April 27, 2020

HQ2 for AMZN

Amazon expected to announce NYC and Northern Virginia as new headquarters (Hacker News)

Amazon's Move to Long Island City Sparks Condo Frenzy


February 3, 2018

Measuring racial segregation, homeownership rates, home values since 1940

Drawn in cities across the country to separate "hazardous" and "declining" from "desirable" and "best," codified patterns of racial segregation and disparities in access to credit. Now economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, analyzing data from recently digitized copies of those maps, show that the consequences lasted for decades.

As recently as 2010, they find, differences in the level of racial segregation, homeownership rates, home values and credit scores were still apparent where these boundaries were drawn.

Continue reading "Measuring racial segregation, homeownership rates, home values since 1940" »

January 24, 2018


Complain about the doorman service to my management company;
but also be super nice to the doormen because my luxury building is giving jobs to the local community;
but also make sure to leave a bad review on the management company's website so people avoid renting an apartment in my luxury building,
which in turn might make my luxury building's rent prices go down
and thus making it more accessible to the local community to get a place there at an affordable rate
and then getting the snobby tenants to complain about the new tenants using the common washer/dryer for their entire family
and how they have very loud music,
eventually getting so annoyed they will not renew their lease
and force them to seek out a fancier luxury building in which to live,
resulting in even lower rents in my luxury building,
rendering my luxury building a luxury building for the people.


August 16, 2017

GSEs took better care of foreclosed homes in working- and middle-class white areas than of equivalent homes in black and Latino communities ?

The mortgage crisis that ravaged the economy eight years ago was especially damaging to African-American communities, where homeowners who qualified for affordable mortgages were often steered into high-priced loans that paid rich returns to mortgage brokers and lenders while leaving borrowers vulnerable to default.

The ensuing glut of vacant homes drove down property values almost everywhere. But minority communities suffered disproportionately, widening the already considerable wealth gap between white and minority households.

One big reason for these disparities, according to a federal lawsuit filed by a coalition of fair housing groups, was that companies like the mortgage giant Fannie Mae took better care of foreclosed homes in working- and middle-class white areas than of equivalent homes in black and Latino communities. The plaintiffs, led by the National Fair Housing Alliance, say they reported this problem as early as 2009 and that they filed suit against Fannie Mae only after it continued to neglect foreclosed properties it owned in African-American and Latino neighborhoods.

Continue reading "GSEs took better care of foreclosed homes in working- and middle-class white areas than of equivalent homes in black and Latino communities ?" »

July 31, 2017

McMansion is logical progression

Housing has always been governed by a simple rule: As people become richer, they spend more money on their homes.... Spending more money has usually meant making the home bigger.

This happened in Renaissance Italy, 17th-century Holland, and 19th-century England. It also happened in the prosperous second half of the 20th century in the United States.

Some statistics: In 1950 the median size of a new house was 800 square feet; by 1970 this had increased to 1,300; 20 years later it had grown to 1,900; and in 2003 it stood at 2,100. More than one-third of new houses built today exceed 2,400 square feet.

-- reason

Continue reading "McMansion is logical progression" »

July 26, 2017

McMansion / Harvard Joint

People who are shopping for homes in a certain neighborhood expect certain amenities in those homes, says Kermit Baker, director of the remodeling futures program at Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies.

"If you're not keeping up with other homes in the neighborhood, you may have home buyers walk away from it. There's a limited number of folks who want to buy assuming they're going to have to do a significant remodeling project".

-- 2007

Continue reading "McMansion / Harvard Joint" »

July 25, 2017

I bought a house in humilty

I bought a house about two years ago. I got preapproved for a fixed rate loan and then found the home. My lender was absolutly amazed that I bought a home for significantly less than the amount for which I qualified. Said he's never seen that and that, in fact, people often come back needing the loan amount increased. McMansions are going up all around my pre-war bunglaow. I think Americans are crazy.

Hecate. (dead link ) Modern Pict | 04.03.2005

July 20, 2017

FHFA's rules: "very low-, low-, and moderate-income" defined

The FHFA's rule defines the terms "very low-, low-, and moderate-income":

The term ''low-income'' means--(A) in the case of owner-occupied units, income not in excess of 80 percent of area median income; and(B) in the case of rental units, income not in excess of 80 percent of area median income, with adjustments for smaller and larger families

The term ''moderate-income'' means-- (A) in the case of owner-occupied units, income not in excess of area median income; and (B) in the case of rental units, income not in excess of area median income, with adjustments for smaller and larger families

The term ''very low-income'' means-- (i) in the case of owner-occupied units, families having incomes not greater than 50 percent of the area median income; and (ii) in the case of rental units, families having incomes not greater than 50 percent of the area median income

July 3, 2017

McMansions became the ultimate symbol of living beyond one's means. Unlike your standard mansion, McMansions aren't just large -- they are tackily so. Looming over too-small lots, these cookie-cutter houses are often decked out with ersatz details, like ch

McMansions became the ultimate symbol of living beyond one's means. Unlike your standard mansion, McMansions aren't just large -- they are tackily so. Looming over too-small lots, these cookie-cutter houses are often decked out with ersatz details, like chandeliers and foam-filled columns. While their features mean they can command a decent price, many of these houses are shoddily built.

Since a "McMansion" is in the eye of the beholder, Zillow doesn't have a targeted way of tracking them nationwide. For this article and the video above, they approximated the category by focusing on houses built after 1980 that were greater than 3,000 square feet but less than 5,000 square feet. They also looked for houses located on streets where the homes are similarly sized, on similarly sized lots, and built within six years of each other, to isolate cookie-cutter communities.

A culture of house flipping helped to quantify certain home improvements, like the addition of colossal marble islands and palatial foyers designed to grab the attention of buyers. That gave these houses even more of a cookie-cutter feel.

Architecture critic Kate Wagner has dedicated her website, McMansion Hell, to explaining why these houses rub people the wrong way.

June 23, 2017

McMansions no more (Leigh County, PA)

Bethlehem Township developer Abraham Atiyeh announced two weeks ago that he's building a downtown Bethlehem development of town homes starting at $129,000, and national builder Pulte Homes has halted its large-home building in the area and last winter began marketing a new home, called "The Lehigh", with 1,050 square feet and starting price of $139,000.

McMansions No More ** Fewer behemoth homes may be built in the Lehigh Valley as turmoil in the housing market opens the door for smaller, more affordable living
Morning Call - Allentown, Pa.
Author: Matt Assad
Date: May 25, 2008
Start Page: A.1
Section: National
Text Word Count: 2299

[Via McAll]

More: McMansions.

January 31, 2017

New York City Has Been Zoned to Segregate

New York City Has Been Zoned to Segregate
A new book argues that poor communities of color are hurt by the city's zoning and housing policies.

Today, historical color lines are being redrawn through a concentration of wealth and the displacement of communities of color. In New York, that phenomenon may be spurred in part by the city's well-intentioned land-use policies. Various types of rezoning--upzoning and mixed-use zoning, for example--have inadvertently but disproportionately harmed poor neighborhoods. That's the central argument of Zoned Out!, a new book edited by Tom Angotti, an urban planning professor at the City University of New York, and housing advocate Sylvia Morse.

we talk about in the book is the watering down of the word "affordable." Affordable housing used to imply that it was housing for people who had less money, who needed help affording housing. Now, it basically means anything that meets the federal guidelines for rent not costing more than 30 percent of household income, and really there's a lot of room to obscure which groups you're serving through affordable housing. I think that's a very New York City-specific context. Of course, we still have the old school, low-density NIMBYism, which we talk about [in the book].

Continue reading "New York City Has Been Zoned to Segregate" »

May 15, 2016

Great Peconic Bay

"Brooklynites get the North Fork, period."

-- Sheri Winter Clarry, an associate broker with the Corcoran Group Real Estate on the North Fork in Southold, also attributed the uptick in buyers from Brooklyn to the region's "laid back, chilled vibe" and its growing status as a family-friendly second-home haven for foodies and oenophiles.


The magnets that draw city dwellers include the area's burgeoning farm-to-table movement, new craft breweries and distilleries, wineries, farm stands, antiques shops and seasonal agri-tainment activities like apple-, berry- and pumpkin-picking. Niche farms offer locally raised meat, goat cheese, organic greens and hops for making beer.

"Farms have upped their game like crazy, vineyards have upped their game, restaurants have upped their game," Ms. Clarry said. "It's really translated into the North Fork coming into its own. The food industry has helped people not just day-trip, but fall in love with it and move out here."

March 25, 2016

Suburban Jungle

"Neither of us really wanted to live in the suburbs," he said. They came across Suburban Jungle while attending a baby industry event last May and spent an hour and a half on the phone with a consultant who sent them town reports on Harrison and Rye in Westchester County and Darien and Greenwich in Fairfield County.

"They could tell us more than a broker is legally allowed to tell us," Mr. Allen said. "Because they were moms living there with their kids," he added, the strategists not only knew which areas were zoned for good public middle schools, "they knew which roads you don't want to live on because the traffic is heavy." He added, "It was like getting an insider's perspective."

After ruling out Westchester because of high taxes, they narrowed their search to Old Greenwich for its "proper Main Street," good schools and proximity to the water.

Continue reading "Suburban Jungle" »

March 11, 2016

Trulia maps for choosing a neighborhood

Educated yet ? Via

Northern Queens, how good it is ? Flushing, East Flushing, Murray Hill, Auburndale, Oakland Gardens ?

January 21, 2016

FDIC's Signs of predatory lending

Signs of predatory lending include the lack of a fair exchange of value or loan pricing that reaches beyond the risk that a borrower represents or other customary standards.

  • Furthermore, as outlined in the interagency Expanded Examination Guidance for Subprime Lending Programs,1 "predatory lending involves at least one, and perhaps all three, of the following elements:

    Making unaffordable loans based on the assets of the borrower rather than on the borrower's ability to repay an obligation;

  • Inducing a borrower to refinance a loan repeatedly in order to charge high points and fees each time the loan is refinanced ("loan flipping"); or

  • Engaging in fraud or deception to conceal the true nature of the loan obligation, or ancillary products, from an unsuspecting or unsophisticated borrower."

January 16, 2016

Caliber mortgage loan modification

Lone Star and its Caliber unit have become a magnet of criticism from housing advocates and housing lawyers who complain that the companies are too quick to foreclose on delinquent borrowers or to refuse to negotiate with borrowers over terms of plans to make loans more affordable.

The private equity firm's practices in dealing with delinquent borrowers was the subject of a recent front-page article in The New York Times.

In particular, critics have taken issue with Caliber's standard loan modification that temporarily reduces a borrower's payments for five years but then reverts back to the original payment terms in the sixth year, often with all the deferred payments added to the back end of the loan. The critics contend the temporary modifications merely enable Caliber to begin collecting payments on a loan that has been delinquent for many months or years, but provide no permanent relief to a borrower whose income has declined because of a financial crisis.

Ellie Pepper, an employee of the Empire Justice Center and regional coordinator for the attorney general's homeownership protection program, said the center had worked with a number of borrowers who have been presented with a temporary five-year loan modification from Caliber.

January 9, 2016

KonMari: Philosophy of household goods at rest or in service

Discard everything that does not "spark joy," after thanking the objects that are getting the heave-ho for their service; and do not buy organizing equipment -- your home already has all the storage you need.

She proposes a similarly agreeable technique for hanging clothing. Hang up anything that looks happier hung up, and arrange like with like, working from left to right, with dark, heavy clothing on the left: "Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type, and therefore organizing them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure."

Smaller, English-only under-titles:

Such anthropomorphism and nondualism, so familiar in Japanese culture, as Leonard Koren, a design theorist who has written extensively on Japanese aesthetics, told me recently, was an epiphany to this Westerner. In Japan, a hyper-awareness, even reverence, for objects is a rational response to geography, said Mr. Koren, who spent 10 years there and is the author of "Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers."

Continue reading "KonMari: Philosophy of household goods at rest or in service" »

January 7, 2016

Clayton Homes vs Buzzfeed, Part 3

Seattle Times' business' real estate's minorities exploited by Warren Buffett's mobile home empire -- Clayton Homes.

Mike Baker and Daniel Wagner write in The Seattle Times / BuzzFeed News.

Compared to peers, Vanderbilt charges minorities the most

Clayton Mortgage Pricing Comparison.png

Under federal rules, a lender making a "higher-priced" loan must disclose data about its interest rate. Among the 25 companies that originated at least 500 such mobile-home loans over the past five years, Clayton Homes' Vanderbilt Mortgage gave the highest rates to minority borrowers as compared to whites.

Continue reading "Clayton Homes vs Buzzfeed, Part 3" »

January 4, 2016

Clayton Homes 2

2. Single Parent Programs:


Previously: 1: Clayton Homes vs Buzzfeed

January 3, 2016

Clayton Homes vs Buzzfeed

Reporting Mischaracterizes Clayton Homes' Treatment of Customers and Employees
Company Serves Underserved Markets, Making Homeownership Affordable

We categorically and adamantly deny discriminating against customers or team members based on race or ethnicity as Dan Wagner and Mike Baker insinuate in an article published by The Seattle Times and BuzzFeed. In fact, our company is committed to building on our track record of helping individuals and families from all walks of life, including people in historically underserved markets, achieve the American dream of home ownership.

Gawker chimes in.


  1. Clayton homes 2

  2. FDIC's signs of predatory lending

  3. Clayton Homes vs Buzzfeed, Part 3

  4. d

Continue reading "Clayton Homes vs Buzzfeed" »

December 29, 2015

Branding and the SOHO neologism: Solo District by Appia Group

'At the corner of Lougheed Hwy and Willingdon Ave, Burnaby, BC' or 'SOLO' South of Lougheed ?

Solo District by Appia Group offers aspirational branding for their planned mixed use infill community development.

Included with the first building is a Whole Foods store, which, if history is prologue, bodes well for Solo District and the surrounding area. In the U.S., they call it the Whole Foods effect: wherever the Texas-based organic food chain locates a store, prices for surrounding real estate jump. The debate continues over whether those prices rise because of Whole Foods' presence, or because the chain is good at selecting markets where the future is bright. In any case, no one questions that Whole Foods is a desirable amenity.

Continue reading "Branding and the SOHO neologism: Solo District by Appia Group" »

November 9, 2015

Millennial stealth dorms ruining Texas cities -- Citylab

Citylab reports millennial stealth dorms are ruining Texas cities.

Center: ZIP code 78751

In 2000, there were 3,723 higher ed students in 78751 (the area seemingly most affected by 'stealth dorms'). The total population in 2000 for 78751 was 14,005. So, the area was 27% students. In 2011, there were 4,760 higher ed students; the total population was 14,526. The area was 33% students. So, if you are a resident of 78751, of the sixteen people living closest to you one went from being a non-student to a college student. And by the way, four of the sixteen of them were already students. That is what is being described as 'bleeding' a neighborhood.

March 21, 2015

Mapping NYC's growth

Mapping how NYC's housing market spurs population change.

CHPC NY's making neighborhoods map.

November 9, 2014

Redfin chasing, catching Zillow

Some competitors like Redfin could one day assemble better data then Zillow because they have on the ground coverage and better data access through their network of real estate agents.

September 18, 2014

Where to live ?

Since 1950, the disparity between incomes and home prices has steadily widened to the point that many urban areas have become largely unaffordable to the middle-class workers who once inhabited them. Economists at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia have coined the term "superstar cities" to refer to the likes of New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston. "Even large metropolitan areas might evolve into communities that are affordable only by the rich, just [like] exclusive resort areas," wrote the economists Joseph Gyourko, Christopher Mayer and Todd Sinai in a 2013 article.

As the superstar cities have become unattainable, the middle class is increasingly finding refuge in places like Philadelphia or Nashville, Denver or Charlotte, N.C. An example of "the people who are getting killed," Renn said, "is the old traditional blue-collar Queens person who's now getting squeezed with taxes and with housing costs. It's clear they don't fit into the vision of the city. They're basically realizing, Hey, I can go to Charlotte and live like a king on a truck driver's salary."

Continue reading "Where to live ?" »

September 14, 2014

Tony or hip Bushwick wins two ways

Ryan Jensen, a stay-at-home father and part-time photographer with a second child on the way, was priced out of East Williamsburg and now rents a three-bedroom in Bushwick that is about a 15-minute walk from the L train. "We're the leading edge of gentrification," he said. "We're the people willing to be in these areas where there isn't transportation, or where our kid may be the only white kid in the school, or where there aren't amenities. We have delis, and that's about it."

Continue reading "Tony or hip Bushwick wins two ways" »

September 7, 2014

China's Campaign to Turn Working Women into Wifeys

China's Totally Misguided Campaign to Turn Working Women into Wifeys

Why China's leaders would want to push a generation of professional women back into the home at a time when Japan and South Korea are desperately trying to leverage the economic potential of women workers. At the World Economic Forum in January, for example, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted that increasing women's labor participation could boost Japan's GDP by as much as 16 percent. Other studies suggest that restricting job opportunities for women costs Asia $46 billion a year.

