Archive for November, 2010
Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
Posted on November 24, 2010 by Leonard Steinberg
Are Americans un-grateful, using Thanksgiving as a veiled attempt at appearing thankful? Here are some thoughts:
1) We have exited a HUGE recession, somewhat close to a depression within 24 months, and yet everyone is complaining how SLOW the recovery is.
2) Real estate prices, while certainly off their highs of 2007/2008 in New York, have recovered nicely in what usually took MANY years to recover. In fact, there are several new pricing records being broken right now. (Think 15 Central Park West, 200 Eleventh Avenue, 400 West 12th Street, etc)
3) Corporate America is crying foul: This government is so ANTI-BUSINESS!!!!! So why the $ 1,6 TRILLION in corporate profits? That does not add up.
4) The right is crying: Lower spending, lower taxes…..that does not add up either.
5) The left is crying: Spend more, raise taxes…..that does not add up, and continues to encourage government reliance, a system that has failed elsewhere.
6) The ultra-religious cry acceptance of others and forgiveness in their churches, mosques and synagogues, yet are responsible for most wars and conflict. Can you really be pro-war AND pro-life simultaneously?
7) Most of us feel like we aren’t getting enough, yet we have more than any others on this planet. The poor think having a dishwasher is suffering, and the rich feel not buying that new Birkin bag is simply not fair!
8) New Yorkers dream of California sunshine and Californians dream of East Coast ‘seasons’…..
I could go on, but you get the picture. We are all rather spoiled. And now would be as good a time as ever to really sit back, look in the mirror, and see things the way they really are.
If we have our health, we should all be REALLY thankful right now for what we have.
Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010
Posted on November 23, 2010 by Leonard Steinberg.
Because I have nothing better to do, the other day I decided to punch in the exact items of my shopping list to the FRESH DIRECT site that I had just purchased at Trader Joe’s on Sixth Avenue: the results were astonishing.
Fresh Direct was about 50% more expensive than Trader Joe’s: FIFTY PERCENT!!!!! That’s really, really unreal. Especially considering I was buying the exact same brands, both were all organic produce, and the quality from Trader Joe’s was certainly on par with Fresh Direct.
I am not a huge fan of Trader Joe’s store: I find it bland looking, the lighting is horrible, the displays are not creative, the selection at times can be a bit limited. But I saved $ 50 on my shopping trip and multiply that by about 70 trips to the grocery store a year, that $ 3,500 saved will allow me to forgive them for their design sins. That’s about $ 300/month or my electrical and cable bill paid for every month, just by switching grocery stores. Or maybe a wonderful weekend escape? Over 10 years thats almost $ 50,000.00 with interest compounded. That’s close to a downpayment for a small apartment.
And I will certainly consider buying Fresh Direct stock because obviously there are many people who are willing to pay a hug premium for convenience in New York….I am not one of those people anymore.
Sunday, November 21st, 2010
Posted by: Leonard Steinberg, 11/21/2010
Have you noticed how markets have been reduced to entertainment in recent years? Did it start with Donald Trump who once upon a time was just a serious (seriously!)developer that morphed into a reality TV star?
When did we ever think that picking stocks could be akin to a Wheel of Fortune styled show with Jim Cramer spewing market advice like a character out of Punk’d?
Then what was once a guilty pleasure, looking at other peoples homes on line, became an HGTV show, and now I know of friends who watch that channel all day long, transfixed by the REALITY of the real estate world.
Well, maybe Grey’s Anatomy is no REAL insight into the lives of real doctors in real hospitals either. But with all this UN-real REALITY, I beg to answer the question: What is reality, and are we re-defining the meaning?
A brilliant example of how one can create one’s own reality is Sarah Palin, who with FOX, FACEBOOK and TWITTER communicates her message to the world, and in many ways avoids the immediate questioning that comes with the real world.
We have entered the era of MARKETAINMENT, a new era where what is real and what is fiction, what is created and what is natural will be much harder to define, and much more difficult to identify.
From a real estate broker’s perspective, I find this the most exciting prospect of all: now, more than ever before, the consumer will really have to rely on a trustworthy, informed source to edit through the un-reality of the new ‘real’ world.
Friday, November 19th, 2010
The penthouse at the Superior Ink building in Greenwich Village, New York, owned by Houston Rockets owner, Leslie Alexander, has sold for a record $ 31,5million according to the Wall Street Journal. But is it a record for Downtown? Yes and no.
The quadruplex combination penthouse at 200 Eleventh Avenue sold for around $ 33 million, also raw, in 2009, and while larger, hence a lower $$$/sf price, that selling price does beat this sale. The sale of the penthouse at 145 Hudson Street is another notable exception.
“It is nevertheless a testament to the ressiliancy of the Greenwich Village real estate market in New York, a zip code named one of the Top 5 by FORBES recently,” says Leonard Steinberg publisher of LUXURYLETTER and a managing director with Prudential Douglas Elliman. “The Robert A. M. Stern designed building boasts superb sunset views over the Hudson River, and is one of very few full service buildings in the area. It commands a premium for many reasons, but most notably are the views, services, quality of space and the Stern-cachet. I do believe the price could have been significantly higher if the space had been beautifully finished out, as there is always a market for SUPER-TROPHY-PENTHOUSES in Manhattan.”
