walkitout: (Default)
I took a few moments today after we were done with dinner (except A., who did not like the smell of brown rice cooking, and took her dinner out to the porch, where she has now asked me for three refills on her cup of water, wait, I think that is the fourth; she had fritos with her grilled cheese, berries and carrot sticks, so it is probably the head and the salt causing her to drink so much) to look at recent property sales in town. I have not done this in a while.

https://www.coldwellbankerhomes.com/ma/acton/113-central-street/pid_11508428/

Price history of the listing (which may have been listed, taken down and relisted -- I don't know) shows it originally put up in April for $375K. That suggests they hoped some nice young family would buy the house and live in it. One month later, it was at $325K. By the end of June it was at $299K. It sold earlier this month for $240K, which is almost _exactly_ what we calculated a buildable lot was worth in Acton some years ago (I believe we had it figured at $220K based on the purchases involved in our house and the neighbor's, which occurred during the tail end of the previous boom).

One of the adjoining lots seems to be apartments, so I would not be too surprised to see one go that way. Central Street is considerably busier than our street, but brilliantly located as a commuter location, either by car or to the train.

The listing does suggest a real conundrum for anyone owning a smallish (3 bedroom, 1 bath) post-WW2 (in this case 1954) house in Acton. You can _try_ to get what Zillow might think it is worth, as a single family home. But can you afford to wait long enough for that? And what are the alternatives? I feel like it ought to be possible for an enterprising homeowner to make a deal with a capitol poor developer, so that the developer does the work but does not have to purchase the land, and the homeowner gets to participate in gain, which they otherwise probably cannot realize through a sale.
walkitout: (Default)
Back when I still lived in Seattle, there was a proposal to extend the Monorail. It started as grassroots activism, made it through many regulatory/legislative/administrative hurdles, ultimately killed, if I understand things, by the Seattle City Council in a vote that required unanimity and couldn't get it. By that point, the Monorail Authority (<-- name might be wrong) had already used eminent domain to buy a lot of property along the proposed path for the project, and had already incurred substantial debt. The project was unwound, in part, by selling the properties acquired through eminent domain to pay down the debt. Here is a summary of how that part of the process ended:

http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2007/02/12/focus2.html?page=all

Fox News (as in, the national network on TV/cable) latched onto this for the obvious reasons. People who occupy a variety of positions on the political spectrum believed that the property sold should be offered first to the people it was purchased from, a process which presumably would have left the Monorail Authority with more debt to unwind. I have no idea what kind of process they had in mind for offering it first to the people it was purchased from, whether they thought it should be offered back at the price it was bought from them, or whether that price should have been adjusted for inflation, or there should have been some sort of auction set up to set the price in the open market and then offered to the previous owner at that price or whatever. Needless to say, which was selected would have significant impacts to both sides of the transaction and to the lenders/taxpayers.

It's a weird situation that triggers "hard cases make bad law". But independent of that, I have to ask: what happened with all that property since then? The resolution wrapped up shortly before the bust, and we are only now getting into significant development. Some original owners were able to repurchase. At the time the article was written, people were complaining about the missed opportunity to increase parks/green space. The hope was that the shuffling would result in more jobs and more urban housing. Expect updates as I look into this further.

I just found out about all this when it came up in the context of a conversation about the use of eminent domain in general -- the concern was that land that was taken by the government might then be resold and that seemed wrong. I'd _never_ heard of that happening, but the person who told me the story is reliable, so I thought I'd track it down. The story does demonstrate the usual rules of recollection: the monorail did not figure in the story (even tho it was what was driving this project), and the date of the events was both uncertain and more recent than actuality. I've been running across that problem my whole life (my dad had this whole, "about five years ago", which usually meant more like 25, but always at least 10), but the financial crisis provides a truly excellent break point: no significant projects have been started fresh since then (only ones put on hiatus have been restarted, and not so many of those -- that's actually not true, a spec office tower went up in SF a while back) so I figured I had to go back before 2008, but probably not by a lot or I would have remembered it myself.

ETA: One of the properties Mastro bought which has since changed hands numerous times:

http://westseattleblog.com/2012/05/avalon-way-changes-afoot-deal-development-listings

I think this is the one mentioned that Harbor bought in West Seattle, but if so it was built even bigger than originally planned:

http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2016807062_inpersononslow21.html

And the location doesn't match this earlier coverage so I am confused. I don't know West Seattle that well.

http://www.westseattleherald.com/2006/09/08/news/tall-condo-planned-junction

Ah, it looks like the monorail piece turned into Mural:

http://www.westseattleherald.com/2011/12/13/news/harbor-properties-breaks-ground-%E2%80%9Cnova%E2%80%9D-apartments
walkitout: (Default)
We're sick. T. has had the runs for a few days, following a cold. I've still got the cold (fingers crossed I don't get the rest of it). It's a really bad head cold. Please feel sorry for me.

Monday, I slept all day. R. took the day off to keep an eye on the kids. Tuesday, the kids were both in school, so I spent another day in bed, but I actually only slept about half the time and I had the presence of mind to line up some additional child care, thus leaving me time to watch trashy movies. Unexpectedly, I liked _Inception_ better than I liked _Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows_. Altho I was very happy to see more of Mary. Mary is Cool.

Finally, on Tuesday I left the house to go drop off a stroller at consignment (this led to some additional sleeping). While I was waiting for the stroller to be processed -- you know, that's worth a tangent. This is apparently the month where Other People's Processes Waste My Time. My bank miskeyed a check to me. An apartment complex in Issaquah lost internal record keeping associated with a check from me (which they cashed -- and which I discovered I _do_ get images of which _can_ be attached to FB messages. Who knew?). And the consignment shop misplaced the appointment they made (but I kept the card associated with the appointment). Really, the stellar success in processes is currently the Massachussetts government web site which processed my request to postpone jury duty promptly. Really promptly, considering I went through the process Sunday evening.

Anyway. Back to the stroller. Someone else in the shop is going on about how _expensive_ the units at West Acton Corner are.

http://www.westactoncorner.com/

Over a half million dollars for a 3 bedroom condo or house in Acton with 2500 square feet is Not Excessive. If you don't particularly like West Acton Corner, you do have choices.

http://www.sarahjanecourt.com/

On the one hand, Sarah Jane Court is on a Way Busier Street. On the other hand, it's a lot closer to commuter rail. There is an interesting tradeoff in terms of walkability to coffee, groceries, lunch/dinner/pizza choices, etc. There are some differences in size as well (I think the Sarah Jane ones average a little smaller).

The condos on Prospect Street aren't that dissimilar (a little bigger than the West Acton Corner ones), and their sales prices were pretty close, too. So me, being sick, heard, "Who would want to pay a half million dollars to live next to an auto body place?" and piped up with, "Hey, you're not going to get that square footage cheaper anywhere else in Acton." I may have commented that West Acton is, in general, a really nice place to live. (Did I mention that it's kitty corner to the post office? And the small library is a few block walk?)

