Some of the hardest evidence yet indicates that the 2017 Republican tax law is pushing money and people from high-tax U.S. states like New York and New Jersey and into low-tax states including Florida.
In 2018, low- and lower-tax states gained $32 billion more in adjusted gross income than higher tax states, according to a Bank of America Global Research analysis of income migration data. You can visit here https://taxfyle.com/blog/how-does-adjusted-gross-income-work/ about how adjusted gross income work. The net gain — almost $2 billion more than in 2017 — was nearly twice the average over the last 13 years. The Republican overhaul capped state and local deductions at $10,000, making it harder for people to shield as much income from taxes as they could before.
At the same time, states like Florida and Texas, which don’t have an income tax, are seeing more and more people move there. New York, California, Connecticut and New Jersey — the states that had the highest average SALT deductions, lost about 455,000 people between July 1, 2018 and July 1, 2019, compared with 408,500 the prior year, according to U.S. Census data. Most of the increase came from people leaving California.
“The implication would be at the very least, people are sensitive to large changes in federal tax policy,” said Ian Rogow, a municipal strategist at Bank of America who analyzed the data.
Almost half of income taxes paid to California, New York and New Jersey come from the wealthiest 1% of households. If they were to move in large enough numbers, those states could be in trouble. So far, however, the federal tax overhaul — which broadened the tax base — and steady economy growth has led to higher-tax state revenue overall. States collected $327.7 billion in income tax revenue in the first three quarters of 2019, about 6% more than the same period in 2018, according to the Census Bureau.
To be sure, people move for a variety of reasons: jobs, housing costs and the weather among them. Despite having the third-highest personal income tax rate, Oregon was the second-most popular moving destination in the U.S., according to United Van Lines Annual Movers Study. The survey found that job changes and retirement were the two biggest reasons for leaving the northeast.
Related: Florida, Trump’s New Home, Leads U.S. in the Migration of Money
The Republicans’ 2017 tax law capped the SALT deduction as a way to help pay for $1.5 trillion in corporate and personal income tax cuts. Governors in Democratic-led states most affected by the new limit, including New York and New Jersey, accused Republicans of targeting them to pay for the cut. In October a federal judge ruled against New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland, which had sued to overturn the cap, arguing it was unconstitutional. The states are appealing.
The SALT limit significantly raised the effective taxes for wealthy residents of blue states. In 2017, about 140,000 tax filers in Manhattan with adjusted gross income of $200,000 or more paid $21 billion in state and local income taxes, or $150,000 on average, according to IRS data. About 83,000 of these filers paid an average $25,000 in property taxes. In Westchester, home to the nation’s highest property taxes, the wealthiest residents paid about an average $65,000 in state and local income taxes and $28,000 in real estate taxes.
In the fourth quarter of 2019, Westchester homeowners cut an average of 4.1% from their last asking price to sell their homes, according to a report last week, a sign that sellers have to slash prices to attract to buyers. The price cuts were the most for any three-month period since the end of 2014, according to a the report by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who has called the SALT limits “politically diabolical,” has warned that capping the deduction encourages high-income New Yorkers to leave.
“Tax the rich, tax the rich, tax the rich. We did. Now, God forbid the rich leave,” Cuomo said last year.
“We just loved it, and all our friends and family loved it,” said Mr. Nordquist, 51, a retired financier from Manhattan. “It had to be here, and it had to be now.”
David and Sindhu Nordquist deliberated for years about where to buy a second home, and thenlast summer, while renting a house in the Hamptons for the first time, they decided to find a place on the East End of Long Island to call their own.
With Timothy O’Connor, an agent at Halstead, the Nordquists looked at more than 60 listings, searching for “a beach house in the woods,” Mr. Nordquist said. “We wanted privacy and didn’t want neighbors around us.”
Their timing was fortunate. In the usually high-flying Hamptons, the housing market is in a rut. Inventory is up; prices are down. The median sale price of a single-family home in the Hamptons has dropped 7.9 percent, from $933,750 in the first quarter of 2018 to $860,000 during the first three months this year, according to a report from Douglas Elliman Real Estate.
After searching for several months, the Nordquists found the serenity they were looking for down a long gravel driveway: a 1991 contemporary home with 3,300 square feet, a heated pool and a pool house, on a woodsy 1.82 acres. Initially listed at $1.825 million in August 2017, the property went on and off the market. When the couple visited last December, the price had dropped to $1.6 million. They bought it this spring for $1.35 million, with plans to paint, change the windows and convert the wood-burning fireplaces to gas.David Nordquist at his new Hamptons home, which sits on 1.82 acres and has a heated pool and a pool house.CreditDaniel Gonzalez for The New York Times
“We negotiated pretty hard on the price,” Mr. Nordquist said. “I bargained a lot. I felt the market was softening.”
