IRS closes SALT loophole

From Accounting Today:

It’s over: States lose fight against SALT deduction cap

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have been fighting a new cap on state and local tax deductions ever since it was included in the 2017 Republican tax overhaul.

They are losing.

The tax law capped the federal deduction for state and local taxes, or SALT, at $10,000. That set off campaigns to eliminate the provision by politicians in states with high income taxes and high property taxes, which tend to be Democratic states. It also set off an effort to find legal workarounds that would ease the sting of the SALT cap out of fear that high-earning residents would move out of state.

Now, most of those laws have been invalidated and those that remain are on shaky legal ground or taxpayers have decided they aren’t worth the hassle.

Four northeastern states, including New York and New Jersey, will argue in a court hearing later this month that the cap infringed upon their constitutional right to tax. Legal experts, including those who would like to see the states win, have said the case is a long shot.

Members of Congress have introduced several bills to repeal or raise the cap. Such legislation might pass the Democratic-controlled House, but would die a quick death in the Republican-led Senate that has no interest in unwinding parts of their signature tax law.

The Treasury Department late Tuesday dealt the final blow. It issued regulations that prohibit programs in high-tax states that would allow filers to circumvent the law. Treasury said those programs allowed taxpayers to claim too many tax breaks.

States including Connecticut and New York have passed laws allowing residents to donate to a state-created charitable fund instead of paying property taxes. That person would then get to write off the donation as a charitable gift on his or her federal taxes and get a state tax credit for some of that. The regulations killed these programs.

Posted in Economics, New Jersey Real Estate, Politics, Property Taxes | 22 Comments

Train town prices go poof

From Bloomberg:

NJ Transit Train Delays Hit a Record After the Governor’s Pledge to Fix Them

New Jersey Transit commuter trains have hit their worst on-time and reliability records in the 18 months since Governor Phil Murphy promised to overhaul the nation’s second-biggest commuter railroad.

For the 12 months ended in March, 90% of peak trains departed or arrived on schedule. That’s the lowest average among 16 years of such data on NJ Transit’s website. Trains also broke down more frequently than ever from the July start of the fiscal year through March, records show.

Commuters face even more inconvenience. The agency through 2020 is testing federally mandated emergency braking, a project that caused unprecedented disruption last year as locomotives were sidelined for software installations. And for 12 weeks starting June 17, at least 5,000 daily Manhattan commuters will have to take a ferry or another railroad to cross the Hudson River to accommodate track work at Pennsylvania Station.

Murphy, a Democrat who took office in January 2018, has made some strides on a promise to turn around NJ Transit’s safety and reliability issues in the wake of eight years of budget cuts by his Republican predecessor, Chris Christie. But the most maddening troubles, crowding and lateness, continue to plague riders seeking to avoid some of the nation’s most congested roads.

The bill also sought to increase transparency, but so far that’s been a disappointment to Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., a Westfield Republican who served on the committee investigating NJ Transit. He’s sponsoring legislation to compel the railroad to disclose why it discontinued Manhattan-direct service on the Raritan Valley Line in September 2018, and when it might return. He said the law is necessary because NJ Transit hasn’t answered his multiple inquiries on the matter.

“It impacts real-estate values,” Kean said by telephone. “From the smallest communities to the largest urban centers in New Jersey, everyone is impacted by this dysfunction.”

Posted in Economics, New Jersey Real Estate, NYC, Politics | 69 Comments

Gettin risky with it

From HousingWire:

FHA is increasing lending to riskier borrowers

Citing rising risks among the mortgages it is backing, the Federal Housing Administration earlier this year announced that it was changing some of its lending rules to increase the prevalence of manual underwriting.

The idea behind the change is to look more closely at the FHA loans that are being originated in the market to try to lessen the risk facing the FHA’s flagship insurance fund.

And it seems like those changes may be more than warranted because new data released Friday by the FHA shows that the agency appears to be loosening its lending standards and backing loans for increasingly riskier borrowers.

According to the FHA’s quarterly report for its fiscal second quarter (which covers Jan. 1, 2019 through March 31, 2019), the average credit score for an FHA borrower fell to 665 in the second quarter.

That’s the lowest level since 2008, and is “well below” the FHA lending peak credit score of 703, which happened in 2011.

In fact, as the FHA notes in its report, the credit profile of the FHA borrower has shifted over the last several years.

According to the FHA report, the share of 680–850 credit scores continues to decline among FHA borrowers, while lending to borrowers with credit scores below 640 continues to rise.

The FHA report shows that in 2011, nearly 60% of borrowers had credit scores above 680. Now, only 34% of FHA borrowers have credit scores above 680.

Meanwhile, the share of FHA lending to borrowers with credit scores below 640 has increased to nearly 30%.

