The Cooperator (04/18/2017) - 2017 Market Review & Forecast
By all accounts, the New York City co-op and condo market is continuing its healthy, active trend of the past few years (although the frantic activity of the immediate post-Recession years seems to have eased somewhat—particularly at the uppermost end of spectrum), and there’s every indication that this trend will continue during the coming year.
“This past year saw an easing in the overall market, with the high-end luxury segment bearing the brunt of it,” said Julie Park, a real estate agent from the Level Group based in Manhattan. “Frenzied bidding wars were less common, and buyers gained leverage, but at the lower price points, inventory still remained tight and it remained an active market.”
Similarly, Richard Grossman, president of Halstead Property, which has locations in New York and New Jersey, says, “Firstly, I think for many properties, especially those at the higher end of whatever market you are in throughout the tri-state area, we have seen some retreat in selling and asking prices over the past 12, 16 months; somewhere between three and eight percent.
“Secondly, now that the election has been decided, buyers are regaining confidence and we are starting to see normalcy in all segments of the market,” Grossman continues. “I have already seen several properties go to contract above $10 million, $20 million and even $30 million within days of the election, and other buyers submitting bids in that range. That said, the contract prices were made with negotiation.”
In general, Grossman says, “Sellers want last year’s prices, and the buyers want next year’s. The deals that are happening now are in the middle of that equation.”
What was more popular last year – co-ops or condos? While as a rule new co-ops haven’t been built here for years, there are still more co-op units overall than condos in New York City.
Michael Slattery, senior vice president of research for the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), reports that there were approximately 14,900 co-op sales and 10,200 condo sales recorded in 2016, even though the majority of newly-built apartments for sale are condos. Park says that while some buyers have gravitated toward co-ops when they realized they couldn’t afford a condo, in general, the two types of housing appeal to different types of buyers: “Co-ops appeal to buyers looking for a long-term primary residence, while investors and buyers looking for flexibility opt for condos.”
“There are more condo sales than co-ops,” says Kirk Henckels, director of the New York City-based Stribling Private Brokerage, “even though there are more co-ops than condos.”
Look at the Numbers
In general, comparing the market with what it was 10 years ago and again what it was five years ago, experts agree that a decade ago, it was very strong, but the burst of the housing bubble was only a year or two away. Five years ago, we were emerging from the downturn with a strong market, and that positive trend has continued.
Looking at the numbers, REBNY’s fourth-quarter 2016 report shows a moderate quarter, but one that still finished out a year of historic highs. The average sales price of a home, whether a co-op, a condo or a one-to –three-family dwelling in the city, rose 10 percent over the same period of last year. According to the report, “The increase was driven by high-end condominium sales, which brought the average sales price of a Manhattan condo unit to a peak of $2,963,000 this quarter. The average sales price for a condo in Brooklyn increased 12 percent, to $983,000.”
In addition, the average sales price for a Queens condo unit was $535,000 – a two percent increase over last year’s fourth quarter average.
As far as co-ops are concerned, the average price of units in Manhattan and Brooklyn decreased five percent from the fourth quarter of 2015 to $1,170,000 and $465,000, respectively. The average sales price of a co-op in Queens rose seven percent to $276,000, according to the report, while the average sales price of a Bronx co-op decreased 2 percent to $239,000.
De Blasio and the 2nd Avenue Subway
Mayor Bill de Blasio has been in City Hall for several years, and despite the initial fears of some, he seems to have established a good relationship with many important players in the real estate industry. As some will recall, in early 2014, soon after he was elected, he met with REBNY representatives in a closed-door meeting, and afterward several members praised him and his proposals.
The mayor’s proposal for a streetcar line linking several neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens—backed by some key Brooklyn developers—is controversial, but it remains a future possibility. As far as ‘facts on the ground’ are concerned, the biggest recent development in New York City transit is certainly the opening of the first section of the long-awaited Second Avenue subway, which made its first run on New Year’s Day. The line’s three new stations, at 72nd, 86th and 96th streets, serve the eastern part of the Upper East Side known traditionally as Yorkville.
