It’s easy to see that the little red house at 175 Grand Street in Mamaroneck, NY, is no ordinary home just by looking: At a mere 10 feet wide, the Skinny House stands out for its size alone. As 6sqft previously reported, this unique dwelling, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has quite a tale to tell. The little house on a 12.5-foot lot was built in 1932 by Nathan T. Seely, one of New York’s first African American builders. Its story is one of ingenuity and skill, and it provided for its creator during hard times. In need of a new chapter and some real TLC, the house is on the market–for only the second time since its construction–for $275,000.
Seely and his brother had built a successful home-building business constructing houses throughout Mamaroneck, mainly catering to black Southerners who fled northward as part of the Great Migration. But the Great Depression crushed the business; Seely went bankrupt and lost his home.
Seely’s next-door neighbor, Panfino Santangelo, generously gave him a 12.5-foot by 100-foot strip of land in 1931; Seely put his considerable skills to work constructing the Skinny House using salvaged materials. A chicken coop was used as part of the living room; a center beam in the basement is a rusted railroad track; walls were constructed from paperboard hammered into wood scraps. When it was finished the home had everything you’d find in a much bigger dwelling including a cellar, a living room, a kitchen and pantry, two bedrooms and a bathroom on three floors. Seely even accounted for high winds by running cables from the side of the house into the ground.
Seely died in 1962; his house was passed down to members of his family who continued to occupy it. In 1984, Panfino Santangelo’s daughter bought the house from Seely’s daughter for $30,000, returning the property to her family. The house was a rental up until it was discovered that a termite infestation had damaged much of the property. The home was inducted into the National Register in 2015, but the necessary repairs have not yet been done. The home is being sold as-is, but its history and potential remain.
Sometimes it feels like a good deal is hard to find, whether you’re buying a car or going out to dinner. That doesn’t change when you are considering where to live. Some towns just give you more bang for your buck, from the quality of life you’ll experience to the living costs you’ll incur. And especially if you’re taking out a mortgage on a house, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best value you can. But getting good value from your city doesn’t always have to be difficult to attain. With some patience and information, a smart investment in an undervalued property now could mean that your home becomes worth significantly more and nets you a tidy sum if you decide to sell it. For those who aren’t experts in real estate, it can be difficult to figure out which parts of the country offer the best value. To that end, SmartAsset has once again assembled a list of the most undervalued cities in the country.
We analyzed 189 cities to find the most undervalued cities in America. Our model considers data on unemployment rates, price per square foot, high school graduation rates, percentage of residents with a college degree, crime rate, entertainment establishment density, average days with precipitation, average number of days with bad weather and walk score. For more information on how we put together our final rankings, see the Data and Methodology section below.
Consistency among undervalued cities. The most undervalued city in America is Pittsburgh for the second year in a row. All told, eight of the cities from last year’s top 10 finish in the top 10 this year, though the order has certainly shuffled.
Look East. The Eastern United States rules this list. Six of the cities in the top 10 are East Coast cities, with several more close by. Three of the top 10 cities are in Pennsylvania alone. There are only two Midwestern cities and none in the Mountain West or the Pacific Coast in the top 10.
1. Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania tops this list for the second straight year. The Steel City has a high school graduation rate of 93%, the second-highest in the top 10 and a top-40 rate in the study overall. Pittsburgh can also boast a population in which 37% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, a rate that leads the top 10 of our study and ranks 14th out of all 189 cities in our study. Pittsburgh does not place as well for walk score, where it is the second-least walkable city in the top 10.
Zillow estimates that the price per square foot in Pittsburgh is around $104.50, but our model estimates homes should cost $262.79 per square foot, resulting in a surplus value of about $158. As you and your financial advisor scour the market for undervalued investments, Pittsburgh is an undervalued city that can give you the type of deals you crave.
2. Newark, NJ
Newark, New Jersey is the second city on our list and jumps up one spot from its place last year. Walkability is a great benefit of living in Newark – the walk score for the city is the best in the top 10, and fifth-best in the study overall. Newark does not fare as well for education. Only 18% of its residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, the second-lowest percentage for this metric in the top 10, and its high school graduation rate of just 73% is the lowest in the top 10. Overall, our model suggests that living in Newark yields an estimated $155.34 per-square-foot surplus in value.
3. New Haven, CT
New Haven, Connecticut is third on our list. The actual price of real estate in New Haven is $123.50 per square foot, according to Zillow, compared to a projected price of $275.49 based on our model. That’s a surplus value of almost $152. New Haven also has a high school graduation rate of 89%, third-highest in the top 10 of this study. Furthermore, 29% of the population has at least a bachelor’s degree, the third-highest rate in the top 10 and 42nd out of all 189 cities in our study. New Haven also has 2,243 dining and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents.
4. Philadelphia, PA
In the fourth spot on our list is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Homebuyers in the City of Brotherly Love can purchase homes at around $117.17 per square foot, according to data from Zillow. Based on our overall model, living in Philadelphia is equivalent to living in a city where homes are worth $264.77 per square foot, which means the city is undervalued by more than $147. Philadelphia has the second-highest walkability score in the top 10 and the sixth-highest in the study overall.
