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Apr. 4, 2013 - downtown Manhattan loft market momentum in 4 colors

 

a quick post for a busy day

I just updated the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 for the first time in a few weeks, getting up to date on deeds filed before March 24. You know that stuff you’ve read this week about the First Quarter market reports in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market? It’s true! Curbed had the recap with links to the major firms’ reports on Tuesday, with the big story being small inventory; of course that puts pressure on buyers. I should probably write about the First Quarter reports (Note to Self …) but for now will simply note some colorful data points that jumped out at me from the downtown loft market.

 

Looking at those newly recorded deeds, of 14 lofts resold between $500,000 and $5mm in downtown Manhattan loft neighborhoods, 1 sold above ask, 5 sold at ask, 8 sold without a drop in price, and 5 went to contract in 30 days or less. (Fun fact: one took [a world record?] 1,792 days to contract.) There is a different color on the (new and improved!) Master List for each of those categories.

 

No relief is in sight for buyers.

 

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

 

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Feb. 2, 2013 - Tribeca and Soho top the rankings in median price by neighborhood, of course


top line numbers are so … top line
The graph associated with this Property Shark report about median prices for coops, condos and 1- or 2-family homes by New York City neighborhood, with 2012 v. 2011 and 2012 v. 2008 data, was all over the intertubes this week. If you are reading Manhattan Loft Guy, chances are close to 97% that you’ve seen it. (If you are not reading Manhattan Loft Guy there must be some sort of break in the space - time continuum.)

You could look at the graph and say Lofts Rule! as the two most prime of prime Manhattan loft neighborhoods lap the median price field, and other loft neighborhoods come in at #5, #7, and #9, but resist that temptation, please. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, and/or are generally familiar with The Miller’s work, you know why Tribeca and Soho sit at the top of the neighborhood list by median sales price. The main reason is that nearly the entire market in these two neighborhoods is composed of properties that would be the top one or two quintiles in more heterogeneous neighborhoods.

paging Garrison Keillor
Tribeca and Soho are the Lake Wobegons of the New York market, as essentially all of the sales here are above average. As Joe Biden might say, literally. I had to go back through more than 600 records on the (current, still-needs-updating) Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 to find 100 downtown Manhattan loft sales under $1mm, and only 12 of them were in Soho or Tribeca, yet 7 of the Top Ten neighborhoods have 2012 median sales prices under a million, with only Midtown inching into 7-figure territory at $1,027,500.

As The Miller would say in interpreting market stats (as he did say in reviewing 4Q12 data) the mix of properties sold in a quarter is what often drives the median numbers that get all the headlines. In the overall Manhattan residential real estate market, when 1-bedrooms and studios make up a larger part of the data set, median prices are pushed down. (Which is why he always gives quarterly data broken down by apartment size.)

I am not going to look it up (not sure there is a place to do this anyway) but Tribeca and Soho have comparatively few sales equivalent to 1-bedrooms and studios elsewhere. (And I don’t mean One Bed Wonders that can be larger than 3-bedroom apartments.) Trust me on this.

Note to readers … always look at the distribution of properties by size when looking at Manhattan median price reports.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013
 

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Sep. 26, 2012 - Wall Street Journal jumps gun on quarterly market report, flogs Soho loft sale you know about


brilliant journalism
Regular readers of Manhattan Loft guy will suspect snark in that sub-head, but today, I got none. Josh Barbanel’s piece in today’s Journal, Manhattan Sales Continue to Climb, is brilliant journalism on two fronts. First, it scoops all the articles you will read next Monday or Tuesday, when the major brokerages release their quarterly residential sales reports. Second, it relies on primary source material, “a Wall Street Journal analysis of public sales records”, in contrast to the articles next week, which will be based on analysis done by others (you will see quotes by Pam Liebman about Corcoran’s analysis, by Greg Heym [and probably Diane Ramirez and/or Hall Willkie] about the Terra Holdings analysis for Brown Harris and Halstead, and by The Miller and Dottie Herman about The Miller’s report for PruDE).

Barbanel got a jump on the competition (the New York Times and …?) by using the Journal’s own work, to report on year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter changes in the overall Manhattan residential real estate market in average and median sales prices, volume, and inventory. I call that brilliant, as he should suck up some of the link juice that will probably still go the articles next week about the major firm reports, and will make those reports a bit of an anti-climax for those most interested in only the top line numbers (i.e., 97.17% of the readership, approximately).

The cherry on top for me is that the single specific example in Barbanel’s piece is of a Soho loft sale above ask. Manhattan Loft Guy readers will recognize that sale from my September 13, quintessential artist loft sells for $1,525/ft at 38 Crosby Street. (As I noted in that post about the address, “[a]s StreetEasy tells you, this loft building is also known as 476 Broadway. If you can access Property Shark, you will see the building dimensions given as 50 x 200 feet, but the accompanying building photos show that the Broadway facade is much wider than the Crosby Street facade, 5 double windows to 3.”) Here is what Barbanel reports on that sale:

When Susan Green, a Town broker, listed a SoHo artist loft in need of a gut renovation at 476 Broadway for $2.895 million in May, "the neighbors laughed," Ms. Maitland said.

But in two months the loft was in contract, and it sold last month for $3.05 million, 5.3% above the asking price. "We got eight offers from highly qualified buyers," she said, even though buyers in the building were required to prove that they were artists.


You knew from the asking and closing prices that there was a bidding war (until more resales are added to the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 you will find this sale on Line 39 of Sheet1, with the clearing price in green) and now we know that there were eight “highly qualified” bidders. Remember, that is $3.05mm for a “2,000 sq ft” loft that needed a total gut job, though it has what I tweeted as “is the The Best View in #Soho? artist's loft (needs reno) for $1,525/ft!”. (Follow me at @ManhattnLoftGuy if you are visit the Twitterverse, by the way.) And we now also know that the building “required [buyers] to prove that they were artists”, a fascinating window on the practicalities of the Artist In Residence issue in Soho. (If you are familiar with my series on A.I.R. [links below, for the uninitiated] you will guess that Team Sweeney will argue based on this sale that the “restrictions” do not prevent owners from selling at [indeed, above!] market values, so what ‘s all the fuss about?)

That angle deserves its own post. (Some day other than this day. Note to self …)

a quick market overview
Barbanel’s analysis of the overall market shows:

  • volume at near Peak levels (“the highest sales pace since the third quarter of 2008”)
  • median prices up
  • average prices down (with an explanation: “decline in average prices reflected improving sales of lower-priced apartments and more sales of co-ops, which tend to sell for less than otherwise comparable condominiums”)


In contrast to Barbanel’s data analysis of the entire Manhattan residential real estate market, Manhattan Loft Guy posts tend to focus on specific downtown Manhattan loft sales, with the better ones stepping back to take a broader perspective. (I aspire, I really do: September 16, on its best days, Manhattan Loft Guy meets this (lofty!) standard of criticism.) In the case of the loft sale that Barbanel focused on, I noted in that September 13 post that there was a legit-Peak sale of the same footprint one flight below at 38 Crosby Street (aka 476 Broadway) that also needed a build-out and that (being only one floor down) should have essentially the same spectacular views. No one sale represents The Market, of course, but this comparison was interesting, to say the least:

Loft #8R was babbled as a total build-out (read between the lines, you’ll see) with beautiful views. With a December 2007 contract and a February 2008 closing, #8R was about as Peak as Peak can be. Yet it sold then at (only) $2.675mm, compared to #9R at 14% higher.


he’s not really cheating
The Journal “analysis is based on closed sales filed with the Department of Finance six days before the end of each quarter” so, one could argue, it is not really a Third Quarter market report. I suspect the Big Firms will not harp on that (publicly) when they release their reports next week, as their “Third Quarter” sales reports are not really Third Quarter market reports either. Those market reports cannot include all actual sales from July 1 through September 30, 2012 because not all those sales will have been recorded by the time the “Third Quarter market reports” are released next week.

Those big firms might argue that their report are better (more up to date) because they know about sales not yet in the New York City ACRIS system because their agents participated in so many sales on either the buy-side or the sell-side, but this is as much an acknowledgment that the “Third Quarter market reports” are based on a fiction as anything else. The Journal, in contrast, has begun to accumulate hard data from a public source that is consistent about timing (“closed sales filed with the Department of Finance six days before the end of each quarter”). And the Journal gets to scoop the New York Times.

Nicely played, sir; nicely played.

links? we got links!
And many thanks to Barbanel and the Wall Street Journal for an excuse to provide links to my series on the artist-in-residence “problem” (which, of course, generates another Note to self … to catch up on current events in the A.I.R. world; sigh....)


© Sandy Mattingly 2012

 

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Apr. 6, 2012 - testing a media meme in the Manhattan loft lab: low-balling and the too-low offer


your Real Estate Industrial Complex, Media Division, at work
I don’t have time to find other examples, but I am pretty sure I have seen elsewhere in the Manhattan residential real estate media / blogosphere / twitterverse a comment to the effect that one of the ‘problems’ in the market is that too many buyers are making too low offers. The example du jour is The Real Deal’s April 3 Leftover lowballing: Brokers counsel against too-low offers by Leigh Kamping-Carder. The lede and (ahem) money quote:

With the spring selling season kicking into high gear, brokers are up against an unwelcome obstacle: uninformed buyers who insist on submitting lowball offers


One agent said

that dealing with buyers who continue to offer 20 percent below asking price was the biggest impediment to closing a sale last month.


