A: Screw it. I've been trying to make this perfect for days now and I now realize that I'll just have to wait and get better as I go. Here is my first shot at UrbanDigs investigative reporting on the streets of Manhattan Real Estate. The idea is to bring to you first-hand reports of new developments, contractors, real estate experts and their advice, top performers, etc.. A big thank you to my colleague and fellow contributor Christine Toes for helping me film and research this new development in the Upper East Side. It is our first time with this so consider it a beta test as we learn to fine tune the filming, video editing, volume and mic issues, and especially my very fast talking. Sorry about that in advance! I'll slow it down for future clips! Enjoy, and as always your thoughts/ideas are appreciated. If you would like to see my take on a specific real estate topic, drop me a line via email.
Recently, I just can't seem to get enough of 184 Thompson Street, a new condo conversion on Thompson and Bleecker. There are approximately 140 apartments in the building and 15 will remain rent stabilized. The sales office opened about 7 weeks ago and sales seem to be going strong despite the media screaming about the "condo glut." The apartments are priced competitively, at around $1,000 a sq ft, so they are sure to go quickly. Because the building was once two separate buildings, there are so many different layouts that you will never feel like you have a "cookie-cutter" apartment.
184 Thompson is a unique product because it is one of the very rare places in the Village where you can buy a condo for $455K. There is simply nowhere else in the Village where you can buy a one bedroom condo with a huge terrace for $820K!
People who hate students should steer clear, however. This building is destined to be the darling of parents who want to purchase an apartment for their undergrad or graduate student kids. The Developer's Group did a perfect job sussing out the demographic for this project. They renovated the kitchens and bathrooms and that's about it. Even some closet doors have been painted when they probably should have been replaced. Although the kitchens are modern and feature stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, the Developers Group wisely skipped the Waterworks and went for Avanti. In the upstairs bedrooms of the duplexes, you'll find carpeting but no hardwood floors beneath it. Sales and Marketing perfection! After all, who would pay ultra-luxury prices to live a few doors down from Senor Swanky's?! No one.
Most of the apartments are studios (most with balconies) for $455K and up. Some apartments are studios with a mezzanine area perfect for a bed. The only problem is that anyone taller than 5'9 can't fully stand up in the loft area. There are also one bedroom duplexes with steep stairs leading to the bedroom, so grandma ain't visiting anytime soon. The one and two bedrooms with terraces are superb for people who like to entertain, especially because the 6th floor apartments clear most of the neighboring buildings and have lovely views.
184 Thompson will have a doorman and a few washer/dryers on every floor, but no storage, bike storage, or other amenities to speak of. That's ok, because it keeps the common charges low.
Although I poke fun at the building a little bit, I love it. Too many snobby co-op boards with "no students, no pied-a-terres, and no parents buying for children" policies have cropped up in this great neighborhood. 184 Thompson provides buyers an opportunity to live in an area which had almost priced out the young people who keep the neighborhood fresh and happening in the first place!
A: I'm often asked to describe the current market by my buyer clients and to offer my thoughts on where the market might be going in the short term, as most of my buyers have some sort of time pressure to buy their new apartment; whether it be a lease expiring, tax reasons, or other. Tough question, but I think the best way to describe the current market is by explaining to my clients that out of ALL the inventory currently available for sale, perhaps only 55% or so are serious sellers!
But how could this be? If someone isn't a serious seller, then why would they list their apartment for sale? One answer: TO SEE IF THEY CAN GET THEIR PRICE!
Have you tried to bid on a property AFTER you did all your research to come up with current market value of the property only to get a 'no response' from the seller? Did you find that the seller didn't even come close to meeting you halfway even though you are more than financially qualified to buy their home? If you answered 'yes' to either of these questions, than you will understand what I am talking about.
Today's New York City real estate market is mainly comprised of some sort of combination between SERIOUS SELLERS and what I like to call TESTERS. Here is my quick unofficial definition of both:
Serious Seller: Quite simply, a seller that must sell their home with at least one type of time pressure! The time pressure could be a divorce, financial burden, re-location, or other. A serious seller owns a property that ultimately doesn't want to be owned. They are pressuring their hired agent to generate traffic, holding OH's every Sunday, reducing their asking price as the market activity deems necessary, and flat out doing everything they can to create a buzz about the property. It is these sellers that buyers are trying to find and do a deal with as they will respond to your offer reasonably.
Testers: Testers are sellers that really don't have any pressure to sell. They would like to move, but only if they get their price. Testers don't mind if their property has been on the market for some time, as they usually start out asking well above market value to in essence 'TEST THE MARKET'. If a building is selling for $900/sft and a property is currently asking $1150/sft, then it is pretty safe to say that this seller is a tester. Even if they get a bid of $900/sft, they will only respond with a price that equates to $1,050/sft. Testers are adament about getting the highest sales price in the building and will not be bullied by finacially secure buyers or those looking to pay all cash. Testers are not easy for buyers to deal with and will only do a deal if they get their price; otherwise the listing will eventually be removed from the open market. Testers might reduce their price, but it will only be from the original way out-of-line asking price to a modestly out-of-line asking price.
Is there anything wrong with testing the market? NO, abosultely not! That's the thing. Buyers can be as frustrated as they are but when they eventually go and resell, they are going to expect top dollar for their property unless their is some type of pressure that is causes them to unload the property for market value.
If I were to estimate from experience the breakdown of all Manhattan real estate sellers to see how many were testers and how many were serious, it would probably look something like this pie chart:
Now, what to do? Unfortunately there really isn't much anyone can do to convince a 'tester seller' to change their mindset. Put yourself in their place, if it was your home that you were trying to sell and wanted to test the market to see if you can get a certain price range, would your broker be able to convince you to take a lower offer? Probably not! In fact, you would probably fire the broker and sign with someone else for the insult.
