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New York Real Estate is a bargain for billionaires

Luxury apartments in New York City sell at an average of $2,000 per square foot. This is much cheaper than comparable luxury apartments in London that sell at nearly $10,000 a square foot or $8,800 in Hong Kong. Obviously, due to this huge discount that New York real estate market is offering, the ultra-high-net-worth individuals are rushing to buy property in New York causing prices to rise.

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Source: NPR, November 2013

Chinese developer is taking majority stake in real estate project in New York

Greenland Holding Group, a Chinese developer, agreed to take a 70 percent stake in New York’s Atlantic Yards, which is a 22-acre residential and commercial real estate project in Brooklyn (New York).
China’s property developers are expanding overseas as the Chinese government continues to control the real estate market in China in an effort to lower prices. China Vanke, another major Chinese developer decided to join a real estate project in San Francisco earlier this year.

Frank Chen who works at CBRE Group said that “The trend for Chinese developers to continue to invest in the property market abroad will depend on the returns they get in the first batch of such investments. The biggest challenge they face is not knowing the foreign markets well, so it’s wise to work with local partners.”

Greenland will co-develop the Atlantic Yards project with its partner Forest City Ratner. Both firms will share project costs. Bruce Ratner, chairman of Forest City Ratner said: “This partnership will allow us to deliver the 6,400 units of housing, including 2,250 units of affordable housing, to market more expeditiously, which is important for Brooklyn and the entire city”. Zhang Yuliang, chairman of Greenland said “Greenland holds a positive view on the U.S. market. The U.S. economy is recovering. There’s ample amount of liquidity in the market.”

Source: Bloomberg, October 2013

Buying Property in USA – Visa Requirements for Foreigners

The US real estate market has been struggling in some ways over the past few years but it remains one of the best times to buy in modern-day history of the American real estate industry. Now, more than ever, there is an influx of foreign investors in hotspot areas like New York, Los Angeles, Florida and other major cities. With all this activity, the market may just head into a recovery as many non-US citizens obtain, own and maintain properties.

But following the events of 9/11 obtaining entry visas into the United States has become a stricter process than it once used to be. While owning property in the US is not restricted to US citizens, foreigners wishing to purchase would ideally benefit from visiting the country. Primarily to view prospective neighborhoods and areas as well as meet with their attorney and hire their management company if dealing with rental properties, traveling there is key in solidifying a sale.

With the increasing occurrence of modern technology being applied to real estate marketing many people living abroad may be content in utilizing virtual tools available such as online virtual touring sites and interactive web features and tools. However a savvy buyer should plan to travel to their prospective location and decide on purchase only after physically seeing the property.

Currently, travel to the US from most countries requires a visa. The type of visa required will depend on the purpose of travel the visa. For individuals wishing to purchase property a B-2 visitor visa applies since it is needed to temporarily enter the country for pleasure, tourism or medical treatment.

The process of applying for an American B-1 visitor visa begins with an online interactive form. Once completed, the applicant is required to print and retain only the barcode page from the application. The next step is to visit the US Embassy or Consulate in the traveler’s home country to determine any additional country-specific instructions that may be applicable. There will likely be an interview conducted to determine eligibility, by which time the visa application fee must be paid in advance.

In cases where the investor would like to live in the US, they will need to obtain permanent visas and change their immigration status officially through the process. In many cases though, parents purchase properties for their university-attending children who are living in the US on student visas.

US Real Estate Prices Rose in September 2013

The National Association of Realtors, the major real estate organization in the USA, released the latest data on the US housing market as of September 2013.
The median price for a USA house is now 199,200 USD which is almost 12% higher than one year ago. The number of properties that were sold is a bit lower than last year. This is in line with expectations of experts in the industry as supply of new construction has been very low for a few years up, slightly higher mortgage rates and higher prices.
According to Reuters, the sales of USA properties in October is expected to continue to slow because of the partial government shutdown and the resulting delay in processing mortgages at the Federal Housing Administration.

