Archive for DINKS

Douglas Elliman released the Third Quarter report for Manhattan Residential Co-op and Condo sales market.  The Manhattan Sales Quarterly Survey of Co-op & Condo Sales for 3Q-2014 reported here and summarized below was prepared by Miller Samuel for Douglas Elliman.

 “Manhattan housing prices continued to rise in the third quarter.  Rising inventory remained inadequate to meet the high level of demand”

3QTR Manhattan Sales

  •  The supply and demand imbalance has begun to push housing prices higher. Median sales price rose 4.2% to $908,242 from the same period last year. As a result of the shift towards more 3-bedroom and 4-bedroom sales, the overall average sales price jumped 17.4% to $1,684,729 from the prior year quarter.
  • The monthly absorption rate, the number of months to sell all inventory at the current rate of sales, increased to 5.3 months from the prior year record low of 3.6 months. As a result of limited supply and fast market pace, 49.2% of all transactions were sold at or above list price at time of sale.
  • Despite the third consecutive quarter with a year-over-year rise in listing inventory, supply remains 16.1% below the 14-year third quarter average of 6,957. Listing inventory jumped 27.6% to 5,828 from the prior year quarter, with a much larger increase seen with condos than co-ops.
  • Days on market, the average number of days to sell all apartments that closed during the quarter, expanded by 4 days to 92 days, marking the second fastest marketing time in 15 years.
  • Listing discount, the average percentage difference between the listing price at the time of sale and the sales price fell to 1.1% from 2% in the year ago quarter.

Douglas Elliman released the Third Quarter report for Manhattan Residential Co-op and Condo sales market.  The Manhattan Sales Quarterly Survey of Co-op & Condo Sales for 3Q-2013 reported here  and summarized below was prepared by Miller Samuel for Douglas Elliman.


“The third quarter was a period of records and near records as sales surged and inventory fell sharply.”


Our third quarter housing market was one of the most active in decades. Manhattan experienced the second highest number of sales in more than 24 years and the most sales in six years. Our agents helped buyers navigate rising mortgage rates, bidding wars and the lowest inventory in 13 years. It’s an exciting period for our real estate market as we look forward to continued improvement into the next year.

  • The 3,837 sales in the third quarter were 30% above last year’s total and second highest only to 3,939 in the second quarter of 2007.
  • Listing inventory dropped 21.9% to 4,567 from the prior year quarter, the lowest since it was tracked in 2000.
  • The sales share of 1-bedroom apartments reached 40.5%, a 15-year high as co-op sales expanded to 62% share 9-year high. The shift to lower priced units in response to rising rates caused overall median sales price to slip 2% although individually, co-op and condo median sales price rose 0.8% and 3.7% year-over-year.
  • Days on the market, the number of days from the last price change to the contract price, collapsed to 88 days from 191 days in the prior year quarter. The elevated year ago level reflected the absorption of languishing older listings as inventory began to fall sharply.
  • Listing discount, the percentage difference between the list price at time of sale and the sales price, fell sharply to 2% from 7.2% in the prior year quarter.

The IRS earlier this month released the new form that eligible homebuyers need to claim the first-time homebuyer credit this tax season and announced processing of those tax returns will begin in mid-February. The IRS also announced new documentation requirements to deter fraud related to the first-time homebuyer credit.

The new form and instructions follow major changes in November to the homebuyer credit by the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009. The new law extended the credit to a broader range of home purchasers and added new documentation requirements to deter fraud and ensure taxpayers properly claim the credit.

With the release of Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit, and the related instructions, eligible homebuyers can now start to file their 2009 tax returns. Taxpayers claiming the homebuyer credit must file a paper tax return because of the added documentation requirements.

The IRS expects to start processing 2009 tax returns claiming the homebuyer credit in mid-February after it completes the updating and testing of systems to meet the law’s new requirements. The updates allow the IRS to put in place critical systemic checks to deter fraud related to the homebuyer credit.

Some of these early taxpayers claiming the homebuyer credit may see tax refunds take an additional two to three weeks.

In addition to filling out a Form 5405, all eligible homebuyers must include with their 2009 tax returns one of the following documents in order to receive the credit:

  • A copy of the settlement statement showing all parties’ names and signatures, property address, sales price, and date of purchase. Normally, this is the properly executed Form HUD-1, Settlement Statement.
  • For a newly constructed home where a settlement statement is not available, a copy of the certificate of occupancy showing the owner’s name, property address and date of the certificate.

In addition, the new law allows a long-time resident of the same main home to claim the homebuyer credit if they purchase a new principal residence. To qualify, eligible taxpayers must show that they lived in their old homes for a five-consecutive-year period during the eight-year period ending on the purchase date of the new home. The IRS has stepped up compliance checks involving the homebuyer credit, and it encouraged homebuyers claiming this part of the credit to avoid refund delays by attaching documentation covering the five-consecutive-year period:

  • Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement, or substitute mortgage interest statements,
  • Property tax records or
  • Homeowner’s insurance records.