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“The eastern Upper East Side has always been a suppressed market, a value market,” says Henckels. Now, he says, the area “is a good place to buy,” and “you will see a re-gentrification of that area.”
Others active in the industry concur. Grossman says that the subway has made a huge difference in the area, and that Halstead has had buyers asking about Yorkville specifically because of the new subway access.
Park, of the Level Group, believes that although the subway stations will definitely increase real estate values near East 72nd and 86th Streets, “I think the biggest impact will be near the 96th Street stop. With access to a subway, people who would have never considered living so far north may reconsider for the right price, and knowing they can hop on the subway and get across or downtown in no time.”
It will be interesting to see whether the next phase of the subway, reaching into East Harlem, will have the same effect, although it almost certainly will take years to complete, just as the first phase did.
Luxurious Amenities and ‘Hot’ Neighborhoods
As always, buyers—particularly those at the upper end of the pricing scale – want more amenities. Henckels says that millennials in particular want “ease of life.” “We used to think of New York as being made up of many little neighborhoods. Now, they want their neighborhood in their own building,” he says, meaning that apartment-seekers in that age demographic want a variety of services all under one roof.
Park says she’s seen a greater emphasis on “amenities that cater to families, pets and ultra-modern-day conveniences—over-the-top children’s playrooms, stroller parking, pet spas or indoor dog runs, wine-tasting rooms and squash courts. The developers have really had to step it up a notch to entice buyers and tenants.”
Gary Malin, president of the brokerage firm Citi Habitats, echoes Park’s assessment. “Many of today’s buildings offer residents a complete lifestyle. Lavish pools, fitness facilities and spas, plus screening rooms, playrooms, art studios and even golf simulators have become (no pun intended) par for the course.” He added that many high-end buyers are requesting units with “art walls,” meaning large, uninterrupted stretches of blank wall on which they can showcase their art collections.
What neighborhoods are considered hot today? Once again, the REBNY report gives us a clue. For example, in the fourth quarter, the average sales price of a condo in Midtown East increased by more than three times to $6,266,000 compared to the fourth quarter of 2015. This uptick, the report says, was largely driven by sales at 432 Park Ave., where there were 15 sales in the quarter.
Similarly, in Brooklyn, the average sales price of a Williamsburg condo increased 18 percent to $1,193,000. As in Manhattan, closings at one development—429 Kent Ave. – accounted for a large percentage of these sales, a whopping 72 units
And in Queens, Flushing saw the most condo activity, with 68 sales – an increase of 10 percent from the fourth quarter of 2015. The neighborhood with the most co-op unit sales was Rego Park/Forest Hills/Kew Gardens, which had 323 unit sales, a five percent increase from the fourth quarter of last year.
As far as value areas are concerned – areas where prospective buyers should be looking if they want to get the most of their money and retain high selling value down the road – the professionals interviewed for this story mentioned a variety of neighborhoods. These include the area near the Second Avenue subway, the East 50s near the East River, the old Fur District in the upper West 20s and lower West 30s in Manhattan, Greenpoint and Bushwick in Brooklyn, and Long Island City, Queens.
Grossman of Halstead Properties says the biggest value in the market today is not a particular neighborhood, but rather a type of apartment – co-op apartments. “[Cooperatives] are often in established neighborhoods, the apartment layouts are typically generous, and the monthly carrying costs can be very favorable. Compared to condominiums, they are very well-priced.”
He also has an interesting answer to the question of what constitutes a bargain in New York real estate: “A bargain,” he says, “is finding a home that you love living in.”
Going forward, industry insiders see the year 2017 as continuing the basic upbeat trend of 2016, with some stipulations.
Park believes that buyers will enjoy “a bit more breathing room, and the less frenzied pace of the market.” The ultra-luxury market, she says, will continue to see easing, but the market for properties at $2 million and under “will still remain busy because of the limited inventory, and perhaps a little pressure from rising interest rates.” Grossman says that “Buyers are definitely back in the market – but they are not overpaying, and they are looking for value.”