Doesn’t that sound like a listing agent who could not get a buyer up to a price the seller would accept?

Another agent sounds like a buyer agent with a series of disappointed buyers, who may have only themselves to blame:

almost all of the roughly 40 properties she showed in the fourth quarter of 2011 were in contract or subject to an accepted offer as of late March, even though some of them had been on the market for almost a year.

***

many of her buy-side clients have lost out on properties because they were either outbid or failed to submit an offer before someone else signed a deal.

“It was a very frustrating experience for my clients who began their search believing that the market was slowing down and they had leverage … but then [they] experience that’s not the case,” she said.


Bless Kamping-Carder for using some data to fill out the article; I almost said “for using some data to buttress her premise”, but … she didn’t. The data she used have to do with volume (up QoQ, down slightly YoY) and price movement (F. L. A. T., YoY), but not where buyers are bidding. Granted, there may not be any published data about bids, and she did quote that agent with “many” buyer clients who bid too low or too late.

some data is better than none
Manhattan Loft Guy loves anecdotes and agent impressions as much as the next Guy (or Gal), but there is some relevant data: the spread between clearing prices and asking prices. The smaller the spread, the greater ‘problem’ for buyers who bid low, right?

Kamping-Carder did not think to ask The Miller (as usual, the go-to guy for numbers used by Real Estate Industrial Complex, Media Division), or (apparently) to look at his quarterly report, but he knows that the spread on first quarter sales was 6.3%, compared to 4.9% the previous quarter and 4.5% the prior year. In other words, the spread is higher of late. Maybe not enough to draw the opposite conclusion, but enough to kinda sorta cast doubt that there are too many low-ball bids that cause a problem in the market, except for buyer agents who can’t earn a commission if their clients can’t close a deal.

fun with Manhattan loft numbers: into the Master List
One of my perennial Notes to Self … is to find ways to exploit the gold mine that is my Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008. That list contains closing prices, asking prices, and original asking prices for downtown Manhattan loft sales between $500,000 and $5,000,000, of which there were 82 that were publicly marketed in the First Quarter (recorded as of last weekend). Voila!

The loft niche is a subset of the overall Manhattan residential real estate market (d’oh), but that’s what I’ve got. Here is a spray of data from those 82 First Quarter sales on the Master List:
 

  • median sales price, as percentage of asking price:   95.14%
  • number of sales 97% of asking price or higher:      25 (30% of the set of 82)
  • number of sales lower than 90% of asking price:  11 (13% of the set of 82)
  • number of sales greater than 92% and less than 98% of the ask:   44 (54% of the set of 82)
  • number of sales at or above ask:  8 (3 at, 5 above) (10% of the set fo 82)

That eleven is intriguing. In that many cases, the buyer must have started very low, to end up with at least a 10% discount from ask. One might consider them successful low-balls. The big winner (the most successful of the successful low-balls) was the “2,248 sq ft” Manhattan loft #12A at 445 Lafayette Street (Astor Place), which closed at $2,952,925, 24.19% off an ask of $3,895,000. None of the other 11 were even 15% off.

If 13% of the Manhattan lofts sold in the First Quarter were sold to buyers who ended up no more than 90% of the ask, who is the low-ball bidder a “problem” for? Sellers without the backbone to stick closer to their asking prices, perhaps. Or listing agents who mis-perceived the attraction of their listed lofts.

Granted 82 sales is a tiny slice in a quarter in which the overall Manhattan market had 2,311 (pre The Miller), but that’s my niche, and my data. You want more, or different, numbers? Count your own, my friends.

Good Pesach to my He-bros and He-sis.

© Sandy Mattingly 2012
 

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Jan. 14, 2012 - weekend diversion WITH (some, slight) Manhattan real estate content


playing with $/ft numbers
This is probably sandbox level ‘analysis’, but I counted the distribution of Manhattan loft resales on a dollar per foot basis yesterday, provoked by a StreetEasy discussion thread. I don’t follow those threads closely enough to appreciate the dynamics between the regular contributors and I probably took too literally the apparent glee by the thread-starter about the prospect that the Manhattan residential real estate market might be heading to $550/ft values. I suspect that the thread was really a way for one or more SE regulars to poke, harass, or tease other SE regulars, (I may be missing something, having ‘greyed out’ 3 thread participants, but they long ago proved unworthy of attention).

My point is simply to say that, having been suckered into providing there some market facts, I might as well share them with Manhattan Loft Guy readers. Since I just finished my weekly update of the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008, I can report that there were 140 downtown loft resales with “sq ft” data going back to September 1, recorded as of today. The median value was $1,097/ft, which is probably roughly flat to 2010 (just like the overall performance in the 4Q11 market reports).

For what it is worth, the distribution is:

$4xx/ft 2 loft resales
$5xx/ft 1
$6xx/ft 4
$7xx/ft 4
$8xx/ft 19
$9xx/ft 18
$1,0xx/ft 21
$1,1xx/ft 25
$1,2xx/ft 14
$1,3xx/ft 10
$1,4xx/ft 6
$1,5xx/ft 6
$1,6xx/ft 3
$1,7xx/ft 2
$1,8xx/ft 0
$1,9xx/ft 3
$2,0xx/ft 1

Stay warm, folks!

© Sandy Mattingly 2012
 

 

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Sep. 27, 2011 - is the Manhattan loft market back to (up to) 2007? 61 repeat sales say "probably", "a bit"


[updated Oct 2]
61 66 pairs say yes
One of the frequent topics for a Manhattan Loft Guy Note to self … has been ways to exploit that oh-so-(potentially)-powerful Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008, beyond the mere list of one damn sale after another. I have made a few attempts, among them a March 5, 2010 look at (what grew to be) 27 lofts that had sold in the prior six months and in 2007 (updated on April 12, 2010). Here is another.

That Master List has 61 66 sales in 2011 of lofts that also sold in 2007 (remember: it is downtown only, of lofts sold between $5mm and $500,000). [I added 5 more pairs to the spreadsheet, for deeds filed in the last week, but am not (yet?) going to make line-by-line edits to my original text. Scroll down for an additional summary paragraph.] The sale-to-resale experiences of these 61 lofts … varies. A lot.

Nuggets:

Of the 61 paired 2007+2011 sales:

  • 40 showed some gain; 21 showed some loss
  • 19 showed a gain of less than 10%
  • 11 showed a gain of 10% but less than 20%
  • 10 showed a gain of 20% or more
  • 12 showed a loss of less than 10%
  • 7 showed a loss of 10% but less than 20%
  • 2 showed a loss of 20% or more
  • biggest % gain: 47.06%
  • biggest % loss: -27.79%
  • biggest $$ gain: $1,325,414
  • biggest $$ loss: -$635,000
  • 13 lofts had gains under $100,000
  • 7 lofts had gains between $100,000 and $200,000
  • 9 lofts had gains over $500,000
  • 4 lofts had losses under $100,000
  • 10 lofts had losses between $100,000 and $200,000
  • 1 loft had a loss over $500,000
  • the median change from 2007 to 2011 was a gain of 4.95%
  • the average change from 2007 to 2011 was a gain of 6.11%

Case-Shiller fans would say that the current Manhattan loft market conditions are roughly 5% improved over 2007 … which was a very good year.

Did I mention that comping is hard?

the new development factor
One way to drill into the 61 pairs, which I also used in that effort last year, is to isolate the 20 pairs that involve a 2007 new development sale.

  • 10 of the 2007 new development sales showed a gain
  • 10 of the 2007 new development sales showed a loss
  • the average new development gain (of the gains, only) was 19.78%
  • the average new development loss (of the losses, only) was -9.85%
  • as in my March 5, 2010 look, one 2007 new development accounted for the most pairs: 225 Fifth Avenue (Grand Madison); this time there is one (big!) loss and 4 gains, including 2 big gains

Only two other 2007 new developments accounted for more than one pair: 32 West 18 Street (Altair 18) had two (big) gains and 16 West 19 Street (Jade) had one (small) gain and two losses (one big); oddly, the sister “Altair” development at 15 West 20 Street (Altair 20) had one (large) loss

If you take out the 20 2007 new development resales, of the 41 “pure resale on resale” remainders:

  • 30 showed some gain; 11 showed some loss
  • 16 showed a gain of less than 10%
  • 6 showed a gain of 10% but less than 20%
  • 8 showed a gain of 20% or more
  • 6 showed a loss of less than 10%
  • 4 showed a loss of 10% but less than 20%
  • 1 showed a loss of 20% or more
     
  • biggest % gain: 47.06%
  • biggest % loss: -27.79%
     
  • biggest $$ gain: $1,325,414
  • biggest $$ loss: -$635,000

Did I mention that comping is hard?

of course, some lofts have been renovated
Case Shiller and similar data (OFHEO, back in the day) rely on the law of large numbers to flatten out the impact of renovations and other improvements in a paired resale analysis. But my numbers are not so large, and my interests are more refined (if less rigorous statistically).

