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Analysis & Research

[Bloomberg TV] Bloomberg Markets 7-6-20: A Busy Housing Market This Summer

July 6, 2020 | 5:17 pm | | TV, Videos |

Had a wonderful, nearly 7.5-minute conversation with Vonnie Quinn on Bloomberg Television’s Markets today discussing how the housing market will likely look over the summer. The interview touched on the analysis in the Douglas Elliman Report series I author.

Some ‘inside baseball’ fun. I was connected to Bloomberg via Zoom from my home for this. If you look closely at the 5:15 mark, you can see my garage door open as my wife drives in. My wife panicked when watching this clip, thinking she would be on TV as she walked out of the garage, but randomly ended up using the other door.


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Median sales price can be subject to skew by consumer behavior more than math

May 12, 2020 | 11:19 am | Explainer |

Here’s an updated excerpt from my Housing Note newsletter dated October 28, 2016, digging into the median sales price. You can subscribe to Housing Notes and other housing resources for free.


I wrote about the median sales price a decade ago, and the message still holds. A couple of years ago, I whipped up a table that shows how median sales price can perform in a changing housing market. The median sales price is the default price trend indicator of real estate because it eliminates the extreme highs and lows of a data and merely represents the middle number. However, it is also subject to skew by consumer behavior that can overpower the math. So I always provide two to three price trend indicators depending on the quality of available information (average sales price, median sales price, median sales price) for all of the reports in my Elliman Report Series. The relationship between median and average sales price can also tell a story.

Click on the graphic below to expand.

medianexplained

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Contract Data Is Pending Data Is Lagging Data

April 29, 2020 | 11:50 am | Explainer |

In our post-Coronavirus world, it is clear that market conditions and our understanding of the future are subject to change every day. In my prior post Establishing the COVID-19 Demarcation Line: From ‘Hanks To Banks’, data that falls after the line represents a different market.

So how do we determine what data falls in after the demarcation line? It’s not as straightforward as it sounds.

Throughout my career, I have seen brokerage firms publish pending/contract reports, touting pending trends as more reliable than reports based on closings. I don’t look at them as better or worse, just a different way to look at the market. The simplistic, uninformed argument for pending sales is that contract dates occur before closing dates, so they are more current. Incidentally, contract prices are not readily shared. I get all of this. Yet I have seen the failure rate of contracts be as high as 40% – in other words, many contracts might not close whereas closing reports are solely based on successful transactions. Still, pending sale trends are useful as long as the reader understands their shortcomings. I plan to develop one someday.

Closing data and contract/pending data lags the “meeting of the minds.

Meeting of the minds (also referred to as mutual agreement, mutual assent, or consensus ad idem) is a phrase in contract law used to describe the intentions of the parties forming the contract. In particular, it refers to the situation where there is a common understanding in the formation of the contract.

While we know that closing dates lag the “meeting of the minds,” we also need to understand that signed contract dates are lagging indicators, often by 2-4 weeks. During this crisis, I’m speculating the failure rate will be high initially, and the time lag will be on the longer end rather than, the shorter end of this 2-4 week range.

Here’s why contract dates are a lagging indicator and not necessarily more insightful than closing data:

1) The “meeting of the minds” occurs when buyers and sellers negotiate price and terms, usually facilitated by a real estate agent or broker.

2) The price and terms are handed off to transaction attorneys who work together to craft language agreeable to both parties.

3) The contract is signed by both parties and often indicated as such in an MLS-type system.

4) In some markets or marketing periods, especially when a market is cooling, many contracts never close, so their initial inclusion makes pending trends reports suspect.

If there is a four week signed contract lag from the meeting of the minds, and considering the March 15 demarcation line for post-Coronavirus, that means that with us being six weeks into the crisis, we are only able to see two weeks worth of post-Coronavirus data. And even with that reality and current shelter in place rules, many current contracts might have been older deals that were facilitated by the buyer who had already inspected the home in January/February – we are seeing some of that now.

In other words, relevant data on the new market remains extremely limited.

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January 2019 YOY% Change in Manhattan Co-op/Condo Listing Inventory

February 7, 2019 | 1:53 pm | Charts |

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Manhattan Residential Vacancy Rate Isn’t Seasonal?

December 13, 2018 | 1:01 am | Charts |

Since housing market trends are all about seasonality, I thought it was interesting that the Manhattan residential vacancy rate seems devoid of such patterns.

What am I missing here?