5. Baltimore, MD
Baltimore, Maryland is fifth on our list. According to Zillow, Baltimore has an actual home sale value of $106.83 per square foot, which is an undervaluation of approximately $116 compared to $223.07, the value our model projects. It also has approximately 50 extreme temperature days per year, which is the second-lowest rate in the top 10 and a top-40 rate overall. Fans of moderate weather will likely find that appealing. They’ll likely find the city’s top-15 walk score appealing as well.
6. Providence, RI
Coming in sixth place is Providence, Rhode Island. Providence has the third-lowest rate of violent crime in the top 10 of this list, at approximately 533 incidents per 100,000 residents. It has 1,276 dining and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents, the third-highest rate in the top 10 and 81st in the study overall. It’s important for people to consider cost of living before moving somewhere, and according to Zillow data, Providence provides good value: the actual price per square foot for real estate in Providence is $164.33, compared to a projected price of $277.08. That yields an undervaluation of almost $113.
7. Chicago, IL
Chicago, Illinois is the seventh-most undervalued city in America, according to our study. Chicago is tied with Providence, Rhode Island for the third-highest walkability score in the top 10 and seventh-highest overall. The actual price of real estate in Chicago is $171 per square foot, according to Zillow data, but our model estimates that homes should cost $282.84. While Chicago does not score relatively well when it comes to violent crime rate, ranking in the bottom 20 for this metric overall, it does have a high school graduation rate of 85% and 676 dining and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents.
8. Charleston, SC
Charleston, South Carolina comes in at No. 8 and ranks in the top half of the study for five metrics. There are only 24 extreme temperature days and approximately 65 days with precipitation each year, both of which are the lowest rates in the top 10. The violent crime rate in Charleston is around 283 incidents of violent crime per 100,000 residents each year. Charleston’s walk score is the lowest in the top 10 and its concentration of entertainment and dining establishments is third-lowest in the study overall, but the city’s unemployment rate is 3.2%, a top-50 rate. According to Zillow, the actual cost of real estate is $187.25 per square foot, but our model estimates homes should cost $289.24 per square foot, yielding a surplus value just shy of $102.
9. St. Louis, MO
St. Louis, Missouri, coming in at ninth place, is the westernmost city in our top 10. St. Louis does have the fourth-highest high school graduation rate in the top 10, at 88%, which ranks 91st in the study overall. Furthermore, 28% of the adults in the city’s population have at least a bachelor’s degree, the fourth-highest rate in the top 10 and 61st out of 189 cities overall. The unemployment rate in St. Louis is 3.9%, the second-lowest rate in the top 10.
Zillow data shows that actual cost per square foot in St. Louis is $104.25, while our model estimates that it should cost about $100 more than that, at$205.58. For those looking to get a smart start, it’s also one of the best cities for new college grads.
10. Allentown, PA
Taking the 10th spot in our list is Allentown, Pennsylvania. Allentown has just 461 incidents of violent crime per 100,000 residents each year, which ranks the second-lowest in the top 10 of this study and 84th in the study overall. Allentown also has 1,042 dining and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents, the fourth-highest concentration in the top 10 and 96th overall. Actual cost per square foot in Allentown is $92.17 according to Zillow data, while our model estimates that it should be $190.73, yielding an undervaluation of $98.57.
Data and Methodology
To determine the most undervalued cities in America, we created a model to project home values based on various quality-of-life metrics. We collected data for nine metrics for 189 of the largest cities in the country. Specifically, we compared the cities across the following metrics:
Home value per square foot. Data is from Zillow and is for 2018.
Violent crime rate per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting tool and is for 2017.
High school graduation rate. Data comes from the U.S. Department of Education EdFacts and is for the 2016 – 2017 school year.
Number of extreme temperature days. This is the average number of bad weather days a city has in a year. To measure this, we found the average number of days where the temperature exceeds 90 degrees or is under 40 degrees. Data is a 30-year average from 1981 – 2010. Data comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Average number of precipitation days per year. This is the average number of days per year with at least 0.1 inches of precipitation. Data comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is the 30-year average from 1981-2010.
Walkability. This is a measure of how walkable a city is. Data comes from walkscore.com
Percentage of population with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.
Unemployment rate. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics local area unemployment statistics. It is the average of the unemployment rates between January 2018 and February 2019.
Concentration of dining and entertainment establishments. This is the number of dining and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 Zip Codes Business Pattern Survey.
To model home value per square foot, we ran a linear least squares regression with home value per square foot as the dependent variable and using the eight quality of life metrics as explanatory variables. Below is the formula to measure estimated dollars per square foot:
Home value per square foot = 41.71 – (0.05 * violent crime rate) + (1.57 * average high school graduation rate) + (5.56 * dining and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents) – (2.47 * average number of days of significant precipitation per year) – (1.45 * number of days with extreme high or low temperatures per year) + (3.03 * percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree or higher) + (5.26 * walk score) – (21.07 * unemployment rate).
The above formula may seem complicated, but it is actually quite easy to read. For example, we see that in our formula walk score is multiplied by 5.26 (this figure is known as the coefficient). This means that if a city’s walk score improves by 1, assuming all other metrics remain constant, the projected home value per square foot would increase by $5.26 per square foot.
