New York real estate has its worst quarter in 6 years – and there could be more pain ahead
Manhattan real estate sales and prices took a fall in the fourth quarter, and they’re likely to slide even further this year after the new tax rules take effect.
Total sales volume fell 12 percent compared with the fourth quarter of last year — the lowest quarterly level in six years, according to a report from Douglas Elliman Real Estate and Miller Samuel, the appraisal firm. The average sales price in Manhattan fell below $2 million for the first time in nearly two years.
Brokers say the declines were simply the result of uncertainty around the Republican tax plan, as buyers held off until the details of the new law became clear. They say many of those buyers have since rushed in and will help show a rebound.
Yet the luxury market in Manhattan is suffering from an expanding glut of high-end and highly priced apartments. And analysts say that while sales may rebound slightly in the first quarter of 2018, the tax law — which limits the deductibility of state and local taxes — will continue to add pressure to New York City housing prices, especially at the top.
“There will be an impact on prices and sales,” said Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of Miller Samuel. “But it may take up to a year and a half to two years to see the full impact.”
The high end of the Manhattan market is showing the biggest cracks. Inventory of luxury apartments — those in the top 10 percent by price — grew by 15 percent. There is now a 17-month supply of luxury apartments in Manhattan, up from 10 months a year ago.
And with giant new condo towers sprouting up in every corner of the city, those numbers are likely to grow.
Miller said that resales — as opposed to new development — are holding up strong, with median sales prices up by 2 percent over last year. But prices for new developments fell 17 percent over last year and the number of sales are down 20 percent.
The number of new developments is expected to continue to rise this year and next, which will add to inventory, Miller said. While demand for “low-end” apartments priced at $1 million to $2 million remains strong, sales of apartments of more than $5 million will get tougher. In part, that’s because the rich have more discretion on when and where to buy homes — and with the costs of owning a home in New York going up with the tax plan, apartments aimed at the rich will see the biggest price hits.
Miller said that while buyers have already adjusted, sellers may take more time to catch up.
“The sellers were already recalibrating after 2015,” he said. “Now they will have to readjust again.”
Zach and Brie Smithey of St. Charles, Missouri, have remodeled several homes, but none of them were the perfect fit. “We were looking for something that wasn’t quite the norm,” Zach explains.
“We renovated homes built in 1880, 1904, and the 1970s. With each house, we got closer to our flavor, but never quite hit it,” he says. “We realized that to do something different, we had to start from scratch—to get what we really wanted, we couldn’t follow someone else’s template.”
When they purchased an empty lot in 2011, they pictured building a more traditional house made out of conventional materials. But as the years passed, their vision shifted, and at some point, they stopped thinking about what a house should be and began wondering what other forms it might take. Ideas such as a concrete house, a geodesic dome, and a tiny house were weighed and rejected. “Realistically, how many people could live in a tiny house for the rest of their lives?” wonders Brie.
The couple doesn’t remember how the concept was raised, but when the idea of a container house came on their radar, it immediately felt right. “I had never seen one before, and I wasn’t even sure they existed,” Zach says. Online searches convinced them and informed them that if they built a container house, they’d be the first in the area to do so.
“We chose a container house because it gave us the most bang for our buck,” says Brie. “It allowed us to use recycled materials, which was important to us. The cost of it, and the fact we did so much of it ourselves, allowed us to live mortgage free, which was also important to us.”
Little did they know that at the time they were doing the research, their future home was sitting in a nearby container yard. “Once we decided to do this, I found a broker that sources containers from container yards across America,” Zach says. “There are many options: You can buy them new, used, or ready to be retired.”
The couple chose the last option, feeling that a few dents only add to the character of the units. They ended up with containers that had been built in Shanghai and traveled around the world 12 times on boat, train, and truck before coming to rest in North St. Louis. “We found eight 40-foot containers, each one with nine-foot-high ceilings,” Zach says. “We paid $1,600 for each, and $375 to have each of them delivered, so they ended up being about $2,000 apiece. The whole project cost us about $135,000.”
The couple had the containers delivered to their lot, used a crane to stack them in a giant cube shape (there are four containers on the bottom and four on the top), and began shaping them into their home. “Building a regular house is an additive process—you put more on it day by day,” says Zach. “But in a house like this, it’s more of a subtractive process. You stack up the containers, and then you carve away the walls you don’t need.”
