The Big Apple Sept. 10

WHILE THE U.S.  SUFFERED IN Q2, MANHATTAN HOUSING IMPROVED

After disturbing Q2 reports were released last month on the U.S. housing market (in “Weekly Roundup” below), the Wall Street Journal’s Josh Barbanel armed himself with statistics to show that the situation in Manhattan wasn’t so bad. Sales of apartments in Manhattan appear to have strengthened this summer, with median prices up, inventory down and an increase in the number of apartment closings, he reported.

“The figures suggest that the Manhattan market, buoyed by a resumption of hiring and a healthy Wall Street bonus season ahead, has so far escaped much of the distress across the country,” Barbanel wrote.  He noted that July’s median home sale price in Manhattan was $900,000 in comparison with $182,600 nationwide.

In a subsequent piece, he detailed statistics from Streeteasy.com that demonstrate how the housing market in most of New York City is outperforming markets in the rest of the country this summer, with prices rising modestly as employment grows in the city.  In Brooklyn, median prices for apartments and houses rose 3.9 percent  so far in the third quarter to $467,600, up from $450,000 in the second quarter.

The number of closings was up 70 percent in June from May across the city, including an 86 percent increase in Brooklyn and 77 percent in Queens, the writer said, adding:

In July the number of closings didn’t collapse, but preliminary figures show they fell back to about 10 percent below the levels in May.

There was even a “measurable” effect of the tax-credit program in Manhattan, even though it was limited to properties costing $800,000 or less, the maximum price under the tax-credit program.

YET JULY NUMBERS REVEAL A DISAPPEARING TREND

While Manhattan apartment closings jumped by more than 75 percent year-over-year in both May and June, that sales bump all but evaporated in July, according to PropertyShark.com, reports the Real Deal.

In the first month since the expiration of the federal homebuyer tax credit, apartment sales increased by just 1.9 percent over July 2009. Somewhat more than 1,000 apartments closed in the borough during the month, public records show.

Still, the median sales price jumped by 19.7 percent year-over-year, to $887,500.

THERE’S A NEW MANHATTAN SKYLINE ON–GET IT?–THE HORIZON

The city’s approval of an office tower near the Empire State Building last week is the latest reminder that New York is poised for one of its biggest waves of skyscraper development in decades—provided the economy cooperates, the Wall Street Journal observes.

“We need new, modern buildings to accommodate the new business model that’s out there today all over the world,” Mark Weprin, chairman of the City Council’s subcommittee on zoning and franchises, said.

NEW LAW SPECIFIES DISCLOSURE OF WHO’S REPRESENTING WHOM

New amendments to the state’s real estate agency disclosure law are aimed at increasing transparency in the real estate process and offering more protection to consumers and real estate brokers.  The amendments, to take effect Jan. 1, will require that agency disclosure forms be completed for all residential transactions.

SECRECY BEDEVILS INFORMATION SHARING AMONG BROKERS

As relatively tough times continue for the New York market, brokers say they have noticed a drop in information-sharing, according to the Real Deal.

With prices down and the inventory of desirable listings shrinking, some brokers are more hesitant to co-broke, hoping to keep the entire commission, typically 6 percent, for themselves. To facilitate this practice, brokers say, some delay entering listing information into REBNY’s Listing Service, known as RLS, while trying to find a buyer on their own or within their firm.

On the flip side, many brokers don’t update their listings once they are sold or in contract, hoping to attract moneyed buyers as clients.

CONDO PRICES SLIPPED 2.7 PERCENT IN JUNE, BUT THEY  STILL WERE HIGHER THAN IN 2009

In June, condo prices (pdf) declined 2.7 percent to an average of $989.99 per square foot compared with the year-earlier month, according to Radar Logic’s RPX Index. Despite the decrease, average prices were 6 percent higher than a year earlier.

The Upper West Side, where average prices fell 12.1 percent from May and 7.2 percent from a year earlier, posted the largest decline in June. The SoHo/TriBeCa neighborhood had the biggest increase, with prices rising by 10 percent from May and 20.3 percent year over year.

IF YOU CAN STAND THE HEAT, GET INTO THE KITCHEN

“Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen” an opens Sept. 15 at the Museum of Modern Art.  Curated by Juliet Kinchin (as almost in “kitchen”), the show will explore the way the kitchen has evolved since the start of the 20th century. The museum notes that:

. . . kitchens have continued to articulate, and at times actively challenge, our relationship to the food we eat, popular attitudes toward the domestic role of women, family life, consumerism, and even political ideology in the case of the celebrated 1959 “Kitchen Debate” that took place between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow at the height of the Cold War.

IN STRESSED MARKET, MORE SELLERS PAY RENT TO STAY IN THEIR HOMES AFTER CLOSING

Brokers and lawyers alike say they’re seeing a spike in the number of sellers becoming temporary renters in the very homes they’re getting rid of, notes the Real Deal.

