Taking a Loss on Real Estate it Happens

With the run-up in real estate prices in Metro Denver since The Great Recession we are finally witnessing the cooling of the market memorialized in the New York Times a few weeks ago in an article titled: Housing Market Slows, as Rising Prices outpace Wages.

While those sellers who have owned their residences for over 3 years are probably fine with selling and gaining  a small profit; over the past few months I have written about a few residential sales which has actually taken a loss via actual recorded sales price and additional losses when factoring in commission and of course inflation which seems to rarely be factored into the transaction.

In the present environment of housing prices adjusting downward, interest rates continuing to increase and signs of instability in the equities markets those taking losses on their residences may become more commonplace depending when they purchased and how motivated they are to sell.

Of note in general a loss on the sale of a home is NOT deductible on one’s income tax. In general a loss concerning real estate is only deductible when the property has been used for business or investment purposes. One tip if a loss may be forthcoming consider turning the residence into a rental and then sell; the property is now considered related to investment. Of course one would need to consult with their professional tax advisor or financial planner to ascertain the legality and proper filing but this is an option.

I predict we will start seeing some losses on homes in the Denver Metro area that had been purchased within the last 12-36 months when the market seems unstoppable concerning price appreciation coupled with historically low interest rates. While it may seem counterintuitive when the employment market is at its zenith that housing should be lagging yet that is generally how the market behaves. This is partially due to interest rate impacts, inflation eroding the value of money and other factors. This is not a new phenomenon; happens with every business cycle. This is why longer-term holds on housing usually generates a hedge against inflation but the key is long-term i.e. 7,10, 20 years out. A few examples if I may including my personal residence.

Two years ago (April 2016) I sold my personal residence for $535,000. The net after commission and closing costs was $520,000 (and no I did not pay myself a commission).

I purchased the house in October 1989 for $140,000 or $266,692 in inflation dollars. Thus my actual net gain was $253,308….no I am not complaining. On a monthly basis I made about $800 +/- and when factoring in taxes, maintenance, upkeep…..lets just say I had a house over my head.

Now when I bought the house in 1989 the Denver housing market was in a deep regional recession two years post Wall Street Crash of 1987. The seller of the house actually bought the residence in 1984 for $200,000 from the developer, another high-point of real estate in Denver that decade, here are the inflation adjusted #’s:

  • 1984: $200,000 (or $238,566 in 1989 Dollars)
  • 1989: $140,000

Thus not including commissions in real dollars the seller not only took a $60,000 loss from his purchase to the sale in 5 years, when factoring in inflation i.e. $38,566 and commission (6% at $140,000 = $8,400) the seller lost $45,000+ or almost a quarter of the value of his home in that 5 year period and the loss was not deductible.

As mentioned I sold the house in April 2016 for $535,000.

The buyers actually resold the house in June 2017 for $560,000 due to a relocation thus even after commissions and closing costs they did OK. From what I understand the new owners plan to reside long-term and thus are somewhat insulated from the pending adjustments in housing prices I believe will be headwinds in the near future.

Denver is not unique in this situation. In New York where I also hold a license there was a major loss on a truly trophy condominium apartment as follows:

The single biggest sale last month (September 2018), at $42 million, was a penthouse covering the entire 77th floor of One57, the vitreous skyscraper in the heart of Manhattan’s Billionaires’ Row, at 157 West 57th Street. Monthly carrying charges are $15,214. The unnamed European seller took a loss, however, having paid nearly $47.8 million for the unit in May 2015. The 6,240-square-foot apartment has four bedrooms and five and a half baths, not to mention breathtaking views.

While a $6M loss is painful when you consider the apartments were delivered with interiors unfinished, at that price-point you bring in your own designers and architects which can easily add $500,000 to $1M+ in finishes AND the monthly carrying charges i.e. HOA fees ranging increasing from $12,500/month to $15,214 at the time of sale that is over $150,000 annually just in common charges or another $500,000 paid during ownership. Thus all losses are relative; as we say on Wall Street you will never sell at the high and buy on the bottom.

A house is a home and should not necessarily be considered an investment or a hedge against inflation, it is shelter first and foremost.