“This increase shows a much riskier population of mortgages being endorsed by FHA,” the report states. “Performance of these mortgages will be closely monitored to determine when policy changes should be implemented.”

Beyond that, FHA loans have also seen a sharp increase among loans with high debt-to-income ratios, meaning borrowers are taking on more debt compared to their income level.

Posted in Economics, Housing Bubble, Mortgages, Risky Lending | 247 Comments

Flipping will never die

From MarketWatch:

Home flipping rate hits 9-year high — and that could foretell troubles in the housing market

Home-flipping has rebounded by one key measure. But that’s doesn’t make it an easy path toward becoming rich.

Just over 49,000 single-family homes and condos were flipped in the first quarter of 2019, according to a report released this week by real-estate data firm Attom Data Solutions. These homes comprised 7.2% of all home sales nationwide during that time period, representing the highest home-flipping rate since the first quarter of 2010.

But that’s not necessarily a positive indicator of the housing market’s strength, said Todd Teta, Attom’s chief product officer. The number of homes that were flipped was actually down 8% from the previous year to a three-year low. And the number of investors engaging in home flipping has dropped 11% over the past year.

In the first quarter, homes flipped sold for a median price of $215,000. With the median purchase price standing at $155,000, the gross flipping profit was just $60,000, down $8,000 from a year earlier to a three-year low.

“While the home flipping rate is increasing, gross profits and ROI are starting to weaken,” Teta said in the report. “If investors are seeing profit margins drop, they may be acting now and selling before price increases drop even more.”

Posted in Economics, Employment, National Real Estate, New Development | 34 Comments

Everyone Hates Murphy

From the Observer:

NJ Politics Digest: Legislature Reportedly Prepared to Override Murphy’s Veto

The state legislature could deal Gov. Phil Murphy an embarrassing rebuke, overriding his veto of a bill to force dark money groups—like the one supporting his progressive agenda—to disclose their donors.

The New Jersey Globe news website reports that Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin have agreed to hold a vote on an override on Monday, though the website notes that the possibility of a deal with the governor still exists.

While Murphy has said he supports requiring so-called dark money groups to disclose donors, he conditionally vetoed the measure and continues to appear in ads for New Direction New Jersey that support his call for increasing taxes on the state’s top earners. New Direction refuses to disclose its donors, but independent groups have learned that the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s powerful teachers’ union, has contributed millions to New Directions’ efforts.

The NJEA strongly opposes Sweeney’s plans to address the state’s fiscal crisis and notorious property tax burden by reining in public employee benefits.

If Murphy doesn’t strike a deal with Sweeney and Coughlin, it appears the veto override is a certainty, according to the Globe report. The effort has the backing of state Republicans, who will give the two Democratic legislative leaders enough votes in the state Senate and Assembly to deal the governor a stinging rebuke.

Posted in New Jersey Real Estate, Politics, Property Taxes | 33 Comments

All eyes on jobs

From CNBC:

The May jobs report is coming and economic reports don’t get much more important than this one

The economy was expected to have added a solid 180,000 jobs in May, but if the payroll number is much stronger or weaker than forecast, that could be a game changer for the markets and any consumers or businesses looking for a loan.

Coming amid a huge shift in expectations for Federal Reserve interest rate cuts, economists say a big miss either way in Friday morning’s May employment report could have a profound impact on markets and help decide the timing of the first Fed interest rate cut in more than 10 years.

“There’s clearly been a shift in Fed rhetoric,” said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist Americas at Natixis. He said Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida helped first stir the speculation that the Fed would lower rates when he discussed several weeks ago how the fact the central bank in the past had cut rates pre-emptively, or made an ‘insurance’ cut.

Other Fed officials, like St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, also made dovish comments about cutting rates. Then Fed Chair Jerome Powell told a Fed conference in Chicago this week that trade is having an uncertain affect on the economy, and the Fed “will act as appropriate to sustain the expansion.”

“What’s interesting about the employment report is it raises the chance that the Fed could move,” said LaVorgna.

The May jobs report follows April’s surprisingly robust 263,000 payrolls, but other data, like retail sales and manufacturing data have been sending mixed messages. Economists also expect hourly wages rose by 0.3% in May and unemployment was unchanged at 3.6%, according to Dow Jones.

Posted in Economics, Employment, National Real Estate | 81 Comments

A new record for NYC

From the WSJ:

Philip Falcone Sets NYC Record With Nearly $80 Million Townhouse Sale

Former hedge-fund manager Philip Falcone has sold a New York townhouse for close to $80 million, making it the most expensive residential townhouse ever sold in the city, according to people familiar with the deal. 

The larger double-wide townhouse is well known as the former home of “Penthouse” magazine founder Bob Guccione. The Falcones bought it for $49 million in 2008 and have invested millions in a multi-year renovation, Mr. Falcone told The Wall Street Journal in March 2018. He said they expanded the property to almost 30,000 square feet and added a pool and a movie theater below ground level.

