Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mortgage Default Rates Keep Falling

Despite fears over the country’s housing market, the rate of defaults is declining; it has dropped 3.5% since its peaks in May 2009 and seems to defy all other indicators. The 2nd quarter of this year was the best quarterly performance since 2007 and if it continues to decline at the current rate, it will soon be at 2004-06 levels.
Growing Panes: Homeowners Go Big on Glass Walls

People want natural light and open space in their homes, this has led to houses being built with entirely glass walls to allow for open views and as much light as possible. With new technology allowing for self-tinting windows and blinds controlled with an iPhone app this is becoming a viable proposition.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Battered Home Builder Sentiment Creeps Up

Confidence in the construction industry increased last month, but it is still at record lows. The NAHB/Wells Fargo index measures how many builders think market conditions are favorable. The peak score during the housing boom was above 70; however, now the scores are barely in double figures and unlikely to change quickly. The scores have been steady during the year in a tight range from 13-17.
10 Ways to Lawsuit-Proof Your Estate

There are often disagreements over inheritance. Therefore, it is important to adequately prepare your will so that your estate is distributed properly and doesn’t cause arguments, legal battles and the ruin of your family. Here is a guide to make your will accurate and clear.
Manhattan Landlords Can Choose to be Picky

With a vacancy rate of less than 1%, Manhattan landlords have high standards and their choice of tenants. For example, credit scores above 700 and gross income of at least 40 times the monthly rent are expected. Even guarantors undergo scrutiny from landlords who seek even higher salaries and higher credit scores (upwards of 80x rent). Foreigners also face the same scrutiny, especially those with no U.S. credit history.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mortgage Costs May Rise for Some Borrowers

Conforming loan limits set by the government are changing on October 1 with opinion divided on how they will affect the market. There are fears among some analysts that they will have an impact on the high end markets. Jumbo loans require higher credit scores and a larger down-payment; as much as 35% of the purchase price. However, there are some reassurances that lending will increase to fill the gap.

Summer Enjoyment takes New Form in Sweden

Last week I introduced an architect from Hong Kong who managed to evolve a tiny 344 square-foot apartment into a “domestic transformer”; by implementing a clever system of tracks and wheelies. The owner is now able to change the apartment into a distinct 24 architectural designs. You can find more about the house under “Tiny Transformers” and see a video here:

Continuing with the theme of tiny dwellings, I present a cool project from Stockholm-based Sommarnöjen (Summer Enjoyment in English). Sommarnöjen recently released the designs for five tiny, yes 15 square meters is very tiny, summer cottages. The size is exactly what makes them so alluring. They are incredibly versatile and the mini-houses can be treated as stand-alone units as well as additions to larger houses. Their size and customizability allow them to be used as anything from guest houses to saunas. In fact, as The Cool Hunter notes, people with Scandinavian backgrounds will be pleasantly reminded of the cottages so often encountered all across Scandinavia. See more

These tiny abodes can be used in a variety of settings and whatever the use, their owners will enjoy their time in them and their new surroundings.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Brooklyn in High Demand while Queens Prices Drop

A report from leading real estate brokerage firm The Corcoran Group has revealed that the Brooklyn housing market is booming and the median price of a Brooklyn home is up 13% from last year. Queens meanwhile is suffering after a 40.6% fall in the number of homes sold although the median price of a home in Queens did increase by 2.1%. The market in both areas is dominated by condos and they are selling very well, accounting for one quarter of the Brooklyn market at this busy time.
The Strangest and Most Unusual Homes on the Market

The ‘Mushroom House’ is a strange mix of a glass bottle and a flowering plant; it has been attracting attention since it was built in 1971 and now it is up for sale. Originally envisaged by James Johnson, the house has become a local landmark and, after being renovated, has gone up for sale. According to five leading real estate web sites there are eleven other houses across the country which are all just as quirky and vary in price from $250,000 to $13 million.
Abolishing Fannie Mae: Harder Than It Looks?

