Matrix Blog

Showing Results for "realtor pending home"

Pending Home Sales Fall Short of Year Ago Sales Surge

May 29, 2014 | 4:29 pm | Charts |

2014-april-phsi-05-29-2014
[click to expand]

The NAR released their Pending Home Sale Index today for April which aggregates signed contract data for the month. It is generally 2 months closer to the “meeting of the minds” between buyer and seller than their existing home sale report, that is based on closed sales (and 4 months faster than Case Shiller).

Pending Home Sales Index is not “forward looking”
In my chart above, and if you know me, I hate seasonal adjustments (SA) in housing data so this chart uses NAR’s reported numbers without adjustments. NAR always frames this release series as “forward looking” when it really is “less backward looking” because it is based on contracts, not closed sales. The end of May report reflects April contracts, half of which were probably signed in Late March. With a 2 month spread between contract and closing dates, this report is the most recent US housing market snapshot but nothing about it is actually “forward looking.”

With all the weather talk and mixed housing market messaging over the last month, this release brought us a broad range of interpretation, from “plunging” to “edging higher.”

Well, which is it? Or could it be both? Yes it can. We just need context.

According to Housingwire (uses SA numbers): Pending home sales plunge 9.2% in April So much for that post-winter, pent-up demand

Pending home sales for the month of April plummeted 9.2% compared to April 2013, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday.

Contracts signed to buy existing homes increased 0.4% in April compared to March 2014, but that’s coming off three months of flat sales blamed on cold weather.

The expectation had been for at least a 2% gain month-over-month.

According to Diana Olick at CNBC (uses SA numbers), Pending home sales up just 0.4% in April, missing expectations

Warmer weather and higher expectations failed to cause a meaningful surge in home sales.

Signed contracts to buy existing homes increased just 0.4 percent in April, according to a monthly report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The expectation had been for at least a 2 percent gain sequentially.

The Realtors’ so-called pending home sales index is now 9.2 percent lower than April of 2013.

What’s going on?

If you look at the above chart you can see that last year’s pending home sales were surging up until May 2013, their highest level in 3 years (since the federal homeowner tax credit program as part of the stimulus). The surge in contracts in the first half of 2013 was born out of consumer fears that rates were going to rise. In addition, all the pent-up demand accumulated during the two year period preceding the US election and fiscal cliff deadline was released into the market. Many fence-sitters became decision-makers.

This winter’s harsh weather could have delayed buyers and we should be seeing this uptick in activity by now. We probably are seeing it but it no match for the year ago surge in activity but now the market is being characterized as weak or weakening. The problem with that description is it assumes that 2013 was a normal trend of an improving market. Well it wasn’t.

So yes, sales are down from the 2013 sales surge anomaly and the weather time-shifting buyers forward further into spring this year was no match for it. In fact, I suspect the next month will show the same type of “weakness” and the PHSI results probably can’t show real improvement at least until June.

Tags: , , , , ,


NAR Pending Home Sales Had Biggest “February to March” Jump in 4 Years

April 28, 2014 | 4:52 pm | irslogo |

4-28-14PHSI
[click to expand]

After all the housing news drama of the past month, I thought it was interesting to see the negative streak broken. Still, sales are below year ago levels after what I described as a “release of pent-up demand” that was caused by the expiration of the “fiscal cliff” and the looming rise in mortgage rates last year.

Although home sales are expected to trend up over the course of the year and into 2015, this year began on a weak note and total sales are unlikely to match the 2013 level.

All the indices NAR publishes bother me because they include seasonal adjustments and those adjustments can be very severe. The chart above has no seasonal adjustments so you can see how much adjusting has to take place to smooth out the line. I thought I’d take a look at the month-over-month data that wasn’t seasonally adjusted to see if the same pattern occurred.

4-28-14PHSIfebtomarch

Yes, month-over-month pending sales rose the most since 2010 when the market was wildly skewed (higher) as a result of the First-Time Homebuyer Credit (federal first time buyer and homeowner tax credit).

February to March 2014 had the largest increase in contracts than the same period in each year since 2010.

Tags: , , , , ,


Pending Home Sales Down 10.2% YOY And That’s Not A Bad Thing

March 27, 2014 | 11:55 am | Charts |

NARphsi3-27-14
[click to expand]

NAR released their pending home sale index today and the news was not unexpected. US home sales volume has slowed since last spring’s taper miscue by the fed which caused mortgage rates to jump. If you look at the May surge in pending sales, sales volume, seasonally speaking (comparing year over year) has fallen 10.2% (unadjusted).