Before we go on with this story, there are a few things you need to understand about the Smitheys. The first is that Zach is an artist and that informs his remodeling projects. “For me and my art, it’s all about the process, not the end result,” he says. “This house is just like a big sculpture project. I figured it out as I went along, and the journey was more important than the destination. In the end, we have something we couldn’t have imagined at the beginning if we had had a hard and fast goal we were aiming at.”
The second thing you need to know is that he and his wife appear to be the types who see things differently. For example, what mere mortals consider a packing pallet, this couple sees as a building opportunity/free wood. “The great thing is that once people know you think this way, they seek you out and unload stuff,” says Zach. Indeed, when they talk about the home, very little is new and explanations are peppered with phrases like: “My friend was remodeling a house and had to get rid of a lot of brick” or “My friend’s wife works at a JCPenney that cancelled a remodel and had a lot of extra materials.”
Finally, this is a couple that’s seemingly unfazed by things they don’t initially know how to do. He’s an artist and she had worked as a massage therapist—but they didn’t hesitate to purchase and operate a restaurant (Miss Aimee B’s Tea Room & Gallery), something they’d never done before. She later founded Brie’s Protein Bars, a health food company. They apply this can-do attitude to remodeling; so having no direct experience with container buildings was no problem.
“Really, the only way to learn how to remodel is to remodel,” says Zach. “We did most of it ourselves, save for the electric, plumbing, and HVAC. Because we were doing it ourselves, we were constantly changing tasks and using/developing new skills. It was exhausting and went on 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for a year and 14 days.”
Brie agrees that the process was difficult. “I expected it to be hard—if it were easy, everyone would be doing it,” she allows. “What I didn’t expect is how difficult it would be to work with the metal. It’s heavy, it’s thick… YouTubers make it look easy, but trust me, it’s not for everyone.”
In the most basic terms, here’s what they did: Stacked up the containers, cut out openings between them, built a frame within the metal shell, put in the utilities, and then hung the drywall (except in strategic places where they left the metal exposed).
Of course, that simplistic explanation doesn’t even begin to cover the improvisation that went into it. “I figured it out as I went along,” says Zach. The figure-it-out-as-you-go style is responsible for features like antique arched windows hung upside down in the living room (they were left behind at their restaurant, rescued from an old church next door); baseboard and crown molding made from randomly cut boards from packing pallets; and cement board painted in a rainbow of drip patterns and installed as shower walls.
Throughout, recycled materials are everywhere you look. In addition to the aforementioned items, rope pulled from the mud on the banks of the Mississippi was cleaned and used to frame a television; birdbaths and a fountain plucked from a landscaping company’s boneyard find new life as sinks and a plumbed bar table; a combine chain and tractor hooks are used to support a wall-hung vanity in the upstairs bath; and a conch shell is repurposed as a faucet in a bathroom on the main floor.
Of course, none of this was easy or without headaches. “If, during construction, we encountered a problem we looked at it as an opportunity to innovate,” Zach says.
Anything this different is bound to inspire curiosity—especially in a small community like St. Charles (population: 69,293). “When we were building it, not a day went by without someone coming into the house and asking questions,” says Zach. The curiosity reached such a pitch, that the couple decided to host a community open house on May 20, the day the last light fixture was hung. The couple anticipated a few hundred people, and they were surprised when 2,000 showed up. “I was in shock,” says Brie. “Negative comments always seem louder than positive ones, but that day, it seemed like the house was full of positive comments and so many compliments.”
The couple decided to make it a benefit for the local animal shelter, and ended up raising $8,000 at the door for the organization.
In Manhattan, the number of newly signed leases climbed 17 percent in May from a year earlier to 5,969, the biggest total for the month in nine years of record-keeping, according to a report Thursday by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate. In Brooklyn, new apartment contracts surged 23 percent to 1,460, also the biggest total for the month in data going back to 2008.
Renters are taking advantage of a market that’s crowded with listings, weighing offers of free rent and other perks from landlords who are working to keep their units filled. Twenty-five percent of all new leases signed last month in Manhattan came with some kind of concession from the owner, about double the share in May 2016, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman said. In Brooklyn, sweeteners were offered on 15 percent of new agreements, up from 8.8 percent a year earlier.