All in all, New York City will still be seen as one of the most attractive places to live in the country, if not the entire world. For 30 or more years, young professionals who were brought up in the suburbs have been moving back to the city, and there’s no indication that this trend has any intention of slowing down. In addition to young professionals and families, Baby Boomers often see living in the city as an attractive alternative to moving to Florida or Arizona. The city’s cultural attractions and high-profile industries are always a selling point, as is its 24-hour entertainment scene. And let’s not forget that, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, New York is still the safest big city in America.
Ranaan Geberer is a freelance writer and reporter, and a frequent contributor to The Cooperator.
U.S. News & World Report (07/29/2016) - 5 Financial Downfalls of Buying a Starter Home
5 Financial Downfalls of Buying a Starter Home
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Buying a starter home isn't for everyone. (GETTY IMAGES)
The traditional way of buying a house has always been to purchase a starter home – buy something small, and once your family gets too big for it, sell it and find a new, bigger house. It's a perfectly good plan, assuming everything goes to plan. But because a house involves so many financial factors, there's no guarantee that everything will work out as you'd hoped.
So before you purchase a starter home, keep these tips in mind.
Look for the loan, then the house. When you look for a house before looking for a loan, it's very easy to assume you can afford a bigger starter home than you can, fall in love with a place and then get disappointed when you can't swing it.
But even if you can afford it, it's simply smart to have your financing in place first, says Ori Zohar, co-founder of Sindeo, a mortgage brokerage and lender.
"Many deals fall apart because of delays in securing your home loan," Zohar says.
Rushing through a loan can also mean overpaying, Zohar adds.
It just makes sense, especially if this is your first home, to go through the process slowly. "For most of us, buying a home is the biggest financial decision of our lives," Zohar says.
Make sure you have a plan for selling the home. You're buying a starter home, which means you plan to move out at some point. Which also means you should be thinking about moving out even when you're moving in, according to Kylee Della Volpe, a writer and editor for Mortgages.com, a consumer website with information on mortgages, and buying and selling homes.
"One of the biggest mistakes we see people making with their starter homes is not having a long-term plan," Volpe says. "If it's truly a starter home, they should go into it with a plan for how long they want to be in the home and whether they'll sell it eventually or keep it as a rental."
After all, if you aren't paying attention, you could buy a starter house and have bad luck with your money situation, like getting into too much debt or having the primary earner lose his or her job. Either situation could bring down your credit score and make it harder to move out.
You also want to think about whether other people will find your home and neighborhood as charming as you do, if you're not planning to stay forever, Volpe advises.
"Be strategic about buying in an area that has the potential to grow over the time," she says.
Don't ignore the inspector's report. Many people get that report, notice a problem and then they shrug their shoulders and purchase the home anyway, according to Teisha Powell, a real estate attorney and agent in Miami, Florida.
Powell says she almost isn't even sure why first-time homebuyers, in particular, bother with getting a home inspector's report, given how many of them ignore the reports.
"For example, the report might say that the air conditioner is on its last leg. The first-time homebuyer will still end up purchasing the home," Powell says.
And why would they do that?
"They are so in love with the home and the idea of purchasing a home, that it won't matter what the inspection says," Powell says.
Then, later, when the air-conditioner actually breaks, homeowners get upset, Powell says.
She adds that if there are potential expenses that will come up sooner rather than later, you should negotiate the price further down to make up for the fact that you'll soon be replacing something or making improvements; if the seller isn't willing to negotiate, you should walk away.
Don't overlook the other financials. There's a lot more to buying a house than getting approval from a financial lender.
"One common theme I see among first-time homebuyers is underestimating closing costs and other additional expenses aside from the purchase price of the property," says Julie Park, a real estate agent with Level Group, a New York City real estate brokerage firm. "People need to consider moving expenses, potential repairs or renovations and the creep factor involved as things end up over budget."
