Matrix Blog

Government, Politics, Regulations & Policy

Podcast: My Port Authority of NY & NJ Interview on Regional Housing Market

September 24, 2015 | 12:16 pm | Podcasts |

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A few days ago I was interviewed by Christopher Eshleman at the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. He works for Alexander Heil who is the chief economist and publishes a lot of great regional economic insights. Although this is a new effort, this was their first podcast conducted outside of the institution so I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to share my views.

Christopher is a sharp guy and kept the conversation interesting (I even inserted a Jerry Seinfeld joke). It’s about a half an hour.

Check it out.

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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] 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
whatishome.nyc // May 2015

NYC Home Shuffle from Studio 20 on Vimeo.

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Bloomberg View Column: Rent Control vs. Keeping Landlords Happy

June 26, 2015 | 10:00 am | BloombergViewlogoGray | Charts |

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Read my latest Bloomberg View column Rent Control vs. Keeping Landlords Happy.

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Here’s an excerpt…

The past few weeks have offered a window on the tensions between landlords and tenants in New York’s real estate market. Amid the political machinations in the city and the state’s capital, the New York State Assembly let rent controls lapse, temporarily placing more than 2 million tenants in housing limbo. A tentative deal has since been worked out to extend the regulations for four years but the details are not yet available…

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Bloomberg View Column: Costly City Housing Is an Economic Drag

June 3, 2015 | 6:12 pm | BloombergViewlogoGray | Charts |

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Read my latest Bloomberg View column Costly City Housing Is an Economic Drag.

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Here’s an excerpt…

It’s tough living in a big city — the people, the traffic, the noise. Oh, and did we mention the cost of housing? Contrary to conventional wisdom, high and rising housing costs in the U.S.’s biggest cities are not ideal for an economic recovery. Just the opposite: When housing costs take a big bite out of incomes, it diverts money that could be spent on local goods and services or invested in new businesses that stimulate growth…

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Bloomberg View Column: Do First-Time Homebuyers Need Help?

December 31, 2014 | 5:59 pm | BloombergViewlogoGray | Charts |

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Read my latest Bloomberg View column Do First-Time Homebuyers Need Help?.

Please join the conversation over at Bloomberg View. Here’s an excerpt…

To bring more first-time buyers into the housing market, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac recently said they would offer certain mortgage programs that require down payments of as little as 3 percent, down from 5 percent. Because first-time buyers already make up a large share of the housing market, the wisdom of this policy change should be open to question…

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Bloomberg View Column: Credit Crunch Lives on in Housing

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

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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 | Charts |

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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.

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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.

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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: Guess What’s Holding Back Housing

September 27, 2014 | 12:54 pm | BloombergViewlogoGray | Charts |

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Read my latest Bloomberg View column Guess What’s Holding Back Housing. Please join the conversation over at Bloomberg View. Here’s an excerpt…

During the U.S. housing boom, real-estate appraisers acted like deal-enablers rather than valuation experts. Indeed, inflated appraisals were a key ingredient in the erosion of mortgage-lending standards that led to the housing bust. Now we are seeing the opposite — low appraisals — with unwelcome consequences for the housing market.

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[Three Cents Worth #268 NY] Units In New Developments Grow Larger

August 31, 2014 | 3:57 pm | curbed | Columns |

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 that I posted a few weeks ago on @CurbedNY:

For this chart, I looked at a little more than a decade of Manhattan closed sales by square footage, breaking out the market by new development sales and re-sales. During this period, the average square footage of a new development sale was 1,382—15.6 percent larger than the 1,195 average square footage of a re-sale. However, new development sales size showed significant volatility as developers adapted to the changing market. The underlying driver of volatility is the quest to achieve the highest price per square foot premium a developer realizes by creating larger contiguous space. As a result, the much chronicled “micro-unit” phenomenon falls short and can’t become mainstream under current market conditions without external incentives (i.e. government). The math doesn’t work…



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My latest Three Cents Worth column on Curbed: Units In New Developments Grow Larger [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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If Choosing Suburbs: Surge in NYC High Wage Earners Choosing NY-NJ-CT

July 21, 2014 | 2:11 pm |

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According to New York City’s IBO, in 2012, there were actually 5 times more moves to Florida than to adjacent Connecticut.

However when breaking the movers into 2 categories: households with real income below and above $500,000, the results really change. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut enjoyed a large increase of high income movers from New York City. The California market share in this category of movers collapsed.

But it is important to recognize that the high wage earners only represent 1.8% of total movers. Florida is still the third most popular destination for movers from NYC who are mere mortals.

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