“They realize, ‘I do have quite a bit of options so let me take a look,’” Hal Gavzie, Douglas Elliman’s executive director of leasing, said of renters’ thinking. “‘Let’s just test the water and see what’s out there.’”
In Manhattan, the surge of renter interest was enough to push down the vacancy rate to the lowest in two years, 1.72 percent, the firms said. It was the first time since 2015 that the figure dipped below 2 percent.
While all that dealmaking helped attract tenants, it kept a lid on rent growth. In Manhattan, net effective rents — calculated after incentives are factored in — were up 0.6 percent in May from a year earlier, to a median of $3,377, the firms said. In Brooklyn, the median rent after concessions dropped 2.1 percent to $2,782.
Some landlords are luring tenants by actually lowering their asking prices — a way to stand out from the crowd where free months of rent and payment of broker’s fees have become commonplace, Gavzie said.
New condominiums coming to market are getting cheaper, as developers work to capture buyers in the popular sub-$5 million market.
In Manhattan, the average unit price on condos approved for market by the New York Attorney General’s office has been steadily trending down over the past two years. Back in 2015, developers were shooting for an average unit price of just under $5 million, according to The Real Deal’s analysis of accepted offering plans for the borough. In 2016, that average had dropped 24 percent to just below $3.8 million. And it looks like the trend is here to stay. In the first four months of 2017, the analysis showed, the average accepted unit price in the borough was $3.1 million, down 18 percent from 2016’s average accepted price.
“We’re trying to make sure apartments aren’t too big or too expensive, given where the market is,” said Steven Rutter, the director of new development at Stribling Associates. “It’s a larger strategy to design stuff that is more affordable. We know the under $5 million market is stronger.” Stribling is handling sales at Gluck + and Cogswell Lee Development’s 150 Rivington Street, a project that was approved for sale last year with apartments starting at $995,000. Rutter said many developers are now planning buildings with a different mix of unit sizes than two or three years ago. “Buyers are looking for value right now. There’s a lot for them to choose from.”
“There’s been an intelligent and necessary response to supply and demand dynamics,” she said. Corcoran tracks when buildings open for sale, which the firm define’s as when a sales office opens, rather than when the AG approves the offering plan. Mack said five of the seven Manhattan developments that have become publicly available this year are targeting a mid-market price of between $1,800 and $2,400 per square foot. It’s now been a year since a development with an average asking price of $4,000 per square foot and above has opened, with Related Companies’ 70 Vestry the most recent last big-ticket item, according to Mack.
The shift towards cheaper new development product has also broadened the buyer pool, developers said. “We’ve introduced the new development market to people who haven’t been able to afford it it before,” said Dan Hollander, managing principal of DHA Capital. Its project at 75 Kenmare Street in Nolita, approved earlier this year, has an average unit price of $3.7 million, according to the AG’s office. The company opted for lower prices following the success of its previous project at 50 Clinton Street, according Hollander, which launched in 2015 offering one-bedrooms for under $1 million and two-bedrooms for under $2 million. All but four of the 37 units are in contract at 50 Clinton, according to StreetEasy data. Hollander said targeting the lower price points and building more efficient-sized apartments was “experimental” at the time, but paid off because there’s so much demand in the sub $5-million market. “A lot of people want to get into a new condo… It’s a very appealing prospect, but there’s been little out there in their price range,” he said.
For other developers, the lower part of the Manhattan market has always been a safe bet. “We’ve been working like this for years,” said Gaia Real Estate’s Danny Fishman. “We always said we don’t care about the top 5 or 10 percent.” The company is joining with Acro Group to develop the Vantage, at 97-unit condo conversion at 308 East 38th Street where 30 percent of the units are priced under $1 million. Fishman said their business plan is to keep the unit cost down, and to design buildings with fewer amenities so there are lower common charges. The Vantage, approved earlier this year, has a gym but no swimming pool. The firm took a similar approach at its Hell’s Kitchen condo conversion at 416 West 52nd Street, where Gaia launched sales last year with the sub-$3 million buyers as the target. “I’m giving up the market of the billionaire, but how many are there?” said Fishman.