The answer, argues sociologist Leta Hong Fincher, lies in the Chinese government's determination to maintain social order at all costs, a subject she explores in her forthcoming book, Leftover Women. The book's title refers to a pejorative term, sheng nu, used by the government to describe unmarried women in their mid- to late-20s. Fincher argues that the "leftover women" campaign -- comprised of media propaganda, mass matchmaking events, and bogus studies about the debilitating effects of singledom -- are one piece of a larger state effort to control women, and society, through economic and cultural means.

July 31, 2013

Middle class is $140k for NY renters

Davidson admits that eliminating rent controls would likely drive everyone who makes less than $90,000 out of Manhattan, which he says would not be healthy for the city, but then he claims that it would be "great" for the middle class. This makes sense if he's defining "middle class" as an income in the low-mid six figures, visualizing all the fantastically located apartments in Manhattan and brownstone Brooklyn occupied by rent-regulated peasants, and imagining that a mass eviction would open up many more choices on the market and might even enable him to snag a place for $3,300 instead of $3,750.)
Curiously, the real-estate lobby has yet to advocate for the tax increases necessary to adequately fund the federal Section 8 rent-subsidy program, which has been closed to new applicants here since 2009 and generally won't help pay for a two-bedroom apartment that costs more than $1,474.

Continue reading "Middle class is $140k for NY renters" »

June 13, 2013

Lower East Side's south side is quiet

The Lower East Side, whose tenements teemed with immigrants for generations beginning in the 19th century, has in recent years become known north of Delancey Street for crowds of a different sort: the whooping revelers who stream down its streets and cascade from its scores of bars, restaurants and falafel shops on weekends. Indeed, the density of raucous nightspots has earned the nickname Hell Square for the area between East Houston and Delancey from Allen Street east to the Delancey, a club near Clinton Street.


Below Delancey, however, a quieter, more residential atmosphere prevails.

"When you cross south over Delancey you feel your blood pressure go down," said Para Rajparia, a psychologist, who moved into a three-bedroom Grand Street co-op in 2010 with her young family, joining the many other young professionals who have recently put down roots in the area. "I have a sense of safety and comfort."

Although new night-life attractions have begun pushing south down Ludlow Street from Delancey, they do not for the most part extend below Grand, leaving intact, at least for now, a certain low-key authenticity that many residents say they prize.

Continue reading "Lower East Side's south side is quiet" »

April 23, 2013

saving old buildings and neighborhoods is essential to the continued vitality of great cities

In the early 1990s, Shanghai organized a special economic zone that led to the development of a financial hub in Pudong, on land previously occupied by warehouses and wharves. Towers sprouted to create an instant iconic skyline, but with a regrettable, scaleless urban moonscape below.

Should we in New York in 2013 emulate the Shanghai of the 1990s? Or should we heed the lesson the Chinese themselves have subsequently learned, that saving old buildings and neighborhoods is essential to the continued vitality of great cities? In Shanghai, the pre-World War II buildings along the Bund, which loom so very large in the city's appeal, have been saved and repurposed. Nearby, at Xintiandi, a historic residential neighborhood of stone houses and tight alleys has been transformed into a chic, walkable retail and entertainment district.

Terminal City, a sophisticated mix of hotels, clubs, office buildings and residential blocks at the heart of East Midtown, was built on platforms bridging the rail yards north of Grand Central. It was a bold plan to create valuable real estate where once there had been urban blight. As much as anything, this development created what the world knows today as Midtown Manhattan.

-- Robert A. M. Stern

Continue reading "saving old buildings and neighborhoods is essential to the continued vitality of great cities" »

April 13, 2013

Co-ops rent some units for the benefit of all

A lucrative ground-floor lease can add 10 percent or more to the value of an apartment, residential brokers say. A sprawling two-bedroom loft at 464 Broome Street in SoHo, New York, for example, is in contract for $3.22 million, nearly 10 percent over its asking price, in large part because the listing not only offers no maintenance but provides its shareholders with $20,000 a year in income.

"The building has just eight apartments," said Henry Hershkowitz, a broker at Douglas Elliman who represented the seller, "so the revenues from the two stores on the ground floor cover the real estate taxes, the building's upkeep, even a full-time super, and then there is money left over for an annual dividend."

An apartment of this size in SoHo would typically come with a monthly maintenance of $2,400, said Robert Dankner, the president of Prime Manhattan Residential, which represented the buyer. When $20,000 a year in dividends is added to the nearly $30,000 saved in maintenance, there is a net savings of close to $50,000 a year, he noted.

As Mr. Dankner put it: "Depending on how you model it, it would take $750,000 earning a 6.5 percent interest to get that kind of return. Or, if they live there for 10 years, they save themselves half a million dollars. If you think of it from this perspective, even with the bidding war and it selling for over ask, the apartment was undervalued."

Continue reading "Co-ops rent some units for the benefit of all" »

March 27, 2013

Clean as I've been

In the flowering of modernism between the end of the First World War and the beginning of the Second, architects forged a stainless-steel connection between housing and health. Victorian homes were a nightmare to them, a cesspit at any level of society: they were dark and stuffy; they were filled with carpets and hangings and ornate picture frames that harbored dirt and were difficult to clean; their primitive plumbing made it hard to bathe.

See Light, Air and Openness: Modern Architecture Between the Wars
By Paul Overy, reviewed by Edwin Heathcote.

The early modernists wanted to wash away this squalor with an ocean of shining chrome, tile and white plaster. Dirt-hoarding fabrics with grime-concealing patterns would be consigned to the efficient rubbish chutes. Furniture would be made from wipe-clean leather and steel. Generous windows and electric light would expose every speck of dirt. In "Light, Air and Openness," the architectural historian Paul Overy showed how the early modernists were obsessed with healthful living and influenced by the design of sanitariums.

The better home would lead to better people. Love of purity, in the words of the Swiss architect Le Corbusier, "leads to the joy of life: the pursuit of perfection." He was far from the first to tie minimalist hygiene in the home to moral purity. Adolf Loos famously connected decoration with degeneracy in his 1908 essay "Ornament and Crime." A person's soul could be cleansed only when his domestic surroundings were purged: "Soon the streets of the town will shine like white walls. ... Then fulfillment shall be ours."

Continue reading "Clean as I've been" »

March 23, 2013

Brooklynites, priced out of Williamsburg, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, are heading farther in. They are turning to neighborhoods like Sunset Park, Crown Heights, Bushwick and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens,

Many Brooklynites, priced out of Williamsburg, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, are heading farther in. They are turning to neighborhoods like Sunset Park, Crown Heights, Bushwick and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, bringing a willingness and an ability to pay more for housing than the waves of residents who came before them.

"What many clients have told me is that they like the old Brooklyn vibe of these up-and-coming areas," said Kristen Larkin, an agent with TOWN Residential. "They like the sense of community, friendliness of the neighbors, and the mom-and-pop shops that come along with it.

Continue reading "Brooklynites, priced out of Williamsburg, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, are heading farther in. They are turning to neighborhoods like Sunset Park, Crown Heights, Bushwick and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens," »

March 18, 2013

Real Estate title insurance: competitive ?

Title insurance rates vary considerably by state. In New York, insurers belong to a rating bureau that submits a rate schedule for state approval. Depending on the value of the property, costs can easily run into the thousands. On a $500,000 home with a $400,000 mortgage, for example, the premium in the New York City area would be $2,666, according to Rafael Castellanos, the managing partner of Expert Title Insurance Agency in Manhattan. "It's a bargain in the end given the protection title insurance provides," he said.

Yet for years, a debate has raged as to whether premiums are too high, competition too constrained, and the insurers too closely intertwined with the mortgage and real estate professionals who send business their way. Some states have looked into the arrangements between title insurers and referral sources, including New York. In 2006, two title insurers that account for half the New York market -- the Fidelity National Title Group and First American -- agreed to 15 percent rate reductions to settle state allegations of illegal referral payments and rebates.

Continue reading "Real Estate title insurance: competitive ?" »

March 11, 2013

Brooklyn Investor Loews $$L

Taxes: Oh yeah, and I haven't assumed any taxes on the above calculations. In recent years, unrealized gains seems to be offset by losses (note the deep discount to book value of CNA). So it would be a wash. Plus, these folks tend not to pay taxes. I think any monetization will come through spinoffs, exchanges and other tax efficient means. Part of the discount in L stock might be due to people applying 20% discounts to the value of publicly listed holdings for tax and liquidity. It may be the correct way to look at things, but I'm not convinced enough to put it in my valuations.

Conclusion: Anyway, this L is a really boring stock

Brooklyninvestor's Loews adjusted book value update.

Part 2 is up.

March 9, 2013

New amenity : linear drains

The residences will offer custom features like linear drains in showers (so the water rushes out faster), kitchen countertops with marble mined in Alabama, and design elements like a raised medallion on the walls of the bathrooms. There will be parking for 92 vehicles, 15,000 square feet of amenities in the basement (including a 75-foot pool), and two gas-powered generators with submarine doors on top of the building, which were added to the designs after Sandy.

The development also has 10 attached town houses, ranging from $8.75 million to $12.25 million, five of which have private garages. All but two are under contract. A five-bedroom duplex penthouse, with 2,500 square feet of outdoor space, is currently available for $35 million.

The sales velocity at 150 Charles has stunned all involved and created a mad scramble to adjust to the demand. Since Feb. 12, the development has raised the price of its offering plan nine times to $785.67 million, a boost of nearly 13 percent. (56 Leonard Street has raised prices three times, by a total of 4 percent.)

Still, 150 Charles is not beloved by all its neighbors. A group of West Village (NYC) residents is still fighting to stop the development, claiming the developer unlawfully tore down the original building at the site. They wanted Mr. Witkoff to construct a taller, narrower building (up to 32 stories), which he had the right to build, that would have blocked fewer views and allowed in more light. He chose instead to construct a shorter, wider building, supposedly because it was more in keeping with the character of the Village.

February 24, 2013

Land in New York is worth more today than at the peak of the market in 2007

Land in New York is worth more today than at the peak of the market in 2007, Mr. Knakal of Massey Knakal, a New York property sales company said. While the average price per square foot for a building lost 38 percent of its value from that time, the average price per square foot for land fell only about 18 percent, he said. Why the discrepancy? Not much land was for sale in 2009 and 2010, as sellers decided to ride out the market downturn and hold on to less sought-after sites, he said.

That has changed rather drastically in the past year with the surge in the number of development sites being sold. The big sales have not been confined to Manhattan. Last year Mr. Knakal brokered the $54 million sale of a 2.19-acre South Williamsburg, Brooklyn site zoned for residential units. The buyer was the government of China, in what Mr. Knakal said he believed was the first such transaction by a foreign-based buyer outside of Manhattan.

December 8, 2012

Real estate recovery in diversified cities.

Q. How would you categorize 2012?

A. Coming out of the recession the big gateway cities were the ones that performed best. That included New York, Washington, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles. That's where investors were willing to take risks. You had diverse employment base, better leased buildings, less risk of a double-dip micro recession.

So that's where we were -- and 2012 was a continuation of that.

Apartments were the darling real estate subsector. But what happened in 2012 was we saw apartment cap rates get too low in some of those markets -- south of 5 percent -- and so investors were looking to invest outside apartments and outside the gateway cities. We started seeing in 2012 an interest in the office asset class, the industrial asset class, and a little bit more interest in retail.

Q. Are there regions of the country where you see future growth?

A. The other 45 markets that are covered in our investors survey look like that's where all the opportunities are -- whether it be Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Texas markets like Austin, Houston and Dallas; Seattle; and Denver.

None of them is radically overbuilt from an office or apartment perspective. What's also interesting is those markets have a high percentage of echo boomers in their population -- the 25- to 34-year-olds. That's who's going to buy a house in the future, who's going to work in an office or retail or warehouse, or shop in retail

Continue reading "Real estate recovery in diversified cities." »

November 18, 2012

Marketing new condos in the best light

THE SQUARE FOOTAGE There are myriad ways to determine the square footage of an apartment. Some developers measure from the exterior walls, which adds unusable space to the figure. Others include outdoor space like a balcony, part of the exterior hallway or storage space -- even if the storage unit is in the basement. "That can add anywhere from 10 to 40 percent to a plan," said Dolly Lenz, a high-end broker at Prudential Douglas Elliman. "It's really problematic." To avoid ending up with a unit smaller than indicated in the marketing materials, make sure you understand exactly how your apartment is measured.

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September 3, 2012

b2b2c Zillow: how b2c becomes also b2b

Consumer Internet companies of the newer generation are doing even more. In many cases, the tools they are providing businesses resemble specialized versions of so-called customer relationship management services from companies like, which help businesses increase sales and keep track of communications with clients.

By moving in this direction, consumer Internet companies hope to tap potentially rich new sources of revenue, which could make them more attractive to investors. A company that gets business clients to depend on a broad set of its services can make it tougher for competitors to swipe its customers.

"You can't just sell advertising without being exposed to someone else undercutting you on price," said Spencer Rascoff, chief executive of Zillow. "If you sell ads plus services, you're in a more defensible position."

Bill Gurley, a Zillow board member and venture capitalist, has seen enough hybrid Internet companies that serve both businesses and consumers that he coined a term to describe them: B2B2C. "We're moving from a day and age where you're just a Web site to one where we're automating the connections between businesses and consumers," he said.

Mr. Gurley's firm, Benchmark Capital, has invested in several other companies he puts in that camp, including Uber, which offers a mobile app that lets consumers hail a town car and gives drivers a "heat map" highlighting the areas where they are most likely to find customers.

GrubHub, another one of his investments, lets consumers order takeout and delivery food from more than 15,000 restaurants online and through mobile apps. In many cases, the service uses a clunky system in which customer orders are sent to restaurants by fax and confirmed by phone.

Recently, though, GrubHub introduced a product called OrderHub that could allow it to become more entwined in restaurants' operations. OrderHub is a tablet computer running Google's Android operating system that lets restaurants receive orders electronically, confirm them with a couple of taps and improve the accuracy of delivery time estimates.

Continue reading "b2b2c Zillow: how b2c becomes also b2b" »

July 22, 2012

Tall building of New York: the first three centuries

These were buildings no taller than the Dakota, but in 1885 The New York Times urged restrictive legislation and darkly predicted that "if the streets were lined with eight-story buildings, half of the occupants would be deprived of sunlight, and their children would be etiolated like plants grown in a cellar." You can tell it's serious when The Times brings the kids into it.

As tall buildings grew in numbers, architects found themselves in a difficult position. In 1894 the prominent architect George B. Post denounced the skyscraper, as it was now freely called, as an "outrage." On the other hand the commission he received from his $2 million, 10-story New York World Building, on Park Row -- well, that put outrage in a certain perspective.

In 1897 The Record and Guide, alarmed by a proposal for a building 2,000 feet high, protested that New York was open "to attack from the audacious real estate owner" who cared nothing about robbing light from the neighbors, adding, "All that is needed is a barbarian with sufficient money and lunacy." The Chamber of Commerce, equally alarmed, supported legislation to severely restrict skyscrapers.

July 21, 2012

I think they meant downpayment

Renters don't have to lay down massive deposits, suffer the headache of dealing with condo and co-op boards, or pay taxes, common charges and big repair bills after signing away their savings.

High end renters.


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June 20, 2012

Brooklyn is booming

Brownstones are desirable.



June 10, 2012

Sod on top: green roofs save energy, sewage

Putting living vegetation on the roof is not a new idea. For thousands of years people have made sod roofs to protect and insulate their houses, keeping them cooler in summer and warmer in winter. The modern movement for green roofs began in the last 50 years in Europe. Germany, where about 10 percent of roofs are green, is the leader; some parts of Germany require green roofs on all new buildings.

Greening a roof is not simple or cheap. Over a black roof -- flat is easiest but sloped can work -- goes insulation, then a waterproof membrane, then a barrier to keep roots from poking holes in the membrane. On top of that there is a drainage layer, such as gravel or clay, then a mat to prevent erosion. Next is a lightweight soil (Chicago City Hall uses a blend of mulch, compost and spongy stuff) and finally, plants.

An extensive roof -- less than 6 inches of soil planted with hardy cover such as sedum -- can cost $15 per square foot. An intensive roof -- essentially a garden, with deeper soil and plants that require watering and weeding -- can double that. But because the vegetation is thicker, it will do a better job of cooling a building and collecting rainwater. Plants reduce sewer discharge in two ways. They retain rainfall, and what does run off is delayed until after the waters have peaked.

Continue reading "Sod on top: green roofs save energy, sewage" »

May 17, 2012

Price negotiation with real estate developers


The New York real estate market has tightened this spring, but buyers can still get good deals on new condos. Following are some tactics you might consider:

BE FIRST Developers want to kick-start sales to generate momentum, and they also need to sell a certain percentage of units to qualify the condominium as a functioning business entity.

