Property Grunt

Monday, November 24, 2008

Attacking from a lower stance

Prepare to attack low.

There has been an deafening amount of chatter regarding the current real estate marketing conditions. And of course it is never official until the New York Times gets involved.

November 23, 2008
Big Deal
Inventory Rises, if Not Sales
ALTHOUGH the prices of Manhattan apartments have remained high so far in the fourth quarter, figures on inventory and new listings illustrate a sharp deterioration in the market as the economy and consumer confidence fell.

The number of apartments that went into contract or had accepted offers in October plunged by 20 percent compared with September, and by 62 percent compared with October 2007, according to figures provided by the Corcoran Group, a residential real estate firm.

There were 577 listings with signed contracts or accepted offers this October, compared with 1,588 a year earlier, according to the data.

At the same time, the number of Manhattan listings rose to the highest level in several years, up 20 percent since August and 33 percent since October 2007, according to figures provided by Jonathan Miller, the president of Miller Samuel, an appraisal firm that prepares market studies for another brokerage firm, Prudential Douglas Elliman.

Mr. Miller said that because of the lag between contract signings and apartment closings, typically as much as 45 days, he didn’t think sales figures would reflect the price decline in the market until the first quarter of next year.

A look at closing prices so far in the fourth quarter showed that average sale prices remained flat though well above the level of a year ago, with a decline in co-op prices offset by rising prices on condominiums.

During the last few years, the upper end of the market was strong, and sellers often stuck to their prices. But Mr. Miller said that he expected this pattern to change, and owners of more expensive apartments to give large discounts off the original asking prices.

“The market is redefining itself,” said Kirk Henckels, the director of private brokerage at Stribling & Associates. “Once we find a consensus — and we are close to it — asking prices will fall.”

According to the Real Deal, a recent report gives further confirmation that the market is biting the big one.

"The real estate industry is waiting with baited breath for the next round of quarterly market reports, when Manhattan will see the real effects of the mortgage crisis on home sales. But a new analysis by real estate appraiser Mitchell, Maxwell & Jackson offers a glimpse at the bleak picture that the reports will likely show. Manhattan data compiled by the appraisal firm and released yesterday showed that the volume of signed contracts in September and October plummeted roughly 75 percent from the same period last year. 'It's pretty unbelievable,' said Jeffrey Jackson, a principal at the firm."

For you buyers, I would look around and research. If there is something that catches your eye, then go for it, but do not let irrational exuberance get to you. You are in the driver's seat. If you want attack from a lower stance with a lowball offer, go for it. And don't be afraid to walk away if the seller's don't bite.

Sellers, if you want to wait for the next high point of the real estate cycle, which will be in 4 or 20 years from now, depending on who you ask, then by all means stick to the price that you believe in. However if you have neither the patience or the time, then you might want to consider to have some flexibility in your selling price.

I heard the following from a broker I know. A couple of months back, an exclusive he was showing ended up getting an all cash offer, albeit a low offer but cash nonetheless. He presents it his seller and implores to take the money and run because an all cash deal is a very rare occurrence in this market.

What does the seller do? Seller tries to play Donald Trump and offers a counter. offer. Buyer's reaction is walking to the nearest door and now that apartment sits on the market waiting for another buyer that won't be coming awhile.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Someone pointed me over to the Snopes site regarding an email that has been sent out. Snopes is usually pretty good at distinguishing what is for real and what is an urban legend. And some of these stores are pretty well established. But with the American auto industry on the verge of bankruptcy and the implosion of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, anything is possible. If any one can confirm or deny the details of the email below please email me at propertygrunt AT yahoo DOT com.

Claim: E-mail lists large retail chains that plan to close some or all of their stores by the end of 2008.

[Collected via e-mail, May 2008]

I received an email stating the following...

FYI..... (sniff!!)

Who says we're not in a recession !!

The following stores announced yesterday they would be CLOSING their doors by December!

ANN TAYLOR (WHY, Lawd, WHY???!!!)

[Collected via e-mail, November 2008]

Just a heads up for the holidays.....

the Consumer Reporter, suggests not giving gift cards at all this year. If the business goes under, the card will be no good, and that will just be money down the drain. You may be covered if you use a credit card, but the gift will be no good/xx

latest to this list: Circuit City

Ann Taylor closing 117 stores nationwide A company spokeswoman said the company hasn't revealed which stores will be shuttered. It will let the stores that will close this fiscal year know over the next month

Eddie Bauer has already closed 27 shops in the first quarter and plans to close up to two more outlet stores by the end of the year.

Women's retailer Cache' announced that it is closing 20 to 23 stores this year.

Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, Catherines closing 150 stores nationwide. The owner of retailers Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, Catherines Plus Sizes will close about 150 underperforming stores this year. The company hasn't provided a list of specific store closures and can't say when it will offer that info, spokeswoman Brooke Perry said today.

About a month ago, Talbots announced that it will be shuttering all 78 of its kids and men's stores. Now the company says it will close another 22 underperforming stores.. The 22 stores will be a mix of Talbots women's and J. Jill, another chain it owns. The closures will occur this fiscal year, according to a company press release.

Gap Inc. closing 85 stores.
In addition to its namesake chain, Gap also owns Old Navy and Banana Republic. The company said the closures - ll planned for fiscal 2008 - will be weighted toward the Gap brand.