I will confess to not looking to see whether any lofts with performance less than a 10% gain have been renovated (including, obviously, not looking at the renovation status of any of the ‘losers’). The analysis is difficult, because it is sometimes hard to tell if the prior condition was the same, and it is impossible the quantify the degree of change (a ‘gut’ renovation is different from an ‘extensive’ renovation is different from ‘updated’ kitchens and baths …). Best I can tell:

  • only 5 of the 14 “pure resale on resale” with gains above 10% were in the same condition in 2011 as in 2007, though in 2 more cases, the changes seem to have been limited to the plumbing rooms

Did I mention that comping is hard?

net-net, yeah … up a bit, overall, more or less
The Law of Small Numbers is working pretty hard against any rigorous analysis of the 2007 v. 2011 data, if we limit analysis to ‘pure resale on resale’ pairs and if we eliminate those lofts provably renovated in between. (I would not necessarily do either of these things in a comp analysis for a prospective resale, but in a macro world, let’s see the results.)

The same-old-same-old data set has 21 gains (remember: I did not look for renovations below 10% gains) and 11 losses. (Note how the proportions gains:losses stay within a tolerable range.)

Of the 32 total same-old-same-old paired resales:

  • the median change from 2007 to 2011 was a gain of 2.35%
  • the average change from 2007 to 2011 was a gain of 2.10%

There should be no surprise that the median and average are both much reduced from the full data-set median gain, having taken out the renovated loft gains.

Of the 21 same-old-same-old gains:

  • the average gain was 8.97%

Of the 11 same-old-same-old losses:

  • the average loss was 10.99%

as I said, more or less...
You could cut the data different ways, and these numbers are probably nowhere near a big enough data set for a true Market Analysis. And I would not use this as the principal tool in determining where a specific loft fits in the current market (whether it sold in 2007 or not). But this data collection is the best response I can come up with to the (age old?) question “how far back did the market correction take the downtown loft segment of the overall Manhattan residential real estate market?

If you want to argue it is really 2006 or earlier, show me some data (note to self: find the 2006 pairs). I have shown you a full set of available data, one fair conclusion of which is that the current Manhattan loft market is (to use a technical term) just a tad stronger in price than the 2007 market.

Every time I sliced, the gainers outnumbered the losers, up to 2:1.

Every time I sliced, I got mean and average nets that were positive, around 5% overall and at least 2% in the highly-controlled sub-segment.

Department of Redundancy Department, again
From a macro perspective, this data set shows me that the downtown Manhattan loft market is up a bit over 2007 (more or less), the strongest full year in Manhattan residential real estate history. That is pretty remarkable. YMMV

[added Oct 2: My conclusion remains the same ("this data set shows me that the downtown Manhattan loft market is up a bit over 2007 (more or less)"), having added 5 new pairs of resales and having marked one of the 'old' ones with a big gain as a renovation, per the update to my September 28, 682 Broadway loft sells up 33% since 2007 after moving some walls, but they don't change the thrust. Only 1 of the 5 suffered a non-trivial loss (-4.54%), while 3 had non-trivial gains. I may update this again as still more new pairs have deeds filed, or I may let this just sit as is, unless some new data requires a re-set of my overall conclusion. But I will continue to update the spreadsheet, for those of you who really want to see the details.]

clicking for details is harder, but only a little
For those of you who simply must see what examples I use (and don’t have the patience to pull them out of the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 yourselves), I have put the 61 pairs on another Google Docs spreadsheet, but there is a twist.

I have been told for years (literally) by my sales managers and business coaches that I am making a mistake just giving away my data. My sloth has worked out to benefit you, my faithful (all too anonymous) readers, as I have never listened to that (good) advice before. Until today. Here’s the trade: if you want access to the details of this data, you need to register by sending me an email, which I will add to the Share list on the Google Docs spreadsheet.

In exchange, I may send you an email from time to time in service of my business as a residential real estate agent in Manhattan who specializes in the loft niche downtown. You don’t have to read the emails before deleting if you don’t want, and if they really bug you you can ask me to take you off both the Share list for Google Docs spreadsheets and the email list. You might rationally consider that it has taken me this long to listen to good business advice (requiring an email address to get Good Stuff), so I may be equally dilatory in exploiting the email list that I get of faithful (all too anonymous) readers.

Seems like a fair deal to me, but you decide. (I probably should put the Master List of Manhattan Lofts Sold Since November 2008 behind the same registration process and list, but let’s leave that for another day.)

INSTRUCTIONS, if you want the details on a Google Docs spreadsheet:


© Sandy Mattingly 2011

 

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Apr. 1, 2011 - the scandal in the quarterly report data on Manhattan residential real estate sales


hiding in plain sight
Two quick take-aways from the first stories about the major firm quarterly market reports on Manhattan residential real estate sales that are in the papers this morning, this one from the Vivian Toy piece on page A24 in today’s New York Times, After Months of Growth, Signs of Weakness in the Manhattan Real Estate Market: (1) All seem to agree that average prices were down compared to last year’s first quarter (from “slightly” to 9.9%), but (2) the firms count transactions in sufficiently different ways that reported volume changes year-over-year varied from down 23% to up 6%.

I do not understand why no one seems to think that such varied reporting of a “fact” is a problem for the residential real estate industry in Manhattan.

I will have more after chewing on the data, but here is Toy’s money quote, her polite attempt to synthesize contradictory reports (with my bold, for emphasis):

Sales reports to be released on Friday by the city’s largest brokerage firms varied in their conclusions, but each report showed some signs of weakness. Reports from Halstead Property and Brown Harris Stevens were the gloomiest, indicating that after six quarters of consistent growth, the average apartment price fell 5 percent, to $1.36 million, and that the number of sales this quarter, 1,769, was down 23 percent from the same time last year.

Data provided by Streeteasy.com mirrored those trends, with average prices down slightly from last year and sales volume dropping by 21 percent. The Corcoran Group showed the number of sales up 6 percent from last year, but the average price down by 4 percent, and Prudential Douglas Elliman showed steady sales volume, but the median sales price at $782,071, down by 9.9 percent from 2010.


Note that this is (or should be) a counting exercise, like counting how many people were in Times Square last new year’s eve, or how many iPad2s were sold last month, or how many seats were actually filled in the rain at yesterday's Yankee opener.

Firms think it important to report the facts in the market, but not important that they don’t use the same facts. I don’t get it.

you want magic sauce with that?
I do get that there is a difficulty in counting sales through March 31 since there is always a lag between closings and deeds being filed. A smaller issue may be that firms rush to prepare end-of-quarter reports before the end of the quarter (for competitive reasons??), so that newspapers can report them on the first day of the quarter. Presumably, each firm has some proprietary magic sauce that they use to estimate the sales that have occurred but that nobody knows about, or that nobody else knows about, or that they are pretty sure (because they are so smart) occurred, even if nobody really knows.

There is not  a lot of emphasis placed on the use of magic sauce, however. The reports read as counting exercises. Professional journalists report them as counting exercises, yet report different counts as though it is a normal thing for professional counters to vary as widely as -23% and +6%.

As usual, chewing on the data will lag for me, as will an analysis of how (whether) the loft niche varied from the overall Manhattan market this past quarter. Did I mention that I don't understand this??

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Jan. 5, 2011 - Manhattan loft market mirrors overall market (boring!), except (slightly) outperforms on inventory


data is dumped, for now
As is my custom following the quarterly reports, the two tables below break out the (limited) loft-specific data from the three major firms that do quarterly market reports for Manhattan residential real estate and then provide some (deeper) overall market data from these three firms and from StreetEasy.

The Links

  • Miller Samuel report is here;
  • Corcoran is here;
  • the Halstead version of the Terra report is here;
  • I still don’t see this on the website, but I played around to find the StreetEasy report, here.

(I did this for the last quarter’s reports on October 2, Manhattan loft market outperforms in volume (big) + absorption.)

Even though I am often critical of the news articles about quarterly market reports, I have also noted the challenges to offering coherent analysis in our Wild West in which data differ between firms, so if you are looking for magic bullet prose, find somewhere else to go for a while....

is boring good?
What I said yesterday about the overall Manhattan market numbers (in fourth quarter Manhattan residential market reports hit / what's your favorite number?) is largely true about the loft niche numbers, which:

are interesting for being uninteresting … that there is not a lot of movement in the overall Manhattan real estate market reflected in these reports


As you will see below, the loft niche generally tracked the overall Manhattan residential sales market, in both direction and scale. The only significant exception to this generalization (putting aside the difference Corcoran measured in median sales price change) is that overall inventory went up year-over-year, but loft inventory was down. Did more disappointed loft sellers than 'apartment' sellers take the holidays off??

One could therefore say about the loft niche VS. overall market, meh. This time, they are largely in sync. But here are the traditional charts, from which you can draw your own conclusions (meh, or otherwise). With any luck, I will soon take up the challenge (promise?) in my October 3, is the 2010 strength in Manhattan loft sales odd, or even notable in a Lake Wobegon sense?, and look back at 2010 in lofts, before anyone else does. I think I might see something ….