As Aspasia G. Comnas, the executive managing director of Brown Harris Stevens, observed, “Sellers in the Hamptons are used to the market always going up every year, and if they priced aggressively it didn’t matter.” But in today’s market, homes that are not priced competitively “are going to have to go through a series of price reductions” before they sell, she said — at all levels of the market, not just at the high end.
Buyers seem to be staying on the sidelines. The number of single-family homes on the market during the first three months of 2019 was nearly double that of a year earlier: 2,327, up from 1,201. And sales of single-family homes have dropped, to 287 from 350 in 2018.
One thing making buyers hesitate, said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel and the author of the Douglas Elliman report, is the new federal tax code approved by Congress in late 2017, which makes it more expensive to own luxury property because homeowners can deduct only up to $10,000 in state and local taxes from their federal income taxes.
“The Hamptons are trending much like the New York City metro area,” Mr. Miller said, noting that the situation is similar in other parts of the Northeast and in California, where real estate is pricey and property taxes are high.
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“The slowdown in sales represents the disconnect between sellers, who are anchored to better times, and buyers, who have a lot of changes to process,” Mr. Miller said.
Any sense of urgency was further quelled by the “intense volatility of the financial markets at the end of last year, along with the close linkage of Wall Street to the Hamptons,” he added.
A 17 percent dip in bonuses in the finance industry in 2018 likely also discouraged Wall Street workers from buying second homes in the Hamptons. The average bonus for financial market employees in 2017 was $184,400; in 2018, it dropped to $153,700, according to a report from the New York State Comptroller.
Those who did buy, though, found bargains.
Figuring it didn’t hurt to look, Maria and Stephen Zak, of Saddle River, N.J., toured a 2007 harbor-front house with four bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms, a heated pool and a hot tub, on an acre in East Hampton, listed for $3.2 million. “We loved it, but it was way out of our budget,” said Mr. Zak, 53, the chief financial officer of a boutique investment bank.
They had been looking for a second home for about a year. The price of the 3,400-square-foot house had already been reduced from the original 2017 asking price of $3.995 million. So “we threw out an offer we were comfortable with,” Mr. Zak said. And in November, the Zaks closed on the house, for $2.735 million.The bedrooms of Mr. Baltimore’s 1970s house are on the lower level. CreditDaniel Gonzalez for The New York Times
“It’s like the dog that chases the car and actually catches it,” Mr. Zak said. “It’s still not cheap, but it was fair and it was in move-in condition.” They have since installed a new kitchen, painted and brought in new rugs.
In the shifting luxury real estate market, the highest priced homes are taking longer to sell, said Laura Brady, the president and founder of Concierge Auctions, in Manhattan. The company’s Luxury Homes Index report, released earlier this month, noted that the 10 most expensive homes sold in the Hamptons last year had an average sale price of $24,079,286, and spent an average of 706.7 days on the market. Luxury homes that lingered on the market tended to go for less, selling at discounts of nearly 40 percent after six months, Ms. Brady said.
In Montauk, the 20-acre oceanfront estate that belongs to Dick Cavett, the former talk show host, has been on the market for two years. The 7,000-square-foot, six-bedroom, four-bathroom house, which was listed for $62 million in June 2017, was designed by McKim, Mead & White in the 1880s and rebuilt in 1997 after a fire, using “forensic architecture techniques” to replicate the original house with a wraparound porch and a bell tower, said Gary DePersia, an associate broker with Corcoran. The price dropped to $48.5 million last August, then Mr. DePersia re-listed it in February, for $33.95 million.
“They are motivated sellers,” Mr. DePersia said. “Where are you going to get 20 acres with 900 feet of oceanfront and utter privacy with a historic house for that kind of money in the Hamptons? You are not.”
According to a first quarter report from Bespoke Real Estate, which deals exclusively with $10 million-plus properties, 122 homes priced over $10 million were on the market at the end of March, with 13 between $30 and $40 million.
Most $10 million-plus buyers already have a home in the Hamptons, said Zachary Vichinsky, a principal at Bespoke Real Estate, and have spent “in some cases the better part of two years exploring the market and defining what works best for them,” whether that means upgrading or building a new home closer to the water.
“There is a lack of urgency on their part, in a lot of cases, but the special inventory continues to move pretty quickly,” Mr. Vichinsky said.
In 2018, a total of 41 homes sold for $10 million or more in areas that brokers refer to as the “alpha market,” which includes East Hampton, Southampton, Water Mill, Bridgehampton, Sagaponack and Wainscott.