Foot Locker - to close 140 stores
In the company press release and during its conference call with analysts today, it did not specify where the future store closures - all planned in fiscal 2008 - will be. The company could not be immediately reached for comment

Wickes - is going out of business
Wickes Furniture is going out of business and closing all of its stores, Wickes, a 37-year-old retailer that targets middle-income customers, filed for bankruptcy protection last month.

Goodbye Levitz
The furniture retailer, which is going out of business. Levitz first announced it was going out of business and closing all 76 of its stores in December. The retailer dates back to 1910 when Richard Levitz opened his first furniture store in Lebanon, PA. In the 1960s, the warehouse/showroom concept brought Levitz to the forefront of the furniture industry. The local Levitz closures will follow the shutdown of Bombay.

Zales, Piercing Pagoda closing stores
The owner of Zales and Piercing Pagoda previously said it plans to close 82 stores by July 31. Today, it announced that it is closing another 23 underperforming stores. The company said it's not providing a list of specific store closures. Of the 105 locations planned for closure, 50 are kiosks and 55 are stores.

The Walt Disney Company announced it acquired about 220 Disney Stores from subsidiaries of The Children's Place Retail Stores. The exact number of stores acquired will depend on negotiations with landlords. Those subsidiaries of Children's Place filed for bankruptcy protection in late March. Walt Disney in the news release said it has also obtained the right to close about 98 Disney Stores in the U.S. The press release didn't list those stores.

Nearly 7+ months after its chief executive said there were no plans to cut the number of its core retail stores, The Home Depot Inc.announced Thursday that it is shuttering 15 of them amid a slumping U.S. economy and housing market. The move will affect 1,300 employees. It is the first time the world's largest home improvement store chain has ever closed a flagship store for performance reasons. It's shares rose almost 5 percent. The Atlanta-based company said the underperforming U.S. stores being closed represent less than 1 percent of its existing stores. They will be shuttered within the next two months.

CompUSA (CLOSED) clarifies details on store closings. Any extended warranties purchased for products through CompUSA will be honored by a third-party provider, Assurant Solutions. Gift cards, rain checks, and rebates purchased prior to December 12 can be redeemed at any time during the final sale. For those who have a gadget currently in for service with CompUSA, the repair will be completed and the gadget will be returned to owners.

Macy's - 9 stores

Movie Gallery - Closed 160 stores as part of reorganization plan to exit bankruptcy. The video rental company plans to close 400 of 3,500 Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video stores in addition to the 520 locations the video rental chain closed last fall.

Pacific Sunwear - 153 Demo stores

Pep Boys - 33 stores

Sprint Nextel - 125 retail locations New Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse appears to have inherited a company bleeding subscribers by the thousands, and will now officially be dropping the axe on 4,000 employees and 125 retail locations. Amid the loss of 639,000 postpaid customers in the fourth quarter, Sprint will be cutting a total of 6.7% of its work force (following the 5,000 layoffs last year) and 8% of company-owned brick-and-mortar stores, while remaining mute on other rumors that it will consolidate its headquarters in Kansas. Sprint Nextel shares are down $2.89, or nearly 25%, at the time of this writing.

J. C. Penney, Lowe's and Office Depot are scaling back

Ethan Allen Interiors: The company announced plans to close 12 of 300+ stores in an effort to cut costs.

Wilsons the Leather Experts - 158 stores

Pacific Sunwear will close its 154 Demo stores after a review of strategic alternatives for the urban-apparel brand. Seventy-four underperforming Demo stores closed last May.

Sharper Image: The company recently filed for bankruptcy protection and announced that 90 of its 184 stores are closing. The retailer will still operate 94 stores to pay off debts, but 90 of these stores have performed poorly and also may close.

Bombay Company: (Freehold Mall store closed) The company unveiled plans to close all 384 U.S.-based Bombay Company stores. The company's online storefront has discontinued operations.

KB Toys posted a list of 356 stores that it is closing around the United States as part of its bankruptcy reorganization. To see the list of store closings, go to the KB Toys Information web site, and click on Press Information

Dillard's to Close More Stores
Dillard's Inc. said it will continue to focus on closing under performing stores, reducing expenses and improving its merchandise in 2008. At the company's annual shareholder meeting, CEO William Dillard II said the company will close another six under performing stores this year.

Origins: During prolonged economic downturns (or when signs indicate such a phenomenon is looming on the horizon), retail chains often retrench by scaling back expansion plans, delaying the openings of planned new stores, and closing underperforming or redundant outlets. The long list of chain stores referenced above includes businesses currently in a variety of different financial states: Some have gone bankrupt and closed for good, some have sought bankruptcy protection but remained open, some have already been through bankruptcy proceedngs and have emerged in a reorganized state, some have closed a significant portion of their outlets, some have closed a relatively small percentage of underperforming stores.

Business information of this nature tends to be volatile, especially in times of economic upheaval. As best we could determine according to various news accounts published so far in 2008, the chains named above are planning, or have made, the following cutbacks:

* The Ann Taylor chain of women's clothing stores is expecting to close 25 Ann Taylor and 39 Loft outlets in 2008 (out of approximately 960 stores), with another 53 store closure by the end of 2009.

* The Caché chain of women's specialty apparel stores closed 14 underperforming outlets, but is still has 295 stores across the country and is still opening new stores.

