Matrix Blog

Development, Construction, Architecture & Land

Billionaires Row Continues to be Challenged

May 4, 2019 | 11:09 am | Infographics |

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.

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Bloomberg TV 3-11-19: The Malling of Hudson Yards

March 11, 2019 | 3:52 pm | | TV, Videos |

For the record, this is the first time I recall using the word “cognizant” on national television. A personal lexicon triumph.

There has been a lot of fanfare about the new Related Companies ‘Hudson Yards‘ mixed-use development being created over the West Side Yard in Manhattan and is connected to ‘The Highline.‘ The centerpiece or “hook” is a $2 billion mall in the middle of the complex. While ‘malls’ are generally a non-starter in Manhattan, there is a successful precedent. The same developer built Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle (southwest corner of Central Park) nearly twenty years ago and it was considered a significant success. I used to live two blocks to the west of Time Warner Center and it was a pretty rough area at the time but that submarket has been significantly upgraded.

Related has pushed out a media blitz on the mall opening this week. It is important to note that NYC gave Hudson Yards more tax breaks than were proposed for Amazon in Long Island City. However, as Barry Ritholtz writes in his excellent comparison between the two deals (LIC v. Hudson Yards) offered by the city. Related seemed to do this deal right and Amazon came across as greedy in the end.

The $3.4 billion dollars committed to parks, subways, etc. in the Hudson Yard project is exactly what the government is supposed to do. You can create incentives for companies to relocate in a way that directly benefits every taxpayer in the region. The incoming company could have burnished their reputation as a good corporate citizen, instead of being perceived as rapacious and greedy.

Here is a rendering of the completed Hudson Yards. I think it looks spectacular. And don’t forget ‘The Vessel.


[Source: DeZeen]

Teachable moment for condo development naming strategies that include a company: Don’t do it.

The Time Warner precedent-setting mall scenario included a condo offering plan circa 2000 named “AOL Time Warner Center” and then the project was renamed “Time Warner Center” after they sold off AOL (Someone named Jonathan Miller took over AOL strangely enough). Deutsche Bank is replacing Warner Media as the anchor tenant in 2021 so the project will be renamed for the new tenant. However, Deutsche Bank has been having its share of financial problems and is considering a merger with Commerzbank. Uh-oh.

Perhaps that’s why Related went with ‘Hudson Yards.’ 😉

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CGTN America TV 2-22-19 Manhattan’s Luxury Market (and that $238M sale)

February 23, 2019 | 3:07 pm | TV, Videos |

I was interviewed for the U.S. version of one of China’s largest TV networks – CGTN America (formerly CCTV) on the state of the Manhattan luxury housing market and that $238 million condo sale that set the U.S. price record at 220 Central Park South.

Yes, it’s the real estate topic that won’t die.



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The (New) Tallest Chart In The History Of Manhattan Real Estate

February 9, 2019 | 4:17 pm |

With all the hubbub about the new Manhattan residential price record of $238 million and potential ramifications, I wanted to create a chart to give readers a sense of how disconnected this sale is from the prior records, and from housing prices for mere mortals in already one of the highest priced housing markets in the U.S.

I have done this before, first in 2012 when the famed $88 million penthouse sale at 15 Central Park West launched the global “super luxury” “aspirational pricing” phenomenon and the subsequent 2014 Michael Dell penthouse sale at One57 of $100.5 million.

But this time, given that this new sale would require a chart that was more than double the height of the 2014 chart, I could not find an affordable graphics app that could capture my Excel chart but create an image (png, jpg, etc.) with small enough resolution to be legible, yet still be small enough in size to be accepted by WordPress.

My solution? Make a screencast video.

To watch this, first, pack a lunch. Then, click here or on the snapshots below of the top and bottom segments of the tall chart to play the video.

Then relax and watch me start scrolling. It provides some useful context and is pretty cool despite the poor audio quality:


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Bloomberg Markets TV: December 18, 2018, Amazon HQ2

December 18, 2018 | 3:08 pm | | TV, Videos |

As always, I had a wonderful conversion with Vonnie Quinn, anchor of Bloomberg TV’s Markets today. It was a long interview where we discussed national and NYC metric trends. The following portion covered the Amazon HQ2 story in Long Island City, NY.

