Singapore luxury market rebounds despite fewer foreign buyers

Singapore (iStock)

Singapore (iStock)

Singapore’s housing market has rebounded from the lows brought on by the pandemic earlier this year, even with fewer foreign buyers.

Since January, 2,177 apartments have sold in central Singapore, compared to 1,797 in the same period last year, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Some developers dropped prices as much as 10 percent during a partial lockdown this summer, but the median price per square foot in central Singapore is up 7.5 percent year-over-year to $1,705.

The country is one of most expensive places to live in the world, but these days, homes priced on the lower end of the market are moving quicker than those at the higher end.

Agents say the $3.5 million mark is the dividing line; units below that price are selling, but the market is slower above it.

Because of government restrictions on foreigners owning large plots of land, those wealthy buyers tend to buy the most expensive real estate in the country: apartments in luxury towers.

The dearth of foreign buyers is contributing to the bifurcation of the market. Some agents say that wealthy Chinese buyers in particular are beginning to shop again.

The Chinese government’s crackdown on political dissent in Hong Kong is also driving some wealthy residents of that territory to Singapore.

Singaporean government policy has also helped stabilize the country’s housing market. Property tax rebates helped the market earlier this year.

The government also caps debt to 60 percent of a real estate buyer’s gross monthly income and promotes gradual price appreciation through measures including stamp duties, according to the Journal. [WSJ] — Dennis Lynch 

Turkish mall valued at $1B in deal with Qatar

Istanye Park in Istanbul (Photo via Wikipedia Commons)

Istanye Park in Istanbul (Photo via Wikipedia Commons)

Turkish investment giant Dogus Holdings AS has agreed to sell a 30 percent stake in a high-end Istanbul shopping mall to a wing of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.

The deal is said to value the Istanye Park property at $1 billion, Bloomberg News reported. The buyer is Qatar Fund, which is owned by the Qatar Investment Authority.

Dogus is expected to use the $300 million or so in proceeds to pay its bank lenders, per a $2.7 billion debt restructuring deal that closed last year. Dogus committed to sell assets to meet those debts.

Dogus is negotiating agreements with banks to delay payments on the debt restructured last year. The conglomerate has businesses in numerous sectors, including auto dealerships and construction. Among its holdings is the Nusr-Et chain of steakhouses run by Nusret Gökçe, better known as Salt Bae.

Dogus was one of a number of Turkish companies that hit troubles with its debt obligations following the rapid devaluation of the Turkish lira in 2018. The coronavirus pandemic has complicated any recovery.
In the past few years, the Qatari government has pledged as much as $15 billion in investment and credit to the Turkish government. [Bloomberg News] ­— Dennis Lynch 

Real estate deals dominate Opportunity Zones. Is that bad?

The Economic Innovation Group identified 145 real estate investments in Opportunity Zones (iStock)

The Economic Innovation Group identified 145 real estate investments in Opportunity Zones (iStock)

Investment in Opportunity Zones is growing at a rapid pace, and so is skepticism about the program — and whether its incentives for pouring cash into low-income communities amount to a tax dodge.

The Economic Innovation Group, a policy group that’s a proponent of the program, identified 186 real estate and business investments in Opportunity Zones in the United States. Of those, the majority — 145 — are in real estate, the New York Times reported.

Critics have said that operational projects would create more jobs for locals and that the program doesn’t meaningfully help residents of the “distressed” communities. But investors often need incentives, and proponents are pushing back.

“When we make investments, we look at impact. And in this case, we’re taking an old, 500,000-square-foot abandoned building, giving it a second life, and bringing people into the area,” Michael Tillman, chief executive of PTM Partners, whose firm is raising $250 million for its second Opportunity Zone fund, told the publication.

PTM, along with Douglas Development, developed a mixed-use complex with luxury apartments in an Opportunity Zone in Washington, D.C.

“We’re also bringing in a school that lost its lease elsewhere,” he added. “All of that has a positive impact on the community.”

While some states and cities are attempting to track investment in opportunity zones, there is no such data at the federal level. This summer, however, the White House estimated that $75 billion had flowed into Opportunity Zones because of tax incentives.

In Baltimore, for example, some 80 projects are in the works in 42 zones.

“We have enough examples at this point to show that Opportunity Zones are helping projects that either would not have happened or would have taken a very long time to move forward,” said Benjamin Seigel, the Opportunity Zone coordinator for Baltimore’s economic development agency. “We’ve also learned that we’re not going to achieve the outcomes we care about by doing nothing.”

President-elect Joe Biden has suggested reforms to the program, including incentivizing developers to partner with community organizations, and a more robust system for reporting on the impacts of developers’ investments.

[NYT] — Sasha Jones

Pandemic takes drastic toll on dry cleaners

As workers trade in suits for sweatpants, 1 in 6 dry cleaners has closed or gone bankrupt (Getty)

As workers trade in suits for sweatpants, 1 in 6 dry cleaners has closed or gone bankrupt (Getty)

At J’s Cleaners, business had clawed up to 40 percent of pre-pandemic levels last month. But now, with Covid-19 soaring again, that number is expected to plummet.