Average New York City rent exceeds 3,000 USD per month

A recent report published by Reis, Inc., a real estate data provider, indicates that the average New York City rents climbed to more than USD 3,000 per month. This is significantly higher than the national average of USD 1,062 per month. The average New York rent was more than 50 percent higher than San Francisco, which came in at second place, where the average rents is around USD 2,000 per month.

Inventory of apartments continues to be low. Professionals looking to rent an apartment in New York often have to act quickly in order to secure an apartment that they like. On average, the residential vacancy rate in Manhattan is well below 2% creating often a problem for renters looking for a good place in a good neighbourhood. The latest data shows that these renters will have to pay out more money in order to find that dream apartment they were looking for.

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An introduction to buying New York property as a foreigner

Buying real estate in New York City as a foreigner can initially be perceived as a daunting task. However, some research indicates that the number of foreigners looking for an investment property in the Big Apple or looking to acquire a home for their child who is going to study in one of top schools in New York continues to rise. As such, these foreigners all have access to knowledge and support in order to buy that dream American property.

First question is usually the following: “can I, as a foreigner, buy a property in New York?” The answer is “yes, absolutely”. There are no restrictions on anyone buying a house in the USA. Residential American real estate does not have any limits on foreign ownership. However, acquiring a house in New York does not automatically mean that you can live in your house indefinitely. There are rules and regulations in place around visiting and living in the USA. Any foreigner will need to obtain a visa or greencard in order to visit the USA or live there. Obtaining a tourist visa and traveling to New York to view properties is usually not a problem for most foreigners. However, some forms will need to be submitted to the US consulate in the home country where you live and that process might take a few weeks (depending on nationality). For parents who like to buy a property in the USA for their children who are going to study in the USA, it might be interesting to note that the child usually will obtain a student visa and can then live in the property. The parents themselves however will need to apply for their own visa in order to visit their child, or live in the USA themselves.

Second question that foreigners often ask is the following: “where in New York should I buy an apartment?” The answer is not straightforward as it depends on the individual needs, but most foreigners tend to buy property in Manhattan, the central island in New York. Manhattan is the area that is home to Wall Street, Times Square, Central Park, headquarters of many corporations and basically is the central area in New York. Many professionals tend to prefer Manhattan as it is in close proximity to everything that they need in their daily life. Even families are sticking to Manhattan as it is home to good schools and very convenient.

Third question is “what type of property are most interesting to buy in New York”? Most international buyers buy condo apartments that are relatively new. New York has mainly two types of property: condominiums (condos) and cooperative apartments (coops). Foreigners most often buy condos. Buying a coop is challenging due to the application process (documentation needed and interviews) and the difficulty in renting out the property later.

Last question that is often asked is “what is the process of buying an apartment in New York”? First, buyers need to understand their requirements such as maximum budget, timing of purchase and ideal characteristics of the property. Then, a real estate advisor will be able to give you some initial ideas whether your requirements are realistic or what you can afford in which neighborhood. Once the foreigner has a good basic understanding of the real estate market in New York, a visit to New York is highly beneficial to view properties. The real estate advisor will work with the agent in New York to prepare for your trip and organize appointments to view apartments. Viewing apartments will be a good step for the foreigner to understand the differences in neighborhoods and the price levels. Lastly, an offer can be made for an apartment and after negotiations, an acceptance of offer could result in preparing the purchase agreement and setting up the closing date. A deposit (usually 10-20%) will need to be made the moment that the seller accepts the offer and the remaining part of the money will be paid at closing.