But there was one bright spot in the market overall: homes listed for $500,000 to $1 million. That sector of the market accounted for 34 percent of sales in the first quarter, according to a report from Brown Harris Stevens.Mr. Baltimore affectionately refers to his hexagonal house as “the hive.”CreditDaniel Gonzalez for The New York Times
Last November, after renting a “shack on the bay” in Sag Harbor for nine years, Keith Baltimore, an interior designer with offices in Manhattan, Port Washington, N.Y., and Boca Raton, Fla., paid $900,000 for a “quirky and campy” 1970s contemporary house with an upside-down floor plan, a circular great room with a skylight, and a pool, on an acre in Water Mill. The house was originally listed for $1.15 million.
“There were so many houses on the market, it felt like a full-time job looking at what’s out there, doing due diligence,” said Mr. Baltimore, 55, who spent weekends for a year and a half house shopping.
From Westhampton to Montauk, about 1,900 homes are available for $2 million or less, including about 900 under $1 million and 160 for around $500,000, said Mr. O’Connor, the Halstead agent.
California’s progressive approach may be difficult to implement nationwide – here are the hurdles to consider.
According to the Net Zero Energy Coalition, growth of ZE (Zero Energy) home construction was 75% higher in 2017 than in 2016. While California represents approximately half of all net zero energy homes built in the US, growth is occurring across the country, including Massachusetts, which has a similar top-down approach to the construction process, putting this state in second place in the inventory of zero ready (ZR), near zero (NZ), and ZE inventory.
A ZE home (also referred to as a Zero Energy Building, ZEB) is a home that consumes no more energy than it produces in a year. To achieve this, ZE homes are extremely efficient, leveraging cutting-edge building materials and construction methods, smart thermostats, and energy-efficient appliances to keep the home’s energy consumption as low as possible without seriously inconveniencing the homeowner. ZE homes produce on-site energy from renewable sources. In the residential segment, the most common renewable installed is solar photo voltaic (PV) panels. ZR homes have all of the energy-efficient elements with the exception of on-site energy generation.
For many communities, ZE is an important building block for their climate and sustainability action plans, driving several states and cities to introduce ZE legislation:
Oregon has set a 2023 target for all new home construction to meet ZE.
Austin, TX, has required all new homes to be ZE-ready since 2015.
Cambridge, MA, has a multiyear plan to move towards a zero net energy community, requiring all new residential home construction to be ZE by 2022.
Cambridge, MA, has a multiyear plan to move towards a zero net energy community, requiring all new residential home construction to be ZE by 2022.
The city of Fort Collins, CO, created FortZED nearly a decade ago to partner public, private, and academic resources to experiment with new technology that saves money and energy and helps create jobs locally.
The drive to implement ZE policies on a citywide or statewide level could help make these benefits a standard amenity, but these efforts require buy-in among builders. Most builders are now aware of ZE and have a basic understanding of the various elements. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) surveys its members regularly, and its 2017 Green Practices Study and Green Multifamily and Single Family Homes Report confirms that the housing industry is gradually changing. NAHB reports that three out of ten builders have constructed at least one near zero, zero energy ready, or ZE home.
However, the decision to construct a ZE home often relies with the consumer/home buyer, and many barriers can inhibit that decision. California is unique in that it has goals and codes driving changes, higher energy costs, favorable solar energy policies, and engaged utility providers. In other parts of the country, low energy costs are a barrier. Getting consumers excited about spending more upfront to see lower energy bills is a difficult proposition. Parks Associates survey data reveals that one-third of home owners in U.S. broadband households have a monthly electricity bill of less than $100.
As a result, ZE builders focus on the attributes of a higher quality home, which provides the homeowner with a healthier, quieter, more comfortable, and more energy-efficient home. A key message is the ZE home provides peace of mind, as well as a hedge against future utility bills, as the home is built with better components and with higher construction quality. Overall, customers indicate a willingness to pay more for high-performing homes. A Parks Associates survey of US broadband households in 4Q 2017 found 80% of homeowners believe that having an energy-efficient home is important or very important, and at the end of 2018, 89% reported energy-saving actions. Parks Associates interviews with builders confirm that most customers will pay approximately 5% more for higher quality, high-efficiency ZE homes.
However, a home is an infrequent purchase, and once it comes down to spending actual dollars, consumer actions often diverge from original intentions. Budget drives the decisions regarding efficiency upgrades or adding renewables, which can often push home buyers to decide between ZE options and other amenities. In interviews with Parks Associates, entry to mid-level builders report about one-third of buyers respond positively to energy-efficiency attributes and the associated benefits, while the remaining two-thirds are either more interested in other aesthetic enhancements or skeptic of the benefits overall.
Loss of incentives can drive decisions away from high-efficiency equipment. For example, the current residential federal tax credits for solar, wind, fuel cells, and geothermal heat pumps are 30% of the total installed costs. The amount is being stepped down yearly and will be phased out after 2021. As federal incentives go away, local municipalities and utilities will need to step up to replace them, or installation of these systems may decline.