We can see how overvalued or undervalued a city is by plugging our data back into our formula. By plugging the collected data back into our model, we get a projection for home value per square foot, which we can then compare to the Zillow data. In order to create our final rankings, we subtracted the estimated value per square foot by the actual Zillow value per square foot. The city with the largest positive difference ranked first while the city with the largest negative difference ranked last.
In order to create our model, we only included quality of life metrics. We left out other potentially explanatory variables like population change and new home change. Because of this, these figures are not meant as a prediction.
One professor calls it a “hidden threat”: Bloodsucking ticks that carry an array of diseases hitch rides on deer as the mammals multiply across the country, popping up in forests, parks and even our front lawns.
That probably means ticks in more places than ever in the USA in 2019, said Thomas Mather, a University of Rhode Island entomologist known as “The Tick Guy.” And that could mean more Americans are at risk from tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease.
“The phenomena of deer in more places and in ever-increasing proximity to people is, I think, the largest factor affecting the ticks-in-more-places trend,” said Mather, who calls springtime “almost a perfect storm” for ticks.
Mather runs Rhode Island’s TickEncounter Index, which monitors tick populations based on data from volunteers across the country. The continental USA is listed for “high” activity through May 15 except for three states: California, Oregon and Washington.
Mather traced the uptick primarily to that “hidden threat” of deer moving closer and closer to where we live. He pointed to his son, a Boston suburbanite who sees deer in his tree-lined neighborhood.
America’s deer population boomed over the past century, from dwindling numbers in 1900 to an about 33.5 million in 2017 – a population larger than Texas.
“The more commonly you see deer in your area, the more likely it is you’re going to see ticks,” Mather said.
A deer grazes on the lawn of the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Wash., Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016. (Photo: Michael Lopez, AP)
Lyme disease could hit 2 million mark next year
Black-legged ticks, or deer ticks, have “pretty strong” numbers in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and Upper Midwest, said Mather, who’s heard from volunteers in the region.
Black-legged ticks that carry Lyme disease “are far and away most responsible for tick-borne diseases,” he said.
Tick-borne disease cases more than doubled from 2004 to 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Lyme disease accounted for 82% of all cases.
Next year, the number of people with tick-borne Lyme disease could hit almost 2 million nationwide, scientists said in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Public Health.
The disease’s symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and skin rashes, the CDC said, but untreated infections can spread to the heart, joints and the nervous system.M
It’s not just black-legged ticks: Lone Star ticks and Gulf Coast ticks carrying less common diseases are on the move in certain regions, Mather said.
“And these types of ticks all have one thing in common: They utilize whitetail deer as a blood source in some part of their life cycle,” he said.
The black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick, can carry Lyme disease. (
America’s booming deer population can be traced to fewer predators, fewer hunters, hunting regulations and new spaces – think lush parks and suburban landscapes – that let deer thrive, said Anthony DeNicola, president of White Buffalo, a Connecticut-based nonprofit group dispatched to cull deer herds everywhere from tony suburbs to all of Staten Island.
Efforts to manage deer have been too little, too late, DeNicola said, and quiet residential areas have let deer become comfortable, shedding ticks near people’s doorsteps.
“You’re shoveling against the tide,” he said.
What’s needed is a paradigm change, DeNicola said, for Americans to view deer less like majestic Bambis and more like health threats that spread diseases.
“We have the tools to kill deer, but you have to train the hunter to not think as a recreationalist but as a manager,” he said.
How to avoid ticks – in your yard and on your body
Here are tips on how to avoid ticks (and the deer that bring them) on your property and on your person, according to the University of Rhode Island’s TickEncounter Resource Center:
Keep out deer, which bring ticks to your yard, and mice, by which ticks become infected. Clean and clear spaces around sheds, woodpiles and any other enclosed areas where mice might like to hide, and consider deer-resistant plants, a deer fence and deer repellent sprays.
Tick-repellent clothing is the best (and simplest) way to prevent bites. Such clothing can be purchased, or DIY methods for clothes already owned can be used. If you don’t have tick-repellent clothing, tucking pants into socks is one way to keep ticks out.
If you’ve been outside, check for ticks in the places they prefer: armpits, backs of knees, waistbands and other tight, constricted spaces. Check everywhere: Attached ticks don’t wash off during a shower.
If you do spot a tick: Remove it with tweezers, grasping close to the skin and pulling steadily upward to keep from breaking the tick. Disinfect the skin area with rubbing alcohol.
With the passage of the state budget and the long-awaited and hard-fought approval of congestion pricing for Manhattan, New Yorkers worn down by endless subway delays and clogged city streets may see some light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Congestion pricing, after all, has been promised as the silver bullet that will fix the subway and free Manhattan from the endless sea of cars that clog streets, crowding out pedestrians and polluting our air.
Advocates fighting for a traffic pricing plan have promised the world. A fee for cars entering Manhattan will clear the borough of crippling congestion while guaranteeing funding for Andy Byford’s comprehensive Fast Forward plan to fix New York City’s subways and buses. The dollars will unlock billions in capital spending, and limiting traffic will clear up the city’s air at a time when the catastrophic global impact of constant carbon emissions could not be more clear. (Or so the argument goes.)
