Matrix Blog

Historical, Landmark, Milestone

Declaring A Housing Recovery Using A Threshold Based on Fraud

November 30, 2016 | 3:16 pm | Charts |

S&P CoreLogic used it’s National Non-Seasonally Adjusted Housing Price Index to declare that the housing market has recovered. Even the ironies of this public relations effort have ironies. I’ll explain.

First, look at this classic Case-Shiller chart. Notice how the arrows don’t connect to the lines they are associated? I’m being petty but it looks like the chart was updated and rushed out the door.

csiclassicchart11-2016

Incidentally, who controls the Case-Shiller Indices brand these days? It used to be “S&P/Case-Shiller Indices.” Here are a couple of variations found in the first paragraph of the press release:

  • S&P Dow Jones Indices
  • S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices

but I digress

Since the financial crisis, I have spent a good deal of time explaining away the reliability of the Case Shiller Index.

To be clear, I greatly admire Robert Shiller, the Nobel Laureate and his pioneering work in economics. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with him on a number of occasions both publicly and privately. He and I were on stage together at Lincoln Center back during the housing bubble for a Real Deal event.

During the bubble I was the public face of a short lived Wall Street start-up that collapsed when the bubble burst. Like Case-Shiller it was built to enable the hedging of the housing market to mitigate risk using a different methodology, avoiding the repeat-sales method used in CS. The firm had annoyed Shiller by constantly citing the issues with the CS index and we got far more traction from Wall Street with our index that was (literally) built by rocket scientists. It got to the point where he mentioned me and the startup by name at a conference in frustration.

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After I disconnected with the startup before it imploded, I reached out and we made up. In fact he did my Housing Helix podcast (link broken but hope to bring it back online soon for historical reference) at my office back when I was doing a podcast series of interviews with key people in housing). Also we’ve run into each other on the street in Manhattan a number of times. In fact when he learned of my love of sea kayaking he gave me the latitude and longitude coordinates of his island vacation home in case I was nearby. You can see that I feel a little guilty criticizing the use of the index since he is one of the nicest and smartest people I’ve ever had the honor to meet.

But I don’t like the way S&P, Dow Jones and/or CoreLogic have positioned Case-Shiller as a consumer benchmark. And especially yesterday’s announcement as a marker for the recovery of the U.S. housing market. I feel this is a low brow attempt by these institutions to leverage publicity without much thought applied to what is actually being said. Here are some thoughts on why it is inappropriate to use this moment as a marker for the housing recovery.

“The new peak set by the S&P Case-Shiller CoreLogic National Index will be seen as marking a shift from the housing recovery to the hoped-for start of a new advance” says David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Blitzer remains in the very awkward position of explain away the gap between the market 6 months ago and current condition as if there is no difference. He does this by using anecdotal commentary about metrics like supply that has nothing to do with the price index as well as making pithy remarks.

  • The Case-Shiller National Index is being touted for reaching the record set in the housing bubble a decade ago despite the record being set back then by artificial aka systemic mortgage fraud. However their 20 city index has been pushed as the key housing benchmark for more than a decade, not the national index. And they are using the non-seasonally adjusted national index to proclaim the record beaten despite their long time preference of presenting seasonally adjusted indices (the seasonally adjusted national index has not broken the housing bubble record yet).

  • The credit bubble got us to the 2006 peak, not anything fundamental.

cshpitablefrompeak11-2016

  • In my thirty years of valuation experience, I have learned that sales transactions, not prices, should be the benchmark for a housing market’s health.

  • The 0% markets that reached the 2006 peak are super frothy – created by rapidly expanding economies and an inelastic housing supply. Income growth doesn’t always justify their price growth. Click on table below for the markets shaded in turquoise.

csnsazero

Some important background points on the Case Shiller Home Price Index (CS) – that most of its users are unaware of:

  • CS was never intended for consumer use! It was built for Wall Street to trade derivatives to hedge housing market risk much like hedging risk for weather, insurance, non-fat dry milk and cheddar cheese.