The conversation did not improve; it turns out this is another example of someone living in a New England town who Does Not Pay Attention to Real Estate Value. These conversations don't go well for me. I'm not sure why. I've even had meta-conversations about this conversation with people who _do_ pay attention to Real Estate Value. Usually, those conversations involve mutual complaining about how rare open houses are and how weird people act around here if you go to an open house in your own neighborhood when you aren't shopping for yourself or a friend and sometimes about how much effort you have to go to in order to find out what something sold for, but that's usually where I can help out by pointing people at Mass Land Records.

I don't like to complain about my town, because I love my town. But this is a real distinctive feature of New England that I find annoying. People just don't have the expectation of house gossip that seemed really common in the Pacific Northwest and among my friends in the Bay Area.

ETA: Yes, I _do_ know about the Villages at Monument Place and again, pretty similar in terms of bedrooms/bathrooms/square footage/price. Their location from a walkability perspective (to groceries, coffee, lunch/dinner options, commuter rail, etc.) is Worse. Altho they are really close to Nara Park, which is cool, and Planet Gymnastics (also very cool) and the local community gardens. To be fair, it is under a mile to Po's BBQ, which I also like. But nothing like the convenience of the other two locations (but a more house-like, suburban neighborhood feel, I suppose).

http://www.thevillagesatmonumentplace.com/index.html

ETAYA: Looks like Concord Commons in Concord has cleared their remaining units. They went up for sale just as the bust happened and, IIRC, tried auctioning a few of them to try to set an accurate price level. Looking at last ask/sale prices suggests they mostly figured it out and again, not that far off from the developments listed above altho some of the Concord Commons units are smaller (like the smaller ones in West Acton Corner) and correspondingly cheaper.

ETA I'm stopping, really, I am: Concord Riverwalk has also sold most of their units, but this one's still around today:

http://www.newenglandmoves.com/property/details/396356/MLS-71376058/1629-Main-Concord-MA-01742.aspx

$549 for 1540 square feet. _That_ I could see doing a little whining about, however, it's a really cute development so I'm betting they find someone who wants to buy it. Here's another unit for sale in the same development:

http://www.newenglandmoves.com/property/details/417101/MLS-71386458/1631-Main-Street-Concord-West-Concord-MA-01742.aspx

$719 for 1680 square feet. It'll be interesting to see what they get for that one.
walkitout: (Default)
I'm not entirely certain this is enough of the URL to work, but here it is anyway:

http://www.loopnet.com/Property-Record/19-Great-Road-Acton-MA-01720/Noy3P5d9Q/

This is a commercial property listed as 19 or 29 Great Road. It used to be an interior design/retail furniture store called "Now & Then" and had been there for quite a while.

According to Wicked Local, dated Aug 25, 2011:

http://www.wickedlocal.com/acton/photos/x678156850/Now-Then-closing-Acton-shop

"Now & Then, a long-time interior design business in Acton, is closing its doors and has sold its Great Road location"

But according to Loopnet it is a REO property not yet listed for sale or lease, and according to Mass Land Records, it was assigned by "AHC" to Enterprise Bank on 7/29/2011. Need translation? The bank now owns the property.

"Sold", hunh? R. is convinced this would have been readily detectable at the time the article was written. I'm not so sure -- I don't really know when updates get pushed through. But that was close to a month; it may well have been an easily correctable error, but one that no one was particularly motivated to pursue.
walkitout: (Default)
Here is an extended excerpt from Klassen's _Mennonites in Early Modern Poland and Prussia_, which I am hugely enjoying because it's an academic development of the "and then they moved around Europe alternately being persecuted and being encouraged to live somewhere so they would reclaim land by building dikes and windmills) that I grew up with. Mmmm. Family history. Mmmm. Academic development. Good times. For me, anyway.

Recently, AvalonBay decided _not_ to do a project they started during the boom and then put on hold during the bust. It was a pricey for-rent development on Manhattan next to a garbage truck facility and on leased land. This news item -- when it came out a month or more ago -- led to extended speculation between R. and I about very-long-term land leases. Today, Klassen has supplied a name for at least one way of doing these leases: emphyteusis (actually, he wrote emphyteutic tenure, and it isn't in a the kindle dictionary or whatever LJ uses to spellcheck while typing). You can look that up as easily as I and maybe you'll even be able to understand it.

Here's the excerpt. "In the 1550s, Michael Loitz, a city councilor in Danzig and member of a wealthy family that owned a noted banking house, was given a thirty-year lease by the crown on land near the Tiege (Tuja) River. He had made numerous loans to King Sigismund II Augustus, and when the loans were not repaid, he was given emphyteutic tenure of the village of Schonsee (Jeziernik) and surrounding land. Under emphyteutic tenure, leases were granted for an extended period of time, usually thirty or forty years, and were inheritable ... The Loitz brothers of the banking firm wanted to improve the condition of their unusable [walkitout sez: mostly underwater] land and felt that the newcomers from the Netherlands were most capable of doing this. In 1562 they invited such Mennonites to transform swamps into fertile, productive farmland. ... [Summary of intensive water engineering involved.] ... For several years, the Loitz family gave these Dutch Mennonites free use of the land and later emphyteutic leases ... [explanation of how the Mennonite side of lease handled] ... Unfortunately for the Loitz family, the king, Sigismund II Augustus, died in 1572 without having paid his debts. The Polish Sejm [legislative body/parliament/diet] was soon caught up in a difficult succession quarrel [yes, they elect their kings] and refused to accept responsibility for the royal debt. This default on the king's accumulated debt brought bankruptcy to the Loitz family. In 1575 a new king, Stefan Bathory, gained the Polish crown and became involved in a power struggle with Danzig [everything described previous occurred in environs of Danzig/Gdansk; Danzig had _lots_ of trade and thus tax revenue]. When the proud city refused to bend to the king's will, a military confrontation resulted in which Danzig mercenaries fought the king's army. Neither side gained a clear victory [and probably a good thing, too; clear victories in this time frame are not pretty], but Danzig agreed to pay homage to the king and swore allegiance to him. In turn, the king continued the traditional privileges of the city and also recognized Danzig's right to observe the Lutheran faith.

"During the struggle, Ernst von Weiher, one of the king's commanders, distinguished himself. The king rewarded him by giving him the land that had been leased to the Loitz family and that was now home to many Mennonites. [You might want to look up emphyteusis and really try hard to understand it at this point because I think it matters.] The new administrator demonstrated his control by canceling existing contracts and demanding initial payments from the Mennonite settlers. He then allowed them to acquire twenty-year leases. In 1601 the leases were extended for the more usual forty years."

Moral: People who are sufficiently motivated (viz. everyone else is persecuting/killing them) will engage in complex, productive work even if there is a lot of uncertainty about their ability to benefit from that productive work and even more about their ability to pass it along to their children. But if you stress them enough, they will engage in communism. [Yeah, I edited that part out.] Good news, tho: you can shake them down occasionally. I didn't really need to tell a story about early modern Poland and Dutch immigrant Mennonites to make that point, however. I could have told you about T., who has been in her apartment for 17 years and has replaced all the kitchen appliances as they broke and the landlord was nonresponsive and is now contemplating redoing the crooked countertops. The appliances she can take with her should she ever move; the countertop not so much.

