The state of New York will allow some homeowners to skip their mortgage payments for three months in response to the spread of COVID-19.
On Thursday, the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) sent a letter to mortgage servicers directing them to provide several relief options in response to the outbreak, including suspending mortgage payments for up to 90 days.
“As the outbreak continues to spread, a growing number of companies have started to warn markets about the adverse impact of COVID-19 on their financial conditions,” DFS said in the letter. “Companies in certain sectors are already laying off employees and taking other drastic actions in response to the crisis which is likely to cause more financial stress on local communities and consumers.”
As a result, DFS said it was issuing guidance to mortgage servicers to “do their part” to alleviate the impact of the outbreak on borrowers who can demonstrate that they cannot make timely payments. DFS has instructed mortgage servicers to support New York borrowers by:
Forbearing mortgage payments for 90 days from their due dates
Not reporting late payments to credit-rating agencies for 90 days
Offering borrowers an additional 90-day grace period to complete trial loan modifications, and ensuring that late payments during the COVID-19 outbreak do not affect borrowers’ ability to obtain permanent modifications
Waiving late fees and any online-payment fees for 90 days
Postponing foreclosures and evictions for 90 days
Ensuring that borrowers don’t experience a disruption of service in the event the servicer closes its office, including making available other ways to manage their accounts and make account inquiries
Proactively reaching out to borrowers through app announcements, text message, email or other means to explain the assistance being offered to borrowers
“The Department believes that reasonable and prudent efforts by your institutions during this outbreak to assist mortgagors under these unusual and extreme circumstances are consistent with safe and sound banking practices as well as in the public interest and not subject to examiner criticism,” DFS said in the letter.
Earlier this week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Housing Finance Agency issued a 60-day moratorium on foreclosures and evictions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Source: Mortgage Professional America – by Ryan Smith20 Mar 2020
Is this crazy? I sat there with my 23-year-old head spinning—looking at the first $400,000 multifamily rehab project that I had just put under contract.
You’ve probably asked yourself (at least) a couple times if it’s crazy to get into real estate, too. If you asked your friends and family instead, they probably immediately answered, “Yes!”—followed by a spiel about whatever aspect of managing a real estate business that scares them most.
Maybe they mentioned the risk of a market crash, the challenge of dealing with tenants, or the pitfalls of negotiating with contractors. It’s only human. We fear risk.
We fear risk even when our fears are irrational.
Even if you drink the real estate Kool-Aid and know that real estate can be an amazing way to build wealth, the fear probably hits you each time you’re about to write an offer on a building. Do I really know what I’m getting myself into?
Right Before the Plunge
On that night in May 2017, I was on the verge of taking what—to many people—would look like the biggest risk of my young life. I was 23, had recently graduated from college, and had barely six months of real estate experience. This project would pit me and my business partner against countless situations we were not prepared for, faced with countless questions we didn’t know the answers to.
Luckily, as real estate investors, it’s not our job to know the answers. It’s our job to know the numbers.
The numbers on our first rehab deal told us that even in our worst-case scenario—even if everything that people warned us about went wrong—taking the plunge would get us closer to financial freedom than sitting “safely” on the sidelines ever could.
Why are we comfortable losing money, as long as we know how much we’re going to lose?
As a recent grad, most of my college friends ended up in big cities on the coasts.
In 2017, the median rent in Manhattan was $3,150 a month. According to Rent Jungle, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco was even higher: $3,334 a month. Over the course of a year, that adds up to $40,000 in rent for a one-bedroom apartment.
For reference, the median family income in the city of St. Louis is $52,000 a year. In St. Louis, that money can buy buildings.
On the coasts, it buys you the right to spend up to 39 percent more than the national average on basic necessities like groceries. The costs are pretty crazy, but the craziest part is that spending a family’s annual salary on rent is somehow considered a perfectly normal financial decision for a young person to make.