  • CS never caught on because housing is a slow and lumbering asset class, unlike a stock which has much more liquidity. The flaw during this bubble period was the way Wall Street and most real estate market participants considered housing as liquid as a stock and how financial engineering had enabled that liquidity.

  • As access to public housing data has become more ubiquitous, the index has been more easily gamed by companies like Zillow, who have been able to accurately predict the index results much sooner rendering the index as useless for hedging.

  • CS lags the actual “meeting of the minds” between by buyers and sellers – when they agree on the price and general terms – by 5-7 months. The November report just released was based on the 3 month moving average of closed sales from July, August and September. If we say that contract to close period is an average of 60 days, then the contracts signed in this batch of data represent May, June and July. And the time between the “meeting of the minds” and the signed contracts can be a couple of weeks, so the results in yesterday’s lease of the Case-Shiller index represents the period around Memorial Day weekend as summer was getting started.

  • CS only represents single family homes (although they have an index for condos).

  • CS excludes new development.

  • There is little if any seasonality in the CS methodology (even though there is a seasonally adjusted version).

  • Geographic areas in the 10 and 20 city CS indices are incredibly broad. For example, the “New York” index includes New York City, Long Island, Hamptons, Fairfield County, Westchester County, a bunch of counties in northern NJ and a county in Pennsylvania. Yet this index is often represented as a proxy for the Manhattan housing market by national news outlets. Manhattan residential sales have about a 1% market share of single family homes.

In other words, the CS index is a great academic tool to trend single family home prices at a 30,000 foot view for research but not to measure the current state of your local market.

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Housing and the Election Aftermath

November 9, 2016 | 9:56 pm | Milestones |

With any significant unexpected and historic event, the initial impact to housing can be seen in the form of a “pause” until buyers have enough time to process it. I first wrote about my “milestone” theory more than a decade ago. There was a New York Times cover story a month after Lehman collapsed in 2008 that used our data to mark such a milestone. A “pause” can be measured in days or months and market reaction can ultimately go against conventional wisdom.

Back in August of 2011, after S&P downgraded U.S. debt ratings, it was thought to be catastrophic to the U.S. economy yet the world’s investors flooded into U.S. treasuries for safety, pushing interest rates to the floor, ultimately giving a boost to housing.

I may not know much, but I do believe this: potential changes in government social policies should be kept separate from potential changes in economic policies, otherwise it is impossible to take action on anything in your life. This probably includes making decisions about whether to buy or sell a home. This U.S. election campaign has been brutal and at this point we don’t know how much of what was said about social policy will be enacted. This uncertainty may keep some buyers on the sidelines longer than others, but otherwise I’m not sure any of that matters to the housing market. On the margin, I am hearing that a few buyers have placed their purchases on hold. This is a normal reaction after a significant historic event but eventually many of those participants wade back into the pool when they are more comfortable.

Stock futures were down significantly overnight but the financial markets moved higher after initially falling. With a quickly rebounding stock market, I’m don’t think home buyers will take very long to decide whether to rejoin the housing market.

2016electiondjiachart

In addition, the odds of a December interest rate increase by the Federal Reserve dropped sharply despite yesterday’s view of a rate hike as nearly a sure thing. The president elect’s economic platform, which was not widely discussed during the campaign, proposes a large tax cut and investment in infrastructure which are either favorable or neutral to the housing market.

bbcmefutureselectionday

Before the election, the housing market was generally softest at the top over the 18 U.S. markets we cover. I believe inventory will continue to be more readily available at the higher end than for other segments. In New York, the slow down in sales was assumed to caused by the pull back of foreign buyers. However this decline was equally matched by domestic buyers over the same period, so the foreign buyer decline has been a false narrative. The sales share of international buyers has remained stable for for nearly 3 years. I am speaking at the The Real Deal conference in Shanghai next week and will look to understand sentiment towards further U.S. real estate investment.

