Archive for September, 2010
Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
Ken Fisher, head of Fisher investments, made what we think to be the most defining comment of our time to-day:
“WE ARE CHIMPANZEE’S WITH NO MEMORY”
How apt. While power-hungry, self-serving politicians, panicked individuals, self-serving commentators, ratings starved media, and generally paranoid humans exploit this moment in the current cycle, constantly over-analyzing the current conditions, future conditions and all other conditions no-one has any direct control over, at last the voice of reason: Yes, things are not great right now. We are just emerging from a HUGE financial crisis. But like all cycles, this part of the cycle will evolve into the next part, and soon the economy will be growing a lot more than anyone is saying it will right now. And then stupid politicians, greedy bankers and deluded consumers will get into the exact same trouble we got into this time around….
Ken Fisher was arguing against the notion that we are in a “NEW NORMAL”, a theory proposed by PIMCO’S head…… he predicts growth to be a lot more robust than the general consensus.
“We agree with Ken Fisher,” says Leonard Steinberg managing director of Prudential Douglas Elliman and publisher of LUXURYLETTER. “Lets re-visit this subject in 2020: only then will we know who was right.”
Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
In CRAINS, a report on the strength of the New York for hiring…..certainly a good thing for real estate when the strength of the employee pool is best in the country…. Whats good for business, is good for real estate values.
SEEN IN CRAINS: Here’s a bit of good news for New York businesses: The high costs of setting up shop here are more than offset by the low risk of recruiting and hiring.
An Aon Consulting report found New York City had the second-lowest risk levels in the world for recruiting, employing and relocating employees. (Toronto finished first.) Some elements of employer risk that the report measured include the inability to find enough people with the right qualifications and the likelihood of high turnover within the company.
Of the five major criteria in the report, the city finished first in “education” and second in both “demographics” and “talent development.” It ranked 12th in “government support” and 23rd in “employment practices.”
Population size played a major role in New York City’s ranking, said Rick Payne, chief research officer of Aon Consulting’s Global Research Center, based in Singapore. He also noted the presence of elite higher education institutions like Columbia and New York universities.
“New York has a significant advantage over other cities in the United States because of the breadth and depth of the talent it has,” Mr. Payne said. “When employers look at where they should locate, they should not only look at costs…. If the availability of talent isn’t there, you’re taking a high risk.”
Mr. Payne also called New York City a “gateway” to the U.S. and cited immigration as a factor in the quantity of high-quality employees. The report stated that New York City has “a large diverse multilingual workforce, which is increasingly critical in a global work environment.”
Los Angeles, another “gateway” in Aon’s eyes, finished as the second-highest American city, but 10th overall. Chicago was right behind at No. 11, and Boston finished 13th. Detroit fared the worst of all U.S. cities, finishing 40th out of the 90 cities around the world that qualified for the study, based on population and business investment.
Mr. Payne said this report will show employers which cities are most likely to have people with the skills necessary to excel at their companies. Even criteria such as crime are a factor, he said, because it increases costs and has an impact on productivity.
“We look at the fundamental causes of the problems that companies face, and look at the fundamental causes of the supply of labor,” Mr. Payne said.
The wide range of components involved in the study—25 overall—cover a wide spectrum of employment factors, said Jennifer Loftus, national director for Astron Solutions, a New York-based human resource consulting firm.
She noted the importance of education, pointing out that cities rank higher for getting their youth “work force ready.” She also found companies could benefit from developing their employees and giving them skills they did not have coming in.
The city’s wealth of talent and what some might call its dog-eat-dog atmosphere bode well for New York companies. Yet with the unemployment rate still above 9%, there are not enough positions to go around for job hopefuls.
“From the employer’s perspective, [New York City] is a good place to be, because it has a diverse talent pool,” she said. “From the employee’s perspective however, you’re competing against top talent, which makes it harder.”
Monday, September 27th, 2010
Real estate sales in Manhattan generally pick up after Labor day, although in the past 3 years, the pick up was rather tepid. This year however, the pick up is certain, and aggressive.
“We are seeing a level of activity and bidding that we have not seen in many, many months,” says Leonard Steinberg, managing director of Prudential Douglas Elliman and publisher of LUXURYLETTER. “All brokers we are in touch with are experiencing the same pick-up, especially on the high end. This may be an indicator that the wealthy view the recessionary times ending, with an eye towards inflation and a positive outlook for 2011: The wealthy always tend to look forward many months into the future.”
Monday, September 20th, 2010
Just to-day, Bank of America withdrew a loan that had been completely signed off on and referred it to another lending institution…..word on the street is Bank of America may be exiting the residential mortgage market…..
“Its amazing how many smaller banks and untraditional lenders are eating away at the market share of the more obvious banks,” says Leonard Steinberg, managing director of Prudential Douglas Elliman and leader of the LUXURYLOFT team. “Recently I re-financed a CHASE mortgage, at their suggestion, and at the last minute they wanted to charge me a $ 1,600 fee for extending the mortgage commitment: This, even though the rates had come down! Large banks may be in for a shock.”
Is Bank of America the BANK OF OPPORTUNITY, or a LOST opportunity?
Has anyone heard anything about this? If so, please let us know….
Friday, September 17th, 2010
The city’s faster-than-expected recovery continued in August: the local economy added 6,500 private sector jobs, continuing to surpass the nation’s growth rate. Jobs were added mostly in the real estate and banking arenas.
New York’s August unemployment rate held steady at 9.4%, according to a report released Thursday by the state Department of Labor. The state unemployment rate rose to 8.3%, from 8.2% in July, while the national jobless rate stands at 9.6%
Thursday, September 16th, 2010
In this morning’s Wall Street Journal the subject of Spain’s 1,5million vacant apartments in ZOMBIE BUILDINGS is addressed: do we have ZOMBIE BUILDINGS in Manhattan? Two that come to mind are 1 Madison Park and 245 Tenth Avenue, both really wonderful buildings caught in the financial storm of 2008/2009.