Young people spend that money with no expectation of getting a return. Rent, groceries, and transportation are costs—not investments.
What is the risk of embarking on a rehab project compared to the 100 percent certainty of spending $40,000 a year on rent?
How We Measure Risk
Risk is exposure to uncertainty. Because of this, renting doesn’t feel like a risk. Neither does spending a lot to live in a big coastal city. The costs are large, but they’re constant. We know them up front: $40,000, paid in tidy, predictable monthly increments.
Or do we?
What is the real risk of renting away your twenties—and how do you compare it to the risk of a rehab project? Does renting in a big city make your financial future—not in 10 months, but in 10 years—more certain or less so?
When you’re embarking on a rehab project, uncertainty stares you in the face. The risks are all right ahead of you, a landmine of knowns unknowns:
Do we have our contractors lined up in the right order?
Have we done everything we need to pass inspection?
Will we hit our rent targets once all the work is done?
Is it cheaper to fix this or replace it?
Those seem like hard questions to answer. Small wonder that most people warn you away from real estate.
Except when you’re following a safe, “normal” path, uncertainty isn’t gone. It’s just waiting for you out of sight.
Five years from now, will I be working at a job I don’t like? Or will I be free and doing the things that matter to me most in life?
Ten years from now, will I have the resources to protect what I love? To support my family, friends, and community?
Those are hard questions to answer.
For me, those questions would have been impossible to answer if I lived in a big city on the coast, took a fancy job where I was well paid but spent most of my salary on rent and groceries, and had to spend most of my time working for someone else.
We are conditioned to deal with long-term uncertainty the same way we’re taught to deal with short-term risk: by avoiding it.
But avoiding risks doesn’t make them go away. It doesn’t teach us anything. It doesn’t get us any closer to answering life’s hardest questions.
The numbers on our first rehab deal told me two things. In the worst-case scenario, I would come out of the deal not losing any more money than someone who chose to rent in a big city. In the worst-case scenario, I would come out of the deal with an education that would allow me to take control of my financial future.
I could live with that.
The Numbers Tell the Story
My business partner, Ben Mizes, and I started our real estate portfolio with an FHA loan. We were only required to put a small down payment on a relatively stress-free, low-maintenance fourplex.
Five months later, we were planning to borrow $315,000 from the bank and $105,000 from private family investors and spend as much of our own time, sweat, and money as it took to come out the other side of our first four-unit rehab.
We were upgrading kitchens, bathrooms, and AC units to bring the rents up from $825 per door to $1,400 per door—a 70 percent increase.
With renovations complete, Ben and I would try to appraise the building for $700,000. Depending on the lender, you can borrow between 70 to 85 percent of a building’s appraised value. In this range, as long as we hit our numbers, we could completely repay our investors, recoup our costs, and walk away owning a cash-flowing castle.
The potential upside was clear. Just as important, we looked at our downside.
Ben and I modeled a worst-case, “do-nothing” scenario, trying to understand what would happen to us if we got stuck and couldn’t complete the rehab at all.
What Could Go Wrong?
Ben and I had a contract to buy the building for $420,000. At the closing table, the seller would credit us for the $20,000 worth of repairs that had to be done immediately: fixing a collapsed sewer, repainting and sealing damaged windows, and replacing falling fascia boards.
Note: We always, always, ALWAYS make our buildings watertight before doing anything else. If they aren’t watertight when we buy them, we negotiate for repair credits to fix problems on the seller’s dime—immediately upon closing.
The $20,000 repair credit provided by the seller brought our effective purchase price to $400,000. Combined, our mortgage payments, taxes, and insurance came out to $2,277 per month.
The numbers told us we could make our mortgage payments comfortably, even in its current (read: very rough) condition. The building was generating income of $3,350 per month, or about $825 per door.