So-called possession or post-closing occupancy agreements are written into contracts to allow sellers to rent their properties back temporarily after the closing. While such agreements are far from new, they are increasing in frequency.

CO-OP MONTHLY MAINTENANCE JUMPS 19%

Although maintenance charges went up nominally since 2006, appraiser Jonathan Miller charts a climb of 19 percent this year. Reporting that the last double-digit jump was 11 percent from 2005 to 2006, the head of the Miller Samuel firm says it is unclear whether such a big increase was the beginning of a trend or simply an anomaly. Adds Miller:

Specific issues like energy costs aside, I would speculate that the era of low mortgage rates has enabled less restraint on maintenance growth over the past two decades.

THE NEW YORK TIMES FINDS ALLURING THREE TOWNHOUSES ON WEST END AVENUE

In its original incarnation, notes the New York Times, West End Avenue was “a boulevard de la haute bourgeoisie,” the West Side’s counterpart to Madison Avenue.

The avenue and its flanking streets were lined with architecturally varied row houses and near-mansions. Of the few that remain, three in particular are of interest, bearing distinctive traces of the attentions of recent owners.

The most ambitious town house still standing on West End Avenue is No. 266, between 72nd and 73rd, built in 1896 by Julius Jaros, an importer., according to the newspaper. It was designed by the Paris-trained Rudolph Daus, “who pulled every Beaux-Arts lever he could for the scrumptious French Renaissance limestone mansion. . . ”

BY PAYING FLIP TAX, BUYERS MAY GET SELLERS TO SHAVE THE PRICE

Owners of apartments traditionally have had to pay a flip tax when their property changed hands.  However, some buyers today hope for a better sale price by offering to pay that tax.

Whether a building’s bylaws stipulate who pays, the party who actually hands over the money is typically determined through negotiation, Aaron Shmulewitz, a partner with the real estate law firm Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman, tells the New York Times.  Even so, he said, “in the vast majority of cases, the purchase price is adjusted in some fashion to reflect who pays the flip tax.”

‘TLC’ IN AN AD CAN MEAN ‘WRECK’ OR  THE PLACE MIGHT BE JUST COSMETICALLY CHALLENGED

TLC–Tender Loving Care. They are the ubiquitous code words favored by brokers to describe homes needing, um, work. While most brokers cannot recall when they started using the phrase, they sprinkle it liberally in advertisements for properties.

PREWAR THREE-BEDROOMS ARE HOT ON THE UWS, BUT IT’S MOSTLY TWO-BEDROOMS ELSEWHERE

To get an idea of what kinds of Manhattan apartments are most likely to find buyers right now, New York magazine asked StreetEasy.com vice-president of research Sofia Song to analyze closed sales from January 1 to August 15 of this year. Song weighed three factors: price discounts, time on the market, and the ratio of closed sales to available listings in that segment.

LANDLORD ALLEGEDLY KILLS TENANT IN DISPUTE OVER RENT, TRASH DISPOSAL

Hours after Patricia Wilson’s body was found outside her Linwood Street apartment building in East New York, her landlord was charged with her murder. Jacqueline Wesley-Rosa, 49, also was charged with criminal possession of a weapon charges.

Police and neighbors say the pair had been engaged in a long-running dispute over rent and issues such as trash disposal.

TRANSIT CUTS AFFECT PROPERTY VALUES IN ENTIRE CITY

The loss of the V and W subway lines and the scaling back of bus service in all five boroughs hit commuters hard, but it also appears to be affecting the property values of homes in their now-abandoned paths. Real-estate data compiled by StreetEasy.com show a  dropoff in sales in some neighborhoods along the bus routes since they ended this summer.

SOME UPPER WESTSIDERS WORRY ABOUT RETAIL STORES CHANGING THE NEIGHBORHOOD

For devoted West Siders, the entire stretch of Broadway from West 59th to 110th Street in Manhattan is a landmark—lined with iconic establishments that are steps from Central Park, says the Wall Street Journal.

In an area that has traditionally been a bastion for intellectual and creative types, the steady influx of affluence has been changing the fabric of the neighborhood in recent years.

When Barnes and Noble bookstore on 66th and Broadway recently announced plans to shutter in January 2011, only to be replaced by a Century 21 department store, many loyal patrons were saddened.

“With this gone, the character of this neighborhood will invariably change, and not for the better,” said 43-year-old Sarah Huston, a playwright who grew up in the area. “And why we need another fashion outlet around here is beyond me.”

You can search the listings marketed by various brokers by clicking on the link at the right, but do consider calling me for information and assistance.  Also, you’ll find on this blog today other posts containing a range of news and information beyond The Big Apple, plus one of my periodic critiques of properties that I visit.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201

Malcolm@ServiceYouCanTrust.com
Web site

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