The house was built as two buildings in 1879, according to city records.

It’s the most expensive townhouse ever sold in New York City, according to appraiser Jonathan Miller. The current record was set in 2006, when financier J. Christopher Flowers paid $53 million for the Harkness mansion on East 75th Street. 

Mr. Falcone, a former high-yield bond trader on Wall Street and the founder of Harbinger Capital, is chairman and CEO of Hc2 Holdings , a publicly traded company that owns majority stakes in firms such as DBM Global, a structural and steel construction services company, and Global Marine Group, which installs, maintains and repairs submarine communications cable. 

His smaller home came on the market for $39 million in 2018, but its price has been slashed several times since. The Falcones bought that property for $10.375 million in 2004, records show.

Posted in Comp Killer, Economics, Employment, NYC | 135 Comments

We go down now?

From Fortune:

Average Home Values See First Monthly Drop in 7 Years

In uncertain times, rising housing values have been one thing keeping our collective spirits up. But, as they say, nothing increases forever, and the U.S. real estate market may be about to downsize.

In April, national home values dropped a tenth of a percent from those in March, according to data from real estate information company Zillow. That’s not much, and zigzagging patterns in economic performance are hardly unusual. Except, it’s the first such downward motion in seven years, says senior economist Sarah Mikhitarian.

“A lot of the slowdown has been driven by some of these really large West Coast markets, where we have seen home values likely peak,” Mikhitarian said. That’s right, in Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, San Jose, Portland, and even San Francisco, prices have begun to creep back a bit. That’s been true in some other markets scattered around the country: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Houston, Miami, Boston, St. Louis, Tampa, and Baltimore.

Martin Eiden, a real estate broker with Compass Real Estate in New York City, has seen the pattern. “The cities with down markets are generally plugged into finance, media, high-tech and international buyers,” he said. “The buyers in this market are at an all-time high level of anxiety due to the politics of the executive branch of government.”

Mike Pappas, CEO of The Keyes Company, a large real estate business in south Florida, sees a number of factors playing part. “The last year with the rising interest rates and higher prices, we’ve seen a slowing of that growth [after the Great Recession],” he said. Miami, part of his market, has seen high condominium construction, helping to create some oversupply as well.

In other markets, the reduction of the state and local tax, or SALT, deductions on federal income tax have meant an effective increase in the total cost of a home in some markets—particularly in such states as California, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

“And incomes haven’t grown during the recovery,” Mikhitarian adds. Many people that might have previously afforded a down payment are now priced out. “Buyers are forced to reconsider whether it’s possible for them to buy,” she said.

Finally, there has been the dynamic of the lower third of the housing stock. “Throughout the recovery we saw homes in the bottom third grow as a much faster rate,” Mikhitarian said. Those were exactly what the lowest economic third of the population would look for something to buy, as well as an important source of housing stock for those moving from a first to a second house.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, Housing Bubble, Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 86 Comments

Millennials jump in?

From CNBC:

Many millennials say buying a home may finally be within reach

Samantha Suckno says knew she wanted to start to build a life with her soon-to-be husband in a home they owned.

So she and her fiance, Jason Ortiz, came up with a plan: move into a rental property together, pay down their bills and start saving. The couple also cut back on traveling.

“The money I was using to pay for my own rent was basically going into paying off credit card debt,” the 31-year-old said, noting that when she was on her own she “had been living paycheck to paycheck.”

Suckno and Ortiz, 37, were married in February 2018. In July, they bought their first home together in Rockaway, New Jersey.

Their decision to make the leap into homeownership may be part of a growing trend.

A new study by Chase Home Lending found 52% of millennial first-time homebuyers feel financially ready to buy a home. And 70% said they are willing to cut back on extra-curricular activities, like shopping, movie-going and a spa visit, once a month to make it happen. The bank surveyed 1,000 first-time U.S. homebuyers, ages 22 to 38, in March.

They also have things like student loan debt and delayed marriage to thank for the late start. Additionally, older millennials graduated during the last recession and witnessed the housing crisis.

“They went through a process where renting seemed like a better idea and a safer outcome,” said Sean Grzebin, head of consumer originations at Chase Home Lending.

Then there is the desire they have for a more balanced life that includes spending money on traveling and going out to dinner, he added.

However, now “they are starting to realize the importance of homeownership and the necessity to have some balance in terms of sacrificing those things,” Grzebin said.

In fact, Suckno said she was among the last of her friends, fellow millennials, to buy a home.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, National Real Estate, New Jersey Real Estate | 143 Comments

What NJ Makes…

From the APP:

NJ manufacturing jobs grow, but will parents let kids skip college?

