The Big Apple: Nascent signs of recovery emerge


The mortgage loan delinquency rate in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens in the final quarter of 2010 was up from year-earlier levels, according to a recent quarterly analysis. The uptick could well lead to a rise in foreclosure activity in coming months.

Manhattan was the only borough to see a decline in delinquencies, with a slight drop of 0.04 percentage points in the period.


Sales in the Manhattan co-op and condo market show signs of bouncing back after dropping sharply last month, reports the Wall Street Journal.

January sales were hurt because Continue reading

The Big Apple: Sales spiked last spring, then sagged


William Cornwell, a retired advertising art director, hired a brokerage firm to a rent out a studio in his West Village townhouse. Then a broker at the firm made him a proposition he found he couldn’t refuse: Why not rent it to me instead?

The result was that Cornwell, 74, signed two handwritten leases on two studios in his Greek revival townhouse, with the agent and the agent’s father, for below market rate and for terms of up to 20 years.

Now Cornwell is in court battling the broker and his firm, charging the leases violated the obligation under state law that a broker represent a client’s interests honestly, fairly and in good faith.  In addition, the state is now investigating the transactions.


Finally, a new index tracks condo activity in Manhattan

Thank you,, for introducing a Condo Market Index (CMI) for sales in Manhattan. No longer do we have to contend with Case-Shiller’s imperfect index, which covers the entire city and surrounding suburbs while ignoring apartment sales.

In the chart above, the bottom line represents condo sales volume in all of Manhattan starting in January 1995. Click to expand and to link to a detailed table of prices by the downtown, midtown, Upper West Side and Upper East Side neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, the property-search Web site does not provide Continue reading

September may be cruelest month since August

This graph by UrbanDigs shows quarterly average sale price trends.

When I visited 14 open houses from Central Park to the Hudson River and 62nd to 93rd streets on Sunday, I came away with the impression that our housing market was beginning to develop some strength

Buyers were out there, and a couple of brokers said they already had offers in hand.

Given that there were 461 open houses scheduled on the entire Upper West Side that day and my observations had to be skewed, I decided to see what I could learn from OLR, a prime broker database that fails to be comprehensive or otherwise completely accurate as broker, numbers cruncher and blogger Noah Rosenblatt convincingly argues.

A chief reason: Many brokers fail to update their listings in a timely manner (as anyone who searches, and other databases knows).

It turns out that I was in for a surprise. Continue reading

The Big Apple: Is the housing market stabilizing?


New York City’s largest brokerage firms are reporting something of a rebound and, with a sense of relief, even a possible state of stability, according to the New York Times.

“It is too soon to tell about a return to normalcy,” said Noah Rosenblatt, an independent broker who publishes real estate data on his Web site, UrbanDigs, and has been analyzing recent property listings, new contracts and sales. “It looks to me that we hit the bottom” in the sales slump that drove home prices down, he said, and that “activity is starting to really pick up.”

The major brokerages agree that: prices, while low, are holding steady; inventory over all appears to be at a relatively healthy level; and sales have risen substantially over the last six months.

The exception was a slightly slower-than-normal summer, but it came after a slightly better bonus season earlier in the year, and there are now reports of a more typical post-Labor Day upswing.

The prospect of a return to seasons in real estate — a busy spring and fall, slow summer months and a sleepy market during the holidays, followed by bonus-driven sales from the start of the year to spring — is itself cause for some muted celebration, the Times opined.


The number of New York City residences entering the foreclosure process surged by nearly 38 percent in August, reversing a six-month trend and suggesting that the foreclosure cycle has yet to fully run its course in the Big Apple, reports RealtyTrac, according to the Real Deal. Continue reading

Is it time to call the housing market’s bottom?

Based strictly on the seriously skewed evidence of what I have been seeing at open houses over the last few weeks on the Upper West Side, Upper East Side and downtown, I’m going to go out on a limb farther down in this post.

Should this photo have more than one bottom?

Open houses have been busy, and some of the properties already have offers on them, sometimes more than one.

At the same time, asking prices are no longer going down.  In fact, many are going up, often on properties listed long ago.  My impression is that the prices of larger apartments are climbing faster than others, though most seem to be leaving room for negotiation.

For example, Continue reading

Proof exists that the right pricing strategy wins

Kitchen of loft purchased by Anand Desai and his wife Erica.

The property in Manhattan was priced at $13.9 million early last year and then reduced to $9.95 million because it persisted in languishing on the market.  It is a luxe (of course!) loft on the 17th floor of 15 Madison Square North at the edge of Madison Square Park recently sold for much more than the lower price, reports the Observer.

The freshly renovated 5,000-sf unit has 14-foot ceilings and all the usual extravagant accoutrements.

The Corcoran Sunshine Group, which marketed the property said the price cut prompted a bidding war:

“Listed early in 2009 at $13.5 million, the price was later reduced in order to draw a larger audience of interested buyers. In this case, our reduced price generated significant interest and multiple bidders for this wonderful home, which in the end drove the price back up. As is always true in an efficient market, the market ultimately sets the price.”

Brokers tend to be of three minds when pricing a property to the extent that they can predict its true value: Above, at or below that value.  In a buyers’ market, many brokers prefer an asking price above the perceived value  to leave room for negotiating down.  Either way, many sellers, who have the last word, ignore the advice for which they pay dearly.

Naturally, circumstances vary (the chief one being how quickly the owner wants to sell), but I don’t favor listing a place above what economic and market conditions suggest it will bring.

The point is to expose a listing to as many likely buyers in as short a time as possible.  And the way to do that is to tempt them with at least a fair price, if not a bargain.

(To digress, Noah Rosenblatt the other day had a post in his blog,, motivating me to comment that the conventional wisdom is correct: The first offer frequently is the best one.)

Cutting the price worked beautifully for the loft.  Hedge funder Adnan Desai and his wife Erica engaged in the resulting bidding war with gusto.  They bought the unit for $12 million.

Such is a lesson of how to get the best price that many sellers would do well to emulate.

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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

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