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Denver weather chills as does the real estate market and my visit to Hong Kong

While some brokers continue to suggest the recent slowdown in sales and significant and immediate price reductions is seasonal (and they may be correct) a few outlets are advising the slowdown in the market may be more serious. An article from The New York Times titled  Housing Market Slows as Rising Prices Outpace Wages provided their national and international readership with an interesting overview of Denver which is not flattering. Even during my recent trip to Hong Kong more than one person when realizing I reside in Denver mentioned the article.

Related according to the monthly report from the Denver Metro Association of RealtorsIn September (2018), housing inventory continued to move higher, even though it typically decreases this time of year, and home prices dropped nearly 5 percent since its record-peak highs this past May and June. Good for prospective buyers not necessarily welcome news for sellers.

Some of my readers have advised privately that I am a pessimist as I have been advising a downturn or the moving towards a more stable market. I do not consider myself a pessimist; more a realist. With 20+ years as a broker literally been there and gone through that. While I too have been impressed with the most recent expansion post The Great Recession I have been concerned about headwinds in the market from out-migration to increasing interest rates to incomes lagging housing price appreciation.

On the lighter side Hong Kong was as usual a frenetic, dynamic city which continues to be considered the most expensive housing market in the world. If you are feeling cramped in your residence or being priced out of the local market, the following quote excerpted from an article concerning a participant in the government sponsored Hong Kong housing lottery may change your prospective.  As published in The South China Morning Post

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(Above a housing block in the Quarry Bay neighborhood on Hong Kong Island)

“Feng Xinmei, a 46-year-old part-time construction worker, said she, her husband, two children and mother-in-law rented a 200 sq. ft. subdivided flat for HK $8,000 a month.

To place this in prospective, a undivided flat means the 200 sq. ft. Ms. Feng rents is part of another apartment. Their rent in US Dollars is $1,021/month. The average hotel room in the United States is 325 sq. ft. or 125 sq. ft. larger than the living space for this family of 5!

While I have in general been against the concept of slot homes due to its impact on the existing urban fabric of traditionally single-family and duplex neighborhoods; all of a sudden Hong Kong makes such density look palatable even preferable.

 

For Sale Sign and No Information on the MLS I am Mystified

Last week I was walking to Trader Joes on Colorado Boulevard and detoured slightly seeing a For Sale sign on a home at the northeast corner of 8th Avenue and Jackson Street in Denver’s Congress Park neighborhood. So what do I immediately do; I pop the address into my Engel and Volkers App and nothing comes up!

Now I am mystified so I put the address within www.REColorado.com our MLS service, again nothing shows up!

Finally I took a picture of the sign, looked up the contact information for the firm and sent an inquiry concerning the listing as per traditional services not to be found.

I did receive the following via email the next morning.

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I am not going to opine on REX Real Estate which proudly boasts they purposely do not upload listings to the MLS as per the following from a trade periodical: a full-service brokerage that eschews the MLS, uses technology to displace traditional agents, and charges home sellers a set 2 percent listing fee. Now I understand why the listing did not show up in any of my go-to searches.

Again I am not disparaging any new firm or start-up. I actually encourage and am intrigued by such businesses; while the real estate trade is somewhat old-school and may need some disruption, how is an issue I prefer not to discuss at present..

Now concerning 800 Jackson Street, the asking is $650,000. Based on the condition and my comparable knowledge, I would put the correct valuation closer to $525-$535,000.

On their site if you scroll down there is an option for comparable’s and it lists three(3) as follows:

747 Cook St:              Sold for $815,000 or $245PSF

823 Monroe St:         Sold for $811,000 or $402 PSF

811 Cook St:              Sold for $781,000 or $311PSF

Thus based on their generated comparable’s this makes 800 Jackson Street look like an absolute bargain at $650,000 or $269 PSF. Yet…..

  • The three comps provided by Rex Real Estate are on better blocks with stronger housing stock and urban fabric
  • Their homes are south of the actual Congress Park.
  • All three homes are in better condition inside and out.
  • All three homes are mid-block where as 800 Jackson Street is on a corner abutting a one-way west-bound arterial and literally ½ block west of commercial development and Colorado Boulevard including a gas station less than 500 feet to the east.

So being a broker you may ask what would I use as a comparable?

I would use 601 Cook Street for the following reasons:

  • Similar neighborhood.
  • Adjacent to 6th Avenue, a one-way arterial east-bound.
  • Similar lot size and design.
  • In better overall condition.

The sales price on 601 Cook: $540,000 or $213 PSF within the last year.