Loft data from the Fourth Quarter 2010 Manhattan real estate market reports, with year-over-year comparisons
  median sales price avg price per foot transactions days on market inventory
Miller Samuel $1.56mm [up 11.6%] $1,071 [up 1.4%] 169 [down 7.1%] 131 [down 31.1%] 467 [down 3.9%]
Terra Holdings   $1,052 [up 3%]      
Corcoran $1.443mm [down 10%] $1,100 [up 3%]      

Overall market data with year-over-year comparisons
  median sales price avg price per foot transactions days on market inventory
Miller Samuel $845k [up 4.3%] $1,058 [up 0.7%] 2,295 [down 7.2%] 125 [down 38.8%] 7,232 [up 5.6%]
Terra Holdings $840k [up 5%]   1,901 [down 25%] 113 [down 14%]  
Corcoran $825k [up 3%] $1,003 [up 5%] ~2,900 [down 17%]   8,829 [up 11.2%]
StreetEasy $832k [up 8.8%]   ~ 2,900 [down 20.3%] 135/123* [down 13.8%/13.3%] flat

*If StreetEasy has an overall market number for DoM, I didn’t find it; my table has their Condo/Coop numbers (how awkward!)

© Sandy Mattingly 2011
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Jan. 4, 2011 - fourth quarter Manhattan residential market reports hit / what's your favorite number?


that time of the year again
It would have been too much to expect that the number crunchers could have dug out soon enough to have delivered numbers to the press under embargo last Friday (aka, last year), so the flurry of news reports about the residential real estate market in Manhattan from the major firms hit the news papers today, not yesterday. They still caught me asleep at the switch, planning to post today about other things (that will have to wait).

So far I have only taken a quick look at the three brokerage firm reports and two major news articles about them. I will post again after I have chewed on the numbers (particularly, on the loft numbers), but my first blush reaction is that the reports are interesting for being uninteresting … that there is not a lot of movement in the overall Manhattan real estate market reflected in these reports. Also, that it remains a scandal that each firm reports as though it had its own reality, ignoring the ‘fact’ that other firms report different facts.

The main headlines hint that the Wall Street Journal and New York Times story focused on different comparisons. Did the Manhattan residential real estate market dip at the end of the year? See today’s Wall Street Journal, Manhattan Housing Prices Dip, by Josh Barbanel. Or would you have emphasized a different trend? (as the New York Times did today, in Manhattan Real Estate Market Continues Steady Growth, as Luxury Sales Perk Up, by Vivian Toy).

For another quick and dirty, Noah at Urban Digs explains how they both are ‘right’; that you can look at different periods for comparison and get different results (quarter over quarter, or year over year; dip or steady growth). In the inevitable word salad of articles that attempt to summarize reports that cannot easily be summarized (and can hardly be reconciled), Barbanel and Toy focused on different trends, and offered different quotes from the same small group of brokerage firm heads and number crunchers.

to the links!
You can find the three major firm reports here, and if the StreetEasy report is up yet on their website, I can’t find it:

  • Miller Samuel 4Q10 report (pdf) (2,295 sales)
  • Corcoran report (pdf) (approximately 2,900 sales)
  • Halstead (pdf) (1,901 sales)

I get it that no one yet has access to the full records for deals closed by December 31, as it will take a few weeks (at least) for the deeds to be filed, and then available in city records. And I assume that each firm is proud of their proprietary methods, and is loath to ‘dumb them down’ by adopting someone else’s numbers, or a mealy-mouthed consensus report. Yet that range of reported sales in the same 90 day period is disturbing; a range that cannot help the credibility of the Real Estate Industrial Complex.

Really long-time Manhattan Loft Guy readers will recall that I rant about this a lot, epically way back in my April 14, 2008, Mothra v. Godzilla, or the epic battle over Manhattan sales volume reports, when there was some unusual public trash-talking between bean counters, one of whom claimed the other “missed” 600 sales in a quarter. In the privacy of their own closed systems (I hope), the trash might be on the other … errr … foot this time, as the firm with “missing” sales this quarter is different. Unless someone wants to explain exactly how he counts (and adjusts), I hope they keep the smack quiet this go-round.

enough trash, some treasure
I often (over?) praise The Miller’s ability to sift through the numbers for some useful context, offering prose that makes you think you know more for having read it than if you had juts looked at cold tables and numbers. But i thought this excerpt from Corcoran was pretty good at providing some context:

Versus a year ago, median price increased 3% while average price per square foot improved very slightly by 1%. Every bedroom category increased in median price compared to Fourth Quarter 2009. Compared to Third Quarter 2010, however, median price declined 5% while average price per square foot declined slightly by 1%. From a year ago the trend has been towards larger residences but from Third Quarter to Fourth Quarter demand was towards smaller apartments, which explains why overall pricing declined despite median price gains in most bedroom categories. Studios and one-bedroom residences were higher in median price while two-bedrooms decreased slightly. Three-plus bedrooms increased 4% in median price from last quarter.


Of course, the part of his report that The Miller excerpted on his blog today is also helpful:

There were 2,295 sales in the fourth quarter, 7.2% below 2,473 sales in the same period last year and 13.8% below the 2,661 sales of the prior quarter. However, the comparison to the same period last year is a comparison to a quarter that represented the largest fourth quarter market share of sales activity in more than 20 years. When comparing the 13.8% decline in sales from the third to fourth quarter, the change exceeded the 20-year 7.5% average decline. Fourth quarter listing inventory increased 5.6% to 7,232 from 6,851 in the prior year quarter—the same quarter that had the record surge in sales that worked off excess inventory during that period. The fourth quarter inventory total was 11% below 8,123 in the prior quarter. The decline was greater than the 3.4% average decline over the past decade, suggesting the new year will begin with a modest level of inventory entering into one of the seasonally highest sales periods of the year…

Look for more this week, as I chew on the numbers and the reports (and find StreetEasy’s!)...

© Sandy Mattingly 2011

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Dec. 7, 2010 - pinning a data point: national residential real estate peak was July 2006


all real estate is, indeed, local
Quick and dirty post just to establish a baseline …. I came across this Bloomberg news article last week about the national residential real estate market in which an aside caught my attention:

National prices fell 1.5 percent in the third quarter from the same period last year, and decreased 2 percent from the previous three months. Prices are 29 percent below their peak of July 2006.


It is not noteworthy, surprising, or even especially interesting. For me, it is just a citation to an authority establishing The US Residential Real Estate Peak as July 2006, almost two years before the local peak in Manhattan.

© Sandy Mattingly 2010

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Nov. 16, 2010 - Miller's nuggets on Manhattan absorption: coops + downtown stronger


meaningful? maybe not until there’s more data
The Miller has a Matrix post today chewing over some of his “absorption” data, now that he has more than a year of absorption data. He is most interested today in the 2009 to 2010 comparison, noting an apparent weakening at the low end of the Manhattan real estate market, units under $500,000. What struck me from his 2010 chart were two different points: (a) the coop market shows stronger absorption, pretty much across the island and all price ranges under $5mm; and (b) downtown absorption was a bit stronger than either East Side or the West Side (though I initially found it difficult to discern the actual regional variations because he uses different scales).

I can’t think of a reason that coops below $5mm were generally absorbed more quickly, especially as coops generally take longer to close once a contract is signed. This chart is the kind of thing that sets The Miller apart: from time to time he goes back through his data to answer a question, stepping outside the quarterly report template.

Note that “absorption” merges two data sets: current inventory, expressed as the number of months to sell all inventory at the current rate of sales. I.e., absorption improves (shrinks) by either or both of inventory reduction and/or increased rate of sales.

© Sandy Mattingly 2010

 

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Oct. 3, 2010 - is the 2010 strength in Manhattan loft sales odd, or even notable in a Lake Wobegon sense?


absolutely: maybe
I’ve been staring at the quarterly Manhattan loft market data in various metrics .... Blame it on The Miller (for giving me the numbers); blame it on Diane Ramirez (for calling the bottom); blame it on the Red Sox (not sleeping).

Here is something I see: if there are as many Manhattan lofts sold in the Fourth Quarter of 2010 as were sold in any other quarter this year, this year’s total will approach or exceed the best year for loft sales in the last seven (2008). Here is something else that i see: if you took the last four quarters as a “year” (4Q09 - 3Q10), the total loft sales in that not-a-real-year would come within 2.5% of the 2008 total. (And: that that 2008 total [for a ‘natural’ year] is the highest of any four-consecutive-quarter set going back to 1Q02 - 4Q02.)

One more thing: in this string of the last four quarters, each quarter is at or above the average for quarterly loft sales in the the last 5 years and very, very, very near the average for quarterly loft sales in the last 10 years. As far as data, that’s all I’ve got at the moment.

does “average” = “strength”?
In the current world (post 2007 liquidity crunch, post 2008 Lehman bankruptcy, post 2009 ‘nuclear winter’), reaching a long-term average four times in a row seems like it is approaching normal.


