The luxury real estate story starts at 20:58 into the broadcast:
The luxury real estate story starts at 20:58 into the broadcast:
I was reading the newspaper 2 weeks ago and saw that a well regarded area real estate brokerage firm had provided a listing photo magazine insert. I noticed what appeared to be a marketing inconsistency that referred to the Greenwich, CT housing market broker panic of a few months ago.
Below is the “We’re #1 in this market” type headline which is common in these photo magazines.
But it gets more interesting…
For the uninitiated, the Greenwich housing market received the ire of master of the universe Barry Sternlicht, CEO of Starwood which is based in Greenwich. According to area brokers, he was unable to sell his Greenwich home. Apparently it was frustrating so he spoke about it at a large business conference. Bloomberg news captured the slight in “Greenwich Is the Worst U.S. Housing Market, Sternlicht Says“
“You can’t give away a house in Greenwich,” Sternlicht said Tuesday at the CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha Conference in New York.
The brokerage community in Greenwich was appalled and many took the insult personally, at the risk of propping up sellers to unrealistic expectations they have maintained since 2007. Some agents wanted to write responses in the local papers and have celebrities speak out on how amazing Greenwich was as a residential community. Sadly that type of response completely missed the point. Greenwich is awesome. I have relatives who live there. It is beautiful, close to the commuter trains into the city and has a terrific school system. But that isn’t what Sternlicht was criticizing.
A real estate agent’s job is to help their clients navigate a housing market, not lead their clients to believe agents can prop it up artificially (aside from the “glass is half full” orientation) because agents are not bigger than the market. The effectiveness of spinning market conditions to hide actual conditions is a myth. I believe this way of broker thinking actually damages the market by keeping the gap between buyers and sellers artificially wide.
Greenwich, which relies on Wall Street for the high end home buyer market, did not see the boom of the past five years that NYC saw. Bonuses being paid out to Wall Street are forecast to be lower this year for the third year in a row. I wrote about this agent-market disconnect in my Housing Note when the Sternlicht article came out. In addition, areas furthest away from the town center have been the hardest hit as more and more new buyers are reflecting the new urbanism call for walkability.
It appears this brokerage firm was attempting to counter Sternlicht’s insult and placate their own agents, by inserting the following awkward headline: GREENWICH REAL ESTATE IS VIBRANT AND ACTIVE in this listing photo magazine insert below.
I understand that the results of their market report were almost identical to ours – sales slipped year over year – but less than the size of the prior quarter slip. Incidentally they no longer prominently post their market reports on their web site. I assume they have been removed for a similar reason. Current market conditions are weaker than a few years ago in the areas they service so there is no need to illustrate it. Anyway, that’s only my assumption.
The following photo ad even says (you can see the top of the “5%” on the lower right of the photo that says their sales are up 5%. But that factoid does not speak to the market, rather it really speaks about the sales volume of their company. This is misdirection since it contradicts overall market direction.
I have long admired this firm and still do so I sent my thoughts about this to a senior executive I know but received no response. I can only assume that this was thought to be a good recruiting tool to attract those agents appalled by the attack on the Greenwich market by Sternlicht. Unfortunately this doesn’t do any market participant any good since real estate brokers are supposed to be trusted advisors.
Had a nice chat with Scarlet Fu and Matt Miller on Bloomberg TV, to discuss our 3Q2016 report on the Manhattan residential sales market that I author for Douglas Elliman. We referred to Oshrat Carmiel’s Bloomberg News story on the Manhattan housing market that went viral on the Bloomberg Terminals as the number one read story world wide and the story chart made their “Chart of the Hour” on their home page.
[Source: Yahoo News]
Last weekend I read two terrific articles on Chinese real estate investment in the U.S. but they seemed seemed to conflict – check out the headlines:
New York Times Chinese Cash Floods U.S. Real Estate Market
Wall Street Journal Chinese Pull Back From U.S. Property Investments The subtitle says it all – The nation’s economic and stock-market slump puts buyers on the sidelines
Are the Chinese flooding the U.S. market now or are they pulling back? Which is it? Or is it both?
