Matrix Blog

Wall Street, Financial Services

My First Post on Bloomberg View: Homebuying Gets a Housecleaning

July 28, 2014 | 9:28 pm | BloombergViewlogoGray | Columns |

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I was recently approached by Bloomberg View, the editorial arm of Bloomberg LP, to provide commentary on the housing market. I seem to be in good company.

Although their well oiled machine began to append my additional title “Bloomberg Contributor” earlier in the month when being sourced, it wasn’t an oversight on their part. I didn’t submit my first post until last week. It took me a few weeks to get my groove on as I was in the midst of a 2Q14 market report release gauntlet.

Last Wednesday evening I wrote my first post about Lawrence Yun’s attendance at the Zillow Housing Forum and how NAR had become just one of the crowd, and the symbolism of it all. I got the idea when I was sent the Zillow e-vite to attend the conference and I noticed that Yun was to speak.

Excited, I submitted my first post on Thursday morning, unfortunately just before the Zillow-Trulia bombshell deal jumped into the headlines. So I needed to add this new twist – which thankfully made my original point even stronger. I re-wrote my first post and it was placed online last Friday.

Here is the first column of hopefully many to come: Homebuying Gets a Housecleaning


My Bloomberg View RSS feed.

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Detroit: Where Hedge Funds and Goats Want to Work Together to Improve Livability

June 24, 2014 | 7:15 am |

goatwiki

The city of Detroit has a problem with goats, among other significant challenges. It has been battered with political corruption (two former mayors are in jail) and it is trying to sheppard (pun intended) through a huge bankruptcy but goats are where the city draws the line.

The city also a tremendous amount of potential and is desperately trying to reinvent itself. My wife’s family is from the Detroit suburbs and I went to college in the Michigan for 4 years – one thing I noticed – the suburbs and the City of Detroit are mutually exclusive unlike most big US cities I have visited. One of the best explanations of Detroit’s fall was a recent read of mine: Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff. The original urban planners got it all wrong.

But let’s talk about goats. Last year a Detroit city councilman had a vision, that vision was eventually carried out by a billionaire hedge-funder who brought unlicensed goats to control the overgrown vacant lots of Detroit. Goats as lawnmowers are used in other cities.

I don’t think many people in the US realize just how much abandoned property there is within the city boundaries – the size of Paris.

An op-ed piece in the Detroit News made an argument for it, but the city was not interested.

The hedge funder explains:

Detroit is very much a place that lives by what I call ‘home rule.’ The people are bound by a lot of laws from years ago that restrict them from doing things that can help their community. The people of Brightmoor have decided to step up to ensure the survival of their families and the community. One of the ways they are doing this is with guerrilla farming. Guerrilla farming brings attention to pieces of publicly controlled land within the city that have been abandoned, left vacant or have been left to grow wildly out of control by absent owners. It cleans these areas, brings them into a productive capacity and converts them from a nuisance to an asset within the community.

The housing market won’t recover without the abandoned elements being removed ie unkept lawns, condemned housing and commercial structures. One of the surprising aspects of Detroit’s rise from the ashes has been the non-conventional nature of progress. Goats would definitely fit in.

Arguably my favorite type of goat entered this world from 1964-1967.

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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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New Record of Foreign-owned Assets in the United States

March 27, 2014 | 4:06 pm | wsjlogo |

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According to the WSJ Real Time Economics Blog there are the record investment gains. This is good news/bad news…and:

has worried some economists, because it makes the U.S. more vulnerable to major shifts in the global economy. But it also could show strengthening confidence in the American economy.

These gains are largely due to the rising US stock prices rather than more investment. However in the housing sector, I do think rising property values are attracting even more new capital for investment – whether for new development or unit purchases. We can see this in markets like New York City and Miami. Foreign investors seem to be chasing safety and a long term equity play.

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Spot the Manhattan Luxury Townhouse Lehman Effect?