The best way to handle a 'tester seller' is to submit your HIGHEST & BEST PRICE possible. This does NOT mean submitting a verbal bid or a simple email to the broker! This means faxing a hand written bid, with all your financial information, your pre-approval letter, your attorney info, your mortgage broker info, and your financial anaylsis form for review by the seller. Remember that ALL bids must be submitted to the client for review. By giving in your highest bid presented in the best possible light and showing off all your qualifications as a buyer, you are putting the ball into the 'tester seller's' court for a response. Chances are the response won't be what you hope, but its your best shot at getting a property whose only chance of selling is convincing a tough seller to let go.
For serious sellers, well its up to your negotiating skills and the skills of your hired broker to get a deal done. The question with a serious seller is not whether you can get the property, but at what price!
A: I always like to LOOK AHEAD and use all the available data to formulate an investment strategy. Sometimes I'm right and sometimes I'm wrong. But I'm always learning and I never bet the ranch on any of my gambles. What's happening right now and what signals are being displayed are leading me to think that housing, especially in NYC, will be just fine. With the fed on a PAUSE campaign for at least the forseeable future, with bond yields still predicting a coming recession via an inverted yield curve, and with equities surging to near record highs, what does it all mean?
Housing actually has a few things going for it these days that might pull the national market out of the woods. Those who will get hurt are those who made poor financial decisions in the first place; these include:
I have to be honest. I thought inflation would become more of a threat, the fed would have to raise rates again in the future, and the slowing economy as a result would keep stocks from running up too far too fast. What I didn't count on is the price of oil plunging to $58 from $76 and staying there, equities surging as a result, the job market and wage market being as strong as it is (a sign of a strong economy), and inflation actually showing signs of declining.
While we are still not out of the woods yet, I have to admit it is very encouraging news. The equity markets (although now showing signs of correcting a bit) are clearly betting on a soft landing as corporate earnings continue to come in strong and inflation seems at bay. The bond markets are clearly betting on lower interest rates in our near future, which would mean a rate easing campaign by the fed at some point. But who's right?
I HAVE NO CLUE.
But what I do know is that both of these fundamentals are joining forces to help form a floor in the housing market for New York City. If stocks continue to surge then the wealth creation will result in great bonuses for many wall streeters come early next year and for those who invested a majority of their assets in equities. The paper gains could easily be used for real estate purchases or at least psychologically create a minor sense of urgency during the months of January - February.
If the bond market is right in predicting a coming recession, then the fed will lower interest rates effectively making housing more affordable down the road. If you go along with the bets of the stock market and the bond market, than NYC housing in particular will continue to see a high level of demand.
You just can't compare NYC real estate to other markets like Miami or Phoenix because we just don't have the inventory glut that these cities currently have. In fact, good products in New York City are still pretty hard to find while rental costs have surged to 6 year highs. Its a question of affordability and New York City has plenty of high income residents looking for a place to live.
I'm beginning to think that the current slowdown will ONLY affect NYC for another year or so before a new bull run begins. Sure I could be wrong because anything can happen between now and 12 months from now, but with the data I'm seeing, this bust cycle will probably be similar to past bust cycles New York City real estate has experience: SHORT LIVED.
For those waiting for the market to crash, don't hold your breath. After all, the crash might very well be that apartment that was reduced 3 times from $750,000 to $675,000 whose ultimate sales price is $650,000. Take the same apartment in early 2005 and a bidding war would have gotten the seller closer to $725,000. Thats a 10% decline last time I checked!
UrbanDigs Says: If your looking to buy and specifically trying to find a bottom and time the market, keep VERY CLOSE eyes on the market over the course of 2007 and early 2008. Hindsight might very well prove that the bottom of Manhattan real estate is somewhere between the end of 2007 and early 2008 with a flat market for a year or so after that. Is there a rush to buy, certainly not. But that doesn't mean a good deal won't present itself over the next 12-18 months. Whenever you consider a huge crash for the NYC market, just take a look at the 4-5-6 trains at 8AM & 5PM on any given weekday; look at Grand Central, Times Square, and Penn Station. This city's population is growing and the fact that the 2nd Avenue Subway is actually about to start work proves that a billion dollar investment in infrasturcture is not just wanted, but NECESSARY to keep up with growth. With this much demand, in this type of city, with so much money being made, and so little rentals to choose from, how can the bust cycle turn out to be a flat out crash?
If I had to predict a timeline right now for you, it would be something like this:
Of course, these stats won't come out until 3 months later anyway. So, my prediction of a slight decline in housing prices for right now, won't be confirmed or disproved until February-March of 2007, at which time most people will take that data as representative of the CURRENT MARKET at that time! That's the wrong way to think!
See CNN's MONEY article titled, "Home Prices Down 1.2% in Third Quarter".
THE WILD CARD - If inflation proves worse than expected and/or the US dollar continues its rapid decline, then we might be in for higher interest rates which would obviously skew everything I just predicted above. This is why timing the market is so tough, as no one really knows what will happen down the road. Should interest rates rise or stay at current levels for the next 2 years, then extend that FLAT MARKET prediction out another year or so or possibly add in another few -1% for housing prices as there will be no external stimulus from monetary policy to boost the demand for housing.
I'm still trying to time my own re-entry into the market and will certainly keep all of you apprised of what I see as I good time to re-enter.
A: Things have progressed very quickly on the 2nd Avenue Subway project as word I'm hearing from a contractor who owns the residents at the Astor Terrace building and Rainbow shop employees is that work is set to start within 1-3 months!
I've got calls into the MTA to confirm the beginning of construction work on 2nd avenue near 96th street, but if this rumor is true, then the whole deal is happening much faster than expected.
Word From Alex the Contractor is:
"I'm hearing from both clients and building contacts, whom frequent city meetings about the project, that construction work up near 96th street is expected to begin in February".
