Weekly Roundup: Sales strong, rents spike, celebs move, U.S. prices rebound, rates drop again, consumers hopeful, analysts see recovery

Strong sales mark first half of year as inventory dwindles

$7.67 billion worth of homes change hands citywide in Q2

Rents jump to highest level in two years in fifth consecutive quarterly rise

Woman accuses landlord of refusing to list her wife Continue reading

The Big Apple: Lawyers, leases, landlords, more

Do the West 70s really feel like Paris?

Mel Wymore, chairman of Community Board 7, which represents all the Upper West Side, tells the New York Times that, in addition to encompassing some of the costliest real estate in the city, the West 70s has gained buildings, among them condominium construction on Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.

The growth has buttressed values, even in a down market, but Wymore says it also has brought challenges. Small businesses like dry cleaners and hardware stores have struggled amid chain stores and banks, he said, and schools are crowded.

Another local resident charmed by her surroundings added that on a recent visit to Paris, her mind had wandered home.

“I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is tantamount to where I live,’ ” she said, incredibly.

State’s largest foreclosure law firm receives subpoenas related to allegedly shoddy practices

New York Atty. Gen. Eric T. Schneiderman has issued subpoenas Continue reading

The Big Apple: Median price grew most here

My coverage of New York City news likely will be sporadic over the next couple of weeks, but please do check here to catch up with important developments or perhaps my idle musings.


It takes longer to foreclose on homes in New York than in any other state—and it’s getting longer every month.

Two years ago, the state began requiring that banks and borrowers attend settlement conferences before a foreclosure takes place.

While the conferences are popular with borrowers and have succeeded in helping some families keep their homes, banks have been reluctant to participate. That, and recent revelations that some lenders have improperly submitted foreclosure documents, has prompted judges to take a harsher stance with lenders.


Gov.-elect Andrew M. Cuomo is making clear to legislative leaders that one of his priorities is to cap local property taxes, a notion that would have large consequences statewide for homeowners and school districts.

Take my refrigerator, please, as the eighth item below suggests. No, not YOU! (Flickr photo by Tammy Green)

Cuomo is proposing a limit on the total amount of property tax dollars that can be collected annually by a school district, municipality or special district by capping the increase in the local tax levy at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, according to his campaign literature.  Schools traditionally receive the largest share of property taxes.

A cap would not directly affect New York City, where property taxes are relatively low because of revenue from the city’s personal income tax and where the schools are financed through the general city budget. But outside the city, New York is among the most heavily taxed states in the country.


Ed Casabian’s nomadic existence Continue reading

Wallstreeters must hope that past isn’t precedent

I’ve been reading a justly lauded book about Bear Stearns and the shenanigans that led to the firm’s collapse, House of Cards by William D. Cohan.

In his dissection of the firm and his evisceration of its executives, the author periodically brings us up to date on their compensation, a pittance in contrast to most of the mammoth packages handed on Wall Street today.

For example, Cohan writes that top executives, especially Ace Greenberg and Jimmy Cayne, were making “eye-popping” amounts of money in the fiscal year ended June 1991.  He notes that:

. . . the thirteen top Bear Stearns executives received an average compensation of $2.8 million, up 25 percent from the year before.

Greenberg’s cash compensation for the year increased to $5.3 million, from $4.2 million the year before.”

Who among us wouldn’t be thrilled to collect that much money in a single year?  Answer: the folks toiling on the Street these days. Continue reading

Where’s that bottom everyone is talking about?

Buyers seem not only to be looking again, but they are starting to make offers.  And the offers are less likely to be insulting than they were just a couple of months ago.  Much of the activity appears to be centered on properties listed below $1 million, though buyers at higher levels clearly are less gun-shy than they were in the recent past.

If you doubt the foregoing information, have a look at Sunday’s New York Times, which leads the Real Estate section with a long piece that has the following headline:

Bidding Wars Resume

Regular readers of this blog and my e-newsletter won’t be surprised by the news: I have been warning that such wars would reappear once there occurred a perception that the bottom was here or approaching.  (However, my timing was a bit off; I didn’t expect that change until sometime next year. In any case, I doubt the trend is widespread yet.)

Ask buyers about their renewed interest, and the answers are almost the same: Continue reading

At the upper end, sellers take a beating

Not only are sales slumping at the upper end in the U.S., but those properties that find buyers are selling at distress prices.  And some say it can get only worse.

There is ample evidence of problems on high.  For example, the Case-Shiller composite indices show an increase in median prices in the 10 and 20 cities it tracks.  But the medians aren’t going up because housing prices in general are rising; prices seem to be going up only because falling prices for more expensive properties now starting to be sold are dragging the median up.

Case-Shiller is value-weighted, which means that repeat transactions on expensive homes have an outsized impact.

An analysis of 390 metro areas by John Burns Real Estate Consulting found that 39% of markets are now reporting a month-over-month increase in the median price, up from 22% of all markets two months ago, according to the Wall Street Journal.  There’s considerably more detail on the U.S. housing market in the last two issues of my biweekly newsletter.

“What is really happening is that people are now comparing the price on a 3-bedroom home in a typical neighborhood to the price on a 3-bedroom home in a poor neighborhood–because that’s what was selling several months ago,” says the consultant’s report.

Housing is fast dividing into two markets: 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