She points out that your utilities or property tax might be far more than you expected. "These are all things that can make the difference between filet mignon or ramen noodles for dinner," she says.
Buying too big of a starter home. Some people buy the best starter home their money can buy – which brings trouble later, Powell says.
Going a little bigger than you should may not be a big deal if you love your starter home so much that you don't really care if you stay there for good. But if you want it to truly be a starter home, you need to think small. You also need to buy something very affordable.
"They buy as much home as they can, but this is not the home they want," Powell says of some first-time home buyers, explaining that if you go that route, your finances and credit can suffer because you're always cash poor. If you're always cash poor, you may see yourcredit score drop, and future lenders might see you as a risk for another, bigger home loan.
Or you may find that you over-invest in your starter home, making so many improvements that you feel like you can't justifiably sell it, or can't sell it for a profit. Before long, that starter home? It becomes a permanent home.
CRAIN'S (06/19/2016) - Cash Is Increasingly King When It Comes to Buying New York City Apartments
Cash Is Increasingly King When It Comes to Buying New York City Apartments
When showing an apartment at 585 Park Ave. in Manhattan recently, Vickey Barron, a licensed associate real estate broker for Douglas Elliman, mentioned the building only allows buyers to finance 30% of the purchase.
“We’re paying cash, so it doesn’t matter,” the buyer told her.
Many New York City brokers are having similar conversations with their clients. The percentage of condo sales in Manhattan that were all-cash in in April 2015 was 55%, according to appraisal firm Miller Samuels.
There are many reasons buyers prefer to pay cash for New York City real estate. The main one is to get an edge on competitors who are bidding on the same proprieties, say brokers. “It’s considered a seller’s market,” said Julie Park, a real estate agent with Level Group in Manhattan. “If they have a cash offer as opposed to a financing offer, 100% of the time they will go with the cash offer.”
The trend is sweeping all price points, from ultra-luxury apartments to deals under $1 million, brokers say. Sandy Edry, a licensed real estate salesperson at Keller Williams NYC in New York City, said he is seeing more cash deals than at any point in the past 10 years. At a condo conversion his team is selling at 69 Bennett Ave. in the Washington Heights area, at 184th Street, he said, about five of the 15 units that are closing are all cash.
“In the last year, where so many people were losing out on bidding wars, cash just became so important that I think a lot of people did whatever they could to pull the money together,” said Edry. “I’ve seen instances where people have borrowed the money from family,” he said. After they closed on the apartment, they obtained financing to pay back the loan, he said.
There are strategic financial reasons buyers want to pay cash, as well. Some don’t want to pay interest on a mortgage, for instance. Barron’s client who viewed the Park Avenue apartment is among them. “He is a Harvard graduate from the Upper East Side,” said Barron. “He does not invest in stocks. He has the money sitting in the bank. Why would he pay even 3% interest if he doesn’t have to?”
Barron has other clients who don’t want to deal with the reams of paperwork involved in getting a mortgage. “Some say, `I don’t want the hassle to apply for a mortgage. I’m too busy. I’m running my own company,’” said Barron.
Some buyers want to avoid the steep mortgage-recording tax in Manhattan by not getting a mortgage, said James Cox Jr., an associate broker at Cox and Co., his group at Compass, who sells properties in the Upper West Side, Tribeca and in Brooklyn Heights. The tax is about 1.8% of the closing price for loans under $500,000, and 1.925% of deals above that. On a $3 million purchase, for instance, the tax would be $57,750.
“It’s a big consideration for some people,” said Cox. “Certainly, your closing costs can become substantially less.”
Foreign buyers are another key group of cash buyers. It can be difficult for them to get a mortgage.
Two years ago, Edry sold a 90-unit project in Flushing, Queens, where he estimates that 80% of buyers paid cash. Most were Chinese. “I think it’s indicative of the fact that a lot of folks are trying to get their money out of China into investments,” Edry said.