In my recent trip to Shanghai, I spoke to and interviewed many, many real estate investors at The Real Deal Forum. I got the impression that investment has pulled back a bit in 2015 but expectations were high that investment would expand again, although not to the level of the past 5 years. Of course I was doing this in a biased environment – at in investor conference. I was consistently told that government efforts to prop up the stock market spooked much of the smart money out of the market since the actions were taken to calm everyday investors.
The New York Times piece seemed prompted by a P.R. pitch from the Chinese developer for their Dallas suburb project enticed with a suburban angle. It was a refreshing angle since Chinese real estate investment in the U.S. has been an urban narrative and specifically focused on the high end. The article illustrated just how massive the investment patterns have been. To date the narrative has been focused on super luxury condos in expensive metropolitan areas, while the suburbs got limited attention.
The WSJ article is more orientated towards the past few weeks while the NYT article is a longer term view. Both publications place emphasis on NAR’s Profile of International Home Buying Activity whose results emphasized the Chinese investment surge of the previous year. The survey results only reflect the market through last March, so it is 9 months behind the current market. The Chinese investment numbers are staggering, and they are probably understated. Since the NAR report is simply a survey of it’s members and NAR has limited exposure to New York City, especially Manhattan – a hotbed of Chinese real estate investment activity.
Incidentally, do the above 2 charts look similar? They both relied on the NAR report.
The NYT piece set the table on the entire multi-year phenomenon using a ton of cool charts while the WSJ attempted to illustrate the change in recent weeks Both outlets were forced to rely on a lot of anecdotal to make their case. Both articles are consistent with my views as each provided a different context.
The NYT piece provided the long term historical view and the WSJ was a short term snapshot.
It’s time to share my Three Cents Worth (3CW) on Curbed Hamptons, at the intersection of sand dunes and real estate in the East End of Long Island, NY.
Check out my 3CW column on @CurbedHamptons:
Now that we’ve crossed over into June, I thought I’d illustrate the price trend relationship between the Hamptons and Manhattan. The former seeing a majority of single family sales and many second home purchases. The latter with a housing market of 98% apartments and single family family sales are a rounding error. Despite the differences in their housing stock, their behavior in terms of price trends has been similar over the past decade…
[click to expand charts]
My latest Three Cents Worth column: Three Cents Worth: Comparing Price Trends in the Hamptons and Manhattan [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
Knight Frank published their quarterly Prime Global Cities Index today and North America led the way as a region with a 14.5% rise in prices. “Prime” translates to “Luxury” in US housingspeak. We provide research for their Manhattan and Miami results through the Elliman Reports we prepare.
The report conclusion succinctly summarizes the state of high end housing today and speaks to the global phenomenon:
…the index’s annual increase of 6.2% in the year to June is above the long-run average of 4.6% recorded since Lehman’s collapse in the third quarter of 2008, underlining the extent to which prime property has become a favoured asset class globally.
Here’s the table…
UPDATE: above clip just added – expanded conversation.
Got to guest host an hour (6am to 7am) of Bloomberg Television’s Surveillance with Tom Keene, Scarlett Fu and Adam Johnson to talk housing. The above is just a couple of minutes of the hour (yes, you’re spared). We spoke about Case Shiller, New Home Sales, biting in World Cup Soccer, my fireman son using a GoPro in fires and LeBron/Carmelo’s real worth among other things. Like I said, we did talk housing.
Adam brought up a great point – while the economy is always characterized as 70% consumer driven, 16% of that is actually health care spending so the overall number is really 54%.
Very smart conversations (the topic of biting included). Always fun to join them.
The NAR released their Pending Home Sale Index today for April which aggregates signed contract data for the month. It is generally 2 months closer to the “meeting of the minds” between buyer and seller than their existing home sale report, that is based on closed sales (and 4 months faster than Case Shiller).