3q16internationalshare

Rather than the international buyer narrative, I attribute the New York sales slow down to the visceral view of new residential towers rising from empty lots. Construction lending nearly dried up at the beginning of the year so the pipeline will slow quite a bit over the next two years.

With world economies generally falling or remaining weaker than the U.S. economy and the continuation of near record low interest rates, I don’t see much impact from the U.S. election results after the short term jitters pass.

Of course, I was wrong about the election.

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Miller Samuel turned 29 today

October 1, 2015 | 2:43 pm | Milestones |

MSIlogo

Hard to believe we’ve been around so long.

I personally feel about 29 years old (maturity of a 19 year old, obviously) yet after we published our Manhattan report today that cited 26 year record highs, the math places me a bit older than 29. My birthday was yesterday (I’m still milking that day for all I can) and our company’s birthday is today. We launched in 1986, working in our apartments and communicating via fax machines, buying Macintosh Plus computers, creating our own appraisal software, using bar code scanners, Scantron readers, tape measures, measuring wheels, sonic measuring devices, laser measuring devices and beepers. It’s been a surprisingly fun but difficult journey.


[Three Cents Worth #287 NY] Tracking New York Rents and Asking Prices Over a Century

June 3, 2015 | 6:04 pm | curbed2 | Charts |

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 on @CurbedNY:

Back in 2011, I embarked on a fun research project for Douglas Elliman’s 100th anniversary, in which I traced how sales prices and rents changed since the 1910s. I explain in detail how I did the research here, but I ended up with a very loose proxy to represent price per square foot for sales and average monthly rents during each decade…

2015-6-1curbed

Here are some other ways to view the 100 year trend based on feedback from readers.

2015-6-1curbedDoD

2015-6-1curbedCPIDoD

2015-6-1curbedCPI

[click to expand charts]


My latest Three Cents Worth column: Three Cents Worth: Tracking New York Rents and Asking Prices Over a Century [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

Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed LA

Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed Ski

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[Three Cents Worth #276 NY] Proving New York’s Blockbuster $100M Sale Is An Outlier

January 22, 2015 | 1:08 pm | curbed2 | Charts |

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 on @CurbedNY:

Finally, after nearly two years of referring to the $88 million sale at 15 Central Park West as the “highest Manhattan residential sale on record,” we get a change of scenery. A new record was set with the $100.47 million sale of the penthouse at One57 recorded late last week. Timing is everything, although, in this case timing really wasn’t. I believe this sale went to contract in 2012, which would be shortly after the $88 million sale went to contract in December 2011 and closed in early 2012. While these super luxury sales are more of a circus sideshow and have little, if anything, to do with the vast majority of the Manhattan housing market, I find them surreal to consider…



3cw1-21-15-short
[click to expand chart]


My latest Three Cents Worth column on Curbed: Three Cents Worth: Proving New York’s Blockbuster $100M Sale Is An Outlier [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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A Fifth Avenue Co-op’s 87-Year Price Increase was 3.6X Rate of Inflation

August 1, 2014 | 6:30 am | nytlogo |

960fifth$450krecord-1927

[click to expand]

A few months ago there was a record $70M sale of a penthouse co-op sale at 960 Fifth Avenue.  The purchaser paid $5M over list price.

While doing some research I ran across an article in the New York Times archive that described a record Manhattan sale of $450,000 in the same building in 1927.  The apartment was located on the 10th and most of the 11th floor in the same building (aka 3 East 77th Street).

Based on the unit description, I believe this to be Apartment 10/11B which last sold for $21,000,000 on July 24, 2013.   Using the BLS calculator for CPI, a $450,000 sales price in 1927 adjusted for inflation to 2014 dollars would be $6,164,043 or an increase of 1,270%.

However the apartment sold for $21,000,000. an increase of 4,567% or 3.6 times the rate of inflation.

