I had a nice chat with Vonnie Quinn of Bloomberg Television on Monday concerning the state of the Manhattan housing market, following a highly read Bloomberg article on the terminal covering our Elliman Report results for Q3-2019 as well as a followup on Bloomberg Radio here and here.
I was just interviewed by Noah Rosenblatt and John Walkup of Urban Digs for their “Talking Manhattan” Podcast. I’ve known Noah for well over a decade and always enjoy geeking out on the market with him. He’s a data nerd with a real estate agent and day trader background. I’m proclaiming that John Walkup has the best real estate-related last name in the business and is clearly able to “elevate” any real estate conversation.
They weren’t kidding yesterday when they said they were going to get this podcast out right away, placing the interview online this morning. I was speaking to a group of real estate agents on the roof deck of a new building this morning, and four of them told me they had already listened to the podcast and one confirmed that he heard it in the shower and noted that was high praise. Love it.
One of the topics we focused on covered the adjustment for outdoor space in valuation. Throughout my career – when I get a lot of similar inquiries on a particular valuation topic, I turn it into a blog post – here is a collection of value-related posts in one place. One of the most read “value” resources in the collection covers outdoor space in a blog post I wrote in 2010. Admittedly I’m a bit relieved my written methodology still holds up nine years later!
Their interview of me is below. I hope you enjoy it and subscribe to their podcast as I do.
When I came through security, the guard at NYSE asked me “when was the last time you visited the NYSE?” and I said, “about 10-12 years ago.” He looked it up to confirm and deadpanned, “I’ll bet you remember that I was the guy that took your picture in 2007, right?!?! He and his colleague and I all had a good hard chuckle over that. Moments like this are what I love so much about my job.
Back in 2007, I was interviewed by Erin Burnett (now CNN) and Mark Haines (sadly passed away in 2011) at CNBC on the balcony overlooking the exchange floor. It was a tight fit on the balcony so I got to sit near the president of the Russian natural gas conglomerate Gazprom and his dozen very large bodyguards. It was very crowded. While he was being interviewed I thought to myself, there is no amount of money in the world I would take to live with that kind of personal risk every single day.
No such worries today. Kristen and Tim were terrific to speak with and I appreciated the invite.
I was recently interviewed by James Nelson, one of New York commercial real estate’s star brokers at Avison Young whom I’ve known since his Massey Knakal days. I’ve been on his podcast several times over the years and always enjoy the conversation. This time he did the interview at CUNY studios in Manhattan. In addition, he brought in Vince Rocco, a residential real estate agent at Halstead who has a broker-centric podcast known as “Good Morning New York Real Estate with Vince Rocco.” I had never met Vince before so it was nice to get his perspective on the market.
That was the theme but my interview episode was called “the state of the market.“
The indispensable NYC web site Brick Underground has been doubling down on its podcast as of late and I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak about the state of the market.
It was fun and hopefully, I conveyed some helpful insights to their listeners. You can subscribe to the Brick Underground Podcast feed here.
And specifically my interview here.
Its always fun to join Alexis Christoforous at Yahoo Finance TV – and I met her colleague Brian Sozzi. They’ve got a cool new broadcasting facility and I contend, the best green room in the TV business. If you’re curious where the term “green room” came from…no, it’s not that obvious.
We spent most of the time late last week discussing all the changes occurring in the NYC market this year. Fun.
Michael Kolomatsky of the Calculator column in the New York Times real estate section crafted a cool infographic for this weekend using data from the Douglas Elliman‘s Hamptons Sales report that I author. The gist of it is that sellers are slowly pricing closer to market causing days on market and the listing discount to compress somewhat. This faster moving pattern is in sharp contrast to sliding price trends, declining sales, and rising inventory. The narrative in this market clearly reflects a slowdown, but with a vibrant regional economy, the buyers are here, but unwilling to pay at price levels of a few years ago.
Real estate brokerage firm Cushman & Wakefield wrote a research piece on the prime Fifth Avenue retail corridor from 49th Street to 60th Street that was covered in a widely read Wall Street Journal article called Fifth Avenue Losing Luster as Vacancies Climb, Rents Fall. The following chart was in the WSJ article. Luxury real estate here peaked at about the same time.
Inside Edition reached out and asked me to take a stroll with reporter Les Trent on Fifth Avenue to talk about the state of luxury retail. Les was great to speak with and like a true pro, he had access to sidewalk chalk (see video). I think I am in a lot of tourist pictures as they were snapping my picture as we strolled up and down Fifth Avenue.
