In January of 2003, I co-founded Metro International Investments with Mark J. Moldoff, a 4-decade veteran of the real estate development & brokerage industries. For the past 5 years, I have benefited from his experience and his mentorship and I finally got him to start writing his own column on our company website, http://mii.miami. He was nice enough to publish this while I was just beginning my recovery from spinal surgery, and unfortunately, I was unable to do much of anything, so I had to publish it a bit late.
It is my hope that others can benefit from his perspective, and I am sure as time goes on that he will publish many more articles covering best practices, education, and the real estate industry at large. Mark’s specialization is Off Market Commercial Real Estate.
As expected, the Miami Beaches continue to correct and listing volume continues to increase as more homeowners default on their mortgages and new construction projects complete, leading to the seemingly inevitable listing of many beautiful, yet vastly overpriced new construction units. It should be noted that the media has finally jumped on the notion that not all is as perfect with the housing market, as so many seem to still often assume (simply because it, after all, is Miami Beach), as developers are either scrapping projects and selling their land or racing to complete their projects before the financial institutions backing them lose their confidence and pull funding (I still think it is still a bit premature for that to occur).
My June article is overdue, but my business in distressed assets has been growing rapidly, thus delaying me from making the time to publishing my data. Fortunately the real estate business, as opposed to the stock market, moves like an air craft carrier; and the trends we have been seeing for more than 18 months continue to play out as expected.
I have already collected & uploaded my July data, and the June distressed data…so I will be brief in my commentary in this article as there is MUCH to be said in my forthcoming articles. Tomorrow I will collect the August data and aspire to have that out in a more timely manner.
Market Activity & Neighborhood Reports by Zip Code for the Miami Beaches
33139 – South Beach
Median Est. Home Value: $391K, Up 1.1%; Median Est. Listing Price: $279K, Up 5.3%; Median Days in RPR: 120 Up 5.3%; Sales Volume: 104, Down –33.8%
MLS Sales Volume is at a 3 year low. Listing Volume is at a 3 year high.
Overall, Median Estimated Home Values & Median Estimated Listing Prices continue to climb; but as they do, Sales Volume continues to plummet, homes are on the market for longer periods of time, and listing inventory continues to build to new highs.
I do not necessarily concern myself with whether the market is going up or down. In my profession, the experienced professional realizes that people will always need a place to live; and regardless of economic conditions, there will be Buyers and Sellers.
I do however feel as though we are at a precipice. On one hand, assuming the Federal Reserve does raise interest rates, it will absolutely crush asset values. It has been argued by some economists that we cannot raise interest rates (much) without forcing the US Government to default on it’s loans; and this is true. Recently an economic paper was floated by one of the Federal Reserve board members regarding a call for additional “quantitative easing”, which is a very fancy phrase for “Printing More Money”. Assuming this were to occur, it would have extraordinary ramifications on our economy; and as far as the housing market is concerned, it will drive assets (in terms of US Dollars) through the roof, however, that will not be because of an increase in real value, it will be because of inflation and a loss of the Dollar’s purchasing power.
Regardless of who becomes President, they will have a huge task ahead of them if this country has any hope of “normalizing” the asset markets and bringing fiscal responsibility back to the forefront of our government’s responsibilities. We live in interesting times, and I am betting they (the Federal Reserve) will do another “quantitative easing”. My recommendation is to buy a home, or investment(s) you can comfortably hold, and/or buy Silver and/or Gold. More money printing will absolutely erode the value of the Dollar and hard assets are your best, legal, inflation hedge against a loss of purchasing power in the Dollar.
The Miami Beaches Market Pulse – April 2016 versus April 2015
It is a beautiful Saturday morning on the Miami Beaches as I write this blog post, which is a month overdue. In my previous articles, particularly the February & March Market Pulse editions, I expounded upon existing & potential threats to the Miami Beaches Real Estate Markets (February), and I demonstrated 1st quarter sales volumes for the first quarter of the past 17 years according to tax records on the Miami Beaches.