My gut is if or when 800 Jackson Street does in fact sell I believe the sale price will be closer to the low to mid $500’s, this is just my prediction. Now someone may absolutely fall in love with the house, the location the layout and so forth and pay the asking however assuming they may be working with a full-service knowledgeable real estate broker, I assume that broker will provide comparable’s that are more alike and will of course assuming financing order an appraisal.

I will be keeping an eye on this one, just not via the MLS will use Assessors Records.

Of note, next Monday October 1, 2018 I will not be publishing as I will be in Asia. Will post the following week.

 

Charting the Market in One Property over the Past 5 years the Trend says Caution

Per my past blogs I am not providing the address of the following (I can advise within 1 block of King Soopers and adjacent neighborhood retail) I am using this listing as an indicator of the market and possible predictor of the near future. The residence is a historic 1/2 duplex, part of a grouping of townhomes dating to c. 1908 located in a desirable central Denver neighborhood yet addressed and fronting on a busier one-way Avenue.

With 3 bedrooms, multiple levels, approximately 1,800 SF finished square feet, reserved parking and low HOA/taxes an attractive listing and opportunity for the correct buyer. Personally as a prospective buyer and real estate broker I see challenges from being semi-detached i.e. sharing a common wall to the frontage on a busier roadway to reserved yet uncovered parking but this is the logical side of me.

I decided to look at the history of this listing as I pass it almost daily on my commute from Cherry Creek North to Downtown Denver.

The residence first came on the market as follows listed with a full-service brokerage offering a 2.8% co-op:

  • 7/9/13:          Initial Price:               $360,000
  • 7/9/13:          Price Increase:           $375,000
  • 7/11/13:        Goes Under Contract
  • 8/2/13:          Sold and Closed:        $375,000

The same unit enters the market again with a full-service brokerage offering a 2.8% co-op as follows:

  • 7/13/16:       Initial Price:               $585,000
  • 7/21/16:       Price Reduction:        $574,900
  • 9/11/16:       Listing Expires

Five (5) days later the listing reappears with a different full-service broker and brokerage firm offering a 2.8% co-op yet $35,000 lower asking.

  • 9/16/16:       Initial Price:               $535,000
  • 9/26/16:       Goes Under Contract
  • 11/21/16:     Sold and Closed:        $536,000

Thus the seller who purchased in 8/13 for $375,000 has sold 3 years later for $536,000 or $161,000 gross profit in excess of 40% before commissions, fees and closing costs. Over three (3) years an attractive return coupled with being a nice abode.

Now fast forward to June 2018 or just shy of 18 months after the last purchase. The unit is placed on the market with a fixed fee brokerage and offering a co-op of 2.5%

  • 6/7/18:         Initial Price:               $590,000
  • 6/23/18:       Price Reduction:        $585,000
  • 8/11/18:       Price Reduction:        $575,000
  • 8/30/18:       Listing Expired

If the seller above did sell for $575,000; their gross profit would be $39,000. After the fixed fee commission and the 2.5% co-op to the selling broker AKA the buyer broker their net profit would be approximately $22,000 before closing costs and Title Insurance. Not to shabby for 18 months, basically generating $1,200/month in profit HOWEVER, the unit did not sell.

The unit has been placed back on the market as follows with a full service broker (a firm/broker/team that is quite well-respected and knowledgeable) and a co-op of 2.5%.

  • 9/14/18:       Initial Price:               $575,000

Now let’s assume with the new broker/brokerage and the co-op, let’s assume 5% of the closing purchase price. My gut says the unit will close between $545,000 and $555,000. Let’s see what the net is after commission of 5% sans closing costs and Title Insurance:

  • At $575,000 – 5%($28,750) = $546,250
  • At $567,500 – 5%($28,375) = $539,125
  • At $560,000 – 5%($28,000) = $532,000
  • At $553,500 – 5%($27,675) = $525,825
  • At $545,000 – 5%($27,250) = $517,750

Thus not even considering inflation which is now evident or the Time Value of Money, unless this sellers assuming a 5% commission structure transacts at $565,000 or above a strong possibility of actual net loss over the last 18 months.

I understand the initial listing with a fixed rate brokerage as in a strong sellers market there is this assumption that all full-service brokers due it place in MLS and other distribution channels and wait for the phone to ring. I with 3 decades as a broker can attest this is far from reality, however the perception continues.