Word From a Rainbow Shop Employee on 94th & 2nd Avenue is:
"We were told construction work might begin as early as December, but more likely in January or February. We are preparing to be kicked out but hopefully the subway work could occur around our store allowing us to stay for a while longer".The MTA website shows the following update:
Construction Contract One will include the construction of the tunnels between 92nd and 63rd Streets, for the construction of the launch box for the tunnel boring machine (TBM) at 92nd to 95th Streets, and construction of access shafts at 69th and 72nd Streets. It is expected that the first surface work for Contract One will take place in the first quarter of 2007 in the vicinity of the launch box, 91st to 95th Street. Contract One is expected to be 39 months in duration.Here are some details of the 2nd Avenue Subway project as I reported back in April, along with pictures and renderings of future stations and the construction process.
Here is a conceptual drawing of Phase 1:
In case you missed the Discovery Channel on how Tunnels are built, they will be using a boring machine that looks something like this and will use the streets as entry points 1 section at a time....
According to Wikipedia: Tunnel boring machines are used as an alternative to drilling and blasting (D&B) methods. A TBM has the advantages of not disturbing surrounding soil and producing a smooth tunnel wall. This significantly reduces the cost of lining the tunnel, and makes them suitable to use in built-up areas. The key disadvantage is cost. TBMs are expensive to construct, difficult to transport and require significant infrastructure.
A conceptual drawing of the boring process:
What To Expect During Build: Streets to be completely demolished during the boring process and tunnel build. Local businesses on 2nd Avenue will have a rough time and will most likely go out of business temporarily with some type of city support program kicking into effect. A few years of loud noises, construction barriers, air pollution, and big time machines.
What To Expect Upon Subway Completion: A spike in real estate values for properties surrounding this brand new, technologically superior subway line to ease congestion on NYC's eastside. Buying a property that is discounted because it is too far East right now is probably a very wise idea when the subway construction begins; York Avenue & East End Avenue are my sleeper picks for 6-8 years down the road when subway is complete.
A: John Doe (requested to remain anonymous) is a reader of UrbanDigs and contacted me to help him buy a property a few months ago. Unfortunately, I was away in Europe for 4 weeks and then homeless for another 6 weeks making my work very difficult. But that didnt stop him from buying in a new development in Brooklyn and negotiating with the developer on the final purchase price. Lets see what can be learned from his experience!
Q. What was the New Development asking for the apartment you bid on?
A: It was orginally listed at $554,000 but I think it's been on the market for almost a year now so the current asking price was $463,000.
Q: What price did you submit to the developer to begin with?
A: We submitted $432,000 and with that price including the storage unit they were charging $7,500 for.
Q: What was the first counter-offer from the developer?
A: The first offer was $450,000 and they basically said that was the lowest they were willing to go and didn't want to waste time going back and forth and that was why they told us their bottom line number. They weren't including the storage unit in this.
Q: Did you accept that or was there more negotiations?
A: We said we were ok with the price but wanted the storage unit included. They eventually agreed to include the storage unit.
Q: Did the developer pass on any seller fees to you; i.e. transfer taxes, etc.?
A: Not that I'm aware of.
Q: Were there any incentives offered by the developer after negotiating that wasn't there before negotiating?
A: No, they were offering washer and dryers as an incentive but after negotiating the storage unit that wasn't really an option anymore.
Q: How big was the apt you bid on; how many square feet?
A: 1,034 total square feet
Q: What amenities or apartment features drew you to this specific building?
A: The fact that everything is brand new. Location is 2 miles from Prospect Park. Some amenities we liked included:
Q: When will the building be ready for occupancy? Is it ready now?
A: Ready now
Q: How long do you plan on holding/living in this property before reselling?
A: Good question, we plan to have a kid in maybe 4-5 years and would like to stay there for a little while after that. Given the 15 year tax abadement I would say 7-9 years.
A big THANKS to this buyer for his willingness to share with me and you the experience of buying a new development and how he negotiated for a better purchase price at a time that is perfect for buyers to get better deals! Good Luck with the purchase!
A: Lets go back into the world of price cuts and see how some Manhattan real estate prices have fared in the past week or so. Here are some of the notable ones including one apartment being sold by the owner whose price was reduced by $1,000! A great example why owners shouldn't handle their own sale unless they know what they are doing; I mean what is a price cut of $1,000 suppose to accomplish?
PRICE CHANGES IN PAST 7 DAYS: 99 (of which 80 or so are price reductions)
200 East 74th Street: Apt. 15B
Reduced From: $899,000 to $850,000
Size: 1,200 SFT
Marketed By: Lynn Kellert of Corcoran
333 East 34th: Apt. 10K
Reduced From: $895,000 to $859,000
Size: 895 SFT
RE Taxes: $486
Marketed By: Daniela Kunen of Douglas Elliman
And the owner who just don't know! There is no website for this listing because it is being sold as a FSBO, but check out the price history of the listing as well as the most recent price cut. Man, somebody help this owner!
345 E 74th Street: Apt. 11B
Reduced From: $744,000 to $743,000 (originally priced at $744,000 on 10/25/2006, reduced to $699,000 later that same day, then upped back to $744,000 on 11/6/2006. Reduced by a mere $1,000 on 11/16/2006)
Size: 950 SFT
Marketed By: For Sale By Owner - Contact me for details.
Sorry for the loooong delay on getting this fixed. Now, when you hit the REMEMBER ME button on the comments box, it will actually remember your info for the next comment you want to post.
Posts will be limited this week because I'm extremely busy and Thanksgiving Holiday is cutting time short. But I got a few new things I am going to try out soon that I hope you will enjoy.
A: In the world of Manhattan real estate, co-ops occupy about 75% of the city's building population. Because you are buying shares in a corporation and not real property (you have to buy a condo if you want real property), and the building is governed by elected shareholders who set rules and policies by which the building is run, the value is less than that of condos. When potential buyers think about a co-op board interview they usually think of something painful and irritating, like getting a root canal. Since I just had 2 root canals last week, let me be the first to tell you that it is NOT AS BAD AS YOU THINK! If you are considering buying a co-op in New York City, here is what the board will probably look for.
