Bloomberg View Column: Credit Crunch Lives on in Housing

October 22, 2014 | 5:05 pm | BloombergViewlogoGray | Columns |

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Read my latest Bloomberg View column Credit Crunch Lives on in Housing. Please join the conversation over at Bloomberg View. Here’s an excerpt…

Don’t be fooled by low mortgages rates, which once again are below 4 percent: Credit for buying a home or refinancing an existing mortgage has almost never been tougher to get.

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Bloomberg View Column: Rent Control’s Winners and Losers

October 21, 2014 | 3:31 pm | BloombergViewlogoGray | Columns |

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Read my latest Bloomberg View column Rent Control’s Winners and Losers. Please join the conversation over at Bloomberg View. Here’s an excerpt…

Any renter in New York City has probably has felt the pain of coming up with the monthly payment. There are plenty of reasons for the city’s steep rents…

..So what would happen if rent control and its cousin, rent stabilization, disappeared overnight?

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Bad Actors: AMC Appraisal Perspective Through Rhetorical Misdirection

October 20, 2014 | 4:45 pm | Public |

I was invited to speak at the Great Lakes Chapter of the Appraisal Institute last week and met a lot of great appraisers who cover the state of Michigan.

Summit2014Brochure

I spoke about the housing market and the misinterpretation of residential housing metrics, inspired by this article and the following infographic from the Detroit Free Press.

Inkster +106.4% !!!!! a largely distressed market with what I was told only has a handful of rock bottom sales ie $10K in 2009 becomes to $30k in 2014 – a perfect example. Hot? Hardly.

dfp-real-estate-hot-spots-2014-MAP

As much as I think I held their attention for the entire hour allotted, my presentation fell short of getting audience adrenaline pumping like the Jordan Petkovsky, the Chief Appraiser of a TSI Appraisal, a large national AMC and affiliated with Quicken Loans. I still wonder how beneficial this public relations could be by talking to the industry like a politician – as if residential appraisers were clueless to the “incredible benefit” that AMCs provide our industry.

Here are a few of the questions (paraphrased) posed to an audience comprised of heavily experienced residential and commercial appraisers:

Q: “I realize there is friction between AMCs and appraisers. What has to happen to solve this problem?”
A: Someone in audience: “Someone has to die” followed by a burst of laughter from the entire room.

Q: “We spend millions on powerful analytics. Wouldn’t it be great for appraisers to get their hands on this technology?” (repeated 2 more times slowly for effect).”
A: Someone answered: “You have to spend millions on technology because the appraisal quality is so poor you need to analyze the markets yourself.”

Q: “How do we attract new appraisers into the business?”
A: My answer “Until appraisers are fairly compensated when banks are made to be financially incentivized to require credible reports, nothing will change.”

Q: “How do you think banks feel about the reliability of appraisals today? They don’t feel the values are reliable.”
A: My answer “Because AMCs pay ±half the market rate, they can only mostly attract form-fillers (aka “corner-cutters”). They don’t represent the good appraisers in the appraisal industry.”

Q: “We focus a tremendous amount of effort on regulatory compliance on behalf of banks and boy are they demanding! We even have a full time position that handles the compliance issues.”
A: My comment – that’s a recurring mantra from the AMC industry as a scare tactic to keep banks from returning to in-house appraisal departments. Prior to 2006 boom and bust cycle and the explosion of mortgage brokers with an inherent conflict of interest as orderers of appraisals, the profession was pretty good at providing reliable value estimates. The unusually large demands by regulators (if this is really true and I have serious doubts) is because the AMC appraisal quality is generally poor. If bank appraisal quality was excellent, I don’t believe there would be a lot of regulatory inquiries besides periodic audits.

What I found troubling with his presentation – and I have to give him credit for walking into the lion’s den – is how the conversation was framed in such an AMC-centric, self-absorbed way. I keep hearing this story pushed by the AMC industry: The destruction of the modern appraisal industry was the fault of a few “bad actors” during the boom that used appraisal trainees to crank out their reports. That’s incredibly out of context and a few “bad actors” isn’t the only reason HVCC was created – which was clearly inferred.

Back during the boom, banks closed their in-house appraisal centers because they came to view them as “cost centers” since risk was eliminated through financial engineering – plus mortgage brokers accounted for 2/3 of the mortgage volume. Mortgage brokers only got paid when the loan closed, so guess what kind of appraisers were selected? Those who were more likely to hit the number – they were usually not selected on the basis of quality unless the bank mandated their use. Banks were forced to expand their reliance on AMCs after the financial crisis because the majority of their relationships with appraisers had been removed during the bubble – the mortgage brokerage industry imploded and banks weren’t interested in re-opening appraisal departments because they don’t generate short term revenue.

The speaker spent a lot of time talking like a politician – “we all have to work together to solve this problem” “appraisers have to invest in technology.” When asked whether his firm had an “AVM”, he responded almost too quickly with “No” and then added “but you should see our analytics!”

The residential appraisers in the audience were largely seething after the presentation based on the conversations I heard or joined with afterwords.

It’s really sad that appraisers don’t have a real voice in our future. We’ve never had the money to sway policy creation and we can’t prevent the re-write of history.

But we’re clearly not the “bad actor.”