* The Charming Shoppes chain of plus-size women's apparel
stores has closed 150 of its approximately 2,360 outlets.

* The Circuit City chain of retail electronics stores filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2008.

* The CompUSA chain of consumer electronics stores was sold to the Gordon Brothers Group restructuring firm in December 2007 and began liquidating all 103 of its outlets in January 2008.

* The Dillard's department store chain closed 20 outlets in 2008 and said it expects more store closures in 2009.

* The Disney Store chain was reacquired by the Walt Disney Co in March 2008; Disney has since closed 98 of its 322 North American stores.

* The Eddie Bauer chain of casual apparels stores shut down 27 outlets in the first quarter of 2008 and planned to close a few more stores by the end of the year.

* The Ethan Allen chain of home furnishings stores closed 12 retail design centers and two service centers in 2008.

* The Foot Locker chain of shoe stores chain closed 274 outlets (out of more than 3,700) in 2007 and another 60 in the first quarter of 2008, with more such closures likely.

* Whitehall Jewelers acquired the remnants of the Friedman's and Crescent chains in early 2008 after that combined company entered bankruptcy, then Whitehall itself filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June 2008 and began liquidating and closing all 373 of its remaining stores.

* The Gap chain of clothiers, whose brands include Old Navy and Banana Republic, is closing 85 of its 2,677 stores (most of them branded Gap outlets) but is still opening new stores.

* The Movie Gallery/Hollywood Video video rental chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October 2007. Under the bankruptcy reorganization (which ended in May 2008), the chain closed 542 Hollywood Video stores and 378 Movie Gallery stores.

* The Home Depot chain of home improvements stores announced in May 2008 that it would be closing 15 underperforming outlets.

* The KB Toys chain of retail toy stores entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2004 and at that time announced plans to close 375 of its outlets. It emerged from Chapter 11 reorganization in August 2005.

* The Kirkland's chain of home decor stores is expecting to close 130 (of its approximately 335) outlets by the middle of 2009.

* The Levitz Furniture chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (for the third time in ten years) in November 2007 and shortly afterwards began the process of closing its stores and liquidating its remaining inventory.

* The Macy's chain of department stores closed 11 (of its approximately 800) outlets in 2008.

* Pacific Sunwear closed 74 underperforming stores in its d.e.m.o. line in 2007 and closed all 154 of its remaining d.e.m.o. stores in 2008. (The company has not so far announced plans to close any of its core Pacific Sunware outlets.)

* The Pep Boys chain of auto supply and repair stores closed 31 low-return outlets (out of approximately 600 stores) at the end of 2007.

* The Sharper Image chain of electronics and specialty gifts stores filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February 2008, then began closing and liquidating all 184 of its outlets in June 2008.

* Sprint, a global provider of voice, data and Internet services, announced in January 2008 that it would be closing about 125 of its 1,400 retail outlets.

* Talbots Inc. announced in November 2008 that it was seeking to sell off its chain of J. Jill casual clothier stores. Talbots has already shed its Talbots Kids, Talbots Mens and U.K. businesses and has closed an additional 28 Talbots stores (out of about 1,400 total outlets).

* The Wickes Furniture chain began liquidating merchandise and fixtures at locations nationwide in February 2008 as part of bankruptcy proceedings.

* Wilsons Leather (the Leather Experts) announced that it would be closing all 260 of its mall-based locations — 160 will be shuttered permanently, and the remaining 100 will be remodeled and revamped as a "Studio" concept focused on fashion accessories for women.

* Zales Corp,, which operates Zales Jewelers, Zales Outlet, Gordon's Jewelers, Peoples Jewellers, Mappins Jewellers, and Piercing Pagoda, closed approximately 105 retail outlets (out of 2,130) in 2008, half of them kiosks and half of them stores. However, the company also opened approximately 100 new outlets in 2008, so the net change in the number of Zales-operated stores was relatively small.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Everybody FSBO!

They rolled the dice.

I have not done one of these in awhile but this FSBO article was too good to pass up, since it shows why FSBO’s are so much more attractive now. Below is my analysis of certain parts of the article.

During the housing boom in recent years, online FSBO sites surged, enabling homeowners to market properties on their own and save the broker’s commission, said Jonathan Miller, the chief executive of Miller Samuel Inc., a real estate research company.

The housing market now, though, is on the decline. “We are in an environment where the actual success rate in FSBOs has fallen off considerably,” Mr. Miller said. “In this downturn, there is a greater volume of listings. Sellers are going to be much more conservative when competing with more listings.” And, he added, they will be more likely to list their homes with brokers.

Jonathan Miller is correct. What usually happens in the FSBO is that owner puts out a FSBO and gets first hand experience in being agnet which is utter hell since they have to deal with the comps, advertising the apartment and showing it. This takes a lot of time to implement and routine quickly becomes very old so the seller just throws the towel in and calls up their local broker. However it is my belief that sellers who entertain the FSBO alternative will at least try it and if they are dissatisfied with the results they will be simply call a broker.

But many sellers aren’t giving up yet. In August, in response to user requests, Craigslist added a FSBO category to its real estate section, said Susan MacTavish Best, a spokeswoman for the company.
“We have seen in the last three years much more enthusiasm on the part of homeowners to post their real estate on the site themselves as a FSBO property,” Ms. MacTavish Best wrote in a recent e-mail message. “It’s appealing for owners to post the ads themselves, controlling much of the home-selling process throughout.”