New York City Co-op boards differ from building to building making it very difficult for me to describe one formula for passing the review and interview. So, here are a few guidelines that you may want to check yourself against to see if you are at least a good candidate.
NOTE: The seller's broker is in charge of pre-qualifying prospective buyers for their client so that only passable buyers are negotiated with. This is why you are asked for a financial anaylsis when submitting a bid. The seller broker will contact the building's managing agent to find out exactly what the co-op board guidelines are, and what they like to see in new buyers. Therefore it is extremely important for you to ASK THE SELLER BROKER beforehand what the co-op board is looking for in 2 general financial categories: Salary & Liquid Assets After Closing
OK, first off you pretty much have to have a job. If you are self-employed it gets a bit trickier as there is minimal or no job security (yet not impossible; you just might need to submit an extra year of tax returns and provide a letter from your accountant backing up your income).
Assuming your employed, most co-op boards are going to want to see that you are making at least 4X your total monthly expenses in annual salary keeping your debt/income ratio under 25%. A quick example would be if your total monthly expenses will be close to $4,000, then the board will want to see combined annual income close to $190,000 (4 x $4,000 = $16,000 x 12 = $192,000).
Now its not set in stone that you need to make this much as some co-op boards will allow up to 33% debt/income ratio which would mean that you need to make at least 3X your total monthly living costs per month; but its a good idea to be more financially able than less.
QUICK TIP: If you do not meet this salary requirement, find out if the co-op board will accept guarantors to help back you up. If not, then consider getting a tax-free gift from a family memeber, if possible. But make sure you get these funds into your account as soon as possible so that the deposit clears and produces a mailed statement that has the funds in your account but not the deposit listed. If deposit is listed, get an accountant gift letter to submit with the board package.
Another requirement that is hard to generalize is how much liquid assets you will need AFTER CLOSING COSTS to satisfy the co-op board. Nobody cares how much liquid assets you have BEFORE you close. Rather, what you need to show is that you have money leftover in liquid accounts after you pay the down payment and closing costs to do this deal.
Liquid assets include:
IF YOU ARE SELLING & UPGRADING: If you are currently selling your property, yet found a place to buy first and want to use your existing home as an asset, fine. However, yor current mortgage will be considered a liability and many co-op boards will want to see a SIGNED CONTRACT for your existing home sent in with the board package so that they know the home is on its way to being sold, and the profit on its way to your bank account!
Generally speaking, the co-op board will want to see at least 12 Months of total living expenses in liquid assets AFTER closing. For example, using the same #'s as above with a $4,000 total monthly living expense, the board will want to see at least $48,000 (12 x $4,000) in liquid assets AFTER you pay your down payment and closing costs!
Some stricter co-op boards will use a percentage of the deal as a requirement for liquid assets expected after closing. For example, my current exclusive at 49 East 96th Street requires that the buyer have at least 25% of the purchase price in liquid assets after closing.
QUICK TIP: Check the MAX FINANCING requirement that is listed on the property webad as a quick guide to the building's co-op strictness. If the co-op requires MORE THAN 20% down, than chances are they are more strict in other requirements as well (salary & liquid assets). The more over 20% that is required, the more strict the co-op board probably is in their requirements for new shareholders. A co-op board that asks for 50% down will probably want to see a siginificant amount of liquid assets & salary to pass the board!
OTHER ITEMS YOU WILL NEED TO PROVIDE
The 2 most important requirements are your salary and liquid assets because the co-op board will want to see that you can actually afford the property you are trying to buy. If you are buying too much house, than you are a threat in defaulting on maintenance payments (which will result in the other shareholders picking up the tab on your behalf) and/or selling the property soonafter the purchase and with a time pressure (having the sale pressured means not getting top dollar making the rest of the units in the building less valuable for future marketing than they otherwise might be).
Besides these 2 big guys, the co-op board package will ask you to provide:
UrbanDigs Says: Buying a co-op will get you more bang for your buck, no question. But keep in mind that you will have a process to go through to buy it which means you will have to go through this same process when you go and resell the property. Also, you will be restricted on policies such as subletting, pied-e-terre's, parents buying for kids, etc..On the same token, if you buy in a strict co-op that requires 50% or more down and tons of liquid assets than don't be surprised if you experience longer time on market when you go to resell as your buyer pool you are marketing to will be limited. When buying in a co-op like this, you should go into the deal educated on these issues and buy for the long term that is a place you see yourself living in or raising a family in for some time!
A: Been a little while since I talked about monetary policy. The main reason has been that I was waiting for some more economic data to come out to get a clearer picture of what the fed might do with interest rates. The bottom line, expect the fed to keep rates where they are for some time.
The fed has been on hold for a few quarters now while officials guage the effects of past rate hikes on the economy. The ultimate goal was to keep inflation from infecting economic growth. Today's CPI report seems to confirm this with one issue: ENERGY PRICES. The price of energy has fallen nicely from earlier year record highs and remained there. The results are now being felt in economic data. As the cost of energy falls, corporate profits rise and inflationary pressures ease a bit.
According to today's Yahoo Finance article titled, "Falling Gas Prices Help Push CPI Down":
Consumer prices, helped by another huge decline in gasoline pump prices, fell for a second straight month in October, providing more relief to Americans battered earlier in the year by soaring energy costs.Meanwhile the US economy seems pretty strong. The labor market is very healthy and wages are strong; which is why stock prices continue to rise.
The second 0.5 percent fall in consumer prices was better than the 0.3 percent dip that many analysts had been expecting. And core inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food prices, was also well-behaved, rising by just 0.1 percent, the smallest gain in eight months.
The news on inflation was certain to cheer officials at the Federal Reserve.
