Property Grunt

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cheap lobster: A sign of the apocalypse?

Lobster prices tank as diners claw back
October 23, 2008
PORTLAND, Me. - The price of Maine lobster, which accounts for 80 per cent of the U.S. catch, is tanking.

The primary factor, a drop-off in demand by penny-pinching diners, has been in place since summer. But a secondary problem recently surfaced: the global banking crisis left Canadian processors short on credit, trapping Maine lobstermen and dealers with too much supply.

While bargains abound for lobster lovers throughout the Northeast, there's growing angst in New England fishing communities. One small village held a lobster bake on the town pier to unload excess lobsters and help out the local fishing fleet.

"This is as devastating to the state of Maine as hurricane Katrina washing away all the boats and blowing down all the wharves," said Dana Rice, a lobster dealer from Gouldsboro who's witnessing the industry's biggest struggle in his 30-plus years in the business.

We are living in a rather insane world where now we are talking about which companies are laying off and which companies are going to get a piece of the bailout. One of the odd results of the situation that luxury items like lobster are now affordable for the masses.

CNBC did a segment on this and reported that Stew Leonard's at one point was selling lobster for $3.99 a pound. If the price of caviar starts to drop then I am breaking out the toast points.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Queens or Scarsdale Part 3: Where is this?

I did not forget about this edition of Queens or Scarsdale. Here it is again.

Well have you figured it out?

Trick question. It is neither Queens or Scarsdale. It is actually Hartsdale. This home is above Central Avenue which connects parts of Scarsdale, Hartsdale, Yonkers and White Plains.

This will be the final addition of Queens or Scarsdale. Considering that alot of people in that town accumulated their money in Wall Street, I don't think they are going to be doing any more development for awhile.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Stand and Fight or Retreat?

Back on March 26, 2008, I wrote this entry on Jericho the TV series. I never got around publishing it till now.

Last night I watched the final episode of Jericho and I hope this show is able to find a home on cable. I have watched this show on and off so I am not exactly a hardcore fan but besides the conspiracy theories what I do enjoy about this show is the theme of ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances.

In a nutshell, We are all facing similar circumstances. Albeit, it is not on the scale of what the characters are experiencing however we can't deny that we are in a world of hurt and it is probably going to get a lot more painful.

That being said, we need to take stock of what we have learned and what we can do for the time being. I am not saying we should start buying real estate or blow enormous wads of cash to stifle the recession. What we should do is look at ourselves very closely to see how to improve our situations. We should also make the effort to see what went wrong. Why didn't the fail safes go off? What could our government do better in the next round?

Fast forward a couple of months later the economic landscape has changed drastically. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are the only two of theri kind left, and even with the new cash infusion, Morgan Stanley's days may still be numbered. We have still yet to see a bottom in the real estate market. And the stock market seems to be going every which way.

This morning I was listening to Bloomberg radio where there was a discussion of the equities market on what they should do next. A comment was made that "you can't be a contrarian on the Titanic."

So what to do? I have no idea. If anyone has any suggestions feel free to write.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Just dance.

Real estate market is in the crapper, stock market is gagging and wheezing for life.
Let's just dance.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Another great moment in real estate marketing: Swag

Sounds like a great deal. Get a free evaluation of your apartment and you get a Zagat guide and a $50 dining gift card.

I know alot of you are thinking "Well, I will simply setup the evaluation and rip them off of the free Zagat and gift card." Honestly you are not ripping them off. You see all the big firms buy Zagat guides in bulk so their agents can give them out as gifts to their clients. The complimentary gift card is a new thing for me, I suspect these 3 brokers pooled their money together to buy a stack of cards.

What these brokers get out of the situation is information. The data they collect will be placed in the their listings database and they will add the potential listing to their own stash which they will tap into in the near future when they are looking for sellers.

If someone wanted to take advantage of the situation what they could do is line up a bunch of friends and set up a string of evaluations to collect the cards. Even if you don't own an apartment, you could just borrow one from a friend.

I do love their 5 reasons to sell.

Obviously these 3 were not at the Yale Club.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I do not think this is what Neil Diamond had in mind.

Like the popular girl who is secretly a bulimic, the market is binging and purging itself.

Stocks pull back as investors take profits after government plan to buy stakes in US banks

The market really went all out even before it was announced that the Federal government was going to impregnate the banking system with more money.

I have be honest, when I first saw that graph this morning, I felt a tinge of regret that I should have bought when the market was getting crushed. However I realize that we are going to be in for a lot of chop in the next couple of months so there will be plenty of buying opportunities out there. When in doubt, don't.

Paulson Says Banks Must Deploy New Capital

“The needs of our economy require that our financial institutions not take this new capital to hoard it, but to deploy it,” Mr. Paulson said, who offered some details of the plan along with the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, and the chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Sheila C. Bair

I don't see banks hoarding but I do see them using the funds to plug up the leaks on their lending system. That means getting rid of their foreclosures and any garbage in their systems.

Who am I to argue with a Nobel Prize Winner? But I do feel like there is a bit socialism in this plan. However I think the banks are going to come ahead on this one either way.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jim Cramer is still a douchebag and there seems to be no end to the free fall on Wall Street

Below is an article from the New York Times that presents of why in certain situations, cash is not always king.

