Average sales size patterns for these two size sales categories split sharply three years ago.
No one will argue that a $70 million penthouse can be special. But when a penthouse has many open houses and sits on the market for more than a year, it seems reasonable to wonder about pricing.
Samantha Sharf at Forbes presented a great video that juxtaposes the amenities of the apartment with my perspective on the state of the super luxury market and the next possible housing cycle in front of us. When they filmed this in Bryant Park, there were many people standing and watching off camera which was kinda fun despite my serious slouching.
Speaking about the state of the real estate market tomorrow morning. Looking forward to it! The cool graphic below is enough of a reason to attend. 😉
The original invite graphic was also pretty cool.
Almost two years ago the real estate new development world was rocked by the New York Times epic page one story by Louise Story and Stephanie Saul about foreign investment in U.S. real estate. The vehicle for “Towers of Secrecy” purchases was the ubiquitous LLC shell corporation. While I’m no advocate of illegal activity for the sake of preserving the health of a real estate market, I was very skeptical and outspoken about the challenge of measuring the impact of this new rule. Especially since the new development market had already started to show signs of over supply by mid 2014 in both Manhattan above $3M and Miami above $1M. It also seemed to single out wealthy buyers who did not want to get a mortgage. How could the effectiveness of this six month rule be measured reliably enough to be extended or made permanent when the market was already falling?
Since these series of articles came out, I have learned a lot more about the scale of kleptocracy around the world and more appreciative of what the rule attempted to accomplish.
Fast forward to 2017 and the super lux (≥$5M) new development condo market cooled sharply. The rule has been extended but is now up for renewal in a month. It is not clear whether the new administration will renew it. Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald penned are great recap of the rule status. To make it even better, he included a YouTube video of bulldozers playing chicken in the piece.
I have to say I admire the messaging that came out of Homeland Security to justify the rule’s impact. Whether or not the following is an exageration, the mere existance of the rule is probably an effective deterent.
“We don’t come across [money laundering in real estate] once every 10 or 12 cases,” said John Tobon, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations Deputy Special Agent in Charge for South Florida. “We come across real estate being purchased with illicit funds once every other case.”
Here are the areas current covered by the Treasury rule.
Using the parameters of the rule, the Miami Herald asked that I analyze sales in the five boroughs of NYC since enactment. I stuck with condos and 1-3 families since co-ops tend not be a preferred property type of foreign buyers. I found that sales dropped 6% year over year for the aggregate of Manhattan sales over $3M and the outer borough sales of $1.5M. This included legacy contracts that closed during the rule enactment period but went to contract before it started. Those sales likely softened the actual decline in sales.
While it appears reasonable that the rule had some drag on demand, a possible repeal in February won’t likely have much of an impact on the oversupply that currently exists.
I just returned from China for the second time in a little over a year and have yet been able to make sense of their domestic housing market. I am not talking about their must discussed housing bubble phenomenon or whether they have a housing bubble in the truest sense. I am talking about what seems to be a lack of a re-sale market.
After years of communist rule, the concept of home ownership in China is relatively new and appears to be in its early stages of development. Because growth in housing construction has been astronomical with all sorts of distorted metrics – their use of cement in 3 years (2011-2013) was more than the amount used in the U.S. over 100 years (1901-2000).
Housing accounted for at least 15% of GDP in 2015, down from 22% in 2013. This is why we are seeing large Chinese construction companies working all over the globe these days – due to oversupply of new housing in China. The opportunities for revenue growth at the same pace seems limited.
On the bullet train we rode from Bejing to Shanghai, there were high rises under construction on both sides of the train tracks for most of the 5.5 hour trip. It’s hard to comprehend how much construction is underway without seeing it first hand, but it is massive.
Ghost Cities v. Ghost Towns
Unlike ghost towns in the U.S. which are abandoned after the economic forces are no longer in play, ghost cities have never been occupied. I think this is a pretty obvious flaw of central planning. I learned that incentives play a big role in unnecessary construction. In order for provinces to receive income from the central state, they are encouraged to generate GDP. Construction of apartment buildings is a quick way to boost GDP but there didn’t seem to be concern about their eventual occupancy (a la, build it and they will come). Also since the government owns the land, developers pay ongoing fees for using it. Our tour guide said that there were at least 40 ghost cities in China although this study says there are less. Here is a map of known ghost cities:
Multiple generations pooling their equity
Housing prices have been rising at about 17% annually for a decade – versus 11% disposable income growth of city dwellers. Rising prices have forced many buyers to pool the financial resources of as many as 3 generations of family. This shows how much is at stake for the Chinese government – if the housing bubble was to collapse. Yet same people I spoke with that expressed faith in the housing market showed grave concern over the integrity of their stock market. What alternative investments aside from housing does the typical domestic investor have? Especially since Chinese housing prices increased 53% in the past year?