Yes, it is true that existing home sales have taken a beating over the past two years with only a moderate drop in Median Sales Prices, but this has been due, largely, to 1) New Construction / Pre-Construction Sales (which are generally non-MLS sales) and 2) The falling in value of virtually every currency in the world relative to the US Dollar. I am sure that the talking heads may also cite “political uncertainty” ahead of what is perhaps one of the most unique election cycles in more than 100 years; but I have yet to see an authoritative poll indicating such.
I will be more brief than usual and simply publish the April 2016 versus April 2015 MLS data (and May’s is next) this month as I am winding up for an extensive 2-part edition for June 2016 where I will cover the first half of the year compared to prior years (should I go all the way back to 2000 like I did in March? Comments? ), and publish a separate, but related issue covering the Distressed Property Market. Look for these in early to mid-July!
Market Activity & Neighborhood Reports by Zip Code for the Miami Beaches
33139 – South Beach
Median Est. Home Value: $391K, Up 0.2%; Median Est. Listing Price: $275K, Up 1.9%; Median Days in RPR: 120 Up –; Sales Volume: 72, Down –55.6%
MLS Sales Volume is at a 3 year low. Listing Volume is at a 3 year high.
Summary & Conclusion
In all 5 zip codes, MLS Sales Volume is abysmal and at a 3 year low, while listing volume is at a 3 year high. What we are seeing (or a good part of it), is new construction (as much as 10-15% of units in each new building) are being listed / flipped on to the market by the original Buyers, thus raising the Median Estimated Home Value calculation AND the Median Estimated Listing Price. I have noticed older units (Existing Homes greater than 1-2 years old), prices have been dropping on a per square foot basis, which explains the reduced time on market for MLS listed properties. However, listing volume continues to increase monthly, and in order for the market to come into equilibrium, prices must come down, OR, the US Dollar needs to weaken against foreign currencies sufficiently enough in order to spur sales of existing homes and thus reverse the upward trend in listing volume and the downward trend in sales volume.
If you are planning on making a purchase that is 500,000 USD or more, I would recommend Bal Harbour. It is a thriving and affluent community with great long-term prospects in terms of resilience of home values. If you are planning a purchase of home and looking to invest less than $500,000USD, I recommend the 33141 zip code, North Bay Village and North Beach, where I have been seeing some fantastic values / “bang for the buck” (and location); AND condos are selling in some cases for less than what it would cost to construct new. It is definitely a good time to be buying in this emerging area while it is on the cheap!
This concludes my April Edition of the Miami Beaches Market Pulse. I will publish May’s results AND year-over-year-over-year comparisons this forthcoming week.
The Miami Beaches Market Pulse – February 2016 versus February 2015
Welcome to this month’s edition of the Miami Beaches Market Pulse! I apologize for the delay, as it was my original intention to publish the January results circa the middle of February, however, recent business did not allow for the time and concentration required to perform a reasonably decent analysis; and THEN I seemed to have lost all the data files for the month of January!
Recent evidence suggests that the 16+ month long market correction on the beach has even impacted the luxury market. I witnessed & read an article in February where the both famous & beautiful Anna Kournikova sold her Miami home for a tremendous 2 million under ask price! See Details of this here! Even the famous “Jills” (arguably the de facto sales associates for the rich & famous) are feeling the pain (from a “typical” commission of 3-6% perspective) of a $60,000-$120,000 dollar “loss” in projected commission revenue! This saddens me, of course, as every Realtor® wants to be participating in a thriving market and given the usual Co-Broker nature of the business we generally all want to see each other succeed and make more money. They are great agents with an excellent reputation, so if you choose not to use me, I would definitely look into using them for your luxury residential real estate needs.
