because we are anti-digital, anti-efficiency, anti-credit easing, anti-automation or anti-polyester bellbottoms. The pushback comes from the messenger being the second largest mortgage lender in the U.S. who marketed their product seemingly devoid of any understanding of the housing bubble, which after all, was really a credit bubble.

And it becomes even more clear to me as an appraiser, looking at their complete reliance on appraisal management companies and how awfully unreliable that post-financial crisis industry really is at estimating collateral, that their judgment is flawed in the long run.

The same sort of promises and expectations were made during the run up of Countrywide Mortgage. We are nearly 9 years down the road from the 2007 implosion of American Home Mortgage and those 2 Bear Stearns mortgage hedge funds and yet economically, the world is still in the hangover stage.

I don’t really believe that QL’s Rocket Mortgage product will bring down the world’s economy as we saw with financial engineering in the last cycle. But it is a concern and unbelievable that this was the messaging they chose to go with. As Mark Twain said (paraphrased) “History doesn’t repeat itself but sometimes it rhymes.”

Please watch that commercial again.

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Bloomberg TV’s Surveillance on 12-31-2015

December 31, 2015 | 8:00 pm |

On the last day of 2015 I was invited to guest host for the 6am hour on Bloomberg TV’s Surveillance with Mike McKee, Vonnie Quinn & Erik Schatzker. I was paired with Michael Holland, Chairman at Holland & Co. I’ve never met him before but really enjoyed his insights on the stock market.

The first segment was largely stock market talk which was out of my bailiwick but in the second segment I got to articulate my views on the New York City super luxury market. Today’s Max Frankel New York Times editorial was brought up – “Make Them Pay For Views” – which I thought was a ridiculous premise – despite the legendary author.

And a second segment talking about professional services used for acquiring assets.

After the hour was up, I ran over to Bloomberg Radio’s Surveillance with Mike McKee (at 33 minute mark) [Listen to clip]

Gotta go. The Spartans are playing in the Cotton Bowl now.

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Billionaires’ Row: I Can See For Miles And Miles, Until You Can’t

December 21, 2015 | 2:12 pm | nytlogo | Favorites |

UPDATE: The following article made the front page of the NYT today, my 13th A1 appearance (but who’s counting?).

New York Times’ Matt Chabin writes a piece about the “Super Tall” phenomenon on Manhattan’s West 57th nicknamed “Billionaires’ Row” called Developers of Manhattan Spires Look Past 1,000-Foot Neighbors.

“It’s like the Who song,” said Jonathan Miller, president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel. “You can see for miles and miles and miles. Until you look into your neighbor’s building.”

The changing skyline is a well worn and controversial discussion throughout much of Manhattan’s storied (pun intended) real estate history. It’s quite amazing to appreciate how much the skyline has changed over the past century, nearly always moving taller. In the current iteration of growth, the potential benefit seems to be the financing of affordable housing.

billionaires row skyline

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Charts That Don’t Make Real Estate Trends Into A Stock Ticker

December 21, 2015 | 12:10 pm | bloomberg_news_logo | Charts |

MLHRSQFT

If you’re a subscriber to the Bloomberg Terminals, as roughly 350,000 people are (paying $1,600+ per terminal per month), then you may already know there are a half dozen charts on the Manhattan luxury housing market. To be clear, these indices don’t suggest that housing price trends should be presented as a stock ticker.

It’s a good thing too, since the thought of making real estate housing markets equate to stocks was inspired by, and then was crushed by, the housing boom-bubble-bust era 2003-2008.

Here’s why a stock ticker for real estate is a flawed (aka dumb) concept:

  • A stock market moves in the context of nanoseconds rather than weeks or months.
  • Contract data is not available market-wide and if it were, lags the market by several weeks.
  • Closed data used in a ticker would lag the market by months.
  • It implies instant liquidity for real estate holdings.
  • Not all property types see high volume so their trends are extrapolated (and thus diluted).
  • It teaches market participants that short term views on real estate holdings are the norm, the way a stock day trader views the market.

While a daily real estate index can be created with relative technical ease, it doesn’t mean it is a good idea. It infers a level of precision that doesn’t exist and an accuracy based on lagging data that is not understood by users.

Those who push the stock ticker idea either didn’t work through the last cycle in real estate, or they didn’t learn from the experience.

We update 3 charts on the Manhattan luxury sales market and 3 for the Manhattan luxury rental market. I have always defined “luxury” as the top 10% of transactions during a period.

Click on the gallery below to open each of the indices.

bloombergmanhattangallery

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NYT v. WSJ Smogdown: Status of Chinese Investment in U.S. Real Estate

December 1, 2015 | 11:39 am | nytlogo | Favorites |

lianyungangchinaSmogYahoo
[Source: Yahoo News]

Last weekend I read two terrific articles on Chinese real estate investment in the U.S. but they seemed seemed to conflict – check out the headlines:

New York Times Chinese Cash Floods U.S. Real Estate Market

Wall Street Journal Chinese Pull Back From U.S. Property Investments The subtitle says it all – The nation’s economic and stock-market slump puts buyers on the sidelines

Are the Chinese flooding the U.S. market now or are they pulling back? Which is it? Or is it both?

In my recent trip to Shanghai, I spoke to and interviewed many, many real estate investors at The Real Deal Forum. I got the impression that investment has pulled back a bit in 2015 but expectations were high that investment would expand again, although not to the level of the past 5 years. Of course I was doing this in a biased environment – at in investor conference. I was consistently told that government efforts to prop up the stock market spooked much of the smart money out of the market since the actions were taken to calm everyday investors.