There is only one problem with all of this. That is, what we are experiencing now (higher stock prices and tamer inflation data) are largely due to the drop in energy prices and specifically light sweet crude oil from $76/Barrel to $59/Barrel today. Here is a 1-Year chart showing the drop that oil has had in relation to when it was at record levels:
What happens if this winter is colder than expected and stockpiles of fuel reserves start to fall? What happens if geo-political concerns in Iran, Nigeria, Venezuela, or Iraq worsen causing a supply imbalance of oil? What happens if consumption starts to rise again?
Well according to CNN Money's article today titled, "Oil inches over $59 on Strong Demand":
Distillates stocks in the U.S. fell by 3.6 million barrels last week, nine times more than forecasts, while gasoline supplies dropped by an unseasonably high 3.7 million barrels, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday.Its hard to predict the future direction of oil right now other than to say that it is stuck in a tight range between $58-$60 or so a barrel. And that is just fine! As long as the price of energy does not skyrocket back to the mid $70's, expect inflation data to be relatively tame and the fed to STAY PUT with interest rates going well into 2007.
"The strong demand in gasoline and distillates is very surprising," said Tetsu Emori, chief strategist at Mitsui Bussan Futures.
Total U.S. oil demand is up 4.8 percent from a year ago, the data showed. Demand for distillates is up 9.5 percent.
"If the trend lasts a few weeks, prices may be taken higher. But crude oil inventories are still very high so the potential upside could be limited."
If you were expecting a recession in early 2007 resulting in the Fed cutting interest rates and making mortgage/credit/auto payments cheaper for everyone, then I think it's time you wake up to realty. If there is a recession coming then why is the stock market rallying to new highs? Remember that the stock market is a LEADING INDICATOR of the economy while rate hikes/housing data/energy prices are LAGGING. To get the best idea of where the US economy is heading in the short term, you should look at what stock traders are betting on.
HOW THIS WILL AFFECT HOUSING: With the fed on a short-medium term HOLD with interest rates, expect mortgage rates to remain at levels they are at today, with minor fluctuations. Any new buyer demand as a result of lower mortgage rates will NOT OCCUR until the beginning of 2008 at the very least; and that is assuming the fed starts to cut rates in mid-2007 which is not a sure thing yet. If you recall, I talked about when to re-enter the housing market and included "...when the fed is nearing the end of a rat-easing campaign" as one of a few key peices of data to look for.
Consider the drop in oil a godsend for those with resetting ARM's and other types of adjustable mortgages as without this price drop the fed will have most likely raised interest rates again by 1/4 point at one of the next 2 meetings. Instead, it seems the fed has found a sweet spot with the fed funds futures at 5.25% that is neither restricting or stimulating the current economy.
WHAT TO WATCH: The price of oil. If the price of oil rises to above $70, expect the stock markets to give up their recent gains and future economic data to show inflation becoming a threat again.
For a more in depth look at what I discussed here, read CNN Money's article titled, "Beware: No Rate Cut Until 2008" which points out details from the minutes of the last fed meeting.
A: With all the talk recently in the blogosphere about flipping and stubborn sellers, lets take a look at the other side of the coin and discuss how buyers can find a great deal and then ask for top dollar later. The quick yet very difficult solution for buyers becomes: BUY A WRECK ON THE BEST BLOCK POSSIBLE, IN THE BEST BUILDING POSSIBLE, WITH THE BEST LIGHT & VIEWS POSSIBLE, WHOSE MONTHLY EXPENSES ARE BELOW $1.50/sft. Everything else can be fixed.
When it comes to real estate investing you must keep emotion out of your decision-making. You will probably find 'your emotions' as the most threatening feeling when deciding whether or not to go for it! You must clear your head, put all your other stresses aside, and figure out whether this home is somewhere you can be happy living in and appealing to others when you go and resell.
The 2 best permanent features of any apartment that will ultimately allow you to ask top dollar when you go and resell are SUNLIGHT & VIEWS. Don't worry about the rest of the features you may have been hoping for. If you wanted a working fireplace or a roofdeck but stumbled upon a great value property that is a total wreck with great sun and city views, TAKE IT! Chances are you won't own this property forever but will prove to be a great investment for the time period that you owned it for.
I'll tell you this straight from my experience in the field of NYC real estate sales: Buyers LOVE sunlight and views. I've had clients who were adamant on living in Greenwich Village and wouldn't even look at a listing outside this neighborhood. That stubbornness took about 4 weeks to shake off. The reason is that there still is NOT that much inventory out there. The good products, that is any unit priced right and features great sunlight and city/park views, are moving quickly while the cookie cutter units that are just like everything else out there is not. My conclusion, units that are properly priced to begin with and offer good sunlight and views are not lowering their prices as often as dark units and are experiencing less time on market. Go figure. Those are two fairly significant fundamentals that are currently affecting sellers in today's market (price cuts & time on market).
So, you have to look for the features that will help move your apartment faster and at the highest price possible. I didn't include LOCATION in this list because I think today's market is very different from the NYC housing market a few years ago. So many neighborhoods changed over the past 3 years or so that buyers are effortlessly expanding their 'grid', so-to-speak, of where they would consider living in. This consideration of multiple neighborhoods is making LOCATION not as important as it once was; I didn't say not important at all, just not as important as it used to be. At least this is my train of thought. As a result natural sunlight and views take center stage. It is now these two apartment features that buyers are looking for; and rightly so.
Tell me if I'm wrong? If any buyers are reading this blog and like the topics that are discussed then you are the perfect person to speak out on the comment thread. Has the frustration of not being able to find what you want caused you to expand your 'grid' of where to buy in? If so, then why? Do you now look at light and views as the deal maker or breaker, or is it some other apartment feature?
Whats great about my job is that every experience I have, whether from a buyer or a seller, is a learning one in which I can realize a new lesson or change in the current market. If I learn something while out with a buyer, I can flip that around and advise the seller on what may help get them the best profit at resale. And that is exactly what I'm seeing right now. Buyers are more stubborn, or WISE, I should say as they look to spend their hundreds of thousands of dollars on a property that will ultimately give them a profit at resale. This lack of umph, for lack of a better word, makes buyers patient and sellers frustrated.