But passing congestion pricing was just the first battle in a longer war, and for congestion pricing to be a success—for it to solve the problems it is supposed to solve—the next 21 months will be key as the MTA’s new Traffic Mobility Review Board develops the details of the plan, including any exemptions for those who drive into Manhattan but do not have to pay the fee. Congestion pricing will live or die by these carve-outs—and the board must ignore any political drum-beating related to them.
As I wrote in these pages last summer, congestion pricing is a progressive solution for New York City’s transit funding woes. Drivers in the city are wealthier than transit riders, and imposing a fee on them for access to limited road space to fund transit—whose benefits are enjoyed by millions in NYC—is the very definition of a progressive charging plan. But the benefits will take a few years to materialize. Fixing the subways—installing modern signal systems so that more trains can run through 100-year-old tunnels with fewer delays—is a multi-year (or multi-decade) fix, while congestion pricing will become a reality within the next two years. To successfully introduce congestion pricing, the MTA will roll out transit upgrades before the fee goes into effect, including more bus service and bus lanes, but in the near-term, drivers will face a new tax while high-capacity transit upgrades will be years away. And they won’t be happy.
As a rule, popularity for congestion pricing hits a valley in the period between approval and implementation as the narratives focus on fees rather than results. In recent polls, congestion pricing is already under water by 13 percentage points, and politicians may try to drive up approval numbers by kowtowing to groups seeking exemptions. But for New York City to experience the benefits of congestion pricing, politicians will have to provide cover for an initially unpopular plan.
Since the legislation authorizing congestion pricing punted on the details, special interests are going to push hard to shape the plan. To develop the details of a pricing scheme, the state mandated the MTA to charge for entry to Manhattan south of 60th Street beginning in 2021 and dictated how the pricing plan would be established. A six-panel Traffic Mobility Review Board with appointees from the city and the areas served by Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road will recommend tolling amounts with a variable pricing structure, including any carve-outs or exemptions, to generate enough revenue to fund $15 billion in MTA capital spending between 2020-2024.
Yet Albany imposed some legislative limitations from the outset. Cars that enter the congestion pricing zone via the West Side Highway or FDR Drive and never exit those roads onto local streets will not be charged. Additionally, emergency vehicles and those vehicles transporting people with disabilities are exempt from the fee, and Manhattan residents who live within the so-called Central Business District and who make less than $60,000 per year will be exempted from the fee. Plus, the fee will be levied only once per day, so cars that repeatedly enter and exit the congestion pricing zone will not be charged multiple times. The remainder of the exemptions will be in the hands of the review board, and that’s where the fight will be.
Already, this battle is playing out in predictable and noisy ways. Take, for instance, State Senator James Sanders, a Democrat who represents the 10th district, who wants to have his cake and eat it too. The Senator represents parts of South Ozone Park, Jamaica, and the Far Rockaways, and very few of his constituents drive into the Manhattan central business district on a daily basis. In fact, according to an analysis of Census data conducted by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, Sanders’ constituents in Queens are overwhelmingly notdriving into Manhattan. Only around 21 percent of workers in his district head into Manhattan every day, and of those commuters, a whopping 84 percent use the subways, the Long Island Rail Road, or buses. TSTC reports that just 3.1 percent of Sanders’ commuting constituents drive or take taxis into Manhattan south of 60th Street while nearly 50 percent are daily transit users.
Yet after voting for congestion pricing, Sanders is aiming to water down the plan. In a newsletter sent to constituents, Sanders stated that “more work needs to be done to lessen the impact on Queens’ motorists commuting into Manhattan, south of 60th Street.” Charitably, this could be read as a call to include more transit options for his constituents, but “lessen the impact” usually means create carve-outs so fewer people have to pay. This is, of course, self-defeating.
As congestion pricing guru Charles Komanoff detailed recently, even seemingly small carve-outs that exempt just 10 percent of all vehicles entering the pricing zone from the fee have a deep impact. Revenue declines by $100 million per year, and time savings from decreased congestion shrink by seven percent based off of his modeling for New York congestion pricing. Those benefits from the plan are precarious and can disappear in the amount of time it takes to exclude enough cars.
Queens isn’t the only source of lobbying for exemptions. The mayor has constantly pushed for what he calls “hardship exemptions” and has spent years creating the strawman argument out of New Yorkers who he thinks drive in great numbers to hospitals on Manhattan’s East Side. Without acknowledging the thousands of city residents who take subways and buses to their doctors each day, the mayor wants exemptions from medical-bound drivers. Meanwhile, commercial truckers who stand to benefit the most from increased productivity due to clearer streets want to avoid the fee, as do New Jersey politicians, tour bus operators, and motorcycle clubs. Who will pay if everyone gets an exemption?
Kodasema, the Estonian design collective known for its ultra-stylish tiny homes, has created yet another ultra-stylish tiny home. Only this time it floats on water.
The company’s new minimalist design, the Koda Light Float, sits atop of pontoons, allowing it to float at a dock or hitch to a boat. Unlike Koda’s sleek, concrete tiny homes, the Light Float is built from a timber and glass frame that’s clad in a variety of materials including zinc and wood.