I am not saying this 4-quarter run is “normal” or that it represents the bottom, because “normal” is an awfully elusive concept (notice I wiggled with “seems like it is approaching ...”) and The Bottom will be seen only in the rear-view mirror. But I am saying that this consistently average sales volume indicates a now-4-quarter-long market that has been deeper than the market that preceded it.

Deeper in the sense that there have been a consistent and consistently average number of buyers and sellers who have agreed on market prices for an average number of lofts. By my lights, a deep market (in which buyers and sellers meet, in quantity) is a more efficient market, a market in which buyers and sellers find it easier to negotiate to an agreement. The Days on Market data of late are consistently (if not yet conclusively) in support of this depth: the last two quarters have the two lowest DoM figures of any quarter going back (so far) through 2007 [updated:] the Second Quarter of 2005 (I have not yet gone back farther).

so what?
So what I am saying is that the latest loft sale data on volume (transactions) and velocity (DoM) suggest that the loft niche has been in a period of relative strength. I am not saying that this period will continue, but I will be watching to see if it does.

so, when?
In yesterday’s post about the loft niche vis-a-vis the overall Manhattan real estate market, October 2, Manhattan loft market outperforms in volume (big) + absorption, i talked about two intriguing loft metrics:

the reported loft numbers show that this niche outperformed the overall Manhattan real estate market year-over-year in two metrics: transactions (volume) and inventory change (absorption). ...

 

I suspect that the first number is more due to the inherent volatility of Small Numbers (a niche is a niche), but that the second may be more significant.


Everything that I have said about Manhattan loft sales volume in this post is based on those Small Numbers (the five- and ten-year averages are in the range of 180 and 185 loft sales per quarter), so it is possible that I am looking at essentially random variation but detecting a “pattern”. Maybe, but you’ll have a better idea of that when (not if) I do what I suggested in that post that I might, when I said immediately after the quoted portion above:

Which leads me to An Idea ... I should track both Loft Transactions and Loft Inventory as a percentage of the overall market!


If I track the loft niche vs. overall market on transaction volume I should find some longer term sense of the volume trends, if it is in the numbers to begin with. I have already begun to collect these numbers (every number cited here is taken from a Miller Samuel quarterly report), but I have not gotten enough numbers across enough metrics to make a splash when presenting it as a table. But I hope to get to that ... this week (?). Yeah, I hope.

If this post meanders too much for too little payout, don’t blame The Miller for his numbers or Ramirez for jumping the call to the bottom; blame Manhattan Loft Guy and (look at the time this is posted, compared to the end of “last night’s” game) blame the Red Sox (for me not sleeping). Go Royals!

© Sandy Mattingly 2010

 

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Oct. 2, 2010 - Manhattan loft market outperforms in volume (big) + absorption


nice (rare) consensus among firms!
Yesterday I beat up a little bit on Vivian Toy’s traditionally formatted New York Times article about the 4 major quarterly Manhattan real estate market reports for the Third Quarter and a bit more on the brokerage part of the Manhattan Real Estate Industrial Complex for its willingness to make predictions of “recovery, or “bottom”, or “normal” (Oct 1, why the race to (call) the bottom? third quarter Manhattan real estate market reports hit).

In today’s episode, Manhattan Loft Guy finds a pleasing consensus among the major firm reports about what happened last quarter in the overall Manhattan market, and explores the ways in which the Manhattan loft niche outperformed the overall market. (There's also a rant or two, and an idea for more interesting loft data!)

The two tables below break out t
he (limited) loft-specific data from the three major firms that do quarterly market reports for Manhattan real estate and then provide some (deeper) overall market data from these three firms and from StreetEasy. [The Links: Miller Samuel report is here; Corcoran is here; the Halstead version of the Terra report is here; StreetEasy is here.] Even though I am often critical of the news articles about quarterly market reports, I have also noted the challenges to offering coherent analysis in our Wild West in which data differ between firms, so if you are looking for concise or brilliant prose, avert your eyes....

Loft data from the Third Quarter 2010 Manhattan real estate market reports, with year-over-year comparisons

  median sales price avg price per foot transactions days on market inventory
Miller Samuel $1.66mm [up 10.7%] $1,091 [up 6.2%] 190 [up 53.2%] 104 [down 24.1%] 521 [down 16.4%]
Terra Holdings   $1,077 [up 12%]      
Corcoran $1.775mm [up 18%] $1,119 [down 2%]      



Overall market data with year-over-year comparisons

  median sales price avg price per foot transactions days on market inventory
Miller Samuel $914k [up 7.5%] $1,095 [up 10%] 2,661 [up 19.3%] 125 [down 25.5%] 8,123 [down 3.2%]
Terra Holdings $890k [up 14%]   2,471 [up 4%] 97 [down 24%]  
Corcoran $900k [up 9%] $1,046 [up 2%] ~3,000 [down 5%]   9,243 [down 4.9%]
StreetEasy $875k [up 14.4%]   ~ 3,350 [up 1.9%] 123/113* [down 17.5%/19.1%] [down 6.5%]


*If StreetEasy has an overall market number for DoM, I didn’t find it; my table has Condo/Coop numbers (how awkward!)

Without going all anal on you, I can’t recall another quarterly market report in which the same-firm trends for the overall Manhattan real estate market matched so well. On median sales price, days on market, and inventory, all reporting firms report within a tolerably narrow range. Looking only at direction (not scale), there is only one arrow pointing a different way: Corcoran shows transaction volume down, while the other 3 reporting firms show a year-over-year increase in the number of transactions.

caution: Habitual Rant ahead
I have to point out the obvious here, sorry .... In what kind of rational market can the “simple” act of counting What Is For Sale come up with answers as variable as 2,471, 2,661, 3,000, and 3,350?? What is so frigging important to these firms about their own frigging numbers that they can’t see the importance of standardizing method to avoid being laughed at (by whatever small percentage of the consumer population that actually takes these reports seriously) because there is a 36% spread between the High and Low counts?

Yes, these numbers are all produced by professionals. And, yes, each firm believes in its heart of hearts that it has the best method. Probably, each firm believes that its method is “better” because of its proprietary advantage in data collection / data massaging / data interpretation.

Memo to brokerage firms: (educated) consumers don’t believe you. At least in part, they don’t believe you because you don’t agree.

a Modest Prediction
Sooner or later, StreetEasy (or something like it) is going to come up with a format that is sufficiently acceptable to (educated) consumers that its report will gain credence as the (only) objective report out there. At that point, essentially no one will pay attention to the (oh so expensive to produce) Proprietary Reports.

Obviously, Property Shark is betting the other way, as it allied with Corcoran (last year? in 2008??). I imagine that relationship has a contract term; I wonder how long it is , and whether The Shark will want to renew. Similarly, The Miller made a deal with PruDE way back when (when there was no dried fruit in DE); I wonder if he worries about whether that relationship diminishes his credibility in The New World. (Note that both the New York Times article and the Wall Street Journal article about the major firm reports now include citations to StreetEasy.)

UrbanDigs see this opportunity, clearly, but his approach is different from any of these reports: Noah wants to track a whole bunch of metrics for real-time trends. He is not so much competing with the major firms as playing a different game.

lofts (finally!)
Let’s get back on track here .... As I noted so far up top that it in the title of this post, the reported loft numbers show that this niche outperformed the overall Manhattan real estate market year-over-year in two metrics: transactions (volume) and inventory change (absorption). I scan the other metrics as roughly similar, overall market to Manhattan lofts.

I suspect that the first number is more due to the inherent volatility of Small Numbers (a niche is a niche), but that the second may be more significant. Which leads me to An Idea ... I should track both Loft Transactions and Loft Inventory as a percentage of the overall market! (Meaning, I should re-frame The Miller’s numbers to calculate something he is not especially interested in.) I am inclined to think it will be less interesting to re-frame the median price data in this way, but let’s see what I think when I get around to actually doing this .... (Weigh in, you Manhattan Loft Guy Readers, if you have a preference.)

© Sandy Mattingly 2010

 

 

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Oct. 1, 2010 - why the race to (call) the bottom? third quarter Manhattan real estate market reports hit


a rainy day also rains numbers
I am pretty sure I am in the minority about this, but I believe that major players in the Real Estate Industrial Complex in Manhattan are missing a shift in how consumers want information processed for them. There may be more than enough business to do -- for now -- The Old Way, but a new way would pay more attention to why so many people are drawn to data sites like StreetEasy, Trulia and Zillow and commentary (gossip?) sites like Curbed and Brownstoner. I launched into this lane of thinking after reading the classically constructed article about the major firm Manhattan market reports for the Third Quarter of 2010 in that bastion of the Real Estate Industrial Complex, the New York Times.

In today’s Manhattan Real Estate Market Seems to Stabilize, With Prices Up and Sales Volume Down, Vivian Toy has the unenviable task of making some sense out of quarterly reports from firms that use different numbers. I will chew on the numbers over the next few days, but for now I want to focus on the Big Picture “analysis” in that article, as presented from the heads of major firms, after noting this consistent finding:

Prices increased for the fifth straight quarter, with the average sales price hovering around $1.43 million and the median price around $910,000, according to data provided by the city’s four largest brokerage firms.