Assuming we got completely stuck and had to keep renting the units out for their present value of $825, we would have $1,073 per month with which to pay all of our fixed and variable expenses. Utilities and HOA fees (the building is in a private subdivision with an annual assessment) came out to $380 per month, leaving $693 a month to deal with variable expenses.
In a worst-case scenario, we would be self-managing to save on property management fees. That would still leave us with vacancy, repairs, and maintenance costs, and the need to set aside money each month for a capital expense escrow.
Was $693 really enough?
Under our most-conservative model, we planned to put aside $10,000 each year for repairs and escrow. After five years, that equals $50,000 put into proactive maintenance—enough to deal with a roof, a complete tuck-pointing redo, and major structural repairs.
Then, we figured 10 percent vacancy cost—high for the area but not impossible if we had hard luck. What was the worst that could happen?
Under our worst-case model, we would be losing $600 every month. Losing $600 a month is a losing deal. That’s not a deal that gets you on a podcast. It’s not a deal that successful investors show off in a blog post.
Luckily, it’s not the deal we ended up with, either. (Spoiler alert: We came out of this rehab with a lot more paint on our shoes but a lot more cash in the bank, too.)
But when we talk about “risk,” here’s the curveball question: Would this “worst-case” deal be a step away from, or a step toward, financial freedom? Let’s look at those numbers again.
The Difference Between Costs and Investments
An investment is any place where you can put your money, such that it creates more wealth over time. In the model above, a lot of the expenses that look like “costs”—that is, look like places where Ben and I would have lost money—are actually investments, places where our money helps us build wealth.
In our worst-case scenario, we would pay $600 a month (on average) to cover the costs of repairs and build a sizable rainy day fund.
However, our $1,600-per-month mortgage would be completely paid for by our tenants. In the first year alone, our tenants would pay for our ~$14,000 interest payments and help us build $5,000 worth of equity in the building.
Over time, that equity build-up only accelerates. In our thirties, Ben and I will build up $85,000 through principal paydown alone (pun intended).
The amazing part is that would be the case even if the rehab project was a complete failure. Breaking even on mortgage and utilities and scraping out of pocket to cover unexpected repairs, Ben and I would still be positioning ourselves to accumulate passive wealth in the future.
2. Proactive Maintenance
If you spend $50,000 on a building in five years, it becomes a lot cheaper to maintain. Under our worst-case model, we would have $10,000 a year to deal with maintenance issues before they became more serious.
When you budget to deal with problems up front, it makes for a less-impressive pro forma—but it also means that maintenance costs get significantly lower over time.
If you plow $10,000 every year into it, even a problem-ridden property will get easier and easier to take care of. It might be a painful cost to swallow in the short-term, but you haven’t lost the money that you spend on a property you own. You’ve just re-invested it.
By contrast, if you spend $40,000 in one year on rent, the money is out of your hands for good.
3. Hands-On Education
When you buy your first rehab, the most important investment you make isn’t in the building. It’s in yourself. You’re taking out (quite possibly) the only student loan in the world that can pay itself off in less than a year.
The most daunting part of diving into a real estate deal—the part that makes people say it’s too risky—is that you don’t just stand to lose money but time, too.
The time costs on this project would have made this a losing deal for a veteran investor. We spent untold hours painting, fixing plumbing, and (like you saw above) drilling holes through concrete when a contractor dropped the ball on us.
But we weren’t veteran investors (yet!). As Ben and I looked at the numbers together, we realized we were buying ourselves both a building and an education, too. Even if we broke even, we would come out of the project with an education that in itself was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A few years ago, I sat looking at the numbers on a $400,000 real estate deal that could either set me on the fast-track for financial freedom or go completely off the rails. In the end, both things happened.
My business partner and I got screwed over by not one but four different contractors before we finished the project. One caused thousands of dollars of water damage to the floors, embroiled us in a months-long insurance claim, and tried to take us to court after he lost.
We dealt with an irascible tenant who threatened us and damaged his apartment.