The IRS also reminded homebuyers that the new documentation requirements mean that taxpayers claiming the credit cannot file electronically and must file paper returns. Taxpayers can still use IRS Free File to prepare their returns, but the returns must be printed out and sent to the IRS, along with all required documentation.

Normally, it takes about four to eight weeks to get a refund claimed on a complete and accurate paper return where all required documents are attached. For those homebuyers filing early, the IRS expects the first refunds based on the homebuyer credit will be issued toward the end of March.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to use direct deposit to speed their refund. In addition, taxpayers can use Where’s My Refund? on to track the status of their refund.

More details on claiming the credit can be found in the instructions to Form 5405, as well as on the First-Time Homebuyer Credit page on


Back On The Market

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Thanks to the many friends, clients, customers and readers for showing your concern for my apparent absence from posting to the Real Estate Geezer.

As Boomers and DINKs, my wife and I have been fortunate enough to celebrate the holidays this year with my dad 84, my aunt who is 100 and my wife’s mom who is 94 years old.

But some things had changed. In early December 2009 my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and my aunt, although physically “healthy”, began having more difficulty walking, severe memory problems, and because caring for herself had become impossible she needed around-the-clock assistance.

Becoming a caregiver for our loved ones takes a lot of adjustment. Dealing with their doctors, Medicare, working with the pharmacies and the nurses’ aids is daunting and very time consuming. The emotional strain and the role reversal, if you will, as well as the financial aspects of getting old, made my wife and I look into ourselves, face our mortality and wonder what our lives will be like when we reach their age and have similar medical problems.

All this with the backdrop of the health care reform bill now coursing its way through congress. I must say, from what I understand, the bill does nothing to ease the financial and emotional strain of what millions of Boomers will be facing in the very near future. More on this when I actually get to read what the House/Senate reconciliation committees finally agree on — behind closed doors.

Well I’m back now. Back on the real estate market, so to speak. There is an order to things. My aunt’s nurses and Dad’s chemo therapy are scheduled. I give a wake up call to my father every day, bring him his breakfast, the morning newspaper and arrange his medication. And if he feels good that day perhaps we go for a short walk. I pick up my aunt’s mail give her a hug and hope she remembers who I am that day. Then I head to work.

Things make more sense now. Reading the New York Times blog The New Old Age has been very helpful. I feel less alone now. The support of the neighborhood and city infrastructure can be very reassuring. For example, The Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, only a half block from our apartment and where I was an after-school and day camp member over 50 years ago, was so helpful in assisting my dad and I in getting him Medicare drug coverage. They continue to offer invaluable help with assisted living ideas for my aunt and perhaps the eventual hospice care for both of them. And on good days, when both dad and aunt get out their apartments, they can visit with their friends at the senior center and have some lunch.

We’re lucky to live within four or five blocks of each other. We love our doormen who are an important part of our extended family. They show genuine concern,  hold the elevator when dad is walking a bit slow,  and even help us get a cab when the wind and snow make it difficult for even the sure footed to get around. They are just really nice! We love New York City because of the convenience, and yes, the small-own feel of the neighborhoods.  We’re thankful for Fresh Direct and the convenience of being steps away from almost anything you may ever need or want.

I’ll file this under Boomers and will continue to update this story from time to time. If any of you are having similar experience, or just need some support or someone to speak with, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’ll be more than happy to help in anyway I can.

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DINKs: Beautiful woman embracing husbandA DINK household is one “in which there are two incomes and no children… DINKs are often the target of marketing efforts for luxury items such as expensive cars and vacations”  as defined by

DINKs have a lot going for them.  With two incomes and none of the expenses required to raise a couple of kids, they are commonly the consumers of the best things in life from the finest restaurants and fabulous travel to luxury labels and premium services.  In fact, there’s a plethora of websites devoted solely to DINKs and a world of experts who are ready and able to help spend all that discretionary income.

The downside?  If there is one, it’s that he extra income also means they are likely to find themselves in the highest tax brackets.     That means that sheltering income is extremely important.  In addition to 401K’s, IRA’s, tax-deferred investments and the like, home ownership is virtually a no-brainer.

One excellent web site, Dual Income No Kids Finance, affirms that buying a home offers significant financial advantages for DINKS. Sharing the title of “co-grand poobahs,” bloggers Miel and James provide lots of info, including the average  net worth of DINK families:


Given such high average income levels, Miel and James strongly advise investing in a home:“If you don’t own your home, and are in otherwise in good shape, you should strongly consider buying a home. There are number of benefits to owning your own place. First, and foremost you have a tremendous tax advantages as the mortgage interest and property tax [for Condos or the tax deductable portion of Coop maintenance] payments can be written off your taxes. Owning real estate also provides important protection against inflation and housing can be an important asset when you reach retirement after the mortgage is paid off.”