Many of the buyers from China who are paying cash today are not ultra-wealthy, he said. “This is upper middle-class money,” he said. “The billionaires have already moved their money out of China for the most part.”
Of course, there can be nefarious reasons international buyers want to pay cash, too, particularly at the very high end of the market. The U.S. Treasury Department announced early this year that it would require real estate companies to provide the names of foreign buyers of properties in Manhattan and Miami who use shell companies such as LLCs to purchase them, in an anti-money laundering effort. The move is designed to prevent buyers from using money earned in illicit activities from buying real estate with it.
And even when cash deals are on the up-and-up, not all brokers relish them.
“My experience is that all-cash, quick-to-close deals rarely translate into exactly that,” said Cox, whose cash buyers have ranged from an NFL quarterback to a couple buying a $1.5 million home. “They can be more of a pain-in-the-neck than another deal that’s financed. At least when there is financing, there is a process. They have an appraisal, a period of time when they have to get their documentation in, a commitment letter and then you close.”
Cox has recently been working on an all-cash deal that he says has become “utterly frustrating.”
“I just sent a letter to the broker: You promised an all-cash, quick-close deal. A financed deal would have been closed by now,” he said. “I think the cash buyer feels once they have the contract they have a lot of extra power and can jerk you around.”
Ultimately, though, cash buyers have a powerful incentive to close, he adds. Buyers and sellers can only push the closing date by 30 days in New York. “The only thing I can tell my seller is that we’ll close by July 2 or they will forego their $320,000 deposit,” said Cox. “We’ll close. I’m sure of it.”
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Real Estate Weekly (05/13/2016) - NEW SUBWAY LINE ALREADY IMPACTING HOME PRICES ALONG SECOND AVENUE
- NEW SUBWAY LINE ALREADY IMPACTING HOME PRICES ALONG SECOND AVENUE
New subway line already impacting home prices along Second Avenue
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The Second Avenue Subway line, long derided as fantasy by New Yorkers who had seen plans for construction stall and linger for decades, finally has an end date in sight — and it’s poised to shake things up for the Upper East Side.
Areas of the neighborhood became affordable again in the past few years, as more and more people left for sought-after enclaves further downtown and in Brooklyn and Queens.
Perhaps the most affordable area is Yorkville, between 3rd Avenue and FDR Drive, and bounded on the North by 97th Street and on the South side by 79th Street.
The T train, as the new light blue subway line will be named, along with an extended Q train line, will cut right through Yorkville along Second Avenue, providing much-needed relief for straphangers who take the 4,5 and 6 lines – some of the most overcrowded trains in the subway system.
VIEW FROM INSIDE THE SECOND AVENUE SUBWAY TUNNEL IN MAY 2014. PHOTO BY HOLLY DUTTON
While some brokers are split on whether transportation can make or break a neighborhood, they agree that it can be an important influence.
“The Second Avenue construction has been a nightmare,” said Ana Weisberger, an agent with Citi Habitats who has done much of her business on the Upper East Side in the past four years.
Despite the headaches, she has seen residential prices rising in the last two years, including properties on Second Avenue. She’s seen a roughly 20 percent increase in prices among high-end properties, and a 12-15 percent increase in buildings further East from Second Avenue.
“That’s huge in my opinion, because construction is not even done yet,” she said.
Weisberger recalled a couple who bought an apartment on 82nd Street between First and Second Avenues for $499,000 in 2014. Similar apartments at the building are now being listed at $530,000 to $550,000.
The couple wanted to sell the apartment, but she talked them out of it.
“If you want to buy there, I think you should hold off at least until the subway is done,” she said.
She pointed to condo building The Knickerbocker on 72nd Street and Second Avenue, where average price per square foot rose from 1,000 to 1,300 p/s/f in just a two year period, as a barometer of what’s going on the neighborhood.
Weisberger, who lives in the Hudson Yards area, is looking to buy in Yorkville herself this year.