Over the past month I have been speaking to a number of experienced real estate investors and brokers. The general consensus is that a larger dip in the real estate market is forthcoming after the election. I will not, at this point venture to guess the future as I am a data driven individual; however, I do see certain underlying, and as-of-yet, unquantifiable threats to the residential real estate market. These “threats” are, admittedly, in one respect, conjecture; only because none of us are omnipotent, but the possibilities are significant enough to, at the very least, justify maintaining a watchful eye and remain cautiously optimistic at best. In this issue I begin with the usual publication of the comparative numbers (February 2016 versus February 2015) by zip code, and provide commentary. Then I go into what I perceive to be the top 4 threats to the South Florida Real Estate Market, something I should have probably expounded upon some time ago.
Reports by Zip Code
33139 – South Beach
Median Est. Home Value: $385K, Up 0.3%; Median Est. Listing Price: $275K, Up 1.8%; Median Days in RPR: 117, Down –7.1%; Sales Volume: 80, Down –27.3%
As I published in the December Report, I saw the market, specifically in Bal Harbour, showing signs that the Beaches were reaching an inflection point. It does not surprise me that the downward trend in the data has been leveling off, after all, how low can it go? This is Miami Beach! However, let us keep in mind that the data you are seeing is suggesting that Sales Volume (for MLS related sales only) is down 27% year over year, and it is currently at a 3 year low. Last year, this number was showing a drop (from 2014 year over year) as well, into the -30-50% range. This indicates the Market Sales Volume is actually off by as much as 75% when compared to the Sales Volumes of the years 2013 & 2014. The long and short of it is: yes, we are seeing an uptick; but to get back to normal conditions we need to see a sustained surge in transactions on existing home sales, which is the benchmark for home valuations. Valuations being supported at lower volume, to me, indicates weakness in the market and market vulnerability to surges in new inventory. Current Listing Volume (see the Neighborhood report for this) has passed the 3000 mark, a 3 year high. So we have the most supply in three years, and the least demand in three years. For sure, I believe prices are susceptible to further correction, especially if any of the “threats” I discuss later in this article begin to weigh on the market more heavily than they already have.
33140 – North Beach
Median Est. Home Value: $484K, Up 5.3%; Median Est. Listing Price: $426K, Up 20.9%; Median Days in RPR: 114, Down –20.3%; Sales Volume: 35, Down –41.7%
Following suit with 33139, Sales Volume for 33140 is down a whopping 41.7%, a 3 year low; and Listing Volume is at nearly 1500, a 3 year high! I do not think much commentary is needed given my commentary for 33139. We are certainly seeing an uptick, which arguably could be seasonal, or due to an influx of retirees etc. One thing remains certain, the market is nowhere near it’s recent “healthiest” which we saw in 2013 & 2014.
33141 – North Bay Village
Median Est. Home Value: $270K, Up 9.8%; Median Est. Listing Price: $245K, Up 1.7%; Median Days in RPR: 101 Down –17.2%; Sales Volume: 35, Down –66.7%
I stand by my comments regarding this area from my December analysis; this area, I believe, has the greatest potential for long-term gains. It is ideally situated, and a wonderful town to live in. It is also the most affordable housing in the Miami Beaches by far.
Following suit (I rarely repeat myself as a practice of good writing, but I have a feeling I will be saying that statement another two times in this article; and I cannot understate, therefore must emphasize, the market action of the past 16 months plus), 33141’s Existing Home Sales Volume for MLS listed homes is off by a massive 66.7%. Considering that is circa how much it was off this time last year as well, it means the sales volume is off by as much as 80-85% versus the 2013 & 2014 numbers. The Realtors in the area must be hurting! Sales Volume is currently at 35, a 3 year low, and Listing Volume is over 1500, a 3 year high!