Yet consider this, while listed with the fixed price brokerage for three months the seller  I assume was paying on a mortgage, thus those 3 months of payments are not coming back and doubtful much impact towards principal. With the new listing I would not be surprised to see reductions before the end of September.

Granted there may be new prospective buyers who have not seen the listing prior. Yet with continued forecasted interest rate hikes and a general slowing of demand, whether seasonal or I assume more indicative due to a lack of demand I would be surprised if the unit sells at the asking of $575,000.

Again my gut advises the unit will sell for between $545,000 and $555,000 assuming no Fall Surprise in the equity markets; not much more than when sold two years prior and if factoring in closing costs and inflation, an actual monetary loss. Will keep all posted.

 

The Three Condo Buildings That Set the Foundation for The Golden Triangle

For many years the neighborhood known as The Golden Triangle (area south of The Denver Art Museum) mystified urban planners and developers. Located south of downtown the area was a mix of low-rise dated commercial buildings and parking lots that by virtue of location should have always been in demand.

During the last 1990’s into the 2000’s a period similar to the boom at present three (3) high-rises were developed setting the foundation for the neighborhood and its resurgence. Of the three buildings, two centrally located in the neighborhood, a third on its eastern flank. The buildings were conceived and developed by Craig Nassi.

At present the area continues to surge with redevelopment including rental apartments along its Speer Boulevard border, in-fill row houses within the heart of the neighborhood i.e. between Broadway and Speer, south of 12thAvenue and continued activity on the Broadway corridor.

Of the three buildings, which changed the skyline of the neighborhood The Belvedere at 475 W 12th Avenue, was the first to be completed and offered for sale. Conceived and designed based on the aesthetic of elegant pre-war co-ops of Manhattan the finished building includes an opulent lobby, an attended door and exterior design details reminiscent of pre-WWII apartment houses. The Belvedere was consider out of place in the Rocky Mountain West (to date most condo buildings has been developed with a contemporary design) and was followed by The Prado, within one block sharing similar aesthetics and The Beauvallon, a hulking structure built on Lincoln Street with full amenities offering views of Downtown and The Front Range.

Having recently represented a seller in The Belvedere, a sale which commanded the highest per square foot transacted in the building to date I wished to look back on the market over the last year for all three buildings. Due to their design and location, the three buildings are truly unique and have yet to be replicated.

The Belvedere 475 W 12thAvenue (1999)

  • Closed Sales: Seven (7)
  • Size: 900 SF to 2,640 SF
  • Sold: $350,000 – $985,000
  • Average PSF: $385.95*
  • On Sale or Under Contract: Two (2) Avg. $411 PSF
  • *The transaction in which I represented the seller closed at $415 PSF

The Prado: 300 W 11thAvenue (2001)

  • Closed Sales: Six (6)
  • Size: 1,008 SF to 2,096 SF
  • Sold: $375,000 – $900,000
  • Average PSF: $380.32
  • On Sale of Under Contract: Two (4) Avg Asking $403 PSF
  • Of note, two parking spaces for sale asking $60,000 not included in stats above

The Beauvallon 925 Lincoln St (2001)

  • Closed Sales: Nine (9)
  • Size: 769 SF to 2,272 SF
  • Sold: $315,000 – $730,000
  • Average PSF: $374.24.95
  • On Sale of Under Contract: Seven (7) Avg Asking $380 PSF

Please note while the buildings were developed one person, each is unique concerning setting, amenities, views and floor plans. Yet even in the present day in which we are witnessing glass enclosed high-rises penetrating the skyline from Downtown to Cherry Creek, The Belevedere, The Prado and The Beauvallon continue to occupy a unique niche in the marketplace concerning location, design and views and doubtful to be replicated anytime soon. While one rarely uses the term “bespoke” concerning condos, these three buildings fit the definition.

And in the interest of a fair and balanced blog I would be remiss if I did not include the opposing opinion concerning the design of the The Beauvillon as noted in the following article from Westword titled: The Ten Worst 21st-Century Buildings in Downtown Denver.

A Broker Makes a Rational Offer for his Future Residence the Results

My wife and I have been looking for a home (for followers of my blog we sold our primary residence of just shy of 30 years back in April 2017). We have kept our eye on a listing in one of Denver’s most desirable and stable (concerning values over the long-term) neighborhoods. The home we expressed interest in is small (similar houses have been expanded), requires updating to present code including electrical, no garage and the basement shows evidence of past and more recent water damage.  Coupled with all the above information the most recent index by Beracha, Hardin & Johnson Buy vs. Rent Index suggests we would be better of renting than purchasing at present yet as brokers we too sometimes operate on emotion and we are looking longer-term.