Applicable lesson today: people who whine about regulatory uncertainty have no _idea_ what true regulatory uncertainty is all about.
walkitout: (Default)
These will be short reviews.

_Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History Is Reshaping Our World_, Doug Sanders

Sanders did a good job. He repeats himself, but that's okay. His thesis is simple: history had a lot of migrations from rural areas to urban areas; we're in the biggest and last of those (ever). He visited a _lot_ of places and was able to see how really shockingly not-up-to-our-standards housing can work well as part of a pathway to stability and prosperity. This is important; reading a book about how everywhere is too small, too grimy and doesn't have proper sewage disposal and thus it should all be torn down is Not Helpful. He also provided some tantalizing insight into why so many observers see communities with what look like upside down priorities to us (cable but no sewage disposal, say).

Read it. It isn't perfect, but it's close.

_Why the Garden Club Couldn't Save Youngstown: The Transformation of the Rust Belt_, Sean Safford

What a title! Safford compares Allentown, PA and Youngstown, OH, which seemed kind of similar but took different paths when steel and a bunch of manufacturing left in the late 1970s/early 1980s. He does network analysis on the towns, and I _think_ what he concluded was that if you were management? Elite? in Youngstown, you'd be hard pressed to tell whether you were at a party for a museum, the boy scouts or work -- you'd see exactly the same group of people in every case, whereas in Allentown, that was not at all the case.

Safford argues that something like initial conditions (settlement patterns in the towns' early histories) led to this situation. Basically, Allentown has very distinct subcommunities that didn't intermarry for a while; Youngstown was founded a little later by a somewhat more homogenous group. Also, Allentown's initial round of money went off and did cultural things, leaving a separate management class; Youngstown didn't, so when business dived, everything came down with it. Allentown has a secondary structure.

It's an interesting argument and worth thinking about. Safford's policy suggestions are not helpful, to the extent that they exist.

_Cities and Suburbs: New Metropolitan Realities in the US_, Bernadette Hanlon, John Rennie Short, Thomas J. Vicino

It's expensive and seems to be a textbook. The tables look better on the DX than the regular kindle, but they aren't tremendously helpful either way. Their photographs and the captions on the photographs are at times incomprehensible in an unintentionally funny way (like a picture of a kinda cool 1920ish bungalow -- falling down -- caption along the lines of "area of concentrated poverty". It's _one house_! To be fair, Figure 5.3 does show what might be a vacant lot next door. I'm sure it _is_ an area of concentrated poverty; photo was taken in Detroit in 2002.). This book presents what is probably the new/current consensus understanding of cities in the US (and elsewhere): multi-centered, regional, with a wide variety in density throughout. The worst poverty is _not_ located in the center (if you can even identify a singular "center") and the wealth is not entirely located in the "suburbs", some of which themselves behave like city cores. They spend some time on immigration and note that a lot of immigration into the US is direct-to-suburbs (which anyone who has just read _Arrival City_ already fully understands_. They provide a decent overview of the timeframe of flows of people from one part of the metropolis to another, and how that is influenced by race, class, larger regional and economic issues, etc.

It's fundamentally a little weak -- but it's a textbook. If I were reviewing it as a textbook, I'd say it was pretty good. If I were viewing this through an academic lens (an uncredentialed amateur, but still), it's mediocre. As trade non-fiction, it kinda sucks and it's expensive. If this is an area of intense interest to you, you don't really need this -- you can produce the framework through other reading. But if you're assigned this in a class, it's probably worthwhile.

There's a real possibility that the humorous captions were _intentionally_ humorous. This is most likely for things like Figure 11.4, which shows a big Caterpillar, a line of trees acting as a windbreak and some scraped ground, captioned "Not smart growth in Maryland". I'm reasonably certain that was supposed to be humorous.

One of the biggest problems with development/city/suburb/metropolis discussion is that participants usually sort themselves into the groups currently in contention, and they often at least act like the previous, no-longer-popular groups never existed. So you get summaries of the development of metropolitan areas that leap over really crucial quarter centuries or, worse, use nomenclature invented _later_ to describe something that planners were complicit in and used other terminology form. The most notable instance in this text is using Garreau's term "Greenfields" to describe what I believe to be the New Town movement. It sounds like carping, but it makes it harder to understand what happened and why -- and much easier to repeat errors.
walkitout: (Default)
(1) Turn it into a funeral home/crematorium.

http://www.news-leader.com/article/20110901/NEWS01/109010352/Some-neighbors-oppose-crematory-near-Republic

(2) Move in the police department, or maybe use it as a library, or a community center.

http://www.wvnstv.com/story.cfm?func=viewstory&storyid=105294&catid=3

(3) Use it for SWAT team practice.

http://www.wbay.com/story/15327278/2011/08/24/swat-training-turns-vacant-church-into-a-war-zone

I'm trying to decide whether this is worth doing with churches in general. The picture for the SWAT team was hilarious.
walkitout: (Default)
http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/34/32/dtg_bridgeparkdealmain_2011_08_12_bk.html

I could say oh, so very, very much. After all, there's the I-was-a-JW-and-much-of-my-family-still-is angle. There's the print-on-paper-is-dying angle. There's the development angle.

And there's that whole alternate universe thing, in which, what if D. had convinced the WTBTS to take her on to help out with automation back in the late 80s? Would she still have developed health problems? Would it have led to a qualitatively different sort of crisis? Would she still have gotten married? Odds on, if that had worked out, I would never have come out to visit as a high school graduation present and seen DC for the first time, which means I would have been that much less likely to return to DC with cousins over a decade later, and certainly wouldn't have appreciated the difference that time made in the nature of the city. If she had gone to work for HQ and they had treated her well, would it have impacted my attitude towards the religion and perhaps stuck it out for longer? This is probably all just an artifact of a total loss of concentration.

Wondering where they are going to?

http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110825/NEWS/108250327/-1/SITEMAP

Apparently, Warwick, NY.

ETA: Above, I say "There's the print-on-paper-is-dying angle". I was sort of kidding. I shouldn't have been.

http://www.jw.org/

Front page is downloadable, multiple format magazines, yearbook, publications, etc. Geez.
walkitout: (Default)
http://www.mainstreet.com/article/small-business/franchises/what-do-dead-mall

So far, I've been focusing on mall redevelopment that is driven by private development looking for a profit. The New Old Age blog post I described in the previous entry was attempting to redirect this stream of activity and money towards public services (aging in place for suburbanites). I find that improbable for a variety of reasons (I'm not even going to touch the moral/idealogical/idealistic aspects of it because there's just no point).