Inside, the 277-square-foot tiny home has a spacious living room with tall ceilings, a modern kitchen, a sleeping area, and a bathroom with a shower and toilet. It also comes with an expansive wooden deck that’s asking for lounge chairs.
The minimalist interiors turn the tiny home into a blank canvas—Koda says the Light Float can be used as a houseboat, artists’ studio, harbor cafe, or a “fisherman’s dream boat.”
The floating Koda home, which can be stacked to create a bigger dwelling, has a three-month turnaround time. Price is upon request.
To lure house hunters, sellers of high-end homes are slashing prices by as much as 30 percent. Many metro areas are succumbing to downward pressure from the U.S.-China trade war, uncertainty in Europe, rising interest rates, or a combination of all three. Of course, all real estate is local, so some discounts are better than others. Here’s where policymakers, central bankers, and developers are creating an environment for juicy deals today—or even better bargains tomorrow.
By the numbers: Home values in the city’s prime neighborhoods are 19 percent below their 2014 peak, according to broker Savills Plc.
What happened? Few sellers anywhere have faced such a poisonous economic cocktail as those in the Chelsea, Kensington, and Westminster districts, where tax changes on luxury properties have hit hard. Add in Brexit and an anti-money-laundering crackdown on cash from countries such as Russia and China, and demand for high-end homes has dried up. The discounts were enough to lure hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin to spend £95 million ($122 million) on a mansion near Buckingham Palace in January, a cut of almost 35 percent from the original price.
Act now! A five-bedroom home in the city’s most expensive apartment block, One Hyde Park, has been languishing on the market for two years. The asking price is £50 million, down from £55 million.
By the numbers:Australian home prices have fallen more than 6 percent since their October 2017 peak. The decline in Sydney has been sharper—about 12 percent—making this the worst slump in four decades. Economists have predicted that Australia’s most populous city could see an additional 8 percent drop this year.
What happened? Easy credit caused prices to go crazy, then policymakers stepped in with a series of cooling measures including a restriction on banks from issuing interest-only loans popular with speculators. Regulations designed to deter foreign buyers, such as higher sales taxes, have only made it worse for investors, with many pulling out of the market. Because interest rates are at record lows and the country’s economy is growing modestly, it’s hard to see the window for bargain shopping closing anytime soon.
Act now! This four-bedroom home in Avalon Beach in Sydney’s Northern Beaches district comes with a private jetty, a boathouse, and a koi pond. Listed for A$6.9 million ($5.3 million) in December 2017, it’s now going for A$4.3 million, a 38 percent discount.
By the numbers: Dubai’s residential prices are down about 25 percent since their 2014 peak, according to broker Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.
What happened? If politicians and central bankers are to blame in most other places, overzealous developers in Dubai are responsible for the emirate’s slump. Dubai is planning to erect a record 31,500 homes this year, double the annual demand of the past five years, raising the risk that prices could fall further, according to JLL.
Act now! A typical six-bedroom, 7,000-square-foot Signature Villas home on the artificial archipelago of Palm Jumeriah, among the desert city’s most expensive neighborhoods, costs 20.5 million U.A.E. dirham ($5.6 million), according to Savills. That’s down from 22.75 million dirham in 2014, the broker says, an almost 10 percent discount.
By the numbers: Home prices have been clipped almost 10 percent since August, according to Centaline Property Agency Ltd.’s Centa-City Leading Index. Several forecasts expect another 10 percent fall in 2019, depending on the direction of interest rates, with broker JLL warning in November that prices could plummet by 25 percent in 2019 if the U.S.-China trade war worsens.
What happened? Because of the Hong Kong currency’s ties to the U.S. dollar (it effectively imports American monetary policy), borrowing costs have gone up as the Federal Reserve has hiked rates. Also weighing on prices: an upcoming vacancy tax designed to stop developers from hoarding empty apartments in the hopes that they fetch better prices later. There are signs that investors are already unloading empty units in anticipation.
Act now! At Mayfair by the Sea 8, a development in the Tai Po neighborhood, apartments are selling for an average of HK$16,000 ($2,039) a square foot, more than 10 percent lower than the price of nearby developments last summer.
By the numbers: In the last quarter of 2018, the median price of Manhattan condos dropped below $1 million for the first time in three years, down 5.8 percent from a year earlier, according to broker Douglas Elliman Real Estate. For the most expensive homes, the market is worse: Sales of Manhattan properties priced at $5 million or more dropped 22 percent last year from 2017, their steepest decline in a decade, according to Stribling & Associates Ltd.
What happened? A postrecession building boom led to a glut of condos. The annual inventory of homes for sale rose 15.4 percent in 2018, according to real estate website StreetEasy. At the same time, federal changes that limit deductions on property and state taxes and mortgages have encouraged people to flee to lower-tax states. More than 8 percent of New York state residents will face higher taxes for 2018, with 29 percent of the highest earners seeing a hike, according to the Tax Policy Center.
Act now! In January, hedge fund manager Steven Cohen slashed the price of his penthouse at One Beacon Court to $45 million, a $70 million cut from its asking price of $115 million in 2013.
