Migration to Florida has been supercharged during the coronavirus pandemic as remote working, fewer taxes, less violence, cheaper living, and minimal virus restrictions enticed people from big Northeast metro areas to the Sunshine State.
Migration to Florida has been supercharged during the coronavirus pandemic as remote working, fewer taxes, less violence, cheaper living, and minimal virus restrictions enticed people from big Northeast metro areas to the Sunshine State.
In 2019, a small group of enormous real estate deals, while bearing little relationship to the overall market, had an outsize impact on the national conversation about wealth inequality and the rapidly expanding billionaire class.
A boom in ultrahigh priced deals in Palm Beach this year, including the $111 million sale of an oceanfront estate, raised questions about the number of wealthy New Yorkers fleeing to Florida in response to a 2017 change in federal tax law. A string of $100 million-plus deals completed in Los Angeles put the spotlight on high-end real estate on the West Coast.
Hedge-fund manager Ken Griffin’s roughly $238 million purchase of a New York penthouse, which set a price record for the nation, bolstered the arguments of legislators who support additional property taxes for the super rich.
These megadeals don’t necessarily speak to a broad surge in real estate values. In general, the U.S. luxury real-estate market faced a slowdown in 2019, thanks to oversupply in certain markets, tax changes and a general decline in foreign purchasers.
Read on for a closer look at the top 10 deals of the year, a record six of which topped $100 million, according to research by The Wall Street Journal and appraiser Jonathan Miller. Mr. Miller said he believes the previous record was three $100 million-plus deals, achieved in both 2014 and 2016.
1. 220 Central Park South, New York
Price: Roughly $238 million
Mr. Griffin’s purchase of the roughly 24,000-square-foot Billionaires’ Row apartment “came to personify the issue of income inequality for many people,” said luxury agent Jason Haber of Warburg Realty of the deal. “Ken Griffin closed right when the legislature began their session. It was like throwing meat to the wolves.”
Soon after, the New York legislature expanded the so-called “mansion tax,” designed to target buyers of properties priced at $2 million or more, and increased property transfer taxes. The deal also helped reignite discussions around a pied-à-terre tax, which would tax multimillion-dollar second homes as a funding source for the city’s beleaguered subway system.
“It served as Exhibit A for why we should look at the possibility,” said Sen. Brad Hoylman, who sponsored the pied-à-terre tax bill.
The purchase was one of a string of record-breaking acquisitions by the billionaire in recent years In 2017, the Citadel founder bought several floors of a Chicago condominium for a record $58.75 million. He also bought a London home for about $122 million, and a piece of land in Florida for $99.1 million (see below).
To some extent, Mr. Griffin’s spending spree has made him a central figure in the debate about wealth inequality in New York. “Anyone who can afford to pay for a $238 million apartment can afford to pay a little more off the top to make the city a better place for everyone,” Sen. Hoylman said. Mr. Griffin has rarely spoken publicly on the issue. At an event this year hosted by Bloomberg News, Mr. Griffin criticized presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren, saying he wished she spent more energy on education, rather than attacking “those of us who have been successful.”
The recently completed tower has quickly become New York’s new “it” building. Other buyers include musician Sting and hedge-fund executive Dan Och (see below).
Buyer’s agents: Tal Alexander and Oren Alexander of Douglas Elliman
Seller’s agent: Deborah Kern of the Corcoran Group
2. Chartwell, Los Angeles
Price: $150 Million
Lachlan Murdoch, co-chairman of News Corp., which owns Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, paid about $150 million for this Bel-Air estate in December, setting a record for the Los Angeles area, according to people familiar with the deal. Observers said it was the second-priciest sale ever recorded in the country for a single-family home.
While the price-tag was huge, the property was the latest in a line of homes to sell for a major discount to their original asking prices, marking the culmination of years of aggressive or arguably aspirational pricing for luxury homes across the country. The roughly 25,000-square-foot mansion came on the market in 2017 for $350 million, making it the most expensive listing in the nation at the time.
Designed by Sumner Spaulding around 1930, the property was owned by onetime Univision Chairman A. Jerrold Perenchio. It came with a Wallace Neff-designed five-bedroom guesthouse, a 75-foot pool, a tennis court and a car showroom with space for 40 vehicles. Mr. Murdoch didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Seller’s agents: Drew Fenton, Jeff Hyland and Gary Gold of Hilton & Hyland; Joyce Rey, Jade Mills and Alexandra Allen of Coldwell Banker Global Luxury; and Drew Gitlin and Susan Gitlin of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties.