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Manhattan Penthouse Co-op Sold For 2nd Highest PPSF in History

June 9, 2014 | 2:57 pm | Milestones |

960fifthFP

Real estate reporter Katherine Clark at the New York Daily News got the scoop on the $70,000,000 penthouse sale at 960 Fifth Avenue, the highest price ever paid for a Manhattan co-op apartment. Curbed New York lays out all the (pretty?) pictures.

The previous record was held by David Geffen, who paid $54,000,000 in 2012 for the Penthouse at 785 Fifth Avenue. Although the Geffen penthouse was renovated, it was 12,000 square feet, more than twice as large as the 5,500 square feet within the penthouse at 960 Fifth Avenue – that just sold for a record price of $70M.

To further illustrate how much more expensive this new record price actually is, take a look at the two highest Manhattan co-op sales prices achieved, but on a price per square foot basis:

David Geffen paid $4,500 psf for the penthouse at 785 Fifth Avenue for the then record price of $54,000,000.

Nassef Sawiris paid $12,727 psf for the penthouse at 960 Fifth Avenue for the new record price of $70,000,000. On a sales price basis, the new record is 29.6% higher than the old record of 2 years ago.

On a price per square foot basis, the record sale was 182.8% above the previous record sale price set two years ago.

With all the attention focused on the newish or new development residential condo market, the all-time price per square foot apartment record was set 2 years ago, around the time of the Geffen purchase.  A Russian oligarch paid $88,000,000 for Sandy Weill’s penthouse condo that works out to $13,049 per square foot. That record breaking sale was largely viewed as a market outlier, that the buyer overpaid as part of a larger divorce strategy – since it was 31% higher than the previous record in the year prior within the same building.

Some other oddities about this new record co-op sale at 960 Fifth Avenue:

  • The 960 Fifth Avenue co-op board is old world and I’ve heard it is fairly tough. As a general statement, it is not that common to see a foreign buyer at the high end of the market approved by a co-op board.
  • The news coverage suggested the buyer was slow to pay his taxes and negotiated a reduced amount with the government. This would be a concern for most co-op boards in terms of collecting maintenance charges in arrears from a foreign national if they stopped paying.

Since these conditions would probably make any high end co-op board nervous, perhaps this is a sign that shareholders (board members are also shareholders) are concerned about damaging potential property values by limiting the universe of people that would be able to afford these types of prices in this new market condition.

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Pulling the Case-Shiller Index Back by 6 Months to Reflect Actual Buyer/Seller Behavior

May 27, 2014 | 10:45 pm | Charts |

matrixCSIshift-5-27-14
[click to expand]

The Case Shiller Index was released today and it continued to confuse consumers, pundits, economists etc…and for good reason. It’s 6 months late.

I wondered what would happen if their index result was pulled back by 6 months to see how it lined up with a couple of significant housing milestones (purple vertical lines). The most recent housing milestone was last year’s Bernanke speech that resulted in the spike in mortgage rates in May-June of 2013.

In the modified trend line (dotted blue) housing prices surge up until mortgage rates spike. This is clearly more logical than the actual index showing housing prices surging for six months after the mortgage rate spike.

In the earlier milestone in April 2010, the adjusted index (dotted blue line) immediately begins to slide after the April 2010 signed contract deadline passed to qualify for the federal homeowner tax credit as part of the stimulus plan. Yes, that’s exactly what happened on the front lines.

I’m going to call this new methodology “time-shifting a housing index.” From an historical perspective, this is a much more useful and reliable trend line. For the near term, it places the CS HP 6 months behind the market without any relevance to current conditions. Then again, the S&P/Case Shiller Home Price Index was never meant to be a monthly housing indicator for consumers as it is currently used by the media. It was originally created to enable Wall Street to hedge housing but never caught on because of the long time lag and therefore the eventual ability of investors to accurately predict the results.


