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Federal Reserve Bank

The Big Short: The Movie Coming this December

September 23, 2015 | 11:37 am |

Coming to a theatre near you in December…

Aside from playing my favorite Led Zeppelin song “When the Levee Breaks” and being based on one of my favorite books about the housing bust/financial crisis “The Big Short” that was written by one of my favorite authors Michael Lewis (Blind Side, Flash Boys, Moneyball, Liar’s Poker, The New New Thing, etc.) that includes pretty much all my favorite actors – it’s a freakin’ incredible story.

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[VIDEO] Boomberg Radio/TV ‘Surveillance’ 9-21-15

September 21, 2015 | 11:45 am | Radio |

I was set to speak in studio with Tom Keene and Pimm Fox but had a commuting snafu and had to call in. It was a great opportunity to show a picture of me as a 15 year old. Love these guys. The best. The Bloomberg Television/Radio are clearly pros and handled the last minute change with ease.

We talked about lots of housing markets and the distortion being created by credit conditions.

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Fed Charts: How are the Housing Fundamentals Doing?

July 13, 2015 | 11:22 am | fedny |

The New York Fed just put out an economic recap of the U.S. economy that is chock full of charts and data.

NYC employment growth is strong…


But nationally, unemployment is falling but those being counted on the roles are falling…


Housing starts have ramped up but most is multi-family – driven by freakin’ high rents.


New single family home sales are lagging existing home sales (see chart above)…


And we wonder why the economy doesn’t feels so good…anemic wage growth…


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[Video] NYC Home Shuffle: Housing has been taken over by finance

July 6, 2015 | 12:52 pm | TV, Videos |

A few months ago I was approached by film students Clàudia Prat & Eric French to speak to the housing market as part of a larger project called “What is Home?” series.

I’m a big fan of documentaries and this is worth watching.

Their effort was called: NYC Home Shuffle (5:51 minutes):

Part of a global trend, New York City’s homes become a commodity: an investment instead of a right. Yet a global movement responds.
By Clàudia Prat & Eric French // May 2015

NYC Home Shuffle from Studio 20 on Vimeo.

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NYC Economy is Expanding Rapidly

January 30, 2015 | 11:05 am | fedny |


According the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the NYC economy is crushing it, growing far faster than the states of New York and New Jersey.

They are using an Index of Coincident Economic Indicators:

A coincident index is a single summary statistic that tracks the current state of the economy. The index is computed from a number of data series that move systematically with overall economic conditions.

Spectacular TED Talk on The US Financial Crisis: How it Happened + How to Prevent

May 31, 2014 | 4:59 pm | Favorites |

Wlliam Black, a former bank regulator, made a TED Talk last fall that I wish I had made (but I couldn’t be as eloquent although I have a cooler tie). It should be required viewing by anyone who is connected with the housing industry.

Black’s presentation lays out the financial crisis in the proper context. He provides the recipe for disaster for all to see and it is NOT complicated to understand. Change the perverse incentives and a lot of this goes away. So many opportunities to avoid this crisis were missed.

And this is the first time I’ve heard someone talk about the unrelenting pressure that banks (and mortgage brokers) placed on appraisers, essentially forcing our industry to either make the number of get out of town. By 2007, 90% of appraisers said they were coerced by banks to make the number. That seems low to me. It had to be 100% or else those 10% of appraisers were living in a cave.

I’ll be returning to this video periodically for the foreseeable future as a reminder.

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[Video] “Housing…will be a Necessary Casualty”

May 10, 2014 | 12:20 pm | bloomberg_news_logo |

Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics as a guest on Bloomberg Television points out some key issues relating to housing and the economy. It’s a great quick overview on how housing fits into the economic recovery equation. So much for a “soft handoff,” the idea of the housing moving from dependency on low mortgage rate to thriving on a stronger economy. The ideas being projected here are that the economy may improve without housing’s help.

“It is not quite as important as the fed seems to think.” “I sometimes say the fed is almost as obsessed with housing as the labor market.”

“I’m not convinced it is absolutely essential that housing keeps charging upwards in order for the rest of the economy to grow.”

“It’s a relatively small share of gdp now in terms of housing construction and even when you add in the retail stuff related to housing.”

“It is important to sentiment.”

“They were ready to dismiss it as something temporary and clearly the worries are more deeper.”

“Mortgage rates, if they rise further as the economy picks up, housing will be under further pressure.”

“It is a paradox that the stronger the rest of the economy gets and the more worried the market gets about the fed raising rates, the higher 10 year yields will go and mortgage rates and potentially the housing market will get weaker.”

“This is a three or four year process to get back to normal.”

Housing unfortunately will be a necessary casualty.

“My guess is that that’s the way the fed’s thinking evolves great if we see the economy strengthening brother that housing is weakening, i think they will have to live with that and stand up and say it’s a price we have to pay in order to get the rest of the economy moving.”

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Pending Home Sales Down 10.2% YOY And That’s Not A Bad Thing

March 27, 2014 | 11:55 am | Charts |

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NAR released their pending home sale index today and the news was not unexpected. US home sales volume has slowed since last spring’s taper miscue by the fed which caused mortgage rates to jump. If you look at the May surge in pending sales, sales volume, seasonally speaking (comparing year over year) has fallen 10.2% (unadjusted).

The introduction of QM earlier in the year probably doesn’t help volume levels, but I’m not really convinced that the housing recovery is actually stalling. It seems more like sales levels are settling to more sustainable levels. And as sales go, so goes the insane price gains seen in the national reports.