There is no official multiple listing service in New York City and FSBO sales are not tracked. But in the real estate advertising section of, the Web site of The New York Times, the number of listings bought as individual ads tripled, to 14,117, in 2007, from 4,640 in 2002, according to internal data compiled by The New York Times. Brokers typically buy multiple ads. In the first 10 months of 2008, had 12,649 single listings, about the same number as for the same period last year.

Even with the advertising reach of the Internet at their finger tips, sellers are still facing a slumping market.

“It’s a little scary right now,” said Boris Schaefer, 38, director of customer relations for a German cosmetics-packaging company, who is trying to sell his five-bedroom two-and-a-half-bath colonial in Montclair, N.J. “Right after the bank crisis, traffic slowed down,” Mr. Schaefer said. “There were less people calling and responding to ads.”

After cleaning and decluttering their home, he and his wife, Silke Willms, also 38, first listed their property for $689,000 over the summer. He created a slide show of interiors and exteriors on, a photo-sharing Web site, and placed ads on Craigslist and the Park Slope Parents classifieds list, an online bulletin board for families living in or near Park Slope, Brooklyn, hoping to interest those looking for more space.

He attended open houses in Montclair to see how they were staged and to gauge the right selling price. “I compared those houses with the condition of our house,” he said. He and his wife held open houses and received a couple of offers, but they fell through.

Mr. Schaefer decided not to use a broker because he had the time to sell the property himself, he said, and he doesn’t want to pay a commission. “Six percent is a lot of money,” said Mr. Schaefer, who is returning to his native Germany at the end of the year for his job. (His wife and two children moved in August to start the school year there.)

Mr. Schaefer has the luxury of doing a FSBO because he has a lot of time on his hands and it appears that he knows what he is doing making an effort to research the market and creating his own advertising including the flickr slideshow. What is really cool is that his market and advertising budget is very low since a lot of the outlets he is utilizing are free. He is also German which means he wicked frugal streak within him.

Brokers say that FSBO sellers are missing out on the marketing prowess of agencies, expertise in setting a price and the ability to present a home to the right potential buyers. “I think the vast majority of FSBOs are not serious sellers,” said Ari Harkov, an associate broker with Halstead Properties in New York. “They are only willing to sell at a certain price.”

No offense Ari, but just because you share the name name of the new Chief of Staff you do not share his intelligence. First of all “this marketing prowess” is not rocket science. What the broker does at these established firms is plug in the listing in their database to see what type of price the apartment goes for on the market. Then they fill out an advertising form for New York Times ads and send it to marketing.

You can get COMPS information for free if you go to ACRIS and if you have basic understanding of excel. And it does not take a PhD to write up a New York Times ad. Hell, you can do it for free on craigslist.

As for this quote.

“I think the vast majority of FSBOs are not serious sellers,” said Ari Harkov, an associate broker with Halstead Properties in New York. “They are only willing to sell at a certain price.”

Whether they are doing a FSBO or they are represented by a broker, all sellers can become serious or not at a drop of a hat. Maybe the seller has to take the property off the market due to personal reasons or maybe the seller was only interested in getting the market value of their apartment. It could be anything. Being a FSBO is not the only requirement.

I think this quote is absolutely hysterical.

“They are only willing to sell at a certain price.”

EVERY SELLER IS ONLY WILLING TO SELL AT A CERTAIN PRICE! The reason why there is a surplus of inventory on the market is because a lot of the sellers are unwilling to budge at the asking price and we have buyers who are either unwilling or unable to meet with them. And a lot of those listings are exclusives held by brokers. Once again, it is not just FSBOS!

After a series of disappointments, Mr. Schaefer had been considering going with a real estate agent after all. But at one of his open houses, he met a broker who lamented that her agency had only five houses go into contract over the previous four weeks.

“That explained to me why the last weeks were so quiet,” Mr. Schaefer said. “I am thinking if there are no buyers out there, the Realtor cannot do a better job than me.”

In other words everyone is getting clobbered in this market and having a broker doesn’t improve your chances so you might as well go on your own and see if you can save the 6%.

“It’s all common sense,” said Matthew Morse, 46, a magazine editor. He and his wife, Sarah, sold their two-and-a-half-bedroom one-bath co-op in Brooklyn Heights on Pierrepont Street in June.

“We put it on the market at $799,000,” Mr. Morse said. “We didn’t want to go below asking, but we ended up selling it for $737,500. I don’t think a broker would have gotten full asking price, and they would have chopped off 6 percent.”

The couple created a Web site with photos and a floor plan, advertised the apartment on at the beginning of May and then held open houses every weekend. Before each open house, they cleaned their apartment and crammed their children’s toys into closets.

Apart from the time it took to show their property for six weekends in a row, “the most annoying thing were the real estate agents and brokers who constantly called and harassed us to get our business,” Mr. Morse said.

Other FSBO sellers agree, saying they have scores of business cards from agents angling for a listing.

Every broker is licking their lips like a Republican staring at tax cuts when it comes to acquiring a FSBO listing. A FSBO listing is the attractive for every broker for two reasons. First of all it is actually the easiest listing to acquire. All a broker has to do is leave a business card, do a pitch and then leave and let nature take its course. What usually happen is the FSBO seller will become so overwhelmed is that they will waive their white flag and call in a broker.