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[Media] Bloomberg Markets Interview January 11, 2018

January 11, 2018 | 11:07 pm | | Milestones |

So I was walking down Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan in the late morning after a meeting and got a call from Bloomberg TV. Apparently, two different stories that featured two of the market reports I author – published by Douglas Elliman – were the number one and two most emailed on the Bloomberg Terminals worldwide.  They wanted to talk about them.

So I took a left and walked over Bloomberg HQ.  Got to speak with Vonnie Quinn and Shery Ahn on set – who knew how to make an interview go well.

This is a 2-minute clip of the 5-minute interview, but you’ll get the gist. I’ll expand on this discussion tomorrow at 2 pm when my weekly Housing Note is released.

[click to view video]

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Real Estate ChartArt in Elliman Magazine’s Fall 2017 Issue

September 18, 2017 | 3:12 pm | | Charts |

Douglas Elliman Real Estate just published their fall issue. I created the content for pages 208-209 and I think it looks pretty snazzy (and interesting).

Click on image below to expand.

EllimanMag

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[Forbes] Penthouse Juxtaposition – What Developer Wants v. What Market Supports

June 15, 2017 | 5:14 pm | TV, Videos |

No one will argue that a $70 million penthouse can be special. But when a penthouse has many open houses and sits on the market for more than a year, it seems reasonable to wonder about pricing.

Samantha Sharf at Forbes presented a great video that juxtaposes the amenities of the apartment with my perspective on the state of the super luxury market and the next possible housing cycle in front of us. When they filmed this in Bryant Park, there were many people standing and watching off camera which was kinda fun despite my serious slouching.


[click on image for video]

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Agricultural Land versus Manhattan Parking Per Acre

March 26, 2017 | 8:19 pm | Infographics |

Well here’s a first for me.

Our Manhattan parking stats were compared with the average value per acre of agricultural land in FarmLife magazine.

In 25 years, the cost of an acre of agriculture farmland rose 309% while a Manhattan parking space rose 855% over the same period. Cost? $7,700 per acre for California agricultural land versus $55.5 million per acre for a Manhattan parking spot.

Gotta love this comparison.



UPDATE A colleague pointed out that we don’t know how large the average farmland was or whether it had reasonable access to water and electricity. I pointed out that Manhattan parking spaces don’t have electric and water service and seem to be about 100 feet from the elevator. LOL.

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John Burns Has It Wrong, Luxury Home Sales Are Not Increasing

December 11, 2016 | 8:56 pm |

Last week a newsletter from John Burns Consulting got big SEO points by exclaiming that Wall Street Has It Wrong: Luxury Home Sales Increasing. Normally his firm is a good source of housing research, but this time they missed the mark on New York City, even when using facts.

While facts are provided and luxury sales are rising in markets like DC, there is a lack of proper context and this is a challenge that national analysts face when looking at specific market subsets. In this analysis, the luxury market was arbitrarily defined as having a $600,000 threshold. In a number of high cost housing markets on the following chart, their luxury threshold is equivalent to the entry or middle market, which I agree, is booming.

I took a look at markets I report on: Kings County (Brooklyn) and Manhattan. Their respective median sales prices of $735,000 and $1,073,750 are higher than $600,000. The John Burns definition for luxury would include more than half of these respective housing markets.

jbc-yoysalesabove600k

Besides the random threshold selection, their reasons seem to be weak. This list of common perceptions that would explain our underestimate of the strength of the luxury sales market are provided by them. I provide a subsequent clarification for each.

1. New disclosure laws. Foreign-buyer activity has slowed in two high-profile markets, Manhattan and Miami, due to threat of enforcement of new disclosure laws that began in 2016.

The market in both of these markets actually slowed sharply well before the new disclosure laws were in place. And foreign buyer participation in NYC has long been over-hyped.

2. High-profile Florida second-home markets. High-priced homes have indeed slowed in two of the highest-profile second home markets in the country, Naples (Collier County) and Palm Beach. These are two of the six counties where sales have declined.

Again county-wide prices set way below the actual luxury market may be the problem. Within Palm Beach County, I cover Palm Beach and the luxury market starts just below $5 million. In arguably the most expensive city in this county, the median price for all property types is just below their $600,000 luxury threshold.

3. Fortune article on Greenwich, CT. The sales slowdown in high-profile Greenwich, CT, was featured in Fortune magazine. The article included some very misleading headlines about a national luxury slowdown that were supported only by the fact that prices have appreciated 5% at the high end compared to more appreciation at lower prices.

This is an odd interpretation of the Greenwich market. I track this market in my research, live near it and have relatives that live there. This Fortune article was not misleading. Prices have not appreciated 5% at the Greenwich high end and $600,000 might not even buy you a starter home there. In fact, their luxury market has still not recovered from housing bubble.