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Regulators Turn Focus on AMCs, Proposals Include Hiring “Competent” Appraisers

March 26, 2014 | 12:43 am | Milestones |


The OCC and an alphabet soup of 5 additional regulators: FDIC, CFPB, FHFA, NCUA and the Federal Reserve issued a joint press release that if adopted, takes a small step forward in the regulation of appraisal management companies, who are largely responsible for the collapse of valuation quality since the credit crunch began.

To many, this action is long overdue. Appraisal management companies control the vast majority all mortgage appraisals in the US, having been legitimized by HVCC back in May 2009. I’ve burned a lot of calories over the past several years pointing out the problems with the AMC industry so admittedly it is nice to see them getting attention. The fact that these institutions are not licensed to do business at a statewide level but the appraisers who provide the valuation expertise they manage is inconsistent at best.

Still, the recognition of this regulatory glitch probably won’t have a significant impact on appraisal quality provided by AMCs. As my friend Joe Palumbo maintains, is like fool’s gold.

I think proposal is at least a starting point.

A couple of highlights – regulators would:

  • Require that appraisals comply with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (today we had a clerical AMC staffer tell us that writing out the math calculations on the floor plan was a requirement of USPAP).
  • Ensure selection of a competent and independent appraiser. (It is unbelievable to think this is necessary but it does make the legal exposure a little larger for AMCs.)

Housingwire has a good recap of the proposed regulations and so does the Wall Street Journal provides a nice overview (I gave them background for the piece).

The proposal by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Reserve and other regulators mandates that appraisal-management companies hired by federally regulated banks use only state-licensed appraisers with “the requisite education, expertise, and experience necessary” to complete appraisals competently.

Moral hazard There is no significant financial incentive for lenders to stop accepting the generally poor quality appraisals the AMC industry presents them daily. The hope is that the additional regulatory largess the AMCs have to confront will force the issue with lenders simply because the AMCs will have to raise their fees. Without a real “value-add” to the banks other than cost control and fast turn times, the lack of quality for a large swath of AMCs may no longer be overlooked by banks. Yes I can dream.

Residential appraisers, mostly 1-2 person shops, have largely been left without a voice and the bigger financial institutions have lobbied financial reform overtop of us without the regulators truly understanding what our role should to be to protect the taxpayer from excessive risk.

Anumber of smart appraisers I know have created a petition whose sole purpose is the get the attention of the CSFB to address the issue of “customary and reasonable” fees. Our industry has no other way to reach the regulators or the ability to lobby our views in Washington. I hope they are listening.

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Talking Interest Rates, Housing on Bloomberg TV’s ‘Surveillance’

March 20, 2014 | 8:33 am | bloomberg_news_logo | TV, Videos |

Had a great conversation with Tom Keene, Scarlet Fu, Olivia Sterns and guest host Strategas Research Chief Investment Strategist Jason Trennert about the US housing market. We also dabbled a bit in Brooklyn and Manhattan rents and talked NCAA March Madness picks. Always fun to come in and join the Surveillance team.

Go MSU Spartans! Go State!

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Money for Nothing Movie Trailer

March 28, 2013 | 5:29 pm | fedny | TV, Videos |

I can’t wait for the documentary Money for Nothing to be released. In fact I donated to because I was so impressed that I wanted my own copy.

This documentary is compelling and so are all the cast members. It includes a who’s who list of current and past members of the Federal Reserve as well as economists and Wall Street experts. Cast members include my friend Barry Ritholtz and Gary Shilling who both have been on my podcast. Todd Harrison of the great site and John Mauldlin who I have always looked to for insights. Jim Grant of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer who called me at the height of the crisis to get a gauge on the Manhattan housing market.

During the housing bubble I often felt like screaming as I saw the financial world through my appraisal glasses thinking I missed an important math class in 8th grade. Fast growing banks with gigantic mortgage volume and many of my appraisal competitors in bed with mortgage brokers were clearly smarter than me – they could make the numbers work and I couldn’t.

In 2003 and 2004 I remember being absolutely confident as a non-economist that the Fed was keeping interest rates too low for too long. I could see it in the loss of lending standards and the lavish incomes enjoyed by those around me who embraced a world of based on moral flexibility. The froth was simply ignored.

Don’t mean to get sentimental on you dear readers, but this movie struck a chord with me. Enjoy the trailer and watch for the release date announcement.

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Housing Data as Pop Culture

February 14, 2013 | 7:00 am | delogo | Charts |

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A recent post in CNN/Money featured Andy Warhol’s 1984 “U.S. Unemployment Rate. No Campbell Soup Cans but it feels strange to associate his art with economic data from the 1980s. It somehow works for me. One of the coolest property inspections I made was through “The Factory” years ago.

In 2007 the “Stand-up Economist” Yorman Bauman led the way with this much watched video on the difference between macro and micro economists. “Microeconomists are wrong about specific things while macroeconomists are wrong about things in general.” HI-larious.

And recently the TV game show “Teen Jeopardy” had 5 questions about the “Federal Reserve.”

Christie’s sales rep said:

“Economic data has become popular culture. While we used to think of it as being some kind of verified information only for people who are really knowledgeable about the economy, it’s popular culture now. You can talk to a taxi driver about it.”

I completely agree. Gangnam Style and GDP now go hand in hand.

We devour housing data ie the recently released Real Deal Data Book (I’ve got a lot of charts and tables in there!)

Throw in the heavy downloads of our report series for Douglas Elliman, NAR Research, CoreLogic, Case Shiller, RealtyTrac, etc. it’s clear to me that housing data is an obsession and embedded in popular culture (thank goodness).