Home Prices Rise 1.2% in August

Source: FoxBusiness, By: Ken Sweet

Housing prices improved in August for the fourth straight month in nearly all of the nation’s major metropolitan areas, the closely-watched S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index showed Tuesday.

The back-dated 20-city index showed that home prices improved by 1.2% in August, which was better than the 0.7% increase that economists had been looking for. Still, home prices remain down 11.3% from a year ago.

David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee, attributed the increase to home buyers continuing to take advantage of the $8,000 first-time home buyers tax credit, which is set to expire on Nov. 30. If the tax credit is not renewed and unemployment remains high, Blitzer said he believes that the index could retreat by some degree in the coming months.

“Both may have a dampening effect on home prices,” he said in a statement.

Nearly all of the major metropolitan areas saw home price improvements in August, with the exception of Las Vegas, Cleveland and Charlotte, N.C. Las Vegas saw home prices fall 0.3% in August, bringing the year-over-year decline for Las Vegas to 29.9%. Charlotte and Cleveland, both areas less impacted by the housing bubble than the rest of the nation, saw home prices fall 0.4% and 0.5% respectively.

The large San Francisco housing market saw the one of the biggest month-over-month increases, rising 2.8% in August, according to the index, but still remains down 12.5% from a year ago. Phoenix, one of the most troubled housing markets, saw home prices improve 1.6% last month, but is still down 25.1% from last year.

Home-building stocks such as Pulte Homes (PHM: 9.68, -0.01, -0.1%), KBHome (KBH: 15.61, 0.19, 1.23%) and Toll Brothers (TOL: 18.21, -0.11, -0.6%) were all moderately lower on Tuesday, along with the broader market.

Sotheby’s International Realty represents buyer in sale of Madoff’s Montauk Estate

According to the Wall Street Journals, Sotheby’s International Realty agent, Ed Petrie, represented Mr. Stephen Roth, owner of Vornado Realty, in the purchase of this estate. Reportedly the purchase closed at a price above the $8.75M asking price. Great job Ed and SIR East Hampton Brokerage!

Lake Placid named as one of American’s Prettiest Towns

Source: Forbes Traveler

There was only one overlap choice among our expert panel: In independent selections, Greg Melville and Sarah Tuff Dunn, co-authors of 101 Best Outdoor Towns, both singled out Lake Placid, New York for its natural grandeur and small-town charm. “It’s got the jagged mountain backdrop surrounding a quaint, unpretentious ski village bordered by two crystal lakes,” says Melville.

Melville explained the criteria he used in making his choices: “Each of these places is among the most picturesque (in the country)—whether it’s the natural surroundings, the architecture, or more likely a combination of the two.”

Beyond the outward aesthetic appeal of the destinations chosen by our panel, and regardless of whether the towns are situated on colonial waterfronts, amidst awesome, snow-capped peaks or in stark western deserts, there seems to be a deeper quality that unites our experts’ choices—namely, how the towns “feel.”

Hamptons Home Prices Rise as Buyers Return to $2 Million Deals

Source: Bloomberg News

Home prices in the Hamptons, the Long Island beachside getaway for Wall Street financiers and celebrities, rose 4.7 percent in the third quarter amid a surge in sales of properties from $2 million to $5 million.

The median price increased to $900,000 from $860,000 a year earlier, according to Town & Country Real Estate. The number of sales in the $2 million-plus category rose 44 percent to 46 transactions in the period.

“Some of these areas corrected by 25 percent or more and that caused people to sit up and take notice,” said Judi Desiderio, president of Town & Country. “If you’re a guy that’s been out there looking at a house between $8 million to $10 million and all of a sudden you’re looking at the same house and it’s $2 million less, that kind of a correction I think made guys jump into the pool.”

The total number of sales fell 2.3 percent in the third quarter, with homes priced under $500,000 showing the biggest decline, at 22 percent. The figures demonstrate that the Hamptons are still experiencing the effects of a recession and crisis that drove New York City’s unemployment rate to 10.3 percent in August. Financial firms have reported more than $1.6 trillion in losses and asset writedowns tied to record defaults on home loans. Executives at those companies are a driving force in the Hamptons property market, Desiderio said.

The median sales price for a luxury home on Long Island’s East End dropped 9.4 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier to almost $4 million, according to New York-based appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and broker Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

To contact the reporter on this story: Oshrat Carmiel in New York at ocarmiel1@bloomberg.net

Today’s Strategies for Tomorrow’s Payoffs

Tips from the pros on keeping your home marketable — and more livable
by Iyna Bort Caruso

Your home may not be on the market, but keeping it in market-ready condition is one of the best strategies for protecting its long-term investment potential.