By the numbers: Prices in Dublin’s most desirable districts, including the D2 and D4 postal codes, fell 2.8 percent last year, according to broker Knight Frank LLP. That ended five years of price growth following a 56 percent collapse citywide starting in 2008.
What happened? Given how interconnected Ireland’s economy is with the U.K.’s, Brexit wobbliness is at least partly to blame for the falling prices, according to Knight Frank. The weak pound is deterring wealthy U.K. buyers, and limits introduced in 2015 by the Irish Central Bank on the amounts that can be borrowed have also helped cool the market. First-time buyers, for example, now have to put down at least 10 percent of the price.
Act now! A five-bedroom, five-bath Victorian home on Ailesbury Road, one of the most sought-after Dublin avenues, is now listed at €6.5 million ($6.8 million), a 13 percent discount from its 2016 asking price.
By the numbers: Home prices fell 4.5 percent in January from a year earlier, and they’re now 8 percent below their June 2018 peak, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. High-price districts are faring much worse; properties in West Vancouver, which had been attractive to overseas buyers, are down 14 percent from the previous year.
What happened? After prices surged about 63 percent from December 2013 to December 2018—putting owning a home beyond the reach of most locals— Vancouver’s market developed an unhealthy dependency on foreign cash. China’s clampdown on money fleeing the country and local measures in Canada, including a 20 percent foreign-buyers tax, have discouraged the overseas high-rollers. At the same time, the Canadian government’s new tighter mortgage rules have made it even harder for locals to afford homes.
Act now! A five-bedroom house in West Vancouver for sale since December 2017 is now listed for C$6.9 million ($5.1 million) after a C$1 million price cut in November.
By the numbers: Luxury home values in the Turkish city dropped 4.3 percent in the final quarter of 2018 from the previous one, bringing the 12-month decline to 10.4 percent, according to Knight Frank.
What happened? An expanding middle class, readily available mortgage financing, and migration seem to be supporting the market for more affordable homes, but the sharp drop in the value of the lira has decimated the top end. Turkey’s currency is down almost 41 percent against the U.S. dollar in the past two years amid political tensions—with the U.S., within the Middle East, and inside Turkey. Additionally, investors have been spooked by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who lashed out against his central bank, raising concerns about its independence.
Act now! About 60 sought-after mansions on the banks of the Bosphorus—many of them built during the Ottoman Empire—were for sale as of October, according to a survey of brokers by Agence France-Presse. Although listings can be opaque, one modern six-bedroom home is for sale for 55 million lira, which converts to $10.5 million now compared with $14.5 million a year ago.
How Do You Say “Penthouse” in German?*
One city ripe for a future correction: Munich. It saw a 9 percent increase in home prices last year, and they’ve doubled in the past decade. While all of Germany’s big cities have seen rapid price appreciation from the influx of migrants and record-low interest rates, the Bavarian capital has been particularly affected by the global corporations that call it home, such as Siemens, Allianz, and BMW. Gross domestic product growth in Munich has significantly outpaced that of Germany as a whole, and unemployment is at its lowest level in 20 years.
A Miami-Dade neighborhood that relies on septic tanks experiences flooding during the 2016 King Tide. A new report commissioned by the county shows that half of the county’s septic tanks break down yearly, a problem that sea level rise will worsen.
Miami-Dade has tens of thousands of septic tanks, and a new report reveals most are already malfunctioning — the smelly and unhealthy evidence of which often ends up in people’s yards and homes. It’s a billion-dollar problem that climate change is making worse.
As sea level rise encroaches on South Florida, the Miami-Dade County study shows that thousands more residents may be at risk — and soon. By 2040, 64 percent of county septic tanks (more than 67,000) could have issues every year, affecting not only the people who rely on them for sewage treatment, but the region’s water supply and the health of anyone who wades through floodwaters.
“That’s a huge deal for a developed country in 2019 to have half of the septic tanks not functioning for part of the year,” said Miami Waterkeeper Executive Director Rachel Silverstein. “That is not acceptable.”
Septic tanks require a layer of dirt underneath to do the final filtration work and return the liquid waste back to the aquifer. Older rules required one foot of soil, but newer regulations call for double that. In South Florida, there’s not that much dirt between the homes above ground and the water below.
“All those regulations were based on the premise the elevation of groundwater was going to be stable over time, which we now know is not correct,” said Doug Yoder, deputy director of Miami-Dade County’s Water and Sewer Department. “Now we find ourselves in a situation where we know sea level has risen and continues to rise.”
A graphic explaining the relationship between groundwater levels and the effectiveness of a septic tank. A new report commissioned by Miami-Dade County shows that half of the county’s septic tanks break down yearly, a problem that sea level rise will worsen.
Sea level rise is pushing the groundwater even higher, eating up precious space and leaving the once dry dirt soggy. Waste water doesn’t filter like it’s supposed to in soggy soil. In some cases, it comes back out, turning a front yard into a poopy swamp.
High tides or heavy rains can push feces-filled water elsewhere, including King Tide floodwaters — as pointed out in a 2016 study from Florida International University and NOAA — or possibly the region’s drinking supply.