Here is one unit that will certainly demand a premium at resale; the question now becomes how much of a premium. Look at these incredible Central park views:
80 Central Park West
Size: 950 sft
Marketed By: Toni Haber of Elliman
*NOTE - This is by no means cheap and is a great example for this post. The incredible views and natural sunlight allow the seller to price at the high end. Will it sell at this price point; no I dont think so. Its still a one bedroom apartment that because of its configuration really cannot be converted to a small 2BR for marketing purposes, but what sets it apart besides the location is the gorgeous views. I would think $1.3M for a list price and $1.15M or so for a one time bid would make this a pretty good deal for both buyer and seller. If the seller gets $1.2M or higher than I think they should take it without thinking twice.
If there is ever a time to get a deal on housing, its during the downtimes. Use your judgment, leave your emotions at home, have the vision to see past the wreck or work needed, and focus on natural sunlight and city/park/courtyard views and you should do just fine regardless of the housing correction currently underway.
A: After reading a post on Matrix the other day regarding seller denial in realizing that their home may not be worth they hoped it was, I decided to go ahead and write this post that I was planning on writing a few weeks ago but hesitated. I hope I don't get slack from colleagues over this discussion as I will be focusing on a specific high end property on 5th Avenue.
Apartment 4A at 1158 5th Avenue, now marketd by Sotheby's Int'l broker Reginald Fairchild, has been on the market since September of 2005; thats not a typo as this unit has been on the market for over 14 months now. Originally an 8-room apartment, the seller renovated to the 7-room property that is marketed today with plenty of sunlight and direct Central Park views from all rooms. So, why isn't it moving? One word, PRICE!
You can argue that because it is located between 96th & 97th streets that its the location that is hurting this property's chances of selling, but I wouldn't. According to Wikipedia:
Known for its "suburban" family-friendly atmosphere, Carnegie Hill boasts many fine restaurants, upscale boutiques, and gourmet food stores. Following New York City's tradition of similar stores residing next to one another, the stretch of Madison Avenue that runs through Carnegie Hill is known for its numerous children's clothing boutiques. The neighborhood also includes several schools, including Dalton, St. David's, Nightingale-Bamford, Trevor Day School, Convent of the Sacred Heart, and HCHS.In short, its a desireable neighborhood to live and raise a family and will always retain value because of its proximity to Central Park and leading schools.
To understand one of the fundamentals that is currently powering NYC real estate at this price point (seller denial in valuing their home), we need to look at the listing history of this property. Here is a chart showing the price changes since the listing first hit the open market:
Now, let's anaylze. The seller priced the apartment high late last year to start. Fine; many sellers do this and should be prepared for price cuts within the first 2 months. The first price cut was a big one of $620,000 but wasn't done until May of this year, some 8+ months after the property hit the open market. Not Fine; generally speaking if you have had 25 buyers come through your property without a reasonable offer submitted than your asking price is too high. Moving on, the original marketing broker got another price cut to $3,200,000 two and a half months later. Fine; actually the original broker did a great job getting the property down to realistic market levels although it was about 6 months too late.
So, what happens? The broker loses the exclusive listing, the seller switches to another brokerage firm (because it must be the broker and NOT the price that is contributing to the property not selling), and then get this, RAISES THE PRICE BACK UP TO $3,400,000!
WHY WHY WHY! The apartment had a 8 week fire sale being offered to the public for $3,200,000 yet was unable to catch any fish. While I understand the switch to another brokerage firm (as it could be a number of reasons why the seller decided to go with another broker and company if they were unsatisfied with the level of service they were getting), I do NOT get the price increase?
Jonathan Miller had a great post the other day on seller denial which included this statement that I agree 100% with:
Sellers are used to being in charge - The economy is slowly weakening as evidenced by the erosion of GDP but its still relatively solid. Sellers have enjoyed a dominating postion for much of the past nine years, not quite as long as the Republicans have controlled Congress (sorry, but election day is still ringing in my head). Perhaps thats the reason for the seller's delay in adjusting to the market (not the shift in power to Democrats). They are simply used to the way things have been.Perhaps this seller feels the same way and now that a new broker is in charge of marketing, the seller wants to regain control of the listing that was lost after 13 months on the market with the old broker and price cuts totaling $800,000!
Smart? NO! The seller finally got over the initial denial that plague's many sellers in today's real estate market only to revert back to the old devil with a fresh start that was offered by the new brokerage firm. I don't expect this listing to sell above the $3.2M price that was being offered a few months ago and any good buyer broker should advise their clients of this property or any other property for that matter listing's history.
LESSON TO BE LEARNED: As a broker, you should educate your seller's on the current market conditions and explain to them honestly and confidently why they should lower their price if they expect you to sell it within a specified period of time.
As a seller, you should listen to your broker's advice without emotion as he/she tries to do their job and sell your property for the highest and best price possible. That may mean a few price cuts! When you do finally get over the denial that your home is probably not worth what you thought it was worth, be strong! Don't revert back to a higher price as that will only do more harm than good; especially if you must sell. If you really don't need to sell and are just testing the market to see if someone will pay $1,500 a square foot for your apartment, I offer you my best of luck and hope that the broker you hired is not counting on this commission to pay bills anytime soon.
A: While this is more like a story from early 2005's booming market, I just got word that a few listings have been priced over at Century Towers on 400 East 90th street which used to be rentals. Rental buildings historically convert to condo to take advantage of market trends if housing is hot enough. We saw a few of these last year which contributed to the shrinking supply of rentals available to those priced out of the housing market; resulting in record low vacancy rates across Manhattan for early 2006. Here are some details I was able to dig up.