The top chart is fairly self-explanatory but here’s the math again:

  • May 2014 Report Publication Date
  • March 2014 Data (Jan, Feb, March Closings – February is midpoint)
  • January 2014 Contracts (Nov, Dec, Jan Contracts – December is midpoint)

Contracts Assumes 90 days between closing date and “meeting of minds” between buyer and seller i.e. 75 days from contract to close +15 days to signed contract from “meeting of minds.”

“Meeting of Minds” Moment when buyer and seller agree on basic price and terms, usually a few weeks before contract is actually signed i.e. May 2014 Case Shiller Report = December 2013. The optimal moment to measure housing.

Here’s a regular chart that has a longer timeline, with and without seasonal adjustments (you can see that seasonal adjustments are essentially meaningless.)

matrixCSI-5-27-14

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Documentary: The Coney Island Zipper, A Land Use Battle

May 25, 2014 | 9:12 pm |

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[click to view film on PBS until 4/1/17]

I saw the documentary: ZIPPER: CONEY ISLAND’S LAST WILD RIDE (here’s the trailer) over the weekend on the land use battle in Coney Island. I like the filmmakers’ focus on the guys that ran the “Zipper” (the ride is guaranteed to make me throw up) to humanize the development battle between NYC, Coney Island residents and the developer. Plus you can’t go wrong with a good Blue Oyster Cult song in the opening.

After watching the documentary (you can purchase or rent it here), you can’t help but see how difficult it is to develop property in NYC striking a balance between community needs with economic feasibility as well as navigate political power and government.

This difficulty is a key reason why residential housing costs are so high in most urban markets.

Still, a new ride in Coney Island was just opened – The Thunderbolt Roller Coaster.

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[Global Top 20] Highest Priced Closed Residential Sales List

May 14, 2014 | 11:15 am | bloomberg_news_logo | Radio |

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After all the hoopla over the recent $147M sale in The Hamptons, I compiled a list of the highest priced sales around the world I could think of. It’s not comprehensive since all the sales are in the US or UK, and there are a few out there that haven’t closed yet.

Here’s a very brief Marketplace Radio piece on this phenomenon.

Please share if you know of others!

A few takeaways:

  • The media coverage to actual sales ratio is staggering.
  • There can’t be more than a few dozen, a few hundred or perhaps a few thousand that would be considered buyers in this space at any one time.
  • These sales are a pop culture-like distraction from the growing issue of access to affordable housing in the US.

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[Three Cents Worth NY #234] Manhattan’s Stormy Listing Trend

June 12, 2013 | 3:50 pm | curbed2 | Charts |

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 this week’s 3CW column on @CurbedNY:

This week I took a look at Manhattan’s year-over-year listing trends by the number of bedrooms on a weekly basis. I threw in a few milestones using ridiculous artwork (hey, this is Curbed!) to help provide some context. To state the obvious, listing inventory is very volatile and there are periods of time where certain segments stray from the pack. It’s clear that the top end of the market (four bedrooms, pink line) strayed the most over the past few years as many owners tried to piggyback onto a handful of trophy sales…


[click to expand chart]

 


My latest Three Cents Worth column on Curbed: Manhattan’s Stormy Listing Trend [Curbed]
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed NY
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed DC
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed Miami

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[Three Cents Worth NY #231] Manhattan Sales, Rentals Not Opposites

May 15, 2013 | 1:13 pm | curbed2 | Charts |

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 today’s 3CW column on @CurbedNY:

I thought I’d take a look at price growth between the Manhattan rental market and sales market over the past decade. I am struck by how many of us have the default view that these two markets always move in opposite directions, myself included. In other words, if rental prices are rising, sales prices must be falling and vice versa. I trended the year-over-year change in median rental price and median sales price over the decade. I also inserted significant US housing milestones along the way but left out the ’13 launch of Iron Man 3…


[click to expand chart]

 


Today’s Post: Three Cents Worth: Manhattan Sales, Rentals Not Opposites [Curbed]
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed NY
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed DC
Three Cents Worth Archive Curbed Miami

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