Buyer’s agent: Drew Fenton of Hilton & Hyland.
3. Spelling Manor, Los Angeles
Price: $119.75 million
British Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone sold Spelling Manor, a sprawling estate built for the late television producer Aaron Spelling, this past summer for $119.75 million, records show. The buyer hailed from Saudi Arabia, according to people familiar with the deal.
The Holmby Hills property, designed in the style of a French château, is about 56,000 square feet, making it one of the largest private homes in the country. After Ms. Ecclestone bought it from Mr. Spelling’s widow, Candy Spelling, in 2011, she brought in more than 500 workers to do a three-month, multimillion-dollar renovation. The property has a two-lane bowling alley, a wine cellar, a beauty salon, a gym, tanning rooms and a tennis court.
The property is one of several significant Los Angeles area homes to have traded to buyers from the Middle East this year. In May, a Saudi buyer snapped up two neighboring Bel-Air properties for $52 million, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Seller’s agents: Kurt Rappaport and Daniel Dill of Westside Estate Agency; Jade Mills of Coldwell Banker Global Luxury and David Parnes and James Harris of the Agency.
Buyer’s agents: Jeff Hyland and Rick Hilton of Hilton & Hyland.
Read about the next seven featured properties by clicking on the article credit below…
Global real estate consultancy firm Knight Frank LLP has warned that the global synchronized decline in growth coupled with an escalating trade war has heavily weighed on luxury home prices in London, New York, and Hong Kong.
According to Knight Frank’s quarterly index of luxury homes across 46 major cities, prices expanded at an anemic 1.4% in 2Q19 YoY, could see further stagnation through 2H19.
Wealthy buyers pulled back on home buying in the quarter thanks to a global slowdown, trade war anxieties, higher taxes by governments, and restrictions on foreign purchases.
Mansion Global said Vancouver was the hottest real estate market on Knight Frank’s list when luxury home prices surged 30% in 2016, has since crashed to the bottom of the list amid increased taxes on foreign buyers. Vancouver luxury home prices plunged 13.6% in 2Q19 YoY.
Financial hubs like Manhattan and London fell last quarter to the bottom of the list as luxury home prices slid 3.7% and 4.9%, respectively.
Hong Kong recorded zero growth in the quarter thanks to a manufacturing slowdown in China, an escalating trade war, and protests across the city since late March.
However, European cities bucked the trend, recorded solid price growth in 2Q19 YoY, though the growth was muted when compared to 2017-18.
Berlin and Frankfurt were the only two cities out of the 46 to record double-digit price growth for luxury homes. Both cities benefited from a so-called catch-up trade because prices are lower compared to other European cities. Moscow is No. 3 on the list, saw luxury home prices jump 9.5% in 2Q19 YoY.
The downturn in luxury real estate worldwide comes as central banks are frantically dropping interest rates. The Federal Reserve cut rates 25bps for the first time since 2008 last month, along with Central banks in New Zealand, India and Thailand have all recently reduced rates.
The main takeaway from central banks easing points to a global downturn in growth, and resorting to sharp monetary policy action is the attempt to thwart a global recession that would ultimately correct luxury home prices.
“Sluggish economic growth explains the wave of interest rate cuts evident in the last three months as policymakers try to stimulate growth,” wrote Knight Frank in the report.
* * *
As for a composite of all global house prices, Refinitiv Datastream shows price trends started to weaken in 2018, and in some cases, completely reversed like in Australia.
House price growth for OECD countries shows the slowdown started in 2016, a similar move to the 2005 decline.
If it’s luxury real estate or less expensive homes, the trend in price has peaked and could reverse hard into the early 2020s.
Central banks are desperately lowering interest rates as the global economy turns down. Likely, the top is in, prepare for a bust cycle.