Previous Manhattan Loft Guy posts on the art form of these newspaper articles include this April 2, first impression of First Quarter reports, where I said

I do feel badly for the reporters who have to summarize the major firm quarterly reports of Manhattan real estate activity, such as Christine Haughney in today's NY Times, Slight Rise in Manhattan Apartment Prices in First Quarter, Data Show. With reports from Terra Holdings (Halstead and Brown Harris Stevens), Corcoran, and Miller Samuel for Prudential Douglas Elliman, there's usually enough inter-firm variation to make a coherent narrative challenging even leaving aside the often incoherence of same-firm data comparisons. This quarter is no different.


For the post on the NY Times article introducing  last quarter’s reports, I complimented Ms. Toy for achieving “remarkable” coherence in synthesizing such varying numbers:

Toy's summation about the Second Quarter in her lede today is actually remarkably coherent: "[b]ut ... prices have not rebounded".


That was in my July 1, for real: Second Quarter Manhattan real estate market report numbers out.

“predictions are hard -- especially about the future”
Physicist Neils Bohr is often cited as the source for that sub-heading above, but there are some who claim it for Mark Twain. Regardless, it is a great quote, and a terrific counter-point to the (natural human?) tendency to want to hear Smart People tell us What Will Happen Next. You know ... that question that 97.41% of all buyers and sellers ask: “where is The Market heading?”

I suspect that Manhattan real estate prognosticators would do no better than the Brilliant Economists have done with projecting the federal budget deficit. This is from Ezra Klein’s February 2 Washington Post blog that used the quote above as its heading (my bold):

The New York Times has a cool feature today showing how rarely long-term budget forecasts get the picture right. .... As you can see, what forecasters do is extend the current trends. When something happens to break that trend -- a massive financial crisis, say -- they're generally caught unawares.


predictions are seductive, especially if they are positive
I made that one up, as there does seem to be a natural human tendency to want to be told What Happens Next. And here are the leaders of four major Manhattan real estate firms to satisfy that need, all as quoted by Toy in the Times:

“We have hit bottom, and we’re probably improving ahead of schedule,” said Diane M. Ramirez, the president of Halstead Property. “But that just means we’re into a more normal market. We’ve moved out of critical care, and we’re stabilized now.”   

 

“I think it’s a sign that the wild ride is over and real estate is back to its basics,” said Pamela Liebman, the chief executive of the Corcoran Group.

 

“The market came back from the bottom up,” [Dottie Herman, the chief executive of Prudential Douglas Elliman] said. “Now the bigger units are selling again, and the market is basically flat, but it’s healthy.”       

   

“With the steady growth we’ve seen,” [Hall F. Willkie, the president of Brown Harris Stevens] added, “I think we can be optimistic looking ahead.”


These quotes are almost in lock step, not just in sync.

a different point on the food chain
Since no one has asked me to head a major Manhattan real estate firm, I have never been faced with the question of how to spin present quarterly data in ways that are both fair and in the interest of my firm. I just don’t know that the best way to present the Third Quarter Manhattan numbers is to present a Big Picture of stability, given that (a) the last few quarter-to-quarter ‘trends’ have hardly been stable, and (b) I don’t know what is going to happen next.

In all cases, the heads of these firms have more experience (and more staff!) than I do, and their comments deserve respect. But getting back to my original point up top, I truly believe that fewer and fewer consumers prefer this Simple Happy Talk to a more nuanced view, less capable of quick summary.

Something like this kind of nuance (from Miller, The):

“The only reason the average and median prices are up,” he said, “is because the two-bedroom market is returning from being depressed to a more consistent, normal level.”


To be fair, here is a pretty good summary, but I guess too much for a NY Times reporter who needs to include quotes from all firms who report quarterly numbers:

Since the downturn began, there has been an inconsistent pattern of seasonality as the market corrected rapidly. Since reaching a trough in First Quarter 2009, sales have climbed back, begun to stabilize, and returned to typical seasonal ebbs and flows. Last year at this time, pent-up demand from three quarters of low sales and lower pricing created an energetic buyers market. For Third Quarter 2010, we saw a 5 percent decrease in the number of market-wide transactions from a year ago and a 19 percent decrease from Second Quarter 2010.

 

Market-wide price metrics have stabilized and even improved from last quarter and one year ago. The median price of all Third Quarter 2010 transactions was $900,000, an increase of 9 percent versus a year ago and a 15 percent increase from Second Quarter 2010. Buyers are purchasing larger apartments with more bedrooms.


You’d have to read the Corcoran report to find this, but these are the second and third paragraphs, so not hard to find.

Old Grey Lady: part of problem?
Maybe my narrow focus on the major firms in my original point up top is a mistake. As you’ve seen from the introductory paragraphs of the Corcoran report quoted above and will see in the Miller Samuel report, there is a lot more from the firms than just the-market-is-back-to-normal. But the Times can’t find a way to report much nuance in the space allotted.

Presumably, they (who know much more about their readers than I do) don’t think their readers want more of the on-the-one-hand / on-the-other-hand stuff.  Sometimes (as hinted in The Miller’s Times quote and in the Corcoran report) the mix of apartments that sold is significant; other times, the number of transactions may be more important than an overall median price change; in other quarters, days on market might be a particularly telling data point.

But the Times template for doing these The Numbers Are Out! articles does not permit that kind of depth. A few Big Numbers, a few quotes from the Big People, a few anecdotes ... that’s it. Maybe the Times, as well as other parts of the Real Estate Industrial Complex in Manhattan is just ... behind the times (ouch).

links! we got links
The Miller Samuel report is here; Corcoran is here; the Halstead version of the Terra report is here.

Some commentary to follow in the coming days, as I digest the reports.

© Sandy Mattingly 2010

 

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Jul. 6, 2010 - how did lofts do last quarter compared to overall Manhattan real estate market?


a focus on the data from the Second Quarter
As is my wont, my first posts about the major firm reports from the Second Quarter and Manhattan real estate were about the drama of the reporting, this quarter 'enlivened' by the drama of the competition between the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times. To recap: June 28, first Second Quarter Manhattan real estate market report numbers out, and two posts on July 1, for real: Second Quarter Manhattan real estate market report numbers outand quick hit: WSJ finds Manhattan real estate market "healing".

Looking at the numbers reported in the market reports for Manhattan real estate in the second quarter of 2010, the loft niche out-performed the overall Manhattan market in terms of transaction volume, even with overall market volume up about 80% (The Miller has loft sales volume up 264%). Comparative pricing data was mixed in the second quarter. The three major firms were in substantial agreement about price-per-foot trends, both overall and for the loft niche, with no significnat difference for lofts compared to the overall Manhattan real estate market. For median prices, there is a largely similar price story in the four market reports overall, but the two firms that report median prices for lofts head in oposite directions and show more dramatic changes than in the overall market. Sigh.

The two tables below break out the (limited) loft-specific data from the three major firms that do quarterly market reports for Manhattan real estate and then provide some (deeper) overall market data from these three firms and from StreetEasy. [Links to the reports are here (Miller Samuel), here (Corcoran),  here (Terra; the Halstead version), and here (StreetEasy).]

Loft data from the Second Quarter 2010 Manhattan real estate market reports, with year-over-year comparisons
 

median sales price avg price per foot transactions days on market inventory
Miller Samuel $1.57mm [down 15.9%] $1,145 [down 4.3%] 262 [up 263.9%] 80 [down 42%] 548 [down 25.6%]
Terra Holdings
$1,066 [unchanged]


Corcoran $1.64mm [up 21%] $1,087 [up 2%]


Overall market data with year-over-year comparisons


median sales price avg price per foot transactions days on market inventory
Miller Samuel $899k [up 7.6%] $1,051 [down 0.5%] 2,756 [up 79.9%] 105 [down 35.2%] 8,157 [down 13%]
Terra Holdings $843k [up 6%]
  2,522 [up 81%]
112 [down 13%]

Corcoran $810k [unchanged] $1,040 [up 1%]

9,406 [down 24%]
StreetEasy $800k [up 2.6%]   3,500 [up 65.2%] 153 [down 6.4%] [down 6%]

those surging lofts
Long-time Manhattan Loft Guy readers know that I prefer The Miller's data on lofts because he provides the best sub-set of data regarding Manhattan loft transactions. As with the reports from the First Quarter (see April 6, how did lofts do last quarter compared to overall market?), the price data comparisons in the Miller Samuel report are a bit sloppy, with lofts having taking a bigger hit on median sales price than the overall market, but with price-per-foot averages moving similarly for lofts and the overall Manhattan market.

Again, like last quarter, that suggests to me that the median price difference is more a matter of the mix of lofts that sold being smaller this past quarter than a year ago. I quoted The Miller about the volatility in different price indicators (average or median sales price, price-per-foot) in my April 5 post, second impression of First Quarter reports:

the price per square foot metric ... does not generally see the same volatility from unit mix swings as compared to the other price indicators.

In Miller World, the trends for Days on Market and Inventory are similar between the overall Manhattan market and the loft niche, but I believe that the surge being greater for lofts in both metrics is significant. Long-term and comparative data in The Miller's prose tells the story. About the huge increase in loft transaction volume year-over-year, he notes that the 20 year quarterly average loft sales volume number is 193, which highlights just how large this quarter's 262 loft transactions are in comparison, and how small last year's 72 sales were.