While the index does somewhat influence my decision; being a logical broker I conducted my due diligence concerning comparable properties in the same block on the same side of the street. I went back a few years and extrapolated the comparable’s using an inflation calculator to justify our offer.

While I will not disclose the address, the asking based on above grade SF is approximately $625 Per Square Foot (PSF). The comparable properties all have similar lot size and as mentioned on the same side of the street on the same block:

  • Comp 1: Sold – 3/2018:

Sold for $459/PSF Above Grade

Inflation Factor: N/A

-This home is in meticulous shape including the architecturally designed addition on the rear with the expanded kitchen, family room with fireplace, 2-car garage and professionally landscaped front, rear and side.

  • Comp 2: Sold -10/2017

Sold for $417/PSF Above Grade

Inflation Factor: $429 PSF Above Grade

-While I have not seen the inside except from the exterior new lighting, new windows, architect-designed extensions on the rear, garage parking to match. It is a duplex and both sides sold together as one structure. Each 1/2 of the duplex has 3 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, larger than the subject property.

  • Comp 3: Sold – 6/2017

Sold for $532/PSF Above Grade

Inflation Factor: $546 PSF Above Grade

-While used as a pied-a-terre the interior condition is similar. The kitchen was outdated however larger space, has a garage and deep south setback with a lot that is 1,000+ SF larger than subject property.

  • Comp 4: Sold – 7/2015

Sold for $395 PSF

Inflation Factor: $420 PSF Above Grade

The house is very similar to Comp 1 (next door) yet narrower lot and smaller size overall. Excellent design and layout. The rear and upper extension were beautifully designed and executed with functionality i.e. den w/ fireplace, expanded kitchen with breakfast area, 2 car garage made of brick to match the historic urban fabric coupled with a professionally landscaped yard.

Thus concerning the comparable properties using 2018 dollars the prices per square foot above grade range from $420 to $546. While 4 homes do not make a proper statistical average would be $463.50 PSF based on inflation with the $546/PSF sale skewing the average upward do to limited sample size. Of note the Median is $444/PSF.

Many of my peer brokers believe the peak of the market was 6-12 months prior as prices are beginning to slip, inventory is increasing coupled with rising mortgage interest rates.

Based on the $463 PSF average noted the house we made the offer upon should be priced at approximately $625,000 which may even be somewhat aggressive as the comparables are homes that have been extensively renovated or updated and all include alley access garages.

We offered $560 PSF or 20% above the comparable properties identified on a PSF basis.

Our offer was promptly rejected as the seller is asking $625 PSF.

While no fault of the out-of-state seller if /when the residence goes under contract and assuming there is an appraisal there may be a rude awakening. We could have offered full price and use the appraisal and inspection contingencies to eventually close at a lower market oriented price; however that is not our method of operation.

We made a viable offer, provided statistical pricing guidance and was subsequently rejected based on I assume emotion and/or irrational exuberance concerning valuation. I have been incorrect before and the residence may actually sell for asking (of note at present on the market almost two months and one price reduction to date); on this one we like it (we do not love it) however we willing to wait it out or pass altogether as inventory increases and pricing pressures are forecast to be in our (buyers) favor.

 

The Avenues of Valuation Demarcation Concerning Cherry Creek Residential

For many of us experienced real estate brokers there was a time when Cherry Creek residential was literally split into two distinct neighborhoods, Cherry Creek North (north of 1stAvenue) and Cherry Creek East (south of 1stAvenue).

At present brokers and prospective buyers seem to use the term Cherry Creek to represent the area generally bounded by 6thAvenue on the North, Alameda Avenue on the South (from east of the Mall), University Boulevard on the West and Colorado Boulevard in the East.

While the housing styles are similar throughout the greater Cherry Creek neighborhood including duplexes, row houses and more recently condos and a few very pricy single family homes I have been curious from a broker’s perspective concerning demarcations within the neighborhood.