Earlier in my attempts to explore Our Economy of the Future Today, I posted a bunch about changes to lighten regulation of agricultural products grown within cities and suburbs (legalizing some aspects of urban farming). The above URL is about a mall in Cleveland, The Galleria (how many towns used _that_ name for a mall?), which opened in the mid 1980s, thrived in the 1990s, and then fell on hard times in the early 2000s.

"Much of the space that had been occupied by boutiques was soon snatched up by a banking chain called the Dollar Bank."

Thinking this is a mall headed down the payday loan route? Think again:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dollar_Bank

Dollar Bank's HQ opened at the Galleria in 2008, but development for that started in 2007.

Prior to that (altho the article makes this very obscure): "Then in 2005, Poole decided it was time to try and rehabilitate the mall she’d spent years working in by getting a bit creative. "We installed a curtain in our food court and used it to create an events center,” Poole says. That small step proved to be very effective. “It’s become a vibrant place where people can hold weddings and other events.”" And there's some reason to think that the food court never suffered, altho the shops were vacant. The Galleria is downtown, was part of a downtown revitalization effort, and the food court got solid lunchtime traffic throughout.

So don't think "cheap tent wedding"; think, "using a nice space in the evenings".

"Last year, Poole began working on a more ambitious project to transform the Galleria Mall from a dying retail space into a greenhouse that would not only help educate the city about healthy food, but provide it."

Not so much.

http://web.me.com/gardensunderglass/gardensunderglass/Welcome.html

Really cool project, but this is no squatter urban farm in Oakland raising pigs for meat, poultry for eggs and meat and dumpster diving to avoid having to pay for all the feed. This is an educational project and a foodie thing and, honestly, a wtf moment for urban workers.

It's a little sad that an article tried to find parallels between the Galleria in Cleveland, and dead malls being turned into churches. (For the record: the mall become church was older, died when the Galleria was booming, and its tenants included a hardware store. NOT the same.) The total amount of money spent by the church to buy it at auction and to renovate it is almost certainly chump change compared to what goes into making the Galleria what it is today. But then characterizing Belmar in Lakewood, CO as "repurposed to serve as a housing development" defies belief.

The article has some other weird things in it ("While few would ever protest having a hospital or a new water park added to their community" -- try googling NIMBY and either hospital or water park and see what you get), the balance of the article is arguing that a shuttered mall is worse than a no-tax-revenue-creating community center, church or other community-service oriented not-for-profit reuse strategy. While that is true, look at the evidence rallied in support of this thesis:

"He highlights one particular shopping center, the Dixie Square Mall in Chicago, which sat vacant for years. “The roof caved in, homeless people moved in and a lot of crimes happened there,” he said. This hurt property values for the suburban community nearby."

It is moments like this when I truly love google, wikipedia, etc.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dixie_Square_Mall

Dixie Square Mall opened in 1966 and _closed in 1978_. And has been sitting there ever since. There are a lot of reasons for this, but even a superficial glance at a map suggests that the mall was misplaced from the beginning. The story is quite horrifying and surely did not in any way help the town of Harvey, but suggesting that this could happen anywhere a mall is shuttered is like believing in the boogie man.

Until gas prices spiked high and stayed high enough to focus our collective attention on the impossibilities of living dozens of miles from where we work and shop and attend school and have a good time, figuring out what to do with a dead mall was a Problem. Once we realized we couldn't keep pushing the periphery further out from any meaningful center and accepted we were going to be crowding in on top of each other, dead malls became a Solution. But the developers are acting while the commenters are desperately trying to catch up (I include myself in the latter category, of course).

Oh, and in case it isn't obvious. All those foolish/evil property owners who sat on dead malls for 10-15 years and didn't do anything with them? I'm thinking that over the next 10 years, they're all going to be getting heavy press for their brilliant patience.

(Regarding the placement of the mall/Harvey's woes: north of Harvey is a major switching/container yard and east of Harvey is _another_ major switching/container yard and south of Harvey is yet another substantial rail yard. I don't know the names of any of them. I don't think there's a comparable suburban location anywhere else in the US, outside of Chicago. It's like being on the "wrong side of the tracks", only to the third power.)
walkitout: (Default)
Here's a set of ideas from the tail end of the boom:

http://www.amazon.com/Retrofitting-Suburbia-Updated-Solutions-Redesigning/dp/0470934328

The author is quoted extensively in this interview from earlier this year, in the extremely wonderful NYT blog, The New Old Age:

http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/21/new-lives-for-dead-suburban-malls

"Failed malls offer an unparalleled opportunity to bring services to suburban neighborhoods, Ms. Dunham-Jones says. “The idea is to demolish a dead mall and build the downtown area a suburb never had,” she said. “Three or four stories of apartments above the retail on the ground floor, providing an option where people can walk to most of their daily needs. And they have more opportunities for social interaction. They get a more urban lifestyle, but in a familiar place.”"

It sounds lovely, if unlikely. The most glaring issue is the idea of "three or four stories" of apartments above the ground floor retail; it just doesn't sound like enough units to justify the expense involved. 6-7+ floor midrise zoning is what got this kind of development moving in Seattle, and even there, it has preferentially happened not in aging neighborhoods, but in neighborhoods that had aged past the move-to-the-nursing home phase, and were being replenished by young couples starting to have children.

Worse, her favorite example is Northgate in Seattle:

"Ms. Dunham-Jones’s favorite example of a retrofitted retail center is the Northgate Mall in northeast Seattle — in this case, it was not a dead mall but a “thriving mall that wanted to expand,” she said, located “in a very suburban, auto-dependent area with a large senior population.”"

Northgate is a _terrible_ example of what she proposes, _not_ because the redevelopment of Northgate was undesirable (altho knowing Seattle, I'm sure you could find someone to take that position), but because Northgate is one of the oldest malls in the country and it never died. Both parts are important. And for all she says it is an auto-dependent area, it is also an area which benefitted from the oldest, most detailed transit development on the north side of the city.

As is typical with this blog, the comments thread is worth reading. Numerous commenters pointed out the same issue with using Northgate as an example. To be fair, "Jim from Baltimore" has an even sillier takeaway, concluding that planning/zoning is counterproductive (Northgate/Seattle _is_ an excellent example of how the planning/zoning process makes everything take longer and cost more -- to good effect). The developer on the Northgate project (Lorig) is local/regional and is used to dealing with Pacific Northwest zoning/regional planning. And having seen a little bit of what passes for zoning in Yankeeland, I feel compelled to point out that as heavyweight as the Seattle process can be, at least it's rational: you can figure out who you need to get permission from and you don't have to go to the governor to move a project forward after you've jumped through all relevant hoops.

Another commenter points to corporations being reluctant to change their strategies. "Mike in San Francisco" is completely incomprehensible: this is about suburban development, not urban, and if Mike looked out at the relevant comparators for his area, he'd be looking at things like San Jose's Santana Row.

The very weirdest of all the comments, however, is "Steve in Los Angeles": "Here in California, this concept has been going strong for several years now. An old defunct mall in Pasadena was transformed into an open air mall and apartments. Great in theory, but where are the grocery stores, the pharmacies, the drug stores, the DMV, the churches, the hospitals, the veterinarians and all the other places that people need on a regular basis?"