“The Upper East Side has been a dream,” she said. “I wanted quiet, like East End Avenue and York Avenue, and the subway is just a plus. But I do want to get in before it’s finished.”
According to the MTA, Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway — an extension of the Q train up to 96th Street — is slated to begin this December, while Phase 2 is being fast-tracked by MTA officials, who are have been trying to secure funding for it.
While the subway has been under construction, traffic and scaffolding along the avenue has been a constant fixture. Once that is gone, the benefit for retailers who have been hidden will add another layer to the real estate scene.
And developers are paying attention, too.
Daniel Minkowitz, head of Mink Development, is building a luxury condo building on East 96th Street and Second Avenue. His firm purchased the site, previously a parking garage, in 2014, for $24 million. They are knocking down the parking garage to construct a 75,000 s/f property that will have 48 units.
“This project fills a huge gap in an underserved market with affordable luxury,” said Minkowitz in a statement. “We had vision. The Second Avenue subway is now becoming a reality and the low price we purchased the land for, in retrospect, now makes it a phenomenal deal.”
Julie Park, an agent with Level Group, has lived on the Upper East Side for more than 15 years. She lives at the Saratoga, a condo building at 75th Street and First Avenue, and has had a front row seat to the changes in the neighborhood.
She first moved there in 2000, and the Second Avenue construction began at the same time she moved from a career in banking to one in residential real estate.
“It was at the height of the downturn, unfortunately, when they started the construction,” she told Broker’s Weekly. “It seemed that amid all the blasting and dust, I couldn’t give away an apartment along 2nd Avenue.”
She recalled a friend at the time who had to chop the price of her home almost 30 percent to unload it, and lost money in the deal.
“Now, anything in that same area is seeing premium built into the price, especially closer to the main hubs of transit,” said Park.
She’s seen prices accelerate rapidly in the past year — including the price of one bedrooms, which went from averaging in the mid-$700,000’s, to averaging in at $900,000.
“We are in a very strong market, with low inventory, so I think part of it is that the far Upper East Side has been undervalued over the past decade or two and people are starting to feel the lack of inventory downtown, and a lot of people are expanding their search criteria to include the Upper East Side, because you can still get value in the neighborhood,” she said.
According to Streeteasy, average price per square foot in Yorkville is $1,750, one of the lowest on the Upper East Side compared to Lenox Hill ($2,841), Carnegie Hill ($2,471) and the Upper East Side as a whole ($2,496). Only Upper Carnegie Hill, a 10-block geographic area between 98th and 110th Street along Central Park, had a lower average price per square foot ($1,628).
“I think there’s only room to go up,” said Park. “The worst is over, the blasting and major construction is completed, and people and sellers who have already lived through that can only benefit from the price increases we’ll see going forward.”
But it’s not just the addition of the new subway line that changed people’s minds – the popularity of apps like Uber and Lyft have made living in areas further from the subway seem not so isolating, said Park.
That sentiment is echoed by New York Residence, Inc. founder Thomas Guss, who has been in NYC real estate since 2003. A native of Vienna, Austria, he primarily works with international clients, many of whom seek apartments on the Upper East Side.
“The subway alone doesn’t make or break an area,” said Guss. “The Lower East Side didn’t have a subway for a long time, but a lot of people decided it’s a cool place to live. As a result, the area became interesting. A lot of that might happen in Yorkville.”
Young people looking for affordable options in Manhattan have been finding luck on the far Upper East Side in the past couple of years, and the retail scene responds to that, he said.
While it’s clear that real estate prices are quickly rising and the subway is already bringing a renewed interest in the neighborhood, it remains to be seen just how much things will change.
“Now comes the subway, now you can get there faster than before, but the equation becomes, do you want to go there? You have to have a reason,” said Guss. “So now it’s interesting to see you have more restaurants coming up and more shops set up there, and of course the subway has some element to that, but I don’t think it’s the only driving force. I think young people want to find an area where they can do things to make the area their own.”