Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Monday, October 29, 2007, 12:01 AM
A map of the fire-stricken areas [LA Times]
Here’s a good summary of the fire situation in Southern California:
By late Tuesday, the blazes had burned 420,424 acres — about 656 square miles — and destroyed 1,155 homes, making them nearly as large as the fires in October 2003 that are considered the biggest in California history. Although only one death has been directly attributed to the fires, five others have been linked to them.
There was an interesting economic take on the eventual aftermath of the Southern California fires. In Tom Sullivan’s article Beyond the Flames in this week’s Barrons. Here’s synopsis from Seeking Alpha California’s Economy May Get Post-Fire Boost.
“It’s an oddity of economic accounting…but the sharp initial pain could possibly turn into long-term stimulus,” says Alan Gin, an economics professor at the University of San Diego. How? Insurers will absorb the bulk of losses, and the eventual rebuilding boom, helped by a generous doses of federal aid, is sure to pump hundreds of millions into the Golden State.
It looks like the region is going to need it. According to the RPX Monthly Housing Report that I author for Radar Logic, the data and analytics firm, the San Diego market has seen one of the largest price declines over the past year.
The decline in housing impacts everyone employed within the real estate industry, including construction workers, contractors/trades, architects, landscapers, real estate agents, mortgage brokers, lenders, appraisers, lawyers and probably a slew of other professions and occupations I can’t think of at the moment. This silver-lining scenario is not a zero-sum situation, but at least the potential economic stimulus is better than nothing.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Monday, May 14, 2007, 9:08 AM
One of the dire predictions (that pesky conventional wisdom thing again) of the post-Katrina US was the soon to be lack of homeowner’s insurance or at the very least, hard to get and very expensive post-war homeowner’s insurance.
But then a funny thing happened… (Peter Coy, in Businessweek’s Hurricane Ahead, But Lower Insurance:
In most of the country, property insurance rates for homeowners and businesses are actually lower than they were before Katrina. And amazingly, insurance rates have been falling recently in many parts of Florida and the Gulf Coast that stand to suffer severe losses from hurricanes, encouraging continued construction in low-lying areas.
- No major hurricanes hit in 2006 and investment returns by the industry set a record.
- Private equity firms, in search of returns, have poured money into bonds, betting on whether a hurricane will hit.
- Florida government is keeping rate increases in check.
- Insurance firms have fled Florida, driving up competition in other states, thereby lowering costs.
- New companies have entered Florida, gambling there won’t be a major storm anytime soon, offering new and lower priced products.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Wednesday, April 25, 2007, 12:05 AM
I am always fascinated by the spectre of blame that fills the commentary of the housing market, from insane commenters on Curbed, to mainstream media sound bites. Last fall, before the outbreak of subprime fever, I had noticed the beginning of the transition from housing bubbles to mortgages.
Daniel Gross in his always interesting Moneybox column on Slate writes about the widespread blame on the housing market for our nation’s woes in The Real Estate Blame Game: the unlikeliest victims of the housing slump.
Here’s a summary of the problems caused by a weak housing market:
- Pickup truck sales
- Boat retailers and manufacturers
- All of Latin America
But we all know that the weather is the cause of all of housing woes so we can safely say that pickup truck sales, railroads and boat retailers, especially those who are exported to Latin America, are severely impacted when the snow on the ski trails in Utah, feel as light as champagne.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Monday, March 12, 2007, 10:47 AM
After the nation was able to make it past the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, we were faced with an SI cover story on global warming.
One of the lessons from Hurricane Katrina and made official recently from climatologists, is that we are influencing to a certain degree, the weather. In fact, if we all go green right now, its probably too late to undo the damage. I had read somewhere that every mile of lost wetlands around New Orleans results in one foot of additional storm surge. The loss of wetlands over the past 50 years escalated the damage of Katrina…it wasn’t all about the levees.
A few degrees of warmer weather and a few inches of water can cause havoc in the housing market, especially with the surge (no pun intended) of second homes, of which a significant portion are located on coastal waterways and shoreline. There was an interesting cover story by Teri Rogers called The Real Riddle of Changing Weather: How Safe Is My Home? in last Sunday’s New York Times Real Estate section about consideration given to these changes in a high density urban market like New York City.
Click here for full sized graphic.
One of the take aways from the article for me was the potential underground damage to transportation and utilities and the rise in the use of glass in architectural design.
Incidentally, the FEMA flood zone maps for New York City haven’t been updated since 1983 and Battery Park City, which is a neighborhood created on the Hudson River from a landfill using the earth from the World Trade Center site isn’t even on the FEMA map. The maps still show the pre-existing piers. FEMA flood zone maps rate areas as zones of risk such as A5, B and C, usually in one hundred year increments. Perhaps, the time frame might need to be rethought.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Wednesday, May 10, 2006, 11:20 PM
In this week’s Solid Masonry weekly post on our other blog, Soapbox, Been Down So Long, It Looks Like Up To Me, John Mason explores the theory of relativity, as it relates, in a relevant way, to New Orleans real estate.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Monday, April 17, 2006, 7:34 AM
Planetizen deserves a hat tip for pointing me to the article Can Architecture Help Housing? [Businessweek/Metropolis Magazine] with the subtitle: The ideological catfights over housing threaten to marginalize all of architecture. Could the parties agree for the greater good?