However I am trying to get an answer for a much more basic point.
Is there a substantial Chinese re-sale market?
I feel way out on a limb when I say the following: few investors actually sell their apartments in the newly constructed apartment buildings.
I asked investors and real estate professionals in the Chinese housing market; four of our tour guides of the past few years; various people I met there during The Real Deal Shanghai conference: “Do investors sell their new apartments?” I consistently got a blank stare for a few moments as if the question had never come up before. A few people told me that buyers hold on to their investments for the long term and “no one sells.” On one of the real estate panels I moderated in Shanghai, a real estate professional made a comment that Chinese investors always prefer new.
The government has been trying to cool the market, requiring much larger down payments for investors, i.e. 70% and limit purchases to 1 per investor, but demand and creative work arounds, such as bogus divorces to skirt restrictions, remains high.
U.S. re-sales (existing sales) have accounted for roughly 85% of total U.S. housing sales over the long run. Granted, China is new to the concept of home ownership so the re-sale market would not dominate housing sales like it does in the U.S. But without a vibrant re-sale market, the “value” derived from Chinese housing market indices tell us Chinese housing price trends must be almost exclusively based on the newest home construction sales prices and that equity is not tangible.
Home sales seem to be a one-way transaction. Investors that buy a home feel wealthier as their investment rises in value. Theoretically that gets them to go out and consume, i.e. the wealth effect. However the market share of consumer spending in China is roughly half the 60% market share seen in the U.S. so they have a long way to go. While the Chinese investor may enjoy rental income when an active rental market exists, domestic housing purchases seem to be driven by a long term equity play.
I have found no anecdotal evidence of the widespread selling of existing properties that were recently developed. There doesn’t seemed to be a tangible moment when the recent investor expects to cash out the equity realized on their purchase of several years ago. If this is an incorrect observation and there indeed is a vibrant and active re-sale market of newly constructed housing, I was unable to see one or be told of one by consumers and real estate investors who live there.
So please clue me in.
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.
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.
Here’s a summary of potential future actions by Chinese investors with the recent spate of volatility in the financial markets.
According to Jonathan Miller, president of appraisal firm Miller Samuel, the tumult in China may lead to even more money finding its way into American residential and commercial real estate. “There are not a lot of investment vehicles in China,” said Miller. “You have the [Chinese] housing market, which is a pretty significant bubble. You have thousands of ghost cities that have been constructed. On top of that, you have a pretty volatile stock market situation. So there is some speculation that there actually will be outflow as a result of this and maybe that will end up in the U.S.” Costello concurs with Miller, noting that China’s insurance companies have been allowed by their regulators to invest in foreign real estate only since 2012. “Unless and until they have to cover losses at home, they’re not going to sell these properties,” said Costello. “They’re going to hold them for the long term.”
Yesterday evening Josh Barbanel at WSJ posted a milestone piece on the current building boom: Construction in New York City Goes Through The Roof: New residential permits surge as developers rush to qualify for tax break
There has been an incredible surge in NYC residential building permits, the most in more than 50 years. It’s amazing to see the Brooklyn permit total nearly reach the total of remainder of the city tallied together.
New York City is entering what could be the biggest building boom in a generation, census figures show, as work gets under way on hundreds of residential projects in neighborhoods across the city. In the first six months of the year, developers received new residential building permits for 42,088 apartments and houses in the city, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, already more than in any full year since 1963, when nearly 50,000 permits were issued.
While permit numbers don’t translate directly to what will actually get built, it is clearly a sign of a significant pipeline in the making.
UPDATE – I neglected to be more clear and say that this surge will likely collapse in the near future, since the jump in permits is likely to be wildly exaggerated as a result of the first reason above.
Always great to swing by and speak with Deirdre Bolton on her Fox Business show “Risk & Reward.” However today’s show was a bit of a mess for me. Working on 4.5 hours of sleep I said I was talking about “interest-free” then changed it to “principal-free” mortgages – LOL – good grief! Note to self: “interest-only.” Plus my company name was reversed 2x and the chyron had it backwards as well. Didn’t discourage me though – always fun to do the show.
This video is an epic condemnation of the new wave of architecture associated with super luxury housing that is redefining the London skyline presented by – The Guardian.
Alain de Botton goes full on, providing heavy criticism that is well worth watching for the answer to the question: Why we are seeing the super luxury/starchitect phenomenon occur?
But the rest of the piece slips into full scale whining.
Here’s a cool rotating gif map on rising U.S. land prices based on data taken from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (in partnership with University of Wisconsin-Madison).
I’ve used their data for my Bloomberg View column talking about the price of land. In short, the land is what appreciates, not the improvements to the land such as the house itself. The price of land is a key issue in the U.S. affordable housing crisis we are now experiencing.
Here’s a 40 year view on the price of land for residential development provided by Howmuch.net