This begs the question why so many people, when they find out I am in real estate, say “Oh, you must be doing great then!”. It is truly amazing how long the sentiment created by the bounce of 2010 into 2013/2014 is lasting; and I find it surprising how many are simply unaware of the more-than-a-year-long correction in the Real Estate Market…even other agents & brokers (surely they have to notice they are not making as much money?!). The fact is that my real “bread & butter” is commercial real estate. I practice in residential real estate because I truly enjoy it; and residential Realtors® throw parties! Nothing like a good Broker’s Open House 🙂
33154 – Bal Harbour
Median Est. Home Value: $665K, Up 22%; Median Est. Listing Price: $469K, Up – (flat); Median Days in RPR: 119, Down –7.8%; Sales Volume 31, Down –44.6%
Incredibly, the Median Estimated Home Value is up a tremendous 22% year over year. How this is possible against the backdrop of a market correction evades me (for right now). I am going to call my reporting company and see if they can tell me how they are calculating Median Estimated Home Values. As of right now, I do not know; but I will. Regardless of this, the same thing holds true in Bal Harbour as it does on the previously reported zip codes. Sales Volume is at a 3 year low (down by 44.6% year over year) and Listing Volume is at a 3 year high with just under 900 units currently listed on MLS.
33160 – Sunny Isles Beach
Median Est. Home Value: $345K, Down –0.3%; Median Est. Listing Price: $285K, Up 10%; Median Days in RPR: 115, Down –11.5%; Sales Volume: 132: Up 11.9%
Sunny Isles Beach is where I call home. Surprisingly, Sunny Isles Beach has bucked the trend of the rest of the zip codes on Miami Beach! Sales Volume is actually up, a first in more than a year of looking at these specific reports. I believe this may be due to something unusual skewing the data, such as Pre-Constructions and unsold New Constructions being listed on MLS, and therefore when the sales of these new projects ultimately close, they get logged. Most pre-constructions and new constructions are never listed on MLS as they are typically absorbed by the market via the Builder’s own sales office.
Listing Volume is at a 3 year high, and Sales Volume, while not at a 3 year low, is close to the 3 year low. Median Sales Price has spiked, markedly from the low 200Ks to the high 700K range. This tells me that one or more VERY expensive properties sold this past month. Regarding Sales Volume, please keep in mind that most of last year (you can check my May 2015 report and others) regularly demonstrated, month after month. Sales Volume being off by 50+% every month year over year. While this spike in activity is encouraging, as I said before, we will need to see a sustained surge in market activity before anyone can begin declaring the market correction is over.
Lastly, I do not believe that Home Values have truly begun to reflect the market correction. When I find more on how this is being calculated, I will update this article further and, with any luck, have something cogent to share regarding Home Values respective of actual market activity.
Potential Market Threats
First and foremost in my mind is the result of the appreciation of the US Dollar against virtually every other currency in the world; and in many respects, currency appreciation is a good thing (unless you are and exporter or producing goods to sell abroad, which equates to your goods & services being more expensive than similar goods and services produced in a nation with a weaker currency). However, after the mortgage crisis, foreigners “ran towards the blast” (Peter Schiff, Las Vegas Money Show Lecture – 2013). As a result of this substantial foreign direct investment, our currency has been enjoying a “propping up” effect. I will explain further but for a really good (and funny) analysis, I recommend clicking the Money Show Link above. I do believe that this recent boost in the dollar is temporary as our increasingly socialist policies have put the Dollar in a downtrend starting as far back as the 1960s. Here is a long-term chart of the US Dollar:
Several years ago there was a deluge of foreign direct investment into the United States (especially in South Florida) as foreign nationals sought to:
1) take advantage of the distressed asset market which was the result of the 2008-2010 mortgage crisis,
2) expatriate capital from more socialist countries where the government risk to their capital is greater (reference the austerity measures in Cypress, where nearly every wealthy citizen with more than 100,000 USD equivalent on deposit in the country saw an overnight, and substantial, haircut out of their bank accounts), and escape ludicrously abusive tax policies to fund their extraordinary entitlement programs,
3) gain permanent resident status (“Green Card”) via the United States EB5 program (or other methods) by investing substantial (at the time, 500K and 1M dollar investments) amounts of capital into the United States.