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Bloomberg View Column: Only Brooklyn Is Over the City’s Housing Bust

October 13, 2014 | 2:32 pm | BloombergViewlogoGray | Columns |

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Read my latest Bloomberg View column Only Brooklyn Is Over the City’s Housing Bust. Please join the conversation over at Bloomberg View. Here’s an excerpt…

Housing prices in four of New York’s five boroughs still haven’t reached their pre-crash highs. The outlier? Brooklyn.

Housing prices in Brooklyn now are more than 8 percent above the peak reached in 2007. The other four boroughs, meanwhile, are all more than 10 percent below their highs, with the Bronx still down by almost a quarter….

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[Video] Fox Business Risk & Reward with Deirdre Bolton 10-6-14

October 6, 2014 | 4:24 pm | Videos |

I spoke with Deirdre Bolton on “Risk & Reward” today to speak about last weekend’s excellent New York Times real estate piece by Julie Satow called “Dialing it Down.” Deirdre focused on the metric developed during my preparation of last week’s Elliman Report of Manhattan sales in 3Q2014 showing that luxury inventory has doubled over the past year.

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[Manhattan Absorption] September 2014 – While All Markets Cool, Sub $3M Remains Brisk

October 4, 2014 | 3:27 pm | Charts |

9-2014Manhattan [click to expand]

Thoughts A noticeable downshift from last year yet the market remains brisk. Nearly all price segments are showing slower absorption rates with more weakness seen above the $3M threshold (roughly where the luxury market begins i.e. top 10%).

Side by side Manhattan regional comparison:

September 2014 v September 2013
9-201409-2013 [click images to expand]

I started this analysis in August 2009 so I am able to show side-by side year-over-year comparisons. (I got tired of the red/gray look in 9-2014 so I changed it) The blue/red line shows the 10-year quarterly average for context. The pink/orange line represents the overall average absorption rate of the most recently completed month for that market area. 

Definition Absorption defined for the purposes of this chart is: Number of months to sell all listing inventory at the current annualized pace of sales activity in our market report series.


Manhattan Market Absorption Charts [Miller Samuel]

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Bloomberg View Column: When $7 Million Is Average for Manhattan

October 3, 2014 | 12:05 pm | BloombergViewlogoGray | Columns |

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Read my latest Bloomberg View column When $7 Million Is Average for Manhattan. Please join the conversation over at Bloomberg View. Here’s an excerpt…

It’s pretty much universal knowledge that Manhattan real estate is expensive. What isn’t so well known is what’s happening at the top of the market: Price increases have been crazy.

Ever since the financial crisis, housing prices for the most-expensive 10 percent of the Manhattan market have increased more than 15 percent. Compare that with the modest 2.5 percent gain for the remaining 90 percent of the market….

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Miller Samuel Turns 28

October 1, 2014 | 6:44 pm |

NY-28

It’s hard to comprehend we launched our residential appraisal and consulting practice 28 years ago TODAY. It was before…

  • appraiser licensing.
  • co-ops were public record.
  • real market reports.
  • Bryant Park was safe to walk through during the day.
  • graffiti was removed from the subway system.
  • Derek Jeter joined the Yankees.
  • McDonalds in Manhattan were commonplace.
  • $10k per square foot.

Billions in valuations later…it’s still fun.

Tomorrow we get working on year 29.

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3Q14 Manhattan Sales Market: Operating Just Below Record Levels

October 1, 2014 | 6:17 pm | delogo | Reports |

Manhattan_3Q14

Today Douglas Elliman published the Elliman Report on Manhattan Sales that I author. This quarterly report is part of an evolving market report series I’ve been writing for Douglas Elliman since 1994 (20 years!).

Key Points
- Sales fell below last year’s third quarter record but still 29% above decade quarterly average.
- Luxury market price gains outpaced the overall market.
- Inventory is up from last year’s low but still 18% below decade quarterly average.
- New development market share of closed sales was up from year ago level, but expected to rise sharply over next year.
- Highest market share of sales at or above list price in 6 years (49.2%).

Here’s an excerpt from the report:

Manhattan housing prices continued to rise as additional supply remained inadequate to meet demand. Bidding wars and a shift toward larger units applied additional upward pressure to rising price trends. Sharp gains in New York City employment, the continued influx of international investors and low mortgage rates have kept the market tight. A product of five years of pent-up demand and the fear of rising mortgage rates, sales volume fell short of prior year records. Marketing times and negotiability eased, as the market downshifted from last year’s frenetic pace. Luxury market price growth exceeded the overall market, while new development product targeted at the luxury segment continued to enter the market…

The Elliman Report: 3Q14 Manhattan Sales [Miller Samuel]
Miller Samuel Aggregate Database [Miller Samuel]
Market Chart Gallery [Miller Samuel]


Bloomberg View Column: Giant Condo Tower Needs More Billionaires

September 29, 2014 | 2:26 pm | BloombergViewlogoGray | Columns |

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Read my latest Bloomberg View column Giant Condo Tower Needs More Billionaires. Please join the conversation over at Bloomberg View. Here’s an excerpt…

In post-crash Manhattan’s high-end real estate, few projects loom larger or more visibly than the 1,004-foot-high One57, the tallest residential-hotel building in New York. This is a rarefied market, with two penthouse units selling for more than $90 million each, including one to hedge-fund baron Bill Ackman.

Amid all the hyperventilating about the tower, including complaints that it’s out of scale with the neighborhood, it’s poorly reviewed design and that it casts an afternoon shadow on Central Park in the winter, the little known fact is that the 92-unit building seems to be less of a hit with buyers than one might glean from the PR machine….

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