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Yahoo Finance TV 12-4-2018 – Toll Brothers & Banking Conditions in Real Estate

December 5, 2018 | 11:15 am | | TV, Videos |


I was invited by Julie Hyman at Yahoo Finance TV for a discussion on the weakening luxury housing market and some other topics of interest. I’ve known her for years, after a long run at Bloomberg TV, and am excited about her new opportunity at Yahoo.

When I arrived at the studio, the stock market was being battered (down by over 400 points at the time of this broadcast) by the conflicting interpretations of the recent US/China tariff talks and the results Toll Brothers analyst call. It was exciting to be there during the perfect storm. The conversation shifted from what I was invited to cover, to the developing news story.

Yahoo is ramping up live coverage in early 2019 via 100% internet. Judging by their super cool/huge studio and throngs of people working there, Verizon seems very serious about their investment.

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New Manhattan Condos Got Really Big Over The Past Three Years

January 3, 2018 | 6:00 am | Charts |

Average sales size patterns for these two size sales categories split sharply three years ago.


[Click to expand]

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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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Mansion Global’s State of the Real Estate Market Event

February 15, 2017 | 1:47 pm | | Public |

Speaking about the state of the real estate market tomorrow morning. Looking forward to it! The cool graphic below is enough of a reason to attend. 😉

The original invite graphic was also pretty cool.

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“Kleptocracy Initiative” to Stop Money Laundering in Real Estate up for Renewal

January 23, 2017 | 9:03 am | | Infographics |

Almost two years ago the real estate new development world was rocked by the New York Times epic page one story by Louise Story and Stephanie Saul about foreign investment in U.S. real estate. The vehicle for “Towers of Secrecy” purchases was the ubiquitous LLC shell corporation. While I’m no advocate of illegal activity for the sake of preserving the health of a real estate market, I was very skeptical and outspoken about the challenge of measuring the impact of this new rule. Especially since the new development market had already started to show signs of over supply by mid 2014 in both Manhattan above $3M and Miami above $1M. It also seemed to single out wealthy buyers who did not want to get a mortgage. How could the effectiveness of this six month rule be measured reliably enough to be extended or made permanent when the market was already falling?

Since these series of articles came out, I have learned a lot more about the scale of kleptocracy around the world and more appreciative of what the rule attempted to accomplish.

MHjmkleptocracycallout

Fast forward to 2017 and the super lux (≥$5M) new development condo market cooled sharply. The rule has been extended but is now up for renewal in a month. It is not clear whether the new administration will renew it. Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald penned are great recap of the rule status. To make it even better, he included a YouTube video of bulldozers playing chicken in the piece.

I have to say I admire the messaging that came out of Homeland Security to justify the rule’s impact. Whether or not the following is an exageration, the mere existance of the rule is probably an effective deterent.

“We don’t come across [money laundering in real estate] once every 10 or 12 cases,” said John Tobon, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations Deputy Special Agent in Charge for South Florida. “We come across real estate being purchased with illicit funds once every other case.”

Here are the areas current covered by the Treasury rule.

MHfingencoverage

Using the parameters of the rule, the Miami Herald asked that I analyze sales in the five boroughs of NYC since enactment.  I stuck with condos and 1-3 families since co-ops tend not be a preferred property type of foreign buyers. I found that sales dropped 6% year over year for the aggregate of Manhattan sales over $3M and the outer borough sales of $1.5M. This included legacy contracts that closed during the rule enactment period but went to contract before it started. Those sales likely softened the actual decline in sales.

MHsalessinceFinGen

While it appears reasonable that the rule had some drag on demand, a possible repeal in February won’t likely have much of an impact on the oversupply that currently exists.

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China: A Housing Market Without Re-sales?

November 27, 2016 | 5:54 pm | | Favorites |

I just returned from China for the second time in a little over a year and have yet been able to make sense of their domestic housing market. I am not talking about their must discussed housing bubble phenomenon or whether they have a housing bubble in the truest sense. I am talking about what seems to be a lack of a re-sale market.

After years of communist rule, the concept of home ownership in China is relatively new and appears to be in its early stages of development. Because growth in housing construction has been astronomical with all sorts of distorted metrics – their use of cement in 3 years (2011-2013) was more than the amount used in the U.S. over 100 years (1901-2000).

cementuseinchina-gates

Housing accounted for at least 15% of GDP in 2015, down from 22% in 2013. This is why we are seeing large Chinese construction companies working all over the globe these days – due to oversupply of new housing in China. The opportunities for revenue growth at the same pace seems limited.