He's talking about the Paseo Colorado development which I blogged about. A few minutes on google maps produces: Paseo Colorado has inside it a Gelson's Market (an expensive supermarket, but a supermarket). Inside the Gelson's is a pharmacy (I'm going to assume that a supermarket with a pharmacy has at least a couple aisle of drug store like products, and there is always the internet). Huntington Memorial Hospital is less than a mile and a half away. The DMV is under 3 miles away (what the hell do you need a DMV for if you can't drive three miles? Oh, wait, state id card so you can vote. Maybe you'll have to call a taxi or arrange for paratransit, but hell, if you can avoid to live in the Terraces at Paseo Colorado, you can afford a taxi -- and there are taxi stands in the area). There's a library about a quarter of a mile away. There's a _theological seminary_ nearby, as well as a half dozen churchs within a half mile.

The real problem with Paseo Colorado and other malls + residential _is_ obliquely captured by the rest of Steve's comment:

"Let's call this experiment what it is--a final attempt to squeeze the last bit of money out of elderly people before they die."

Except the Terraces aren't really marketed to the elderly anyway, which is another issue with this retrofitting suburbia as a way to help the aging idea.

Other comments question where the money would come for to do this redevelopment. If the focus _weren't_ on the elderly/aging in place, the answer is obvious (and the basis for Paseo Colorado, Santana Row and other developments asking for and getting quite astonishingly high rents): a wide range of people who have jobs and want to live in a lively, walkable neighborhood with public transit options and/or is close to their job. While the early 2000s instances tend to be for lease variations and there is an ongoing focus on DINKs and singles, I can't help but think that future incarnations -- further out than Santana Row, Paseo Colorado and Northgate, but well within the edge defined by the Big Recession -- will also market to young families.

The policy analysis is kinda poor, but occasionally someone is piping up with examples that match what is in Dunham-Jones book (college opening up in a former mall). Inevitably, someone mentions Nanuet as needing this kind of refreshing (got news for you: it won't happen until more of the current population ages out).

I particularly love the image captured in this phrase: "the 'boomer housing sell-off crisis' will make the dot-com debacle look like a walk in the park." Really? You're harkening back to the early 2000s for a scary crisis? Did you not _notice_ the one that just happened?

I find it utterly amazing that I was completely unaware of this mall + residential trend, and deeply comforting that I'm not the only one missing the point. I knew about Northgate. I saw the massive buildings next to Solomon Pond. I laughed when the Natick condos went to auction. But I _still_ didn't notice the trend until recently. But at least I never operated under the delusion that this would somehow be services provided to aging-in-place elderly. When development is privately funded for profit, no one targets the middle-class elderly.
walkitout: (Default)
The Simon Property Group proposed residential tower with condos for Copley Place raised a bunch of questions: has Simon done this before? Yes. Were they the developer for the Natick Place condos that went to auction? No. (That was General Growth and they went through BK, Simon tried to buy them, it did not happen and General Growth exited BK as a going concern. For those of you paying attention, book value turns out to matter after all.)

Some of Simon's mall + housing is for lease, some for sale. But with two really big, successful REITs engaging in this, I had to ask, "Why?"

Someone has answered this question:

http://www.housingwire.com/2008/12/29/malls-the-future-of-housing

(In fact, someone answered this question 10 years ago, see below for the update on the properties mentioned in it:

http://www.deadmalls.com/news/20011216-sacramento-bee/)

Basically, if you want to build in the inner ring, you need a big parcel. Parking lots are nice, since demo for them is simple. Malls have _big_ parking lots. You don't even need to get rid of the mall (look at Northgate in Seattle, or, for an unrelated business with similar issues, a second gate for Disney - DCA - in Anaheim, and a DVC development for DisneyWorld - BLT - in Orlando.); just take some of the parking or maybe replace it with a garage.

The Housing Wire URL refers to Belmar in Lakewood, CO.

http://www.belmarcolorado.com/living.php

KB Homes built "row homes" for-sale housing. There's a wide range of for-sale and for-lease options (including live-work, down to studio, definitely up to 3+ bedrooms). It spreads over several blocks, and the complex does in fact include a grocery store (Whole Foods).

The developers of Belmar appear to be Continuum Partners (but for all I know, there were a huge number of participants; I can't tell). Check out their website, in particular, I've _never_ seen a big developer with a recommended reading list.

http://www.continuumpartners.com/resources/index.html

The Sacramento Bee article from ten years ago mentions the apartments at the Paseo Colorado in Pasadena. They're a going concern ten years on, charging high rates (much higher than 10 years ago, when it opened).

http://www.windsorcommunities.com/apartments/los-angeles/terraces

The Santana Row development worked out well, also. The search would suggest that up to 4 bedrooms exist in the complex, altho nothing bigger than 2/2.5 is currently available for rent.

CityPlace in Long Beach is owned/operated at least in part by Archstone (one of the really huge REITs; relatively recently bought a building in Belltown). It doesn't look like Mizner Park has fared as well as some of the others, but that's probably a regional effect.

Amusingly, according to the Housing Wire bit, the Natick development by General Growth was built on a Wonder Bread factory site, just like Legacy at Pratt, which was built after we left Seattle.

The list so far of where to get space to build in the suburbs: malls, defunct industrial (Wonder Bread factories, Jacobsen Marine in Seattle, all of South Lake Union's development), bowling alleys. R. thinks defunct country clubs should appear on the list in New England, but I haven't found an instance yet. We still have working farms providing greenfield development opportunities (apparently that's what truly contentious zoning gets you).
walkitout: (Default)
What's happening in the center of the city is peripheral (ha!) to my thesis, however I want to point to a couple things.

http://www.boston.com/realestate/gallery/current_construction_projects/

Many of these "current" projects have not broken ground (as near as I can tell, anyway) and I'm not even sure financing has been nailed down for many -- but the Globe doesn't seem to consistently mention financial and other partners when present so an absence of mention is not evidence of absence.

_Exactly_ as in Seattle, many of these projects were all ready to go a few years ago when the markets froze solid and we all collectively freaked out; it's taken this long for credit to be available to proceed on development. So you would sort of expect these projects to be fantastically non-controversial by this point: people presumably would like the jobs and equally would have already engaged in oppositional activities years ago.

Not so.

http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=597798

From this snapshot of a 2008 Globe article, we see that the proposed residential tower to go on top of Copley Place Mall (owned by Simon) was intended in the original development in the 1980s (<-- yes, thirty years ago, when even I was quite young, and when "Massachusetts Miracle" was a new and exciting term -- altho worth noting that in the same time frame, people knew _exactly_ what the Combat Zone was because it was still there).

"While many aspects of the project must be vetted with the community and approved by the city, a building at Stuart and Dartmouth streets was contemplated as part of the master plan for Copley Place when it was first built."