Scarcity of resources can also be a barrier, and in general, local policies, codes, and incentives drive where support resources are located. Simply put, it can be difficult to find the materials and trained subcontractors necessary for a ZE project in an area that does not promote or incentivize this type of construction.
Policies can attract resources and also drive greater consumer awareness for ZE solutions. Just take a look at California, with the highest number of residential solar PV installations, to confirm that policies, codes, and coordinated efforts across players can drive adoption. In other areas, the federal tax credit has helped grow consumer awareness and adoption of solar. Today, most consumers also have a basic awareness of renewables and higher efficiency products, so market opportunities exist for high-efficiency appliances, equipment, and smart home energy products and service providers as part of the ZE equation. Smart-home products, renewable generation, battery storage, and electric vehicles are all transformative technologies individually, but all are currently in the early stages of adoption in US households.
Near zero and zero ready homes create more choice for consumers and are becoming affordable as ZE homes become cost competitive to standard dwellings. Rocky Mountain Institute’s recent 2018 study on construction costs of ZE and ZR single-family homes report that on average, a ZE home now costs 6.7%-8.1% more than a standard home and a ZR home is only 0.9%-2.5% higher. Prices are continuing to decline for renewables and battery storage, making these energy efficient homes truly affordable.
Production builders can see a clear competitive advantage as they reduce their construction costs and expand their ZE and ZR home offerings across the US. As more builders embrace this trend, expect to see more creative offers such as Lennar’s SunStreet program that offers solar PV at no upfront costs to the home buyer.
Historically, the push for ZE home requires alignment, awareness, and education across all parties in the housing industry. Stakeholders include architects, construction trades, local code compliance organizations, utility partners, real estate professionals, and the financial industry, in addition to the product manufacturers, trade associations, and local suppliers who work with builders to implement these solutions.
It is a complex undertaking, but as more communities look for ways to preserve resources, and promote energy independence, ZE solutions will continue to emerge as viable options in US households. The single-family home building industry at a point where declining costs, competitive solutions, and consumer awareness of benefits could potentially drive adoption of ZE and ZR homes without incentives and policies.
220 Central Park South. Image via Vornado Realty Trust and Robert A.M. Stern Architects.
New York’s 2020 budget was revealed this weekend; among many other items, the proposed “pied-à-terre tax” went away, but a progressive “mansion tax,”–a one-time tax on properties valued from $1 million to $25 million or more–and an attendant transfer tax when those properties sell–will reportedly raise $365 million, according to The Real Deal. The money will head straight to the MTA. The new tax will top out at 4.15 percent.
According to Bloomberg, a series of graduated tax levies, paid by the buyer, starting at 1 percent, will be added to all New York City apartments selling for $1 million or more. That rate goes up at $2 million and reaches that 4.15 percent high on $25 million properties. The projected $365 million in revenue would mean $5 billion in bonds headed for mass transit. The last iteration of the mansion tax levied a flat 1 percent on apartments starting at $1 million.
Governor Cuomo said in a statement announcing the new budget “This has five or six major, difficult long-term issues that had to be dealt with, and it deals with them in a fiscally responsible way. This is the leading state in terms of being progressive. We’ve established that. I believe with this plan we also lead the nation in terms of innovation, and building, and reform.”
Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, says, “Mortgage rates fell for the third consecutive week, continuing the general downward trend that began late last year. Wages are growing on par with home prices for the first time in years, and with more inventory available, spring home sales should help the market begin to recover from the malaise of the last few months.”
30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.35 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending February 21, 2019, down from last week when it averaged 4.37 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.40 percent.
15-year FRM this week averaged 3.78 percent with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.81 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.85 percent.
Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.
Rising rates coupled with increasing home prices have discouraged homebuying activity during the third quarter of 2018, according to Freddie Mac’s (OTCQB: FMCC) October Forecast, which now includes estimates for 2020.
Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, says, “The housing market continued to cool off in the Fall with slowdowns in home sales, new construction and price growth. While we expect the weakness in housing activity to extend the next few months as the market absorbs the recent uptick in mortgage rates, the combination of strong economic growth and millennials moving toward homeownership should help home sales regain momentum and rise modestly in 2019.”
After growing at its fastest pace in nearly four years (4.2 percent), the U.S. economy is expected to slow to around 3 percent in the third quarter of 2018. GDP is expected to grow at a rate of 3.0 percent for 2018, slowing to 2.4 percent in 2019, and dropping to 1.8 percent in 2020 as the effects of expansionary fiscal policy fade.
Mortgage rates remained steady at 4.6 percent for the third quarter until the weekly average rate reached a seven-year high at 4.9 percent in the beginning of October. The 30-year fixed-rate is expected to average 4.5 percent in 2018, rising to 5.1 percent in 2019 and 5.6 percent in 2020.
Home prices are expected to increase to 5.4 percent in 2018, with the growth rate slowing slightly to 4.6 percent in 2019 and even further to 2.9 percent in 2020.
