NEW YORK — Possible price erosion. No more government stimulus propping up the market. But all with the saving grace of more stability. Those are some of the things we can look forward to in the New York residential market in the coming year.

Indeed, the good news is that the predictions for the New York City market aren’t dire for the coming year. The bad news is that they aren’t that awe-inspiring, either.

In this month’s Q-and-A, The Real Deal talked to market analysts and CEOs of brokerages to get their unvarnished views of what to expect in 2011.

Editor’s note: This article is reposted with permission by The Real Deal. View the original article.

By MELISSA DEHNCKE-MCGILL

NEW YORK — Possible price erosion. No more government stimulus propping up the market. But all with the saving grace of more stability. Those are some of the things we can look forward to in the New York residential market in the coming year.

Indeed, the good news is that the predictions for the New York City market aren’t dire for the coming year. The bad news is that they aren’t that awe-inspiring, either.

In this month’s Q-and-A, The Real Deal talked to market analysts and CEOs of brokerages to get their unvarnished views of what to expect in 2011.

While many said there is unlikely to be robust activity this year (largely because of strict requirements from mortgage lenders and the pending concerns about the unemployment picture), they also said buyers and sellers have become more comfortable than they were last year at this time. That will help draw more people into the market.

"Buyers know that they are not clearly buying at what was the height of the market, and sellers clearly have a lot of benchmarks of sales from the past year," said one company head. "We are not in an unknown environment."

Another source argued that 2011 should be the year that the industry stops comparing the New York market to the stretch of time between 2003 and 2007, because it will more closely resemble its historical self. "That (period) was the anomaly," the source said.

For more on which projects and sectors to keep an eye on in 2011, we turn to our panel of experts.

Jonathan Miller, president/CEO, Miller Samuel

Q: What do you think will happen with the residential market in New York City in 2011?

A: I don’t know if there is much to get excited about. I think in 2011 we may see a market that moves sideways, with certain possibilities for some price erosion. It really depends on where employment levels go and where credit goes. Hopefully we will see meaningful improvement. But unless we do, it’s hard to see housing lead us out of this. … [Also], it would likely vary borough by borough because some boroughs have a heavy concentration of foreclosures, which are anticipated to continue rising.

Q: After a massive falloff in early 2009, residential sales in Manhattan bounced back somewhat in 2010. Do you expect that to continue in 2011?

A: What is impressive about the market is how quickly we saw activity rebound from the dire levels of the first half of 2009. But the activity of 2010 was either partially stimulus, low interest rates, first-time tax credits or pent-up demand from 2009. Going into 2011 we don’t have much changing. That’s why I view it as more leveling off and possibly some slippage in some markets. Hopefully [there will be improvement] sooner than later, but as it stands right now it’s unrealistic to expect any kind of robust activity [this] year.

Q: Which price range of the residential market do you expect to do best in New York over the next year?

A: I would say the middle of the market that relies on conforming mortgage financing — a $729,000-to-$750,000 mortgage cap — which would mean under a million or low millions.

Q: What do you expect the biggest challenges to be in the coming year in the New York residential market?

A: No. 1 is what happens with municipal taxes; the budget shortfall for the city is a local concern. The other is interest rates as they begin to trend higher, because they have been manipulated and are artificially low. What happens when that pressure is removed would be another significant worry. The next is shadow inventory. Lenders are still in full pretend-and-extend mode. Lenders are doing everything they can to delay the inevitable. Inventory, aside from shadow inventory, is consistent with historic norms right now. So is sales activity, in general. The most important thing people can do in 2011 is to stop looking at 2003 to 2007. That was the anomaly.

Q: New development condos were obviously hit hard during the recession. How do you expect new development condos to perform in the coming year?

A: I think the days of new condo development are going to be on hiatus, at least for the next couple of years. The majority of the new product coming out is going to be rental, and even then it will be nowhere near the scale of new market entries that we saw. Ultimately a lot of the shadow will be converted to rental or sold over the next three to five years.

Q: What do you think will happen with lending in 2011?

A: It will probably get easier, but it won’t ease as quickly as we need to keep housing from seeing more weakness. If you think about where we are right now, no matter what you are being told, lenders are looking for reasons not to lend. We truly are building a triple-A mortgage portfolio with these banks because all of the new product is clean as a whistle; now triple A actually means something. From a long-term perspective it feels like we are going in the right direction, but it’s at a crawl.

Frederick Peters, president, Warburg Realty Partnership

Q: What do you think will happen with the residential market in New York City in 2011?

