The Big Apple: Will investors drive up prices?

Construction activity rises, but new starts of residential building dip below previous two years

The value of construction projects commenced in New York City rose 15 percent in 2010 thanks to non-residential and public sector building, while new residential construction starts continued to slide, according to the New York Building Congress.

Residential projects worth $2.21 billion began last year, which was down from $6.03 billion in 2008, at the tail end of the construction boom, and $2.58 billion in 2009, according to the analysis.

Unsurprisingly, federal tax credit caused spike in last June’s sales

The U.S. tax credit for first-time homebuyers had more of a positive impact on the city’s residential sales market than expected, according to recent data recently released by the city’s Economic Development Corp. (EDC).

The number of residential sales spiked to 5,920 last June, the highest level of activity since 2006, before the market crashed, according to the EDC’s February Economic Snapshot.

Investors in condos are venturing back into Manhattan

Now, after two years of sitting on the sidelines, would-be investors are showing a renewed interest in Manhattan condos. Industry experts attribute their re-entry to several factors: Prices have stabilized while rents are ticking up, mortgages are easier to obtain, and interest rates are low.

“Investors are more confident that the housing market is reaching a bottom,” noted Ryan Hinricher, founder of Investor Nation, an investment property fund and sales company. “They are willing to take risks they weren’t one to two years ago.”

Relatively speaking, some neighborhoods still offer value to buyers

There are pockets of the city that haven’t yet reached their full potential, where small investors or home buyers looking for the greatest financial upside can snap up deals.

It’s well known, for instance, that areas like Hudson Yards and Yorkville are a good bet for investment because of the massive construction projects underway nearby (the Hudson Yards complex and the Second Avenue subway, respectively). Beyond those enclaves, the Real Deal asked experts to identify some lesser-known areas of Manhattan where value can still be found.

The New York State Department of State quietly fined the Corcoran Group $70,000 this past June as a result of a 2006 complaint filed by an unhappy co-op buyer who discovered that dozens of the firm’s agents were working without licenses, the Real Deal has learned.

Licensing authority fines brokerage for agents running afoul of requirements

The New York State Department of State quietly fined the Corcoran Group $70,000 last as a result of a 2006 complaint filed by an unhappy co-op buyer who discovered that dozens of the firm’s agents were working without licenses.

A state investigation found that 79 Corcoran brokers and agents–including several top producers at the firm–had licensing irregularities in 2006-2007.

The manner and severity of Department of State punishments is on the minds of some in the real estate industry in Manhattan, following a decision by the agency last month to open a new investigation into unlicensed agents.

February activity nearly matches a year earlier, but new listings slump

February saw a rising pace of new contracts being signed and a slowing pace of new listings hitting the marketplace from the prior month, says data maven/broker Noah Rosenblatt.

“For those buyers having trouble finding quality product that is priced right, you’re not alone,” he writes.

Especially for co-ops, generally those listed between $500,000 and $3 million, appraiser Jonathan Miller has assembled data showing that demand tended to outpace supply on the Upper West Side and to a lesser degree downtown. But the Upper East Side has evened out supply and demand after a shortage of inventory below $3 million, according to his latest report on absorption rates in Manhattan.

Rents surge 8 percent in a one year but trail 2008 by 1 percent

The Real Estate Group NY reports that rents have not dipped as expected in Manhattan this winter, with the market holding steady throughout the start of the New Year.

Rents last month were relatively flat versus January–up only 0.4 percent overall. Year-over-year comparisons show prices up 8.01 percent on average. The largest changes in comparison with 2010 numbers were in doorman studios, up 10.31 percent.

Inventories continued to creep up last month, rising 3.68 percent since January.

As for figures three years ago, 2011 rents are below 2008 by less than 1 percent, what the Real Estate Group said was “a true testament to the rental market’s resilience over the past three years.

Lawyer advises keeping eyes open and on a clear crystal ball when considering a land-leased building

Real-estate lawyers in New York tread carefully when a client asks about buying in a land-leased/ground-leased building, where the cooperative (and in rare instances, the condominium) owns the building, but not the land on which it sits.

Instead, says lawyer Sandor Krauss in, the co-op typically has a long-term lease on the property–very long term, as in up to 99 years.  “The pitfalls are many in what is often a buyer-beware scenario,” he writes in a column detailing them.

“You need to understand all the terms of a land lease, and your own circumstances, before you consider buying,” Krauss counsels.

If you crave becoming a squatter, there’s a class for that

How do you go from traditionally homed rent payer to aspiring gutter punk? asks Take up residence in one of those unfinished condos, says in Williamsburg.

A “Squat the Condos” class supposedly can show you the way, as it says, “to be a counter-culture dilettante [sic].” Starting April 10, the class is described as “a practical workshop on squatting and direct action that will take us all from curious dilettante [also sic] to eager amateur.”

No experience or skills are necessary, according to the description.

Fido and Fluffy face a variety of rules in apartment buildings

Some co-ops and condos allow pets. Others allow certain pets, or set limits on the number of pets. Others allow no pets. Some buildings have no pet policies, some have informal policies, and some have stringent policies.

All of these are legal, subject to federal rules, which Habitat magazine explores in detail.

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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
Web site

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