“That really does two things,” explains James Retz, Senior Vice President of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Huntington, N.Y. “It prevents major expenses due to deferred maintenance at the time of sale. And it allows you to enjoy living in your home more.”

It’s just one of the tactics real estate experts recommend for maximizing the value of your home. Even in a challenging economy, homeowners can boost sales prospects by being vigilant about routine repairs and proactive about making their home stand out in a crowded market.

Brian T. Cadieux, managing director of the real estate appraisal firm IRR–Residential Valuation Services in Campbell, Calif., regularly assesses executive homes in Silicon Valley. “When you get into the high-end home market, there are certain features that have to be there. If they’re not, it creates much more of a negative impact than in the mid- or low-end of the market,” he says. A top-of-the-line kitchen is one of these features. “Without it, people aren’t going to waste their time unless they’re thinking of gutting the house.” Cadieux has also been noticing a trend in lavish master bedroom suites. “We’re not just talking about a walk-in closet, but dual walk-in closets and tricked-out spa bathrooms. Literally, a little retreat within the house.”

Any additions or renovations should be done for your personal enjoyment, of course, but it’s important to make highly individualized renovations you can easily undo if you decide to sell. There is a whole range of improvements that don’t necessary return 100% of the investment, but some changes — no matter how pricey — just don’t translate and actually detract from a home’s value.

“Don’t step too far out of bounds,” cautions Riley Kirn of Bluegrass Sotheby’s International Realty in Lexington, Ky. “Anything you do narrows or expands the buyer realm. If the addition is too singular, the home may languish when it comes to market.” That doesn’t mean giving up the idea of, say, a basement bowling alley or indoor roller rink. “Just make sure it’s reversible,” Kirn says.

Kirn’s territory is thoroughbred horse breeding country with homeowners hailing from around the world. The biggest mistake he sees is exquisite homes sabotaged by low-end design choices: Hollow doors inside multi-million dollar homes; average craftsmanship; rooms without crown molding; off-the-shelf fixtures; wall-to-wall carpeting versus wood or tile floors; average kitchens and baths. “People demand nice open kitchens with granite countertops, Sub-Zero refrigerators and commercial-caliber ovens. When a buyer walks in and sees appliances that are not custom, it degrades the perceived value from then on.”

A home of distinction must live up to its own high standards. And it must be appointed with the kind of amenities that the local marketplace demands. Nice-to-have in one part of the world may be must-have in another. In Northern California, for instance, wine cellars are a given among elite properties just as pools are in Miami. In regions where sustainability is valued, greening a home can return both feel-good benefits and financial rewards.

Candace Dyal of Dyal Compass LLC, a Boston-based real estate development firm, is putting the final touches of an eco-facelift on a property on Kiawah Island, S.C., an environmentally sensitive area. The home is on the market for $14 million. While other residences at similar price points are being overlooked, Dyal’s is garnering attention not only for its grandeur, but also for its green design and energy conservation measures. “I thought if we could make it more efficient with less waste, let’s do it,” says Dyal.

The home, along with an adjacent guesthouse, sits on a double lot with ocean views. It was originally an old Georgian with engineering problems. Instead of knocking down the structure, Dyal had its facade remodeled to resemble a cedar-shingled Nantucket-style classic and is now pursuing LEED certification, which recognizes homes that meet certain environmentally sustainable standards. She salvaged some of the original structure and then supplemented it with energy efficient technologies. Solar panels, low-flow faucets, drought-tolerant plants and locally manufactured building materials minimize the environmental impact of further land development.

The result, she says, is that the home is 35% more efficient than code. “The investment decision to go green will benefit the future homeowner with significant savings. Kiawah Island is a very nature-conscious place, and this house shares that sentiment. And when you do it right, everyone wins and everyone saves.” In fact, the green movement is catching on so rapidly that Dyal Compass LLC’s next project is a platinum LEED-certified neighborhood on Kiawah.

To safeguard your home’s appreciation, measure any capital improvements as part of the total cost of ownership. Retz says people have to recognize the difference between dollars they’ve put into their home and what it’s worth. Avoid overimproving disproportionately to what the market will bear and overleveraging with home equity loans. “It’s not a personal ATM machine,” Retz says. “Excessive liens in a decelerating market can impact both marketability and peace of mind. The goal is to keep your investment and your home’s value as far apart as possible.”