A: My prediction is for slight price growth — less than 5 percent — combined with a fairly constant trickle of new inventory.

Q: Which price range do you expect to do best in New York in 2011?

A: I think we can expect to see more transactions at the upper end of the market. … I think that will be where the most significant change in volume will be.

Q: Which area do you expect to do worst?

A: Oversupply is always the determining factor for what markets struggle more. I think there is still oversupply in the one- and two-bedroom condo markets between 14th and 33rd streets on the East Side. So those are areas of opportunity for buyers.

Q: How do you think the employment situation will impact the market here?

A: Barring another big round of Wall Street layoffs — which is certainly not impossible — unemployment is usually not a direct factor in the work we do. But it has significant overall psychological resonance in the economy, which in turn does affect buyer perception and how they tailor their willingness to purchase.

I think both nationally and locally the unemployment issue will take years to resolve, and will continue to be a drag on consumer confidence. And we are in the consumer confidence business.

Q: How do you expect new development condos to perform in 2011?

A: It’s all a question of price. Where developers have readjusted so their expectations are in line with the market, the product sells. I think we will see ongoing absorption of the new condo product, but that will probably be balanced by new units coming out of the rental market and back into the sale market. This will be a multiyear process before the overhang is absorbed.

Q: There was a recent ruling that requires Related to give back a $500,000 deposit to a buyer at the Brompton. What do you expect to happen with ILSA (Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act) cases in New York in the coming year?

A: I think we will all be waiting with great interest to see how the U.S. Court of Appeals rules on the Brompton case. Because we all know that the truth with these cases is that buyers don’t want to get out of them because of some obscure ILSA provision. They want to get out of the deals because the market changed and they feel they paid too much.

Is that something the courts should support? Would the court be sympathetic in a rising market to the developer finding a loophole so he could cancel the contracts and sell the apartments for more?

Marisa Di Natale, senior economist, Moody’s Analytics

Q: What do you think will happen with the residential market in New York in 2011?

A: The residential market will continue its [recovery] and by the summer, housing prices in most segments — single-family, condo, co-op — will have reached bottom.

Q: Do you expect the number of sales to increase or fall in 2011 in New York?

A: I expect that sales have already bottomed and will continue to rise steadily through 2011.

Q: How do you think the employment situation is going to impact the residential market here?

A: The job market will continue to improve in the private sector, but losses in the public sector will offset some of those gains. Wall Street will be hiring again, though at a pretty slow pace. The unemployment rate may be higher a year from now simply because the labor force will be growing faster than job growth. The odds of a double-dip recession are very low, [which will help] the residential market.

Q: What do you expect the biggest challenges to be in the coming year in the New York residential market?

A: Most of my concern is about the job market, which directly impacts home sales. I’m concerned that layoffs in the public sector will take a lot of the wind out of the sails of the recovery in New York City. I’m also concerned that if high-paying industries like finance and professional services aren’t hiring by then, the residential sales market may be weaker for longer.

Sofia Song, vice president of research, StreetEasy

Q: What do you think will happen with the residential market in New York in 2011?

A: New York City has a long road of recovery ahead. After the Lehman collapse, 2009 felt like a free fall, while 2010 felt more like a period of stabilization. I expect that we will be bouncing along the bottom for a while before we see true signs of recovery.

Q: What do you expect to happen with residential sales volume in 2011?

A: Residential sales volume in Manhattan definitely increased in 2010, particularly in the second quarter. Most of these sales were in the entry-level market, with many buyers taking advantage of the federal tax credit and other incentives. [But] those government-backed props are gone now.

And unless unemployment improves and financing becomes easier to obtain, I don’t expect to see a dramatic increase in transaction activity in 2011.

Q: What do you expect to happen with residential prices in New York in 2011?

A: According to our overall yearly stats, median Manhattan prices have only gone up 1.9 percent from 2009 to 2010. Overall, I don’t expect to see any dramatic movement in prices. Tight credit and the inability to close will put downward pressure on prices, but as the economy slowly recovers, consumer confidence will return. I think the market will continue to stabilize.

Q: Which new residential projects should the New York real estate community keep an eye on in 2011?

A: Definitely the Frank Gehry tower at 8 Spruce Street. It’s the tallest residential building in the city and they will begin leasing (this year), commanding the highest rents in the city. I’m also excited to see 57 Reade by the John Buck Company. It wraps around 287 Broadway, which is a beautiful cast-iron, landmarked building. It’s been in the works since 2006 and it’s finally taking shape. Also, the Related’s West Side project and Extell’s Carnegie 57.