I decided to analyze the Cherry Creek Neighborhood from Steele Street on the West to Colorado Boulevard on the East, an area that is all residential. I decided to use various avenues as demarcations as based on experience residences north of 3rdAvenue (which has become a bypass for 1stAvenue) seems to always be more expensive and inventory south of 1stAvenue due to size and design is the lowest cost in the area. Thus I wished to validate my experience with statistics of what is on the market at present.

From 3rdAvenue to 6th Avenue -On market: 53 residences

-Avg Layout: 3BD/5BA

-Above Grade SF: 2,812 SF

Avg. Asking: $1,839,000 or $527.86 PSF

-Days on Market: 53

-Average Year of Construction: 2005

From 1stAvenue to 3rd Ave -On market: 47 residences

-Avg Layout: 3BD/4BA

-Above Grade SF: 2,404 SF

-Avg. Asking: $1,049,500 or $500.34 PSF

-Days on Market: 47

-Average Year of Construction: 2004

From 1stAvenue to Alameda Avenue -On market: 26 residences

-Avg Layout: 2BD/3BA

-Above Grade SF: 2,047 SF

-Avg. Asking: $877,450 or $459.10 PSF

-Days on Market: 76

-Average Year of Construction: 2006

Some will suggest the new construction north of 3rdAvenue is skewing the numbers upward and the condos south of 1stAvenue bring down prices. Thus I have also included the asking based on above grade Per Square Foot to provide a more accurate representation.

As one traverses north from Cherry Creek (the waterway) towards 6thAvenue there is a continual uptick in asking prices (and sales data).  North of 6thAvenue the urban fabric changes drastically to majority single-family houses of the Congress Park neighborhood, thus not included in the analysis.

Thus if considering buying or selling, the sweet spot east of Steele Street seems to be between 3rdand 6thAvenues.  Even more impressive purchase or sell just north of the Cherry Creek North Business Improvement District i.e. University to Steele, 3rdto 6thAvenues, just be aware older housing stock and longer days on market yet an impressive $600+ PSF:

From 3rdAvenue to 6thAvenue University Blvd to Steele St. -On market: 11 residences

-Avg Layout: 3BD/4BA

-Above Grade SF: 3,043 SF

Avg. Asking: $1,650,000 or $603.02 PSF

-Days on Market: 89

-Average Year of Construction: 1997

Happy House Hunting

 

 

 

 

 

Denver Real Estate Market seems to be slowing yet irrational exuberance has not been tempered just yet

Preparing for the Next Cycle

Earlier this week REColorado AKA our Multilist service advised of a “Summer Cooldown” in Metro Denver. Anecdotally we are witnessing an increase in available inventory, longer periods between on market to under contract and pricing that seems to be adjusting to the new reality of lessening demand coupled with higher interest rates.

Thus I was amused to see a new listing in my neighborhood of Cherry Creek, which seems to defy conventional logic. I am not the broker, I am not the owner/seller and I have no idea what the motivation or rationale concerning pricing is HOWEVER I will keep an eye on this one just for my own edification.

While I will not disclose the exact address, the residence is within the 300 block just north of the Business Improvement District aka Cherry Creek North. Many could consider this block prime (I am mixed as it has a concentration of condominiums, curb-cuts and cut-through traffic but I am also trained as an urban planner thus I see what many prospective buyers do not).  Thus owners are literally a few hundred yards away from a wine bar, artisanal coffee, restaurants and so forth. Thus true urban lifestyle with a suburban design and space.

Concerning pricing, here is the history of the residence:

  • February 1999:         Sold for $620,000/$146 PSF ($937,837 in 2018)
  • May 2006:                 Sold for $950,000/$223  ($1,187,527 in 2018)
  • -Of note top of the market, yet good for the seller, 53% gain in 7 years.

 

  • October 2015:           On market for $1,595,000/$376PSF ($1,695,868 in 2018)
  • Did Not Sell: if sold would be a 68% increase over the last sale at the top of the market during the last up-cycle.

 

  • November 2015:       Price reduced to $1,495,000/$352PSF ($1,589,544 in 2018)
  • -Did Not Sell
  • July 2018:                  Place on market for $1,650,000/$388PSF

At $1,650,000 I wish the sellers the best of success. If they are indeed successful selling at asking they will have matched inflation, which is commendable considering, they purchased at the top of the market. Of course when factoring in upkeep, taxes, interest on the mortgage and so forth the calculus changes however they have also had a roof over their heads.