The introduction of QM earlier in the year probably doesn’t help volume levels, but I’m not really convinced that the housing recovery is actually stalling. It seems more like sales levels are settling to more sustainable levels. And as sales go, so goes the insane price gains seen in the national reports.

Tags: , , , , ,


NAR Pending Home Sale Index Sort of Goes Negative

October 28, 2013 | 7:31 pm | nytlogo | Charts |


[click to expand]

According the National Association of Realtors, their Pending Home Sales Index fell 5.6% from August to September 2013 (seasonally adjusted), the largest monthly drop since May 2010 after the artificial prop of the 2009-2010 federal homebuyers tax credit expiration caused contracts to drop by nearly 1/3 from bloated levels.

Removing seasonality from the results makes the year-over-year adjustment show nominally 1.1% higher contract volume from September 2013 than in 2012 rather than a 1.2% decline. Still, the results were weak.

Why did pending sales post weaker results?

  • Don’t blame the partial government shutdown – that came later.
  • After the May 2013 Fed surprise announcement, fence sitters surged to the market to lock in before mortgage rates rose further, bloating contract volume over the summer (and why month-over-month seasonal adjustments to this data are so very misleading).
  • The surge in summer sales “poached” from future organic volume that we would have seen in September so we were already expecting a slow down in volume. Didn’t we learn in 2010 what happens when unusual circumstances press volume sharply higher only to see volume fall sharply when that circumstance disappears?

Weaker conditions prevail, but its really not as bad a report result as being discussed – namely because the seasonal adjustments paint a weaker picture than what actually happened, and we expected a decline in activity because the prior several months were artificially pushed higher with so many more buyers rushing to the market to beat rising rates (or the perception of rising rates).

Tags: , , , , ,


The Most Expensive Homes For Sale In America Right Now

There are many reasons the de Guigne estate in Hillsborough, Calif., could be called a trophy property. For starters the 16,000-square-foot Mediterranean mansion was constructed a century ago and has remained within the same family since. Located at the end of a 4,500-foot driveway, the historic home has a grand ballroom, a flower arranging room and staff quarters that include two chauffeurs’ rooms. But the property’s most unique feature isn’t the home itself – it’s the land.

The estate encompasses 47 prime acres 20 minutes south of San Francisco, halfway between the city and Silicon Valley. “This is the first time since this land was acquired 150 years ago by the de Guigne family that such a large amount of land in such a desirable location is coming to market,” says Gregg Lynn, a Sotheby’s International Realty agent co-listing the property with colleague Bernadette Lamothe. “In the town of Hillsborough all of its large estates have been subdivided over the last 50 years and this estate remains one of the only two [of this size] left.”

The sizeable acreage is the main driver behind the listing’s lofty price tag: $100 million. That princely sum makes the de Guigne estate one of the most expensive homes for sale in the U.S.

To compile our annual list of America’s most expensive homes for sale, we sorted through listings on Realtor.com, Trulia TRLA -0.13%.com, Sotheby’s International Realty, Christie’s International Real Estate (and its affiliates), Coldwell Banker Previews International (and its affiliates), The Agency, and others. And, since some ultra-expensive homes never officially hit the market, with their owners choosing to shop quietly for wealthy buyers through well-connected brokers, we included pocket listings that could be confirmed. The resulting list encompasses more than 30 homes, all priced $60 million and up.

While real estate across the U.S. slowly recovers from the collapse of the housing bubble, the super luxury market is currently rivaling, and in some cases even trumping, bubble-era prices. Thanks to a handful of recent record purchases – including a November $117.5 million Silicon Valley sale – an increasing number of high-end home owners are attaching ambitious nine-figure price tags to their digs.

Like the de Guigne estate. There are other properties on the market in the $100 million range, but this home comes with an unusual condition attached: the owner, Christian de Guigne IV, 75, is requiring that the buyer allow him to inhabit the premises until his death. Nonetheless, there’s plenty of interest, according to Lynn, particularly from wealthy foreigners looking for a hard asset in which to park their cash. The Era Of The $100 Million House Morgan Brennan Morgan Brennan Forbes Staff Inside America’s Billionaire Housing Boom Morgan Brennan Morgan Brennan Forbes Staff Brokedown Palaces: Mega Mansions That Have Faced Foreclosure And Bankruptcy Morgan Brennan Morgan Brennan Forbes Staff Manhattan’s Now Home To America’s Most Expensive Zip Code Morgan Brennan Morgan Brennan Forbes Staff

On the East Coast another similarly enviable slice of land is listed for an even larger sum. Copper Beech Farm encompasses 50 exclusive waterfront acres in Greenwich, Conn., a tony Wall Street-centric suburb of New York City. At $190 million, it is far and away the most expensive home for sale in America.