High home prices and borrowing costs continue to affect housing activity. Total home sales (new and existing) are now forecasted to decline modestly this year to 6.07 million, and then regain momentum, increasing 1.8 percent to 6.18 million in 2019 and rising 1.1 percent to 6.25 million in 2020.
Freddie Mac makes home possible for millions of families and individuals by providing mortgage capital to lenders. Since our creation by Congress in 1970, we’ve made housing more accessible and affordable for homebuyers and renters in communities nationwide. We are building a better housing finance system for homebuyers, renters, lenders, investors and taxpayers.
Housing starts in the US jumped 9.2 percent from a month earlier to an annualized rate of 1,282 thousand in August of 2018, recovering from a 0.3 percent drop in July and beating market expectations of a 5.8 percent rise. Starts increased in the South, the Midwest and the West and were flat in the Northeast. Housing Starts in the United States averaged 1433.04 Thousand units from 1959 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 2494 Thousand units in January of 1972 and a record low of 478 Thousand units in April of 2009.
US Housing Starts Above Forecasts
Housing starts in the US jumped 9.2 percent from a month earlier to an annualized rate of 1,282 thousand in August of 2018, recovering from a 0.3 percent drop in July and beating market expectations of a 5.8 percent rise. Starts increased in the South, the Midwest and the West and were flat in the Northeast.
Single-family homebuilding, which accounts for the largest share of the housing market, increased 1.9 percent to a rate of 876 thousand units in August; and starts for the volatile multi-family housing segment surged 27.3 percent to a rate of 392 thousand. Starts rose in the Midwest (9.1 percent to 191 thousand), the West (19.1 percent to 318 thousand) and the South (6.5 percent to 674 thousand), but were steady in the Northeast (at 99 thousand). Starts for July were revised to 1,174 thousand from 1,168 thousand.
Building permits dropped 5.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,229 thousand, the lowest reading since May of 2017. It compares with market expectations of a 0.1 percent decline to 1,310 thousand and follows a 1.5 percent rise in July. Single-family authorizations fell 6.1 percent to 820 thousand and multi-family permits decreased 4.9 percent to 409 thousand. Declines were seen in all regions: Northeast (-19.2 percent to 101 thousand), the Midwest (-1.7 percent to 178 thousand), the West (-8.4 percent to 304 thousand) and the South (-2.9 percent to 646 thousand).
Year-on-year, housing starts increased 9.4 percent while building permits fell 5.5 percent.
The developer assembled a vacant plot of land — formerly a Shell gas station and a parking lot — at Frederick Douglass Boulevard and West 122nd Street in Harlem over roughly four years, from 2011 to 2015. He then secured approvals to construct a 12-story, 127-unit residential building on the site, which offers 205,000 buildable square feet.
But in June of last year, Futterman, who declined to comment for this story, defaulted on a $36 million loan from RWN Real Estate Partners, and five months later his development firm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The bankruptcy auction is now set for June 21, and sources said the site could sell for as much as $70 million — about $44 million more than Futterman paid for the stretch of land over the years.
A source said Futterman pumped “his life savings” into the project — and that he is still holding out hope to develop it himself.
“This is the reality of the market today,” said Cushman & Wakefield’s Bob Knakal, who is handling the bankruptcy auction with colleague Adam Spies. “Transactions are not going the way owners want.”
Indeed, the first signs of distress have emerged in several pockets of New York City’s commercial real estate market in recent months. Retail vacancies, declining hotel revenues and foreclosures on Park Avenue are among a flurry of indications that the market is inching closer to the brink of financial trouble.
“There’s a lot more stress in the system than most people probably realize,” said Iron Hound Management’s Robert Verrone, who added that his mortgage brokerage is handling more workouts nationally than ever before.
The influx of troubled loans is a product of the 2007 lending boom, and $90 billion in commercial mortgage backed-securities backed by properties across the country are set to mature this year. Sean Barrie of Trepp, which tracks CMBS, noted that the massive batch of loans was “underwritten pretty liberally,” and now, many of those sponsors may face difficulty refinancing their over-leveraged assets.
Attorney Ray Hannigan, of Herrick Feinstein, who specializes in foreclosures and workouts, said the tri-state area is already seeing a substantial influx of those maturity defaults.
“It’s a long time coming,” he said. “The market needs to work through this latest cycle and weed out the good and the bad.”
The bad can be found across the five boroughs. In Brooklyn and Staten Island, scheduled foreclosure auctions are making a comeback. There were 90 foreclosure auctions in Brooklyn in March, a 125 percent year-over-year increase. Staten Island — where the real estate market has been less active — had 32 in the same month, a 10 percent increase from the previous year, according to California-based research firm ATTOM Data Solutions data provided to The Real Deal.