Of 13 available listings on the Century Tower Condo website, four are already IN CONTRACT. Looks like most units are being priced at or above $1,000/sft for this amenity rich building in the Upper East. While apartments are nicely finished, the units in this building seem to be on the smaller side with awkward layouts. Not that it is not nice, it is, and the amenities are great, its just that when I used to show these apartments for rentals the feedback I got was that the layout was a bit restricting. definitely worth a look though if you are in the hunt for a condo conversion in the upper east side with plenty of amenities.
Building Amenities Include:
Some available units currently include:
APT 12C - Studio
Size: 408 SFT
RE Taxes: $132
APT 8B - One Bedroom
Size: 589 SFT
RE Taxes: $190
APT 5E - Two Bedroom
Size: 1,378 SFT
RE Taxes: $446
PPSF: $870/sft (Hmmm..Value here or lack of light/views?)
A: Heading to NYC to move back home! I thought this day would never come. Not that I didnt enjoy spending time with family, its just that its time to go. Going to be offline until WED when the cable company comes to install cable and internet so will be back to the regular schedule with live chats and postings in a few days. Sorry for the few months of on and off live chat sessions and limited posts. In meantime, here are few more links that you might find interesting:
NYC Income Property Report (Matrix) - Check out this report on NYC's income properties courtesy of Jonathan Miller's partner John Cicero
Is Seattle Bubble-Proof (Rain City Guide) - Ardell's take on the bubble-proof market in Seattle estimates that by March 2007 all bargains will be gone! Will this happen and/or will other major cities follow the same pattern? Don't look at me for any answers.
Condos & CharlAlbemarle Market Stats (Real Central VA) - Jim Duncan's look at this local market's change from 2005 to 2006 shows a big rise in inventory, growing sales, and concludes "...In closing, buying is still a good idea. We are not in a "doom and gloom" market locally. What has changed is this - the philosophy used to be to "buy smart" and "sell smart." In the recent run-up, buyers just tried to "buy," as inventory was so scarce. Now - more time, analysis and thought go into purchasing decisions. And that's not a bad thing." Great post Jim!
Co-op Board Antics Redux (TrueGotham) - Douglas Heddings post on his experience with board rejections and the disservice that comes with it to other shareholders. Interesting peice.
NYTimes Incorrect Chart on MEW (Calculated Risk) - MEW, or Mortgage Equity Withdrawal, shows just how much American's are cashing out equity from their homes. There's been a ton of debate recently on the ultimate effect of this fundamental. If people own less of their homes, and home values start to drop, well you do the math. Great peice on this topic.
Tidbit of the Day: Capital Gains Taxes Increasing? Many people have seen their homes increase in value 100%-300%. The capital gains tax provisions that now allow you only to pay 15% on any capital gain revert to 20% after the year 2008. (SuzeOrman)
A: I was asked by readers to provide more detail on this so here it is. For those of you who have been reading my blog for some time, you know that I owned a condo at Astor Terrace which is located at 245 East 93rd Street, which I sold 4 months ago. By the way, Astor Terrace is a great building to live in! Now that I am no longer a homeowner, I discussed with you my thoughts on whether I should buy now or rent and wait a few years to buy later. Besides the slowing housing market, there were a few factors that convinced me that renting was the short term decision for me. Here is how I crunched the #'s to come to my decision.
NOTE: Buying and selling real estate is a wonderful investment if understood properly. The tax benefits and track record of long term appreciation in housing prices generally combine to make homeowners very happy when they decide to finally sell. However, you can screw up in real estate! Just look at that guy at Iamfacingforeclosure.com. Always remember that your personal situation combined with transaction fees with buying and selling can equate to a BAD INVESTMENT! Read this post carefully to understand how.
Before going into the number crunching starting with the monies I have leftover from the sale of my condo minus personal debts, credit debts, wedding costs, honeymoon costs, moving costs, etc., it is very important to understand the factors that might influence my decision to buy or rent. These factors include:
With the housing market slowing down I must take into account whether future short or medium term appreciation in price will offset transaction fees that go with buying and selling real estate. One should always assume aproximately 4.5% of purchase price in fees on the buy side and aproximately 7-8% of purchase price in fees on the sell side.
Will the profit on your deal cover these costs or will you take a loss?
Plus, all I know is that housing is currently slowing. When the bottom will hit and realizing I missed it is entirely a different story; but one I am focusing intensely on. I just want to get close and I know that NYC bust cycles are fairly short so my eyes are tuned in.
TIMELINE TO OWN
Now that I'm married I honestly don't know when we might decide to start a family. And that means changes in everything! Will I need a bigger apartment? Will we move to suburbs? I certainly don't know. But I'm honest enough to convince myself that these are very real possibilities and as such I really don't know where I might be in 2 years.
So, my timeline to own as of right now is about 2 years.
Ha! Yea right. Not for me! I'm considered an independent contractor and my company makes sure that I fully understand this! Being self-employed means minimal job security unless you are savvy enough to have built up a very reputable and sustainable business for yourself via personal refferals and such, making your job much more secure.
But for me, I'm still building my business and trying to prove myself to new clients. Because of this, I still have some growing pains ahead of me before I feel secure in estimating future years salary! While being self-employed is great in many ways, you must be able to manage your time wisely for it to work. I always use caution making big investments and buying a new home is certainly a big investment!
The combination of a slowing housing market, 2 years timeline to own, plus minimal job security all convince me that I should at the very least EXERCISE EXTREME CAUTION when making the decision whether to BUY or RENT! Now on to the #'s.