“There’s nothing like this and the second-to-last one that existed, on about the same acreage, sold in 1952,” listing agent David Ogilvy of David Ogilvy & Associates, a luxury Greenwich realty firm affiliated with Christie’s International Real Estate, told FORBES in May.

For that staggering sum, the buyer gets an 1890s French renaissance-style mansion encompassing 13,519 square feet that includes 12 bedrooms, seven full baths and two half baths, a wood-paneled library, an ornate dining room with a tracery ceiling and oak columns, a solarium, a wine cellar, a third-floor staff wing, and a three-story, wood-paneled entry foyer. The grounds, which include two islands in Long Island Sound, boast a clock tower-bedecked carriage house, a guardhouse, formal gardens, multiple greenhouses, an apple orchard, a grass tennis court and a 14-sided swimming pool with an accompanying octagonal pool house.

Ogilvy says he calculated the $190 million asking price off of numerous comparables (of which none are even remotely as large), having crunched the average sales prices per acre for close to a dozen nearby properties.

New York City has about two dozen available homes priced $30 million or higher, according to Jonathan Miller, chief executive of New York-based real estate appraiser Miller Samuel. Nine make our list, including the penthouse atop the Hotel Pierre. Located on the south side of Manhattan’s Central Park, it’s listed for $125 million, tying it for fourth most expensive home in the country (alongside Los Angeles’ $125 million Fleur de Lys).

The Pierre penthouse spans 12,000 square feet across three floors that tout five bedrooms, six full baths, staff quarters, a marble staircase, a private interior elevator, a 3,500-square-foot ballroom-turned-grand salon and sweeping 360-degree views of Central Park and the surrounding city. The unit boasts access to hotel amenities like room service as well – for a hefty monthly maintenance fee of $42,720, or an annual expense of $512,640.

The co-op apartment first graced the sale block in 2004 with a $70 million price tag. After a wealthy buyer capable of passing the building’s infamously exclusive co-op board failed to materialize, the home, owned by finance maven Martin Zweig, was quietly delisted. After Zweig passed away in February, it came back on the market – at nearly 80% more.

The Big Apple AAPL -0.12%’s super luxury market has diverged from city’s general real estate trends, notes Miller. Several unprecedented sales including a $88 million penthouse in 15 Central Park West and two penthouses in up-and-coming One57 in contract for $90 million-plus apiece have propelled some owners to optimistically list their abodes with lofty price tags in the hopes of securing similarly deep-pocketed buyers.

Among the most expensive: hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen’s $115 million Bloomberg Tower duplex, a 9,000-square-foot condo designed by architect Charles Gwathmey; real estate developer Steven Klar’s $100 million CitySpire penthouse, an octagonal-shaped 8,000-square-foot condo now offered as a For Sale By Owner listing after it failed to find a buyer while listed more traditionally via luxury brokers; and a $95 million Sherry Netherland full-floor co-op, a 15-room flat touting a solarium, separate staff quarters on separate floors and a $54,000-per-month maintenance fee that includes daily housekeeping, turn-down service and room service from posh restaurant Cipriani’s.

Six Los Angeles County abodes grace our list, the majority located within the coveted Platinum Triangle of Holmby Hills, Bel Air and Beverly Hills. Fleur de Lys, socialite Suzanne Saperstein’s Holmby Hills mega mansion, is perhaps the best known thanks to a steadfast asking price of $125 million — despite bouncing on and off the market for six years.

Compared to that, the Carolwood Estate, located directly across the street, seems like a relative bargain at $90 million. Known best as Walt Disney DIS +1.24%’s former family home, the compound occupies four gated acres that include a 35,000-square foot mansion built in 2001, a pool with accompanying pool house, a tennis court, a putting green, a wine cellar and best of all, remnants of Walt Disney’s Carolwood Pacific Railroad, the one-eighth-scale backyard train said to have inspired Disneyland.

Other opulent abodes include the nearby Beverly House, the former Beverly Hills estate of William Randolph Hearst , which can be purchased for $115 million (or rented for a stunning $600,000 per month) after the owner hiked its original $95 million price tag, and Dallas, Texas’ Crespi-Hicks Estate, a 25-acre Mayflower Estates compound also listed sans MLS, with an asking price of $135 million.

Several homes that have graced our list in years past remain on the market, albeit with price chops. The most notable perhaps is Casa Casuarina in Miami. The South Beach home-turned-boutique hotel, better known as the Versace Mansion due to its tragic history as the former residence of the late fashion designer, first came to market in 2012 for $125 million. Several pending foreclosure-related lawsuits later, the manse has undergone two reductions and currently is on the block for $75 million.