On the bullet train we rode from Bejing to Shanghai, there were high rises under construction on both sides of the train tracks for most of the 5.5 hour trip. It’s hard to comprehend how much construction is underway without seeing it first hand, but it is massive.


Ghost Cities v. Ghost Towns
Unlike ghost towns in the U.S. which are abandoned after the economic forces are no longer in play, ghost cities have never been occupied. I think this is a pretty obvious flaw of central planning. I learned that incentives play a big role in unnecessary construction. In order for provinces to receive income from the central state, they are encouraged to generate GDP. Construction of apartment buildings is a quick way to boost GDP but there didn’t seem to be concern about their eventual occupancy (a la, build it and they will come). Also since the government owns the land, developers pay ongoing fees for using it. Our tour guide said that there were at least 40 ghost cities in China although this study says there are less. Here is a map of known ghost cities:

ghostcities

Multiple generations pooling their equity
Housing prices have been rising at about 17% annually for a decade – versus 11% disposable income growth of city dwellers. Rising prices have forced many buyers to pool the financial resources of as many as 3 generations of family. This shows how much is at stake for the Chinese government – if the housing bubble was to collapse. Yet same people I spoke with that expressed faith in the housing market showed grave concern over the integrity of their stock market. What alternative investments aside from housing does the typical domestic investor have? Especially since Chinese housing prices increased 53% in the past year?

fpchinesehousing16

However I am trying to get an answer for a much more basic point.

Is there a substantial Chinese re-sale market?
I feel way out on a limb when I say the following: few investors actually sell their apartments in the newly constructed apartment buildings.

I asked investors and real estate professionals in the Chinese housing market; four of our tour guides of the past few years; various people I met there during The Real Deal Shanghai conference: “Do investors sell their new apartments?” I consistently got a blank stare for a few moments as if the question had never come up before. A few people told me that buyers hold on to their investments for the long term and “no one sells.” On one of the real estate panels I moderated in Shanghai, a real estate professional made a comment that Chinese investors always prefer new.

The government has been trying to cool the market, requiring much larger down payments for investors, i.e. 70% and limit purchases to 1 per investor, but demand and creative work arounds, such as bogus divorces to skirt restrictions, remains high.


U.S. re-sales (existing sales) have accounted for roughly 85% of total U.S. housing sales over the long run. Granted, China is new to the concept of home ownership so the re-sale market would not dominate housing sales like it does in the U.S. But without a vibrant re-sale market, the “value” derived from Chinese housing market indices tell us Chinese housing price trends must be almost exclusively based on the newest home construction sales prices and that equity is not tangible.

Home sales seem to be a one-way transaction. Investors that buy a home feel wealthier as their investment rises in value. Theoretically that gets them to go out and consume, i.e. the wealth effect. However the market share of consumer spending in China is roughly half the 60% market share seen in the U.S. so they have a long way to go. While the Chinese investor may enjoy rental income when an active rental market exists, domestic housing purchases seem to be driven by a long term equity play.

I have found no anecdotal evidence of the widespread selling of existing properties that were recently developed. There doesn’t seemed to be a tangible moment when the recent investor expects to cash out the equity realized on their purchase of several years ago. If this is an incorrect observation and there indeed is a vibrant and active re-sale market of newly constructed housing, I was unable to see one or be told of one by consumers and real estate investors who live there.

So please clue me in.

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Greenwich CT Pre-Lehman “Reno, Then Flip” Mentality Is Long Gone

February 26, 2016 | 9:41 am | | Charts |

Fairfield County, CT is one of the more recent editions to our Elliman Report series. Greenwich, CT as a submarket has proven to be a market still strongly linked to the heady days before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and the beginning of the financial crisis. There remain many owners of high end homes purchased a decade ago that remain value-anchored to those days of yore.

I took a look at the last 15 years of residential sales, measuring the amount of time that passed from a home’s prior renovation to sale. From the late 1990s to Lehman, there was a compression of time from renovation to eventual sale, reflective of the speculative conditions leading up to Lehman. Reno a home, then sell it. During those days, business cards passed out by doctors and lawyers at Greenwich cocktail parties were either “hedge fund manager” or “developer.” Not so much anymore.

Subsequent to Lehman, the late 1990s pattern that preceded the U.S. housing bubble returned by 2010 and has remained remarkably stable since.

4Q15GR-sincelastreno

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