The Housing Chronicles Blog: Housing bust moves to the luxury segment

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Housing bust moves to the luxury segment

Due largely to the chaos on Wall Street, sales of luxury homes not just in Manhattan but around the country are finally starting to tank after showing some past resiliency. From a Wall Street Journal article:

For months, as housing values were falling for midsize ranch houses in Stockton, Calif., and Las Vegas high-rises, sales of high-end properties in financial centers like London, New York and San Francisco continued to percolate along.

But that was before last week, when turmoil in the credit markets brought down Lehman Brothers Holdings and imperiled thousands of high-paying jobs. While those rare properties priced at $20 million or more are still holding up, there are signs that the crisis is exacerbating a downturn that was already plaguing properties in the $2 million to $10 million range, a market often sought by Wall Street workers...

So far, the strongest part of the high-end market are the few "trophy" properties -- penthouses and other apartments with one-of-a-kind features that rarely come up for sale. "There are always people with money. Somebody's always on the other side of these crises," says David Ogilvy, a broker in Greenwich, Conn., who this year sold a $30 million house -- the second-most-expensive house ever sold in the area...

Just a few weeks ago, San Francisco saw one of its priciest listings ever, a 20,000-square-foot penthouse topping the St. Regis Residences. Encompassing two floors and featuring four terraces as well as a two-story waterfall, the still-unfinished unit has an asking price of $70 million.

So far, places like New York and San Francisco are still faring better than many other areas of the U.S., particularly areas of Southern California and Florida. "I think everyone is taking a hit," says Suzanne Perkins of Sotheby's in Santa Barbara, Calif., where prices have fallen 20% in the last year. "I still have buyers in the $20 million range, but they're looking for deals and they're looking for sellers who will negotiate."

In the run-up to the real-estate boom, brokers sometimes slapped headline-grabbing asking prices on highly desirable homes just to drum up interest and create buzz. Now, many of the tricks brokers are using to sell properties at the high-end are the same ones used with their more modest counterparts. The first and foremost: persuading the seller to list the home at an attractive price...

Amid the financial crisis, agents say many buyers are also more reluctant to buy splashy properties for reasons other than the cost. "I don't think anybody is going to be bidding for at least the next several weeks," says Kirk Henckels of Stribling Private Brokerage. "You'd feel pretty silly walking into a cocktail party today and saying you bought an apartment today."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here in the Santa Barbara and Montecito CA markets, there is still OK activity but clients are looking for deals. I have had 2 clients in the $3-6 Million range in the last few weeks also say they are waiting until some sellers are more realistic. I think the high-end is finally feeling some crunch as well.
Kevin Schmidtchen
Sotheby's Int'l Realty
Santa Barbara