U.S. Vacation Home Rebound Lifts Hilton Head to Hawaii

Leslie and Scott Tyree backed out of a contract in 2011 to buy a weekend place in Hilton Head, South Carolina, fearing they’d be anchored to a sinking market for second homes. This year, the West Virginia couple pounced on a listing in the same resort town without visiting the property.

They bought the two-bedroom condominium in an oceanfront golf resort for $429,000 in April. Values this year in the Hilton Head area jumped 11.1 percent from the first five months of last year and sales rose 9.3 percent, according to the South Carolina Association of Realtors. Prices are still down by about a third from 2007, near the real estate market’s peak.

“We knew several other people were looking at it and it wouldn’t last long,” said Leslie Tyree, 44, a lawyer who first saw the home two weeks before the closing. “We realized if we are going to do this at some point we might as well do it now.”

The surging buyer confidence underpinning the year-old rebound in U.S. property prices — driven by mortgage rates near record lows — is spilling into seasonal communities from Lake Tahoe in California to the Berkshires in western Massachusetts.

Vacation-home demand relies on discretionary spending and typically lags behind the broader housing market by about one or two years, indicating secondary properties are on the cusp of a recovery, according to Jeff Meyers, a housing-research consultant with Beverly Hills, California-based real estate firm Kennedy-Wilson Holdings Inc. (KW)

Markets Strengthen

“We’re starting to see a lot of resort markets really strengthen,” Meyers said. “Prices going up in the core markets has a big influence on what people do with their vacation homes and their ability to purchase them.”

U.S. home prices rose 12.1 percent in April, the biggest jump since February 2006 and the 14th consecutive year-over-year increase, according to CoreLogic Inc. That’s helping more Americans feel optimistic about their futures, with the Conference Board’s consumer-confidence index climbing to a five-year high last month.

Asking prices in vacation areas have advanced more slowly. On a per-square-foot basis, May median prices in primary markets jumped 7 percent from a year earlier, compared with a 1 percent increase in areas where at least a quarter of properties were seasonally occupied, according to Trulia Inc. (TRLA)

List prices were up 1.6 percent in the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island, 1.4 percent in Dewey Beach in Delaware, and 8.9 percent in the Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead areas near Los Angeles, the housing-data company said.

Increases Accelerate

“A vacation home is not most people’s first purchase as we emerge from a recession,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist of San Francisco-based Trulia. “But if the recovery continues we could see the price increases accelerate.”

Second-home sales climbed 11 percent last year to 553,000, according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors. That compares with the peak of 1.07 million in 2006. There will be a “meaningful upward movement” in vacation-home transactions this year and into 2013, Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors group, said June 7 at the National Association of Real Estate Editors conference in Atlanta.

Sales of getaway homes may increase to 650,000 by 2015 and then plateau for several years at about 600,000, according to Chris Fair, president of Vancouver-based Resonance Consultancy Ltd. The firm produces biannual reports of spending on travel and leisure by affluent Americans, defined as families with incomes above $150,000.

Emerging Destinations

Beach and mountain retreats near growing cities or those with long histories are likely to see the fastest rebound, Fair said, such as Lake Tahoe, south Florida, Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard, off the Massachusetts coast.

“It’s the ‘A’ destinations that are going to recover faster than emerging destinations,” Fair said. “There were many projects that were launched in areas that were not the traditional vacation destinations in hard-to-get-to places, and those are the ones that are going to take the longest and may not ever recover to the peak prices.”

Places such as Central Oregon and the Florida Panhandle where there was a lot of overbuilding and limited populations within driving distance are likely to struggle to revive holiday-home sales and prices, he said.

Nationally, second-home sales will be limited because the U.S. population aged 45 to 54, the prime buying market, will decline by about 8 percent from 2010 to 2020, he said.

Demographics Driven

“We certainly don’t see a return to highs that we saw in 2005 or 2006, when it was over 1 million,” Fair said. “We’re unlikely to see that level of sales for the next 10 to 20 years, largely just driven by the demographics.”

Changes in mortgage rules may also curb demand. The Senate Finance Committee and the House Committee on Ways and Means are considering altering the tax code, including possible limits on mortgage interest deductions for non-primary residences.

In some vacation areas, prices have already begun to follow or even exceed surges in primary markets. With Los Angeles-area home prices up 30 percent in the 12 months through May, the California desert getaways where Liberace, Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope owned weekend estates are following with a jump in values and a revival of construction, said Michael Hilgenberg, an owner of broker Keller Williams International franchises in resort towns including Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead.

Prices rose 24 percent in Palm Springs and 25 percent in Rancho Mirage in the 12 months through May, according to DataQuick, a San Diego-based research firm.