You can tell you're in Boston when you read this:

http://www.boston.com/realestate/gallery/current_construction_projects?pg=5

"Two lawmakers are accusing Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Governor Deval Patrick of steamrolling the project through the public review process."

about something that's been contemplated in some form for thirty years. Hey, maybe it _was_ steam rolled.

R. asked whether Simon had any similar developments elsewhere.

Yes: Coconut Point in Estero, FL (shopping + condos, etc.) and The Domain in Austin, TX (shopping + apartments, etc.

So what is it with malls and condos/apartments? That will be the subject of the next post. Probably.
walkitout: (Default)
I already mentioned the Sunset Lanes -> Avalon Ballard process; AvalonBay is national.

Mastro Properties bought Leilani Lanes and closed it, planning to put up a big block of apartments, but Mastro went under (if you're bored, googling Mastro bankruptcy is fun: http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/blog/2011/06/mastro-trial-war-of-the-rings-is-back.html).

http://www.grouparch.com/projects/commercial/leilani-square

I guess meetings have started up again.

http://web1.seattle.gov/dpd/luib/Notice.aspx?BID=620&NID=12224

It looks like the architects are driving the process; who knows who the developer would be if it actually happens. I feel like that's a little far north for this kind of thing, but I clearly have terrible judgement in this area.

If grouparchitects _is_ leading the process, they aren't the only architect-led developer in Seattle:

http://wrpassoc.com/about

They're doing Harvard Flats on Cap Hill. Is this where a design+build passion takes you?

Oh, wait: looks like they don't sell the buildings, either; they manage them.

http://www.seattleneighborhoodliving.com/

Pretty work.

Here's stuff about the North Lot development (alternative scheme for getting space in an urban area: take a stadium parking lot).

http://www.danielsdevelopmentcompany.com/projects_northlot.html

http://www.northlotdevelopment.com/about.html

And another parking lot sold to build hotel + apartments:

http://queenanne.komonews.com/news/development/7-story-171-unit-apartment-and-hotel-coming-seattle-center/653414
walkitout: (Default)
In a world in which everyone bought single family homes (<-- exaggeration), people who couldn't afford them lived in Low Income Housing (not single family homes). That low income housing has not been in the central core of cities. For a while. Turns out there was a whole business model that involved in building/running these complexes, which have a _lot_ of regulation associated with them (notably, I think you have to stick with the investment for 15 years, and a lot of the deals were done in the mid- to late-1990s. Think about that for a while.).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low-Income_Housing_Tax_Credit#Syndication_.26_Partnership

Many of the biggest apartment owners on MFHC's top 50 list are this kind of syndicators, and they are shedding units like crazy over the last few years.

The mid- to bottom of the top 50 list looks very different.

This resolves a lot of confusion I had about the size of the biggest owners/managers, and that they were shrinking, and so forth.

It also makes sense of this:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2015562249_cityapartments10.html

I'm not actually that interested in apartments being built in city cores -- that's a trend we are all familiar with and unless 3 family apartment homes are built in great masses (which could happen), it's not the trend I'm sniffing around for. The trend I'm sniffing around for is apartments/multi family being built with nice, big, suburban-house-replacement-units in the inner ring of suburbs. Learning that developers are skipping suburbs to go to the city is code for: LIHTC is done, city core is where it's at.

It is worth noting that Seattle, unlike Boston, has a lot of very low density (quarter acre lot, single family home) neighborhoods, which would be what I'm including as "inner ring of suburbs".

However, the article also covers AvalonBay communities (which is NOT LIHTC communities, EVER. ETA: But they do take advantage of 20% units "affordable" to use tax breaks and access building loans. There's a complex in _my_ town.) going into Queen Anne (NOT suburban, remotely). Avalon is also building in Ballard. This is surprising only in that it's a qualitatively larger project than the multi-family that has been going up in Ballard for the last 15 years or so.

I'll have to do some digging to determine whether the floor plans are the same old same old (studio, 1, 2 and 2 + den) or if they are extending into 3 bedroom plans.

As usual, I think I'm a little off on my timeline.

ETA: Seriously!?! And I'm just finding out about this _now_?

http://sustainableballard.org/wiki/Sunset_bowl_property_on_14th_Ave_NW

R. and I were just discussing how really big developments assemble land parcels in places that have already been full built out at a lower property value. I was thinking, "closed supermarket". But I guess Sunset Bowl works, too.

AvalonBay, predictably, providing charging stations in the garage:

http://eastballard.wordpress.com/meeting-notes/ballard-outreach-meeting-with-avalon-bay-communities-2/

And rainwater capture tanks. So very Seattle!

AvalonBay Queen Anne:

http://www.djc.com/news/co/12018922.html

On the old Mountaineers club site! (Am I allowed to laugh or will that confuse and/or annoy everyone?)

About 200 units on 1 acre.

http://www.queenanneview.com/2010/08/13/the-price-to-live-at-avalon-queen-anne-apartments/

Comments thread mocks pricing. Looks like studio/1/2.
walkitout: (Default)
A classic tactic of the middle class is to _not_ sell their starter house to move up, but instead to rent it for enough to cover the mortgage and then rent it out. Particularly ambitious families may discover they are actually good at this (usually involves one partner being very detailed/organized and the other being able to keep up on some of the maintenance and both of them are capable of tolerating good-enough strategies. A perfectionist in the mix is guaranteed failure); they may add more properties if they are available at the right price, there are enough renters to feel confident in keeping them filled, and there is appropriate financing (very few people have a stack of cash and the inclination to manage a motley portfolio of rental properties, but they do exist -- and if you're in the right spot, some rental property portfolios will spin off enough cash to buy more for cash).

We know that distressed sales are attracting cash buyers who are buying investment property so we can assume this is already happening in places like California and Nevada.

But not everyone is good at managing, and some people have a stack of cash and no inclination to self-exploit their labor as a manager; businesses exist to provide management services for rental housing (single family or multi-family) that they don't own. I know this, because I grew up on the same small street as a family that went from managing a string of their own properties to running a property management business.

What I _don't_ know is what the management pie chart looks like for rental housing: owner vs. non-owner, small owner vs. Residential REIT, etc. It's probably out there somewhere, if I can figure out how to ask the right question.

ETA: Hmmm. Not a pie chart, but wow.

http://www.nmhc.org/Content/ServeContent.cfm?ContentItemID=5599&NavID=95
walkitout: (Default)
Beautiful Charts from the National Multi Family Housing Council:

http://www.nmhc.org/Content/ServeContent.cfm?ContentItemID=1152

They update them. They base them on Census data. They are beautiful. If you have a question, like, what fraction of US households are renting an apartment, these charts can answer that question for you.

Apartments

Aug. 5th, 2011 03:07 pm
walkitout: (Default)
Throughout the 2000s, we had a massive single-family housing b*. Call it a boom, call it a bust, call it a bubble, call it a boondoggle. I don't care. It was something that involved a word starting with the letter b, and involving _single family_ housing.