Architects and urban planners have not been known to get along. With the latest housing boom, this gap, IMHO has not narrowed much. Architects have gained the attention of developers who have sought out Starchitects as developers seek to differentiate their building from the competition. New urbanists and other urban planners tend to be more macro in their orientation. Detractors call New Urbanism plop architecture or public housing for the rich.
With the devastation the has leveled a significant portion of the gulf, observers wonder if architects and urban planners can get past the nit-picking that has traditionally characterized their relationship.
The Businessweek piece wonders whether this next generation of architects and urban planners can do better than those in prior generations.
Now that architects are taking shots at one another over housing, can we do better than we did in the last century, which gave us sprawl for the middle class and Cabrini-Green for the poorest of the poor? Can we close the great divide between fetishistic formalism and social responsibility? Or are we doomed to a world in which architecture’s leading practitioners use their work merely to comment on social tumult rather than actually trying to do something about it?
This will be put to the test in the Gulf region as large swaths of it requires rebuilding. Its unrealistic to assume New Orleans can be reproduced exactly as it was before, yet at the same time, is at risk to lose its identity.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Friday, March 24, 2006, 12:01 AM
Source: NOAA 2-18-2006
The existing housing sales data was released by the NAR today [pdf] and the news was better than expected. In general economists projected a decline in existing home sale volume. What they got instead was a 5.2% increase over January and a 0.3% decline over February 2005. This marks the first month over month increase after 5 months of declines.
Why the surprise? Apparently Mother Nature got her broker’s license in February because the weather co-operated and we had an unseasonably warm period, which favors the real estate market as people become anxious to end the winter blues and it is easier to view properties.
The irony here is that the only region to see a decline in activity was in the south, arguably the warmest.
Existing-home sales rose 19.2% in the Northeast and 11.1% in the Midwest — areas where weather was unseasonably warm. Sales were up 5.1% in the West and declined 2.5% in the South [WSJ].
However, in the true spirit of a zero-sum game there are concerns that this will take away sales over the coming month, much like the extensive summer auto rebates did to the fall sales levels.
“Spring selling season started a little earlier because of the warm weather,” Mr. Lereah said, “but I expect the numbers to come down a bit in the next few months.” [NYT]
Most other publications bought into Lereah’s reasoning which was:
Warm weather in January prompting sales: these sales closed in February.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Tuesday, February 14, 2006, 12:45 AM
When I saw this chart on the NYC snowfall accumulation [NYT], I knew it had to be posted here even thought its not a real estate topic. Its simply amazing. Edward Tuffte would be proud.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Monday, February 13, 2006, 12:04 AM
A Record-Setting Snow Buries Northeast [ABC News] brings to mind a question about the weather’s impact on the real estate market.
Is the weather’s affect on real estate sales activity a zero-sum? Or are there lasting effects over a given year?
My inclination is to say that weather causes a greater impact on real estate locations that are seasonal than those that are year-round.
For example, a summer rental market generally sees lease-ups occur during the late winter and early spring. If the inclement weather is particularly bad during that period, the renters may pass on viewing property and choose not to rent that season.
In a year-round market, I suspect its a zero-sum game. While heavy winter snowstorms keep buyers from viewing properties until the weather clears, I suspect that there is no loss in sales activity for the year as a result. Any fluctuation is more likely attributable to changes in economic factors. However, I often see quotes attributing a slow down or an acceleration of activity attributed to the weather when I think its impact is nominal and only affects the pattern rather than the result.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Monday, January 23, 2006, 12:01 AM
As seen in a recent Haute Blog post: Architects are Shocked that their Glass Buildings Kill Millions of Birds every Year yet the public is unaware of the problem. The post is based on an article in Audubon Magazine called: Clear & Present Danger.
There’s a lot of interesting information in the article.
“Ornithologist Daniel Klem of Muhlenberg College, in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Between 100 million and 1 billion birds die in glass collisions every year in North America alone, Klem estimates. At the very least, that’s an average of one bird a year slamming into each of the roughly 100 million homes, apartment buildings, office towers, schools, and storefronts that dot the American landscape. “Glass is one of the world’s great bird killers,” rivaled only by habitat destruction and perhaps cats, says the blunt-spoken, 57-year-old ornithologist.
Glass gets less attention than other threats, however, because “most kills are pretty small, just a bird here or there,” says Frank Gill, Audubon’s director of science. “Few people see the big picture.”"
Says one ornithologist:
Nobody sets out to intentionally kill birds, they just like a
Here’s another well done presentation:
Windows: A Clear Danger to Birds [NPR]
There are a lot of advice sites on prevention [Google]
With the growing trend toward glass facades in new developments, this problem doesn’t appear to have a happy ending.
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