($150-million spec house, dubbed “Billionaire.” Perched above Bel Air, the four-story mansion offers a world of pure imagination within its walls.) It’s hard to overstate the opulence showcased in developer Bruce Makowsky’s
Jockeying for attention across 38,000 square feet are 12 bedrooms, 21 bathrooms, three kitchens, 130 artworks, a 40-seat movie theater, a $30-million fleet of exotic cars, two wine cellars stocked with Champagne, a four-lane bowling alley and a candy room filled with towering cylinders of sweets.
Image is everything when seeking nine figures for a single estate. What, then, happens when that image is allegedly tainted? That’s what a lawsuit filed by the self-assured, suede-jacket-wearing Makowsky against real estate company Zillow aims to find out.
Earlier this year, Zillow falsely showed that the mega-mansion sold for tens of millions less than its asking price. Makowsky sued for $60 million in damages, citing permanent harm to the property’s perception.
On April 19, Zillow filed to dismiss the suit, chiefly citing a section of the Communications Decency Act that protects web operators from being responsible for information published by its users. The hearing is set for June 24.
The sham began in February, when an unknown user with a Chinese IP address and fake phone number side-stepped Zillow’s security measures and toyed with the sale prices displayed on the mansion’s listing.
Zillow displays pages for roughly 110 million homes in the U.S., and it allows owners to go in and change information about their home when necessary. Usually, that means noting a recent remodel or added square footage that may affect a home’s value, but the feature also opens the door for false information.
On Feb. 4, Zillow showed that Makowsky’s home — which is on the market for $150 million — sold for $110 million. It never did. Over the course of the next week, the real estate site falsely reported sale prices of $90.54 million and $94.3 million, as well as a phantom open house that never took place.
Soon after, Makowsky’s attorney Ronald Richards pointed out the falsities to Zillow’s legal team in an email. After some back and forth, included in the lawsuit, Kim Nielson, senior lead counsel for Zillow Group, responded with this:
“Any home on our website can be claimed by the homeowner. There are a series of questions that must be answered, but if someone attempts to claim it enough times, they will know the questions asked (and be able to figure out what information they need to verify their identity).”
She added that not all claims are manually reviewed, which allowed the user to manipulate the listing details without proving their identity.
Later that month, a limited liability company owned by Makowsky filed the lawsuit seeking $60 million in damages. It claims that Zillow “admittedly published false information” and destroyed the property’s perception as an elite listing worth more than $100 million.
Makowsky himself has axed the price twice since bringing the spec house to market for $250 million two years ago. He most recently trimmed the tag to $150 million in January, saying that he was just trying to be realistic.
Taking aim at Zillow’s security process, the lawsuit alleges that Zillow has no safeguards in place to stop trolls or criminals from claiming a property and posting false information.
A spokeswoman for Zillow declined to comment on the pending litigation but stressed that it goes to great lengths to display current and accurate data on its website, which is largely sourced from public records.
The complaint also stresses Zillow’s market power. The website leads the real estate industry with an estimated 36 million unique monthly visitors, and Makowsky said multiple colleagues called to congratulate him on a sale that never happened.
But of those millions of monthly visitors to Zillow, few are searching for homes priced in the nine figures other than for aspirational reasons. Fewer have the actual means to afford it.
Only a handful of local L.A. residents, and a small market outside of that, have the ability to buy homes listed for north of $100 million. As of 2017, there were 680 billionaires in the U.S, according to the research firm Wealth-X, and about 2,750 worldwide.
Jerry Jolton, an agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, said three things need to come together to sell a home in the $100-million arena: luck, timing and the right client.
“We’re dealing with a very exclusive group of people who’ve attained such wealth,” he said.
Oftentimes, developers eye international wealth when floating a nine-digit listing. However, Jolton said foreign buyers account for only around 21% of L.A.-area homes sales over $20 million.
Beyond visitors to online listing services, Makowsky faces another challenge in his pursuit of a high-dollar deal: comparable sales in the tony Westside area.
Michael Sahakian, also with Coldwell Banker, sold the property that now holds Makowsky’s mansion back in the ’90s. While noting the estate’s opulence, he said its placement in East Gate Bel Air — one of the city’s most exclusive and pricey pockets — will make selling it a challenge.
Most homes there sell for around $2,000 to $3,000 per square foot. For context, Makowsky’s estate is on the market for $3,947 per square foot.
Still, because an acre of East Gate goes for around $20 million, it’s rare for a home larger than 30,000 square feet to go up for sale.