DJIA extends climb above 10000


Rallying energy stocks helped the Dow Jones Industrial Average hold above the 10000 level Thursday for a second day, though slumping financial and technology sectors kept the gains modest.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 47.08 points, or 0.5%, to 10062.94, a day after it crossed the 10000 level for the first time in a year.

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Earlier: Stocks’ Rebound Won Over Investors
Heard: Crossover 500, the Other Milestone
The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index rose 4.53 points, or 0.4%, to 1096.55, helped by a 2.1% jump in its energy sector that more than offset a 0.9% slump in its financials category.

Stocks traded to the downside for most of the day despite third-quarter earnings from Goldman Sachs Groupand Citigroupcoming in above Street estimates. The stocks had climbed so much ahead of the reports that better-than-forecast earnings were already priced in. Both ended lower on the day, with Goldman shedding 1.9% and Citigroup dropping 5%.

Investors were also disappointed by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s latest reading on regional manufacturing activity.

However, a bigger-than-expected decline in fuel inventories sent oil sharply higher, providing a big boost to energy stocks as the commodity locked in its sixth-straight gain. Crude futures gained $2.40 a barrel, or 3.2%, to settle at $77.58, for a 9.9% surge this month.

Chevrongained 1.6% and Exxon Mobilrose 1.5%.

“People are now shrugging off some of the disappointment that Goldman Sachs didn’t blow out the upside more,” said Matt Kaufler, a portfolio manager at Federated Clover Funds. “There was a ‘whisper number’ out there significantly higher, and the earlier selloff was more of an overreaction,” he said.

Mr. Kaufler added that investors “are trying to get used to and find comfort in Dow 10000.”

Energy broker Mike Fitzpatrick, of MF Global in New York, said it would seem like “a logical thing” for oil to make it over the $80 mark soon. If it rises much higher than that, however, he said it could begin to pose more of a threat to the U.S. economic recovery, since higher pump prices would likely curtail consumers’ purchases of other goods and services.

Third-quarter earnings season had started off strongly on better-than-expected reports from firms including Alcoa, Inteland J.P. Morgan Chase. Those reports helped give the Dow a final push in its move back over the psychologically significant 10000 level on Wednesday.

The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index rose 1.06 point, or 0.1%, to 2173.29. It was weighed down by Google, which fell 1% as investors grew apprehensive ahead of its quarterly report after the bell. International Business Machinesfell 0.3% ahead of its earnings report after the closing bell.

Gold futures closed slightly lower after hitting an exchange record earlier in the week, while the dollar was mixed against major rivals. Treasury prices fell. The two-year note slid 2/32 to yield 0.947%. The 10-year note declined 11/32 to yield 3.462%.

—Peter A. McKay contributed to this article
Write to Geoffrey Rogow at geoffrey.rogow@dowjones.com and Donna Kardos Yesalavich at donna.yesalavich@dowjones.com

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page C1

Spa City Lands International Racing Conference

Source: Saratoga TODAY
Written By: Melissa Downer on October 9, 2009

Next week more than 300 of the racing world’s top executives will be in Saratoga Springs for the 17th annual International Simulcast Conference from October 12 through 14. Sponsored by the Thoroughbred Racing Association and the Harness Tracks of America, the annual conference strives to cover topics at the forefront of the racing industry such as simulcast, wagering security, handicapping and the effects of new technology on the racing industry.

“As technology advances, tracks and wagering outlets need to keep up with the newest trends and figure out how to use these for our advantage,” said Jane Murray, Director of Services for the TRA. “This year we will be holding a special panel dedicated to the link between social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter and their relationship to racing.
Another topic that will be discussed is current economic times and how they are affecting the racing industry. While Saratoga Springs is synonymous with Thoroughbred horse racing, this conference covers all angles of racing, including harness racing, Arabian horse racing, Quarter horse racing and dog racing.

“Each track deals with the same issues regardless of what animal is running. We are all
dealing with technology upgrades, simulcast issues and the economy,” Murray said.

This is the first time that the conference will be held in Saratoga Springs. In previous years it has been held in Las Vegas and San Francisco. The conference is being held at the Saratoga Hilton on Broadway.

“Saratoga Springs is the horse racing capital of the United States,” Murray said. “The whole city offers a great venue with a lot of things that interest the people who are attending the conference.”