Threat #1 – Currency Risk: In many cases, international financing was used, typically 50% equity & 50% financing. When this occurred (for example purposes we will use a Canadian citizen using Canadian Dollars), the Canadian Dollar was par with the US Dollar (meaning one US Dollar was equal in value to one Canadian Dollar. This has changed significantly over the past couple of years. Now, the Canadian Dollar is approximately one half the value of the US Dollar. Understand that US Dollars were borrowed, and now it takes nearly 2 times the number of Canadian Dollars to pay for each US Dollar that was borrowed. In this non-fiction example, the drop in commodities prices, specifically oil, has crushed the Canadian Dollar versus the US Dollar over the past several years.
The example is +/- true & valid with numerous currencies throughout the world, such as the Russian Ruble (right, which “fell out of bed” in late
2014 into early 2015), Brazilian Real (right, major political upheaval in progress as a decade plus of corruption and embezzlement is being exposed AND the fall in commodity prices, especially sugar, has weighed substantially on their currency, which has also moved into double digit inflation!), the Argentinian Peso (below, where long standing socialist policies have made the currency virtually worthless), and the Venezuelan Bolivar (below, whose chart clearly demonstrates the effects of communism).
To make matters potentially darker, these international loans have a 3-7 year lifespan. They are NOT 30 year mortgages! At the very least, even if only 5% of all international borrowers get
hammered by the result of the Currency Risk they are now getting burned by, we are still looking at thousands of distressed assets flowing onto the marketplace nationwide; especially here in Southeast Florida, which has rapidly grown into a top international destination that has attracted billions of dollars in foreign direct investment!
I should note that my firm’s best opportunities & customers are Argentinian and Venezuelan groups who are, for lack of a more accurate term, “Crowd Funding”, and bringing large amounts of capital into the United States. These investors are doing everything they can to expatriate money from their home nations and invest in the United States; which begs the question in our own political forum; “If Socialism works so well, why are so many people trying to come to the United States to escape it?”. It should be obvious in the charts that socialism is not healthy for a nation’s currency. This leads me to my next “threat”.
Threat #2 – Our Government: The Democratic Party candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have either stated (Bernie) or all but stated (Hillary), they wish to lead our nation down the same path (to ruin it would appear). This year is an election year, and I believe that the United States is at a precipice, and never before has an election carried such weight on both the near and far future of our economy; and socio-economic stability. These two candidates wish to create and expand entitlement programs, to be fueled by greater taxation and use of our nation’s printing press. Members of the Democratic Party and Congressmen have floated ideas on doing away with your ability, as a homeowner, to deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage from your taxable income. To do away with it entirely would be catastrophic to average households throughout the United States! Others have suggested “modifying” it further than it already has been; and in my experience the government has a short-sighted habit of throwing boulders into a lake not realizing the tsunami it creates at the other side of that proverbial lake.
Consider this, a $200,000 home at 4%, on the first year of purchase, would allow you to deduct $8,000 from your taxable income; and this benefit allows you to essentially save $2,000 on your tax bill if you are in the 25% tax bracket (making between 37,650 and 91,150 if you are a single filer. See picture for more detail below). These two politicians would have you believe that the US Economy is recovering due to the policies their party supports; however, data suggests otherwise. Money Magazine published an article in September 2015 entitled “Typical American Family Earned $53,657 Last Year”. It is good reading and can certainly help put things into perspective, especially when evaluating how, if we should see yet another Democratic Party Candidate ascend to the Presidency, home values & net incomes may be effected.
This equates to about 3-5% of total gross income FOR THE YEAR for the average tax paying citizen! That $2,000 is extremely important to many American families; and even if it is not (for some), it has a wide array of better uses than in the Federal Government’s hands! This is money that can be invested (for college, retirement etc), or can be spent on goods & services, thus further fueling our economy and increasing our economy’s Velocity of Money, which today is abysmally and historically low (see chart from 1959 until end of 2015 below):
The Democrats/Liberals/Progressives/Socialists (all synonyms) claim that the 100+ Billion dollars that would be generated in tax revenues by eliminating deductions for the “rich” could be used to reduce the national debt, and they are correct; those revenues could be used in such a manner. However, all of them have been pontificating about expanding entitlements and creating new ones. In my view, should they move ahead with further reforms, they will find new and interesting ways of squandering our nation’s (your) wealth. In addition, once you start taking money away from the “rich”, a better term for them would be “The Employer Class”, they (the “rich”) begin to pull back (i.e: they start firing people and cutting expenses and limiting new investments which create jobs), and so goes the cascading tsunami across the lake (borrowing from my previous analogy). Furthermore, according to the National Association of Realtors, home values would see upwards of a 15% decline, on average, throughout the country if this is done away with.