4. Increased $1 million new-home supply. New-home sales have slowed in a few new-home markets due to a surge in competitive supply. Coupling this surge in supply, builders have pushed prices too high in comparison to the resale competition due to rising costs.

Why is this perception wrong? Excess or rising luxury supply is apparent across the 28 markets I research.

5. Improving entry-level sales. Entry-level sales are also improving at a faster rate than higher-priced home sales. Indeed, the market for lower-priced homes is stronger, but that does not mean that luxury sales are struggling.

True, but I think the disconnect is just the opposite. The luxury market is soft so many market participants assume the entry level is soft as well and yet it is seeing heavy sales volume.

Since housing across the U.S. is softer at the top, Wall Street looks like they have been correct about luxury. Placing a uniform threshold across a slew of different U.S. housing markets doesn’t tell us anything. Stick to specifics since that’s where you provide solid research.

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YIMBY: Low-Income Housing

November 25, 2016 | 2:02 pm | | Infographics |

lowincomevvaluetrulianyt

The YIMBY (Yes-In-My-Backyard) movement is fairly new.

In the United States, early leaders of the YIMBY movement include Sonja Trauss in San Francisco and Nikolai Fedak in New York. The first ever Yes In My Backyard conference was held in Boulder, Colorado, in June 2016.

Nikolai has done an amazing job at chronicling the explosion of new development in NYC over the past several years with his must read web site New York YIMBY.

One of the misconceptions with the NIMBY movement which is largely the opposite of YIMBY is the idea/rule of thumb that low-income housing always drags down property values of nearby properties. In an era challenged by the lack of any type of affordable housing, this makes a bad situation worse.

According to this recent research by Trulia (FYI – I was part of their industry advisory board from 2006-2014), and notably in aggregate form, the impact seems to be non-existent in the majority of the markets covered. One can’t conclude there is no impact as a general rule but it does show that should not be the default assumption.

The above infographic is from this Weekend’s New York Times’ real estate section column called ‘Calculator’ – Low-Income Housing: Why Not in My Neighborhood?. The methodology used in the Trulia research was the following:

To measure this, Trulia compared the median price per square foot of nearby homes (within 2,000 feet of low-income housing) with that of homes farther away (2,001 to 4,000 feet) over 20 years, starting 10 years before the low-income housing was built and ending 10 years after.

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New Yorkers Are Busy During Week So Big Snowstorms Need to Occur On Weekends

March 7, 2016 | 1:20 pm | | Favorites |

snowstormCP
Source: Jackson Fine Art

Even though housing market talking heads are known for dramatizing the long term economic impact of a big snow storm, it’s basically a “snow ball’s chance in hell” that it has a lasting effect.

Given that it is early March and it is 54 degrees outside in NYC as I write this, it’s hard to think about snowstorms. However Mother Nature has a way of messing with us so I’m optimistic that we’ll get socked with at least one more big storm this month.

My friend Jason Bram, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, was interviewed for his views on NYC snowstorms and their economic impact in Hey, Economist! How Well Do We Weather Snowstorms? He found that:

  • 81% of major snowstorms (over 15 inches dumped in Central Park) began on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday
  • there is no evidence that major snow storms disrupt the economy more than a few days.

In fact, the odds of repeating NYC’s snowstorm history is 0.2% or 500 to 1.

FRBsnowstorms

“The bottom line is, when you look at monthly or even weekly economic indicators, you rarely see a blip, even after the most severe blizzards.” —Jason Bram

This is why I go crazy at the beginning of every calendar year listening to housing prognosticators fret about severe winter weather having a far reaching long term impact on the housing market and the economy.

Consider this scenario by a couple looking to purchase their first home:

Tuesday
Husband: Hi honey, ready to go look for houses this weekend?
Wife: Yes, I can’t wait! We’ve been saving up for a long time and we are finally at the point where we can buy!

A big snow storm hits on Friday night…

Saturday
Husband: Ugh, this snowstorm is really bad. We’d better cancel our appointment with the real estate agent to view homes.
Wife: Yes, that’s a good idea. This is so frustrating!
Husband: I know! Now we have to wait another year!
Wife: I just can’t believe it. Just when we were ready to buy, a snowstorm hits and now we have to wait another year!

Of course you can see how ridiculous this scenario is despite my John Grisham/Stephen King – like story telling skills. These buyers will simply wait until the following weekend.

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Housing Notes by Jonathan Miller

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