“If this thing keeps dragging, many small businesses will close. Maybe I could be one of them,” owner Albert Lee, who plans to permanently shutter four of his 15 locations, told Bloomberg. He is losing $1,000 to $2,000 monthly per store.

As workers abandon suits for sweatpants, dry cleaners are having an existential crisis, the publication reported.

One in six dry cleaners has closed or gone bankrupt in the U.S. already, and many won’t survive without more federal stimulus, according to the National Cleaners Association. The industry’s revenue is half of the $7 billion it enjoyed pre-Covid.

“It’s an ugly, ugly time,” said Nora Nealis, executive director at the trade group, which has more than 2,000 members. “Most of them are holding on with their fingernails in hope of help.”

[Bloomberg] — Sasha Jones

Miami Beach may create incentives for affordable housing developers

The Allen Apartments with Mark Samuelian, Michael Gongora and Ricky Arriola (Miami Beach Community Development Corp., Wikipedia Commons)

The Allen Apartments with Mark Samuelian, Michael Gongora and Ricky Arriola (Miami Beach Community Development Corp., Wikipedia Commons)

Miami Beach’s success in attracting luxury developments means there’s little to no room for affordable housing developers to build projects. But the city commission’s land use committee is hoping to solve that problem.

Committee members Mark Samuelian, Michael Gongora and Ricky Arriola, who are also commissioners, on Tuesday directed Miami Beach planning director Thomas Mooney to draft ordinances that would entice affordable housing developers to build in the city.

“As we know, the city is not building any significant affordable housing and hasn’t in quite some time,” Gongora said at the committee meeting. “The price of our land is very expensive and it is hard to get people interested in building new affordable housing.”

The most recent affordable housing project completed in Miami Beach was in 2018, when the 21-unit Leonard Turkel Residences at 234 Jefferson Avenue opened. The apartment building is among five affordable housing projects owned and operated by the Housing Authority of Miami Beach. The Miami Beach Community Development Corp. manages another 323 units scattered among 12 historic buildings in the city.

Still, that’s not enough affordable housing stock in a city where the typical home value is $364,074, according to Zillow. The average rent in Miami Beach is $2,018, and the average apartment size is 917 square feet, according to RentCafe. Roughly 55 percent of Miami beach households are renter occupied. Every year, the city opens its waiting list for affordable housing that often attracts thousands of applicants, whose household incomes must be no less than $8,868 and no more than $47,450. New renters are chosen through a lottery system.

Gongora proposed the city pass legislation that would fast track affordable housing projects through the building permit process and waive land use and other fees associated with new developments, which drew praise from his colleague, Samuelian.

“We have talked a lot about affordable housing and how to make sure it happens,” Samuelian said. “This is a movement in the right direction.”

But Arriola cautioned his colleagues that affordable housing usually requires developers to build high density projects, which are often met with stiff opposition from local residents. “If we want affordable housing, we will have to allow more,” Arriola said. “Otherwise we are kidding ourselves and the public. We have to be comfortable building more.”

The committee voted to direct Mooney to draft proposed ordinances and present them at the land use meeting in January.

US home prices surged 6.6% in September

Prices increased 6.6 percent year-over-year in September (iStock)

Prices increased 6.6 percent year-over-year in September (iStock)

Housing prices continue to soar into the fall.

Prices increased 6.6 percent year-over-year in September, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller home price index, which tracks the housing market in 20 cities including New York City, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago. In August, the price index jumped 5.2 percent.

Phoenix, Seattle and San Diego saw the biggest gains in home prices, repeating their performance from August. Phoenix reported a 11.4 percent increase, Seattle a 10 percent gain and San Diego had a 9.5 percent bump.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index, which tracks prices across the entire country, increased by 7 percent, up from 5.8 percent in August. Its monthly indices have been tracking the U.S. housing market for 27 years.

The rise in prices nationwide comes as demand for homes is high — in October, 6.85 million existing homes sold — and supply is at historic lows, with just 1.42 million properties for sale.

Housing starts rose 5 percent the same month, though Lawrence Yun, the National Association of Realtors’ chief economist, noted that new home construction was yet to alleviate the housing market’s low supply.

As prices soar and tighter lending criteria blocks some would-be homebuyers from being able to finance their purchases, the housing market recovery has been classified as K-shaped, with high earners recovering more quickly than those with lower incomes. Economists warn that the housing market’s uneven recovery could have dire consequences for the broader economy and growing inequality in society.

Widow of late San Francisco Giants owner buys Palm Beach home

444 Brazilian Avenue

Deborah Magowan, the widow of former San Francisco Giants owner Peter Magowan, bought a home in Palm Beach for $6.1 million.

Records show Magowan bought the house at 444 Brazilian Avenue from Guy Rabideau, a trustee of The 444 Brazilian Avenue Trust. Rabideau is an attorney in Palm Beach who has signed documents on behalf of buyers.

Magowan, who is still listed as a principal partner of the Bay area baseball team, was married to the former owner, Peter, who bought the team in 1993. He stepped down as managing partner of the Giants in 2008. He died in 2019.

