Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Friday, October 7, 2011, 11:33 AM
When the world got the news about the loss of a great innovator, I got a little choked up and took a look at what his vision has meant to me. I’ve been in the Cult of Mac since 1986. Originally as contrarians, we originally built our appraisal firms Miller Samuel and Miller Cicero with Apple products. (confession: Mac appraisal software ceased to exist a few years ago so we were forced to convert to PC’s for Miller Samuel – except me)
I took a look back at my firm’s 25 years of history valuing real estate in New York City to draw some parallels. In reality, this is likely my attempt to pay homage to someone I’ve always admired greatly, so here goes:
Create a great product – people are attracted to great things in good times and bad. Think about the long lines for the new iPhone during the Great Recession. Think about buildings like 15 Central Park West in Manhattan that appreciated in value during recent rough economic times while other buildings sat idle.
Think Different – As an appraisal firm, Miller Samuel introduced many new ways of looking at Manhattan real estate over the years that we now take for granted: price per square foot, median sales price, number of bedrooms, days on market and other metrics that are now standard. It’s hard to imagine analyzing the market without these metrics, but we were criticized for each of them.
Learn from your mistakes – Steve Jobs was fired from the company he founded because he didn’t focus on the future. He learned from that experience and came back to push Apple to higher levels. In many ways, politics aside, our current mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has kept New York City focused on the future, working to make the city competitive on a global scale to remain an essential international destination, much like London.
Price/Cost does not equal value – Apple continually enjoys some of the highest profit margins in the industry because they conveyed their value to their customers. The opportunities afforded those who live in New York City usually outweigh the high cost of living in the city. If that weren’t true, there would be a population exodus in search of a lower cost of living. Instead, real estate has thrived over the long run as the city has instilled value in its residents.
He was rude, aggressive and unyielding, but people loved him – Why? Because he had a vision that was hard to argue against. New York City pushes people to perform and has a reputation for things such as not making eye contact with others on the street as they hurry to get somewhere. I never wish to attain Steve Jobs’ personality, but I do aspire to get things done.
See where the future will take us before anyone else does – After Steve Jobs was fired from Apple, he started a new computer company called Next. I remember the outcry when the new machines didn’t have floppy disk drives. Apple eventually bought the firm, bringing Jobs back, primarily for it’s unique software, which eventually became OSX and ultimately saved Apple, pushing it to higher levels. Back in 2005 and through 2009, I remember calling out the deteriorating conditions of the appraisal industry and the weakening housing market very publicly, and being regularly chastised for it. Those same individuals who criticized my commentary eventually realized the reality we were facing.
Many people identify with being “in the know” – Mac nuts like me thrive on this. I think people who live in or near New York are drawn here for that reason. I have family in other parts of the country that view New York as an exciting, but scary place, saying they would never want to live here. But when they visit, they get a sense of the energy and pace and wistfully talk about moving here.
Love and passion make hard work fun – Steve Jobs tirelessly pursued his vision. We spend one third of our life sleeping, so there isn’t time left to waste. Do we want to spend it bored and unhappy? New York City has been described as the “City that never sleeps” and “a city where you can buy fresh strawberries at 3am”. I’ve never had the urge to buy them at that hour, but people want to be here for the potential to do just that. It’s things they can’t ordinarily do elsewhere that build long term value into the housing market.
Why has New York City remained one of the best performing housing markets in the country? Because continues to be “insanely great”.
We’ll miss you Steve.