“The difference between these two buildings and Spain’s ZOMBIE BUILDINGS are that when 245 Tenth and 1 Madison Park come back to the market, they probably will sell out quickly,” says Leonard Steinberg, managing director of Prudential Douglas Elliman and publisher of LUXURYLETTER. “The worst ZOMBIE BUILDINGS are the generic ones built in areas that have the ability to build many more similar buildings at lower prices.”
BENIDORM, Spain—Torre Lugano, Spain’s tallest residential tower, attracted buyers from here and abroad with glossy brochures promising a luxury building with a glass-walled elevator and sweeping views of this Mediterranean resort’s turquoise waters.
The reality is very different. The garage floods, windows are drafty and backed-up toilets flood apartments with sewage. The glass elevator never materialized. Residents, some recently forced to shower in a communal rest room because the plumbing on their floors failed, are suing the developers for €28.2 million ($36.4 million), citing “construction defects.”
Torre Lugano is a 420-foot-tall example of the gap between Spain’s recent dreams of economic glory and its grim new reality. Some 1.5 million unfinished, unsold or unwanted residential units stand scattered across the country, products of a still-deflating housing bubble that threatens to undermine Spain’s broader economy for years to come. It is the hangover after an epic fiesta, a period Spaniards now refer to as “cuando pensábamos que éramos ricos”—”when we thought we were rich.”
Once hailed as early proof of the success of the euro, Europe’s single currency, Spain’s low interest rates from the mid-1990s and its proximity to richer neighbors ushered in a decade-long period of prosperity.
Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
When is this clever idea coming to the USA with its MILLIONS of square feet of parking spaces in sunbelt areas?
Imagine every Wallmart and Home Depot, not only providing shade to all its parked cars to reduce their need for that initial AC blast, but also producing enough power from the overhead SOLAR PANELS that act as the roof to power the entire building, not to mention produce surplus energy for the grid?
“In Manhattan, we have so much roof space that is going to waste: these solar panels combined with wind turbines, could probably cater to at least 15-20% of our power needs,” says Leonard Steinberg, managing director of Prudential Douglas Elliman and publisher of LUXURYLETTER. “We will need this extra power soon as more cars convert to electrical use.”
Above is a version currently in use in Italy at a highway rest stop……
Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
The chatter on the French Riviera is all about the recent sale of a Monaco penthouse, once the home to Edmund Safra and featured recently in Architectural Digest….recently we reported the London penthouse that had sold for around $ 220 million making it then the world’s most expensive private residence: Now the record has been shattered with the $308 million sale of a ornate penthouse in Monaco . The Monaco property, called La Belle Epoque, has quite a history; formerly the home of billionaire banker Edmund Safra, it’s where he was found dead following a mysterious fire that gutted the apartment in 1999. The three-bedroom, 17,500-sq-.ft. duplexpenthouse, which includes a double-height library and vast roof terraces complete with mature 15-foot trees and an infinity pool, is thought to have been purchased by an Arab sheikh, the Economic Times reports.
“At roughly $ 17,600/sf, this property makes New York’s 15 Central Park West seem like a relative bargain,” says Leonard Steinberg, managing director of Prudential Douglas Elliman and publisher of LUXURYLETTER. “Then again, New York is not a tax free City, which may just indicate that tax-free cities and countries may have a value of $ 10,000/sf?”
The apartment’s luxe features include a panic room with reinforced glass and surveillance cameras, cinema screens which emerge from walls at the touch of a button, numerous walk-in wardrobes and dressing rooms, a leisure room with billiard tables and arcade video games, a Jacuzzi and spa, and a media room with special executive chairs which convert into beds. The penthouse was sold by British property developers Christian and Nick Candy, who acquired the space relatively cheaply following the fire from Lily Safra and hired designer Martin Kemp to oversee $40 million in renovations, including a dining room (above) with a platinum leaf ceiling.
Friday, September 10th, 2010
We found this simple, elegant light fixture in the bathrooms of a hotel in Italy and thought it to be the best lighting for a bathroom.
“This lighting is both super-efficient and also did not give you that hideous blue-white, sickly appearance created by the average fluorescent lighting fixture found now in too many bathrooms,” says Leonard Steinberg of Prudential Douglas Elliman and leader of the LUXURYLOFT team, brokers specialized in New York luxury real estate. This light fixture is made by XT Chary, and uses a tiny light bulb, LED we believe, that uses slightly more energy than a fluorescent bulb but significantly less energy than the traditional incandescent bulb. Energy efficiency meets sensible, esthetically pleasing design.
Thursday, September 9th, 2010
I am currently traveling in Europe researching trends and getting a breather: it ceases to amaze me how many restaurants located in the very best, most desirable, attractive locations seem to have the worst food and service. Is this an international phenomena?
Thinking of New York City, I guess the definition of ‘best location’ helps determine the quality of the restaurant. But I certainly can think of many prized locations in the city that do indeed deliver some of the worst food and service. Often the best restaurants in these prize locations are grossly over-rated. Just because you have a great location are you entitled to give those dreaded tourists the worst possible experience? I think Cities should fine rotten restaurants in great locations for bad service and quality, or at least give them a rating on the front door, a badge of shame…..
“In real estate it truly is all about location,” says Leonard Steinberg, managing director of Prudential Douglas Elliman and leader of the LUXURYLOFT team. “It is unfortunate when a retail establishment abuses a prize location. It is done so at the detriment of the town or city. Thankfully blogs have helped identify the worst offenders. Maybe an I-Phone APP for this is an idea, warning un-informed tourists not to enter a rotten restaurant?”