The second reason why getting a FSBO listing is so attractive is that whenever they deal with someone that claims that brokers are bunch of over paid tour guides, the broker can simply tell the story of how they got a FSBO listing that was surrendered to them by a seller. Hence, proving their added value.

Still, Mr. Morse said that if he were selling in today’s market, he would go with a broker. He said he would worry about how long it might take to find a buyer and did not think he could put in the time needed. “It’s a whole brave new world out there,” he added.

But Greg Healy, the vice president of operations of, sees that brave new world in a different way. “This market has been really tough,” Mr. Healy said. “We are seeing a strong surge of people who need to sell by owner.”
The number of sellers in the five boroughs of New York City advertising on has increased by 22 percent so far this year over the same period last year, Mr. Healy said.

Customers surveyed by the site said they had seen their retirement and college savings hit hard by the financial crisis, Mr. Healy said. They are trying to get every penny they can from the sales of their homes.
“I think there are people out there who can do this,” said Lawrence Burak, 61, who listed his East End Avenue one-bedroom one-bath apartment for $850,000 on at the beginning of October.

Eschewing open houses to avoid the possibility of damage to his home, Mr. Burak, a sales and marketing consultant in broadcast media, is showing his apartment by appointment. He believes the strongest selling point of his eighth-floor 950-square-foot co-op, as described in his ad, “is the totally unobstructed, and never to be obscured, northeastern view of the East River.”

A few people have come to see the apartment, he said, but he has not received any offers. “The view is worth the asking price,” he said. “To this day, when I look out the window of where I live, I never tire of it.”

For Allison and Marc Milgrom, the owners of a duplex apartment in Park Slope that is listed for $599,000, working with brokers over the summer was frustrating. “I felt like I had all the marketing ideas,” said Ms. Milgrom, a stay-at-home mother. “They did everything I asked, but didn’t offer anything more. They just didn’t seem to have a lot of experience.”

Unfortunately this is par for the course for a lot real estate brokers which is to do what they can and never go any further.

Once the listing expired, the Milgroms decided to take a stab at selling the apartment themselves. But when it came to writing a description of their co-op for a listing, they found themselves in a quandary. “At first we described it as a ‘two-bedroom, plus office apartment,’ ” Ms. Milgrom said. The apartment has a master bedroom on the ground floor, and a windowed 400-square-foot lower level that could be renovated into a bedroom and office space. “But families with kids came by and were disappointed that there weren’t two real bedrooms.”

When they changed their listing to say “one-bedroom plus” instead, they received more inquiries from couples and individuals. There were a few offers, but none have come to fruition.

The funny thing is that this dilemma of how to market an apartment the Milgrom face is what every broker faces. For example, I was once working on a exclusive that was listed as a one bedroom co-op. The problem was that the bedroom itself was really small and could barely fit a single bed let alone a double. Yet it was marketed as a one bedroom and was never sold. Eventually the seller grew frustrated and gave it to another broker.

FSBOs are not a slam dunk. There are advantages to having a broker. For that 6% commission a seller is saving time and aggravation from selling the apartment on their own. However with current market conditions, it might not be a bad idea for some sellers to give a shot on their own because at this point they have nothing to lose.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Synergy:Real estate, mortgages and dead trees




Wells Fargo, New York Observer and Halstead Host Event to Discuss

Real Solutions for Obtaining Financing in Today’s Credit Markets

New York, NY – Halstead Property Development Marketing, Wells Fargo and The New York Observer have joined forces to host a consumer homebuyer event to help New Yorkers understand the current real estate market – and learn how to get financing in our changing economic times.

With changing interest rates, new mortgage regulations, and overall economic concerns, consumers are hearing mixed messages when it comes to buying real estate. At the Halstead Property Development Marketing’s Homebuying Seminar for Changing Times event, officials from Halstead, Wells Fargo, and The New York Observer will advise consumers on practical issues in real estate today.

WHAT: Halstead Property Development Marketing’s Home Buying Seminar for Changing Times

- What consumers need to know about qualifying for a mortgage today

- Understanding credit scores and changing credit restrictions

- Economic outlook for New York real estate

- Pros and Cons of renting vs. buying

- Where to look – Best NYC areas that hold the most property value; attendees can also browse some of Halstead’s hottest new developments


- Jared Kushner, Publisher of The New York Observer

- Jeffrey Szymanski, Market Manager of Wells Fargo

- Stephen G. Kliegerman, Executive Director of Halstead Property Development Marketing, LLC

WHEN: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 – 6:00pm to 9:00pm

- Seminar and Q&A 6:00 – 8:00pm; Reception 8:00 – 9:00pm

- Wine & Hors D’oeuvres will be served

WHERE: Scandinavia House (58 Park Avenue, between 37th and 38th Streets); Volvo Room

RSVP: Event is free to attend, but attendees must RSVP to reserve a seat:

Press interested in attending should email:

During the reception, representatives from Wells Fargo, Halstead’s Development Marketing Division and The New York Observer will be on hand to answer questions about applying for mortgages and credit applications in the current market. Halstead’s on site representatives will be available to provide information and to set up appointments for viewing some of their top developments in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Developers in attendance will include: 2280 Frederick Douglas Boulevard, 20 Henry, 80 Metropolitan, Toren, +aRt at 540 West 28th Street, 905West End Avenue, Steelwork and Park Columbus.