Buy Two

Attractive prices and historically low mortgage rates spurred Alon Antebi, an orthopedic surgeon who lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita, to buy two vacation homes this year. In April, he paid $775,000 for a 3,400-square-foot (316-square-meter) mountain log cabin in Big Bear. In May, he bought a 4,800-square-foot dockside retreat in the coastal city of Oxnard for $2 million.

Antebi, 42, negotiated a 10-year mortgage at 3 percent from Wells Fargo & Co. for the Big Bear house, on which he made a 50 percent down payment. He got a 3.25 percent rate on a 30-year loan from Bank of America Corp. for the Oxnard house.

Antebi, a father of two children ages 8 and 10, is also considering buying a third getaway home within driving distance.

“I wanted a place in the mountains and the beach,” he said in a telephone interview. “I did it because I want to enjoy life, but it just happened to be the right time, where interest rates are really good.”

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe, about 190 miles (306 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco, was among the first resort areas to bounce back from the recession as the Bay Area’s technology industry fueled fortunes among young families.

At Martis Camp, a ski and golf resort northwest of Lake Tahoe, 73 properties sold this year through the first week of June, compared with 117 in all of last year, said Brian Hull, director of sales at the golf and ski resort. Typical buyers are technology or finance executives in their mid-40s who pay $900,000 per lot and spend $2.4 million to build, he said.

“We sold OK through the whole thing,” Mark Kehke, president of Martis Camp’s developer, DMB Pacific Ventures, said in a telephone interview. “Things were definitely better in ’11 and ’12 and we’re doing even better this year.”

In Hawaii, vacation-home demand has recovered as investors from the U.S. mainland and Asia return after a five-year slump, according to Kevin Miyama, president of the Honolulu Board of Realtors. Home prices in the state soared 17 percent in April from a year earlier, according to CoreLogic.

Luxury Market

“What’s really kind of picking up is the luxury market,” Miyama said.

Luxury property sales surged at the end of 2012 in Martha’s Vineyard, a summer retreat for President Obama and actors Larry David and Ted Danson, and the Hamptons, where radio talk show host Howard Stern and comedian Jerry Seinfeld have homes. The rush, prompted by an expected jump in capital-gains taxes at the start of 2013, may have pulled forward transactions that would have happened this year.

In the first quarter, the median sales price in the Hamptons fell 5.1 percent to $740,000, reflecting a drop in higher-priced sales, according to appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate. In the year through April, Martha’s Vineyard prices rose 8 percent and sales fell 24 percent, reflecting a drop in inventory, according to Warren Group, a real estate tracker.

Berkshire Mountains

“The fourth quarter was one of the best in several years in terms of local activity, which ultimately cleaned up a lot of the inventory,” said John O’Connell, broker and owner of Vineyard Realty Group in Edgartown, Massachusetts. “Options are limited.”

Prices are picking up in the resort towns of the Berkshires in Massachusetts, where inventories are shrinking, said Chapin Fish, broker at wm. Brockman Real Estate in Great Barrington. Sales in Berkshire County fell 9 percent for the first four months of the year and prices climbed 13 percent, according to Warren Group.

There were enough properties on the market in the southern part of the county in April to last 21 months, down from 29 months a year earlier and 42 months two years earlier, according to the Berkshire County Board of Realtors.

“More started moving for us but we still have a lot to go,” Fish said. “The real premium homes above $1 million are slow. For the lower-priced homes, it has been crazy busy.”

The Tyrees jumped into the Hilton Head market because they wanted to own a piece of oceanfront property before bargains dry up. When their family isn’t using the condo, Scott Tyree plans to offer weekends at the house as a bonus for the best employees at his law and real estate firms, Leslie Tyree said.

Foreclosures Spiked

Demand for properties on the island, known for its golf courses and white-sand beaches, surged during the housing boom as Americans borrowed to buy second homes. After the crash, foreclosures spiked as homeowners who stayed current on primary properties allowed vacation homes to go delinquent, Hilton Head real estate attorney Tom Brooks said.

Foreclosures in the first quarter dropped 39 percent to 542 compared with the same period in 2010, according to RealtyTrac, an Irvine, California-based data provider.

The Tyrees’ agent, Lea Allen, has been selling in the market for more than two-and-a-half decades and said it’s the busiest she’s been in years. Her annual income plunged from about $100,000 in the worst year of the housing boom to about $30,000 in the leanest years of the crash, spurring her to start teaching yoga for additional income.

She earned $60,000 in May alone.

“It’s exciting — it feels like you have your job back,” Allen said. “I don’t have to teach yoga any more. I get to go and enjoy yoga.”