Makowsky, in his early 60s, made his fortune selling handbags on QVC before shifting to high-end real estate about eight years ago as the head of BAM Luxury Development Group.
His development brand is largely a reflection of his own extravagant interests and tastes; many of the lavish furnishings, finishes and other accouterments incorporated into his projects are sourced from his travels around the world. Custom furnishings produced by high-end brands such as Fendi, Bentley and Louis Vuitton often play an integral role in his homes.
Among his notable projects was a testosterone-infused showplace in Beverly Hills that featured a $200,000 sculpture of a giant blue hand grenade and a replica of James Dean’s motorcycle. Originally listed at $85 million, the 23,000-square-foot house sold in 2014 to Minecraft creator Markus Persson for $70 million.
No sooner did we report that the housing “recovery” over the last 10 years has skipped many “underwater” communities in the United States, than we found confirmation of the opposite: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is selling his Park Avenue apartment in Manhattan for three times the price that his aunt paid for it 18 years ago. He has listed the apartment for $32.5 million. His Aunt is listed as the broker on the sale.
The sale is happening at the same time that residents of numerous commuter towns across the United States have seen the values of their houses collapse to less than half of what they were in 2006, prior to the housing crisis.
Mnuchin recently listed the 6500 square-foot, 12 room apartment that he bought from his aunt in 2000. It was purchased then for just $10.5 million. It had been in his family since the 1960s and, when he turns around to list the property this time, he stands to net $22 million more than what he paid for it, if his asking price is met.
The apartment is being listed by Warburg Realty and is located inside of 740 Park Ave., inside the historic Rosario Candela building. Other famous former tenants of this building include the Rockefellers and the Kochs. Currently, Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of Blackstone Group, lives there. The building was developed by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ grandfather.
Other than that, it’s just your average ordinary run of the mill apartment on Park Avenue: five bedrooms, a wall wood paneled library, a wet bar, a formal dining room, a private elevator, 11 foot ceilings, marble floors and a sweeping spiraling staircase that still has its original banister.
The first floor of the apartment has six bathrooms and an 800 square-foot living room.
Upstairs, the apartment has a master suite, walk-in cupboards, study, two more bathrooms and three extra bedrooms. The apartment spans two levels in the building on both the eighth and the ninth floor and it also has a large kitchen with a “breakfast nook”.
While that all seems extremely glamorous, Mnuchin hasn’t even used this apartment as his main residence, reportedly. Mnuchin was living in California before his appointment to the Trump administration, but has since bought a $12.6 million apartment in Washington DC.
We’re glad to hear that Mnuchin was able to ride out the housing crisis successfully. We were worried about him for a moment.
The most expensive real-estate in America just became a little less expensive — with $1 billion in price cuts among America’s top listings over the past few months, according to a CNBC analysis.
The high-end real-estate market has seen steep price cuts in recent months as foreign buyers dry up, new tax laws bite the wealthiest states and sellers realize the market peak of 2014-2015 isn’t coming back anytime soon, luxury brokers say.
According to RedFin, the real-estate brokerage and research firm, fully 12 percent of homes listed for $10 million or more saw a price drop in 2018 — double the levels of 2016 and 2015. Just over 500 listings in the U.S. had a combined price cut of $1 billion in the second quarter, according to RedFin.
“Prices were growing too fast for what buyers were willing to pay,” said Taylor Marr, a senior economist at RedFin.
Some of the price cuts have reached tens of millions of dollars, according to the listing. The Ziff family estate in Manalapan Florida cut its price in May by $27 million, from $165 million to $138 million. That follows a previous price cut, from $195 million last year — so it’s price has dropped by $57 million over the past year.
A 10-bedroom mansion on Miami Beach’s posh Star Island cut its price by $17 million in May, from $65 million to $48 million. A giant apartment at New York’s Sherry Netherland had its price cut by $18 million, falling from $86 million to $68 million.
The cuts follow a spate of even bigger cuts earlier this year. The $250 million mansion in Bel Air California known as “The Billionaire” became America’s most expensive listing when it came onto the market for $250 million in 2017. In April, the price was cut by a massive $62 million, to $188 million.
Brokers representing the house said that unique homes like “The Billionaire” – which comes with a $30 million car collection, a giant outdoor TV that retracts from behind the pool, and elevators lined with crocodile skin – said the home is just finding its true market price.