CORE’s Emily Beare agreed that more new development product is becoming available for buyers who would normally only be able to buy resales. “For a few years the new development was geared towards the ultra-luxury, $10 million and above, and much larger units…. I think developers have switched direction a little for people who were priced out,” she said. The strategy shift may benefit buyers seeking new apartments with multiple bedrooms at a lower price point, she added.
The US Census Bureau, in collaboration with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, releases data on completions and absorption rates for multifamily buildings with at least 5 apartments. The most recent release shows that completions of nonsubsidized, unfurnished, rental apartments amounted to 73,800 in the third quarter of 2016. This is 11,700 more than the second quarter of 2016, but 9,800 fewer than the third quarter of 2015 (Figure 1).
The absorption rate (apartments rented within 3 months of completion) for rental apartments completed in the third quarter of 2016 stood at 61 percent. This is 4 percentage points higher than the second quarter of 2016 (57 percent), but essentially unchanged compared to the rate from the third quarter of 2015 (60 percent) (Figure 1).
The release also revealed that the median asking rent of apartments completed in the third quarter of 2016 was $1,507. This is a significant increase compared to the median asking rent from the third quarter of 2015: $1,346.
In the third quarter of 2016, condominium completions rose considerably to 6,100, which is 2,800 units more than in the second quarter of 2016 and 1,800 higher than completions in the third quarter of 2015. The condominium absorption rate also posted an increase to 74 percent, which is 10 percentage points higher than the second quarter of 2016 and 23 percentage points higher compared to the third quarter of 2015 (Figure 2).
Figure 3 displays subsidized and tax credit unit completions as a share of total apartment completions. In the third quarter of 2016, subsidized or tax credit units represented approximately 6 percent (5,200 units) of total apartment completions. This is about the same share seen in the second quarter of 2016 (7 percent). It important to note that starting in 2010, the share of these units completed surged, but started to decrease significantly starting in 2014.
– New U.S. single-family home sales unexpectedly rose in September, pointing to sustained demand for housing even as data for August was revised sharply down.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday new home sales increased 3.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 593,000 units last month, pulling them close to a nine-year high touched in July.
August’s sales pace was revised down to 575,000 units from the previously reported 609,000 units.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast single-family home sales, which account for about 9.8 percent of overall home sales, falling to a rate of 600,000 units last month.
New home sales, which are derived from building permits, are volatile on a month-to-month basis and subject to large revisions.
Sales increased 29.8 percent from a year ago. They rose in the third quarter compared to the April-June period, indicating strong demand for housing.
Residential construction, however, likely remained a drag on gross domestic product in the third quarter.
Despite rising demand for housing, home building has been lagging, with builders complaining about land and labor shortages. Demand is being driven by rising wages as the labor market nears full employment, as well as by very low mortgage rates.
New single-family homes sales surged 33.3 percent in the Northeast and soared 8.6 percent in the Midwest last month.
Sales in the South, which accounts for more than half of new home sales, climbed 3.4 percent.
Sales fell 4.5 percent in the West, which has seen a sharp increase in home prices amid tight inventories.
Transaction prices reported by multiple listing services may differ by an average of 8.75 percent from sold prices reported on HUD-1 settlement statements, possibly because brokers are under pressure to inflate prices in a declining market, according to a new study by three real estate economists at Florida Gulf Coast University published last month by the Appraisal Journal.
In residential appraisal assignments, appraisers often place heavy reliance, at least as a starting point, on multiple listing services (MLS) for property information and transaction prices.Errors will almost inevitably find their way into large databases, and an MLS is certainly no exception. The purpose of this study is to examine the prevalence and magnitude of differences in MLS-reported transaction prices compared to their associated HUD-1 (HUD) Settlement Statements, said the article..
The study found MLS errors are related to market conditions, not property price levels, and are likely to be smaller during a market boom and larger during a market bust. The study found that MLS-reported prices supplied by brokers on or after the settlement date overstated HUD-reported prices in 6.25% of the sample and understated HUD-reported prices in 2.50%. The data used in the analysis were drawn from the two years before, the year of, and the two years after the market peak between 2004 and 2008. The study compared HUD-1 and MLS prices from a sample of 670 HUD-1 Settlement Statements obtained from two banks operating in a Southern state.