About Halstead Development Marketing:

A division of Halstead Property, Halstead’s Development Marketing Division is the exclusive sales and marketing firm for more than 65 new developments representing over 3,500 units in the tri-state area. The Halstead Development Marketing Division consults with developers on every aspect of the development process, including: pre-development planning such as comprehensive market research, detailed unit mix and layout analysis and amenities planning, all of which enables their clients to maximize sales prices, increase absorption rates and provide an overall superior product benefiting the consumer and developer. In addition, the division directs and coordinates the selection of all on-site personnel, conducts extensive sales training and monitoring, designs exceptional sales environments, and creates integrated communications planning including marketing, advertising, public relations and branding. For more information on the Halstead Development Marketing Division, please visit:

As the first firm in New York to bring real estate sales out of office buildings and into retail storefronts, Halstead is one of the largest residential real estate brokerage firms in the metropolitan area. For more information on Halstead, please visit

I am not going to be able to attend this. However, if you have a chance, I think you should all go. Even if you are not looking to buy, it Jared Kushner, who is taking a break in teaching Ivanka the joys of being a Jewish wife, will be attending.

What I find ironic is that the 3 industries being represented at this seminar are the ones that are getting pummeled in this economy.

In my opinion this is just another indication of how bad the real estate market is doing in Manhattan. Especially if you have someone with the stature of Jared Kushner participating in this particular event.

This is not an opening for a new development. This is an event to attract buyers. Not too long ago, all developers needed to do was announce that a plot of land was going to be turned into condos and a line of buyers would around the corner.

It is a far different we live in now. I was received this link from City File titled.

The 20 Cheapest Apartments in Manhattan

Here are the first 5.

1. 252 East 89th Street
Bedrooms: 0
Bathrooms: 1
Square feet: 300
Price: $239,000
Listing: Bellmarc

2. 103 East 84th Street
Bedrooms: 0
Bathrooms: 1
Price: $249,000
Listing: BHS

3. 310 East 49th Street
Bedrooms: 0
Bathrooms: 1
Price: $249,000
Listing: PDE

4. 317 East 18th Street
Bedrooms: 0
Bathrooms: 1
Price: $250,000
Listing: Bellmarc

5. 233 East 69th Street
Bedrooms: 0
Bathrooms: 1
Square feet: 420
Price: $265,000
Listing: Corcoran

6. 323 East 8th Street
Bedrooms: 0
Bathrooms: 1
Price: $265,000

In the near future we are going to see more these types of lists since this is the new reality we are facing.

I applaud the parties who are holding this event because whether you are selling new developments, mortgages or newspapers, you are in the business of selling. If you are not selling you are starving. And these three industries are experiencing a famine.

You have to go out and find the buyers. If you can't find any then make the buyers. Even if they are not on the fence, even if they are not looking, you pull a Lee Atwater and do some push polling. Put the idea into their head that this is the time to buy. That you need to buy now. Manhattan is a different animal then the rest of the country and it will bounce back quicker.

This will be age that will determine who the real titans of the industry will be because the hard times we are facing are just a forge and those who have the gumption to stay will become stronger and will reap the benefits of the future.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's that time of year again.

Since last Thursday I have taken the brunt of a flu that has messed me up pretty badly. I am feeling better now but the remnants of my illness are still mingling within my respiratory system. So there will be a lack of posts for the next couple of days. Honestly thought what is there to write about? The real estate market is plummeting and the economy is doing a crash and burn. I mean the US Postal Service is considering laying people off and that is considered to be the most reliable of jobs. And Circuit City has filed for bankruptcy. According to CNBC there is going to be more job cuts for retailers during the holiday season when they usually bulk up for warm bodies.

I am going back to bed.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Of things to come.

The New Shaolin Temple.

The destruction of Shaolin Temple is a plot line that has been used in many Hong Kong Kung fu movies. Just as there are many movies there are many reasons why Shaolin temple was destroyed. One reason that has often popped up in my readings is that the Emperor at that time was facing a very strong and violent opposition force and he called upon the monks to help him out. In the past the monks had assisted previous emperors and were more than happy to help him out of his jam.

After the Shaolin monks laid the smackdown, the Emperor realized that the monks were quite a formidable force, perhaps too formidable especially if the monks got any ideas about running things outside of the temple. So he did what any Emperor would do during that time, he ordered the temple to be destroyed and all of the monks killed.

"Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.”
Lao Tzu

If a martial artist makes every effort to follow and utilize the concept of being like water, they will be on the path of enlightenment and will possess a fighting technique that will be absolutely devastating.

The concept of being like water is prominent in a variety styles that focus on grappling including Hapkido, Judo, Jujitsu. These arts focus on the concept of water’s yielding power.

If someone pushes you, you pull him or her, instead of pushing back, taking them off balance and allowing them to fall on their face. The real masters of these arts are so adept that they can actually defeat their attackers without even touching them.

Chuck “The Iceman” Liddel has utilized the concept of yielding resulting in his success in the UFC. What Chuck often does is that he allows his opponent to be the aggressor and gives them as much ground as they want. Eventually his opponent gets antsy and over commits in their attack. As soon as that occurs, Chuck moves in and counters with his famous haymaker.