Time and again, things took more time, sweat, and money than we had expected. But the age-old mantra of real estate investing held true: You make money when you buy. The numbers of the deal were strong.
And now that we’re done dealing with contractors, tenants, and renovations (at this property), we have a building that rents for $1,400 a door, water-tight with low maintenance costs, and a fair market valuation between $650,000 and $700,000.
Now we are on pace to refinance the building, fully repay our investors in the first year, and walk away with the funds to do it all over again.
Taking the Plunge (Again)
Is this crazy? Fast forward and I’m sitting here, head spinning, looking at the numbers of a 20-unit deal in St. Louis.
Since starting our renovation project one year ago, we’ve used the education and cash flow we gained from it to build a 22-unit portfolio—and a high-growth startup.
Now, with a refinance underway, I am looking at a deal that could double the size of our portfolio overnight, all while working full-time.
A new project brings new unknowns. More questions we don’t know how to answer and lots more numbers to keep me and Ben busy.
Broadies Byas’s home is a hidden gem. From the outside, it looks unassuming, if somewhat neglected.
But past the porch of the Victorian townhouse a rich interior reveals itself: tall ceilings, a mahogany staircase, stained glass doors and picture frames virtually untouched since the home was built in 1856.
The house, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, has an even more remarkable story — Ms. Byas’s father, a teacher who was born into a family of former slaves in South Carolina, bought it in 1957 for $7,500.
But now the house is going through a tumultuous chapter. Ms. Byas, 54, is working to reclaim it after she was duped into signing away her property deed, according to federal prosecutors. Though the house is worth about $1.2 million, she gave it up, unwittingly, for a mere $120,000.
“I pride myself as a true New Yorker — angry, skeptical, not trusting,” Ms. Byas said. “But I felt like the stupidest person on the planet.”
A booming real estate market in Brooklyn is fueling a crime that law enforcement authorities say has taken hold in largely African-American neighborhoods that are being gentrified — deed theft, which involves deceiving or sometimes coercing a homeowner into signing forms that transfer ownership of a property.
In many cases, a homeowner is made to believe the documents involve some type of financial assistance, but in fact turn out to be the property deed.
Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, both known for their collection of largely intact townhouses that cost a fraction of what similar homes sell for in Manhattan, have become hotbeds for deed theft, according to law enforcement authorities. Homeowners in Prospect Heights, Brownsville and East New York have also been targeted.
Real Estate Shell Companies Scheme to Defraud Owners Out of Their Homes
Of the nearly 3,000 deed fraud complaints recorded by the city since 2014, 1,350 — about 45 percent — have come from Brooklyn, according to data compiled by the city’s Department of Finance. (The borough accounts for roughly 30 percent of the city’s housing units.)
The authorities believe the problem may be more widespread since homeowners may not realize right away that they have been victimized.
“It’s just a drop in the bucket,” Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn district attorney, said at a recent town hall meeting in Bedford-Stuyvesant. “It’s really hot in the real estate market in Brooklyn. People want to steal our homes.”
In Ms. Byas’s case, which led to the arrest of a man and his son, the aim was to flip her home and try to resell it to buyers who have been flocking to central Brooklyn seeking more affordable homes in lower-income neighborhoods.
Those orchestrating the schemes often hide behind limited liability companies and shell companies, making it difficult for homeowners to determine if they are being swindled and by whom.
“By the time a homeowner realizes what has happened, the home may have already been sold or mortgaged multiple times,” said Christie Peale, executive director of the Center for N.Y.C. Neighborhoods, a nonprofit organization that helps homeowners.
Even though rising property values in neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant have provided homeowners with more equity, many remain cash poor.
As they grow older or lose a spouse, their homes can accumulate liens stemming from unpaid property taxes or water and sewage charges, making them vulnerable to fraudsters who often search public records to identify homeowners under financial stress.