Politicians from both major parties are struggling to solve the problem of Fannie Mae, leading Republicans are calling for Fannie Mae and sister organization Freddie Mac to be abolished and government guarantees on loans to be stopped. However, these government agencies now back 9 out of 10 new loans and both the Democrats and the real estate market want a permanent government presence to help protect the $10.5 trillion mortgage industry.
Design Tips for Homeowners on a Budget

It is a commonly held belief that it costs a lot of money to renovate your home; however it is possible to transform any room for as little as $100. Basic changes such as curtains, pillows and wallpaper can alter the dynamic of any room, here is a perfect guide for anyone who wants to improve their home without breaking the bank.
Home Prices Poised to Climb as Foreclosures Wane

For the first time in many months, analysts are predicting an increase in the house prices across the U.S. Foreclosure numbers are decreasing and the number of owners in default declining too. There are now 18% less foreclosure homes on the market than at its peak. However, there are still 1.7 million homes in foreclosure and it is unclear when housing prices will increase and strong growth will occur. Economy management is crucial at this point to ensure growth is encouraged and lending is kept under control.
Celebrating America's History of Home Ownership

It’s been over 100 years since real estate brokers first started selling people the American Dream! Owning your own home is still considered one of the most valuable and important investments of ones life. Even in the modern era of uncertainty and debt, over 80% of people consider owning a home a solid investment and over 70% believe it is at least as good as owning stocks. This faith and desire to own your own home promoted large growth in the post-WWII boom and hopefully it will do the same again today.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Best Consumer Credit Since ‘06 Reveals Loan Rebound

Credit scores across the country are on the increase, the average score, which is out of 850, rose to 696 in May which is the highest since 2006. The score is a measure of how likely a lender is to be paid back. This improvement allows people to borrow more money as fears about the U.S. economy diminish. It must be stressed, the economy must continue to grow and debts reduced, before it can fully recover.
Growing List of Park Rules Irks Some New Yorkers

Authorities in NYC have been implementing many pieces of legislature over the past few months trying to improve the quality of life in our parks and public spaces. There are now restrictions on smoking, selling art and playing music. The parks of Manhattan are vital to the people using them – they provide an escape from the stress and intensity of the city. Such restrictions are seen by many as a violation of their first amendment rights. It also affects people making a living selling art or playing music. Advocates for the plans say it will benefit everyone in the long run making the parks more pleasant.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Foreign Buyers Lifting U.S. Home Sales

Housing markets across the country are being boosted by foreigners. The dollar is currently weak against many international currencies such as the euro, Canadian dollar and pound sterling. Many people are taking advantage of the low cost of American housing buying in many of the more desirable holiday destinations. Florida in particular has historically attracted foreigners and 8 of it cities rank amongst the 20 most popular cities for foreign investors in the U.S. The most popular nationalities are Canadian, Chinese, British and German.
Glassy condo, with controversial design, coming to Flatiron District

The Flatiron district will have a large glass condo building at 39-41 West 23rd Street, the design was approved before the downturn and despite urges from the community for planning to be denied it was granted with only minor changes. The original plan was for the development to be a hotel but it has changed hands and is now slated to become a condo building. The project is being run by Anbau Enterprises who also developed 110 Central Park South and 136 West 22nd Street.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Worried About Rising Rates? 5 Things You Can Do

With debt levels at an all time high, interest rates are under intense scrutiny from everyone involved in economics and business. If you are concerned about the potential for a sudden large increase in interest rates then there are five things you can do:

1.) Refinance your mortgage at the current low rate
2.) Consolidate variable rate loans at a fixed rate
3.) Reallocate your portfolio to include fewer long term bonds
4.) Ladder your bonds so that each one runs out in a different year
5.) Always look out for more opportunities to make money
Buying, Holding Pays Off

Buying during the recession may seem like a daunting prospect but for one group of investors who purchased the Worldwide Plaza office in 2009 it was a risk worth taking. The deal, for an office building which had forty six percent occupancy cost them $600 million but now the skyscraper has an estimated value of $1.1 billion. This has been helped by a huge deal with Nomura Holding’s American arm now renting nine hundred thousand square feet of office space helping boost occupancy to ninety six percent.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Corcoran Report: Second Quarter

It is my pleasure to inform you that Corcoran has released its Second Quarter Corcoran Report, our quarterly survey of residential real estate sales in Manhattan. This report compares data based on deals that closed in 2Q 2011 (April 1 through June 30) with those closed in the prior quarter and in the same quarter one year ago.