“There is no comp for a house like this,” said Shawn Elliott, one of the brokers for “The Billionaire.” So the new price reflects the price offered by a recent potential buyer.
A spec home in Beverly Hills, called Opus, was listed in August of 2017 for $100 million, but the price was cut to $85 million a month later. Now the home, which once had a gold theme, has been re-styled in black in hopes of finding a buyer.
The late Johnny Carson’s estate in Malibu, Ca. saw its price drop by $16 million, to $65 million from $81 million. The house is being sold by fashion magnate and film producer Sidney Kimmel.
Even homes that see big price cuts are selling for less than their discounted prices. A 20,000 square-foot mansion in the Hamptons, once owned by fashion mogul Vince Camuto, was first listed in 2008 for $100 million. Its price got chopped to $72 million, and it sold this spring for around $50 million – half of its original listing price.
Even the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, has had to lower his asking price on his beach home in Laguna Beach. The home was listed in 2017 for $11 million, but he has slashed the price to $7.9 million. He’s still likely to make a big profit – he bought the home in the early 1970s for $150,000.
The reasons for the price drops are many. In some cases, the prices for the homes were fantasies. Sellers had irrational expectations or they were using the sky-high prices to attract attention to their properties. The luxury real-estate market has fallen since its peak in 2014 and 2015, and many sellers are finally adjusting to a different market.
Supply of homes at the high end is also high, especially for newer condos and spec homes in New York, Los Angeles and major metro areas.
“There could be an over-supply of these high-end homes,” Marr said.
The new federal tax law, which limits deductions of state and local taxes, is also putting pressure on real-estate in high-tax states. And foreign buyers, who were driving some of the highest-priced sales in 2014 and 2015, have pulled back. A stronger dollar has also made U.S. real-estate more expensive.
It’s unclear whether the price cuts signal an upcoming crash in the luxury market. Prices could simply adjust without a severe correction. But the size of the cuts suggest that many luxury listings have yet to find their sale prices.
“Price cuts can be a great leading indicator and give a forward-looking view,” Marr said. “But it’s too early to tell where it’s headed.”
One month ago, ZeroHedge said that “it is not looking good for the US housing market”, when in the latest red flag for the US luxury real estate market, they reported that sales in the Hamptons plunged by half and home prices fell sharply in the second quarter in the ultra-wealthy enclave, New York’s favorite weekend haunt for the 1%-ers.
Reuters blamed this on “stock market jitters earlier in the year” which damped the appetite to buy, however one can also blame the halt of offshore money laundering, a slowing global economy, the collapse of the petrodollar, and the drastic drop in Wall Street bonuses. In short: a sudden loss of confidence that a greater fool may emerge just around the corner, which in turn has frozen buyer interest.
A beachfront residence is seen in East Hampton, New York, March 16, 2016.
We concluded this is just the beginning, and sure enough, several weeks later a similar collapse in the luxury housing segment was reported in a different part of the country. As the Denver Post reported recently, high-end sales that fuel Aspen’s $2 billion-a-year real estate market are evaporating, pushing Pitkin County’s sales volume down more than 42 percent to $546.45 million for the first half of the year from $939.91 million in the same period of 2015.
The collapse in transactions means that Aspen’s high-end real estate market “one of the most robust in the country, with dozens of options for buyers ready to spend more than $10 million” finds itself in its first-ever sustained nosedive, despite “dense summer crowds, soaring sales tax revenues and high lodging occupancy.”
Like in the Hamptons, the question everyone is asking is “why”? There are many answers:
Ask a dozen market watchers why, and you’ll get a dozen answers. Uncertainty around the presidential election. Fear of Trump. Fear of Clinton. Growing trade imbalances with China. Brexit. Roller-coaster oil prices. Zika. Wobbling economies in South America. The list goes on.
“People are worried about all kinds of stuff these days,” says longtime Aspen broker Bob Ritchie. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
The speed of the collapse has been stunning. Until just last year, the local market was beyond robust, with Pitkin County real estate sales hitting $2 billion in 2015, a 33% annual increase driven largely by sales of homes in Aspen, where prices average $7.7 million.
This year, however, “a slowdown in January turned into a free fall.” Sales volume in Pitkin County is down 42%, according to data compiled by Land Title Guarantee Co.