“Deed theft has become a common tool of career criminals and unscrupulous real estate developers to illegally obtain real estate, most often with the goal of selling it at a huge profit in high-demand housing markets,” Letitia James, the state attorney general, said in an email.
Dairus Griffiths, 65, has been mired in a five-year legal battle to recoup his home in Bedford-Stuyvesant after he was ensnared in a scheme and ended up giving up the house, which was worth $1.3 million, for $630,000.
Mr. Griffiths was facing foreclosure after a tenant stopped paying rent, causing him to fall behind on his mortgage payments.
Not long after foreclosure proceedings began, a man named Eli Mashieh approached Mr. Griffiths claiming to run August West Development, a real estate firm in Queens, according to Theresa Trzaskoma, Mr. Griffiths’s lawyer.
He told Mr. Griffiths that he was going to lose his house and offered him a cash advance, Ms. Trzaskoma said. Feeling pressured and fearful that he would soon be evicted, Mr. Griffiths signed a document selling his home for $630,000, believing it was a preliminary sales agreement that he would have the chance to reconsider.
After talking to his daughter, Mr. Griffiths did try to cancel the sale, but when he called Mr. Mashieh he refused, saying it was a done deal. Mr. Mashieh obtained a default judgment and the sale eventually went through.
But Daniel Richland, a lawyer for Mr. Mashieh, disputed Mr. Griffiths’s claims and said a court had effectively ruled that the sale was legitimate.
Some homeowners may not even know that their deeds have been stolen, the authorities say. Documents proving the sale of a property are recorded by the city registrar’s office, but not necessarily checked to ensure that they are legitimate. Owners might continue paying the mortgage for a property they no longer own.
“It is, in fact, easier to steal ownership of a home than actually burglarizing it,” said Travis Hill, who oversees real estate fraud for the state attorney general’s office.
Recovering a home whose deed has been illegally transferred can be difficult unless there is clear proof of wrongdoing, like a forged signature. In one case, the authorities arrested a man accused of committing fraud because the signature on a deed came from someone who had been dead for years.
It is also challenging to determine whether the person had entered a bad, but not necessarily fraudulent, financial deal. “It’s often a very hard line to straddle,” said Noelle Eberts, a lawyer at the New York Legal Assistance Group who represents Ms. Byas.
In Ms. Byas’s case, two men, Herzel Meiri, 64, and his son, Amir, set up a limited liability company called Launch Development.
The two men instructed employees to search online for financially distressed properties in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, according an indictment filed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. Ms. Byas was among 60 homeowners the two men, along with five other accomplices, were accused of swindling.
The men described themselves as foreclosure specialists who helped property owners with loan modifications or promised that they would be able to transfer their properties to trusted relatives to avoid losing their homes.
Homeowners were encouraged to sign documents that were later used as proof they had agreed to sell their homes to Launch Development, prosecutors said.
The company also deceived banks into approving the sale of homes by providing falsified documents, including paperwork edited or completed after homeowners had signed them.
“Launch Development resold many of the homes, which were purchased at fraudulently deflated prices, for an enormous profit,” the indictment read.
The Meiris pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Herzel Meiri was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in August 2018, and Amir Meiri to five years’ imprisonment in November 2018.
Ms. Byas’s ordeal began in 2008, after she learned she had multiple sclerosis and could no longer work. By 2014, she owed about $69,000 in unpaid mortgage payments and other bills and was facing foreclosure.
She believed a second mortgage would prevent her from losing her home.
One day, a young man rang her doorbell claiming he worked for Homeowners Assistance Services of New York, an organization specializing in foreclosures that turned out to be linked to Launch Development.
He was polite, had a cherubic face and was someone Ms. Byas said she would feel comfortable inviting to a cookout. “When you’re in a panic, you think, ‘I can’t believe my luck,’” she said.
After several visits from the man, Ms. Byas was taken by a private car service to Launch Development’s offices in Queens, where she described being, at various turns, cajoled or pressed into signing reams of documents. Instead of a loan agreement, she had signed a deed document, giving away the title to her home.
