March 6, 2018

Changing Tides

By Wendy Maitland

Did you know that NYC real estate been predictably cyclical since the early 1800's? 

Through tumultuous markets, I have learned to keep my perceptions steady and broad. I still my fears through storms by recalling my knowledge of centuries of ups and downs. People tell us (predictably, cyclically) that this time is exceptional, that the market is never going back to bullish because of "blah blah blah". I listen, I read, I analyze and assess, but that's the ultimate message. In other words, I take it with a grain of salt.
If you were in NYC in September 2001, you witnessed, as I did, the most tumultuous time in NYC's history in the tragic occurrence of 9/11 and its wake.  

The loss of human life was devastating. Chaos and fear ruled people's lives. I was scheduled to list my own apartment on 9/12/01. To my surprise, my broker (I was a practicing psychoanalyst at the time) arrived at my apartment in the West Village, in the zone where people had to wear face masks in the streets, with the listing agreement for me to sign. The water from my tap was brown with debris. My only focus was to ensure that my kids were safe, fed, and had a sense of normalcy inside the cocoon of our home. My only sojourn out of the neighborhood was to their school, to counsel parents about handling their children's fears and questions. I reluctantly signed the agreement with an asking price that was over double what I'd paid four years prior. I had gut renovated it, and I wasn't in a hurry to move. 
As people left the city in droves, many to settle permanently in the country, others came to see our loft. By January 2002, one of two offers crept over the asking price. I took it. It turns out, the same thing was happening all over the city. If that isn't symbolic of the resiliency of this city, I don't know what is.
The real estate market is impacted by many known and unknown factors, culturally, economically, and geo-politically. Consumer sentiment is also a tremendous market force. On a note of experiential reflection, I've noticed that Wall Street professionals tend to be the most emotionally driven prospective buyers or sellers, often finding lost opportunity in the rearview mirror. The velocity of sales and price tolerance reflects these forces efficiently. Yet, like the undertow of a wave coming from the ocean floor, there's always a counter force waiting in the wings to swiftly change the tide. By the time the impact of one solid market movement has crystalized, the catalyst for the next one is quietly making its moves under the surface.
Our market is one of many micro-markets. There are clear facts that cannot be ignored, such as the impact of foreign buyer transactions increasing or decreasing, and a plethora of luxury and ultra-luxury inventory to be absorbed, making even serious buyers less pressed with urgency to pull the trigger. Regardless, there are some constant, undeniable market truths: 

  • there is always a market for property of value at the right price
  • the market will always show what the market will bear
  • overpricing, which translates to "days on market" in our market, is anathema to the value of a property

This is where a good broker's counsel and representation are key. If a property is strategically priced within its market context, and is well marketed and represented, it will sell. Period. If the market bears, it will sell at over the asking price.


In positioning a property, the one constant we can count on is the cyclical nature of change. Like in surfing, the set up for success is in anticipating and being well-positioned for the next wave. Whether you're a seller, a buyer, a renter or a landlord, opportunity abounds. The market is bound to change. And when I say bound, I mean that the change in our current market is already underway. It is through the surfer's intuitive eyes, based on our understanding of shifting but constant truths, against the backdrop of experience, hard market data and economic indications, that we accurately anticipate the next wave and the changing of the tide.
Have an opinion to share or a real estate need to discuss? We welcome your feedback and I'd love to hear from you. Reach out.

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