If you’ll notice in the video and article, all the vacancies were related to the fashion/clothing industries. The 1 out of 4 storefront vacancies – essentially 1 empty storefront on every block – is not reflective of NYC retail employment patterns, but simply the pullback of clothing/fashion industries from high-end retail locations as they place more resources toward their online presence.
It’s been no secret that super luxury Manhattan sales have been the hardest hit segment of the market since 2014. The slowdown is related to the oversupply of new development created from the vast amounts of capital looking for a home since the financial crisis. Perhaps the most famous representation of the super-luxury market has been “Billionaires Row” centered on 57th Street in the heart of Manhattan’s central business district in Midtown Manhattan. The introduction of supertalls to the skyline has provided never before expansive views to the buyers.
I was asked by the New York Post to provide a snapshot of this submarket. Since contract data is not public record and is easily manipulated, I estimated the state of the key buildings as best I could, using ACRIS for closed sales, Streeteasy contract tags, and feedback from market experts in and around the brokerage community. The result was really no surprise to anyone in the real estate business but because it was concentrated in one place, the story went viral. Curbed wrote a good follow-up as well.
There is a cool graphic from the New York Times Calculator column by Michael Kolomatsky in this Sunday’s print edition of the Real Estate section that illustrates Manhattan’s dependence on high-end real estate. Using the data from a chart I began right after 9/11 and we continue to update, he illustrates this point:
Almost half the money spent by New York City home buyers in the first quarter of 2019 went toward the most expensive properties. That wasn’t always the case.
Back on April 19th, I wrote about the New York AMC law in my Housing Notes newsletter. After years of AMCs chipping away at the public trust, the New York AMC law was designed to protect the consumer.
The bill summary was:
Relates to the registration of real estate appraisal management companies or an individual or business entity that provides appraisal management services to creditors or to secondary mortgage market participants including affiliates by the department of state.
Yesterday Appraisersblogs ran it as a standalone post and I got a lot of feedback. To be clear, the bill was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo at the end of last year and became effective 120 days later which is today.
The NY State Coalition of Appraisers (NYCAP), led by my friend and appraiser Becky Jones who along with other unnamed heroes worked hard to help make this possible, wants you to know that this law was not a last-second, fly by night effort as being characterized by The Real Estate Valuation Advocacy Association (REVAA) – the trade group that represents the bulk of the AMC industry in the U.S. – inferring this law was flimsy and easily overturnable.
No, it isn’t. Its been a long road and achieved unanimous consensus during the process.
When the draft of the bill was approved by the NYS Board of Real Estate Appraisal, Carol DiSanto who is the Vice Chair, walked it across the street to The New York State Association of REALTORS (NYSAR). In effect, REALTORS of New York State were made fully aware as the “draft” became part of NYSAR record at their next business meeting. Becky Jones sat on the Legislative steering committee at NYSAR and informed them about the bill. They had no objections to the bill before submission to the state legislature.
A similar proposal was introduced by the New York Department of State in 2015. Senate Bill S9080 was introduced two years ago during the 2017-2018 legislative session, signed into law on December 27, 2018 and became effective today. The voting was unanimous in favor by the rules committee of both houses and the body of both houses.
Here are the vote tallies (the same in both the NYS Senate and Assembly):
And here was the timeline:
A couple of AMCs we work with for some private banking groups sent emails to us yesterday:
If you’re not an appraiser, then you want to read this. It is a 2011 take that still holds up on the AMC industry from American Banker’s Bankthink column (I’ve written a column there before on another subject): Appraisal Management Companies Create More Problems Than They Solve
When the realization sunk in that this was a new law, not a proposed bill, attendees began to text me from the joint committee meeting of The Appraisal Foundation. I got the play by play when the news was shared. It sent shockwaves through the AMC-types because, in my view, it effectively destroyed their ability to hide how much they are gouging the consumer and how little the appraiser gets from the actual “appraisal fee” (typically less than half). Seriously, the value-add provided by AMCs to the appraisal process in the delivery of actual appraisals might be 5%, but no chance in hell it is 75%. This is why we need consumer protection in the mortgage business.