Q: Which New York City neighborhoods do you expect to do best and worst in 2011?

A: Overall, the Upper East Side and Upper West Side will do the best. Median prices there have almost returned to their peak levels and transaction activity is strong. I think Upper Manhattan and Midtown will struggle the most. Transaction volume is still way down and median prices are further from the peak than other areas.

Q: What do you expect to happen with ILSA cases in New York in 2011?

A: The precedent was set [at the Brompton] and I think it will give some encouragement to those with buyer’s remorse to back out of a contract. We’re seeing it at the Edge right now with nine buyers, using the same attorney who won the Related case, to back out of their contracts.

Kathy Braddock, co-founder, Charles Rutenberg Realty

Q: What do you think will happen with the residential market in New York in 2011?

A: I think it’s going to be stable. I think we will see a slight increase. I always believe we are very Wall Street-sensitive, so I think as long as the market stays where it is, with little ups and downs, we are going to be fine. The economic indicators seem to be that people are starting to hire.

The good news is that buyers know that they are clearly not buying at what was the height of the market, and sellers clearly have a lot of benchmarks of past sales from 2010 to go from. So we are not in an unknown environment. When you are in the unknown, people are more hesitant to move forward.

Q: Which price range of the residential market do you expect to do best in New York over the next year?

A: The exceedingly wealthy always have money and there is no reason for them not to have money in this environment. I think we will see some extraordinary sales again. The numbers are huge, but they are few and far between. I think we will see some astronomic numbers because these people have astronomic wealth, but I think the $1 to $3 million market will begin to become stronger as people feel they can spend some more money.

Q: What do you expect to happen with mortgages for buyers in the coming year? Will they get easier or harder to secure?

A: We are now used to the new reality. … There are three people in the real estate transaction: the broker, the real estate attorney and the mortgage broker or loan (officer).

It is critical to have three experts because any one of the components can implode, and if you are not in the hands of a great broker who can negotiate to keep the deal alive, you don’t have a good real estate attorney to overcome some of these problems that do crop up in these buildings today, and a good loan person, then you are not dealing with a 100 percent deck. I have seen deals tank because one or two of the components were awful.

Noah Freedman, partner, Bond New York

Q: What do you expect to happen with prices in New York City in 2011?

We still have a ways to go to get back to pre-collapse numbers. As transactions continue to increase, inventory will begin to shrink and as it does, prices will increase. However, because there is still so much inventory available, prices won’t rise with any significance for some time.

Q: Which price ranges of the residential market do you expect to do best and worst in New York in 2011?

From $800,000 to $2 million (will do best). The bottom rung, under $400,000, (will do worst).

Q: What do you expect the biggest challenges to be in 2011 in New York?

Deals that die are almost always a victim of lending issues. It has become so tough to get deals closed and when you do, it’s taken months. So lending is at the top of the list and, of course, unemployment. … Mortgage brokers have become experts at overpromising and underdelivering.

Q: How do you expect new development condos to perform in 2011?

I feel that they are going to remain a small part of overall sales. Prices are too high and developers have less ability to play with price than a resale does. Also, there are still so many empty units that it’s hard to get banks to loan. New development is going to lag behind the rest of the market.

Q: Which New York City neighborhoods do you expect to do best and worst in 2011?

I think the Upper East Side is going to make a big comeback this year. Upper West and all the "name neighborhoods" below 14th will be hot, as always. (But) I still think Harlem has a ways to go before it gets hot again. Investors were driving business there and they are not looking to jump back in just yet.

Q: What do you expect to happen with ILSA cases in New York in the coming year?

The ruling (at the Brompton) is going to give buyers a bit more clout. But you know how it goes — lawyers will create riders to contracts that will protect against these rulings. I don’t expect that there will be much difference in the way business is done.

Barbara Fox, president, Fox Residential Group

Q: Do you expect the number of residential sales to continue increasing in 2011?

The number of sales will definitely increase in 2011 — there is still good value around, and buyers recognize value and will seize the opportunity to buy before prices climb again. A lot of people have been holding off, and more and more, they’re returning to the market.

Q: Which price ranges of the residential market do you expect to do best in New York in 2011?

I think the higher price ranges will continue to improve through 2011, as Wall Street continues to get stronger and bonuses continue to be paid out. (The high end), which has been relatively stagnant for the past year and a half, is already starting to improve, and that will continue.

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