Source: “Reported Price Errors:A Caveat for Appraisers” in The Appraisal Journal
“This finding is consistent with, but certainly does not prove, the notion that if brokers are motivated to inflate MLS prices, pressure to do so is likely to be greater in declining markets. However, there may be other explanations for the price discrepancies. One such explanation is the possibility that during declining markets, brokers may report initial contract prices that may be subject to downward adjustment between contract and settlement dates. A related possibility is that some prices are renegotiated at the time of closing to accommodate buyers’ cash needs. Regardless of explanation, however, the result is a misstating of price,” the authors concluded.
The study urged appraisers to use other sources in addition to MLS transaction prices to verify reported sale prices, especially when a sale price contradicts sale prices of comparable properties.
You’ve heard it all before – you need to take care of your credit score like it’s grandma’s prized china or maybe your new cellphone.
But if you’re more of the goal-oriented type, what constitutes a win when it comes to credit score?
How do you know when your score is among the best?
First, a few facts: When you hear the term credit score, most people are referring to your FICO score. Actually, it’s FICO scores. You have three separate scores – one from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus based on the information they have on you. This means that your FICO score from Equifax might be different from your Experian or TransUnion score, but probably not drastically different. It is, you’d better do some investigation.
The highest score possible is 850 while the lowest is 300. In reality, achieving an 850 probably isn’t going to happen. It would take a perfect combination of many factors to get there. A simple lack of negative entries on your credit report isn’t going to result in an 850.
For more on this, read What are the best ways to rebuild my credit score quickly?
What’s the magic number that will get you the best interest rates, payment terms and perks that come from being rated among the best of the best?
According to Anthony Sprauve, director of public relations at FICO, “If you have a FICO score above 760, you’re going to be getting the best rates and opportunities.” How hard is it to get that number? Looking at the averages, it’s no easy task. For people 25 to 34 years of age, the average score is 628. As you get older your score rises. By the time you reach age 45 to 54, the average is 647; at 55-plus, it’s 697.
If those statistics seem a little depressing, don’t worry. Even if you don’t reach that coveted 760 number, it’s not like you’ll have to pay cash for everything the rest of your life. Good Scores for Different Purposes For example, if you’re looking to buy a home, a score of 500 qualifies you for a FHA loan.
Other statistics show that more than 97% of all FHA loans went to people with scores above 620. Just because you qualify doesn’t mean you’ll be approved, but if you exceed that 620 number, your chances are quite good.
Conventional mortgages are hard to get with a score below 620 and some lenders require at least 700. This is why financial gurus advise people who want to buy a home to not miss bill payments or overextend themselves with credit cards or other loans.
You’re going to need stellar credit to become a homeowner in most cases. Also remember that the better your credit score is, the lower the interest rate you’ll be offered. Consider a 30-year mortgage of $200,000 at a fixed rate: According to one data set, the difference in interest rates for people with a 760 score versus a 620 could be 1.6%. That’s $68,000 difference over the life of the mortgage. Recent statistics showed that more than 70% of applicants are approved for car leases, and finding a credit card company to approve you probably won’t be difficult.
In both cases, the higher your score, the better your terms – and the less you’ll pay in interest.
The Federal Reserve Board recently reported that consumer credit outstanding rose by a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.2%, $138.7 billion, in January 2015. Consumer credit outstanding now totals $3.3 trillion.
The expansion of total consumer credit outstanding reflected an increase in the outstanding amount of non-revolving consumer credit. Non-revolving consumer credit includes auto loans and student loans. According to the report, non-revolving credit outstanding grew by a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.3%, $152.7 billion, in January 2015, 0.5 percentage points faster than the 5.8%, $140.2 billion, growth recorded in December 2014. There is now $2.4 trillion in outstanding non-revolving credit, 73.3% of the total amount of consumer credit outstanding.
The growth in non-revolving credit was partially offset by a contraction in the outstanding amount of revolving credit. Revolving credit outstanding is largely composed of consumer credit card debt. After recording an increase of 8.4%, $74.2 billion, in December 2014, revolving credit outstanding registered a 1.6% decrease, -$13.9 billion, in January 2015. As of January 2015, revolving credit outstanding totals $0.9 trillion, 26.7% of total consumer credit outstanding.