BE LAST Especially if a project has been on the market for many months, the developer and brokers may offer discounts or incentives to unload the final few units.

ON THE MARGINS Smaller developments in emerging or out-of-the-way neighborhoods can be harder to sell. But if they meet your needs, there are bargains to be had.

BRING CASH Buyers who don't need financing contingencies in their contracts are a developer's dream.

RESPECT THE ASKING PRICE Developers are loath to offer price discounts because they lower the value of all other units. Instead, ask if some closing costs or legal fees could be covered.

May 9, 2012

Rogue HOA in Las Vegas

When a new development was nearing completion, the group would buy a couple of units in the community and then transfer partial ownership of the condos to individuals secretly on its payroll, according to court documents. While pretending to be residents of the communities, these "straw buyers" would run for leadership positions on boards of the new homeowner associations.

By paying off community managers, hiring private investigators to find dirt on legitimate candidates and rigging elections, the documents allege, the straw buyers were able to infiltrate boards at several new developments in Las Vegas from 2003 to 2008. Once in control of the boards, the straw buyers would then use their governing positions to steer millions of dollars in construction and legal fees back to their co-conspirators. Targets included the Chateau Nouveau, Chateau Versailles, Park Avenue, Palmilla Townhomes, Jasmine, Pebble Creek, Mission Ridge, Mission Pointe, Horizons at Seven Hills, Sunset Cliffs and the Vistana.

-- Felix Gillette, Businessweek

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May 5, 2012

Housing in better school district costs a $11,000 a year

A new study from the Brookings Institution quantifies that price gap, and the differences between the cost of living near a high-scoring public school and a low-performing one are striking.

The study, by Jonathan Rothwell, a senior research analyst in the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, found that housing costs in the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas were an average of 2.4 times as high - a difference of $11,000 a year - for homes near schools whose average test scores put them in the top fifth of schools in the area, compared with schools in the bottom fifth.

That means that a family would have to pay more per year to move into a good public school zone than for their children to attend some private schools. Translated into an average home price, the gap works out to an average of $205,000 more for a home near a high-performing school.

"We think of public education as being free, and we think of the main divide in education between public and private schools," Mr. Rothwell said in an interview. "But it turns out that it's actually very expensive to enroll your children in a high- scoring public school." Mr. Rothwell said that in the New York metropolitan area, for example, annual housing costs are $16,000 higher on average in neighborhoods near high-performing schools than in neighborhoods near low-performing schools,

Continue reading "Housing in better school district costs a $11,000 a year " »

April 26, 2012

Tight credit keeps would-be owners renters

Real estate evidence that rising rents are driving perspective renters into the sales market. But for those who find buying a home in New York City is not an option -- whether because of bad credit, tougher lending standards or lack of a down payment -- the choices are limited and often unappealing.

Landlords and brokers say more and more young people are sharing, even if it means sacrificing a living room to add a bedroom or two. There has also been a surge of interest in the other boroughs, with many neighborhoods reporting record rents of their own.

Some tenants may be able to negotiate with their landlords, especially if they are long-term renters with good track records. But property owners have little reason to cut deals, because the vacancy rate in Manhattan is hovering around 1 percent.

And just 2,229 rental apartments are scheduled to be added to the market this year in Manhattan, a 30 percent drop from the average number over the last seven years.

The uncoupling of the national economy from New York rents is not typical, said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel. "When you see rents rising, it is usually reflective of a strong economy," he said. "That is not the case now."

Instead, he said, prices are being driven up by a tight credit market that forces people to stay in the rental market and limits new construction.

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March 25, 2012

Harlem re-renaissance

Norman Horowitz, an executive vice president of Halstead Property who has sold several hundred properties over the last decade in Harlem, said, "Harlem was gentrifying before the recession, then there was a pause, and now the trend is picking up again."

Some experts caution, however, that a Harlem recovery could be destabilized if a backlog of foreclosed or distressed properties went on the market. While figures are hard to come by, "there is a lot of hidden inventory, where banks are just holding on to these units, but have yet to put them up for sale," said Willie Suggs, a well-known Harlem broker.

Some builders contend that prices are still too low to justify new development. "At $500 to $600 a square foot," said Michael K. Shah, the chief executive of DelShah Capital, a developer, "condo projects just don't pencil out yet." Prerecession condominium prices in Harlem were around $850 a square foot, he said, and until prices climb further, "there is just too slim a profit margin after factoring in the cost of construction and land -- I don't think you will see a lot of new development for at least another two to three years."

Still, some brokers and residents insist that this market rebound is meaningful.

The Downeses had been living in a three-bedroom condominium on West 119th Street for six years before their growing family created a need for more space.

"We looked all over the city," said Ms. Downes, an executive vice president of Pacific Investment Management Company, "but it was really hard to find any four-bedrooms for under $3 million." When they found the five-bedroom house around the corner on West 120th Street, they began a slow negotiation with the developer over the $2 million price tag.

"Then one weekend morning I was out walking my dog, and saw two couples looking at the house, talking about making offers come Monday," she said. "I went up to them and said, 'Oh, we are already in contract, that is my house.' " She and her husband, who works on Wall Street, quickly closed the deal and moved in earlier this year.

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March 17, 2012

Home office

Live-work real estate: Most spaces advertised as "home offices" are alcoves or windowless rooms that cannot legally be called bedrooms. The New York State Multiple Dwelling Law says rooms for sleeping must have at least 80 square feet of floor space, no measurement less than 8 feet, and window area that measures at least 12 square feet and is also at least a 10th of the area of the room. There are also rules about how much space needs to be between the window and the next lot. In addition, there are exceptions to this rule for some older buildings, according to an official at the New York City Department of Buildings.

A room that falls outside these parameters is given another name -- media room, den, library, dining room -- but more and more these days it becomes the home office.

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January 22, 2012

Bigger apartments for NYC

Mr. Walsdorf said that when Flank began selling condos at 385 West 12th Street, a building completed last year, buyers were interested in combining the smallish units, and "we hadn't really allowed for that possibility in the layouts." This time the firm decided to build large units and stuck to it, even after the financial collapse of 2008. (VillageCare, which operated the nursing home, agreed to sell the building in 2007 but was unable to move out until 2009.)

The conversion of public or institutional buildings into upper-class housing has a long history in New York. The former police headquarters at 240 Centre Street is a condo building, as are the former Y.M.C.A. on West 23rd Street and several former school buildings around the city. The onetime New York Lying-In Hospital, at 305 Second Avenue, is the Rutherford Place condos.

To housing advocates, those conversions represent a victory for the wealthy. Jerilyn Perine, the executive director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council, an advocacy group, said it was important that the city adopt regulations "so that denser housing, particularly for singles, has a fighting chance in the market." She added, "It's great to have people with a lot of money living here -- we need their taxes and spending power -- but the loss of density is tragic, especially where mass transit access is so great."

But at least in the case of the Village Nursing Home, the rich will not be the only beneficiaries. A few years ago, residents there were crammed into outdated rooms that averaged less than 300 square feet per person (current regulations require at least 500). VillageCare was able to build a more modern facility, the VillageCare Rehabilitation and Nursing Center at 214 West Houston Street, using money from the sale of the Hudson Street building. A spokesman for VillageCare, Lou Ganim, said residents remaining in the Village Nursing Home at the time it was sold were transferred to the new facility.

Indeed, sometimes preservation advocates look to condo developers as white knights. Since the Bialystoker Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation on East Broadway closed last year, Laurie Tobias Cohen, the executive director of the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, has been "extremely eager" for a developer to buy the historic building and convert it to co-ops or condos. The closing of the nursing home was a great loss, she said; the goal now is to prevent the demolition, or further deterioration, of the building. "What we don't want," she said, "is to lose any more of the built historic fabric."

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January 21, 2012

Commercial Real Estate (Re-)Finance, NYC Offices 2007-2012

Some deal detail:

Instead of foreclosing on the 39-story building, which stretches from 52nd Street to 53rd Street, the lenders agreed last month to reduce the principal and defer some of the interest payments on the interest-only loan and extend its maturity for two years, until February 2019. In exchange, Kushner and its powerful new partner in the deal, Vornado Realty Trust, agreed to pour tens of millions of dollars into the building to improve its leasing prospects. The 1.5-million-square feet office building is currently 30 percent vacant.

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January 15, 2012


Liquid Space is like an AirBnB for coworking space and real estate: blog.

Big in San Francisco, California and NY.

January 8, 2012

Lighting apartments

"You want to maximize the amount of times that daylight bounces inside the room," Mr. Tanteri said. To do so, he suggested using light colors that are "close to white" on ceilings, walls and floors, and avoiding glossy finishes. "Glossy surfaces can actually be a detriment because they can create glare," he said. "The safest finishes are matte finishes, because they reflect light in all directions."

¶ Mr. Steinberg also recommends using light hues, and offered specific paints. "Linen White by Benjamin Moore is a very reliable, sell-your-house coat of paint," he said. He suggested another Benjamin Moore color, Decorators White, for the ceiling and trim.

¶ On a related note, Mr. Tanteri said: "You don't want to cover the wall with dark hangings. Paintings and posters will absorb light."

¶ As for reducing light obstructions, "Orient objects in the room to promote the flow of daylight," he said. "So, things like bookshelves and partitions should be perpendicular to the window wall."

¶ Mr. Tanteri also says that light from the top of a window will reach the farthest into the apartment, so it is important not to block that part of the window with heavy blinds or drapery.

¶ He favors Venetian blinds because they provide solar control and can also redirect sunlight to the ceiling. "That's when you get deeper daylight penetration," he said. Another option: shades that travel from the bottom of the window upward, rather than top down. "That's something that works for daylight as well as privacy," he said.

¶ And you can supplement the sunlight with strategically placed light fixtures. "Use indirect lighting, aimed at the ceiling," Mr. Tanteri said. A torchier floor lamp near the back of the room could "take over where the daylight on the ceiling starts to fade away."

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December 10, 2011

Affordable housing and people can't afford it not coming to Darien, yet.

One remark was taken from a 2008 hearing on another affordable housing application, in which Mr. Conze referred to such housing as "a virus" that needed to be contained.

The other is from his State of the Town Address last December, when, speaking of the trend toward development of high-density housing along transportation corridors, Mr. Conze warned, "The demographic and economic forces generated by our immediate neighbors to our east and west cannot be taken lightly," adding that many people "view Darien, CT, as a housing opportunity regardless of its effect on the character of our town and existing home values."

Darien's neighbors to the east and west are the cities of Norwalk and Stamford. Mr. Hamer's complaint contrasts the 0.5 percent of Darien's population that is black with the roughly 22 percent in the bordering cities.

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September 21, 2011

Montclair, NJ

In Montclair, NJ, where there is a concerted emphasis on thinking of the town as one diverse whole -- children are bused to "magnet" schools, and the moniker "Upper" is discouraged as divisive -- several agents resisted comparisons of trends on the two sides of town.

"Sometimes people come in saying they only want to buy in the one ZIP code, 07043," said Linda Grotenstein, an agent at Coldwell Banker. "I usually find they have a misunderstanding of what the ZIP codes imply."

The housing stock is more homogeneous in the northern half: mostly well-groomed Victorians with three to six bedrooms. The south end has far greater range: everything from run-down, run-of-the-mill triplexes on narrow lots to peerless mansions on manicured grounds, in the "estate section."

In fact, by Mr. Baris's reckoning, the estate section in the southern part of Montclair has kept overall average sales value afloat. It had 42 listings this year, and 18 houses sold, at a median price of $1.218 million, 31 percent more than last year.

"If you took out the estate section," Mr. Baris said, "Montclair would have depreciated as a town."

In Millburn/Short Hills, Ms. Bigos ascribes the huge price disparity to the teardown craze that swept Short Hills starting in the late 1990s.

"That is when the spread started to widen," said Ms. Bigos, a lifelong resident of Short Hills. "All the new houses going up doubled and tripled in value."

Both Millburn and Montclair have Midtown Direct New Jersey Transit train service to Manhattan, which various reports have shown can increase property value by as much as 20 percent. Millburn has had it for 15 years, while the service arrived in Montclair seven years ago.

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July 17, 2011

New houses look old but offer utility and green features

IVY is creeping up the walls of the stone neo-Georgian Revival-style manor house on the harbor here. Towering old oak and pine trees and a 35-foot blue Atlas cedar punctuate its lushly landscaped lawn. The seven-bedroom residence, with arched dormers, a columned portico with a fluted cornice design, transom windows, a slate roof and a widow's walk with a Chippendale railing, looks as if it has been there for a century. It was finished last summer.

On an island where the traditional is king, most residences can easily be dated -- Capes to the postwar Levittown era; ranches, split levels and then high ranches in the '50s and '60s, cedar-sided contemporaries in the '80s, and during the McMansion boom in the late '90s, "colonials on steroids."

Over the last decade, many architects and builders have veered toward a more ageless, classic approach.

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July 16, 2011

Condo owners are screened, too

In the downturn, many owners stopped paying common charges, and condominiums had little recourse to recoup their money. In case of a default, the city is first in line to recover outstanding real estate taxes or other charges, followed by the mortgage lender. The condominium is third in line, and usually all it can do is file a lien against the property and hope that it will be repaid when the apartment is sold.

Because the condominium's power is limited, it is a matter of fiduciary duty to find strong buyers, said Carl Seligson, the board president of Carnegie Hill Tower, at 40 East 94th Street. In any given month, about three apartments in the 180-unit building have not paid their monthly charges on time; none have defaulted, he said.

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July 14, 2011

Screening tenants for credit and income

Most landlords in NYC require a lot of information. They want to see a prospective tenant's tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, proof of employment, photo identification, and sometimes, reference letters from previous landlords. Everyone will run a credit check (many Manhattan landlords look for a score above 700) and just about all, from big management firms to small-time landlords, want to know that your gross income is somewhere between 40 and 50 times the monthly rent.

Using that formula, someone renting an apartment for $3,000 a month must earn at least $120,000 a year.

"It mirrors the requirements used to qualify you for a mortgage," said Scott Walsh, the director of market research at TF Cornerstone, a property management and construction firm in Manhattan.

Apartment hunters should be ready to produce all of these documents. And, said Steve Maschi, a vice president of Glenwood, a Manhattan property management firm, prospective tenants should be ready to write a check on the spot for the first month's rent, the security deposit (usually a month's rent) and if a broker is involved, that fee (8 to 15 percent of a year's rent).

Those who lack the required income or credit score, or those relocating here from overseas, may be shut out.

One recent apartment hunter, Sara Davar, said she was shocked when she ran into these hurdles. Ms. Davar, 28, an area director for Meltwater Buzz, which provides analytic tools for social media, had lived in her native Stockholm, as well as in London and in Philadelphia, and had not encountered anything like the requirements here. The stumbling block for her was the same as that encountered by most foreigners: no credit history in this country. Without it, no landlord would consider her.

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July 3, 2011

Upper class rent starts at $10,000 per month

Do middle class apartments cost up to $10,000 per year ?

On the Upper East and West Sides, he said, there is strong interest from families for apartments with several bedrooms. His downtown clients, who typically work in the creative industries, tend to value location and design over space and even amenities, he said, and expect Sub-Zero or Viking appliances and remote-controlled sound systems and window coverings.

Other five-figure rentals offer a number of amenities. At 15 Broad Street in the financial district, James Cox of Prudential Douglas Elliman is marketing an apartment he described as being at the "low end of the high-end rental." At $12,000 a month, the two-bedroom apartment has almost 1,900 square feet of interior space, but its real draw is the 1,200-square-foot terrace with sweeping views of Lower Manhattan, Midtown and beyond. That, and the building's extras, like a single-lane bowling alley, basketball court, gym and pool in the basement and a billiards room, party space and parklike common terrace on the seventh floor that offers a full-frontal view of the frieze over the New York Stock Exchange.

As prices rise, so do the expectations, said Dennis R. Hughes, a senior vice president at Corcoran Group Real Estate. For about $20,000, he said, he was able to find one client, a divorced businesswoman moving from a town house, a 2,300-square-foot, three-bedroom apartment in TriBeCa with outdoor space and views of the Hudson River. For $45,000, a renter could have a 4,500-square-foot, five-bedroom apartment in a prewar doorman building on Fifth Avenue with a spa in the basement.

And for $85,000, Prudential Douglas Elliman is marketing a full-floor loft at 25 Bond Street with 7,326 square feet inside, five bedrooms, six and a half baths, fireplaces and terraces. It even comes with a movie star, Will Smith, staying just below.

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July 1, 2011

Sidewalks cost $100 per square foot

"It is an oxymoron," Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner, conceded in an interview last year when the pilot project was being considered. "But boardwalk has become eponymous, in the way Kleenex is for paper tissue. It is a generic term for an elevated oceanfront walkway, and other communities use concrete."