In total, the company schemed to buy her home for $120,000, about 10 percent of the property’s value. She was able to show that she had been swindled because the check came from Launch Development, which had been on the radar of law enforcement authorities.
Still, five years later, the title to her property is in the hands of the government and she is waiting to hear when she will get it back.
“We were living the American dream,” Ms. Byas said. “This is a house that your ancestors worked for. They came from nothing.”
Real Estate Shell Companies Scheme to Defraud Owners Out of Their Homes
7-Year Fight to Reclaim a House Stolen in the Wave of a Pen
Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura was previously based in London, where she covered an eclectic beat ranging from politics to social issues spanning Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Born and raised in Paris, she speaks Japanese, French, Spanish and Portuguese. @kimidefreytas•Facebook
New York City’s reputation as one of Earth’s most expensive—and daunting—real estate markets is well-earned, thank you very much: $1.8 million studio apartments? Check. Full-cash offers everywhere you look? Check. Freakishly competitive open houses? You bet. Welcome to the big time—with the prices and killer views to match. It’s little wonder that housing is top of mind for just about all of the nearly 8.4 million folks who call the Center of the Universe home.
Everyone, it seems, is angling to hit the NYC trifecta: a decent space in a good neighborhood at an affordable price. That’s why it’s so important to get a handle of what’s going to be the next big neighborhood, before it explodes in popularity and prices get out of reach.
To find out which neighborhoods in this bellwether, nationally scrutinized market are seeing the biggest price climbs—and the biggest falls—we teamed up with real estate appraiser Jonathan Miller, co-founder of Miller Samuel. He compared the median home sale prices in all of New York City’s neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs in 2017 and 2018. We included only the neighborhoods with at least 25 sales in both years.
What we found is a city going through churn, much of it due to the flurry of luxury development in some areas that traditionally have had older—and more affordable—homes. Prices go up, an area gets saturated, the luxury stock sells out, then prices go back down. Rinse and repeat. Meanwhile, the megadevelopment causes people to search out nearby areas that might be cheaper.
It’s the NYC circle of life, and it’s accelerating.
“Developers have left no stone unturned and developed wherever they could,” says Miller. “They went everywhere there was an opportunity. And that caused a lot of price fluctuations, especially in more modestly priced neighborhoods that saw a lot of new, high-end development introduced.”
But New York City hasn’t been immune to national trends. The overall market is slowing throughout all of its five boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and “can’t-get-no-respect” Staten Island. The city has been particularly affected by the national tax changes that make it more expensive to own a home in pricier parts of the country, says Miller.
More fun still: This month, New York state’s new mansion tax went into effect, upping the amount of taxes on properties $2 million and up. Sales had been down earlier in the year, but the prospect of giving more to Uncle Sam resulted in a rush of higher-priced home sales. Going forward, the number of sales is expected to fall back down again. Phew … Dramamine, please.
High price tags are pushing many New Yorkers farther out into cheaper communities such as the Bronx, which doesn’t have the hipster cred or water views of Brooklyn. But dollars can stretch way further there.
“A large shift or decline [in a New York neighborhood] is generally not a reflection of weakness,” says Miller. “It’s more of a reflection of … now it’s back to business.”
So which neighborhoods are seeing the largest real estate price spikes? And which expensive communities are getting (a bit) more affordable?
Annual median price increase: 122.7% Median 2018 home price: $612,500
When folks think of the Bronx, the mix of grand Tudors, Georgian Revival estates, and midcentury modern homes and lovely winding streets in suburban Fieldston are rarely what come to mind. Homeowners in this privately owned enclave of tony Riverdale pay property taxes and fees to their property owners association, which maintains the streets and sewers and pays for its own security patrol.
