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Real estate prices plunge … and soar

Can real estate crash … and boom … at the SAME time?


We were reminded of this when we dug into the following headline …

New York Real Estate Prices Plunge in 4Q As Listing Days and Discounts Soar
Maybe you don’t have any plans to invest in New York real estate … now or in the future.  Neither do we.

That’s not why this headline caught our eye.

Sure, we look for clues in the news to see challenges and opportunities in those markets and product types we’re interested in.

But we also look for patterns and principles … and consider what they teach us about strategic real estate investing, even when the news is about markets we’re not currently following.

So there are a few reasons why this article attracted our attention.

First, we know the world’s wealthy like to store chunks of their wealth in premium real estate in non-domestic markets with strong property rights.

If you’re an American, you’d look outside the United States.  Many non-U.S. wealthy favor U.S. markets. Chinese and European investors tend to like New York … Manhattan,  in particular.

Of course, activity in any specific market is a blend of local and out-of-area demand.  To really understand what’s happening, you need to look into the various components of demand.

From the report the article refers to, we can’t tell what role foreign demand played in the decline of Manhattan prices.

We can’t simply assume a decrease in foreign demand caused prices to drop.  In fact, based on data in the report, we’d expect the change probably was not primarily due to changes in foreign activity.

But we don’t know.  You can read the report yourself and see what you think.

The more important principle for markets you’re tracking is that when prices move … either property prices or rents … it’s worthy of digging in to find out WHY.

If you determine the cause is temporary, it might be a great time to move into acquisition mode … so you have boats in the water when the tide comes back in.

Another thing to look at when the tide recedes … where the demand flowing?

In this case, the pricing collapse referred to is happening in Manhattan,  a sub-set of the greater New York market.  Did the demand flow elsewhere?

Citing a Bloomberg report, the article also says …

“… while buyers are abandoning Manhattan en masse, Brooklyn seems to be the key beneficiary with purchases there soaring 22% YoY and median prices climbing 15%.”
Again, it’s not Manhattan and Brooklyn we’re necessarily interested in.  We’re simply looking for patterns and principles we can apply to any market we’re observing.

The contrast between Manhattan and Brooklyn reinforces the notion that when it comes to real estate markets, there will always be winners and losers.

So a savvy real estate investor should be able to make money in any economic climate by paying attention to these flows.

Does that mean in soft economic times, high-priced markets always lose and low-priced markets always win?

If only it were that simple!  But that’s what makes market analysis and selection so fun.

You have to consider economics, demographics, politics, supply and demand factors, social patterns, taxation, business climate, job and income growth, quality of life, and market sentiment.

That sounds intimidating, but it’s not as tough as it seems.

In fact, it’s largely common sense. After all, you’re a human being. You can relate to why another human being would prefer to live, work, or run a business in one place over another … when you see challenges and opportunities from their perspective.

That’s why doing your homework is important … both statistically and anecdotally.

We like to research markets from afar, and then go there and put boots on the ground to affirm or refute our long-distance assumptions.

Stats only look in the rear-view mirror.  Data tells you what already happened. It’s just one valuable point on a trend line … the past.

But when you add feedback from people who are in direct contact with the market right NOW … bidding on properties, marketing properties, screening tenants … you get another valuable point on the trend line … the present.

And just as businesses are wise to listen to feedback from frontline employees … folks dealing with customers and operational issues on a day-to-day, real-time basis … real estate investors are wise to listen to their property managers, real estate agents, turnkey providers … even the tenants.

These are the boots-on-the-ground folks who are best qualified to say what’s happening NOW.

Your job is to consider the past and the present in the context of macro-factors and your personal objectives.  Then make appropriate moves.

The good news is that real estate markets and trends typically move and develop slowly. 

So there’s usually plenty of time to adjust … to get in when opportunities are emerging … and get out or restructure early as challenges start showing.

But ONLY if you’re paying attention.

The bad news is it’s easy to fall asleep at the wheel.

So as you’re planning the new year, be sure to schedule some time to monitor the news coming out of markets you’re interested in. 

Dig deeper into the reports and data to see what they’re saying.  Then schedule touch points with your team in the markets you’re in or considering.

If you don’t have relationships in the markets you’re interested in, get to work on developing them.

Staying informed and in touch is important and easy to do.  You don’t need a fancy MBA, PhD, or genius IQ.

However, like most things important but not urgent, “easy to do” is also “easy not to do.”  Just remember, life doesn’t give you credit for intentions … only for actions.

Scheduling time converts intentions into actions.

A person of average intellect who acts will always surpass a genius who fails to act.

Until next time … good investing!

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