Manhattan Q3 real estate results – inventory is at record low

Buying an apartment in New York City has never been an easy endeavor and the latest results show that the demand for real estate in the Big Apple continues strongly. The reports covering the third quarter of 2013 indicate low inventory and increasing sales in the Manhattan real estate market. Based on some experts, inventory is at its lowest level in 13 years. Furthermore, property sales have reached the highest level since 2007. Lastly, and probably as a result of the previous facts, prices continue to go up. Based on market reports published by the top real estate agencies, the median price for condo apartments is 3.4%-11% higher than 12 months ago. Average price per square foot for condo apartments is about 1350 USD (which is 14530 per square meter).

iMoney interview - East-West Property Advisors is featured in iMoney, top business magazine in Hong Kong

On July 27-28, 2013, iMoney magazine, a weekly business magazine in Hong Kong, published a story on real estate in New York. Our team has been featured in this story to provide insights on the New York property market.
Some of the key messages include:

- Chinese buyers are a major group of international buyers in New York and the USA. Many Chinese have been buying for educational reasons (children going to study in the USA), investment reasons or self-use (second home). An underlying reason to all of this is the uncertainty that Chinese citizens have with policies/regulations in their home country. Most of the Chinese buying are still buying because of their children who are planning to go study in the USA (whether it is for high-school or college)

- Due to the high interest of both Americans and foreigners in New York, the overall lack of supply of new apartments in the city and the overall improving economy, the competition for apartments is very fierce at the moment. For example, currently some of our clients continue to have a challenge in buying a property in New York as there is not enough supply and bidding wars. Low inventory is a major problem at the moment; whereas typically 8000-9000 new units are put on the market every year, developers have only been able to put 2000 units on the market (due to lack of credit/financing).

Attached is the full article.

Article

English translation

Simplified Chinese translation

US home prices are up the most in 7 years

This year, the US real estate prices rose by the most compared with the previous seven years. The S&P/Case-Shiller index of US property prices (the most widely followed home price index in the USA) climbed 12.2 percent from May 2012. This is the largest 12-month gain since March 2006, after it advanced 12.1 percent a month earlier.
All 20 cities that are in the index showed an increase in year-over-year prices, led by gains of 24.5 percent in San Francisco and 23.3 percent in Las Vegas.
Reasons for this increase in prices are the low interest rates, low inventory of houses and overall improving economy and job market in the USA.
"We continue to look forward to upward momentum" in the US housing market, said Anika Khan who is a senior economist at Wells Fargo, one of the largest U.S. mortgage lenders.
The increase in the Case-Shiller index is supported by many other sources that have indicated price appreciation in the US real estate market. Furthermore, the home builder index (National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo) also increased to highest level since January 2006 indicating strong confidence from US home builders that prices might continue to go up.
Based on the Commerce Department, the median sale price of a new home is now 7.4 percent higher than 12 months – it currently is around 249,700 USD.

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Source: Bloomberg, July 31 2013

State of US real estate market

Overall:
- Prices across the USA have increased over last 12 months. However, some experts believe that the rate price appreciation might slow down as interest rates are trending upwards.
As of June 2013, the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index (a composite index for real estate prices in 20 cities in the USA) rose 12% over the last 12 months.

Local information:
As you know, real estate trends should be reviewed on a local level. As such, here are some key points:
- Below are the price increases over the last 12 months (as of June 2013)
o Boston: price increase of 6.7%
o Los Angeles: price increase of 19.9%
o New York: price increase of 3.3%
o San Diego: price increase of 19.3%
o San Francisco: price increase of 24.5%
It should be noted that these price increases are based on data from the entire metropolitan area of each city. As such, it does not cover only the city but also the neighborhoods around that city center. As a result, certain cities with a wide range of different neighborhoods (such as New York) have a wide range of price differential among the neighborhoods of the city.

- Places such as New York, Miami, San Francisco… are facing a lack of supply of new units: as such, buyers have been buying condo apartments based on floorplans (=before the building is completed), bidding wars for property is increasing and many buyers have to wait longer to find a property that they like and pay a higher price than they expected.

- Las Vegas noticed a price increase of 24.9%, the highest annual gain of any major metropolitan area. This is particularly due to the fact that many hedge funds and other investors have been buying up property in bulk, and due to the fact that a recent legal bill makes it harder for banks to foreclose (thus limiting the number of units on the market)

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