About three weeks ago, the community board voted 21 to 7 against the latest compromise: running a 12-foot-wide concrete lane down the middle of the 50-foot-wide boardwalk to accommodate the wear and tear of garbage trucks and police cars. The remaining sides would be built out of planks made of recycled plastic that cost about $110 a square foot and last for years.

He also remembered that the Coney Island Boardwalk -- officially known as the Riegelmann Boardwalk for the borough president who built it as a way of offering the public greater access to the beach -- withstood storms like Hurricane Donna in 1960 relatively unscathed, while a concrete esplanade in nearby Manhattan Beach was mangled.

But concrete had its advocates, like Mila Ivanova. Ms. Ivanova, a Ukrainian immigrant to Brooklyn from Odessa on the Black Sea who also walks the Boardwalk every day, said: "It's very good -- wood -- but it's old. It is shaking. Sometimes nails come up and you fall. Personally, I like everything new."

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June 26, 2011

Hamilton Heights to rise under Columbia ?

In the 1980s she lived on West 103rd Street in a one-bedroom co-op that she sold for $335,000 in 2002. Then, she said, Columbia built off-campus housing on her corner -- and in 2005 an identical apartment then sold for $500,000, which strikes Ms. Cabrera as a steep jump even in a hot housing market. She is now listing a four-bedroom 1901 town house at 470 West 148th Street for $975,000.

When the new Columbia campus is finished in 2050, Manhattanville will have a striking new look. Glass towers housing the business school, labs and classrooms will replace workaday brick structures, meatpacking warehouses and even a Studebaker plant. Sidewalks will be broadened and planted with trees. The $7 billion project -- designed by the architectural heavyweights Renzo Piano; Skidmore, Owings and Merrill; and Diller Scofidio & Renfro -- will create 6,000 permanent jobs, the university says.


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May 28, 2011

Discounted realtor commissions for discount service

Keith Burkhardt, the president of the Burkhardt Group, charged the Pohls a flat rate of $1,000 to submit their listing to real estate databases. The couple handled all the open houses, showings and deal negotiation themselves. He offers buyers a rebate of up to two-thirds of his commission, based on a similar self-service model. Clients search for apartments and visit open houses on their own, putting Mr. Burkhardt's name down as their broker, and he helps out by booking other appointments and offering advice during negotiations.

These days, Mr. Burkhardt considers himself mostly a buyer's broker, describing his niche as that subset of real estate enthusiasts who are glued to sites like StreetEasy and don't need a lot of hand-holding while visiting Sunday open houses, a task that can take up a lot of a broker's time.

"They're doing, let's say 60 percent of the research themselves," he said, "and they want to be compensated for that."

He acknowledged, however, that setups like his had yet to catch on in a big way.

"People like to complain about broker commissions," he said, "but they're afraid to break ranks with the status quo and go with a firm or a model that is different than what everybody accepts."

Another company offering a hybrid service is RealDirect, which charges sellers $395 per month, or a 1 percent commission, to distribute a listing to major real estate databases; owners handle open houses and showings themselves. Sellers can pay a 2 percent commission for what RealDirect calls "broker-managed service," including pricing and staging advice, and the handling of negotiations.

Doug Perlson, the chief executive of RealDirect, said 3 of the 13 apartments listed through the company, which started last summer, had sold or were in contract.

One of those properties is a one-bedroom Greenwich Village apartment owned by Colleen Gray, which is scheduled to close in mid-February. The listing price was $920,000.

Ms. Gray said she listed her apartment with RealDirect in late October after having tried to sell it herself for about a month. She went with RealDirect because she did not feel her previous real estate agents had earned their commissions.

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May 20, 2011

Home safe

D IVERSION safes, of course, are not fire resistant and do not even have locks. Their strength is pretense. They cost $5 to $100, and are designed to look like various household objects: a head of iceberg lettuce, a can of soda and a can of shaving cream. Cans, jars and aerosol containers found in pantries and bathroom cabinets are typical. These stealth safes also come disguised as other kinds of things, like surge protectors and clocks.

"They are great for hiding stuff like money and jewelry," said Annie Blanco, marketing coordinator for, an online retailer of home security systems, based in Riverside, Calif.

But Paul Cromwell, a professor of criminology at the University of South Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland, who has interviewed scores of professional burglars in his research, said he is skeptical about their value. "Burglars are looking online at these kinds of safes, too," he said. "So they know what to look for."

Hiding valuables in coat pockets or shoeboxes, in the freezer or buried in the dirt of potted plants, he added, isn't any better. "You may think you're being clever, but these are the first places burglars look."

Criminologists and law enforcement officials also advise against putting things inside toilet tanks and cereal boxes (where addicts tend to hide illegal drugs) and inside medicine cabinets (where thieves look for prescription drugs with resale value). So the last place you want to hide your diamond necklace or a roll of bills is inside an empty bottle of Oxycontin or Adderall.

Apart from a steel-clad safe, he said, the best place to store valuables is one that would take a thief considerable time and effort to find.

"Burglars want to spend as little time as possible in your home," he said. "The average time a professional burglar will spend there is five minutes."

Good options might include putting what you want to protect in a nondescript box surrounded by a pile of junk in the attic, or tucking it into the stuffing of one of a group of stuffed animals.

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May 15, 2011

Nanny rooms, servant's rooms

The Laureate, a new 20-story building at the corner of Broadway and 76th Street, NY has four such apartments -- each has four or more bedrooms and is priced at about $11 million. The maid's room is listed simply as another bedroom, but it is away from the others, closer to the front door and living areas. Two of the building's penthouse units even have separate entrances that lead directly to the servant's rooms.

Demand for family-sized apartments with separate quarters for live-in help has been so marked at the Laureate that the Stahl Organization, the developer, has decided to combine some smaller apartments to create more units that fit the bill, Mr. Reuveni said. Many of the interested buyers are coming from abroad, but others, he said, already live on the Upper West Side and are looking for homes that mirror the classic apartments in nearby prewar buildings. While the rooms could also be used as guest rooms or offices, most prospective buyers have said they will use theirs either for a live-in nanny or a housekeeper.

The apartments, listed for about $7.5 million each, are designed to feel like "a single-family home in the sky," Ms. Urgo said. "More and more parents are choosing to raise their children in Manhattan, and we have seen a need for these very large spaces." Many potential buyers have live-in nannies, "because people have full lifestyles and maybe you have two working parents," she added. "This type of apartment does fit a need."

Maid's rooms built in the 1910s and 1920s tended to be barely six to seven feet wide. Apartments that came equipped with them have three or more family bedrooms and might originally have had more than one maid's room. At 905 West End, the developer Samson Management took a Classic 8 -- which had three bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen and two maid's rooms off of the kitchen -- and shifted and expanded the bathroom that had been shared by the maid's rooms, combining the remaining space to create one larger room.

April 30, 2011

Condos vs. co-ops: You can buy fashion. Style is something you earn

Nowadays, condo buyers tend to be foreigners, absentee owners, empty nesters and corporate types with an instant-gratification streak who want to put down as little as possible for flashy, turnkey residences that they also can get out of as fast as possible.

Co-op owners tend to be more "vested in New York," as Stribling's Kirk Henckels puts it--more social and financially stable, and more interested in the location and architectural quality (the steak, not the starchitect sizzle) that characterize Manhattan's best buildings, most of which are pre-World War II vintage co-ops around Central Park. Co-op buyers need "a different level of commitment," said John Burger of Brown Harris Stevens.

You can buy fashion. Style is something you earn.

Continue reading "Condos vs. co-ops: You can buy fashion. Style is something you earn" »

April 23, 2011

Whole Foods Market: leads or follows gentrification

But Christy Pardew, spokeswoman for Whose Foods, Whose Community?, an activist group protesting the forthcoming Whole Foods, says the issue is "keeping multinational chains out." According to Ms. Pardew, the addition of a high-end grocery store to Jamaica Plain will result in higher rents, pushing low-income residents from the neighborhood. "It's a term that real estate agents use," she intoned, "called 'the Whole Foods effect.'"

But real estate agents aren't economists, and Ms. Pardew admitted that there "isn't a lot of academic research" to back up the claim that stores like Whole Foods destroy low-income, ethnic communities. In fact, evidence points in the opposite direction: "To blame gentrification for rising rents is to get things exactly backwards," says Duke University economist Jacob Vigdor. "Companies like Whole Foods are building in places where the clientele is there already. They follow the customer."

When studying gentrification patterns in Boston, Mr. Vigdor investigated claims that elevated rates of neighborhood departure correlated with rising rents. "Actually, I found that in the gentrifying neighborhoods, the turnover rate among long-term residents was actually lower than it was in other parts of the city," because most residents see changes like lower crime rates and the revivification of derelict buildings as positive developments.

"People think that gentrification is causing prices to rise, when it's actually the reverse. In cities that are popular places to live, where demand exceeds supply, and prices go up all over the place--this leads people to seek out neighborhoods that are less expensive," says Mr. Vigdor.

Census data for Jamaica Plain show that Whole Foods is indeed following demographic trends, not simply hoping that if a store is built, the yuppies will come. In the past decade, the Hispanic population in J.P. has declined by 10%, while the African-American community shrunk by almost 15%.

Continue reading "Whole Foods Market: leads or follows gentrification" »

April 22, 2011

Old buildings of NYC

According to the 2008 Census housing survey, 85 percent of New Yorkers live in buildings erected before 1970, compared with 42 percent of Americans generally. More remarkably, 39 percent of New Yorkers live in buildings predating 1930 and 17 percent in buildings predating 1920. Luckily for New Yorkers with a taste for past lives, many of these dwellings function as palimpsests of the city's history.

Continue reading "Old buildings of NYC" »

April 8, 2011

Architecture critics detest Trump complex on Riverside South

Xanadu Mall in NJ is almost as bad a a Trump project.

In the New York region, "the only thing comparable would be Trumpville on the West Side Highway. It beats Xanadu in its sheer mass, and its brutal imposition on the eyes of millions of people."


Editor in chief of the Web site The Infrastructurist

I know various people have said the whole Trump complex on Riverside South is worse, and it is pretty bad."


Architecture critic of The New Yorker

Fix Xanadu? The Problem May Be Where to Begin

Published: April 1, 2011
Architectural experts offer thoughts on rescuing a stalled New Jersey Meadowlands mall project that has already soaked up $2 billion.

April 2, 2011

Nabewise beautiful

The Meat Packing District, SoHo, NoLiTa, and East Village are beautiful, according to NabeWise; see also NYC and SoHo pages.

Move on downtown.

March 20, 2011

Remodeling is not heavily financed

WHY THE REBOUND? It may seem counterintuitive that even as the housing market continues to suffer and the economic recovery feels tentative, the renovation market is picking up. But Mr. Baker pointed out that while home sales and construction were linked to mortgage rates, renovations were determined more by income levels and job security.

"Remodeling is not heavily financed," he said. Instead, people are willing to spend cash, Mr. Baker said, because they have "a comfort level that the value of my home isn't depreciating." -- Kermit Baker, director of the remodeling futures program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies.

He said during the peak years of 2006 and 2007, only 30 to 35 percent of renovations were financed through home equity loans or second mortgages. Last year, that number dropped to 15 to 20 percent.

Continue reading "Remodeling is not heavily financed" »

March 17, 2011

Scarano's fun with NY zoning

The purpose of zoning is to provide for restrained development. But in Scarano's view, New York City's code was a Talmudic document, open to endless avenues of interpretation. Through a variety of arcane strategies, he could literally pull additional real estate out of the air. In the high-ceilinged warehouses of SoHo and TriBeCa, for instance, an earlier generation of gentrifiers had increased their living space by constructing mezzanines, creating the loft look that so many buyers were now after. "The population of factory buildings was unfortunately being used up," Scarano said. "So what did we do? We created the factory aesthetic in new construction." And he didn't just take the aesthetic -- he also adapted the zoning rules that applied to warehouse conversions. Under certain circumstances, the code classified loft mezzanines as storage space, not floor area, and Scarano assured developers their new building plans could slip through this loophole. Effectively, he said, he could fashion double-decker apartments, in buildings that were four stories for legal purposes and eight stories for marketing.

Scarano scoffs at the notion that any developer, Fischman included, was duped into accepting his designs. Architecture "is not so dissimilar from the accounting profession," he said, dropping all Mondrianic pretense. "When someone goes to their tax accountant . . . they don't tell the fellow to figure out how to not have the most deductions." Everyone was happy until the auditors arrived, and then came recriminations. Over the past few years, numerous developers have sued Scarano, claiming he prepared faulty plans, while he has countersued to recover hundreds of thousands in unpaid fees.

Continue reading "Scarano's fun with NY zoning" »

February 20, 2011

New mortgage discloses for mortgage brokers: RESPA TILA Reg Z

STARTING April 1, under a new compensation rule from the Federal Reserve, borrowers who get their mortgages through brokers will most likely pay less for their services and must be offered the lowest possible interest rate and fees for which they qualify.

The new rule also affects those dealing with small banks and credit unions, which typically do not fund loans from their own resources. But most banks and other direct lenders, including the few mortgage companies that function like banks, are exempt.

The new rule is known as the Loan Originator Compensation amendment to Regulation Z, part of a strengthened Truth in Lending Act passed by Congress in 2008. Designed to prevent consumers from being steered into high-cost, risky loans, it covers how a loan originator -- or any person or company that arranges, obtains and/or negotiates a mortgage for a client -- is paid.

Under the new rule, a lender can no longer pay a loan originator a lucrative rebate known as a yield-spread premium, which is tied to the rate or terms of the mortgage. Banks and other lenders can continue to pay commissions to brokers, but these payments must now be based solely on the loan amount.

In the past, the higher the interest rate and points, the more money a broker stood to earn.

Brokerage firms typically earn a yield-spread premium of 1.5 to 2.5 percent of the loan amount, with higher-rate loans paying closer to 2.5 percent. The brokerage and its broker, or loan officer, typically split the rebate. On a $400,000 loan at 5.25 percent, that might total $8,000, based on two points paid, with a point being 1 percent of the loan amount.

In the new system, the brokerage can earn a fixed commission from the lender, but the amount is not tied to the loan terms. Also, the brokerage cannot pass on a part of the commission to the broker, who must now be paid an hourly wage or salary. The exception is for loans where the lender pays the borrower's points to the brokerage, typically for higher-rate loans. (The commission range is expected to be 1.5 to 2.5 points.)

It is also forbidden for a loan originator to collect payments from both the consumer and the lender in a single transaction. If a broker is paid a commission by a lender (based on the loan amount), he or she cannot also charge the consumer points, or fees for application or processing. The consumer will still, however, need to pay the broker for third-party services like appraisals.

Continue reading "New mortgage discloses for mortgage brokers: RESPA TILA Reg Z" »

December 21, 2010

Homeshopping NYC

Coming soon:
Smackdown between national sites
Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, Roost; and local experts
Curbed and PropertyShark and StreetEasy.
And NYT Realty.

November 7, 2010

Pay for foreclosure defense with a second mortgage ?

Foreclosure defense is a new legal specialty whose strategies and techniques are still being worked out. Mr. Ticktin, who has some 3,000 foreclosure clients, says his plan to collect fees by taking another mortgage on his clients' properties has already been copied by other firms.

The Ticktin mortgages resemble the loans that the clients originally got from Countrywide, GMAC and other lenders. Each will be a contractual obligation with the law firm, labeled as a mortgage and structured like one, too, with the client paying a certain sum every month and using the house as collateral.

Unconventional payment structures are becoming popular in the foreclosure hotbed of Florida. Whether they yet have caught on elsewhere is unclear. Certainly, Mr. Ticktin is far from the only lawyer being forced to innovate.

"We can put in $100,000 of our time but over the length of a case be paid only $6,000 in monthly fees," said Thomas E. Ice of Ice Legal in Royal Palm Beach.

Mr. Ice, Mr. Ticktin and many other Florida foreclosure lawyers typically receive a few hundred dollars a month from each client. To supplement that, they seek legal fees from the banks they successfully challenge as well as contingency fees.

Contingency fees are standard in cases in which the client has little money but there is the possibility of a large payout. A slip and fall on a store's wet floor or a medical malpractice claim are classic contingency cases. If the plaintiff wins, insurance companies ultimately foot the bill.

In foreclosure cases, however, the client pays the contingency fee. While such an approach is sometimes used in commercial litigation, this is a first for consumer cases, said Lester Brickman, a professor at Cardozo Law School in New York.

"For a lawyer to supplement or replace the banks as a long-term mortgage creditor of homeowners leaves me a little queasy," said Mr. Brickman, an expert on contingency fees. "It's an invitation for the public to say, 'There go the lawyers again.' "

If the Ticktin lawyers -- there are 19 now and will be two more soon -- cause the original mortgage to be nullified or reduced because of the bank's misdeeds, the client must take out a new mortgage for 40 percent of the savings.

For instance, if the mortgage was $500,000 and is reduced by the bank to $200,000, the client would owe Ticktin 40 percent of $300,000, or $120,000, minus any legal fees paid by the losing bank as well as any monthly sums paid to the law firm.