For those who are buying for the long term (five to ten years), possibly the best pay-off is the appreciation in the home’s value when it comes time to sell.  Traditionally, a home purchase has been one of the best possible investments. Please refer to the Prudential Douglas Elliman/Miller Samuel’s Manhattan 10 Year Residential Sales Trend Analysis (1999-2008 PDF).

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Fed housing credit?

Fed housing credit?

Local media has been commenting since last August that New Yorkers seem to be blasé about the Recovery Package offer of $8,000 toward a new home. However, it was so popular nationally that Congress has extended that, and added a $6,500 offer for current owners who move.

Well, I wouldn’t pass it up if I were in the home market right now, and put my team to work finding out what you might buy with that free cash. Some new furniture and décor are obvious choices, and almost everyone needs something for their new home.

Or you could use it for other kinds of fun. Given my favorite pastimes, I might figure out how many lovely restaurant meals I could savor, including cuisine hot spots my wife and I usually reserve for special occasions.

But you have many other options. For about $600 to $1,600 you could score a pair of trendy Christian Louboutin shoes or boots at Saks, which offers 96 choices at your fingertips. Or there’s the current Prada event with hot items coming up, now available for pre-orders. While at Sak’s you could also pick up a steal on men’s watches, such as Breil Milano’s stainless steel chronograph strap watch at $1,250.

Or how about a Hermes bag? For classic Hermes, you can’t go wrong with the Birkin bag, starting at $6,000. Here’s a entire blog dedicated to the Birkin.

Here’s a tidbit from a local fashion blog: “Katie Holmes & Suri: Spotted on Madison Avenue of New York, little Suri had her own pint-sized version of Mom’s orange Hermes shopping bag. Later on, Katie was seen with a rare burgundy Garden Party Handbag that looked more like a boarding bag. The Hermes handbag offset her black pencil skirt and red heels. With all the goodies that could be stuffed into that spacious bag, Holmes was ready for anything.” The Evelyne, starting a bit under $2,500, is très chic now.

You can toast your new home with a rare champagne.  Dom Perignon Oenotheque 1993 is just $399.00 per 750 ml. bottle, limited to one per customer at Astor Wines.  Salon Blanc de Blanc, Le Mesnil – 1997 is more expensive at $459.99, but in greater supply.  You can buy a case of 6 for $2621.94.

Does your new co-op or condo allow pooches?  How about using your savings for today’s most expensive, pure bred, a Samoyed, starting at $3,000 or an English Bulldog at around $2,500.  On the other hand, if you adopt a nice homeless puppy from a shelter approved by the Humane Society, you’ll have lots of money to buy dog food and a really fancy collar, $18 and up from

And let’s not forget the sports fans.  How about season tickets to the Yankees next year?  Despite the World Series victory, top prices will actually decline, with field level seats at $250 per game for season ticket holders, down from $325 this year.

How much more stimulated could you get?  Check out my November 2 post  for housing stimulus dates and details. Go, Feds!

Buyers who can pay in full in cash for their co-op or condo apartments are in the driver’s seat.  Right now, being able to offer a seller a sure thing – with no surprises on the way to closing – will go a long way to assuring you of negotiating the best possible deal.

Pair some flexibility with cash, and you’ve got the magic ingredients of what I call FLASH.  Being flexible means being open to the seller’s needs in terms of setting the closing date – being ready to close immediately or allowing ample time for the seller to find a new home rather than demanding a quick move – offering to take care of needed repairs or accommodate the start of a school year.   With FLASH, you’ll find that the door to your new home is open, ready and waiting.

If you’re like most people – who can’t afford a full-cash sale – you can still find yourself in the “most attractive buyer” finals.  If you have great credit and can put down at least 20% on a jumbo conforming mortgage (up to $729,750 in New York), or at least 30% for higher mortgages, you’ll still set setting hearts aflutter.  Pre-qualifying for an adequate mortgage is a fabulous move to round out your VIP buyer profile

1 -The Numbers

  • Manhattan residential real estate has performed better than the broader U.S. real estate market.
  • Compared with losses of more than 40% for Los Angeles and San Francisco over the past few years, Miller Samuel reports in the third quarter 2009 Manhattan Residential Market Overview that the average price per square foot in Manhattan was $996 vs. $1289 as reported in the first quarter of 2008 , a price reduction of 23% from the peak.
  • Third-quarter 2009 data show prices declined at a lower rate while transaction volume surged 46%, a sign that the Manhattan market is starting to find its bottom.
  • As Donald Trump once said “It’s a water thing”. Manhattan is a landlocked island. While developers in most cities keep expanding outward, developers in Manhattan do not have this alternative.
  • Wall Street firms are expected to pay a record $140 billion in bonuses this year according to The Wall Street Journal. Regardless of whether these bankers deserve their lavish bonuses, their payday will boost Manhattan real estate prices.