Pending Home Sales Index is not “forward looking”
In my chart above, and if you know me, I hate seasonal adjustments (SA) in housing data so this chart uses NAR’s reported numbers without adjustments. NAR always frames this release series as “forward looking” when it really is “less backward looking” because it is based on contracts, not closed sales. The end of May report reflects April contracts, half of which were probably signed in Late March. With a 2 month spread between contract and closing dates, this report is the most recent US housing market snapshot but nothing about it is actually “forward looking.”
With all the weather talk and mixed housing market messaging over the last month, this release brought us a broad range of interpretation, from “plunging” to “edging higher.”
Well, which is it? Or could it be both? Yes it can. We just need context.
According to Housingwire (uses SA numbers): Pending home sales plunge 9.2% in April So much for that post-winter, pent-up demand
Pending home sales for the month of April plummeted 9.2% compared to April 2013, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday.
Contracts signed to buy existing homes increased 0.4% in April compared to March 2014, but that’s coming off three months of flat sales blamed on cold weather.
The expectation had been for at least a 2% gain month-over-month.
According to Diana Olick at CNBC (uses SA numbers), Pending home sales up just 0.4% in April, missing expectations
Warmer weather and higher expectations failed to cause a meaningful surge in home sales.
Signed contracts to buy existing homes increased just 0.4 percent in April, according to a monthly report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The expectation had been for at least a 2 percent gain sequentially.
The Realtors’ so-called pending home sales index is now 9.2 percent lower than April of 2013.
What’s going on?
If you look at the above chart you can see that last year’s pending home sales were surging up until May 2013, their highest level in 3 years (since the federal homeowner tax credit program as part of the stimulus). The surge in contracts in the first half of 2013 was born out of consumer fears that rates were going to rise. In addition, all the pent-up demand accumulated during the two year period preceding the US election and fiscal cliff deadline was released into the market. Many fence-sitters became decision-makers.
This winter’s harsh weather could have delayed buyers and we should be seeing this uptick in activity by now. We probably are seeing it but it no match for the year ago surge in activity but now the market is being characterized as weak or weakening. The problem with that description is it assumes that 2013 was a normal trend of an improving market. Well it wasn’t.
So yes, sales are down from the 2013 sales surge anomaly and the weather time-shifting buyers forward further into spring this year was no match for it. In fact, I suspect the next month will show the same type of “weakness” and the PHSI results probably can’t show real improvement at least until June.
Michelle Conlin of Reuters gives a nice overview of the state of the US housing on PBS, talking through the national reports that hit us recently. Check it out. This month’s weak NAR Existing Home Sales report has unleashed a surge of housing self-loathing (although today’s PHSI seems to take some of the drama/edge off).
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.
NAR released their Existing Home Sales Report on Thursday with a headline that read: February Existing-Home Sales Remain Subdued that blamed the severe winter weather and low inventory for lower sales.
Of course inventory has been near historic lows for a few years so that’s not a new reason. I’m left with the weather and as someone who hates to use the weather as a crutch, it seems to be a pragmatic – it’s difficult to show or be in the mood to view properties when it is zero degrees outside. The weather explanation was also used in the prior report but those contracts were signed in December for the January report, before the “polar vortex.”
I see the recent fretting about the cooling of housing as an indication of how improving conditions were based largely on Fed policy and not fundamentals. The combination of rising mortgage rates and declines from the year ago release of pent-up demand post-“fiscal cliff” likely gets price gains and sales levels in sync with fundamental economic conditions.
I’ve charted NAR EHS stats from the past 4 years without seasonal adjustments. Price gains have been insane so the combination of slowing sales and rising inventory will take the froth out of the market and hopefully get us on a more sustainable path.
Knight Frank just released their Global House Price Index which showed record results:
Growth of 8.4% in 2013 represented the highest annual rate of growth since our index started in 1995.
Dubai lead the way with a 34.8% jump in prices Y0Y while Ukraine rounded out the bottom in 56th place with a 25.9% decline over the same period. The US was ranked 9th overall.
The full report is now available and chock full of great info and insight.