Clients would be attracted to this arrangement because they might save nearly $200,000 and avoid foreclosure. They can either stay in their house or -- after another legal hurdle -- sell it.

Mr. Ticktin conceded there were potential problems with this "pay later" plan, starting with the uncertainty over whether the clients could and would pay the debt over a period of many years and what Mr. Ticktin's response would be if they did not.

"We would never enforce the mortgage and foreclose," he said. "We're not in that end of the game. We're not money lenders. We're charging a small amount of interest" -- four percent -- "just to make it legal."

Continue reading "Pay for foreclosure defense with a second mortgage ?" »

October 28, 2010

Is quality of life about square footage ?

During the last decade's real estate boom, the annual demonstration kept up with the times: designs abounded with baronial features like colonnades, cathedral ceilings and observation towers, and they sometimes topped 6,000 square feet. But then the crash came, wiping out credit lines and shaking the industry's confidence. For this year's show, Boyce Thompson, the editorial director of Builder, wanted a look more attuned to curtailed appetites, so he came up with a concept that he called a Home for the New Economy.

The most salient specification of the house was its modest proportions. At around 1,700 square feet, it was the size of the average American home built in 1980. Since then, new houses have on average grown by more than 40 percent, as dens have expanded into great rooms, and tubs and sinks have multiplied. "Houses got too big, because people were chasing investment gains and there was cheap money, and the industry responded by building houses that were too large," Thompson says. "So we really wanted to focus people's attention on doing smaller, better homes." He points to Census statistics that show a slight decline in the size of homes built over the past two years and to a much larger drop in the square footage of those that have just started construction, and suggests that the market may be headed toward a more austere norm.

That's certainly debatable. If dissecting the causes of the housing market's crash is a task for economists, predicting its future is a fuzzier matter of sociology. Will Americans re-evaluate cultural assumptions that equate ever-larger houses with success and stability? Or will they invest more in their lived environments, figuring that with the demise of the quick flip, they are now in for the long term? In the absence of much real market activity, imaginations are free to run wild. The Home for the New Economy is one such exercise in speculation, a proposal that the future lies in denser, more walkable, modestly scaled communities. Marianne Cusato, who designed the Home for the New Economy, sees it as a rebuke to the ethic of the McMansion. "We're not going to go back to 2005," she says. "What was built then is not going to come back, and this is not a bad thing. What we were building was so unsustainable, and it didn't really meet our needs."

Cusato, who is 36, started her career drawing up million-dollar mansions, but she has made a name for herself by going smaller, designing a 300-square-foot Katrina Cottage meant to be a replacement for the trailers the government set up after the 2005 hurricane. When Cusato sat down to devise the Home for the New Economy, she tried to consider how families actually use their living areas. She started with a simple, symmetrical three-bedroom plan, excising extraneous spaces -- the seldom-used formal dining room, for instance -- while enlarging windows wherever she could and adding a wraparound porch. A result was a house that was compact, comfortable, bright and energy-efficient.

Continue reading "Is quality of life about square footage ?" »

October 25, 2010

Rail line adds more to home values than it costs

WHAT is the real estate value of a one-seat train ride to Manhattan from a station close to one's home in New Jersey ? Leave it to statisticians to come up with a figure.

"It has to be a lot," said Perri K. Feldman of Keller Williams Realty, who has built a client base in towns along a section of the New Jersey Transit Midtown Direct line running from Morristown to South Orange. "It's the first question so many people ask about a house: 'How close is it to the train? Can I walk to the station?' "

Now, the extra value that comes with proximity to a station with direct service to Manhattan -- no transfer required -- has been quantified: $19,000, on average, for homes within two miles of a station; $29,000 for houses within half a mile.

Home values would increase by those amounts in neighborhoods surrounding 10 New Jersey Transit lines and 2 Metro-North Railroad lines if a third rail tunnel under the Hudson River was ever built, according to a study by the independent Regional Plan Association.

Statisticians worked backwards, analyzing the impact on real estate value when previous rail-improvement projects were done, to project the impact that a new tunnel would have on home values.

The cumulative increase in property value would be $18 billion, according to the study, which was published two months before Gov. Christopher J. Christie of New Jersey decided to suspend work on the tunnel as of Oct. 7. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, a tunnel supporter, has worked to publicize the findings.

Mr. Christie says the state should not proceed with the $8.7 billion project, because it cannot afford to pay for any cost overruns. He cited a recent study by his transit officials, which predicted that the project could end up $2 billion to $5 billion over budget.

The original cost of the tunnel was to be financed this way: $3 billion from the federal government, $3 billion from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and $2.7 billion from the State of New Jersey (mostly in the form of Turnpike receipts).

In the study of the tunnel's potential effects, researchers estimated that the $18 billion in increased property value would generate $375 million in increased tax revenues per year.

Some local and county politicians -- in addition to Mr. Lautenberg -- have argued that municipalities cannot stand to "lose" those potential tax revenues, which would presumably start flowing in 2017, after the project was completed. Others have called the tax receipt estimates "fictional," and contended that they were too far in the future to matter now, in the midst of a statewide budget crisis.

The calculations on the proposed trans-Hudson tunnel known as ARC (Access to the Region's Core) were based on what happened to real estate after these developments:

¶The 1996 addition of Midtown Direct service to the Morris and Essex Line;

¶The 2002 addition of the service along the Montclair-Boonton Line;

¶The 2003 opening of the Secaucus Junction, allowing transfers there instead of at Hoboken.

After those projects were completed, the value of homes within two miles of train stations increased by an average of $23,000, according to the planning group's study. The Regional Plan Association is a nonprofit that studies policy matters affecting Connecticut, Long Island and New Jersey.

Data from 45,000 area home sales that took place from 1993 through 2008 were analyzed. According to Juliette Michaelson, who performed that section of the research, the analytic process assumes that the price of a house is determined by the value of characteristics like number of bedrooms, quality of the school district and access to train service. By looking at thousands of sales involving houses with differing combinations of those characteristics, it becomes possible to estimate the amount that each individual characteristic adds to the price of the house, Ms. Michaelson explained in the notes accompanying the study.

She tallied the estimated time in minutes that train riders saved on travel, waiting and making transfers after the Midtown Direct and Secaucus Junction improvements. Each minute saved, she determined, adds an average of $1,959 to the value of the house.

For homes within walking distance (half a mile) of a station, each minute was worth $2,902.

If the ARC tunnel was built, the average New Jerseyan's train ride would be shortened by 10 minutes each way, the study indicated.

Riders on the Raritan Valley line, which runs to Raritan Station out of Pennsylvania Station in Newark, would see the biggest drop in round-trip travel time in the state, since the new tunnel would directly serve that area. Trip time would decrease by an average of 32.6 minutes, with variations along the route.

Cranford residents' commute would be 23.6 minutes shorter, for instance; Roselle Park riders would get the biggest drop in travel time in the state, 37.6 minutes.

Using the rate-per-minute formula, the value of a home close to the rail line in Roselle Park could be expected to increase by more than $100,000.

But a third tunnel would also have statewide impact, as it would nearly double the current tunnel capacity, cutting down on trip time across the board and allowing for more frequent trains. (The estimates in the planning group's study are all based on schedules as they stood last spring.)

Continue reading "Rail line adds more to home values than it costs" »

October 10, 2010

Auburndale, Queens neighborhood of tutor homes

But ask many residents, especially if they've lived here for decades, and a consensus emerges that Auburndale is roughly bounded by 162nd Street, 48th Avenue, Francis Lewis Boulevard and 32nd Avenue.

South of the tracks, the homes tend to be slightly more modest, with ranches and some chain-link-fenced yards, but also capacious Dutch colonials.

North of the tracks, in the more affluent area also known as Broadway-Flushing or Flushing North, Queens, sizable center-hall colonials and porticoed Mediterreans vie for space among the Tudors. This is particularly true on and near 35th Avenue, where the homes draw attention because they often sit on lots higher than the sidewalks.


September 27, 2010

Government wants people to keep paying on underwater mortgages -- Dean Baker

Banks want the government to get people to keep paying on underwater mortgages as long as possible. While this may make little sense for these homeowners, since they will never accumulate equity and are likely paying more in ownership costs than they would pay to rent a similar house, it does help the banks' bottom line. Each additional month that underwater homeowners stay in their homes paying the mortgage the banks are getting money they would not otherwise receive.

This explains the value of a program like the Home Affordability Modification Program (HAMP). Only a small fraction of the people who enter this program will end up with a permanent modification that will actually allow them to accumulate equity. However, the entire time that they work with the program, they keep sending a mortgage check to the bank -- and the government kicks in some taxpayer dollars as well. This is a real win-win from the standpoint of the banks as they get more checks from the homeowner than would otherwise be the case, plus the subsidy from the government for stringing homeowners along.

-- Dean Baker

September 22, 2010

$1300 per square foot to build, $130 per square foot per year to rent: 1 World Trade Center , 1776 Freedom Tower

This building's economics are still nothing to write home about. One World Trade Center is going to cost somewhere on the order of $1,300 a square foot to build, more than double the cost of most new skyscrapers. And because it is what's called Class A office space, meaning that everything is top of the line, maintaining the building is also going to be very expensive. My real estate sources say they believe that the Port Authority will need to charge $130 a square foot to break even on the building.


But of course the Port Authority can't possibly charge anything close to that -- not in this real estate market or any market in the foreseeable future. The average rent for a downtown high-rise is $55 to $60 a square foot. Even if the Port Authority were able to charge higher, Midtown rents, it would still only be getting, at best, $80 a square foot.

Continue reading "$1300 per square foot to build, $130 per square foot per year to rent: 1 World Trade Center , 1776 Freedom Tower" »

September 20, 2010

Dangerous Chinese Drywall: sulfur, corrosion, health, ...

Exciting feature of boom-time construction: imported Chinese drywall with health effects,
brings litigation opportunities to depressed communities.

Drywall Flaws: Owners Gain Limited Relief
Published: September 17, 2010
Even as hundreds of lawsuits have been filed over tainted drywall, which was mostly made in China, most insurance companies have not paid a dime.

September 5, 2010


Frederick Peters, the owner of Warburg Realty Partners, had run his business well in the 30 years he had owned Warburg Realty. Now through no fault of his own he found himself in a financial crisis that threatened the future of his firm. This was the definition of a clutch situation. Over the next few months, he responded well because his actions were guided by the five traits of people who are great under pressure:

  1. focus

  2. discipline

  3. adaptability

  4. being present

  5. a mix of entrepreneurial desire and fear of losing his business

He also avoided the three traps that cause most people to choke:

  1. he took responsibility for what needed to be done

  2. he did not overthink the situation

  3. nor grow overconfident when his business stabilized.

Alec Haverstick II, a co-founder of Boxwood Strategic Advisers, provided a tool that could take the passion out of financial decision-making. His rule was that when you have less than 12 months of cash left to cover your debt payments, you need to start selling assets. His prescription applied to anyone because the advice was not based on having a lot of money so much as being smart with the money you have left.

Continue reading "Clutch" »

July 4, 2010

Middle class includes $175k in Brooklyn or South Orange, NJ

While our analysis was by no means scientific, our goal was to recreate the type of decision a hypothetical family of four earning $175,000 a year might encounter. We chose an upper-middle-class income because that's generally what our family needs to earn, conservatively, to afford a median-price home in Park Slope, a section of Brooklyn that is family-friendly, has good schools and is generally more affordable than Manhattan.

The two-bedroom, one-bathroom co-operative apartment that we're using as a model in Park Slope is listed at $675,000, close to the median price for the neighborhood, as calculated by

We stacked that against a four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom home in South Orange, N.J., just a 30-minute train ride from Manhattan, where the two parents work. The house is selling for $595,000.

Continue reading "Middle class includes $175k in Brooklyn or South Orange, NJ" »

June 10, 2010

the bottom is near for the housing market, which is why there has been increased activity

"There is a sense that the bottom is near for the housing market, which is why there has been increased activity," said Celia Chen, a senior director at Moody's Analytics specializing in housing economics. "The biggest decline is over," she said. "But we're still expecting prices to decline by another 5 percent."

The overall economy will determine to some extent whether the increase seen in the spring can be sustained. "A lot of what happens in June is going to depend on employment trends," said Sam Chandan, the chief economist at Real Capital Analytics, a Manhattan company that studies worldwide real estate trends. "There's a fair amount to give consumers pause." He noted that while the national unemployment rate fell slightly in May, the financial industry in New York City continued to lose jobs.

Mortgage rates are likely to remain low, Ms. Chen said, but foreclosures nationally are expected to increase in coming months. Manhattan's foreclosure rate has remained very low, thanks to rigorous co-op approval standards, but "there still will be softness in prices, because there seems to be a pretty large overhang of new construction still out there," she said.

Continue reading " the bottom is near for the housing market, which is why there has been increased activity" »

May 26, 2010

Crackshack or mansion ?

crackshackormansion ? looks at what housing you get for around $1 millon in Vancouver.

May 12, 2010

Our clientele is in school, going back to school, first job, second job, and not from New York

For instance Jakobson Properties, which manages some 2,000 apartments in about 30 buildings in Manhattan and Queens, offers what it describes as middle- and upper-middle-income housing. Peter Jakobson Jr., a principal, said, "Our clientele is in school, going back to school, first job, second job, and not from New York."

He says that Jakobson leases most of its apartments through its Greenwich Village office and its Web site,, but that brokers bring in about 35 percent of its business. Ms. Schwartz said, however, that some management companies work exclusively through brokers.

Continue reading "Our clientele is in school, going back to school, first job, second job, and not from New York" »

April 4, 2010

Slowing down foreclosures

It can take a borrower six to seven months to find out whether he or she qualifies for a permanent mortgage loan modification under the federal foreclosure relief program, Making Home Affordable, according to Barclays Capital.

In Maryland, for example, lawmakers extended the foreclosure process from 15 days to 135 days in 2008 and are considering emergency legislation to force lenders into mediation with a borrower before foreclosing on a property. But other states and jurisdictions have even more drastic measures to slow down the foreclosure process. "There were cases where sheriffs were refusing to file foreclosure notices," said Jay Brinkmann, chief economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association.

After a temporary foreclosure moratorium in 2008, the backlog of homeowners facing foreclosure in Maryland has surged. The number of Maryland homeowners who are seriously delinquent or in the midst of the foreclosure process nearly doubled during the fourth quarter of 2009 compared with the same period a year earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

"Lenders are deluged by late-stage delinquencies. The pent-up foreclosure inventory is there," said Massoud Ahmadi, director of research for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development

Continue reading "Slowing down foreclosures" »

April 3, 2010

Short sales vs foreclosures

The lenders' thinking, said the economist Thomas Lawler, went like this: "I lend someone $200,000 to buy a house. Then he says, 'Look, I have someone willing to pay $150,000 for it; otherwise I think I'm going to default.' Do I really believe the borrower can't pay it back? And is $150,000 a reasonable offer for the property?"

Short sales are "tailor-made for fraud," said Mr. Lawler, a former executive at the mortgage finance company Fannie Mae.

Last year, short sales started to increase, although they remain relatively uncommon. Fannie Mae said preforeclosure deals on loans in its portfolio more than tripled in 2009, to 36,968. But real estate agents say many lenders still seem to disapprove of short sales.

Under the new federal program, a lender will use real estate agents to determine the value of a home and thus the minimum to accept. This figure will not be shared with the owner, but if an offer comes in that is equal to or higher than this amount, the lender must take it.

Mr. Paul, the Phoenix agent, was skeptical. "In a perfect world, this would work," he said. "But because estimates of value are inherently subjective, it won't. The banks don't want to sell at a discount."

There are myriad other potential conflicts over short sales that may not be solved by the program, which was announced on Nov. 30 but whose details are still being fine-tuned. Many would-be short sellers have second and even third mortgages on their houses. Banks that own these loans are in a position to block any sale unless they get a piece of the deal.

"You have one loan, it's no sweat to get a short sale," said Howard Chase, a Miami Beach real estate agent who says he does around 20 short sales a month. "But the second mortgage often is the obstacle."

Major lenders seem to be taking a cautious approach to the new initiative. In many cases, big banks do not actually own the mortgages; they simply administer them and collect payments. J. K. Huey, a Wells Fargo vice president, said a short sale, like a loan modification, would have to meet the requirements of the investor who owns the loan.

"This is not an opportunity for the customer to just walk away," Ms. Huey said. "If someone doesn't come to us saying, 'I've done everything I can, I used all my savings, I borrowed money and, by the way, I'm losing my job and moving to another city, and have all the documentation,' we're not going to do a short sale."