Friday, November 19th, 2010
Did you know that the waste produced from burning coal can be re-used to create portland cement?
Did you know that a incandescent light fixture replaced with a LED light fixture saves about 80% of energy consumption.
So while the world seeks some miraculous new source of energy, the rest of the world has discovered that ENERGY TECHNOLOGY is the new INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY. Yes, the ability to use the energy resource we already have, but create efficiencies within these resources is where significant strides can be made to reduce consumption and ultimately benefit the quality of life on earth.
I have friends currently in NEPAL where the air pollution is chronic: A visit to this part of the world would convince anyone that we have a responsibility to clean up our environment, and FAST. We have addressed this issue before in LUXURYLETTER, so what can owners of New York real estate do to incorporate ET into their world to individually and collectively make a difference? Here is out list:
1) Refine your heating and cooling systems: Converting a building from oil to natural gas to supply heating is a big one. Balance distribution throughout the building so that some aren’t cold and others aren’t opening their windows in the middle of winter to release excessive heating. Window AC units are grossly inefficient…..yes, someone at Historical Landmarks thinks these antiquated systems are good for facades (are they blind, or do the rest of us agree window unit are HIDEOUS!) but they are wrong, wrong, wrong. Units that go through the wall can be better, or best is a central system for efficiency. Thermostats timed to reduce useage when not at home can make a huge difference too.
2) Soon the cost benefits of Solar and wind generated systems will become meaningful. Already SOLAR GLASS is on the horizon: Imagine replacing all the glass in a building so that it generates about 50% of the electrical consumption? Yes the costs to do this will be high, but what is the cost of air quality that is so foul it kills us? What is the cost of treating lung cancer or asthma?
3) Replace incandescent lightbulbs with LED lightbulbs: yes, they are expensive to buy, but in Manhattan lots of us can afford this, and the longterm benefits are huge. They last 25,000 to 50,000 hours while regular incandescent bulbs last 1,000-2,000 hours. We don’t want to even mention fluorescent bulbs because they emit a vile quality of light, although for utility closets or laundry rooms they are super-efficient and with a decent tint, somewhat acceptable for humans. Regular fluorescent makes humans look ugly and we should boycott them in living spaces.
4) As electrical vehicles hit the streets, our needs for more electricity will rise rapidly: we had better be prepared before the next ‘brown outs’….. We have clean nuclear, wind, solar, gas, etc: lets use it wisely.
5) Insulation: properly insulated windows are a huge energy saver. New York real estate is notorious for cheap, bad windows: its time to replace them and insulate them properly when installed. Additional insulation throughout apartments can double energy savings. Anything that is leaky or drafty is no longer charming: it is damaging.
6) Use what you need when you need it: leaving a host of appliances running while away or not in use consume electricity: new technology will help you manage this better, but simple fixes are easy too. Un-plug that appliance with the bright green light that runs regardless of whether its being used!
7) New construction that ignores green building technology will probably sell for less than those developed by smart developers who see that energy efficiency is not only good common sense, but also REALLY GOOD BUSINESS.
In New York we do have the wealth advantage: remember, its not about the cost of money, its about the cost to our health and the health of future generations. Big buildings are much more energy efficient than individual suburban homes, so in that regard we are ahead of the game, but many older buildings, or cheaply constructed buildings have to do their part. Stop talking, and start doing. LEONARD STEINBERG
Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
Warren Buffet’s thank you note in the op-ed piece of this morning’s New York Times, prompted us to write our own letter. While not a thank you note, it does infer gratitude of sorts:
Dear Uncle Sam:
We second most of the points made by Mr. Buffet, but would like to add a few of our own:
1) The Fed needs to understand that just like in real estate land, its time to start thinking LOCAL: $ 250,000/year in New York City is not the same income as in Little Rock, Arkansas. Government needs to acknowledge this in the laws it passes, especially taxation laws. Rich is different to-day.
2) Banks need to lend money to make the economy grow. They should be monitored to prevent reckless behaviour. But the monitoring should not be absurd and counter-productive. It should be rational and smart.
3) Taking away the mortgage tax credit/deduction will hurt the real estate industry more and further deflate the market. We all agree that lower housing pricing will hurt everyone, including tax coffers.
4) Large Cities, such as New York City, contribute HUGE amounts of federal tax dollars: don’t discount our opinions or needs so easily. Don’t forget that of every dollar we send to you, we only get to see about 80 cents: that’s not fair. So if we are being treated fiscally unfairly, at least treat us with respect elsewhere.
5) Stop fighting: We are sick and tired of paying your salaries when all you care about is re-election and your benefits. Start thinking practically and act more independently. Start quickly before we encourage our Mayor Bloomberg to start a THIRD PARTY, at which point you will be forced to do so.