I thought this was wrong, in part because I really believed we had a secular trend starting in the 1990s of densification (moving nearer to the central core of jobs/shopping/culture, rather than away). However, people do what people do, not what I think they should do.

Once the bubble burst in the bust (sorry about that), it was inevitable that a period of don't-build-a-damn-thing would occur (complicated by things like heavily zoned areas that never overbuilt to a great degree and bankrupt nearly finished developments being completed by a bank and then sold for less than resales in certain areas). Because oil prices, while fluctuating, have been persistently high, I figured "this time for sure, Rocky", we'll actually see movement towards the center and/or multi-family development. R. and I had a little conversation about what the ramifications of that might be.

(1) Are there college degrees in property management? Because I'm pretty sure that's an enormously complicated activity and would reward doing it right. YES! There are certificate programs, undergraduate, graduate degrees, etc.

(2) Who is going to build multi-family? Toll Brothers may be doing a tiny amount of multi-family (ooh, look, we're doing a Manhattan mid-rise!), but it's all for-sale stuff. (OK, that's not true. They were looking to hire someone to start their multi-family for-lease team last June: http://www.selectleaders.com/candidate/viewjobdetails.do?jid=21626) _Someone_ was popping up downtown midrises through the 1990s and even the 2000s, and it wasn't all condos. Who were they?

Equity Residential (EQR): I pointed to one of their web pages when I was wondering if apartments offered EV charging stations as an amenity. EQR has 428 properties, 123,664 units and over 4000 employees. (A Sam Zell operation. Yikes.)

Avalon Bay (AVB): 195 properties, 56516 units, 13 under construction, 8 under reconstruction, development rights in 32. They specialized in high-quality, high barrier to entry markets (they mean, zoned and the zoning process is contentious).

Aimco (AIV): 607 properties, over 500,000 residents (I'm assuming they average more than one resident per unit, given their tiers are "conventional" and "affordable"; I figure on the order of 150K). AIV's market strategy is "20 largest" and liquid. I think that means their management strategy involves running things into the ground and then offloading them onto an unsuspecting "investor", but that could just be me being really cynical.

Essex Property Trust (ESS): west coast specialist (Bay Area and north, as near as I can tell). 150 properties, 30,995 units. Their strategy is "highly desirable, supply constrained".

There are more (believe me, there are more). These are just 4 of the big apartment REITs, which (re)develop, own, manage apartment complexes. Employment for one of these companies (outside the home office) includes property managers in multiple tiers, maintenance techs in multiple tiers, etc.

I want to know how many jobs might be created as an effect of people living in apartments instead of living in single family houses. REITs have permanent employees: managers, techs, etc. arrange to have the roof and leaky faucet fixed, rather than the homeowners (the homeowners, in this case, are the people who hold stock in EQR, AVB, ESS, AIV, etc.). We've been below trend on building single-family housing; what if we are actually looking at the "new" trend, and it will be matched by a future trend involving a lot of multi-family housing permitting and construction?

Now I'm going to make up some numbers. Feel free to chime in with better numbers:

New single-family housing trend: 600,000 units per year.
New multi-family housing unit trend: 500,000 units per year.

Think those are low? Yes! Why. Well, I think a lot of people would like to not live with their parents, but we aren't building multi-family fast enough therefore a lot of people are going to be chasing rents for a while until the multi-fam developers start catching up (when will that be? Never, if history is a gauge. When residences are run like businesses, they tend to be small and expensive).

500,000 is a lot for multi-family; we're not there yet. But I'm projecting a hypothetical trend; bear with me. [The alert reader will notice that I'm assuming all of that multi-family is for-lease when I start doing the jobs-per-unit calculation. This is a completely bullshit assumption; the actual fraction that will be for-lease will likely be well-under half of whatever multi-family is built.]

How many units of multi-family does it take to create a job? R. and I had one approach to figuring this out. A small (about 10) unit apartment building can drive you nuts trying to manage it on top of a "real" job or jobs if you own it as a couple. A real go-getter can run 3 or 4 of these rented to students in Illinois a couple decades ago and turn that into a full time gig (hiring out a bunch of work as well). That implies something like a 30-40 units = 1 job.

I dug around to come up with number of employees at EQR, AVB, AIV and ESS, as well as number of units. For EQR, AVB and ESS, the ratio is within the 30-40 units = 1 job range. AIV comes in above 40, which is unsurprising (its tiers are "conventional" and "affordable" and nowhere are words like "luxury", "high-quality", "high barrier-to-entry", or "supply-constrained market" used in describing their business).

We _were_ building a couple hundred thousand multi-family a year, so if we add another 300K multi family units a year, I think we could expect that to add 9-10,000 direct jobs along with those units. Every single year, and previous years employment is conserved (until the units are destroyed).

It's not at all obvious to me how to calculate whether these are net new jobs (that is, would single-family units of recent vintage somehow generate even more paid employment compared to multi-familiy units). Some aspects of maintenance are not "jobs" when done by the homeowner, however, if multi-family units create fewer lawn maintenance, house cleaning, (even dog walking) jobs than single-family, the 9-10K direct jobs associated with a change in mix towards multi-family would net out less (or even, possibly, negative). You'd probably need a lot more data and a software package to figure that out and I don't really care that much.

There are some downsides. People who have these jobs have some very negative things to say about a lot of the big employers. OTOH, there are _always_ jobs available. It's probably better than flipping burgers or bodies, right?

As a side note, Trammell Crow spun off its _management_ business, which makes it really different from all of the above (which own and manage, mostly what they own). Riverstone Residential is _huge_: supposedly 200K units with 1025 employees -- you'll notice how different that ratio is from the REITs altho to be fair I got the information from a very different site. I think that reflects this: "Services include leasing and marketing, due diligence, resident screening, and debt collection.". Which gives you an idea of the division of labor (all the missing workers are presumably in maintenance).

R. and I hypothesized that a really competent property manager might want to unload the properties and lease their services to the property owners (thus separating the business from the property appreciation/depreciation) (incompetent managers might want to do that, too, but presumably they'd be less successful at finding customers). However, we did not imagine a scenario in which the property management included no maintenance at all. I'll have to think about that for a while. Riverstone is a private equity operation so it's trickier to get insight into what they are doing and how well it is working.

ETA: Above, I mocked Toll Brothers for just _now_ starting a multi-family for-lease development business. That was unfair of me. KB Home _sold_ theirs (an affordable apartment housing business) in 2000.

http://www.kbhome.com/PressArticle~id~278.aspx

There's no indication that they've turned around and tried to create a multi-family for-lease business on the high end, either; they're still in the build-expensive-condos-somewhat-convenient-to-transport phase, along with D R Horton, Lennar and Pulte (and some fraction of those are 55+ communities). Some of these are properly in urban cores (Lennar's Blu in SF, for example).
walkitout: (Default)
Awhile ago, I ran across a prediction for the housing market that I thought was...interesting. I tracked it down partway, and then hit a wall, in that I was unable to decide what I thought of the source. In my efforts to research them via their website, I signed up to get email and today, I got email advertising a new product they are selling:

http://www.ufanet.com/FSLocation.htm

This doesn't include anywhere near the level of detail in the e-mail I got, which included things like this:

"What Goes Into the ForeScores?
Local economic variables like income, employment, unemployment, and inflation
Zip code level demographics like population growth and distribution
Forecasts of future collateral values with quarterly updates
Local legal environment like recourse, judicial foreclosure, and predatory lending laws
Local political variables like property taxes and growth controls
Local topography factors -- e.g. coastal -- that affect loan performance"

and

"UFA has brought together the best minds in the industry and in academia to create
simple metrics for the economic risks of default and prepayment at the zip code
level."