2 -Capital of the World

  • Manhattan is a global must-see destination. Emerging markets like Brazil and China are creating wealth at a very high rate and churning out millionaires.
  • New York is often the first international destination new millionaires from emerging countries want to visit. It’s also one of the first places where they want to buy investment property or a pied-a-terre.

3- Diversity of Industry

  • Besides finance, New York has media, hospitality, advertising and professional services like law and accounting firms. These industries will be serving emerging-market economies and will benefit the local New York economy in terms of job creation and housing demand.
  • If not for the diversity of the current New York City economy, the unemployment rate would be even higher than 10.3% that was reported in August.
  • Sectors like education, health, leisure and hospitality have gained jobs, which partly offset the negative impact of the financial job losses.

4 -Quality of Life

  • New York City is one of the safest cities in the US.
  • The legal system is established and there is a better work-life balance compared with countries like China.
  • Transportation in Manhattan via the Subway system is efficient and reduces commuting time for those living in Manhattan.
  • The air in Manhattan is pristine compared to air in other global metropolises like Hong Kong.

Portions excerpted from NuWireInvestor reporting on a story written by Wei Min Tan of

If you’re thinking about buying an apartment in Manhattan, this may be a great time to grab the gold ring.  Prices are much lower than the last few years – brokers are looking back to 2004-2005 for comparative prices (comps).  And mortgage rates are amazing – fixed-rate mortgages have been hovering in the 5% to 6% range, the lowest in the past 20 years except for a stray month here or there.  The experts don’t expect them to go lower and aren’t ready to predict when they’ll start going up again.

If you look at listings online, asking prices might still seem high. Sellers hate to let go of the peak value their apartments reached on paper in 2006 and 2007.  Be sure your buyers’ broker knows pre-bubble values and is an all-out negotiator for you.  Along with purchase price, negotiations can also include terms, asking the seller to pay some of the points, for example, or maintenance rebates or contributions to other closing costs . Think about finding a dedicated buyer’s broker.  He or she will negotiate harder for you and shouldn’t cost a dime, as broker’s fees should be built into the seller’s cost.

Start the process by making sure you can qualify to buy a coop or condo apartment:

  • Can you come up with at least 20% of the purchase price for a down payment?
  • Will your total housing costs (Mortgage + Maintenance–for a co-op — or Common Chargers + Taxes–for a condo) be at or under about 28 % of your income?  This ratio can be somewhat higher for a condo purchase.
  • Do you have an excellent credit score?  The best rates in NYC currently require a credit score of 760 or more. If you’re not there, note that a good mortgage broker can find fairly competitive rates with FICO scores of at least 720. If your score is below that, it’s a great idea to raise your score as much as you can before you start to shop.
  • Will you have the cash for closing costs and, what many co-op boards and/or lenders require, post closing cash reserves up to one or two years to cover mortgage, taxes, maintenance etc?

Why now?  The best answer can be found by asking recent buyers.  One new owner bought her one-bedroom co-op (with patio) in Soho in March. She had stopped looking late last fall because the prices were just out of reach.  But by early ’09 she could buy a lot more apartment than she’d expected, in a lot more locations. She ended up paying $490,000 a 15% reduction from the $569,000 asking price.  As the Time Out New York article points out in this case as well as two other examples, there are closing costs, some perhaps unexpected, beyond the simple purchase of the apartment.

Up-front costs


Down payment on Soho apartment (20 percent of $490,000 contract price)




Bank, mortgage broker and closing costs (including credit report, loan origination, commitment and processing fees, flood certification and a document delivery fee)


Buyer’s attorney fee


Floor refinishing


Co-op fees (including building lawyer fee, first month’s maintenance and a not-yet-refunded $250 move-in deposit)


Interim interest charges (interest on the mortgage paid at closing)


Title fees (including bank lawyer fees, lien search and UCC filing)


Inspection (the seller tagged the sale “as is” before accepting the low offer, but still, “I wanted to know what I was getting into,” D’Agata says)


(We deleted $2,500 she’d put on another apartment where she didn’t get board approval.)

Monthly costs


Mortgage payment (interest rate: 5.5 percent)


Co-op insurance


Maintenance charges and taxes



If you’re ready to make the move,  plan to live in your new place for at least three to five years and  have a comfortable cushion of post closing reserves, then it can make good financial sense to buy now.  Take a look around.  You may be pleasantly surprised at what you can afford.