The 444 Brazilian Avenue Trust bought the home for $5.35 million in 2019. A year later, the home was listed for nearly $6 million. The asking price dropped to $5.75 million in July, according to Realtor.com

Alison Newton of Douglas Elliman represented The 444 Brazilian Avenue Trust, and Ann Summers with Brown Harris Stevens represented the buyer.

Built in 1999, the 4,111-square-foot home features three bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms. It also includes a pool, elevator and a garden designed by Mario Never.

Palm Beach has seen a flurry of sales over the past few months. Attorney Jonathan Sack paid $13.3 million for a non-waterfront mansion in Palm Beach, a textile designer bought a waterfront home for $7 million and the co-founder of a New York-based investment firm paid $5.5 million for a newly built spec home.

Ski resorts gear up for tough season in the shadow of pandemic

(iStock)

(iStock)

Ski resort operators are gearing up for what could be a tough season.

Operators are adopting measures that will be familiar to most patrons by now, according to the New York Times. Most resorts will require face coverings inside and are limiting capacity in trams. Many are also following the standard produced by the National Ski Areas Association called “Ski Well. Be Well,” which includes daily wellness checks for employees and enhanced cleaning protocols.

They hope those measures will help avoid super spreader events like those seen at Idaho’s Sun Valley, which recorded hundreds of cases in the spring. Around 93 percent of American ski resorts closed last March in response to the pandemic, leading to a collective loss of $2 billion.

For those who plan to hit the slopes, the season looks like a toss-up. Many ski areas plan to limit daily lift tickets and require reservations even for people with season passes, which means it will be harder to get on the slopes. Most resorts have canceled parties and group events that are a staple of the experience for skiers and snowboarders. Venues in top destinations like Vail are closed.

Some diehards are renting or buying mobile homes for self-contained trips. The R.V. Industry Association reported that sales are up 4.5 percent this year, and the group estimates they could be up by 19 percent in 2021. [NYT] — Dennis Lynch

Here’s how South Korea plans to create 100K units of housing

The effort is meant to address concerns among residents about rising rents and supply shortages (Unsplash)

The effort is meant to address concerns among residents about rising rents and supply shortages (Unsplash)

The South Korean government wants to convert empty hotels and office buildings into over 100,000 residential units over the next two years.

The effort is meant to address concerns among residents about rising rents and supply shortages, according to CNBC. The government wants to create 114,000 units of one-person public housing through the program.

“You all will be able to see hotels turning into affordable, high-quality, single-family homes,” said Kim Hyun-mee, minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

It’s not the first program to address housing shortages — in the past, the government has eased height limits on buildings and converted military properties into residential neighborhoods.

Real estate market analyst Yeo Kyoung-hui described “a sense of desperation” over the housing shortage facing the country, and said the move “could be the fastest way to increase home supplies.”

But Yeo added the focus on home supply for one-person households “could disappoint families with children, who are at the center of the home shortage crisis and are struggling just as hard to find affordable homes.”

Many U.S. cities and states are dealing with affordability issues related to a lack of supply, most notably California, which has for years struggled to address the growing problem.

In Seoul, one 28-year-old office worker living with her parents said the stigma of public housing would keep her and maybe others from renting units created through the program.

“The government knows there is a social stigma on people living in public housing. I refuse to move into one whether it’s a fancy hotel or not,” she said.

Like many places around the globe, South Korea’s real estate market has been upended by the pandemic, although the country’s response to Covid has been one of the most effective in the world at keeping the number of cases in check. [CNBC] — Dennis Lynch 

Regal Cinemas in talks for rescue deal

The second-largest movie theater operator in the U.S. is hunting for a financial lifeline (iStock)

The second-largest movie theater operator in the U.S. is hunting for a financial lifeline (iStock)

The parent company of Regal Cinemas, the second-largest movie theater operator in the U.S., is hunting for a financial lifeline.

U.K.-based Cineworld is in talks with investors for rescue financing or debt to fund a bankruptcy proceeding, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The company reported that revenue in the first half of 2020 declined 67 percent to $712 million. It has $4 billion in lease obligations and $4 billion in debt overall. Last month, it re-shuttered its more than 500 U.S. theaters after reopening in August.

In September, Cineworld said it had taken steps to improve its cash flow. Staying closed, however, could be less expensive than remaining open with few moviegoers. Lackluster performance of a Labor Day weekend premier of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” led observers to question whether movie theaters would return even after the pandemic eases.

In the short-term, many movies are being released directly to streaming services, skipping traditional theaters altogether. With more Americans couch-bound, demand for production space has surged. In June, Blackstone was in talks with Hudson Pacific Properties to develop production space in Los Angeles — a deal valued at $1.4 billion.

Meanwhile, movie release dates — including “James Bond,” “Dune” and a sequel to “Top Gun” — have been delayed until 2021 and beyond.

AMC Entertainment Holdings, the largest movie-theater operator in the U.S., has said it would run out of cash by the end of the year if conditions did not improve.

[WSJ] — Georgia Kromrei