Neighbors on a Coconut Grove street worked with a landscape architect to come up with a list of ideas for how to keep their flooded neighborhood dry in the face of sea level rise. Now the city will decide what gets built and how it’s paid for.
In total, there are about 108,000 properties within the county that still use septic, about 105,000 of which are residential. The vast majority (more than 65,000) of the septic systems are in unincorporated Miami-Dade.
Miami Gardens, North Miami Beach, Palmetto Bay and Pinecrest have the most of any city, at about 5,000 each.
Some of those cities will see hundreds more septic tanks experiencing yearly failures within the decade, like North Miami Beach, which has 2,780 homes with septic tanks with periodic issues now. By 2030, that is expected to jump to 3,751.
The report did not forecast past 2040, when the region is expecting around 15 inches of sea rise, a number that is predicted to creep exponentially upward over the decades.
More than half of Miami-Dade County’s 105,000 residential septic tanks have annual issues. A new report commissioned by the county shows that half of the county’s septic tanks break down yearly, a problem that sea level rise will worsen.Miami-Dade County
“The best response is sewer extension, but obviously that infrastructure takes quite a bit of planning and time,” said Katherine Hageman, the county’s resilience program manager.
“And money,” County Chief Resilience Officer James Murley added.
Ripping out every septic tank and laying down new pipes to connect the homes to the county’s sewer system won’t be cheap. The latest estimate put the price tag at $3.3 billion.
“Who has that?” said Commissioner Rebeca Sosa, who called for the study. “We need to act as fast as possible. We need to get as much assistance as we can from the federal government, from the state.”
That $3.3 billion price tag doesn’t cover commercial properties, an estimated $230 million cost, Yoder said. The county’s current general obligation bond includes $126 million to extend sewer services to businesses. Yoder said the plans are in the design phase.
For now, anyone who wants to connect their property to the county’s sewer system has to pay out of pocket. The report cites the average price as $15,000, but Yoder estimated that in septic-reliant areas like Pinecrest, it could cost around $50,000 per home to tap into the sewer system.
That’s cash most residents don’t have on hand, Haggman said, which is why the county is exploring other ways to help residents out.
“We have options, but I think that’s a good area for more conversation,” she said.
Besides borrowing more money with another bond, the report pointed out the county’s best options would be continuing to collect the per-home fee or establishing special taxing districts and spreading the cost into a neighborhood.
Silverstein said the findings raise significant concerns about impacts from septic tanks not just in 20 years, but now.
County used reserves to pay retroactive salary increases
S&P cuts Westchester rating to AA+ and it could go lower
New York’s Westchester County, home to the wealthy suburbs of Scarsdale and Bronxville, lost its AAA grade from S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings after drawing down its cash reserves to cover retroactive raises given to government employees.
The county, which borders New York City to the north, had its grade cut one level by both companies Tuesday to AA+. S&P said there’s a one-in-three chance that it will downgrade the county’s bonds again in the next two years as the government contends with budget shortfalls, given how “narrow” its reserves were at the end of the 2017 fiscal year.
The downgrades came ahead of the county’s planned auction of $200 million of general-obligation bonds on Thursday.
“We remain concerned over the county’s ability to sustainably align revenue and expenditures and rebuild reserves to a level consistent with that of similarly rated or higher-rated peers,” said S&P analyst Nora Wittstruck.
Westchester’s general fund balance could fall to less than 4 percent of spending at the close of fiscal 2018, about half the level of reserves the county had previously maintained, S&P said.
The new federal limit on deductions for state and local taxes and mortgage interest could further strain the county’s budget. That cap could make it harder for residents who pay the the highest property taxes in the U.S. to sell their homes, while others could challenge their real-estate tax assessments, potentially weakening Westchester’s biggest source of income.
The average property-tax bill in the county last year was $17,179, the highest in the the U.S., according to a report by Attom Data Solutions. The federal tax law changes set a $10,000 limit on deductions for state and local levies and capped the mortgage-interest deduction to loans of $750,000.
There are some signs that high property taxes and the federal shift are having an impact.
The median price of single family homes in the county dipped to $675,000 in the third-quarter of 2018, a 3.6 percent decline from the previous quarter, according to an October 11 report by Miller Samuel Inc. and and Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Luxury homes prices fell even more, with a 6.4 percent decline to $2.1 million.
Westchester is New York’s third-wealthiest county by median family income, after Nassau and Putnam and has the second-highest per-capita income after Manhattan.
The county’s new executive, George Latimer, has proposed selling parking lots in White Plains to plug a $22 million hole in his 2019 spending plan, according to the Journal News.
If the parking lot sale falls through, the county would have to cut spending, raise property taxes above the planned 2 percent increase or tap reserves again. The county’s $1.94 billion proposed budget includes $453 million in sales-tax revenue, 5 percent more than the year end-estimate of fiscal 2018, based on the expectation that the state will allow collections on Internet purchases.
“We believe the revenue forecast assumes a couple of significant risks,” Wittstruck said.
In a statement, Latimer said the downgrades weren’t a surprise.
“As we have said these past few months, the county is in serious financial stress,” Latimer said. “Regardless of the many steps we are taking to improve our footing, these problems were not created overnight and they will not be solved overnight.”