Prices are surging because word has gotten out: Buyers are increasingly drawn to its seductive combo of urban and suburban living. The historically designated community is near top private schools, which include the Horace Mann School and Riverdale Country School. It’s also only steps away from the Hudson River and the 28-acre green oasis of Wave Hill Public Gardens in the northwest swath of the Bronx.
“In Fieldston, you are part of the city but you have the real suburban feeling,” says Chintan Trivedi, a licensed real estate broker with Re/Max In the City. “Here you’re getting a real home, a backyard and a private community.
“For a good house with a larger backyard, a complete renovation, and maybe a pool, you can expect to pay $1.5 million to $2.5 million,” he says. But there are six-bedroom homes listed in the $1 million range. Just tryto get that in Manhattan. (Spoiler: You can’t!)
Annual median price increase: 41.2% Median 2018 home price: $275,000
Just south of Fieldston are the middle-class communities of Kingsbridge and University Heights, where buyers can score deals for a fraction of the price. But the lack of homes for sale and little turnover are causing prices to heat up. And investors are buying up whatever lots and houses they can for new development or rehabbing.
“The Bronx is the new Queens in the sense that there’s been an expansion of demand moving out from Manhattan as consumers search for affordability,” says Miller.
The neighborhood’s become popular with 20- and 30-somethings looking for a reasonably priced community with an urban vibe. Hilly Kingsbridge is filled with century-old, single-family houses and midrise co-op and apartment buildings as well as plenty of shopping, parks, and public transit.
These buyers “are[part of] the new generation that’s learning that real estate should be part of their planning,” says Trivedi. “They want to feel like they’re in Manhattan—a place where they can still go right downstairs and get a smoothie.”
Annual median price increase: 38.7% Median 2018 home price: $1,535,000
Over the past couple of decades, lower Manhattan’s East Village has shed its image as a sketchy, open-air drug market to become a sought-after place known for lively bars, great restaurants, and a defiantly boho vibe—as well as a slew of new, high-priced developments, causing prices to jump. They’re going up everywhere you look.
Annual median price increase: 36.1% Median 2018 home price: $1,226,750
Like the East Village, Prospect Heights has been rapidly gentrifying. Professionals, families, and a few stray hipsters are drawn to its charming rows of stunningly restored early 19th-century, multistory brownstones on tree-lined streets. The neighborhood is near several main subway lines and in close proximity to the 526-acre Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It also borders Barclays Center, home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets (and soon the team’s new dynamic duo, superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving).
In recent years, Prospect Heights has become popular with folks priced out of neighboring Park Slope, a community long popular with upper-middle-class families. They gravitate to the brownstones as well as the new high-rises and the used bookstore, artisanal bakeries, and constant stream of new restaurants.
Not surprisingly, the Prospect Heights neighborhood has attracted a slew of developers putting up luxury condo and apartment buildings wherever they can. Those high-end housing developments are skewing the neighborhood’s median prices up to new heights.
This isn’t the kind of place where you’ll find buzzed-about restaurants—you’re more likely to stumble upon a dollar store than a bougie boutique. It’s a more down-to-earth community, populated by old-school Brooklynites, hipsters, as well as Pakistani, Orthodox and Hasidic Jew, Mexican, Chinese, and Latin American immigrant groups.
Annual median price increase: -40.7% Median 2018 home price: $915,500
Once grim downtown Brooklyn has been booming in recent years. It’s become home to a slew of glassy, luxury high-rises. So why are prices in such a vibrant area plummeting?
Well, now there’s a glut of new construction, giving buyers more negotiating power as buildings compete against one another to lure residents. Plus, builders are putting up towers with some smaller, less expensive units. But in NYC, less expensive is relative. Buyers might save themselves a couple hundred thousand on a million-plus-dollar condo.
But many of the condos here, some designed by famous architects, come with just about every amenity imaginable, including sun decks, hot tubs, dog runs, saltwater pools, and even music studios. This two-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom abode in a 57-floor building is going for $2,040,000.