ATTOM data also showed that there was a 327 percent increase in New York City multifamily and retail sales to third-party investors in foreclosure auctions in 2017’s first quarter, year-over year. Similarly, the number of bank-owned commercial properties rose 8 percent year-over-year.
No one is suggesting that distress is widespread — yet. More than 25 lawyers, economists, lenders and brokers who spoke to TRD for this story were confident that although a decline is around the corner, it won’t be as severe as it was 2007 or 2008 — when, as attorney Wallace Schwartz of the national law firm Kasowitz put it, “everything fell off the table.”
“Distress is a very macro word,” said Ayush Kapahi of capital advisory firm HKS Capital Partners. “There’s something churning. I don’t know if the word ‘distress’ will apply, or if it will just be a market reset.… There are so many variables that go into a storm.”
To get a better idea of the extent of the trouble in the market, TRD took a temperature check of all the commercial real estate asset classes across the city.
When real estate developer Billy Macklowe proclaimed, “I think retail is fucked, plain and simple,” in late April, he was echoing a sentiment widely shared among industry insiders: Of all commercial real estate asset classes, retail is showing the clearest signs of distress.
“Retail is a disaster in New York City,” one source said on the condition of anonymity. While part of that situation is due to the continual rise of online retailers, “another part of it is people are too greedy,” the source added in reference to landlords seeking steep rents.
Indeed, brick-and-mortar stores across the country are collapsing due to high overhead, weak sales and mounting debt, and major U.S. retailers including American Apparel and Aeropostale, among many others, have filed for bankruptcy.
Some retailers are making real estate moves to stay afloat amid falling sales. Department store Lord & Taylor is considering adding a residential tower on top of its flagship at 424 Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus recently met with Related Companies about a potential merger — a deal that Related chair Stephen Ross later said would not happen.
No major retail landlords in the city have defaulted on their loans because of the waning market, but many are seeing increased vacancies. Last year, availability rates on Fifth Avenue between 42nd and 49th streets hit a high of 31 percent, Cushman data show. All in all, eight of Manhattan’s 11 major retail neighborhoods saw availability rates grow between 0.6 and 8.2 percent, according to the commercial brokerage.
“Look anywhere in the city and you see unusually high vacancy,” said real estate attorney Joshua Stein. To be sure, there is more leasing activity taking place on less-glamorous stretches like Ninth Avenue (see related story).
Most recently, Ralph Lauren announced it would be closing its 39,000 square-foot flagship store at the Coca-Cola Company’s 711 Fifth Avenue. The retailer will continue to pay a whopping $70,000 per day in rent as part of the lease, which expires in 2029, if it can’t get out of the arrangement.
And as leasing volume slows, landlords are wooing new tenants by offeringconcessions, including cheaper rents, build-outs and more flexible deal terms.
Jack Terzi’s JTRE Holdings, for example, has reportedly been in contract for nearly a year to pay about $140 million for a vacant six-story retail building at 23 Wall Street. Sources said that over that time, Terzi has had difficulty locking in financing and securing a flagship tenant, though Uniqlo is among the prospective retailers that have negotiated for space there.
Of the $7.53 billion in 200 CMBS notes backed by retail properties in New York City, five, totaling $77 million, are with a special servicer, according to Trepp.
“Retail dynamics and challenges are certainly not unique to New York,” said Sam Chandan, an economist and associate dean at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate. “New York has a very unique retail footprint by virtue of it being a dense tourist market and one where most retail is ground floor or street-facing. There will be some difficult adjustments.”
The hotel industry is also facing an uphill battle to absorb oversupply in the city and combat online home-sharing marketplace Airbnb.
“The industry’s struggle is really playing out in the room rates, which have declined and are expected to continue to do so,” said Peter Muoio, chief economist and head of research at online real estate marketplace Ten-X.
Revenue per available room fell to $163 during the first three months of this year — its lowest level of the current cycle and a 2.3 percent drop year-over-year, according to a recent report from hotel-and-data analytics firm STR.
Transactions are also down, as New York City saw $2 billion in hotel deals in 2016, a sizable drop from $4.8 billion the prior year, according to STR. The 2015 figure, it should be noted, included the blockbuster $1.95 billion sale of the Waldorf Astoria to Anbang Insurance Group. Many of the 2016 deals were for “upper midscale” or “upscale” properties, unlike 2015 when most hotels that sold were “luxury” or “upper upscale,” according to the data firm’s report.
Sources said that so far, hotel owners have been able to largely escape trouble with a “big paydown” through a recapitalization or a sale, but the few hotels that were sold in the last two years have done so at a loss. Thor has been in contract since the fall to purchase PGIM Real Estate’s five-star James New York hotel in Soho for $70 million — a $13 million drop from the property’s previous sale price of $83.4 million in 2013.