Zillow’s stock plunged as much as 20% late Tuesday after the company warnedthat revenue this quarter would fall short of Wall Street expectations, exacerbating investor concerns about the prospects of online real-estate startups like Zillow and Redfin as the U.S. housing market is starting to slow down.
The news caused Zillow’s stock to fall as low as $32.40 a share in after-hours trading, or 20% below its official closing price of $41.04 a share. Redfin, another online real-estate company, fell as much as 6.5% in aftermarket trading.
After nearly a decade of recovery and slow growth, the U.S. housing market has been heading into a slowdown in 2018. Not only are mortgage rates rising, but housing prices have been climbing about twice as fast as average incomes. Sales of new homes as well as previously owned homes have been slowing from a year ago. Tax reform enacted late last year has also reduced tax incentives to buy homes.
Those trends have hurt the stock performance of Zillow and Redfin alike. At its low point late Tuesday, Zillow was down 51% from its 52-week high, while Redfin was down 53% from its high point in the past year.
Zillow started out as an online real-estate listings service that, once successful, began to seek out new business models. Like Redfin, it moved into buying and selling homes. In May, Zillow’s stock plunged on news that it would start buying and quickly flipping homes for resale. In August, its stock plunged on again on news it was buying an online-mortgage lender, Mortgage Lenders of America. Both represent traditionally risky markets that Zillow believed would pay off in the long term.
“Zillow Group is undergoing a period of transformational innovation,” Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff said in the company’s earnings release. “We believe that these changes will have positive long-term effects for consumers, our industry partners and our business. It will take time for advertisers to adapt to these changes, but we are confident that they set us up for long-term growth.”
During that expansion, however, Zillow and Redfin have had to face dual headwinds in rising interest rates, which can deter home purchases, and in slowing home purchases.
While Zillow’s move into adjacent markets may hold some long-term promise, investors are concerned about their short-term outlook. “Zillow was in fantastic shape just six months ago,” CNBC’s Jim Cramer said last month. “We loved their attempts to corner the real estate advertising market. Then they decided to move into a totally new, totally risky business at what may be the worst possible time, and the stock has since cratered.”
New research by Freddie Mac Multifamily finds a large and growing segment of renters continue to believe renting is a more affordable option than owning, even as many of those same renters are feeling the squeeze of rising housing costs. The latest “Profile of Today’s Renter” reveals that all generations of renters continue to perceive renting as the more affordable housing choice and remain satisfied with their current situation.
According to the survey pdf, 78 percent of renters believe renting is more affordable than owning – up a stunning 11 points from just six months ago in February 2018. This is the case even as the majority of renters (66 percent) reported difficulty affording their rent at some point over the past two years. The survey found nearly 9 in 10 renters employed in the essential workforce, such as healthcare and education, had significant difficulty affording the rent over the past two years.
Affordability of Renting
While perceptions of affordability over owning increased by 11 points to 78 percent among all renters, the survey found this was evident across generations. In fact, millennials (up 14 points to 75 percent), Generation Xers (up 11 points to 70 percent) and baby boomers (up eight points to 81 percent) all saw marked increases in the perception that renting is more affordable than owning.
Rising Cost of Renting
The survey also indicates that a significant number or renters – 66 percent – reported having trouble affording their monthly rent in the last two years – significantly more than the 43 percent of homeowners who experienced similar difficulties. More than half of renters say these changes affected spending on food, utilities and other essentials (51 percent) – as well as savings (50 percent) and nonessential items (64 percent). For renters living in rural areas, the impacts were particularly stark, with 77 percent spending less on essential items versus 59 percent in urban and suburban areas. While a majority of renters across generations reported these difficulties, older millennials (aged 28-37) reported the greatest hardship, with 79 percent reporting trouble affording rent over the past two years.
As noted earlier, renters employed in the essential workforce – such as the healthcare and education sectors – had significant additional difficulty affording rent, with a staggering 88 percent reporting hardship affording rent over the past two years. This is compared with 65 percent of all other workforce renters and 61 percent of homeowners in the essential workforce. Approximately half (48 percent) of renters working in essential jobs believe it is difficult to find housing that is affordable close to where they work – compared to 39 percent of homeowners in the essential workforce.
A consistent number of renters – 63 percent – continue to express their satisfaction with their rental experience. In fact, 58 percent of renters believe that renting is a good choice for them now and do not have plans to buy a home at this time – up from 54 percent in February. Over the last three years there has been a gradual increase in the number of renters who are not interested in buying. This quarter shows a small increase in this trend, with 23 percent of renters reporting they have no interest in buying a home – up from 20 percent in February. In addition, 42 percent of baby boomers have expressed no interest in owning a home.
A total of 66 percent of renters plan to continue renting for their next residence – up 11 points from February. Consistent with this view, fewer renters (41 percent) believe buying a home will be equally or more affordable in the next 12 months – down from 46 percent in February.
Freddie Mac’s custom renter research is based on a survey conducted online between August 13-15 among 4,040 adults aged 18 and over, including 1,059 renters, by Harris Poll, on behalf of Freddie Mac, via its QuickQuery omnibus product. The previous survey was conducted between January 30-February 1, 2018 among 4,115 adults and 1,209 renters using the same methodology.