Almost all of that decline is coming from Aspen, where the market is frozen. Sales in the Aspen-Snowmass market in the first half of the year were the bleakest since the first half of 2009, and inventory soared to levels not seen since the recession.
High-end sales that fuel Aspen’s $2 billion-a-year real estate market are evaporating
The statistics are stunning: single-family home sales in Aspen are down 62% in dollar volume through the first-half of the year. Sales of homes priced at $10 million or more — almost always paid for in cash — are down 60%. Last year, super-high-end transactions accounted for nearly a third of sales volume in Pitkin County.
“The high-end buyer has disappeared,” said Tim Estin, an Aspen broker whose Estin Report analyzes the Aspen-Snowmass real estate market.
“Aspen has never experienced such a sudden and precipitous drop in real estate sales,” according to the post.
Worse, it’s not just the collapse in the number of transaction: even more disconcerting for brokers who have always trumpeted Aspen as a safe and lucrative place to park a huge pile of money: Prices are dropping.
In the first half of this year, the average price per square foot of Aspen homes dropped 22 percent to $1,095 from $1,338 in 2015. Recent Aspen sales also closed at more than 15 percent below listing price, a rare discount.
Some brokers suspect that the frenzied sales and pricing pace of 2015 was not sustainable. The present decline is a correction, they say. “I think a lot of people thought we would go to the next level in 2016. Take the next step up and that step got resistance from buyers,” said longtime Aspen broker Joshua Saslove, who just put an Aspen home for more than $10 million under contract. If it closes, it will be just the fourth sale above $10 million in Aspen this year, compared with more than a dozen by this point last year.
“I think a lot of developers thought they would push their, say, $5 million properties to $6 million this year, but no one is buying,” Saslove said. “I don’t see that nonchalance or cavalier attitude any more.”
To be sure, Saslove is hoping that a rebound is coming; that however, may be overly optimistic and first far more pain is in store especially if one considers what is taking place in yet another formerly red-hot housing market, where suddenly things are just as bad, because as Mansion Global reports…
Luxury condo sales in Miami have crashed 44%.
According to the latest report by the Miami Association of Realtors, the local luxury housing market is just as bad, if not worse, than the Hamptons and Aspen.
The latest figures out of Miami this week showed residential sales are down almost 21% from the same time last year. But as bad as this double-digit decline may seem, it pales in comparison to what’s happening at the high end of the market.
A closer look at transactions for properties of $1 million or more in July shows just 73 single-family home sales, representing an annual decline of 31.8%, according to a new report by the Miami Association of Realtors. In the case of condos in the same price range, the number of closed sales fell by an even wider margin: 44.4%, to 45 transactions.
The Miami housing market, and its luxury segment in particular, has been softening for the past year with high-end condos sitting on the market for twice as long as they did a year ago and sellers offering bigger discounts amid an increased supply.
Number of closed sales for Miami condos priced over $1 million fell by 44%
In July, townhouses and condos of $1 million or more waited, on average, 162 days for a buyer, a 1.9% increase over a year ago and the longest time of any other price range, according to the report.
As in the previous two markets, the locals want something to blame, in this case the strong dollar, which has significantly increased the value of properties in other currencies, has been blamed, and perhaps rightfully so as sales to foreigners—an important client base, since international buyers acquire more homes in Florida than in any other state, according to the National Association of Realtors – have tumbled.
Real estate appraiser and data expert Jonathan Miller said that Miami is behaving like most of the rest of the U.S. housing market, which is in fairly good shape overall “but soft at the top.”
As noted here over the years, In the case of Miami, like in other most other coastal markets such as New York and Los Angeles, the housing boom was heavily boosted by foreign buyers, who used US luxury real estate as their new form of anonymous “offshore bank accounts” courtesy of the NAR’s exemption from Anti-Money Laundering Provisions. However, after the recent drops in commodity prices and the spike in the USD, they have scaled back their purchases.
“The international component is not as intense,” Mr. Miller said.
Depsite the slowdown deals are still being done, with cash the preferred form of payment of foreign buyers in the U.S., – some 43% of all sales in Miami in July were closed in cash, however down from 48.1% the same month last year, according to the latest figures.