While some hotels are simply depreciating in value, at least one is facing foreclosure. The four-star, boutique Mansfield Hotel at 12 West 44th Street in Midtown has been hemorrhaging cash for more than a year as the owner, Ark Partners, has struggled to sell for $65 million.
Court records show Wells Fargo, the trustee on the hotel’s $20 million loan, is working through foreclosure proceedings with the developers.
A wide range of Manhattan hotels are on the market, though very few have been able to find a buyer quickly. The properties on the hunt include the Park Lane Hotel, the Quin, the Standard High Line and Hotel Wales.
Freddie Mac (OTCQB: FMCC) today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing the 30-year fixed mortgage rate dropping for the fourth consecutive week and hitting its lowest level in nearly seven months.
30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.89 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending June 8, 2017, down from last week when it averaged 3.94 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.60 percent.
15-year FRM this week averaged 3.16 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.19 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.87 percent.
Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.
Quote Attributed to Sean Becketti, chief economist, Freddie Mac.
“The 10-year Treasury yield fell 3 basis points this week. The 30-year mortgage rate moved in tandem with Treasury yields, falling 5 basis points to 3.89 percent. Mixed economic data and increasing uncertainty are continuing to push rates to the lowest levels in nearly seven months.”
Cotacachi, in the Imbabura province, is getting the lion’s share of expat attention these days. Many, especially those of retirement age, are finding their way here to enjoy the perfect weather, beautiful scenery, low cost of living, and especially the tranquil, slow-paced small-town lifestyle.
Like Otavalo and many other villages in this part of Ecuador, Cotacachi (population: about 8,000) is an artisan town. Just 20 minutes northwest of Otavalo, Cotacachi is Ecuador’s famous “leather” town. Artisan shops line the main street and you can buy any type of leather item, from shoes, boots and jackets to coin purses, bags, and suitcases…even upholstered furniture. Prices for all these items are 50% to 75% less than you would pay in the U.S.
Cotacachi has always enjoyed a reputation as a clean, peaceful village, and its plazas are kept neat and tidy. At night the artisan shops close up and only a few restaurants and small mom-and-pop shops are open. On the corners, you may find families congregating around a hot grill, where ears of corn are roasting along with pork and chicken kabobs. The cool, crisp air smells faintly of wood smoke, roasting corn, and eucalyptus. Eucalyptus trees grow abundantly wild, as do palm trees.
Cotacachi has become one of Ecuador’s most active expat communities in recent years, as many foreigners have chosen to locate here—and they enjoy a great lifestyle in Cotacachi. It’s a small, mostly indigenous town with a strong sense of community.
Largely dependent on agriculture, it is the sort of town many of us remember from our childhoods. Fresh raw milk can be bought from local farms, along with eggs laid by free-range chickens. Children still help with the family businesses after school and are well-mannered.
In the quaint downtown, you’ll find a couple of barbers, a small health clinic, and a pavilion for the town band. Ethnic restaurants and cozy cafés make welcoming spots to catch up with friends or just sit and watch life unfold in the Ecuadorian highlands.
Though Cotacachi has a slow and relaxed pace there are constant events and activities to take part in. Every month at least one parade or festival takes place. There are live music events, dances, and even horse processions to be watched and photographed. Seed exchanges, food fairs, and leather expos are all annual events too.
Of course it’s always nice to explore other areas too and there are plenty of great day-trips to choose from. Within two hours you could be at Chachimbiro Hot Springs relaxing in the thermal springs, or enjoying a mud bath at the spa. Lake Cuicocha is just a 15-minute taxi ride from town where you can marvel at the deep blue volcanic crater lake. If you’re up for some physical activity you can take a four-hour hike around the rim, or if you prefer to relax, take the boat tour around the islands in the center of the lake.
The famed market town of Otavalo is nearby, where you can explore the streets filled with craft items, food, and even animals for sale. Ibarra is a larger city just 45 minutes away with shopping malls, dining options, and large parks and plazas to enjoy.
When the sun sets in Cotacachi, the artisan shops close up and only a few restaurants and small mom-and-pop shops are open. That’s all you need, really. After a day of sunshine in the 8,000-foot-elevation, mountain climate, night-time is for sleeping.
Retire in Cotacachi, Ecuador
Cotacachi is becoming something of an expat magnet. Estimates are that about 100 expats live full-time in Cotacachi now. It’s a diverse group—not all American. There are Israelis, Cubans, Brits, and more among them, who get together regularly to discuss topics of interest or just to celebrate life. This makes retirement in Cotacachi enjoyable. The expats here are outgoing and relaxed, since there’s not much to worry about. No traffic, no temperature swings, no pesky insects, and certainly no money problems.
The town is also scenic. Two of the most majestic cordilleras of the Andes flank either side of the small village of Cotacachi. And several of Ecuador’s most famous volcanoes can be seen from just about anywhere in town, including Volcan Cotacachi to the west and Imbabura to the east. On a clear day, you can see Volcan Pichincha to the south.