In Chinese strategy it is often referred to as “Using retreat to attack.” In my opinion George Washington’s famous crossing of the Potomac is an example of using retreat as a form of attack.

I remember as a child reading that in the early days of the Revolution the British soldiers referred to him as the Fox because he kept retreating from battle. According to history that all changed when in the dead of night when Washington and his soldiers crossed the freezing Potomac to pay a visit to the British. Washington was assured victory as soon as he broke that pattern of being passive, when the British least expected it.

One of my favorite Kung Fu Movies is the Prodigal son starring the great Sammo Hung, the vastly underrated Yuen Biao and Mr. Vampire himself Lam Ching Ying

Watch the clip from starting from 7:43 and below is the quote I am referring to.

“Attack your enemy hard, try to wound him then concentrate your attack on his wounds. He maybe strong but he can’t stand the pain.”

I feel this is one of the best martial arts films ever made, not only for the fighting, acting and plot but also the fighting theory it presents.

In the Marvel Universe there is an omnipotent race known as the Watchers. Despite their power all they do is observe the events that occur around them. Initially they were an open race of beings that pursued the ideal of helping less advanced races. One particularly race they assisted were the Prosilicans of the planet Prosilicus.

The Watchers introduced atomic energy to the Prosilicans which they used to blow themselves up. After that the Watchers got of “help less advanced races” business.

I am sure you are all wondering if there is a point to what I have written or did I just copy and paste some random blog entries. And I assure you my readers, what I have written applies to the changes in the our government.

Obama and his fellow democrats have now become a force to be reckoned with. Not only has the first African American president been elected, he now has a full army of democrats by his side. Now this is no filibuster but the democrats are in a position to pretty much do what they want. They are no different than the Shaolin monks and the White House is the new Shaolin temple. And everyone knows that. That type of power can inspire hope. It can also inspire fear.

One of the key principles of our government is checks and balances. Right now nothing is in check and things are obviously not in in balance without a strong Republican presence.

The Republicans are going to retreat, regroup, and bide their time. They are going to yield ground that was once there’s and watch from the sidelines. They will be like water as the Democrats advance and attack. They will be allowed themselves to be pushed to the point that the Democrats become too comfortable with themselves. At one point the Democrats will throw a clumsy jab and the next thing they will laid out by a Chuck Liddel counter punch delivered by the Republicans.

Aint it coolnews
recently did an interview with Stefan Forbes who made a documentary on the King of dirty politics Lee Atwater titled the BOOGIE MAN

Forbes stated the following.

And if Obama happens to win this fall, he has four years of constant warfare to look forward to. These guys, even if they lose, they will continue to destroy the opponent by any means necessary, and Obama will be battling these guys from the White House. Investigations over nothing for four years. They play for keeps, and until they're able to understand this playbook, things are not going to change in American political. That's my dark method.

Which brings me to the Prodigal Son quote regarding using wounds as weapons.

Obama, for all intents and purposes, is squeaky clean. Despite a connection to Ayers and admitting to have used cocaine, nothing has appeared to stick. Regardless they will attack him anyway and if they can’t find any weaknesses, then they will wound him any way they can and repeatedly use whatever draws blood they

If you are under impression that I doubt the wherewithal of our President elect, you are quite incorrect. All I am doing is laying out what is to come.

I am actually quite excited and intrigued by this new administration. Just from choosing Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of staff demonstrates Obama’s intelligence and tactical fortitude.

Selecting Rahm sends a very strong message to the rank and file according to Gawker he is not someone to be trifled with.

Emanuel is known in political circles to be an ass kicking Jew and has no fear. According to CNN, on one occasion he f**ked with the President George W. Bush on his exercise regiment which the current POTUS takes some much pride in.

Testosterone oozes into the humid air space between the two men. Bush invites Emanuel down to Texas to do some real biking. "So I said, 'I'll make you a deal, Mr. President. I'll bike if you swim.' Now he didn't exactly say swimming was a wussy sport, but you could tell.... So I said, 'Mr. President, Laura can put your water wings next to the lake. You can have your water wings.' "

At that point you might think this graduate of the Evanston School of Ballet would leave well enough alone. But Emanuel is hard-wired to go for the jugular: Politics Chicago-style are part of his DNA. So he sharpens his drill bit on the leader of the free world. "I said to him, 'You're not one of those tribathletes, are you, Mr. President? You know - steam, sauna, shower?'

As White House Chief of Staff he will be the enforcer and he is well suited for this role since he is the type of guy you are glad watching your back but he is also the type of guy you are do not want see behind your back.

The is clearly demonstrates that Obama has a very strong pimp hand and he is going to need it in order to deal with the hostile parties that are going unleash a barrage of low blows, political ambushes and a new set of dirty tricks designed to hurt his career. And let’s not forget what the Republicans have in store for him.

Amongst his own party there are will be others who feel they can do as the please as they did when Clinton was in the White House. And every now and then Obama is going to have to unleash the hounds to make sure everyone is in lock step.