Switching to Cash May Feel Safe, but Risks Remain

By fleeing for the comfort of safe and insured, however, investors with a time horizon beyond a few years may be doing real damage to their long-term finances. If you’re tempted to make a big move to cash right now, you’re doing something called market timing. It’s an implied statement that you’ve figured out the right moment to get out of stocks — and will also know the right time to get back in.

So let’s dispense with the first part straightaway. The right time to move out of stocks was a year or so ago, before various stock indexes the world over fell by one-third or more.

If you missed that opportunity, you’re hardly alone.

But if you sell now, you’ll be locking in your losses. And once you’re in cash, there isn’t much upside. In fact, with interest rates low, you’re likely to lose money in cash, because inflation will probably eat up the after-tax returns you earn from a savings or money-market account.

So you can suck it Cramer.

Unless you have been hiding in between Rosie O'Donnell's many chins, you know that our economy is dropping faster than Judith Regan's prospects for publishing. Want some sage advice? I have none. I had no insider knowledge, no experience, no ideas on what to do.

Perhaps that is the best course of action. When doubt don't. Let the market have its temper tantrum. Let get it all out. Whatever cash you have, you might want to put it somewhere safe and secure. Where? I have no f**king clue. I do know that this is a bad idea.

One match and that guy's life savings goes up in smoke.

This reminds me of a story about Koreans doing business. There was this Korean owned a liquor store that was quite profitable but was no Zachy's. This was the type of place that bullet proof glass was installed around the cashier which indicates what type of clientèle they served.

There was a Korean couple interested in buying the business. So the owners went to their home and they began to negotiate a price. After settling on a price, the buyers told them to wait in their living room. The sellers were of course expecting to get some type of check for the business. Instead the couple returned with a paper grocery bag full of American tender. I don't think it was even double bagged.

This is one of the unfortunate reasons why home invasions are considered a popular illegal fund raising activity of choice for Asian gangs since they know that a lot of Asians, particularly ones who are either new or have not acclimated to America, have a ton of cash stored in their homes.

There has to be a safer place folks.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Jim Cramer is a douche bag

The fresh smell of douche.

It is a well-known fact that Jim Kramer is a douche bag but in the last two days on the Today show he was in rare form.

Go to this link for the douchebag experience.

That day the market took a beating and then he appeared again on Tuesday’s Today show defending his position. Among viewers the general consensus was that Cramer might not have been the cause of the stock market plummeting but there were others that believed that he probably had some type of influence. One viewer wrote in an email that hat Cramer was doing was tantamount to yelling fire in a crowded room. His response what if there is a fire? My response is that certainly adding to the panic does not help.

Why am I so angry with this self-described finance expert who has proven to be just a snake oil salesman? Because I know what he is really up to.

First of all I have very little experience in finance. However, I am making the effort to educate myself about investing because sooner or later I am going to have retire and I am not counting on social security to help me out. But from I have learned about the investing I realize Cramer is promoting self-sabotage by telling people to get out of the market.

Let me ask this question. What happens when you sell your stock? Depending on when you sold it, you are going to receive what it is worth on the market. Do you get that entire amount? No. A piece of the action is taken from the sale for transaction fees and taxes.

Do you see where I am going with this? The party that is the primary beneficiary is the broker that handles your stocks not you. And after you pay them you have to pay the taxman who is knocking on your door for their cut. Of course this does not affect the broker, since the you are the one left holding the bag.

Under this veneer of financial martyrdom, Cramer has positioned himself to present this advice as helping the people when in fact he is only helping his colleagues. The fact of the matter is that Cramer has used a broad-brush stroke and applied it to the general population without considering the first rule of investing which is that it is always subjective.

I would like to take a 180 and talk about one of my favorite subjects. Bruce Lee.

To this day, Bruce Lee is still a powerful influence on all martial artists, in fact there are many who devote themselves in becoming the next Bruce Lee. What people fail to understand is that there is only one Bruce Lee. The way he moved on screen was the product of hard work, talent and his own personal expression. What makes it all the more fruitless for martial artists trying to fight like Bruce Lee is that they use his movies as a primary reference. How he fought in movies was very different in how he fought in life.

After his death there were a ton of Bruce Lee clones from Bruce Lai to Bruce Li to Bruce Le. Their vague resemblance to Bruce Lee paralleled their marital arts skill or lack thereof. Jackie Chan initially struggled in his career because he was presenting himself as the next Bruce Lee, which he wasn’t. Instead he developed his unique brand of kung fu comedy, which he is now famous for.

What worked for Bruce Lee not work for others. The same applies to investing. That is why there is only one Warren Buffet. Millions of people constantly emulate the man but they never come close since since they do not have his experience, resources and infrastructure.

What people need to do is take a serious and hard look at themselves, beginning with a personal finanical statement which is not that hard to do. Just go to this link .

By looking at their assets and liabilities they can get a better idea of where they stand and what they need to do. People may realize that it might be better for them in the long run to keep their money in the market. If they need to liquidate their stocks, fine, but they have to determine if it will be worth it to incur the additional liabilities of processing fees and taxes.