The New York Times piece seemed prompted by a P.R. pitch from the Chinese developer for their Dallas suburb project enticed with a suburban angle. It was a refreshing angle since Chinese real estate investment in the U.S. has been an urban narrative and specifically focused on the high end. The article illustrated just how massive the investment patterns have been. To date the narrative has been focused on super luxury condos in expensive metropolitan areas, while the suburbs got limited attention.

NAR2015internationalCHINESEnyt

The WSJ article is more orientated towards the past few weeks while the NYT article is a longer term view. Both publications place emphasis on NAR’s Profile of International Home Buying Activity whose results emphasized the Chinese investment surge of the previous year. The survey results only reflect the market through last March, so it is 9 months behind the current market. The Chinese investment numbers are staggering, and they are probably understated. Since the NAR report is simply a survey of it’s members and NAR has limited exposure to New York City, especially Manhattan – a hotbed of Chinese real estate investment activity.

NAR2015internationalCHINESEwsj

Incidentally, do the above 2 charts look similar? They both relied on the NAR report.

The NYT piece set the table on the entire multi-year phenomenon using a ton of cool charts while the WSJ attempted to illustrate the change in recent weeks Both outlets were forced to rely on a lot of anecdotal to make their case. Both articles are consistent with my views as each provided a different context.

The NYT piece provided the long term historical view and the WSJ was a short term snapshot.

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Chartist: New York Post, Grant’s Interest Rate Observer

November 19, 2015 | 11:56 am | Charts |

If this market report slash appraisal thing doesn’t work out, I’ll go into graphic design with a focus on charts.

The New York Post asked me to whip up a chart for them. They change the fonts to make it theirs but hey, it’s fun. Oh yeah, the article was about living rent-free in NYC (but there’s a catch). Jim Grant of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer wrote a cover piece in his widely followed twice monthly newsletter subscription called “Too close to the sun” about the super luxury housing peak using my insights and a chart.

Ok, admittedly there is no real point to this post. I’m trying to convince myself to get back in the blogging groove, in addition to my weekly Housing Note.


New York Post version
nypost11-19-15

My original version
NYPdraftmedianrent
[click to expand]


Grant’s IRO version
grantschart11-13-15

My original version
msforgrantchart11-13-15
[click to expand]

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Better Than a Sex Scandal: Brooklyn Housing was #3 on the Bloomberg Terminals

October 8, 2015 | 9:53 pm | bloomberg_news_logo | Favorites |

BBterminalsbrooklyn10-8-15-600

The Bloomberg News story “Brooklyn Homes Sell at Record Pace in Outer-Borough Surge” was the 3rd most read story on the Bloomberg terminals world wide this afternoon.

Here’s the Douglas Elliman report.

The Brooklyn housing story in fact earned more reads than the Stanford Business School sex scandal, the Bill Gross $200M lawsuit against PIMCO and Deutsche Bank’s $7B loss this quarter.

After all, Brooklyn is now a global brand.

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Brooklyn, Queens Set Records, NYC rents jump, Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess Get Busy

October 8, 2015 | 9:05 pm | delogo | Reports |

wsjbrooklyn3q15-600

We published a slew of research today for Douglas Elliman Real Estate:

Manhattan, Brooklyn & Queens Rentals

Manhattan Rentals - Median rental price increased year-over-year for the 18th consecutive month - Median rental price was third highest on record - Brisk employment growth and strong economic conditions kept upward pressure on rents - Mortgage lending conditions remained tight tipping would-be first-time buyers back into rental market - Strength at lower end of market remained as non-doorman rents rose faster than doorman rents - Luxury median rental price slipped, showing weakest conditions of all price segments - Inventory slipped and marketing time remained low, despite rise in vacancy rate

Brooklyn Rentals - Median rental price set a new record for third consecutive month - Median rental price exceeded the $3,000 threshold for first time - Landlord concessions remained at nominal level as inventory slipped - Rental price indicators moved higher across all size categories - Listing inventory as well as negotiability between landlords/tenants fell - Median Brooklyn rent was $288 less than Manhattan

Queens Rentals - Price indicators showed mixed results, suggesting general stability overall - Studios showed strong price growth as 1-bedrooms and 2-bedrooms were flat - New development market share comprised 30.2% of new rentals - Luxury market median price gain was modest, but exceeded the overall market - Median Queens rent was $362 less than Brooklyn and $650 less than Manhattan

Brooklyn Sales - Brooklyn median and average sales price set a new record - Brooklyn remains the only New York City borough with a median sales price above the pre-financial crisis high - Condo, co-op and 1-3 family properties set new median sales price record - Luxury housing prices followed overall market trend - Sales expanded as listing inventory declined, resulting in brisk market pace - Fastest marketing time in 8 years

Queens Sales - Queens median and average sales price set a new record - Condo median sales price set a record for second consecutive quarter - Co-op price indicators set new record - 1-3 Family price indicators set new record - Luxury price indicators set new record - Inventory declined as sales surged - Marketing time fell as negotiability expanded

Westchester County Sales (expanded) - Record number of sales for the quarter, based in historical back to 1981 - Fastest marketing time and least negotiability in the 5.5 years this metric has been measured - Listing inventory for all property types slipped from year ago levels - Absorption rate was fastest market pace in 15 years - Single family and condo median sales price indicated stability - Single family market share declined even though sales increased - Luxury price indicators slipped, out performed by overall market

Putnam/Dutchess County Sales (new)

Putnam County - Price trend indicators increased on a year over year basis - Listing inventory slipped as the number of sales surged - Based on absorption, the market pace was 17.2% faster than the year ago quarter - Marketing time and listing discount expanded despite faster market pace

Dutchess County - Price indicators suggested general stability - Single family prices edged higher as condo prices declined - The pace of the market slowed as sales declined and inventory expanded

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