Westchester Realtors Encouraged By Latest Sales Report

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – Westchester County Realtors reacted with optimism to Wednesday’s report by the Hudson Gateway Multiple Listing Service. Closings were up 7 percent in the first three months of 2013 from last year and sale prices were inching upward, the report said.

“I think we’re in a very healthy market,’’ said Leah Caro, president of Bronxville-Ley Real Estate. “I think it’s like we’re finding our equilibrium.”

Barbara O’Connell of Margot Bennett Real Estate, which is based in Yonkers, agreed.

“I think it’s encouraging to see any increase at this point,’’ said O’Connell. “I think buyers are realizing that this won’t last forever. They’re not just shopping, but buying. Over the last two years, we’ve seen a lot shopping but not buying.”

The report attributed the continued recovery to favorable interest rates, a rise in the stock market and a stable unemployment rate, currently around 7 percent in Westchester.

Sale prices for a single-family house in Westchester ticked up 2 percent over 2012, and the condo median price stayed stable.

“We have 19 houses that are pending, which is a great sign,’’ Caro said. “They have an executed contract, contingencies have been met and they’re just waiting to close. We’ve sold 29 houses since the beginning of the spring market. It’s a great time to be a seller, and it’s a great time to be a buyer. The balance has been maintained.”

A report by Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Westchester County was also released Wednesday. Median sale prices rose 2.6 percent from the same period last year, and the number of sales increased 5.6 percent, it said. The condo market had a whopping 13.3 percent increase, while single-family homes had a 2.8 percent increase.

Amy Kane, executive vice president at Douglas Elliman, believes the most significant number might be the reduction in inventory. That number fell to 17.5 percent, the lowest first quarter total in four years. The total number of contracts surged 27 percent over the same period from last year.

“What’s exciting about this is that there was strong business in the fourth quarter, when there were rumors of a fiscal cliff,’’ Kane said. “We did not know if this was sustainable. This is encouraging. It’s another sign of increased consumer confidence.”

Caro believes conditions are good for sellers and buyers. “Buyers are out there, but they’re not willing to overpay,’’ she said. “Equilibrium is a beautiful place. No one is feeling cheated.”


Higher home prices are not a recovery, skeptics say

In a Jan. 26 column in The New York Times, Yale economics professor Robert Shiller, co-creator of the S&P/Case-Shiller index, maintained that many price improvements in 2012 were merely seasonal, and other increases — which continued this week with another gain reported Jan. 29 — appear disconnected from a middling underlying economy.

An improvement is an improvement, many observers would say. But, Shiller concluded, “the unfortunate truth is that the tea leaves don’t clearly suggest any particular path for prices, either up or down.”

Pending home sales numbers released Jan. 28 by the National Association of Realtors were similarly opaque, showing a 6.9% year-over-year improvement in December 2012 but a decline of 4.3% from the previous month.

Jonathan Miller, CEO of the New York-based appraisal and consulting firm Miller Samuel Inc., said he does not deny the recent price increases, but is uncomfortable using the word “recovery” to describe the present environment.

“Nothing that’s happening right now is substantiated by fundamentals like reasonable levels of employment and improving personal income levels,” Miller told SNL. “The whole thing is just sort of a twist, because tight credit is keeping inventory off the market, and that’s essentially goosing up housing prices to a certain degree, or stabilizing them, and we have this situation where there’s nothing driving the demand.”

Expanding on a blog post he wrote for his firm’s site, he added, “We’re in this period where things are a little bit better, numbers-wise, but it’s not based on anything. It’s just better because of the low interest rate stimulus and tight credit keeping everything off the market. You look at that and go, ‘Well, that’s not a recovery, that’s just better numbers.’”

There is an element of semantics to the argument, since better numbers are an important part of a recovery. And Miller is being a bit wry when he suggests that the term “pre-covery” would be more accurate.

But his underlying point, worth considering, is that whatever you call the recent rise in housing prices, it has brought only meager benefits for most homeowners. To the contrary, Miller said, many are stuck where they are, either because they’re underwater on mortgages and can’t afford to sell without a loss, or because credit is so tight that they can’t get financing to move into a new place.

Rising price numbers alone do not reflect that stagnation, Miller argued.

“My thing is, in my lifetime I never thought I’d be saying that irrationally tight credit may be the catalyst for a housing recovery,” he said. “It makes my brain crack just thinking about it, because it’s a game about supply.”

There are, of course, some clear beneficiaries if Miller’s analysis is accurate. Homebuilders, for example, are in a position to benefit from high demand and low inventory since, after all, they can increase inventory as it suits them. Indeed, executives at builder D.R. Horton Inc. said in a Jan. 29 earnings conference call that low supply, and the relatively low quality of the existing houses that are for sale, have combined to give the company stronger pricing power.