Other potential buyers are also stepping back: cash sales for townhouses and condominiums, an indicator of investor activity, hit their lowest level in a year last month: 633 transactions, representing a 30.4% year-over-year decline, according to the report.
As for the forecast for the coming months, sales activity doesn’t look likely to surge. There were 1,272 pending sales of townhouses and condos in Miami in July, which means 25.4% fewer transactions waiting to close than in the same month in 2015 and the lowest number so far this year. Meanwhile, as a result of a building boom, luxury condo inventory is up 47.8% from last year, with 2,482 units worth $1 million or more waiting to change hands; this means that sellers of high-end condos will continue to face stiff competition, prompting even fewer transactions and/or lower prices.
So far, the collapse at the luxury end has failed to transmit to the broader market, less impacted by lack of foreign demand, however as we documented two weeks ago, it is only a matter of time before the overall US housing market suffers as well. The only question is whether the NAR and the US Census Bureau, who tabulate the “goal-seeked”, seasonally adjusted data, will admit it before or after the presidential elections. The likely answer: it depends on who the next president is.
Billionaire Steve Wynn finally found a buyer for his Bel-Air home when he dropped the asking price to $15.95 million, or $300,000 less than what he bought it for in 2014. (Redfin)
A cooling market for the most expensive homes is costing hotel and casino magnate Steve Wynn some money.
Two years ago, Wynn paid $16.25 million for an 11,000-square-foot mansion perched on nearly an acre above the Bel-Air Country Club. Less than a year later, he sought to unload the home with a paneled library and staff bedroom for $20 million.
No luck. Then he tried $17.45 million. No luck again.
In May, Wynn dropped his price to $15.95 million, $300,000 less than what he paid for the property in 2014. The home went into escrow “very close” to that price last month, said Coldwell Banker agent Mary Swanson, who confirmed Wynn would be taking a loss.
It’s not just Wynn who isn’t getting as much money as he hoped.
Even before Britain’s vote last week to leave the European Union jolted investors worldwide, there were reports of a slowdown in the ultra-luxury housing market.
In Los Angeles, agents were seeing more price cuts. Condo sales on New York’s Billionaires’ Row were slowing. Luxury developers shelved projects in Miami. And prices at the tip-top end of the London market were on their way down.
Blame it on the global economy, which has displayed weakness in the past year, choking off the spigot of international millionaires and billionaires seeking a pied-à-terre, or two, in glamorous locales.
So far, in Los Angeles, Wynn’s experience aside, the effect has been minimal, given the nature of Southern California ultra-luxury development – which largely consists of one dramatic hillside estate at a time, rather than a condo tower with multiple units.
But a spate of new construction is on the horizon. By one estimate, there are about 30 new hillside homes priced above $30 million that could hit the market in the next year and a half.
The so-called Brexit vote may not help matters. It has sown economic uncertainty on a global scale and caused the dollar to strengthen against major currencies – potentially leading international buyers to trim their purchases in the United States.
“The price of real estate here in California and the U.S. has gotten more expensive,” said Jordan Levine, an economist with the California Assn. of Realtors.
In Manhattan, the slowdown has taken a sharp toll. The number of previously owned homes that sold in the first quarter for $10 million or more fell 40% from a year earlier to 15, according to appraisal firm Miller Samuel.
One builder, Extell Development Co., trimmed $162 million in projected revenue from its One57 condo-and-hotel project, a 1,000-foot tower on Manhattan’s 57th Street originally slated to bring in $2.73 billion, according to a March regulatory filing.
It features more than 90 units, with several reportedly selling for more than $40 million and one bought by an investment group for about $90 million.
“More has been constructed in New York,” said Stephen Kotler, chief revenue officer of real estate brokerage Douglas Elliman. “You have some sellers [in Los Angeles] getting more realistic, but in New York you are seeing more.”
In Los Angeles County, by comparison, $10-million plus sales ticked up by one to 17 in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, according to the California Assn. of Realtors, whose data largely covers resale transactions.
But over a longer timeline, it appears the market has begun to stall. The number of sales of $10 million or more in L.A. County has dipped in three of the last five quarters for which data is available, even as inventory has steadily grown, according to the Realtors group.
And, brokers say, the slowdown is more pronounced the higher the price.