Continue reading "Short sales vs foreclosures" »

April 1, 2010

Price check New York apartment or condo

Pressing further, the developer sent a letter to all the renters in January offering a deal -- and doing the math to help them see its appeal. Renters were paying $6,500 a month for a two-bedroom two-bath apartment with 1,400 square feet of space. Mr. Gladstone offered the unit at a 10 percent discount from the original asking price, which dropped the price tag to $1.75 million. With 70 percent financing at current rates, the monthly mortgage payments should be about $6,300 a month. The common charge for the building is about $1,200 a month.

But the tax savings -- including the mortgage interest deduction on the federal income tax and local homeowner tax relief programs -- would effectively bring an owner's net monthly payment to about $5,100, according to the letter. That would mean monthly savings of more than $1,000.

Continue reading "Price check New York apartment or condo" »

March 17, 2010

Modern Love: earnest young banker builds home

Extended real estate personal ?

Except for the sometimes heartbreaking images of a vanished past, the apartment looks like many an i-banker's bachelor pad. The drum kit for an Xbox Rock Band is stationed next to a 47-inch television set, which is surrounded by a bouquet of remotes. "I know," Mr. Yomtobian said. "It's really terrible there are so many."

The kitchen is bare bones; Mr. Yomtobian hopes that one day this will not be the case. "I'd like to find someone to help me renovate," he said. "And it would be an added plus if we cooked dinner together, too."

The theme of being able to share this space with another person is one he returns to again and again; banker's hours -- typically 12-hour days -- don't leave much time for socializing.

There is, however, a dog in residence, a rescue animal that Mr. Yomtobian named Lehman, a gift from friends to cheer him up after the bankruptcy. Mr. Yomtobian thought that Lehman had some cairn terrier in him until a person he met at the nearby Madison Square Park dog run suggested that he was part Glen of Imaal terrier.

Continue reading "Modern Love: earnest young banker builds home" »

March 14, 2010

Now is a good time to buy a house

many real estate agents said it was time to buy as prices began to drop -- and continued to say it over the past several years as prices fell by an average of 33 percent in America's 20 largest cities.

Mr. Lereah would acknowledge that he had gotten it wrong. But from the perspective of many real estate agents, it is always a good time to buy.

"What they are really saying is that it is a good time to be involved in a transaction that generates a commission," says Barry Ritholtz, C.E.O. and director of equity research at FusionIQ, a quantitative research firm. He's also author of "The Big Picture," an irreverent blog on markets.

If agents are always motivated to make a deal, buyers are often asking an impossible question: "Will the price of this house go up?"

Although the National Association of Realtors said for many years that home prices historically don't fall, actually they do, and sometimes quite sharply. The housing market is complicated, and the future unknowable. Still, for clues to the overall direction of prices, Mr. Ritholtz advises buyers to look at three metrics: the ratio of median income to median home prices, which suggests whether people can afford a house; the cost of ownership versus renting; and the value of the national housing stock as a percentage of gross domestic product.

All those measures were aberrationally inflated during the housing bubble. And they still aren't back to historical norms. We can get back to the norm in either of two ways, Mr. Ritholtz says: home prices can either drop an additional 50 percent or go sideways for seven years or so, while G.D.P. and income presumably grow.

To complicate matters, even if home prices rise or fall nationally, they may not follow that pattern in Las Vegas or South Florida or Maine, to say nothing of the neighborhood where you want to buy.

There may be a better way, however, for potential buyers to approach the problem. "Predicting interest rates is a whole lot easier than predicting home prices," says Glenn Kelman, chief executive of Redfin, a multistate discount online real estate brokerage company based in Seattle. "Before you buy the house, you buy the money," he says.

It's a little like walking into a dealership to buy a car, and finding the saleswoman immediately jotting down what your monthly payments will be and starting the negotiations there. That's absolutely the wrong way to buy a car. But for a prospective homeowner, it's a good place to start the analysis to determine how much house you can buy.

Instead of betting on home prices, you make a bet on whether money will become cheaper or more expensive, allowing you to buy more or less house.

March 7, 2010

Sonyma will help if income under $146,420, home less than $637,640.

In sharp contrast to all the mortgages out there with stiff underwriting guidelines, New York's Low Interest Rate mortgages have no minimum credit score. Borrowers can also qualify for a Sonyma mortgage if their total monthly debt payments reach 45 percent of their monthly income -- and sometimes more. That's about 5 percent higher than the amount allowed by conventional lenders, and higher than the threshold recommended by many financial counselors.

Still, Mr. Leocata maintains that borrowers default on these loans less frequently than those with conventional mortgages. Borrowers must pay monthly mortgage insurance premiums. For a 3 percent down payment, the monthly premium is 0.8 percent of the loan amount; for 5 percent, it's 0.67 percent; and for 10 percent, 0.42 percent.

Borrowers must also fall within the household income limits -- $107,520 in Manhattan, $142,520 in Long Island and $146,420 in Westchester -- and the purchase price cannot exceed $637,640.

Continue reading "Sonyma will help if income under $146,420, home less than $637,640." »

February 15, 2010

Long holding homeowners, not flippers, reassure would-be homebuyers

Richard V. Guardino Jr., executive director of the Wilbur F. Breslin Center for Real Estate Studies at Hofstra, said that while the critical issue in being able to sell a home was its "current condition," the "fact that it has been in one family for a long time is an indication of stability," particularly in the neighborhood.

Continue reading "Long holding homeowners, not flippers, reassure would-be homebuyers" »

January 31, 2010

Details like apartment safes

Apart from that, there are details like apartment safes, which could matter to clubgoers who party in their own cribs.

"You may trust your friends and roommates, but you don't have to," said Jeffrey E. Levine, the chairman of Douglaston Development and its construction arm, Levine Builders. "And every medicine cabinet has a keyed lockbox for pharmaceuticals. Viagra, Vioxx, Vicodin -- nobody needs to know but you."

The smallest studio is just under 400 square feet and it's $1,850 a month and one month free rent. The smallest two-bedroom apartment is just under 900 square feet and it's $3,590 and one month free.

Continue reading "Details like apartment safes" »

December 22, 2009

Light rail of Tempe, Arizona

The silver and teal trains that light up the bridge over Town Lake, swish through downtown, sound their bells near campus and travel along Apache Boulevard have become part of Tempe's identity.

Metro light rail has changed the landscape of the city since service began last Dec. 27. As the transit system marks its first year of operations Sunday, Tempe is celebrating the successes.


People driving from the West and East Valley to get to the nearest light-rail station made the Phoenix and Mesa end-of-the line stops the most popular of the 28 stations. But Tempe's station near University Drive and Rural Road is on track to be the third most frequented stop. Students and faculty using that station and others hubs near Arizona State University account for a bulk of light-rail riders.

An ASU study released earlier this year also showed Tempe's land value near rail stations had increased at a greater rate compared to Phoenix and Mesa.

Continue reading "Light rail of Tempe, Arizona" »

November 20, 2009

Condos for short people: sold

There were some things his company couldn't fix. Ceilings in the tower were seven and a half feet high, about a foot and a half less than typically found in luxury condos. "He tried to squeeze an extra floor into the building," Mr. Radow says of the project's developer, William Matt. Mr. Matt declined to comment.

To help solve the height problem, Mr. Radow hired only sales people who weren't much taller than 5 feet. He sold all the units, and Lehman Brothers was thrilled

Continue reading "Condos for short people: sold" »

October 13, 2009

Foreclosures go upmarket

The market can also expect heavy losses among Option adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), a product that allowed negative amortization by letting borrowers choose to pay only the minimum monthly payment. Fitch Ratings expects significant payment shocks over the next several years as a wave of Option-ARMs recast from the minimum amount to a fully amortizing principle and interest payment. These recasts are expected to drive substantial losses among the Option-ARM sector.

"Several of our investors have questioned the current loss severity in light of negative amortization and home price decline," researchers wrote in the report. "Our analysis suggests that option ARM loss severity will likely range between 60% and 70% provided home prices have stabilized."

Continue reading "Foreclosures go upmarket" »

October 10, 2009

Green and Greener in Suburban Towns

The town of Babylon, NY, came up with an offer she couldn't refuse: if she and her husband, Carlos, paid $250 for an energy audit, the town would finance the recommended upgrades. The couple would repay the town at a monthly rate below the savings on their utility bill. The audit, done this month, found that by insulating walls, basement and attic, at a cost of $6,879, the Williamses could save about $1,300 a year.

"It's an excellent deal," said Mrs. Williams, 42, a New York City correction officer. "With the bills and the mortgage, sometimes it's hard to do this at one time." New York City and other major urban centers have ambitious, high-profile environmental programs. But it turns out that throughout the suburbs, towns like Babylon, on Long Island, are exploring and adopting a wide variety of innovative ways to save energy, protect their residents' health and reduce pollution.

And there is only so much change the towns can impose. Requiring that homes be built smaller would greatly shrink the carbon footprint of buildings, but even environmentalists agree this is not realistic.

"There would be no political support to work on that side of the equation," Mr. DeLuca said.

There are other obstacles to going green. Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, said villages, wary of changing their character, often resist increasing building density even if that means forcing development to go elsewhere and contributing to suburban sprawl. And poor suburbs are less likely than affluent ones to join the movement, she said.

"There are no real resources, and it's unlikely that you'd have the kind of galvanizing leadership in these communities to take on climate issues," Ms. Bystryn said. "Leaders usually advocate for affordable housing and things like that."

But even wealthier areas need financial incentives in order to draw participants like Mrs. Williams. So far more than 200 homes have been audited, with potential savings of close to $1,000 a year each on average.

The town pays for the program, now a pilot, with $2 million from its solid waste reserve fund. New state and federal laws, and millions of dollars in federal stimulus grants, have also helped spur such initiatives.

"This is a program that helps the environment, helps homeowners save money, creates local jobs, reduces our reliance on fossil fuels and it's at no cost to taxpayers," said Steve Bellone, Babylon's town supervisor.

Mr. Levy, of Hofstra, noted that the fragmented government on Long Island, with its many towns and special districts, often means competition for development projects or government grants -- and that the quest to go green has created healthier rivalries.

"All the town supervisors want to be known as the leanest and greenest," he said.

Mr. Bellone said he strongly believed that sustainability was a matter of survival.

"Over time, residents are going to demand it, and housing stock and commercial stock that are green are going to be more valuable," he said. "This positions Babylon to be a prosperous community for the long term."

A version of this article appeared in print on October 11, 2009, on page MB1 of the New York edition.

Continue reading "Green and Greener in Suburban Towns" »

October 6, 2009

Hovnanian on cheap design

Even among competitors, he gained a reputation as a builder of bare-bones homes who kept prices low. In the early 1980s, for example, the typical Hovnanian condominium residence was a two-bedroom, two-bathroom dwelling that cost about $30,000. In his developments, Mr. Hovnanian kept prices down by omitting the amenities, like swimming pools and community buildings, that other builders used to attract buyers.

"There are limited recreation facilities going in because people have little time for socialization," Mr. Hovnanian told The New York Times in 1983, explaining his philosophy.

By 1989, his company had sold more than 30,000 condominiums and other residences in states stretching from New Hampshire to Florida. The projects were so popular that they sometimes sold out over a weekend. Mr. Hovnanian also operated a finance company that made loans to buyers, who sometimes bought more than one residence, including some as investments.

Since then, the company has built more than 200,000 other homes. And in recent years, it has expanded its portfolio to include the construction of medium-price homes, luxury homes and retirement communities with recreational facilities.

Continue reading "Hovnanian on cheap design" »

October 4, 2009

Low-income housing in New Orleans stokes long-simmering tensions

James Perry, executive director of the housing center and a candidate for mayor of New Orleans, said class animosity might be at the root of much of this anger, though discrimination against the poor is not a violation of the Fair Housing Act. It is illegal to discriminate against minorities, however, and given that a disproportionate number of those who need affordable housing in the area are black, he said, these arguments almost inevitably involve race.

Continue reading "Low-income housing in New Orleans stokes long-simmering tensions" »

September 25, 2009

Condo math: Units unsold, combined.

Real Estate Accounting: Percent Sold

Today, the Meier building -- officially, On Prospect Park -- is a wall of windows into the real estate bust, in Brooklyn, NY.

Faced with anemic sales, the developers have slashed prices by as much as 40 percent. They combined units -- there were originally 114 -- to boost the percentage sold in order to ease the path to mortgages. But potential buyers have walked away from at least $20 million worth of contracts.

Continue reading "Condo math: Units unsold, combined." »

July 13, 2009

Foreclosures, Meth lab bargains

Federal data on meth lab seizures suggest that there are tens of thousands of contaminated residences in the United States. The victims include low-income elderly people whose homes are surreptitiously used by relatives or in-laws to make meth, and landlords whose tenants leave them with a toxic mess.

Some states have tried to fix the problem by requiring cleanup and, at the time of sale, disclosure of the house's history. But the high cost of cleaning -- $5,000 to $100,000, depending on the size of the home, the stringency of the requirements and the degree of contamination -- has left hundreds of properties vacant and quarantined, particularly in Western and Southern states afflicted with meth use.

"The meth lab home problem is only going to grow," said Dawn Turner, who started a Web site,, after her son lost thousands of dollars when he bought a foreclosed home in Sweetwater, Tenn., that turned out to be contaminated. Because less is known about the history of foreclosed houses, Ms. Turner said, "as foreclosures rise, so will the number of new meth lab home owners."

Continue reading "Foreclosures, Meth lab bargains" »

July 11, 2009

Housing Prices, Income, by City, animated

1987 February to 2009 June, median income and MSA housing price index.
Housing prices grew faster than the income needed to support them.


There is one income but 20 cities. Could show some housing/income ratio for each city. Income varies by city.
Histograms should show high water mark, at least after peaking.
Good jazz.

July 7, 2009

Between $250,000 and $500,000 is middle income, mortgage-wise

David Adamo, the chief executive of Luxury Mortgage in Stamford, Conn. likened the current mortgage market to a barbell, with pockets of availability for borrowers at both ends of the income spectrum but less for those in between. Those with annual incomes up to about $250,000 have access to mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration, while the very affluent can obtain loans from private banking institutions.

For middle class borrowers with household incomes between $250,000 and $500,000, however, mortgages are not as easy to get, Mr. Adamo said. "These people are living in places where starter homes might be $1 million," he said, "and it's really affecting them."

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will accept only loans below $729,500 in the highest-cost markets like New York City and northern New Jersey. For mortgages larger than that, mortgage brokers and bankers must find other investors who want to take the loans. (Mortgage brokers process the applications on a lender's behalf, while mortgage bankers will finance the loan and sell it shortly thereafter.)

Continue reading "Between $250,000 and $500,000 is middle income, mortgage-wise" »

June 24, 2009

Money in search of home owners ?

So tells Alyssa Katz' Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us in an engaging economic history.

How and when did home mortgages become Wall Street's playthings?
Who invented subprime loans - and how did they remain legal?
Who won the presidency promising to help as many Americans as possible buy a home?
What did Fannie Mae really do?
How did renters become second-class citizens?
Could your house be a target for mortgage fraud?
Why do new homes generate more greenhouse gases than all the nation's cars, trucks and buses combined?
Through stories about ordinary Americans who did their part to make the United States a nation of homeowners, Our Lot reveals how real estate turned into a fatal national obsession.

June 14, 2009

Foreclosure externality: 1.3 % per foreclusure

Study found that homeowners who lived within 300 feet of a foreclosed residential property experienced a drop of 1.3 percent in home value; those living 300 to 500 feet of the foreclosed home typically see a drop in value of 0.6 percent.

John P. Harding, a professor at the University of Connecticut's Center for Real Estate and Urban Economic Studies, and an author of the study, said the properties that are most affected by a foreclosure are the ones close enough to see the peeling paint, broken windows and overgrown lawns that often accompany such situations.
The worst time for immediate neighbors to sell their homes, refinance or cash out some of their home equity, Mr. Harding said, is just before the bank takes title to the property, because that is the point of greatest neglect.

Continue reading "Foreclosure externality: 1.3 % per foreclusure" »

May 31, 2009

Why buy a used apartment ?

"My buyers have found that construction quality went down as the boom years progressed," said Tom Demsker, who runs Demsker Realty, a specialist in downtown dwellings. "It seems like things were put together a little more hastily. We have seen issues like the leveling of the floor, the grouting of the tiles, the way the cabinets were hung, that lead you to believe things were probably done faster than they should have been."

Earlier vintages tend to have larger bedrooms and sensibly restrained common areas; sellers are potentially more negotiable; and lawsuits against developers are usually over and done with. And early-boom buildings tend to have fewer investor-owned apartments.

Continue reading "Why buy a used apartment ?" »

April 26, 2009

Loan modifications are complicated for invetsors

The danger, some investors and securitization lawyers say, is that these provisions might allow some financial companies that engaged in improper lending -- and also happen to be loan servicers -- to escape legal punishment.

For example, if the servicer of an abusive loan was also the initial lender, the bill would take that company off the hook for any future predatory lending suits. The safe harbor, therefore, could encourage servicers to modify their most poisonous loans, even if they are not yet near default, just to reduce their legal exposures.

And allowing servicers to void buyback requirements on loans they modify would eliminate any liability for breaches in representations and warranties on the loans they made to investors who subsequently bought into the pools.

"Main Street investors need to know that banks who received their tax money through government bailouts are going to profit again from the safe-harbor loan modification provisions at the expense of their mutual funds, 401(k)'s and pension investments," said Thomas C. Priore, chief executive of ICP Capital, an investment firm that specializes in credit markets.

Another perverse incentive that the bill would create involves the problem of conflicting interests among investors who own the first mortgage on a property and holders of the second liens. First liens of any kind take priority and are supposed to be paid off before secondary obligations are. But many of the companies servicing loans today own second liens on the same properties whose first mortgages are held by investors in securitizations.

By removing any liability associated with modifying the first mortgage, the banks that own the second liens can expose invest

Continue reading "Loan modifications are complicated for invetsors" »

April 22, 2009

NY (Brooklyn) condo prices dipping

Northside Piers in NY by Toll Brothers saw prices fall: reductions up to 25 percent in some cases, including this 11th-floor 3BR unit, marked down to $894,990 from an ask of over $1.2 million.

Continue reading "NY (Brooklyn) condo prices dipping" »

March 23, 2009

Worker housing includes $40,000 annual mortgage assistance

Property records show that the Edward R. Morrison, a law professor and economist at Columbia University, had some help financing the purchase. They obtained a $1 million first mortgage from Countrywide Bank, now a subsidiary of Bank of America, and a second mortgage directly from Columbia University for $1,039,000.

Elizabeth Schmalz, a spokeswoman for the law school, said the Columbia mortgage was provided by the law school as "one-time compensation assistance" to help Mr. Morrison complete the sale. The first mortgage was provided by Countrywide through another university program that provides mortgages at "favorable rates" to some faculty members. That program also provides a one-time $40,000 payment and an additional $40,000 a year in housing assistance.

"The greatest challenge to recruiting and retaining faculty in New York is housing," Ms. Schmalz said.

Mr. Morrison is a practitioner of empirical legal studies, analyzing the impact of the law on people and institutions. In 2007, another Columbia law professor specializing in empirical techniques, Catherine M. Sharkey, was recruited by the law school of New York University, whose foundation provided $4.2 million toward the purchase of an apartment for her use on Central Park West and West 106th.

Continue reading "Worker housing includes $40,000 annual mortgage assistance" »

March 22, 2009

Goldman Sachs Managing Director Partners 2009

Goldman Sachs name new MD (Managing Director Partners) for 2009.

Included was Jan Hatzius, economist known for real estate commentary.

Continue reading "Goldman Sachs Managing Director Partners 2009" »

January 1, 2009

The Real Deal

therealdeal vs The Real Deal.
New York real estate action.

November 30, 2008

Bear Stearns' Building

Bear Stearns: When was the building at 383 Madison Avenue at 47th worth more than the banking firm ?


See also: Value of GM vs value of GM building.

Continue reading "Bear Stearns' Building" »

November 27, 2008

Voting: more than Yea or Nay

It can be daunting for a first-timer. When a facilitator calls for consensus, members hold up cards to signify their positions on an issue. (1) Green means the holder agrees with the decision; (2) blue means he or she is neutral; (3) yellow, is unsure or unclear; orange, has serious reservations but will not block consensus; and (4) red, will block consensus. The group recently added a (5) white card to signify "I'm not up to speed on this issue because I didn't do my homework."

The revealing voting of co-housing in Brooklyn.

Continue reading "Voting: more than Yea or Nay" »

August 5, 2008

Foreclosure Pulse

Realty Trac's Foreclosure Pulse: hype for bargain home buyers ?

August 4, 2008

Housing Wire

Housingwire is a lively news source for the mortgage and residential real estate industries.

July 27, 2008

Urban Digs:economics of NYC real estate

urbandigs tracks real estate in NY -- more aimed at investors than at consumers.

Update 2010 Nov.:

blog compares Midtown East with Midtown West.

See also time series charts: Noah Rosenblatt of UrbanDigs has created a unique realtime tool for tracking Manhattan RE.


[ via BigPicture. ]

July 8, 2008

Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter tallies failed lenders

The Implode-O-Meter is the brainchild of Aaron Krowne, a former researcher
at Emory University in Atlanta. A computer scientist and mathematician,
Mr. Krowne, 28, started the site in 2007, believing that the troubles in the
housing market, and by extension the mortgage industry, would worsen.

He was right -- and the Implode-O-Meter took off. Traffic on the site soared,
reaching as many as 100,000 regular visitors, and advertising dollars rolled in.
Mr. Krowne quit his day job and hired 10 people for his company, Implode-Explode Heavy Industries.

"The crisis has come in waves," Mr. Krowne said. "It just keeps coming."

Business: Loan Pains Turned Site Into a Hit
Published: July 8, 2008
The Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter, a Web site, is gleefully tallying the
number of lenders that run into trouble.

June 10, 2007

Loop Net, Commercial Real Estate Listings

LoopNet, offers commercial real estate listings:
investor and customer perspectives.

June 5, 2007

House flipper fraud: Flip This House, Sam Leccima in Atlanta

'Flip This House' Star Accused of Fraud

On an episode of A&E's popular reality series "Flip This House," Atlanta
businessman Sam Leccima sits in front of a run-down house and calls
buying and selling real estate his passion.

Now authorities and legal filings claim that Leccima's true passion was
a series of scams that included faking the home renovations shown on
the cable TV show and claiming to have sold houses he never owned.

"This is, indeed, a con artist," said Sonya McGee, an Atlanta pharmaceutical
representative who says Leccima took $4,000 from her in an investment

Continue reading "House flipper fraud: Flip This House, Sam Leccima in Atlanta" »

June 3, 2007

FTSE property index

*Its full title is the FTSE EPRA/NAREIT index, which is a mouthful for anyone.
FTSE stands for Financial Times/Stock Exchange, EPRA for the European Public
Real Estate Association and NAREIT for the National Association of Real
Estate Investment Trusts.

The FTSE EPRA/NAREIT Global Real Estate Index Series is designed to
represent general trends in eligible real estate equities worldwide.
Relevant real estate activities are defined as the ownership, disposure
and development of income-producing real estate.

The index series includes a range of regional and country indices,
Dividend+ indices, and a REITs and Non-REITs series. In response
to market demand, FTSE Group has also expanded the series to
include two new innovative benchmarks, The FTSE EPRA/NAREIT
Property Sector Index Series and the FTSE EPRA/NAREIT Investment
Focus Index Series.

Continue reading "FTSE property index" »

April 25, 2007

Housing spot prices from Radar

Radar Logic tracks housing prices, instantly.
( Instantly = daily )
Via Miller Samuel.

April 2, 2007

NAR hype

"It's a great time to buy," said Pat Vredevoogd Combs, NAR's president. "
There's great amounts of inventory and interest rates are historically low.
We've got jobs being created."

Continue reading "NAR hype" »

April 1, 2007

Mortgage Who's who: Bob Tedeschi on mortgages at NYT

Bob Tedeschi takes a NY-centric look at mortgages.


March 24, 2007

Safe from Sub-prime in the suburbs ?

Even affluent suburbs have their share of such borrowers.

Steven Habetz, chief executive of Threshold Mortgage, a
broker based on Westport, Conn., says subprime loans
account for about 5 percent of his business. That could
drop, though, as lenders leave the market.

March 13, 2007

Storage Nation

Some people are astonished that I’m so proud of it.
They think we’re funny that we’re spending money
to store things.

-- Beth Silver Pilchik, 36, a marketing consultant who
admits talking about her storage unit with friends at
cocktail parties.

She also jokes that the storage locker she rents at
Manhattan Mini Storage has better security than
their Upper East Side apartment.

Continue reading "Storage Nation" »

March 11, 2007

LIC Alliance

Long Island City Alliance on LIC development
and LIC and Astoria life.

February 13, 2007

Housing Prices could go down, down,

it would seem that a sequence of price declines continuing for
many years has some substantial probability of happening.

Traditional finance theory has trouble reconciling even a semi-predictable
sequence of price declines with basic notions of market efficiency. The
situation we are facing is a reminder of the glaring inefficiencies and
incompleteness of existing markets for residential real estate, and
may be regarded as evidence that institutional changes will be coming
in future years to fundamentally change the nature of these markets.

Things That Go Boom
February 8, 2007; Page A15

February 8, 2007

Risk-based Capital Requirements for Mortgage Assets

Risk-based Capital Requirements for Mortgage Assets, by the Federal Reserve. [ PDF ]

February 4, 2007

China curbs urban housing demand

BEIJING (AP) -- Foreigners in Beijing will be limited to buying
a single home for their own use under new curbs imposed amid
efforts to slow a surge in housing costs, newspapers reported

Foreign home-buyers in Beijing will have to prove they have lived
in China for a year for work or study, and will be barred from
renting out the property, the Beijing Morning Post and China
Daily newspapers said.

Continue reading "China curbs urban housing demand" »

January 11, 2007

Property Bytes, India

Citi is big in Indian Property.

January 9, 2007

Real Estate Futures / Squidoo

RE futures squido lense looks at trends in home prices.

January 8, 2007

Housing Derivatives

Housingderivatives tracks futures and options in housing prices.

December 17, 2006

Housing markets at Seeking Alpha

Housing markets at Seeking Alpha.

November 11, 2006

Home builders going bankrupt ?

buildersgoingbankrupt supplies downward hype the to real estate economy.

Previously: Tracking home builders' stock.

October 17, 2006

Who's who of Real Estate economics 3: Todd Sinai

We don’t have any house price indexes that get it right
-- Todd Sinai, an associate professor of real estate at the
Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. bio, home,

Continue reading "Who's who of Real Estate economics 3: Todd Sinai" »

October 14, 2006

Multiple Listing Service: Long Island, New York.

MLS LI: Multiple Listing Service: Long Island, New York.
Realtor listings for Nassau and Suffolk (and Peconic) counties.

October 7, 2006

Who's who of Real Estate economics 2: Dave Seiders, National Association of Homebuilders

Once a sales contract is signed, there's no way of recording
the cancellation or putting the home back in inventory.
Builders keep track of gross and net sales; we don't have a
net sales number from Commerce.

-- Dave Seiders, chief economist at
the National Association of Homebuilders in Washington.

The Census Bureau, which is one of the Commerce Department's
statistical agencies, counts an initial new home sale: Sales go
up and the ``for sale'' inventory is reduced. If the sale is
canceled, it isn't reflected in revisions to previous months.
What happens? When the home is ``resold,'' statisticians
ignore that transaction.

We don't double count.
-- Steven Berman, the survey statistician for the residential branch
of the Census Bureau's manufacturing and construction division.

Continue reading "Who's who of Real Estate economics 2: Dave Seiders, National Association of Homebuilders" »

October 5, 2006

Trulia, Truliablog

Trulia tracks real estate markets; updates in TruliaBlog.
Sample housing market search Great Neck NY, 3 bedroom, 2 bath.

An example of good URL engineering:

See also: Zillow.

October 4, 2006

Street Easy follows LIC Queens condos

StreetEasy monitors real estate markets; example: Long Island City, Queens.

September 20, 2006

Credit Slips

CreditSlips covers consumer lending from an
aspiring consumer protectionist regulator perspective.

Generally well informed and level headed:
debt trading,

Consuming is where consumers feel in control
(compare to John Fiske, "Shopping for Pleasure: Malls, Power & Resistance").

Innumerate: one number represents the whole population ?

September 2, 2006

Arris Lofts LIC $650 per square foot

Arris Lofts (Eagle Electric Company hq) 865 sf studio listed for $515K -- Queenswest.

Riverview in Astoria (Eagle Electric Company factory on 21st Street ) is cheaper ?

Arris Lofts reports they have 100 contracts currently out for review,
16 of which were issued today alone. A waiting list of 4,200 potential
buyers was amassed in the months before the sales office opened.

-- RealGotham.

September 1, 2006

Mortgage economists, who's who 1: Scott Anderson at Wells Fargo

Scott Anderson at Wells Fargo: bio.

Scott Anderson holds a doctorate in economics with an
emphasis in monetary theory and international trade
and finance from George Washington University. He is
responsible for analysis and forecasting of international,
national and regional economic trends. His areas of focus
include macroeconomic and interest rate forecasting,
financial markets, and international economics.

Mr. Anderson provides daily analyses of U.S. economic
news, and produces the Wells Fargo Economics macroeconomic
forecasts. He authors the bi-monthly Wells Fargo California
Outlook report and co-authors Wells Fargo’s weekly Financial
Market Strategies report and the monthly Economic Indicators
report. In addition, he covers the United Kingdom, China, South
Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore as part of our
bi-monthly international report.

Mr. Anderson's research is widely read by the financial
and business community and he has appeared in
numerous media including: CNN, Bloomberg, MSNBC,
CBS MarketWatch, BBC, NPR, Wall Street Journal, New York
Times, Financial Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles
Times, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, San Francisco

Mr. Anderson joined Wells Fargo as senior economist in 2001.

Citation: decade of flat home prices.

August 28, 2006

Echelon in Long Island City

Echelon LIC; hype at the developers group. Subway adverts.

Update: picture gallery from LICNYC.

Continue reading "Echelon in Long Island City" »

August 24, 2006

Urban Digs

Another consumer guide to NY real estate: urbandigs

August 17, 2006

The Real Estate Observer by the New York Observer
tracks New York real estate's luxury and upscale

August 13, 2006

zillowblog, real estate mapping and data services

Zillow, the real estate mapper, blogs.
And Zillow adds new real estate mapping and data services,
drive-by appraisal via SMS.

See also Trulia.

August 12, 2006


Carnival of real estate
Best of Real Estate this week.

Continue reading "Carnivalofrealestate" »

August 5, 2006


Mortgage Bankers have an association; news on refinancing, prepayment,
orginations, servicing, delinquency, foreclosures, MBS, ABS, securitization.

More like this: mortgage.

August 2, 2006

House price decline, why ?

At another smaller project, the Abbey, a former parish
building on East 16th Street being converted to condominiums,
most of the apartments sold for the asking price, or close
to it. But according to property records, one apartment,
a duplex on the top two floors, sold at a discount of
$500,000, or about 27 percent below the asking
price. Eight of 31 apartments are still listed as available.

The developer, Herbert Hirsch, said that he became
convinced that a sloping triangular roof limited the
use of some of the top floor of the duplex, so he
reduced the price
to account for this. He said buyers
were out there looking but were worried by press
accounts about the market and were postponing purchases.

Not a declining market, no Sir.

Continue reading "House price decline, why ?" »

August 1, 2006

Larger apartments, higher ceilings, open views, add value

Strong demand for larger apartments with higher ceilings,
open views and well-designed kitchens and bathrooms
— the type of apartments that have not been built in
large numbers in a generation.

The bullish view of the Manhattan real estate market is based
on the belief that it is unique -- a magnet for wealth from
across the country and around the world.

Continue reading "Larger apartments, higher ceilings, open views, add value" »

July 29, 2006

Long Island Multiple Listing Service

MLSLI, the MLS of Long Island.
House shopping in suburban Long Island.

July 16, 2006

Two-Factor Mortgage Valuation Model: How Much Do House Prices Matter?

An Empirical Test of a Two-Factor Mortgage Valuation Model:
How Much Do House Prices Matter?

Mortgage-backed securities, with their relative structural simplicity
and their lack of recovery rate uncertainty if default occurs, are
particularly suitable for developing and testing risky debt valuation
models. A two-factor structural mortgage pricing model in which
rational mortgage-holders endogenously choose when to prepay
and default subject to
i. explicit frictions (transaction costs) payable when terminating
their mortgages,
ii. exogenous background terminations, and
iii. a credit related impact of the loan-to-value ratio (LTV) on

We estimate the model using pool-level mortgage termination data
for Freddie Mac Participation Certificates, and find that the effect of
the house price factor on the results is both statistically and
economically significant. Out-of-sample estimates of MBS prices
produce option adjusted spreads of between 5 and 25 basis
points, well within quoted values for these securities.

Chris Downing, Richard Stanton, and Nancy E. Wallace,
An Empirical Test of a Two-Factor Mortgage Valuation Model:
How Much Do House Prices Matter
(link to 406 K, PDF file)

Chris Downing, Federal Reserve Board, Washington, DC
Richard Stanton, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley
Nancy E. Wallace, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley

Continue reading "Two-Factor Mortgage Valuation Model: How Much Do House Prices Matter?" »

June 29, 2006

Futures markets in home prices: Altos

Altos Research real estate price and market tracking.

Predicting home prices with futures' markets at Altos.

For a prospective homeowner, indicies based on regional
prices are nearly meaningless in real estate prices. Consider
that the median price in Los Altos, CA, lost 25% between 2000
and 2001 when the last bubble burst. 2006 has finally
moved prices back over their 2000 peak. But San Jose,
median priced at half that of Los Altos, never even dipped
in that period. For those of you from outside the Bay Area,
Los Altos is less than 10 miles from San Jose. The CME
housing market would have been an ineffective hedge
for my Los Altos home.