Lastly, these candidates have a “print more money” policy, as if this does not have consequences. Every nation in the world has begun hedging away from the US Dollar as it is nearly obvious to anyone with a reasonable amount of education that The Dollar’s status as a Reserve Currency is in serious jeopardy. The media deliberately does not put this in front of you, but the fact remains you can only print money for so long before it becomes valueless. If the United States continues on this path, it will eventually find itself (sooner than later many reputed economists believe) in the midst of a Currency Crisis. To explain this; if I had a way of turning all the sand of Florida’s beaches into gold, how valuable would gold be? I conclude “Threat #2” with the chart below which depicts the United States Money Supply.
Threat #3 – New Construction & Glut of New Inventory
Last summer I read an article in the Miami Herald. It is entitled: At least a dozen new South Florida condo projects in limbo amid changing market conditions. I have been hearing rumblings that pre-sales have slowed, and while it could be the market pulling back to do some digesting, it could also be the “inflection point” they mention in the last paragraph of the article; meaning we have possibly seen the peak of this real estate cycle. In either case, we have many thousands of new units on hand in inventory, and should it be the end of the most recent boom in the market, developers will rush to finish their projects as fast as possible and dump the new inventory on the market. If we are not at the end of the boom, we have already seen over 3000 new units come online, over 10,000 more currently being built, and a projected 28,000 in the planning stages. Should all of these come online, it will only put further pressure on the existing home sales, and in my opinion, drive prices down as listing volume rises and sales volume continues to plummet due to already deteriorating global macroeconomic fundamentals.
Threat #4 – The Weather
I believe I am stating the obvious here, however, it is worth mentioning as it is a factor. It has been over 10 years since the last major hurricane struck South Florida. In that time tens of thousands of people from all over the nation, and the world, have moved here to make Florida their home. I was here during the 2000s, and I can tell you that after Hurricane Wilma (October 2005), the entire South Florida Real Estate Market completely stalled, as the shock and awe of the event set in to the population. I am fairly confident that a strong Category 2, to (God forbid) a Category 5 hurricane making landfall between Homestead, FL and West Palm Beach, FL would create a rush to sell in this region as there are many people who will be panicked after such an event, and currently cannot comprehend the vast power of one of these storms. Following such a storm, they will strongly reconsider their wanting to live in a place where such a beast is possible. While I hope the current pattern holds and these storms continue to remain out at sea, we are fast approaching Hurricane Season 2016 (beginning in June).
That concludes my analysis for this month. If you have any questions, comments, feedback or would like to explore purchasing a home; give me a call any time. Keep in mind you can always use http://REBroker.Miami to browse Homes for Sale and For Rent on the Miami Association of Realtors MLS.
Over the past several months I have been working diligently on collecting information to publish my usual quarterly Miami Beach Market Pulse Updates. I had even began a year end wrap up article; however, business has been extraordinarily hectic, and the additional load of having to oversee the build of an MLS enabled website(s) has consumed much of my time!
I will be publishing the December 2015 versus December 2014 and January 2016 versus January 2015 data comparisons over the next week (because if I do not, the tasks will have to wait until I come back from a business trip to New York City).
January 2016 passed as quickly as a speedboat cruising by a paddle board! As we all hustle into making 2016 as successful as we can, let us not forget how blessed we are to live in such a beautiful place and take the time to soak it all in from time to time!