A question, though, is what the housing market will do next. In the best case, Miller said, things could essentially take care of themselves. Prices could rise to the point that fewer people are underwater, more homeowners have greater equity and credit loosens up — freeing people to sell and buy, which in turn would increase supply and temper the rising prices.

Short of that, he is less optimistic.

“I think the hope is that you’ll see a more normal flow of inventory onto the market, but for the life of me I can’t think of how that would be, because credit is unlikely to ease significantly this year,” he said, citing the Fed’s continued public wariness about the economy. “So what you have is, I think you’re going to see rising prices. Because the supply is not going to meet demand, they’re not going to see any real change in it, and so it’s going to be sort of a smaller subset of people that are active in the housing market.”

Writer and analyst Barry Ritholtz, who outlined a similar argument on his own blog, maintains that the solution is, basically, for the fundamentals that aren’t driving the recovery to start driving it.

“More household formation, increased employment — and increased wages,” Ritholtz wrote. “As those three go, so goes housing.”


Priciest homes in NYC last year

In a year of ever-climbing prices for Manhattan residential space, some buildings stood out from the pack in their ability to command eye-popping sales prices.

Here, we present New York City’s 10 most expensive residential buildings of 2012, based on data compiled by StreetEasy.com.

Central Park is still the place to be if you’re looking to sell a home for an eye-popping price, but the Hudson River is poised to give that tradition a run for its money in 2013, with the up-and-coming West Side sneaking in at tenth place.

1. 15 Central Park West Leading by a huge margin, 15 CPW saw 16 closings last year, with an average price per square foot of $13,048. Zeckendorf’s ultra-luxury towers occupy a full block between 61st and 62nd Streets. Residents include Denzel Washington, Sting and Nascar’s Jeff Gordon.

2. 50 Central Park South The Residences at the Ritz Carlton saw closings on three of its 12 luxury condominiums, with an average price psf of $6,433.

3. 80 Columbus Circle The Residences at the Mandarin Oriental saw three closings, with an average price psf of $5,842. The 66 residences sit atop the North Tower of Related’s Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle.

4. 988 Fifth Ave A neighbor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Central Park’s eastern edge, 988 Fifth Ave saw just one closing in 2012. It was a doozy, however — the ninth floor condo of this 1925 James E.R. Carpenter-designed building sold for $5,571 psf.

5. 1 Central Park West Just down the street from 15 CPW, the condos on the upper floors of the Trump International saw 31 closings, with an average price psf of $5,492.

6. 151 East 58th Street Vornado’s 105-unit One Beacon Court, aka Bloomberg Tower, saw eight closings with an average price psf of $4,871.

7. 101 West 67th Street The Millennium tower, on Broadway between West 67th to West 68th Streets, saw three closings with an average price psf of $4,622.

8. 1 Central Park South There were 20 closings in the Plaza’s 182 condos, with an average price psf of $4,523. Not bad for 105 years old.

9. 110 Central Park South This luxury co-op saw five closings, with an average price psf of $4,302.

10. 200 West 12th Street Related’s Superior Ink Condominiums and Townhouses saw six closings, with an average price psf of $4,288.

Good news for 2013: It looks like the luxury market has nowhere to go but up.

Home buyers in the highest echelons are taking spending to record levels in New York, according to the experts and a lack of choice apartments is squeezing prices further north as the uber wealthy vie for a slice of the very best of the Big Apple’s real estate.

“The inventory is so horrendously low,” said Michael Corbett, a celebrity real estate correspondent who said investors are pouring money back into luxury homes after several years on the sidelines.

Experts said the reasons are threefold.

For one, affluent Americas have shed the “luxury shameˮ that gripped them at the beginning of the recession, according to one report from Northeastern University. As the year’s recording breaking numbers show, the wealthy are once again flaunting their money, creating more demand and higher prices.

The rebound in the European economy has also helped bolster the luxury real estate market here. International economic conditions are driving investors from London to Shanghai to purchase residences in Manhattan, Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of Miller Samuel Inc, told the audience during a panel discussion late last year.

“Luxury real estate has almost become a sort of new global currency,” he said.

While foreign buyers typically represent between 15 and 20 percent of the demand for residential condos, Miller said, the percentage is currently somewhere between 30 and 40 percent.

The growth of emerging markets like China, Russia, Brazil, and the Middle East is expected to further impact the real estate market this year.

China, which is expected to become the world’s biggest luxury goods consumer within five years, was responsible for 11 percent of all international real estate sales in the US last year.