Just for fun I compared the returns above against the S&P 500 with dividend reinvest and not considering inflation, just in real dollars:

Between February 1999 and May 2006

  • The residence appreciated 223%
  • The S&P 500 appreciated 15.5%

Thus residential real estate was the way to invest over those years.

Between May 2006 and June 2018 (most recent S&P Calculator month)

  • The residence (assuming a sale at asking) appreciated 75%
  • The S&P 500 appreciated 172%

During the post Great Recession period we have witnessed the values of real estate and equities rise in tandem. Based in the period from 1999 to 2006 real estate was the better investment. Yet from the Great Recession to today we have witnessed equities and real estate both escalate in tandem. While I am not an economist some would argue bubbles are forming or have formed.

In a Continuing Education class this past week we were collectively discussing the return of non-conforming loans; the ones that brought on the last recession i.e. non-income verification, low or no money down mortgages and other exotic mortgage vehicles. Granted most mortgages are repackaged and sold to investors through various channels.

With interest rates going up and inflation a distinct possibility not to mention trade wars, currency issues (see the Turkish Lira) and investors chasing more aggressive returns…..my advice, sit on the sidelines or better hedge and buckle your seat belts as the old adage goes History Repeats Itself and we all have short memories.

 

 

 

 

Can real estate activity in the affluent Hamptons predict performance in the rest of the country?

The Hamptons on the eastern end and southern fork of Long Island (stretching from Westhampton to Montauk Point) has been a playground for New York City’s wealthy since the Long Island Railroad brought service to the east-end in the later 19thcentury. Known for its fertile soil, the towns of The Hamptons were once known for their agriculture and orientation to the Atlantic Ocean (Montauk and Sag Harbor were Whaling Villages and Bays. By the middle of the 20thCentury the economy of the area changed from agriculture to leisure including artist colonies, wineries and prime oceanfront commanding in the 7 figures.

Real estate sales in resort communities historically slow when there is concern in the economy as this is truly a discretionary spend.  Select brokers with history in the market usually raise concern where their local resort markets begin to show signs of sales weakness (this is also a market where an uptick may predict confidence in the overall economy). News from The Hamptons may be sending a caution signal as follows:

  • Home sales have slowed down this year in the Hamptons bringing the median price below the $1m mark. Second-quarter sales fell 12.8 percent from 2017 levels, according to data prepared for Douglas Elliman by Miller Samuel Real Estate.
  • The median price dropped 5.3 percent to a $975,000, compared with $1.03m one year earlier.

The spring selling (and summer rental Memorial Day to Labor Day) season is usually the high point of the year in the Hamptons, so the drop is stoking concerns that the resort areas of Long Island’s south shore are succumbing to the pressures depressing property activity in other parts of the US. Of note Metro Denver is not immune as inventory is increasing, demand seems to be decreasing and price reductions are becoming common on listings that are reacting to local market conditions.

Rising mortgage rates are increasing costs for homebuyers of all stripes. Higher-end properties have been affected by the 2016 federal tax reform, which imposed new limits on the deductions of mortgage interest and state taxes — the latter a particular concern in high-tax New York and California. Sales have slowed most in the “Hamptons middle” — homes listed in the $1m-$5m range.

Now the Hamptons is a true microcosm when you consider the following:

The inventory of homes listed at more than $4.25m rose 36.5 percent year on year in the second quarter to 329, according to Miller Samuel.  Sales in the luxury market were down 11.6 percent from last year’s level.

According to one broker “We have seen houses listed at $15m brought down to $12m, and maybe trading at $9m or $10m.” The spring saw only one sale closing for more than $20m in the Hamptons — compared with four in the same period one year earlier. The property in East Hampton sold for $40m in April 2018. It had been on the market for two years, and was first listed with a price tag of $69m. That folks is a serious price reduction.

Why One in Three Millennials may be making a serious mistake when purchasing a home

It was not so long ago when one purchased a home with the rationale of not only having a roof over’s one head but also a vehicle to keep up with and even better beat inflation and have enjoy some added tax deduction benefits.

While the above value concept may have been eroding for some time:

  • Assuming a residence can only increase in value (the Great Recession shattered that myth).
  • Using equity in one’s residence as leverage (the House as Personal ATM).
  • Limitations on the deductibility concerning real estate taxes.

As a broker I completely understand the desire for a home purchase especially when we see markets with low inventory and continued historically low-interest rates. Yet are Millennials setting themselves up for future challenges?