Which brings me to the Watchers. Right now there is an overwhelming sense of euphoria that has enveloped the country and the world. A new day has dawned and we are about to embark on an exciting new journey. In the democratic camp, there is a mindset to fix what is wrong. Which is good because that attitude is what will keep this country going. However this type of enthusiasm can mutate into irrational exuberance and we know how that movie ended. If the Democrats are going to play the Watcher game then they have to make sure we do not end up like the Prosilicans.

When Obama presented his first speech since the election, NBC news did an analysis of his speech like many news outlets they mentioned that Obama made it clear that he was the President elect and there was only one president at this time which is George w. Bush. And even though Obama was working a on a new stimulus plan, he was not in the position to implement it until January, however he hoped that during the lame duck sessions, they would be able to pass one.

Chuck Todd and Brian Willaims pointed out that this was Obama’s way of expressing great concern regarding the current economic crisis but he was not in the position to take the reigns of the situation. He was also making it clear to the American people that this current economic crisis happened under the current Present’s watch not his.

In the meantime, he is undergoing intense preparation for the next 4 years and even after the election has not stopped to pat himself on the back.

If his fellow democrats are smart they will do the same because once Janaury 20th 2009 rolls around, they will have to hit the ground running and they better not dawdle. 4 years are is a short period of time. And the people’s memories and patience is a lot shorter.

Godspeed President Obama.

Because he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now... and so we'll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he's not a hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector... a dark knight.

The Dark Knight-Lt. James Gordon

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

November 4, 2008 Union Square: History is made

Monday, November 03, 2008

Bust Out?

No. I am not trying to be funny.

The month of October has drawn to a close and what a month it has been. From a bulimic stock market, to a plummeting housing market that sees no bottom in sight and of course Greenspan admitting that he may have dropped the ball. Let's not forget that rate cut that did not do much.

Which brings me to AIG.

A.I.G. had come under fire for accounting irregularities some years back and had brought in a former accounting expert from the Securities and Exchange Commission. He began to focus on the company’s accounting for its credit-default swaps and collided with Joseph Cassano, the head of the company’s financial products division, according to a letter read by Mr. Waxman at the recent Congressional hearing.
When the expert tried to revise A.I.G.’s method for measuring its swaps, he said that Mr. Cassano told him, “I have deliberately excluded you from the valuation because I was concerned that you would pollute the process.”

A.I.G. has declined to provide a detailed account of how it has used the Fed’s money. The company said it could not provide more information ahead of its quarterly report, expected next week, the first under new management. The Fed releases a weekly figure, most recently showing that $90 billion of the $123 billion available has been drawn down.

A.I.G. has outlined only broad categories: some is being used to shore up its securities-lending program, some to make good on its guaranteed investment contracts, some to pay for day-to-day operations and — of perhaps greatest interest to watchdogs — tens of billions of dollars to post collateral with other financial institutions, as required by A.I.G.’s many derivatives contracts.

Through spring and summer, the company said it was still gathering information about the swaps and tucked references of widening losses into the footnotes of its financial statements: $11.4 billion at the end of 2007, $20.6 billion at the end of March, $26 billion at the end of June. The company stressed that the losses were theoretical: no cash had actually gone out the door.

“If these aren’t cash losses, why are you having to put up collateral to the counterparties?” Mr. Vickrey asked in a recent interview. The fact that the insurer had to post collateral suggests that the counterparties thought A.I.G.’s swaps losses were greater than disclosed, he said. By midyear, the insurer had been forced to post collateral of $16.5 billion on the swaps.

Though the company has not disclosed how much collateral it has posted since then, its $447 billion portfolio of credit-default swaps could require far more if the economy continues to weaken. More federal assistance would then essentially flow through A.I.G. to counterparties.

“We may be better off in the long run letting the losses be realized and letting the people who took the risk bear the loss,” said Bill Bergman, senior equity analyst at the market research company Morningstar.

Why all this cloak and dagger? Why the resistance from outsiders? Why are they acting like a bunch of little girls?

1. The losses they have currently incurred are astronomical.

2. They did something very, very illegal.

3. AIG might be up to a bust out to take advantage of the ailing economy.

Ray Liotta’s description from Goodfellas will explain a bust out.

Now the guy's got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with a bill, he can go to Paulie. Trouble with the cops, deliveries, Tommy, he can call Paulie. But now the guy's got to come up with Paulie's money every week. No matter what. Business bad? F--k you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? F--k you, pay me. The place got hit by lightning, huh? F--k you, pay me. Also, Paulie could do anything. Especially run up bills on the joint's credit. And why not? Nobody's gonna pay for it anyway. And as soon as the deliveries are made in the front door, you move the stuff out the back and sell it at a discount. You take a two hundred dollar case of booze and you sell it for a hundred. It doesn't matter. It's all profit. And then finally, when there's nothing left, when you can't borrow another buck from the bank or buy another case of booze, you bust the joint out. You light a match.

Maybe AIG and these other geniuses plan on pulling a series of side bets aka Credit default swaps or some type of massive short sell.

Listen folks, I have a blog, and they are just like a**holes, everyone has one. But honestly folks, something is up. And the only game in town is shorting and swapping. It is a sure thing that the economy is tanking. Therefore these meatheads are going to take every opportunity to take advantage of this situation. In other words they are engaging in the same risky behavior that f**ked things up in the first place.

If this is the case, then the follower of Warren Buffet are in for a very rude awakening. And next year I am going to tread very carefully into the stock market.