Before I signed a 1-Year lease to rent at 160 E 84th street, I looked over similar apartments in this neighborhood that would be a good guinea pig for this anaylsis. I eventually found an apartment at The Plymouth House, a co-op located at 235 East 87th street, which is very similar to where I am renting. Both units are 900 sft, JR4 layouts, 1BR/1BTH, Full-Time doorman, and in the same general neighborhood. Here's some details on 235 East 87th:
Price: $669,000 (Reduced from $695,000)
Size: 900 SFT
**VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE**: I did NOT include tax write-offs in this anaylsis because I work 100% from home as a virtual agent and as such I write off a portion of my rent as a business expense. This makes the tax write-offs for buying vs. renting pretty much a wash. If anything it skews the #'s slightly in favor of the buy side. Also, I am assuming in the calculations that my income will cover my housing costs and as such will allow my interest income earned to be stable as that money sits in a 5% online savings account for 2 years (you can get better but for sake of this anaylsis its fine). Finally, I assumed a $625,000 purchase price for APT 7D at 235 E 87th, and for sake of this anaylsis, assumed a sales price two years from now of $675,000; a profit of $50,000 which I think is pretty comforting given market conditions and no major work done on the unit.
A snapshot of the anaylsis (LINK TO DOWNLOAD if you want to look into the formula's I used for calculations):
CONCLUSIONS: Because of my 2 YR timeline, insecurity with my job and future salary, and transaction fees to buy and then sell again it makes sense to rent for now rather then to buy. If I did buy a comparable unit to the rental I just signed a lease for, and it appreciated 3% a year for the next 2 years, I still would have about $56,000 LESS MONEY when all is set and done.
Now, with this type of anaylsis time plays a very important role. If I were to chart the rent vs buy anaylsis, at some point they would meet; making buying the better decision. This is due to the combination of more price appreciation in the home, more equity paid off, and the growing benefits of tax write-offs.
This is my anaylsis FOR ME! Not for you! If you are looking to buy because you saved up for the past 5 years and your rent is rising and you know you will be living there for 5+ years, than obviously the #'s change significantly! Plus, most people do NOT work from home negating the tax write-off I use for my rental costs! That means that buying has tax benefits and renting does not, so keep these things in mind! If you would like me to go over your own situation with no strings attached, give me an email or simply change the #'s around in the XLS file link that is provided above to match your own situation.
Maybe in the future I can whip up a java program that does this anaysis automatically.
THOUGHTS? DID I MAKE THE RIGHT CALL? WHAT WOULD YOU DO? DID I MISS SOMETHING?
A: Place 57 is a new development that is located at 207 East 57th street in MIdtown East. As noted on the website, " Rising a graceful thirty-six stories, this arresting glass tower created by acclaimed architect Ismael Leyva consists of sixty-eight luxury residences". I had the opportunity to meet one of the pre-construction purchasers of Place 57 who agreed to answer a few questions about life in this new development. While her name will be held anonymous, I hope you find her comments helpful should you be thinking about buying here.
Q: What type of apartment did you purchase at Place 57?
A: 2BR/2.5BTH (likely floorplan below)
Q: What price did you pay?
A: More than 2 Million.
Q: What are your TOTAL monthly expenses (maintenance + Taxes) with the tax abatement?
A: $1,600 with the tax abatement.
Q: What is the total square feet of the apartment?
A: 1,626 square feet.
Q: Can you describe the views/exposures/features of the apartment that sold you on it?
A: Fabulous views with East, South & West exposures. The floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the apartment provide great sunlight.
Q: How would you rate the quality of service at Place 57?
A: Quality of service is actually not very good.
Q: How would rate the building amenities?
A: Everything in the building is terrific. There's a small gym, childrens playroom and a lovely baccarrat crystal garden. Basically there are only two apartments on every floor and a resident lounge.
Q: How was the experience of buying pre-construction?
A: The experience was a positive one. No problems.
Q: What were your total closing costs to do this deal?
A: Close to $80,000.
Q: How would you rate the neighborhood for quality of life?
A: Neighborhood is very good. There is hardly any noise heard from the apartment and I am very close to the subway and central park.
There are currently 22 ACTIVE SALES LISTINGS at Place 57 right now including these looking to be flipped:
Price: $1.799M (Reduced from $1.875M)
Size: 1,434 SFT
RE Taxes: $130
Size: 3,250 SFT
RE Taxes: $406
Price: $2.45M (Increased from $2.35M)
Size: 1,628 SFT
RE Taxes: $232
A big thanks to this new homeowner for sharing with me some details of her purchase, the process, her new home, and living at Place 57! If you have more specific questions for this person, please leave a comment and I will advise her to check in every once in a while to try to answer!
A: Well Im set to move back to NYC next Monday which means unpacking, no cable or internet for 1-2 days, and boxes everywhere for weeks. Fun. I just have had no free time to post the past few days as commuting to NYC from Huntington takes at least 2 hours each way (4 hours total a day) of productivity out of me; 20 min to train station, 1 hour to NYC, 30 min of subway rides/walking to office or appointments and BACK again. I honestly can say that I will NOT miss this. Anyway, I have some things to discuss with you guys but will need some time to put the posts together. For now, here is what I find interesting in the blogosphere.
HousingTracker.net - Check out the 1 month, 2 month, 3 month, and 6 month inventory and price changes for NYC inventory of ACTIVE LISTINGS.
Zillow Gets FTC'd... (Matrix) - Jonathan Miller's interesting take on Zillow's recent FTC troubles. I still think Zillow.com is a fluff site to be used for entertainment purposes ONLY.
Iamfacingforeclosure.com - Holy cow have you guys read about this 24 YR old moron yet? He is attracting nationwide attention and no is set to meet Rich Dad Robert Kiyosaki. At first I though this was a brilliant internet scam, but a recent newspaper reporter asked for closing doc's to prove his story is true. I can NOT believe how stupid this kid is and his inability to LEARN from his mistakes. Now he is blogging about being in foreclosure for 5 properties, defrauding mortgage lenders, and borrowing any money he can from family and friends to buy more properties. Unreal.
You MUST read some of this guy's blog! His stupidity and hole he dug for himself through his awful business decisions is for some reason amusing to me.
Buying Like A Developer (True Gotham) - Interesting tidbit about buying in a building where the developer bought too. I'm liking this site more and more as it adds a different angle from the regular stuff out there.
Boom!Bust!Boom? (HotProperty) - Very good article on the history of housing busts and the booms that follow.