If you want to enjoy good weather, clean air, great scenery, and a rich indigenous culture, but still be within two hours of the international airport in Quito, then retirement in Cotacachi could fit the bill.
Lifestyle in Cotacachi, Ecuador
Cotacachi is a fabulous place to improve your health. The moderate climate with little variation throughout the year means that nearly every fruit and vegetable can be grown within a hundred miles. Not only is healthy produce readily available, but it’s also very affordable. With avocados priced at 3 for a dollar, organic leaf lettuce at 25 cents, and 6 plump carrots for 50 cents there is no monetary reason not to eat right.
In addition, the small size of the town makes it perfect for walking. Instead of jumping in your car to run to the grocery store, pay bills, or meet a friend for lunch you can easily accomplish it all with your own two feet. Many folks find that they lose weight without even trying after being in Cotacachi for only a few months. The healthy food choices and extra walking each day help shed excess pounds.
For a small town there are few things lacking. Residents can take advantage of spas, fitness centers, and basic medical needs all within a few blocks of each other. They can also participate in art classes, hiking groups, dance lessons, live musical events, yoga, foreign films, and science courses.
If you’re a social person, Cotacachi is the place for you. There are plenty of other expats to get to know, but the locals are friendly and welcoming too. It’s tough to spend much time in this town without quickly and easily making friends.
Real Estate in Cotacachi, Ecuador
This influx of foreigners has caused something of a building boom in Cotacachi in recent years, and if you come to look for real estate, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Older homes and apartments in need of renovation can be had for the price of a good used car.
Recognizing the trend of foreign baby boomers looking for an unspoiled and inexpensive retirement destination, local builders offer appealing homes and condos with features like large modern kitchens, elegant bathrooms, fireplaces, and more.
Rentals go for as little as $150 a month for a modern, three-bedroom apartment while furnished units with all utilities included go for $600.
Cost of Living in Cotacachi, Ecuador
The cost of living is low in Ecuador, but especially so in smaller towns like Cotacachi. If you’re living on a budget or just looking to save money, this is a great place to do so.
Sunday is market day, when the villagers bring their wares to sell. Everything from fruits and vegetables to ground spices, woven baskets, and rope made of woven plastic shopping bags—recycling at its best. And then there are the roses…you pay $2 for one dozen, long-stemmed roses that are so fresh they last nearly three weeks.
On Saturdays head to Otavalo—to the largest open-air indigenous market in South America. If you’re a good negotiator, you can buy scarves, woolen socks, and hats for $2 each, or pretty wool and alpaca sweaters for $8 ($4 for kids’ sizes). The 30-minute bus ride from Cotacachi to Otavalo costs 35 cents; a taxi costs $5.
You can hire a maid to clean your condo for $10, and gardeners or landscapers charge around $4 per hour. Furnishing that same condo can be fun and inexpensive as well. There are master carpenters right in town that will build furniture to your specs for 50% to 75% of U.S. costs. Artistic paintings, colorful weavings, and wooden carvings are all easily found in the area and are priced at or below half of what you would pay back home.
Unless you must have imported food items or expensive cuts of meat you’ll save on your grocery bill here. Five dollars at the farmers’ market will get you an extra-large grocery bag filled to the brim with good healthy produce. Bananas, pineapples, mangos, avocados, tomatoes, leafy greens, and dozens of varieties of potatoes are just a few things you’ll find for sale. Whole chickens range from $5 to $8 depending on the size while fresh free-range eggs cost around $1.30 per dozen.
Many restaurants in town serve a menu del dia that consists of a beverage, soup, salad, main course, and dessert. How much? $2.50 each. It’s almost cheaper to eat out than to cook at home.
There are several good doctors in Cotacachi who typically charge $10 for an office visit. An eye exam costs $5 while a dental cleaning and exam will run around $20.
With the lack of severe temperature fluxes you’ll find that heating and air conditioning aren’t necessary, saving you plenty of money. Average electric costs for a household run between $15 and $20 per month. Monthly bills for water and propane gas usually come in at around $5 each. A package of cable TV, internet, and landline phone service can be had for around $100 per month.
Many folks live without a vehicle which eliminates fuel, maintenance, and insurance expenses. Bus fare usually averages around $1 per hour of travel time, and taxis are cheap too, charging $5 to nearby Otavalo (20 minute drive) and $12 to Ibarra (40 minute drive).
Depending upon the lifestyle you want a couple can easily live on $1,200 to $1,800 per month here. Of course frequent dining at high-end restaurants and traveling will require more income, but can still be done for far less than what it would cost in many other parts of the world. Don’t forget to factor in extra funds for trips back home, initial moving and visa costs, and for routine medical care.