In other words, the loft market was essentially asleep a year ago and now has awakened. Looking at my quarterly review a year ago (July 10, 2009, comparing 2Q Manhattan loft data + overall market / the case of the missing lofts), I see that the overall market volume was down then YoY 'only' 50.3% while the cliff the loft fell off was 73.5%.

The Miller has another context nugget about the Days on Market numbers. While the loft niche again trends along with the overall market (down 42% vs. down 35.2%), the raw number for how long it took for lofts to sell in the second quarter is historically significant: 80 days on market is "the fastest result posted in at least a decade". Great stuff!

as usual, cross-firm comparisons risk incoherence
There are only two data points on which more than one of the three firms report loft numbers, median sales price and average price-per-foot. With three sets of average price-per-foot reports, this quarter the numbers from The Miller, Corcoran, and Terra are all tolerably within range. But the two median sales price numbers are again so different that grinding and gnashing of teeth is inevitable. While The Miller and Corcoran disagree only moderately on size ($1.57mm vs. $1.64mm), they again radically disagree on the year-over-year trend (down-15.9% vs. up-21%). As I said last quarter,

the only explanation is both familiar and dis-satisfying: their data sets are different.

In such a world, it is a fool's errand to draw any conclusions from inter-firm data differences. Sigh.

© Sandy Mattingly 2010

 

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Jul. 1, 2010 - quick hit: WSJ finds Manhattan real estate market "healing" in Second Quarter


Barbanel weighs in
My post this morning (for real: Second Quarter Manhattan real estate market report numbers out) chewed on (and chewed over) the NY Times article today by Vivia Toy about the major firms' reports on coop and condo sales in Manhattan in the Second Quarter. I made a note at the end to check out the (increasingly delightful!) competition between the Times and the Wall Street Journal's new emphasis on local Manhattan news. In this morning's Journal article, Manhattan Apartment Market Healing, Josh Barbanel does not disappoint.

Barbanel has the advantage over Toy in that he is not tied to a legacy template and has clearly been told to look for ways to do things differently. On first impressions, at least, I prefer his take on the Second Quarter reports to that of Toy in the Times.

is it the short paragraphs?
Probably what I like best about the Journal view of the reports is that the "however ..." point is much closer to the top, in the fifth of five very short paragraphs (my bold):

The solid sales and modest increase in prices in most apartment categories led some analysts to suggest that New York market was beginning to heal, despite uncertainty about the overall direction of the economy in the months ahead.

I really like this important bit of context about average price data (my bold):

Average prices have been rising over the past few quarters, but the gains were attributed to a change in the mix of apartments that sold, in particular to a surge in the sales of the larger more expensive apartments hardest hit during the recession.
 
All in all, Barbanel seems to me more fresh ... perhaps because I am so used to (tired of?) the NY Times template.

Again, real "analysis" of numbers will follow.

© Sandy Mattingly 2010

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Jul. 1, 2010 - for real: Second Quarter Manhattan real estate market report numbers out


that didn't take long
When I blogged this week about actual research done by the Wall Street Journal from city data about coop and condo sales in Manhattan (June 28, first Second Quarter Manhattan real estate market report numbers out), I noted that the NY Times probably then already had the major brokerage firms' reports under an embargo that prevented them from being reported on until the end of the quarter. Well, the Times article is out this morning, Vivian Toy's In Manhattan, Apartment Sales Rose but Prices Were Flat, so that did not take long. Now I wonder if next quarter, the Times will not want to wait to publish because this quarter the Journal tried to scoop the brokerage firm reports.

(Note that any report "as of" the end of the second quarter that comes out in June [like the Journal's analysis of sales volume] or on July 1 [like the major firms] can't be literally complete because of the time lag between deals closing and deeds being filed. Before the competition between the Journal and the Times, the convention had been to report immediately after the quarter as if the data were complete; that convention might not survive Murdoch-level competition.)

same story, different paper, more details
As I said in that June 28 post, the Journal could scoop the Times on sales volume by going directly to the city for transaction numbers, but any other "analysis" would be based on general quotes from firms without pricing or other detailed data. This is almost comically apparent if you read the Barbanel article in the Journal (Apartment Sales Up in Manhattan) side-by-side with the Toy article in the Times. The firms would only hint to Barbanel about the hard numbers, rather than scoop themselves and the publicity they get from the embargoed reports.

The lede from Toy today pretty much says it all, in ways that Barbanel could only project without more numbers:

The number of apartments sold in Manhattan rose significantly in the last three months, but prices were flat, with some categories dipping slightly compared with the previous quarter, according to sales reports to be released on Thursday by the city’s largest brokerage firms.

The reports showed that there were 80 percent more transactions in the second quarter of this year than the same period in 2009 and 15 percent more than the previous quarter of this year, a return to historically normal levels after a virtual standstill early last year. But even though brokers are reporting much heavier traffic at open houses and bidding wars on certain properties, prices have not rebounded.

It is probably an impossible task for a reporter to coherently summarize different firm reports, as i have pointed out numerous times. Here's how I started my post about the First Quarter reports (April 2, first impression of First Quarter reports):

I do feel badly for the reporters who have to summarize the major firm quarterly reports of Manhattan real estate activity, such as Christine Haughney in today's NY Times, Slight Rise in Manhattan Apartment Prices in First Quarter, Data Show. With reports from Terra Holdings (Halstead and Brown Harris Stevens), Corcoran, and Miller Samuel for Prudential Douglas Elliman, there's usually enough inter-firm variation to make a coherent narrative challenging even leaving aside the often incoherence of same-firm data comparisons. This quarter is no different.

Toy's summation about the Second Quarter in her lede today is actually remarkably coherent: "[b]ut ... prices have not rebounded". I would quibble with the word "rebound" for the same reason that I quibbled with Haughney's article on the First Quarter numbers, which used The Peak as a baseline ("my first reaction on reading the Times article is that the emphasis on 1Q10 vs. 1Q08 has the wrong tone for a piece to be consumed by readers who don't follow real estate every day and by other media").

Toy reported today about the firm reports on prices, comparing quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year (the bold is mine):

with three agencies reporting an increase [in average sales price for a Manhattan apartment] of about half a percent from the last quarter and one agency showing a 2 percent decline. But compared with last year, the averages reflect an increase of about 9 percent for three agencies and a decline of 1 percent for the fourth brokerage

So ... yes, there is no sign of a "rebound" to Peak prices. And prices (at least as measured by an overall average) were essentially flat, both YoY and QoQ.

cheerleaders wanted, or not?

I have never been asked to advise the major brokerage firms about their media strategies (a trend that will certainly continue!), and I have never sat in on one of their interviews. So I don't know if the media consistently report the major firm representatives as highlighting "positive" numbers because that is all they talk about, or because that is all the media is interested in hearing from these people. But I just don't see that it is a good thing for all the brokerage quotes to be about "positive" data points, leaving it to someone like The Miller to make some obvious references to circumstances that are not positive. Fairly or not, the firms come across as shills.

Thus, miscellaneous heads said:

“Buyers are getting a lot more for their money, and they’ve jumped back in and are taking advantage of it.”

“We’re looking at good steady transaction numbers, and to me, that’s a sign that the pulse feels healthy,”

“I would have never thought a year ago that we’d be where we are today,”

“Smaller apartments were first, because there’s always going to be a market for the entry-level apartment, but now the high end is selling too because people see an opportunity since prices are down.”

Only The Miller talks about a forecast for more clouds:

“We’ve reached the point where a lot of the damage has been done, but we’re not yet at recovery,” he said.

Factors inhibiting recovery, he added, include continued difficulty getting jumbo mortgages, high unemployment, rising foreclosures and a “shadow” inventory of new development units that have yet to come to market.

“It’s still too early to celebrate,” Mr. Miller said.

how did that template do?
In my initial post about the last quarter's reports (that April 2, first impression of First Quarter reports), I commented on the template for an article attempting to deal with the varying numbers in the major firm reports and the mix of numbers and quotes:

The template for these quarterly pieces in the NY Times is evident in today's article. Start with some general trends (here, 2 paragraphs worth), then follow with an overall comment (here, Diane Ramirez of Halstead) and (nearly random) specific points citing the Major Firms. In that category, the Times quotes Corcoran data for relative strength in the 1-bedroom market and other Terra folks for the sparse $10mm market. Then, add another overall comment or two (here, from Corcoran and The Miller), dropping some more (nearly random) specific points (here, Terra data on sales volume, Corcoran data on bidding wars, and The Miller on inventory). You close with a capture-the-psychology quote from A Major Player (here, “The biggest complaint I’m getting from my brokers is ‘I need more property.’ ” )

This is actually brilliant in execution, in weaving in quotes and numbers from the three major reports and four major firms. For the average reader, this looks like a very comprehensive review of the quarterly data, glossing over internal firm report trends and inter-firm differences in data. That's probably as much as one could hope for.

Today's Toy article about the Second Quarter reports matches up pretty well with Haughney's article about the First Quarter reports.