March 23, 2014 | 10:03 am | bloomberg_news_logo |

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Ilan Kolet from Bloomberg News whipped up this chart and shared on twitter using our Manhattan luxury townhouse data.

Gotta love the visual – the 2008 Lehman collapse exemplified in the high end townhouse market in the home of Wall Street.

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[Three Cents Worth #263 NY] Do Wall Street Bonuses Affect NYC Sales?

March 18, 2014 | 4:13 pm | curbed | 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:

According to the 5/25 rule, the ratio of New York City jobs in the securities industry and the income they account for is 5 to 25: approximately 5 percent of NYC jobs come from the securities industry and they account for about 1/4 of personal income. With such a large, and disproportionate market share of NYC income, Wall Street has long been considered a lynchpin of the NYC real estate economy and perhaps most strongly aligned with Manhattan.

Still, it is a stretch to associate the ebb and flow as a predictor of future gains and losses in Manhattan housing prices, especially when considering deferred compensation. (Also, many Wall Streeters are getting paid from income deferred from a few years ago when times weren’t as good.) But it’s fun to chart. Especially after last week’s announcement by the State Comptroller of a 15.1 percent increase in both the Wall Street bonus pool and on a per person basis…

3cwNY3-18-14
[click to expand chart]



My latest Three Cents Worth column on Curbed: Do Wall Street Bonuses Affect NYC Sales? [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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Bonus for NYC Housing: Wall Street Comp Up 15.1%, Most Cash Paid Out Since ’08 Crash

March 17, 2014 | 7:00 am | Charts |

The annual release by the New York State Office of Comptroller brought upbeat news to the real estate economy in NYC. Wall Street compensation has long accounted for roughly a quarter of personal income but only 5% of employment so the industry remains very important to NYC’s tax revenues. Here are some of the key points:

  • The overall bonus pool and bonus per person increased 15.1%.
  • The total bonus pool was
  • Bonus pool is up 44% in past 2 years.
  • Securities employment is down 12.6% from before the 2008 market crash.
  • Wall Street accounts for 8.5% of NYC tax revenue and 16% of NYS tax revenue
  • Part of the rise was due to payouts of deferred compensation from prior years.

Here are a few charts that layout the bonus trends in NYC. Wall Street is a key economic driver of NYC and therefore important to the health of the NYC housing market.

Wall Street compensation is 5x that of mere mortals (other private employment compensation) and that ratio has stabilized after a modest correction following the 2008 stock market crash.
2013nycsecuritiesbonus
[click to expand]

Wall Street bonuses rose steadily as a portion of total compensation but after the 2008 stock market correction and financial reform, the market share fell – but not as much as perceived.
2013nycsecuritiescompasperc
[click to expand]

Wall Street employment has fallen since 2008, but not nearly as much as expected. The market share of Wall Street NYC employment has slipped as a result.
2013nycwallstreetemployment
[click to expand]

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Impact of Lehman Collapse on Housing Prices in Europe

September 13, 2013 | 3:52 pm | kflogo |


Source: Knight Frank [click chart to expand]

This chart could also be called “Why International Demand for US housing is Elevated” since many European investors are looking for safe places to park their money.

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Miller Samuel Luxury Market Indices on Bloomberg Terminals Through 2Q 2013

August 12, 2013 | 8:41 pm | bloomberg_news_logo | Charts |

Here are the 3 Manhattan luxury housing price indices we provide for the Bloomberg Terminals through 2Q 2013.

MLH AVG Index (Miller Samuel Manhattan Luxury Housing Average Sales Price) [click to expand]

MLH SQFT Index (Miller Samuel Manhattan Luxury Housing Price Per Square Foot) [click to expand]

MLH MED Index (Miller Samuel Manhattan Luxury Housing Median Sales Price) [click to expand]

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Money for Nothing Movie Trailer

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

I can’t wait for the documentary Money for Nothing to be released. In fact I donated to IndieGoGo.com 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 Minyanville.com 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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