As of mid-June, nine homes in the county had sold this year for $20 million or more, compared with 18 during the same period last year, according to Loren Goldman a vice president with First American Title Co.
Michael Nourmand, president of L.A. luxury brokerage Nourmand & Associates Realtors, said the slowdown will probably bleed into the rest of the market eventually, but that’s not likely to happen “any time soon.”
Like elsewhere, local agents put much of the blame on a pullback by international buyers who had flooded Los Angeles in recent years. Turmoil in their economies, along with a strong dollar, have many from Russia, the Middle East and China second-guessing a purchase here.
“It used to be, if they like it they buy it, or more like, if they like it they buy two,” said Cindy Ambuehl, director of residential estates for the Agency. “Now they are keeping their hands in their pockets and they are waiting.”
Nourmand has seen that first-hand.
A client from the Middle East recently hoped to pull the trigger on a nearly $40-million estate in Bel Air – one set behind gates with a driveway that took “one to two minutes” to walk from street to front door.
But the buyer got cold feet in February and backed out, Nourmand said, explaining that her family’s businesses had taken a beating along with the price of oil, which plunged last year.
“You have a shrinking buyer pool for the really expensive stuff,” he said.
Unlike other brokers, Adam Rosenfeld, founding partner of brokerage Mercer Vine, said he thinks the market is still strong and pointed to some recent mega-deals that went into escrow, including the Playboy Mansion, which is being purchased by the son of a billionaire food magnate for $105 million – a record for L.A. County.
(Though that’s half the asking price of $200 million, agents who know the market say they didn’t expect the mansion to sell for that astronomical, headline-grabbing figure.)
But even Rosenfeld said it was unclear how well the upcoming flood of high-end homes will sell.
“There are only so many buyers that can afford a $30-million plus house,” he said. “The [developers] that do them the best probably will make a killing. Guys who don’t … some of those people might lose their shirts.”
Levine, of the Realtors association, said that one dynamic has yet to play out – whether the strong dollar deters international investors from entering the U.S. real estate market, or as their own home country currencies weaken, they come to increasingly view it as a haven.
“It’s not necessarily clear which one of those two is going to win out,” he said.
According to a study by Wealth-X and the Sotheby’s International Realty, a growing number of ultra-high net worth (UHNW) individuals view homes as ‘opportunity gateways’, driving buying decisions that are based on potential opportunities from owning these luxury residential properties.
The UHNW Luxury Real Estate Report: Homes As Opportunity Gateways reveals two trends that are fueling the rise in the number of ultra wealthy individuals who are buying luxury homes:
1) International home-buying by UHNW individuals (defined as those with at least US$30 million in assets) from emerging nations seeking a safe investment diversification.
2) Home-buying as part of a program to gain citizenship or residency status in foreign nations.
The report provides insight into the UHNW residential real estate opportunities in Sydney and Vancouver for buyers seeking safe investment diversification; and Malta, the Bahamas and Sao Paulo, which may appeal to ultra wealthy buyers who are seeking citizenship or residency through property investment.
Key report findings include:
The UHNW Residential Real Estate index, tracked by Wealth-X, rose to 115.2 in Q2 2015, an 8.3% rise year-on-year, and the sixth consecutive quarter in which the index has risen. The continued rise in the index reflects the confidence of UHNW individuals to invest in luxury residential real estate.
The index takes into account the full range of luxury residential properties that are owned by the world’s wealthiest individuals. Wealth-X data shows there are 211,275 UHNW individuals globally, who collectively hold nearly $3 trillion in real estate assets, equal to 10% of their net worth.
Wealth-X President David Friedman commented, “Wealth-X is pleased to partner with the Sotheby’s International Realty brand for this third luxury real estate report for 2015. This new joint study explores the trends and home-buying motivations of a distinct group of ultra wealthy individuals in the emerging markets. As their wealth grows, so will their investment fueled by various motivations, be it to diversify their portfolio or to gain citizenship or residency in a foreign country.”
According to Philip White, president and chief executive officer, Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC, this joint report was designed to provide an understanding of the trends driving buying decisions of ultra-high net worth individuals around the world. “The research reveals trends that go beyond traditional motivations and help guide real estate investments that contribute to long-term wealth,” he said. “It underscores the important role real estate plays in a larger strategy to build a valuable asset portfolio.”