  • start with general trends (here, 2 4 paragraphs, [including one about the StreetEasy report])
  • follow with an overall comment (here, Diane Ramirez of Halstead Pam Liebman of Corcoran about prices and volume, and Diane Ramirez of Halstead about volume) and (nearly random) specific points citing the Major Firms
  • In that category, the Times quotes Corcoran data for relative strength in the 1-bedroom market notes (a) a marked decline in median prices for studio apartments in condominiums and new developments, and other Terra folks for the sparse $10mm market (b) Hall F. Willkie of BHS that deals under $2 million accounted for 82 percent of his agency’s sales at the beginning of the year, but that that percentage had dropped to 60
  • Then, add another overall comment or two (here, from Corcoran PruDE and The Miller Terra Holdings)
  • dropping some more (nearly random) specific points (here, Terra data on sales volume, Corcoran data on bidding wars, and The Miller on inventory Terra data on shorter time spent on the market and smaller discounts from final listing prices)
  • You close with a capture-the-psychology quote from A Major Player (here, “The biggest complaint I’m getting from my brokers is ‘I need more property.’ ” it is The Miller, “We’ve reached the point where a lot of the damage has been done, but we’re not yet at recovery,” )

As i said last time and will bold this time because it is so true:

This is actually brilliant in execution, in weaving in quotes and numbers from the three major reports and four major firms. For the average reader, this looks like a very comprehensive review of the quarterly data, glossing over internal firm report trends and inter-firm differences in data. That's probably as much as one could hope for.

actual reports
The Miller report is here. The Corcoran, Terra Holdings (Halstead and BHS), and StreetEasy reports were not on-line as of 8:50 this morning (shame!) but they should be here, here, and here when they are up (I will check the links when they are up, to be sure).

actual commentary, later
I will do some actual commentary about the numbers (as opposed to Inside Baseball about how these articles get done) after digesting the reports. I probably should look for Barbanel's take in the Journal about these reports, as he is a past master of the Times template and is keenly interested in surpassing the Times. [UPDATE:  Barbanel did not disappoint; see my post today, quick hit: WSJ finds Manhattan real estate market "healing"]

Enjoy!

© Sandy Mattingly 2010

 

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Jun. 29, 2010 - The Miller on absorption of Manhattan coops and condos


hint: it is worse as you go up
One of the nice things about the blogoshere is that it provides a forum for dialogue, even (especlally) with oneself. Here's an article last week from the Wall Street Journal analyzing the "absorption rates" for different Manhattan real estate market segments, based on numbers reported by The Miller, Condos Rule Over Coops at High End, June 22. Here is The Miller's further consideration, on his own Matrix blog, The Differences Between High End and Low End Absorption, June 22. First, let's define the term.

defining absorption
The Miller defines absorption as "the number of months it takes to sell available inventory", but does not add what is implied: that the rate of sales is the rate for the month under consideration. I.e., the chart in the WSJ and on Matrix showing that the absorption rate for coops between $3mm and $5mm is 16.2 months, assumes a rate of sale based on May 2010 recorded sales of coops in that range. Thus, absorption is a function of two metrics: size (how much inventory in a price range at any given time) and rate (how many sales in that price range in the month under discussion). Thus, if the rate of sales increases with no change in inventory, absorption declines; if inventory declines with no change in rate of sales, absorption declines. And vice versa.

The Miller argues with The Miller's chart
The take-away from the WSJ article is evident from the title: Manhattan high end condos were absorbed more quickly in May than high end coops. In a sense, this is 'evident' from the graph, which clearly spikes at different levels at the top of the price scale, breaking the (rough) symmetry between coops and condos at all other price points. Which is an opportunity for The Miller on his blog to muse that

The article sort of suggests that condos are doing better than co-ops as a generalization, which isn’t quite correct or I am over analyzing the results.


 

As he explains on his blog,

[Absorption rates for] Co-ops over $10M are significantly higher than condos but this segment is about 1% of all sales so the results are easily skewed.


 

In other words, after slicing and dicing one month's worth of sales data, the slice for coops over $10mm is awfully thin, and not worth investing too much reliance on as a trend point.

2 points to rely  on
The Miller makes two important contextual points in his blog post that are missing from the WSJ , presumably because the WSJ was more interested in making a point about the difficulties of Wall Streeters ("It is more difficult for the Wall Streeter who wants the big prewar apartments to buy one than before," said Mr. Miller.):

[1] Co-op and condo absorption is generally on par with the 10 year 9.9 month average overall rate of absorption

[2] Lower priced property generally absorbs faster


 

I would add that under $3mm the absorption rates for coops and condos are in close agreement, and that at each price point below $3mm absorption rates are roughly even.

a final word of caution
Lovely  bar graphs with striking data points from a single month of sales divided into 16 unequal segments are easy to over-analyze. (The Miller does not provide an N, but my guess is that he will show around 900 overall sales for May, heavily weighted toward lower price points.)

© Sandy Mattingly 2010


 

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Jun. 28, 2010 - the very first Second Quarter Manhattan real estate market report numbers out


ahead of The Times, with what, exactly?
As we are counting down to the last days of the Second Quarter, the number crunchers at Miller Samuel, Terra, Corcoran and elsewhere are in their counting houses, counting up their sales. Traditionally, the three major firm reports on the Manhattan real estate coop and condo market are released within a day or two ofter the end of the quarter, so we can anticipate a flurry just before the holiday weekend.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is taking its competition with the NY Times over Manhattan news to a new level, as Josh Barbanel tries to scoop the news, as he reports on a WSJ analysis of sales in the Second Quarter while the quarter has a few days to go. In Apartment Sales Up in Manhattan, on line on June 26, Barbanel reports that transaction volume will be up 80% for the quarter compared to the same quarter in 2009. Take that, Old Grey Lady!

Murdoch 1, Sulzberger 0
Fascinating bit of one-ups-man-ship. The NY Times can be expected to report on Thursday or Friday this week similar news based on the three major firm reports, which the Times probably already has in draft form, embargoed until the end of the quarter. But the Journal did (a bit of) its own analysis.

A Wall Street Journal review of closed-sales filings with New York City Department of Finance shows that during the second quarter, which ends June 30, sales were running 80% above the pace reported a year ago.

***

The sales figures were culled from deed and tax filings recorded up to five days before the end of each quarter.


no price "analysis"
In between that early sentence and the closing sentence quoted above, the "***" includes the traditional Talking Head quotes from broker sources, "reporting" general impressions of The Market. Nothing interesting -- or specific -- in that "***". Indeed, Barbanel addresses the question of price movement very generally, not having done his own analysis and with no major firm reports yet available.

No "news" here:

Analysts said there has likely been a modest recovery in prices as well.

As I see it, the entire justification for this article as "news" is the 80% volume report, based on the Journal's own review of city records. Barbanel knows that the Times does not do its own review of quarterly sales data, but reports on the reviews done by Terra, The Miller and Corcoran.  Touche!



© Sandy Mattingly 2010


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May. 3, 2010 - cool Manhattan sales volume data over at UrbanDigs


bumps + troughs
Noah Rosenblatt just posted an interesting chart on his blog of average manhattan real estate sales volume (not prices, volume) from 2006 to present. Check out the whole thing for his explanation and cool graphics. He uses city data from ACRIS, so is probably over-counting a bit (I don't believe he can filter for related-party or non-arm's length "sales"), but that factor probably evens out over time.

It doesn't go back far enough for my taste (but it is his blog, and more info is better than less info), but The Miller's 10 year data show that prior years back to 2000 were (a) fairly consistent with 2006, and (b) much less volatile than 2007 or 2009 changes, at least as full year data sets. See page 6 of 61 of the Miller's Manhattan market Report 2000 - 2009 (pdf).

Noah's 90-day moving average graph shows how dramatic the mid-2007 bump was (what he calls "the new development boom and euphoria that came with the peak of 2007") and how the post-Lehman nuclear winter was nearly the inverse of that peak (though of longer duration, and not yet back to a 'norm'). Good stuff, Mr. Digs.

contract signings soar
Noah tracks broker reports of contract signings, an interesting trend-line for analysis. Not all of these contracts will result in sales, though the slippage is likely to be small, and there are likely to be sales made outside this reporting system (as there are [a small number of?] sales that do not involve REBNY-reporting firms). My guess is that net-net, "reported contracts" slightly under-performs as a proxy for anticipated sales.

The key take-away here is that Noah reports 1,074 contracts in the last 30 days in this blog post, while if you look in the top-left he's got (a presumably updated?) 1,170 contracts. Both of these numbers likely represent upper level trends for 'normal' sales volume, in real time. More good stuff, Mr. Digs.

© Sandy Mattingly 2010

 

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Sandy Mattingly is Manhattan Loft Guy; now with The Corcoran Group (http://corcoran.com/ ; but see the disclaimer at the bottom of the page), he can be reached most easily at Sandy@ManhattanLoftGuy.com or 917.902.2491, and followed on Twitter @ManhattnLoftGuy (note "mis-spelling"). After 7+ years, the blog has moved. Links here on RealTown will work for the foreseeable future, but new posts (and all the old content) has migrated to ManhattanLoftGuy.com.

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