Case can’t predict, and Times gets NYC wrong

Karl Case, whose name is practically immortalized as co-creator of the Case-Shiller Index, said in September that he thought the housing market may be near a bottom.

In a paper he presented at the Brookings Institution, the Wellesley emeritus professor of economics observed that nine of 20 metro areas had shown price improvement and the relationship between incomes and house prices was nearing a level that occurred at the end of previous housing downturns.

In the New York Times that same month, he wrote that “housing has perhaps never been a better bargain.”

That was September, you might note, so why take issue with him? One reason would be Continue reading

True confessions of an auction addict

Skier in Vail, Colo.

Aside from the fact that many readers like to keep up with auction news, I once had an experience that seems to have hooked me on the subject.

When I was a writer for Money magazine in the early 80s, real estate auctions were rare enough that I was assigned to cover one.  The auction in question was for unsold units near Vail, Colo. Continue reading

Perfect for families? Fishermen? Uh uh!

Christine Haughney hits that proverbial nail on the head in her latest column in the New York Times.  In it, she takes on words and phrases that evoke discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.

One commonly encountered phrase portrays a property as “perfect for “empty nesters.” That’s like saying children are a no-no.  And that’s against the law. “Fisherman’s retreat” — the Lincoln Tunnel? — also is questionable.  Women need not apply?

Other words and phrases Haughney that flags include “bachelor pad,” “near churches” and “play area.”

The column omits Continue reading

Out and About: Can drama trump the views?

Two apartments that I recently visited had me lingering with unconcealed appreciation, practically awestruck, for their architecture, not just their décor.

I’m not denying that the look of the units had to have underscored the impression the bones conveyed.  But so daring and dramatic was the interior architecture that, to my mind, the apartments went beyond winning to wow.

Let me tell you about one of them, which happens to be the most expensive of the pair by far–$5.2 million.   Continue reading

The Big Apple: City’s estate auction is a dud

Undercounted immigrants may explain smaller population than believed

New York City’s population reached a record high for a 10-year census of 8,175,133, according to the 2010 count released on Thursday, but it fell far short of the official forecast.

Mayor Bloomberg immediately challenged the Census Bureau’s finding, saying it shortchanged the city by as many as 225,000 people.

He said it was “inconceivable” that Queens grew by only 1,343 people since 2000 and suggested that the profusion of apartments listed as vacant in places such as Flushing and in a swath of southwest Brooklyn meant the census missed many hard-to-count immigrants.

There’s something about Inez Dickens and her taxes

City Councilwoman Inez Dickens co-owns four Harlem apartment buildings that have for months owed the city more than $100,000 in property taxes.

Dickens’ properties also Continue reading

Weekly Roundup: Cautious pessimism prevails

Here’s your chance to catch up with news included to inform, enlighten and perhaps even entertain you. To read about The Big Apple, check out the other of today’s posts and look for Out and About early next week.

Why did the comedian cross the park?

Some celebrities are the biggest losers

Austin is his new vantage point

Number of sales of new homes plunges to record low in February

Cities with inventory growth outnumber those with flat or falling supply

There are no birds Continue reading

Brokers have both customers and clients

Put it in writing. (Flickr photo by tnarik)

The difference between a customer and client is not irrelevant in real estate.

If you are buying real estate, you need to know who is whom. Continue reading

D’ya think the Times seeks real estate ads?

When I finally found time to leaf through the New York Times Sunday magazine the other day, I came across a two-page spread headlined “What you get for $700,000.”

(Times photo)

Interesting, thought I. The contrast between the 550-sf studio in Greenwich Village and the 4,800-sf four-bath house in Columbia, S.C. for the same $699,000 price was not a little intriguing, even to my jaundiced eyes.

Of course, as we all understand, you get more than a studio apartment living in New York City than you do in four-bedroom house in Columbia–well, if not more, at least different.  I get it, I gave up Continue reading

Out and About: Mitchell-Lamas are spacious, cold

Now called Central Park Towers, the former Park West Village complex of more than 1,600 apartments began life as Mitchell-Lama housing on the Upper West Side.

Created in 1955, the Mitchell-Lama program provides affordable rental and cooperative housing to moderate- and middle-income families, as the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development notes.

There are 97 such rental and limited-equity cooperative developments in New York City, with more than 44,600 units. Not included are those that have been converted into condos, and they have a range of pluses and minuses.

Mitchell-Lama buildings are not to everyone taste–for example, mine–but they tend to offer excellent value as a tradeoff to their overwhelming size and what I see as their other liabilities.

Each of the four looming behemoths in the Central Park Towers complex contains Continue reading

City collects $3 million from Queens auction

The estate auction of ultimately 19 properties in various Queens neighborhoods attracted $2.969 million in winning bids last week.

Withdrawn from the sale was a two-story detached frame house in East Elmhurst, and six of the properties failed to achieve their minimum bids.

The highest bid went for the Elmhurst house shown here; It sold for $500,000, well above the upset price of $319,000.  In all, nine properties were hammered down at prices higher than the minimum set by Queens Public Administrator Lois M. Rosenblatt.

Below are the all the results of the auction, which was held March 15. Continue reading