Some believe developers overshot their market.
“Developers there created a mountain of homogenous product,” says agent Blumstein with the Corcoran Group. Buildings in the area “were built on the thought that people are demanding amenities. But the old-school, prewar neighborhood vibe is what’s in.”
Annual median price increase: -39.3% Median 2018 home price: $3,200,000
Even many lifelong New Yorkers have never heard of the Civic Center neighborhood in lower Manhattan. The tiny community encompasses City Hall and courthouses as well as some high-rise co-op, condo, and apartment buildings. It’s just west of ultradesirable Tribeca, where prices are sky-high, and just below Chinatown, guaranteeing plenty of good Asian eats.
Prices are down because the wave of development has pretty much played itself out, says Miller. Many of the older brick and limestone, midrise office buildings had been gut-rehabbed and turned into pricey condos. That led to a spike in prices. Now that those units have been bought, the real estate for sale is a mix of lower- and higher-end properties.
It’s “run its course,” says Miller of the wave of development in Civic Center.
Annual median price increase: -30.2% Median 2018 home price: $450,000
Like Civic Center, Javits Center as a neighborhood isn’t very well-known—but that’s likely to change. Named for the sprawling convention center on the west side of Manhattan where the community is located, it’s wedged between trendy Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea and abuts Hudson Yards.
Even nonlocals have probably heard of Hudson Yards, Manhattan’s newest neighborhood, built on a formerly desolate stretch of disused train tracks. It’s a glam (and critics say overly generic) development of ultrahigh-priced condo and rental towers overlooking the Hudson River, complete with its own weird tourist attraction, the beehive-like Vessel. The Javits Center’s proximity to this buzzy development will likely have an impact on sales with prices shooting up.
But in the meantime, prices fell because there simply isn’t much of the first wave of luxury real estate left on the market. Now what’s selling is less expensive, older condos.
That’s likely to change as sales heat up in Hudson Yards.
“Sales [in Hudson Yards] will help to increase values in the surrounding area,” says New York real estate agent Matt Crouteau. The place “was designed so people don’t have to leave.” Ever.
Annual median price increase: -30% Median 2018 home price: $997,500
Just south of the Civic Center is the Financial District, home to Wall Street and the World Trade Center on the tip of Manhattan. Like all of the other neighborhoods on this list, FiDi (as it’s called) experienced a spike in development, then a market saturation.
“It’s not that prices are collapsing,” says Miller. “The early wave of high-end new development drove prices higher. … After that activity cooled, the prices for the neighborhood are less than what they were.”
But there are still plenty of new units to choose from, including this three-bedroom, four-bathroom condo going for $5,300,000. The unit features granite countertops, a waterfall island, high ceilings, and floor-to-ceiling windows. On the lower side of the spectrum, buyers can snag this studio with plenty of closet space for $480,000.
The neighborhood is home to a few cobblestone streets, giving it an old-world charm, as well as the South Street Seaport, a tourist fave.
Annual median price increase: -29.6% Median 2018 home price: $1,550,000
Thank the long-awaited Second Avenue Subway line for prices falling in the upper portion of the Upper East Side, from about 96th to 110th streets. Developers flooded the neighborhood putting up buildings near the new train extension, which opened in 2017 after being discussed, planned, and replanned for nearly a century. They believed—rightly so—that this least fashionable part of the Upper East Side would become far more desirable thanks to its close proximity to the new train line.
“That’s essentially East Harlem, which has benefited from a significant amount of new development,” says Miller. Now development is mostly over and there’s fewer sales.
“You’re not seeing the same amount of high-end [sales], because there’s not as much new housing being introduced,” he explains.
The Upper East Side/East Harlem now has a mix of sleek towers, brownstones, low-rise brick buildings and townhomes, and apartment and public housing developments. This new one-bedroom, one-bath condo clocking in at just 609 square feet, which is near the new subway line, is on the market for $786,161.