Monday, November 15th, 2010
I just returned from a Real Estate Conference that addressed the future, existing technology, and new technology, and how all this will impact our lives as real estate brokers. About 500 people attended. So here I am blogging….
The most annoying aspect of this conference was the strong encouragement of that recent phenomenon called TWITTER. All of the (highly educated and successful) speakers proposed, encouraged, insisted that TWEETING was a critically important tool in becoming successful or remaining successful in the real estate industry.
My question, that I dared not ask: Who on earth would care about what I am TWEETING? Does anyone really care that I just ate breakfast, got stuck in traffic, saw a great penthouse, had a problem at a closing, noticed too much Botox and filler amongst my peers (have you noticed the Madonna-esque FAT-FACE growing in popularity?), etc, etc. Who cares? Who wants to know this useless information? How would any of this help or inform someone of something useful? And who would buy or sell very expensive real estate because of my observations and reportage?
I know I probably sound really, really old, but I don’t care. It’s official: I HATE Twitter. I HATE Facebook. They are the digital DIY versions of reality TV, and quite frankly, if I am not as interesting as Trash-tart Snooki, The Kardashian’s or Desperate Danielle Staub (and hope I never will be), I feel certain the world does not need to know the ‘real’ intimacies/tweet nothings of my New York real estate brokerage life 24/7!
And if you question my intentions as I blog this rant, at least reading this opinion is entirely voluntary. Leonard Steinberg
Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
The elusive $ 10,000/square foot price has been reached in Manhattan with the sale of the Zeckendorf’s penthouse at 15 Central Park West. The $ 40million sale of their penthouse marks a turning point in the history of New York real estate pricing.
“We have by-passed The Gilded Age, and entered THE PLATINUM AGE,” says Leonard Steinberg, managing director of Prudential Douglas Elliman and publisher of LUXURYLETTER, the authority on luxury New York real estate.
The sale of this penthouse at $ 10,259.00/sf marks a new milestone in pricing. 15 Central Park West has broken all records, delivering the pre-war look with new construction advantages craved by so many buyers: it’s magnificent Limestone facade and larger windows framing superb Central Park views combined with an incredible package of services and amenities has huge appeal to the ultra-wealthy seeking the combination of status as well as safety.
On US standards, this pricing is historic, but then we are in historic times: Translate this price into Euro’s and the picture is quite different. On international standards, this pricing is still on the lower side when compared to other major cities, especially London, where super-prime real estate sells for considerably more than this.
This pricing sets a new bar for luxury real estate in Manhattan: it is a result of inventory shortages of the ‘best of the best’. And this won’t change quickly with the current slump in construction. Quality new inventory is at least 3 years away, the perfect environment to fuel even more impressive price gains on trophy properties.
Does this sale fuel the argument that the divide between the super-rich and everyone else will continue to grow?
Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
Two trends emerged in this weeks art auctions that are a reflection of the luxury buyer: Firstly, the bulk of ‘big-bucks-buyers’ were from foreign lands (obviously using foreign currencies to capitalize on the weak dollar). The reality is the big new money is being made in many countries besides the USA. The second trend is a flight to safety: the big ticket buyers wanted safety and focused their attention on the most obvious, safe-bet buys.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the contemporary-art market’s fizz these days has been largely driven by sales of Pop classics by Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and others. Pop’s cheery colors and reassuringly familiar objects such as crumbly pies and red lobsters appeal to jet-setting bidders who want to buy art again but aren’t ready to stretch for edgy unknowns.
Overall, Sotheby’s Pop works helped boost its $222.4 million total above the house’s own $214.4 million high expectations. Sotheby’s helped financier Ron Perelman sell Lichtenstein’s “Still Life with Lobster” from 1972 to a European telephone bidder for $5.9 million, over its $5 million low estimate. Lichtenstein’s frothy blue “Ice Cream Soda” from 1962 also sold for $14 million, just over its $12 million low estimate.
Collectors seemed chipper as well, with real-estate developer Aby Rosen packing into the auction house’s Manhattan salesroom alongside former super-agent Michael Ovitz; newsprint magnate Peter Brant and his wife, model Stephanie Seymour; and designer Valentino Garavani, who won an untitled Joan Mitchell abstract for $2.2 million.
But the sale relied heavily on faraway collectors to pick up its priciest pieces, including examples by boom-era favorites Mark Rothko and Francis Bacon. An Asian telephone bidder paid $22.4 million for a lemony, untitled Rothko from 1955 that was being sold by architect Graham Gund. Sotheby’s London-based expert Oliver Barker also fielded the $14 million winning telephone bid for Bacon’s orange-and-blue “Figure in Movement,” which was priced to sell for up to $10 million with fees. (Sale prices include the auction house’s commission, which estimate prices omit.)
These trends are reflected in the real estate market too, where wealthy foreign buyers are fueling a notable rise in activity, buying the best quality properties around the city. Luxuryletter reported strong activity in the month of October.