I’ve been told by several colleagues that they’ve heard one of the main AMC concerns is whether New York interpreted the original law correctly to arrive at this form of law regarding AMCs. From my perspective, it’s like not buying a house because one of the gutters is missing a few screws to hold it in place. The criticism seems like a weird attempt at fogging since this law is protective of USPAP and the public trust, something that has been forgotten in the attempt to “modernize” the appraisal industry. But I’m no lawyer so I’ll look for clarification on their logic. But consider this:
Remember that the word "modern" or "modernize" is code for AVMs, settling for less accuracy and getting rid of the #appraiser – @ClearCapital debuts its new modern appraisal program @MPAMagazineUS https://t.co/CTyZQ8sH6H— Jonathan Miller (@jonathanmiller) April 23, 2019
REVAA’s biggest concern about the law was specifically the disclosure to the consumer as to what part of the fee goes to the appraiser. Not only does the appraiser get to state the fee, but the AMC fee must also be disclosed. This was upsetting to REVAA director Mark Shiffman presumably because the consumer would finally see that most appraisers get half or less than half of the appraisal fee the consumer thinks they are paying for the appraiser. REVAA has fought hard to hide this from the consumer, pushing back on prior attempts to disclose the breakdown, and finally, New York State has effectively brought to light this predatory practice. Transparency is good for the consumer and for the appraiser. Should a consumer be aware that the check they wrote at the time of mortgage application specifically for an “Appraisal Fee” be used to pay the appraiser less than half of it with the remainder to a wildly inefficient third-party institutional middleman they know nothing about?
The NYC AMC law will likely damage the evaluation platform that the Appraisal Institute has been advocating so intensely in state legislatures without disclosure to their own members yet diminishes the meaning of an appraisal certification to the consumer. It is interesting to see that AI National hasn’t taken a position on this new groundbreaking law, like yesterday. They’ve been progressive in their quick denouncement of other important issues, like appraisal waivers, so the lack of denouncement against AMCs is curious.
This new law only applies to appraisals ordered through AMCs (which control an estimated 80% of U.S. mortgage appraisal volume) for properties in New York State. (note: this why the law is described as “AN ACT to amend the executive law, in relation to registration of real estate appraisal management companies by the department of state”) New York is one of the few “voluntary” licensing states. There is no mandatory licensing so agents and brokers can perform appraisals and BPOs all day long. This was a key point that REVAA was trying to convey to NYSAR (I hold the CRE designation and all CREs in New York are automatically members of NYSAR) a few weeks ago when REVAA was on a mission to stop the law going into effect. REVAA reached out to NYSAR to claim how bad the law was for their agents and brokers but NYSAR wasn’t buying it because they could still perform BPOs and evaluations for local banks – just not for AMCs. Becky Jones shared a story about this situation from one of the CE classes she teaches: I had an agent work the whole thing in her head out loud during the class and at the end…the agent deduced on her own that she will contact local banks for the BPO work and she was especially thrilled because she realized that she will probably get the listing and therefore an opportunity to make more income. She was so thrilled she “high-fived me during class.”
A concern shared with me by a friend and appraiser colleague in Virginia was that most of the large AMC platforms, such as CoreLogic, Appraisal Port and Xome, use a portal that strips the report and the appraiser’s invoice is one of the forms that does not get uploaded (because they don’t want the consumer (i.e. mortgage applicant) to see how much the actual cost goes to the person providing a value opinion of their home. If AMCs continue this practice in New York State and are caught, they will lose their ability to do business in the state. They can risk it, but the stakes are high. There is always a concern that oversight of this will be lost in the shuffle so it is imperative that appraisers keep the pressure on.
Another appraiser colleague and friend I know in Illinois said: “So if you are curious what is happening in Illinois, here’s how we must report our fees. When discussing this issue 10 years ago, we were of the opinion that the invoice could get lost, but pages in the appraisal report don’t get lost. That’s why it must be in the body of the report.” Here’s the Illinois AMC law.
It is ironic that the New York Governor, who was the creator of HVCC when he was NYS Attorney General and was a board member of a former Ohio-based AMC owned by a friend that eventually collapsed, leaving many appraisers unpaid for their work, was the signer of this law. Despite the irony, his concern for the consumer is incredibly appreciated by the appraisal community who have been beaten up by the AMC industry since 2009 under the false narrative that they are embedded in the process to protect the system. In reality, AMCs gave the mortgage system an empty promise that left the consumer and the taxpayer exposed to excessive costs, bureaucracy and a systematic deletion of quality. Even worse, they stole the economic livelihood of the actual market valuation experts and replaced them with form-fillers.
It is nice to see a state pay more than lip service to consumers within the mortgage business.