Perhaps someone can explain to me how this is not redlining?

You don't need to explain to me why lenders would want to do this. I'm not an idiot. I understand that part.

ETA: UFA is offering a free test drive (historical) of the data. About a year ago, WaPo worried about this practice:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/01/AR2008020101680.html

I think it's fair to say that it is no longer some major lenders doing it; it is now industry practice.
walkitout: (Default)
Between following health insurance reform, the holidays, our trip to see the Mouse and a variety of other things, I haven't paid a lot of attention to either predictions regarding the economy or the housing market in particular (obviously, they bear some sort of relationship to one another, altho the details will probably always be hotly contested, except when everyone agrees on something and then it turns out that Everyone Was Wrong). I was catching up on e-mail, got one from the Lincoln Institute about the latest issue of Landlines and went to go read the article by Case of Case-Schiller on the housing market. Now, I've heard both Case and Schiller be interviewed, and I've read things by each of them, and of course I share the general respect accorded their replacement for the highly flawed median sales price metric for housing markets. As noted in a previous post, I was kinda shocked and appalled by how bad the article was (and I left out a lot of problems in that post).

I decided, rather than do a blow by blow on a guy who is so much the statistician that expecting him to use English in a reasonable fashion is, well, unreasonable, to go do a little digging around to find out what other people were saying.

The current prediction being floated by Case and Schiller in a variety of venues, and shared by a whole lot of other people (many of whom happily parroted whatever it was they thought Greenspan was saying, before his reputation ceased to be Wise Manager and became Serial Bubbler), is that the housing market might or might not be at a bottom (unspecified whether this is a volume or price bottom, and it does matter because they are not the same), and there is a chance that the various economic indicators that are looking ever so slightly positive might instead be replaced by a long slide further down. The predictions are structured in such a way that I harbor some suspicion that people are planning on saving these and quoting the parts that turned out right to burnish later, in the hopes that no one will actually slog through the crap to notice that they predicted most possible outcomes. (They didn't predict all possible outcomes. No one is predicting things are going to go to the moon any time soon, for example, either literally or figuratively.)

To some degree, this feels to me like bears being bears: there are people who trend follow, there are contrarians. And there are people who are always bullish and there are their natural opponents, those who are always bearish.

At first, I was profoundly irritated by this non-prediction. Why make it? Especially since it's actually a pretty consistent non-prediction showing up in a lot of places. People are predicting that 2010 will be the Year of Uncertainty.

Then I thought, oh, yeah, that's what happens at the turn. That's why Average Investor never enjoys the big gains at the beginning -- the few folk a standard deviation or two more aggressive grabbed all the cookies and fled the kitchen. Of course, if you go try to steal cookies while Adult Supervisor is still cleaning up after making them, you can get burned. There are real risks here.

And that led me over to the really painful real estate blog at the Globe. I got so sick of it, because people would tell stories based on personal experience (yay) and then come to a conclusion completely at odds with the story they just told (huh?). This happened so often, I gave up and did other things for a while instead (cf remark about following health insurance reform, but also my regular readers may recall the train obsession, and then NaNoWriMo back in November). Well, people are _still_ telling stories based on personal experience and then coming to an utterly incompatible conclusion, but the direction as changed. At least in the Boston area (excluding Southern New Hampshire), it really looks like we're past the volume bottom, and may in fact be done with the price bottom as well (altho that's debatable, and we won't be significantly off this bottom for a little while). It'll be interesting to see what happens over the next few years as all the shadow inventory starts to clear.

Dunno about the rest of the country -- and Boston is _not_ representative. But the people buying houses now are people who are buying for the reasons people should be buying, and they're doing it in a reasonable way. We got well below that when credit markets froze so hard even people with great credit and a substantial down payment couldn't get financing -- and people who could have bought rightly held off to see how it was all going to go down. But we're down, and we're coming back up. Hopefully we won't get back into that Everyone Can Buy a House crap.

ETA: A little further research today suggests that the Seattle area has not yet experienced either a volume or a price bottom. Seattle is also not representative.
walkitout: (Default)
Over in the current issue of Landlines at the Lincoln Institute, there's an article about housing prices using the Case-Schiller index. The opening paragraph about the crisis is bad:

"These events were the direct and indirect result of extreme volatility in the value of residential property that had served as collateral for the nation’s huge stock of home mortgages."

Not a particularly useful opener, but okay. I'll keep reading. In the breakdown over a bunch of metropolitan areas into submarkets, based on how their prices acted, rather than their geographical location, this sentence makes an appearance:

"In the Midwestern cities of Chicago, Charlotte, Portland, and Minneapolis, the increases were much lower than those observed on the coasts."

The idea that one could refer to either Portland, OR or Portland, ME as a "Midwestern" city is, well, it would be funny, except that it's incredibly sad that _Charlotte, NC_ is included in that list of "Midwestern" cities as well. I actually cannot come up with any definition of Midwestern that includes Charlotte and/or Portland. Not one single solitary one. But more importantly, I can't actually figure out which Portland he means.

That is some _sloppy_. The author is listed as the Case of Case-Schiller, and if _that_ isn't disturbing, I'm not sure what is. His math and ability to manipulate statistics had better be better than his use of common English words used to describe geography.

ETA: Look, it _does_ get better. But those are some shockingly bad opening paragraphs. Once Case starts talking about monetary policy, both why money was so easy, and what effect that had in terms of increasing pressure to find some yield some where, things improve dramatically.

ETAYA: Oh, never mind. This is actually a really crappy article. I don't care who wrote it. Check this out:

"By late 2009, housing markets seemed to be approaching a bottom with prices stabilizing, but
many forecasts anticipate declines extending well into 2010. If that were to happen, numerous mortgages written in 2008 and 2009 would not be fully secured and could turn unprofitable."

Ignoring numerous other problems (does he mean a price bottom or a volume bottom, say, and which antecedent does he mean when he says "if that were to happen"), given that mortgages written since the crisis have required much more substantial down payments (the traditional 20%), in order for such mortgages to cease to be fully secured, well, let's just say that's another _big_ notch down. Does he really mean that? Or is that more sloppy? Ensuing paragraphs don't clarify; he gets into an analysis of what's going on with inventory.

July 2017

S M T W T F S
       1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23242526272829
3031     

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 23rd, 2017 04:44 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios