Whew! It’s a virtual stampede of buyers out there

(Flickr photo by abrin523)

Competition for apartments started to heat up about a month ago, and now the flames burn more intensely than ever as a result of withering inventory.

I went on Sunday to eight or nine open houses that had been listed on the Upper West Side in just the prior week, and they were mobbed.  The only one that wasn’t packed in the first five minutes was a $279,000 studio remarkable only for how oppressive it was.

Worse for buyers, at least two of them had offers, including that studio.  In some cases, there were multiple offers — even before those initial open houses.

Listing agents were running out of show sheets, prospective buyers were literally bumping into each other, there was a palpable sense of panic.

“Irrational exuberance,” one of the agents muttered none too originally but emphatically accurate.

We are not alone in that observation.  Indeed, confirming that the housing market is galloping once again, the new Real Deal proclaims in a headline that bidding is “absolutely insane.”

Lord Keynes had a point.

A sellers’ market that is so robust is not a good thing, occasionally even for sellers. Continue reading

The Big Apple: Prices, sales slip in 1st quarter

Weakness emerges in Manhattan market during first quarter

Reports issued today showed price declines as much as 23 percent from the same time last year, according to the New York Times.

One of the reports, prepared by the Miller Samuel appraisal firm, had the median sale price down by 9.9 percent to $782,071. According to that document, a new index of sales that have yet to close recorded a 7.1 percent increase over the same time last year, suggesting an upswing in the current quarter.

Explanations for the dip included the artificial bump caused last year by the federal homebuyer tax credit and a boost this year in the sales of co-ops, which are generally less expensive than condos, as the result of a crimp in condo inventory.

As Noah Rosenblatt, a blogger, broker and data provider, points out on UrbanDigs.com, the figures on which the reports are based are flawed because of the way they are gathered.

Says he: “. . . you MUST understand that you are seeing an incomplete report with a ton of Q1 sales not yet publicly released! Especially March, whose sales will continue roll in over the course of the next 4-8 weeks. . .”

Price of studios suggests it’s a good time to buy one

The studio market has gone soft again–just as it did in the last recession, says the New York Times.

Prices have dipped to 2005 levels, making it possible to find studios in Manhattan in the $200,000s–lots of them. And they don’t all face a brick wall or involve a lengthy hike to the subway.

The average price for studios dropped to $404,326 in 2010 from a high of $500,479 in 2008.

A recent search of Manhattan listings on the Times real estate site and on Streeteasy.com found close to 200 studios available for $300,000 or less. An article about studios in The Times in 2009, before the market had bottomed out, found only a handful of studios in that price range.

The Times provides Continue reading

The Big Apple: Bags of $100 bills, monthly stats, more

GROWING DEMAND FOR TWO-BEDROOM APARTMENTS HAS THEIR PRICES RISING

After a lull that has lasted for more than a year, two-bedrooms are back.

The market share for two-bedrooms first dipped under 30 percent in early 2009, with smaller and larger apartments gobbling up more of the sales, according to data compiled by Jonathan J. Miller, the president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel and a market analyst for Prudential Douglas Elliman. But in recent months, that percentage has climbed back up to 39 percent.

The median in Manhattan dropped 20 percent, from a high of $1.6 million, in 2008, to $1.272 million in 2009, according to the data. It has since inched back to $1.3 million.

SELLERS AND BROKERS ARE KNOWN TO MISREPRESENT BEDROOMS, SQUARE FOOTAGE, BUILDING POLICIES AND NOISE

Sometimes sellers and their brokers get things wrong or even flat-out lie to the other side, and New York, says real-estate attorney Jerry Feeney, is “a buyer-beware state.” (Brokers’ websites include fine print disclaiming responsibility for errors.)

If you have even a slight suspicion, Continue reading

Comparing sales just got harder, in a way

Six of one and . . . (Flickr photo by theilr)

Starting March 12, the city changed the way it displays property records in its online database, the Automated City Register Information System, or ACRIS.  The modification was little noticed until the Real Deal ran a piece on its Web site the other day.

For example, as the publication observed, the closed sale price of a unit at 10 West 66th St. that had shown a recorded sale price of $1 million jumped to $1.75 million. A studio at 61 Jane St. had a price tag of $87,900 when the deal closed in 2009, then $439,500 after the change in ACRIS, from which StreetEasy.com and PropertyShark.com draw data.

The change is meant to reflect virtually everything a buyer expends to purchase a co-op, Continue reading

Is it a losing battle for brand-name brokerages?

Are new business models winning a fight with older brokerages? (Flickr photo by red betty black.)

The new June issue of the Real Deal has a piece about an unsurprising development among brokers.  In the article, which correctly quotes me, writer Candace Taylor notices that many brokers are questioning the value of their affiliation with name-brand firms in New York City.

Referring not only to commission splits but also to annual fees up to $5,000 that brokers must pay their firms, plus errors and omissions insurance, Taylor notes: Continue reading

I may have vowed that I would never, ever tweet

Don’t get me wrong: I still hate the idea.  But. . .

It occurred to me a few weeks ago that many of us local real estate bloggers read each other’s posts all the time and link to each other regularly even though many of us have never met or even spoken to each other.

So, I asked several bloggers who mostly concentrate on Manhattan and a couple of writers from the traditional news media whether they’d like to get together at long last.  Sure enough, they would.

A lunch dish from Kouzan on the Upper West Side.

The other night almost nine of us met for drinks (and, it turned out, dinner) at the commendable Kouzan restaurant near my apartment on the Upper West Side.  (Hey, I got to choose.)

Attending were folks from Curbed, Urban Diggs, Westside Independent, New York magazine, Habitat, the Wall Street Journal and Brick Underground.  Three others – the Real Deal TrueGotham and Matrix – couldn’t make it. Continue reading

Some firms seem to treat brokers like employees

As independent contractors, good real estate brokers work hard. (Flickr photo by Christolakis.)

A New York Times front-page article on the IRS cracking down on companies that blur the line between independent contractors and employees caught my eye.  Some brokerage firms nudge that line all the time. Continue reading