How would you like a very, very cheap apartment?

This photo was distributed by ZonaEuropa from a Chinese blogger.

This photo was distributed along with those that follow by ZonaEuropa, and the source apparently is a Chinese blogger.

The 13-story apartment building, which was nearly completed, collapsed on the morning of June 27, according to Reuters.  The photos are so dramatic that I’m publishing below almost all that I found.

shanghai2 Continue reading

Condo refinancing may be easier than was known; One reason: some banks now welcome jumbos

A downtown Manhattan Web site called The Broadsheet tells the tale of a condo owner with good credit whose applications for refinancing his mortgage at Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase were rejected.

The banks said they based their decision on a Fannie Mae rule that discourages banks from making loans on apartments in buildings in which a single entity (even the sponsor) owns more than 10 percent of the units.

Unable to get specific answers from loan officers about how any condo where the developer retains a substantial presence (there are hundreds in Manhattan alone) could be eligible for financing, the unidentified applicant went directly to Fannie Mae and discovered the following:

“When I finally tracked down the people who are in charge of mortgages for condos, they explained to me that most banks were not interpreting these rules correctly.The Fannie Mae executive I spoke to said that banks in places like New York actually have much more leeway than they realize.”

This executive pointed out that the new rules do not apply to every bank and to every market on a blanket basis.  Continue reading

If you’re still here in 2050, you’ll have company

There’s no way I’ll be adding to the statistic, but the world’s 65-and-older population is projected to triple by mid century, from 516 million in 2009 to 1.53 billion in 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In contrast, the population under 15 is expected to increase by only 6 percent during the same period, from 1.83 billion to 1.93 billion.crowd

In the United States, the population 65 and older will more than double by 2050, rising from 39 million today to 89 million. While children are projected to still outnumber the older population worldwide in 2050, the under 15 population in the United States is expected to fall below the older population by that date, increasing from 62 million today to 85 million.

These figures come from the world population estimates and projections released last week through the Census Bureau’s International Data Base. This latest update includes projections by age, including people 100 and older, for 227 countries and areas.

Less than 8 percent of the world’s population is 65 and older. By 2030, the world’s population 65 and older is expected to reach 12 percent, and  that share is expected to grow to 16 percent by 2050. Continue reading

1,000 properties here, 1,000 there sure add up

This chart from appraisal firm Miller-Samuel shows month-to-month changes in Manhattan housing inventory since the beginning of 2006.

This chart from appraisal firm Miller-Samuel shows month-to-month changes in Manhattan housing inventory since the beginning of 2006.

The chart above graphically illustrates how much the housing market has undergone a transformation in the last few years.

What is more or less similar over the period are seasonal changes – e.g. the drop in supply as sales jump in the spring.  “Jump” does not, perhaps, apply this year.  It was more like a hop that, anecdotally, seems to be fading.  (Second-quarter figures will be released early next month, and you’ll find them in my newsletter on July 10.)

It appears that the trend line for this year Continue reading

Builders, Realtors groups blame the messenger

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), it’s not the economy, stupid.  It’s not those avaricious lenders of sub-prime loans to unqualified buyers.  It’s not exotic hedge funds.  Nor is it government regulators.

No, it’s. . . appraisers!

Get this from an NAHB press release this week (and just wait until you read the last paragraph of the release, in boldface way below):

“Using foreclosed and distressed sales as comparables with appraisals on single-family homes without adequately reflecting the differences in the condition of the respective properties is needlessly driving down home values.”

That’s the lead paragraph. The release then quotes its chairman of the board, whose photo is below. Says Joe Robson, a home builder from Tulsa, Okla.:

“Any home buyer can recognize the difference between a well-kept home and a distressed property that is damaged or not properly maintained. So it only makes sense that an appraiser should be required to consider the overall condition of a property and the specific factors related to a foreclosure or distressed property sale when selecting and adjusting the value of comparables.”

If you are buying or selling real estate, this is an issue that you’ll discover runs close to home. One reason Continue reading

The more things change–well, you know the rest

The Time Warner Center seen from the Top of the Rock in Rockefeller Center.

The Time Warner Center seen from the Top of the Rock in Rockefeller Center.

A broker friend of mine mentioned the other day that there was a broker open house tour near Columbus Circle at the southern end of the Upper West Side.  She thought the apartments on view might well interest me.

Most brokers, including me, are little different from most consumers in that the most expensive and lavish properties hold a particular fascination.  High on the list of such properties are apartments in the Time Warner Center.  (I’ve written about them in past newsletters.)

Continue reading

Foreigners warm to investing in U.S. real estate

In a survey by the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate (AFIRE), two thirds of the organization’s 200 members said they plan to invest some debt or equity in U.S. real estate before 2009 is over. However, three quarters of them have yet to do so.

Investors’ ranking of the three cities that they expect to recover first are Washington, D.C., New York City and San Francisco, unchanged since last January’s survey.

“Twice as many respondents named Washington as their city of choice over second-place New York,” said AFIRE chief executive James Fetgatter. Continue reading

Harvard housing report sees ‘eventual’ recovery

A sustained recovery for housing still faces an uphill climb, says Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies in its annual report released yesterday.  To compare Harvard’s analysis with a variety of others, check out my forthcoming newsletter Friday afternoon.
“Although there are some signs of improvement or at least steadiness in new construction and sales, housing starts stand near 60-plus year lows, and any life in home sales is coming from distressed foreclosure sales, temporary first-time buyer tax credits and low interest rates that moved higher in recent weeks.” notes Center Director Nicolas P. Retsinas.  Adds Executive Director Eric S. Belsky: “The best that can be said of the market is that house price corrections and steep cuts in housing production are creating the conditions that will lead to an eventual recovery.  For now, markets remain under considerable stress.”

The Harvard University campus.

Meanwhile, the number and share of households spending more than half their incomes on housing continues to remain at elevated levels. Continue reading

The 10 percent difference is slipping away

In the old days, a rule of thumb in New York City was that condos should cost approximately 10 percent more than co-ops.  That, of course, is an average that disguises a wide disparity of prices.

These days, however, I don’t see that there is much of a price advantage.  (I confess that the sameness of condos with their stainless-steel appliances and Sub-Zero refrigerators has long depressed me as I check out apartments to keep up to date on the housing market and write my “Out and About” newsletter column.)

Here’s why: Continue reading

Here comes the sun

Looking east toward Harlem from Morningside Drive over the park.

Looking east toward Harlem from Morningside Drive over the park.

In the 17th Century, the land that is now Morningside Heights was known as Vandewater’s Heights, named for a landowner, according to Wikipedia.

On September 16, 1776, the Battle of Harlem Heights was fought there, with the most intense fighting occurring in a sloping wheat field that is now the site of Barnard College. A plaque by the Columbia University gate on 117th Street and Broadway commemorates this battle.

A century ago, as the New York Times has recounted, Morningside Heights was a desolate outpost on the northern fringe of the metropolis, almost empty except for the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum and the Leake & Watts Orphanage. Continue reading