While the conference is taking place, participants are invited to visit the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, the Saratoga Race Course, the harness track and Saratoga Gaming and Raceway, where racing is simulcastyear-round.

“As the home of the oldest continuously operating Thoroughbred racetrack in the United States, Saratoga Race Course, Saratoga Springs is noted for its racing heritage. The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame offers its visitors a comprehensive look at the history of American Thoroughbreds along with the Hall of Fame,” Murray said.


MGM Mirage Cuts Price on Multi-Billion Condo Project by 30%

Source: Wall Street Journal

MGM Mirage is cutting the price of the condos at its $8.5 billion City Center development by 30% due to the economic downturn, the company announced Monday. The move was intended to address a growing backlash from many of the people who signed contracts on condos in the 2,440-unit complex during the height of Las Vegas real-estate boom. Many had said they would have trouble closing on those units now that financing has become harder to obtain and the market in Las Vegas for luxury condos has crashed. Investors and observers had been anticipating a price cut from the company for some time.

“We believe that in this economic climate, this price reduction is an appropriate step to take on behalf of our buyers so as to provide them greater flexibility in closing on their residences,” City Center CEO Bobby Baldwin said in a statement.

The multi-towered City Center project, situated on 67-acres on the Las Vegas Strip, is expected to open in December as a mixed-use complex with residential, retail and casino spaces.

In 2006 and 2007, when the market for luxury condominiums was at its height, MGM Mirage used more than $300 million in deposits for residential units to help fund the enormous complex. Other casino developers employed similar tactics in funding expensive new projects and expansions in Las Vegas.

But since then, the market for new residences in Las Vegas has dropped around 40% and financing for luxury condos has withered.

“The [City Center] prices were out of line with reality,” said Joe Fath, an investment analyst at T. Rowe Price.

Las Vegas Sands Chief Executive Sheldon Adelson said in an interview last month that he is closely watching City Center’s condo sales to determine whether to start up construction again on the stalled St. Regis tower outside his Venetian and Palazzo casinos in Las Vegas.

“If the condo side is successful, I’ll start the St. Regis,” Mr. Adelson said. “It wouldn’t be good for me if they discount it a lot.”

MGM Mirage said it is scheduling one-one-one meetings with City Center buyers.

Hot Stocks: Pulte, Beazer Gain

Source: Wall Street Journal

Home-builder stocks jump after data show home prices rose for a third straight month in 20 major cities. Pulte Homes, Beazer Homes and Toll Brothers all gain ground.

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Market Improving – Record Sale on Lake Luzerne

The real estate market has been a rollercoaster all around the United States for the past two years. However, here in the Capital Region of NY State, we have been somewhat insulated from the national disaster which has resulted in foreclosures and shortsales in many of the premium markets.

In comparing the sales results for Saratoga County for the first nine months of 2009, vs. 2008 and 2007, we see evidence of this stability. From 2007 to 2009, for the same period measured, the Average Price of homes sold is down only 7.8%. Where markets such as Miami, and Fort Meyers have seen values erode over 40% in some areas. For Saratoga County, the biggest impact has been time on market. During the same measurement period the average days on market for sold units has increased by 13.4% to 89 days.

Homes in the higher end bracket of the market have been affected to a much larger degree. During the first nine months of 2009, only 16.67% of homes with values over $600,000 have sold, compared to 23.19% for the same period in 2007, with a time on market in excess of 130 days. The values, however are holding, most likely propped up by the news of Saratoga Counties massive economic development explosion which is anchored by GlobalFoundries.

Within the first 9 months of 2009, however, there have been several events which are creating record sales, and confirming our strong and vibrant regional marketplace. In January, one property in Pottersville located on Echo Lake sold for $1.25 million creating a top sale for the year in that market, and on September 30th, one property located on Lake Luzerne sold for $810 thousand creating an historical top sale for waterfront homes on Lake Luzerne.

In addition, homesteads and unique properties in Washington County are on the move, with several sales occurring there over $400,000 just this year. This includes a regional record sale of $950,000 for a large Alpaca farm in Shushan, NY.

So sellers, please stay patient in this market and don’t arbitrarily deflate the value of your properties just to achieve a quick sale, unless you have a dominent motivation to do so. But at the same time, remain realistic, understand your true goals, and be sure to properly align your goals with the reality of the market when evaluating your pricing strategy. There is a good chance that your pricing may be out of alignment with the market if you have no activity. Be sure to listen to your real estate professional, and periodically assess your listings ensure movement.