A previous post illustrated that depository institutions are the largest holders of outstanding consumer credit. According to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which collects banking statistics from depository institutions as part of its responsibility to guarantee the safety of depositor’s accounts, the growth in the amount of loans to individuals, which includes credit cards, other revolving credit plans, automobile loans, and other loans to individuals, but excludes loans to individuals that are secured by real estate, has been accelerating since 2012. As a result, the gap between growth in outstanding loans to individuals and growth in total net lending has converged.
According to Figure 2, loans to individuals made by depository institutions fell by 2.9% in 2009, but total net loans and leases fell by 8.4% indicating that the contraction in loans to individuals was not as severe as other lending made by depository institutions in 2009. Total net loans and leases is equal to the total amount of loans and leases less the reserve for debts gone bad. In 2010, loans to individuals rose by 24.4% while total net loans and leases grew by 1.3%, indicating that growth in loans to individuals exceeded the growth of total net loans and leases. However, the 2010 increase in consumer lending of 24.4% reflects financial institutions’ implementation of the FAS 166/167 accounting rules which moved loans from pools of securitized assets to the balance sheets of lenders. Since 2011, the gap between the growth in loans to individuals and total net loans and leases has closed as growth in loans to individuals has accelerated.
In contrast, the gap between growth in single-family and multifamily lending compared to growth in total net loans and leases had steadily widened until 2014. In 2014, the gap between lending secured by single- and multifamily real estate and total net loans and leases converged. Figure 3 illustrates this result. According to the figure, between 2009 and 2013, the widening gap in growth rates occurred during a period in which lending secured my single-family and multifamily residences was declining and overall lending by depository institutions was growing. In 2014, the gap between the growth in single-and multifamily loans outstanding and total net loans and leases closed as loans for single- and multifamily real estate returned to growth.
Setting a home’s list price isn’t an exact science. A good real estate agent will recommend a price range, but never assign an exact price — that’s ultimately for the seller to decide.
Although sellers aren’t required to price according to inventory levels or the market condition, it’s smart to discuss these matters with your agent early and often to make an informed decision. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when choosing your listing price.
Discuss price reductions before listing
If you aren’t highly motivated to unload your home, time is on your side. Absent recent or obvious comparable sales, the market value of your home could fall within a broader range. If you want to give it a shot at the top of the range, go for it. Then monitor buyer traffic to see how the market responds.
If you try the higher end of your home’s price range, agree with your agent early on that, after a set amount of time, you will drop the price. You can then use that price reduction as a marketing tool to get more people in the door. At least you will know that the higher price strategy did not work.
Pricing low doesn’t guarantee multiple offers
When homeowners hear about other sellers who received multiple offers or sold their homes for over the asking price, they assume it can happen to them, too. But just because your neighbor received three offers within two weeks does not mean you will.
The homes that receive multiple offers are sometimes purposely priced low to get that activity. These home are generally in a good location and in their best showing condition. And for all you know, the seller of the low-priced home with multiple offers was in a rush to sell and left money on the table.
If you price your home low, be prepared to take that price. While it’s not unheard of, raising your list price several weeks into the listing will surely turn off potential buyers.
Many agents look for a quick sale
Well-intentioned agents don’t want to watch your home sit on the market. They understand that homes that go weeks or months with few showings will ultimately sell for less than if they had been priced correctly right out of the gate.
Sometimes it becomes a battle — one you need to avoid. If your agent pushes for a lower number but still agrees to take the listing at your higher price, you may want to reconsider working with that agent. He or she represents your interests in the marketplace, both to other agents and the buyers they encounter. An agent who doesn’t get their way on pricing may end up sabotaging your sale. A good agent will agree to support your higher price strategy, but have a price discussion after some time on the market.
Determining the real market value
The true market value of a home is what an able and willing buyer and seller agree to in an arms-length transaction. But you won’t know that until the end of the process.
If the home sells within a few days of listing, chances are you listed too low. If months go by without any action, you hit the high mark. A home that is priced right will get some steady action. If you receive second or third showings from multiple buyers over the course of a few weeks, you’ve likely hit the mark with pricing.