Yes most millennials went through the Great Recession and while experienced may not have been in the workforce or owned a residence. They may not have witnessed the job losses, foreclosures and the evaporation of paper wealth over that period. While the economy has come roaring back (even though I question the longevity of this bull market) as I always advise past performance is not indicative of future returns.

This is why a recent survey from The Bank of the West truly concerns me as follows:  “The fact that nearly one in three millennials who already own their homes have dipped into their retirement nest eggs to finance their down payment is alarming. With careful financial planning, millennials can have it all – the dream home today, without compromising their retirement security tomorrow.” Ryan Bailey, Head of the Retail Banking Group at Bank of the West.

Basic reality; a mortgage is debt, plan and simple. While a long-term mortgage with a low monthly payment and a fixed interest rate may be attractive and definitely can be a hedge in an inflationary environment, it is still debt.

Yes the mortgage payment may in fact be less than comparable rent (yet did the buyer factor in the down-payment).

While there are tax advantages including mortgage interest and real estate tax deductions, are the benefits truly appreciable concerning one’s income? The debt to income ratio can be an eye-opener.

Unlike retirement investing which is usually liquid and easily revised depending on market conditions, a residence is truly illiquid and can incur major costs when trying to sell i.e. commissions, preparation to sell and so forth.

Home ownership can be a foundation for a lifetime. This is not necessarily a positive attribute. What happens if the homeowner decides to entertain an employment opportunity elsewhere? What if the market during that time is a buyer’s market?  What if market rent would NOT cover the monthly PITI? In such scenarios one may be losing precious investment opportunities while covering the monthly payment coupled with an inflation reduced asset.

Mortgages do provide leverage and equity via one’s down-payment HOWEVER during the recession the terms negative equity, short-sales and foreclosures entered the vernacular and unfortunately we all have collective short-memories. Just last week I viewed a home on S. Monaco in the Southmoor neighborhood. While needing some cosmetic updates the home is in good condition and state of repair. Lowest priced home in the area concerning both asking and on a PSF basis. The asking $475,000 yet this is a short-sale with a loan balance of $515,000. Yes in the present sellers market a short-sale!

In addition to all of the above what concerns me locally here in Denver is the type and location of residences millennial’s are purchasing. I am seeing a proliferation of townhouse style residences as well as condos and similar attached multi-family construction in all the most desirable neighborhoods i.e. Golden Triangle, LoHi, Highlands, Sloans Lake and others. Concerning affordable, think again, many are $500K+ some pushing 7 figures. Yet I am seeing younger buyers purchasing with the assumption that 1) housing will continue to appreciate,  2) they plan to live in or potentially rent if they move or lifestyle change and 3) using monies allocated for retirement and/or using family capital to assist in purchase with the belief that inflation coupled with low mortgage loan rates is a winning combination.

While these new homes are beautiful and contemporary and perfect for the single or young DINK (dual-income no kids) couple; lifestyles change. Are these buyers considering children in the future? Are the local schools the caliber they desire for their offspring? Is there a risk of a glut in the area when the market adjusts course? How deep is the rental market for their unit style? Will rent cover their PITI?

I recently worked with a couple and this was their course concerning home ownership over the past decade and my forecast for their future:

  • Years 1-4: First Purchase: Smaller Home in West Washington Park
  • Years 4-8: Sold West Washington Park Home. Purchased in Stapleton as one child heading to elementary school and another on the way.
  • Year 10: Sold out of Stapleton, purchased in Littleton, house triple the size of Denver and large lot, literally 1/2 the cost of anything within 8 miles of downtown, more attractive school system yet more challenging commute (both work in downtown) however easy access to light-rail and Santa Fe Drive.
  • ————————————————————-
  • Year 10-15: Forecast – Will stay in Littleton until youngest goes off to college.
  • Year 16: Forecast – Sell Littleton home, move to Cherry Creek North.

I am a firm believe one’s first home can be a great foundation for future success from lifestyle to investing. However I also feel one’s first home should not be over-extended i.e. live within one’s means, consider allocating some housing expenditures to the equities market to take advantage of compound interest and if planning so change jobs, careers, locations be realistic as if changes are happening in 3-5 years the potential loss of equity concerning one’s home can happen. Ask all the buyers in 2006 which sold between 2008 and 2013…..