Whether the market is going up or down, there is always a way to make money. Right now the credit markets are locked up like Miley Cyrus’s virginity which is what is freaking everyone out since the financial markets are immobilized. What Cramer is doing is trying to unlock this stagnancy by having as many people liquidate as possible so at least his buddies get paid. In other words, if his buddies can't borrow any money then they can at least milk it from another source which is their own client base.

The savvy investor will stay in the market until the turnaround, because it is too late to leave and they are just going to be burdened with additional costs anyway. What the savvy investor does is wait, gather up their cash and begin to cherry pick the best stocks that are now plummeting to bulk rate prices. The primary directive for successful investing is simply this “Buy low and sell high.” And things are looking very low right now and may even go lower.

Am I telling you to jump into the market? F**k no! What I am telling you is to take a very hard look at yourself. See where you are with your finances and determine what your wants and needs are and how they fit in with your life. And please be aware of that a decision to sell your stocks should not be taken lightly due to the transaction fees and taxes you will be incurring.

If you need to liquidate, then liquidate but for the love of God do it for the right reasons not because Jim Cramer told you to. And don’t stay in the market because I told you to. It all comes down what feels right for you.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Another great moment in real estate marketing: Massey Knakal

I miss his hair.

Tom Acitelli of The New York Observer presents a bit of commentary from Bob Knakal about the market.

Bob Knakal Will Not BS You About the Wall Street Crisis

Massey Knakal chairman Bob Knakal prefaces his latest commentary thusly:

Now I know that some of you will jump down my throat and accuse me of wearing my rose colored glasses and laying some broker BS on you just based on the title of this installment. So let me first acknowledge that, looking at the financial sector as a whole, we are in troubled times and in unchartered territory. Our entire “free market” philosophy is being challenged, 158 year old fi nancial giants are going bankrupt and the Government has seized the country’s largest insurance company. Inflation is high, credit is tight, mortgage delinquencies are rising, foreclosures are rapidly increasing, consumer spending is slowing, consumer confi dence is in the toilet and people are liquidating money market accounts based upon fear and these accounts have always generally been considered as good as cash. Budget defi cits on the City, State and Federal level are ballooning and not too many people are talking about how to address them. The Misery Index, which is calculated by adding the rate of infl ation to the rate of unemployment, is being referenced in the Wall Street Journal. This index hasn’t been discussed since Jimmy Carter was in the White House.

But! There are silver linings in the city's building-selling arena. Mostly, the credit crunch of the past 12 months and counting has driven property prices downward in some cases, particularly in Upper Manhattan, creating opportunities for those investors wanting to seize them. (Mr. Knakal's commentary can be read here.) Generally, sales are down or flat.

[T]he market has softened, but not significantly. We expect that prices may have fallen another 5% or so and volume appears to be steady as we get the word out about the relative health of prices. Is there a reason to be optimistic? Notwithstanding my first paragraph today, I think so.

Massey Knakal is considered to be one of the premier commercial brokers in New York City. They have taken a very aggressive approach to commercial real estate which seems to reach the level of a Darkon tournament.

Their business model focuses on acquiring exclusive commercial listings and establishing offices or as I would like to call them, outposts. Their brokers are required to know everything about their respective territories.

I have had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Knakal speak at two events I attended before he cut those fabulous locks of his. He is quite an engaging speaker and you will always learn a thing or two after from his talks.

That being said, I do share his cautious tone but not his enthusiasm for silver linings. Already it has been reported that interest is beginning to wane from foreign buyers for commercial real estate.

If you don't believe me look at his advertising.

Whenever Massey Knakal sends out these post cards there are only two words that are featured which are "sold" or "sale".

The two words that are featured are "Bid Deadline".

Closing a commercial real estate sale is far more difficult and time consuming then any co-op deal. It takes a lot of hand holding and even if a commercial broker gets a slam dunk offer on the first try, they are looking at least a year before the deal closes. Which is why the first two years of a commercial broker's career they are eating ramen and if they are still around they are having dinner at Peter Luger's.

In my opinion, the brokers at Massey Knakal have nor the time nor the resources to coddle buyers. All they want to know is if you have the money and if you are committed. It wouldn't surprise me that the sellers of this listing are also pushing them to unload this property ASAP.

Maybe this was just anomaly. But when starts getting involved in real estate, there is definitely some serious s**t happening in the real estate market.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Charlie Rangel and the Bibimbap connection

Recently it was reported that Congressman Rangel has yet to vacate his rent stabilized apartment in Lennox Terrace.

I discovered the reason why. He has been hanging out on 32nd with the Koreans. Why? Is it in honor of Ch'usok? Is it because he is a Korean War Vet?

The real reason is because of the enormous Dolsot Bibimbap.

He want to fill his gut with all that lovely namul and crispy rice bottom.

That's Rangel. Everyone is on to you.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Senate Passes Bill

With enough "sweetners" to put Dodd into diabetic coma, the bailout bill passes.

Senate Passes Bailout Plan; House May Vote by Friday

Now it is up to the House.