More: Altos Research's Mike Simonsen some maps

June 26, 2006

NY Real Estate maps: Shark Bites

Curbed and Property Shark team for NY Property Map theme of the week at Shark Bites.

June 11, 2006

Curbed: New York Real Estate / Lockhart Steele

Deflate real-estate hype. Update twice per shift. Former magazine
editor Lockhart Steele mocks overpriced condo listings and the
language brokers use to pump up and pimp out properties.

PriceChopper highlights grossly overpriced apartments and
takes credit when the asking price drops.

BubbleWatch links to optimistic market forecasts. Curbed's major
feature drawback is its New York-centric coverage and its
obsession with celebrity and luxury properties. Occasional
ganders at Los Angeles and Boston.

May 30, 2006

Best-Practices in Mortgage Default Risk Measurement and Economic Capital

Best-Practices in Mortgage Default Risk Measurement and Economic Capital

Each of the major processes used by industry participants to measure
so-called “credit risk” for first mortgage products. The study has three

Section I provides a discussion of the general concept of Economic
Capital (“EC”), how EC is measured and used by best-practice banks,
and how EC concepts used by industry practitioners differ from
regulatory definitions of capital.

Section II discusses the various types of theoretical “credit risk
models” that are used by practitioners to measure EC for mortgages.

Section III conducts several empirical experiments in which large
historical databases are used to estimate the credit risk models
described in Section II. The empirical work is aimed at helping
the practitioner and the regulator to evaluate the results of
alternative models.

David Kaskowitz, LoanPerformance
Kyle Lundstedt, LoanPerformance
Alexander Kipkalov, Washington Mutual Inc.
John Mingo, Mingo & Co.

May 28, 2006

Mortgage handbook at Treasury

Mortgage Banking, Comptroller’s Handbook (March 1998)

Sample entry:
Price level adjusted mortgage (PLAM). A mortgage loan in
which the interest rate remains fixed, but the outstanding
balance is adjusted for inflation.


May 26, 2006

House Price CAPM

Cointegration and Error Correction Mechanism Approaches:
Estimating a Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) for House
Price Index Returns with SAS

Many researchers erroneously use the framework of linear
regression models to analyze time series data when predicting
changes over time or when extrapolating from present conditions
to future conditions. Caution is needed when interpreting the results
of these regression models. Granger and Newbold (1974) discovered
the existence of ‘spurious regressions’ that can occur when the
variables in a regression are nonstationary. While these regressions
appear to look good in terms of having a high R2 and significant
t-statistics, the results are meaningless. Both analysis and modeling
of time series data require knowledge about the mathematical model
of the process.

This paper introduces a methodology that utilizes the power
of the SAS DATA STEP, and PROC X12
and REG procedures. The DATA STEP uses the SAS LAG and
DIF functions to manipulate the data and create an additional
set of variables including Home Price Index Returns (HPI_R1), first
differenced, and lagged first differenced. PROC X12 seasonally
adjusts the time series. Resulting variables are manipulated
further (1) to create additional variables that are tested for
stationarity, (2) to develop a cointegration model, and (3) to
develop an error correction mechanism modeled to determine
the short-run deviations from long-run equilibrium. The relevancy
of each variable created in the data step to time series analysis is
discussed. Of particular interest is the coefficient of the error
correction term that can be modeled in an error correction mechanism
to determine the speed at which the series returns to equilibrium. The
main finding is that Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) with very
slow shortrun acceleration paths to the equilibrium have higher
returns and risk associated with house price returns than
MSAs with very rapid speed-of-adjustment coefficients.

-- Ismail Mohamed and Theresa R. DiVenti, PDF.

May 14, 2006

Matrix @ Miller Samuel

Home buying reasons vary by generation and that open
houses are now on iPod video.
-- Matrix at Miller Samuel.

April 18, 2006

Home value by room count, Miller Samuel

Home value by rooms by Miller Samuel.
This regression is crying out for a log transformation.

And what do all the data points with fractional room counts represent ?


March 16, 2006

McMansion congratulations

When neighbors return, after having moved out temporarily to
have one of these steroid palaces built for them, I'm at a loss
for what to say.

Nice house seems insincere.

Where the hell did you get the money ?
would be aggressive and intrusive.

But it seems as if you should say something, right?
I want to say,

Why ? or,

You expecting quintuplets ?

I settle for

Looks like it's really coming along.

December 30, 2005

New Haven re-development

One portion of New Haven's facility symbolizes the city's transition from
an old economy industrial powerhouse to a growing force in the new
economy. New Haven's former Winchester Arms Company complex,
established in 1866 and open for more than a century, today is the
site of Science Park, a research-oriented business incubator.
Science Park houses more than 70 companies and 1,400 employees.

The park is in the midst of a three-year, $15 million redevelopment
plan that includes work to clear space for new state-of-the-art
manufacturing and laboratory facilities.

New Haven offers an extensive array existing facilities as well as
build-to-suit sites. The transformation of old to new also can
be seen in one of the city's hottest trends - turning industrial/
commercial space into loft-style living and working spaces. And
modern retail space is available in such rising areas as the
Ninth Square district, which is linked to successful shopping
areas at Wooster Square, Broadway and upper Chapel Street.

Continue reading "New Haven re-development" »

December 11, 2005

Housing bubble was worldwide

NEVER before have real house prices risen so fast, for so long, in so many
countries. Property markets have been frothing from America, Britain and
Australia to France, Spain and China. Rising property prices helped to
prop up the world economy after the stockmarket bubble burst in 2000.
What if the housing boom now turns to bust?


America's housing market heated up later than those in other countries,
such as Britain and Australia, but it is now looking more and more similar.
Even the Federal Reserve is at last starting to fret about what is happening.

Prices are being driven by speculative demand. A study by the National
Association of Realtors (NAR) found that 23% of all American houses
bought in 2004 were for investment, not owner-occupation. Another
13% were bought as second homes. Investors are prepared to buy houses
they will rent out at a loss, just because they think prices will keep rising
—the very definition of a financial bubble. “Flippers” buy and sell new
properties even before they are built in the hope of a large gain. In Miami,
as many as half of the original buyers resell new apartments in this way.
Many properties change hands two or three times before somebody
finally moves in.

Continue reading "Housing bubble was worldwide" »

December 6, 2005

Google maps mania

Google maps mania charts the
mash ups and applications.

November 9, 2005

Real estate sentiment at Miller Samuel Soapbox

Real estate sentiment and appraisal of the New York market at
Miller Samuel's Soapbox. [*]
2005 Dec: Promoted to blogroll2.

November 5, 2005

Real Estate in Academia: The Schools

Saunders, UBC
Harvard Joint Center
Penn (Zell-Lurie Center)

October 14, 2005

housing map 2

census track vs google map mash up.

Continue reading "housing map 2" »

October 10, 2005

infoproc / Stephen (Steve) Hsu

Infoproc (Steve) is a physicist interested in economic inference.

Example: exporting risk, Redmond visit.

September 30, 2005

Housing Map

Housing Maps
the criagslist - googlemap mash up.

See also housing maps by census.

Live near the trees.

Continue reading "Housing Map" »

September 23, 2005

Housing, constant quality index

macroblog looks at Shiller's claims of a housing bubble is about
about to burst.

Is the increase in housing indexes due to bigger, better houses,
or an genuine increase in the overall housing market ?

Housing price vs housing quality, now with quality control.

September 22, 2005


bubblemeter / David Jackson: yet another housing bubble blog.

September 20, 2005

local froth and bubbles in housing

Housing bubble trackers proliferate: here's six more.

NY housing bubble, NY
Property Grunt is NY-centric and offers a more commentary.
Jersey Shore, NJ
Boston, MA
Piggington, San Diego, CA
San Diego, CA
Seattle, WA
SoCal (CA)
Marin, CA

Continue reading "local froth and bubbles in housing" »

September 3, 2005

Track home builders stock

Track home builders' stock.

Toll Brothers Inc. (TOL)
KB Home (KBH)
Pulte Homes Inc. (PHM)
DR Horton Inc. (DHI)
KB Home (KBH)
Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. (HOV)

August 18, 2005

Property Grunt ++

Property Grunt is NY-centric and offers charming vignettes
with commentary. Hereby boosted from blogroll 4 to blogroll 2.

August 17, 2005

reowire (real estate owned (REO)) / Paul Jackson

Reowire offers more analysis than the pure doom and envy of most
housing bubble blogs, despite focusing on bank-owned real estate,
aka real estate owned (REO), and default servicing management.

Update 2005 October: downgraded to blogroll4 due to inactivity.

August 11, 2005

US Housing Bubble

* OFHEO HPI official housing price index.
Another US housing bubble blog.
Mostly links of doom.

* Ben Jones
Patrick Killelea, National and SF.
Another Fucked Borrower is pure gloom, San Diego-centric.
Bubble meter
Ready to burst gives a pop view.
Housing News
housingtracker tracks MLS inventory and quartile prices.
Bubble tracking is mostly statistics, San Diego-centric.
* Housing Panic
boy in the big housing bubble, eg.
Global Economic Analysis / Mike 'Mish' Shedlock

Continue reading "US Housing Bubble" »

July 25, 2005

Optimal Recursive Refinancing and the Valuation of Mortgage-Backed Securities (Longstaff)

The optimal recursive refinancing problem where a borrower minimizes
his lifetime mortgage costs by repeatedly refinancing when rates
drop. Key factors affecting the optimal decision are the cost of
refinancing and the possibility that the mortgagor may have to
refinance at a premium rate because of his credit.

The optimal recursive strategy often results in prepayment being
delayed significantly relative to traditional models. Furthermore,
mortgage values can exceed par by much more than the cost of
refinancing. Applying the recursive model to an extensive sample of
mortgage-backed security prices, we find that the implied credit
spreads that match these prices closely parallel borrowers’ actual
spreads at the origination of the mortgage. These results suggest
that optimal recursive models may provide a promising alternative
to the reduced-form prepayment models widely used in practice.

Francis A. Longstaff, Anderson School of Management.

Continue reading "Optimal Recursive Refinancing and the Valuation of Mortgage-Backed Securities (Longstaff)" »

July 21, 2005

Asset prices by Enricode Giorgi

Default models and asset pricing models at Enricode Giorgi's resource,
some with correlated defaults.

July 18, 2005

PMI Group

Economic and Real Estate Trends from the PMI Group.

July 9, 2005

Subprime mortgage rate spread at origination

Effects largely captured by a single variable: spread at origination
(SATO). SATO measures the difference in the mortgage rate between the
specified loan and a constant-quality subprime mortgage rate. Assuming
that lenders price borrower risk efficiently, a higher SATO
implies a poorer-credit borrower.

Search for more .

June 12, 2005

Big Picture / Barry Ritholtz

New Yorker, car fan, and economist Barry Ritholtz's Big Picture, a well presented
peresonal economic journal. Sample article, Homeowners Go Deep in Debt to Buy
Real Estate

Also writes as Amateur Investor columnist at The Street / Real Money.

Update 2008 Noverber: Now at example.

Continue reading "Big Picture / Barry Ritholtz" »

June 5, 2005

behavioural finance at capuchinomics

Capuchinomics: *.

Behavioural finance analysis of market trends, especially housing bubble.

Yet, efficient market theory cannot answer these questions:

-Why do companies with stable cashflows, earnings, sales and profit
margins have such volatile stocks?

-If the financials are stable, why is there so much trading?

-Why do prices change so much from day to day or month to month?

-Is that much value created and destroyed in such small time frames?

-Why do stocks increase or decrease by large amounts when often the
underlying financials only change by incremental amounts?

Continue reading "behavioural finance at capuchinomics" »

May 17, 2005


Inmann, mortgage blogger, is barkerishly spammy.

Useful listing of mortgage headlines; links are to pay-per-view versions
of what can was distributed by wire services.

May 15, 2005

Mortgage business complements auto business

  auto lending
+ real estate lending

”We find the mortgage business to be very complementary with our
auto business,” said Bob Brisco, chief executive of CarsDirect.

Continue reading "Mortgage business complements auto business" »

May 8, 2005

Shiller speaks

Robert Shiller speaks about Real Estate and 'Irrational Exuberance' on NPR.

More and more home owners are refinancing, and a full quarter of
homes sold last year went to investors instead of live-in homeowners.
How long can this hot market last, and when it ends, are we looking at
a minor chill, or a full-blown ice age?

April 28, 2005

Urban Review STL

Excelent Urban Review STL architrectural review of Saint Louis, MO
housing and commercial real estate.

April 26, 2005

Residential Mortgage Termination and Severity, De Franco

Modeling Residential Mortgage Termination and Severity
Using Loan Level Data

Three essays on modeling residential mortgages.

Chapter 1 presents and estimates a new model of loss given
default using a new dataset of prime and subprime mortgages. The
model combines option theory proxies with information on the loan
contract and the cash flow position of the borrower. The results
suggest that severity on subprime and adjustable rate mortgages are
similar to losses on fixed rate prime loans, but that investor owned
properties have significantly higher losses than owner occupied
houses. The results also suggest systemic overappraisals on refinanced

Chapter 2 uses option pricing methodology to value the prepayment and
default options associated with a residential mortgage, if house
prices are mean reverting.

Numerical solutions compare the results from the mean reverting house
price model to the results from a model where house prices follow a
geometric Brownian motion process.

The main contributions are:

(1) the value of the implicit rent (service flow) is derived as a
function of the house price process instead of assumed to be constant,
as in prior research;

(2) the mean reverting model has additional factors that may help
forecast mortgage termination; and

(3) the house price process is shown to have a significant effect on
the value of a mortgage over a wide range of parameter values.

Chapter 3 presents a modeling framework for residential mortgages that
has separate models for each loan payment status (Current, 30 Days
Late, 60 Days Late, 90+ Days Late, in Foreclosure, in REO, or Paid
Off). It is shown that several classes of traditional mortgage
prepayment and default models are restricted forms of this model, and
that the restrictions are rejected empirically.

Continue reading "Residential Mortgage Termination and Severity, De Franco" »

April 25, 2005

Housing after boom

Housing after the boom explained by angry bear:

Expectation is for slowly declining prices in much of the
United States and significantly lower transaction volumes

April 24, 2005

Option-Theoretic Prepayment Model for Mortgages: Fabozzi , Kalotay and Yang

A new approach for modeling the prepayments of a mortgage pool
shows how to value mortgage pools and agency mortgage-backed
securities. A notion of refinancing efficiency describes the
full spectrum of refinancing behavior.

The approach has two distinguishing features:

(1) The primary focus is on understanding the market value of a
mortgage, in contrast with standard models that strive (often
unsuccessfully) to predict future cash flows, and

(2) we use two separate yield curves, one for discounting mortgage
cash flows and the other for MBS cash flows.

An Option-Theoretic Prepayment Model for Mortgages and Mortgage-
Backed Securities

To appear in International Journal of Theoretical and Applied Finance
Dec 2004, jrg 7, nr 8, december 2004, pages 949-978.

April 20, 2005

Calculated Risk

Calculated Risk offers nicely illustrated economics.

There has been a significant increase in mortgage brokers. There
has been a similar increase in residential building trades, appraisers,
home inspectors and other housing related occupations. The
impact of a housing slowdown on employment will be significant.

What will the end of the refinance boom and the housing boom
do to the mortgage industry ?

Continue reading "Calculated Risk" »

April 16, 2005 expert opines on the UK estate market.
Also tabulates industry index data.

See also Vancouver Housing Market and The Housing Bubble.

April 14, 2005


thehousingbubble, not to be confused with housingbubble track
over financed, over mortgaged real estate.

April 13, 2005

Vancouver housing market

Vancouver housing market.
Somewhere between curbed and housing bubble.

Noticed and awarded.

April 9, 2005

Santa Barbara bubble, dismissed

A Santa Barbara real estate tout dismisses claims of a
real estate bubble.

April 6, 2005

Housing Bubble Bust

Housing Bubble Bust is San Francisco-centric and frequently updates
its headlines.
Also a good list of links (at page bottom).

April 5, 2005

Housing bubble bloggers

housingbubble, moderately frequent. not to be confused with
thehousingbubble. Both track home of those who over finance,
over mortgage their real estate.

April 3, 2005

Dynamist housing bubble

Dynamist Virginia Postrel looked at rent to own costs and
saw a SoCal
housing bubble.

March 1, 2005

Institutional Investor

Institutional Investor tracks Real Estate Finance and Investment.

January 9, 2005

Mortgage Blogs

The Mortgages Blog (by weblogsinc) is frequently updated with
mortgage industry news mixes some news items and more outside
links with descriptions.

Bankrate is potpourri of mortgage and consumer finance content,
more written for consumers than lenders, and syndicated onto
many consumer sites.