Manhattan continued to enjoy significant sales activity in the Second Quarter of the year as market-wide sales increased 15% over the First Quarter. Renewed levels of competition led prices higher as buyers took advantage of lower pricing in the resale market. Manhattan’s median price in the Second Quarter reached $790,000, up 9%, and the average price per square foot was $1024, an increase of 4% from a year ago.

In many ways, the Second Quarter was the most relentlessly average period of sales activity in several years: it displayed typically active sales for the spring season, with prices driven modestly upward by competition, but without breaking any records. While Corcoran found itself working with many all-cash and foreign buyers, large numbers of New Yorkers of all kinds found their homes in Manhattan with us in the Second Quarter.

If you have any questions about the Corcoran Report or about sales activity or trends in the residential real estate market, I am always happy to discuss it with you. I hope you are having a good summer and look forward to speaking with you soon.
Loan Limit: Will It or Won't It Hurt Housing?

It is unknown how the upcoming change to the loan limit will affect the housing market. The initial prediction is prices will go down as fewer people will be able to buy high cost housing because they have less purchasing power. However, new research from the George Washington University indicates there will be little change as 95% of people will be able to loan and buy in exactly the same way. Many economists have given varying opinions on the matter and only time will tell of the long term effects.
Another residential conversion on deck for Williamsburg's Kent Avenue

The lively area of Kent Avenue in Williamsburg is set to get another housing development. Plans for the warehouse, located at 484 Kent Avenue which is between South 10th and 11th streets, have now been filed for the building. It will comprise of 30 residential units being constructed on the second and third levels. The previously bankrupt developer Isaac Rosenberg has proposed these plans although it remains unclear whether he will sell the remaining units or rent them out.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Transformation of Tiny Spaces

Imagine owning an 8,250 square foot apartment in the heart of any neighborhood you want for less than 1M. While this may seem unrealistic an architect in Hong Kong found a way to make it possible.

Many of us understand what it is like to live in small spaces. Hong Kong is no different. They are very familiar with cramped living – to the extreme! The population there is enormous, and there simply isn’t enough living space to house everyone comfortably. Large apartments are extremely expensive and only available to a small number of people. Thus, entire families are forced to live in tiny apartments.

For one man, however, living in a 344 square foot apartment with his parents and sister was simply not an option. He transformed his apartment into… well… a transformable apartment. Through careful use of wheels and tracks, the entire apartment can be customized into 24 distinct designs. 344 square feet, 24 different designs, 8,250 distinct square feet.

You have to see the video for yourself:

April saw Higher Housing Prices

The average housing prices increased for the first time in eight months during April as the spring surge in activity caused a 0.7% increase in average price according to the house price index by Standard &Poor’s/Case-Shiller. The strong performance in the real estate market this month however does not indicate a recovery has begun and it will take several months of continued increases to confirm that the market has bottomed out across the country. One undeniable fact is that this is a positive result for the struggling housing market.

Renters See Prices Skyrocket

After the recession period of low rental prices and desperate landlords, the rental market is improving strongly. During the past twelve months the average rental rate for homes and apartments has increased by 6.7%. The studio apartment market is particularly strong with a 14.3% increase and this is mainly because vacancies are down by nearly 2% across the board. The signs in the rental market are so encouraging that developers are starting to plan new apartment buildings due to be finished in 2013.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Manhattan residential market held on in 2Q

Real estate brokers are being surprised at the moment by how steady the market is, during the second quarter mean prices increased and the average time an apartment spent on the market was consistent with the ten year average; surprising given the uncertainty hanging over the U.S. economy at the moment. Even though the performance wasn’t nearly as strong as last year’s second quarter this is because the tax credit for first time buyers was due to expire causing a boom in the market.
New York City averts construction strike-group

Construction workers in New York City narrowly avoided striking after a last minute agreement between their employers and union leaders regarding changes to work rules seen by many in the industry as obsolete. Hundreds of sites across New York would have ground to a halt which may have further damaged the area’s building industry which is yet to recover fully from the recession. Employment is at a 13 year low despite it being the summer; a traditionally busy time for construction.
Manhattan Housing Market Lifted by High End Sales

The spring surge in the housing market has been led by the high end market according to upcoming market reports from the leading real estate firms of Manhattan. The high end market was hit hardest by the downturn and is now beginning to show signs of recovery. It is so strong that there has been a 28% increase in average price for 3+ bedroom co-ops versus last year.