Canada, China, Mexico, India, and the United Kingdom accounted for 55 percent of all international transactions, according to the National Association of Realtors.

According to the NAR 2012 Profile of International Home Buying Activity, total residential international sales in the U.S. for the past year ending March 2012 equaled $82.5 billion, up from $66.4 billion in 2011.

“Today’s advantageous market conditions have drawn more and more foreign buyers to the U.S. in recent years, signaling how desirable and profitable owning property in this country can be,” said NAR president Moe Veissi.

“Low housing prices, a good inventory condition and increased buying power with today’s exchange rates help attract international clients.”

“Foreign buyers recognize that owning a home in the U.S. has many benefits, both financial and social,” added Veissi.

“Many purchase property as an investment, vacation home, or to diversify their portfolio. In addition, many recent immigrants view homeownership as an important accomplishment. They believe that being a homeowner is one of many ways they become established in the U.S. and attain stability, security, and a sense of community.”

Sixty-two percent of international purchases were all cash, which has increased since 2007.


High-end homes setting records in Southwest Florida and in Miami, once ‘the poster child for distressed real estate’

The exclusive world of high-end residential real estate is often narrowed to Manhattan or Beverly Hills — but South Florida cannot be counted out.

Miami-Dade County may not have the panache of a Hollywood star’s new estate or a Upper West Side skyscraper, but its selling environment — once synonymous with bust — is enjoying a boom again.

Late last month, a Miami penthouse sold for a record $25 million. Meanwhile, a developer’s 10-bedroom home on Indian Creek Island that has been listed at $52 million has gone under contract, brokers said.

If that deal closes, it will very likely top the record for a residential property sale in Miami-Dade County, real estate agents note.

The record is currently held by a hedge-fund billionaire who bought an Indian Creek home in March for $38.4 million.

“Everything is kind of selling now,” said Jill Hertzberg, a Coldwell Banker agent in Miami. “You wonder how long it will last.”

Southwest Florida real estate agents are asking the same question. Since the start of the year, luxury homes priced at $1 million or more have been selling briskly.

In February, sales of $1 million-plus homes in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties were up 48 percent from a year ago. In March, in Sarasota County, seven-figure sales jumped 48 percent over the same month in 2011.

Notable recent sales include a $7.1 million deal for a 6,618-square-foot property on Lido Shores, and a $5.77 million transaction for a 7,722-square-foot residence on Casey Key, which marked the largest real estate sale on the tony Nokomis key this year.

“I call it the ‘big thaw,’ and it’s resulting in more activity than we’ve seen since 2005,” said Michael Saunders, chief executive of the real estate brokerage firm that bears her name.

And more high-octane deals may be in the offing. Saunders’ firm last month listed Little Bokeelia Island, a 104-acre, private island in Charlotte Harbor, for sale at $29.5 million.

If a sale nets anything close to the listing price, it would set a sales record for Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and Lee counties for a single residential property.

The current record in Southwest Florida was set last year, when a Longboat Key home sold for $17.5 million.

Enormous price tags

The pending sale on Indian Creek — home to crooner Julio Iglesias and others among the region’s famous, or at least rich — is the latest in a string of high-end homes that have sold in Miami over the last three months.

All of the sales have been over $10 million, prompting new listings carrying enormous price tags. A 21,746-square-foot home on Indian Creek recently went up for sale for $45 million, and a New York developer just raised the listing price on his penthouse at Continuum towers, in Miami Beach, to $39 million — from $35 million — to be “in line with the market,” said Dora Puig, the listing agent.

“This has been a market-moving year for Miami Beach,” Puig said.

It wasn’t always like this.

Since 2006, when housing prices peaked, Miami has been widely viewed as the “poster child for distressed real estate,” with two-thirds of all sales being distressed as recently as 2010, said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of Miller Samuel, a real estate appraiser.

But dramatic price jumps have occurred. The average sale price for the highest 10 percent of homes rose 22.1 percent over the past year, Miller said.

The run of big sales started in December, with a Setai Resort and Residences penthouse that sold to a Chicago hedge-fund billionaire for $21.5 million, a record at the time.

“That lit the fuse,” Puig said.

On Indian Creek, one of the most exclusive communities in the country, four lots and homes have traded since March. In all, 32 homes surround a golf course.

Besides Iglesias, residents include Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima, former Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula, and billionaire investor Carl Icahn. Iglesias recently bought a nearly two-acre lot for $15.2 million; he now owns nearly 7 acres on the island.

Some believe the buying spree is caused by the realization that one day soon there won’t be any more waterfront property on which to build new trophy mansions.

“The future of extremely high-end real estate in Miami Beach,” said Nelson Gonzalez of EWM Realtors, “will be land.”