Aquatherm, a Lakewood manufacturer that makes solar heating systems for swimming pools, has no shortage of ideas that could help its business grow.

Workers, on the other hand, are another story. 

“I see our engineers come up with ideas and they have to stop sometimes and we can’t move forward because we don’t have the right people on the production line,” Patricia Cubero, general manager.

Help is on the way to Aquatherm and other blue-collar firms, even if a new effort won’t pay off for several years. New Jersey is launching a program in Ocean County to reignite interest in careers that fell out of favor by offering field trips in manufacturing for students and an all-important constituency — their parents.

It’s a step, officials say, toward rebuilding what has been a broken ladder to the middle class. And it comes on the heels of a recent series by the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey and the Asbury Park Press that looked at what it will take to restore the American dream.

New Jersey’s manufacturing history is rich. It was sparked by Alexander Hamilton, who turned Paterson into America’s first industrial city, powered by the Great Falls, seen in the video above. It later was home to workers who made RCA television sets and Ford Motor Co. automobiles.

Employers began to flee New Jersey for lower cost states and countries, taking workers with them. The manufacturing sector dropped from nearly 550,000 jobs in 1990 to fewer than 240,000 in 2015, according to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

But in the past four years, the sector has shown signs of life. Its job growth rate of 5.6 percent matched the overall employment growth in the state, and topped the manufacturing job growth nationwide of 4.2 percent. Learn more about the fields with the fastest growth in the video at the top of this story.

In New Jersey, for example, machinists make on average $50,160 a year, while tool and die makers earn on average $55,680 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

New Jersey might be finding a niche in so-called advanced manufacturing, which depends on technology and automation to make the end product.

“We’re not going to compete in manufacturing where labor costs themselves are a huge part of the final cost of the product,” Rutgers University economist James W. Hughes said. “But with advanced manufacturing, it’s much more automated and labor is much more skilled.”

The rebound is putting pressure on the industry. Some 360,000 manufacturing jobs in New Jersey are unfilled, according to the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program. And the labor crunch isn’t expected to ease; 80 percent of jobs are held by workers between the ages of 45 and 65.

The jobs are a potential pathway to the middle class, and they don’t require a four-year college degree. But both manufacturers and educators say convincing parents that the field is right for their children is a tough sell.

Posted in Economics, Employment, New Jersey Real Estate | 44 Comments

Tax the shore

From WHYY:

N.J. may roll back tax on Shore rentals, but details remain fuzzy

New Jersey lawmakers are moving to exempt many Shore-goers from an unpopular new tax on home rentals, but it’s still unclear when the change would take effect — and who exactly it would help.

A vocal group of renters and owners has been pushing for the change since last year, when lawmakers worked with Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, to create a nearly 12% tax on short-term rentals.

The law was intended to make accommodations booked through online marketplaces such as Airbnb subject to the same taxes as hotels and motels.

But the way the “Airbnb tax” was written, it applies to all rentals lasting less than 90 days not booked through a real estate broker, including Shore properties filled with the help of yard signs, classified ads, Facebook groups or personal connections.

The Assembly voted unanimously this week to approve a measure, A-4814, that would make the tax apply only to rentals arranged through marketplaces where bookings can be offered, reserved and paid.

That would spare renters who arrange their stays directly with property owners. The change would take effect immediately upon being signed into law by the governor, according to the bill.

But Sen. Vin Gopal, a Democrat from Monmouth County sponsoring a companion bill in the upper house, said he wants to amend the measure so the exemption applies more narrowly to owners with two or fewer units and their guests.

And under his bill, the change would not take effect “until the first day of the first calendar quarter beginning at least 60 days following the date of enactment” — meaning Oct. 1 at the earliest.

The state has estimated it will bring in about $8 million from taxing short-term rentals this fiscal year — and about $12 million to $15 million next year. The state’s current budget is $37.4 billion.

Posted in Property Taxes, Shore Real Estate, Unrest | 56 Comments

Rats leave sinking ship

From Bloomberg:

Florida Is the Big Winner as the Wealthy Move Out of Northern States

Roughly 5 million Americans move from one state to another annually and some states are clearly making out better than others.

Florida and South Carolina enjoyed the top economic gains, while Connecticut, New York and New Jersey faced some of the biggest financial drains, according to a Bloomberg analysis of state-to-state moves based on data from the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Connecticut lost the equivalent of 1.6% of its annual adjusted gross income, as the people who moved out of the Constitution State had an average income of $122,000, which was 26% higher than those migrating in. Moreover, “leavers” outnumbered “stayers” by a five-to-four margin.

Florida posted a net income influx of nearly 3% of the state’s adjusted gross income in 2016. South Carolina, Idaho and Oregon were also among the largest gainers in the interstate shuffle.

“Florida’s powerhouse economy continues to churn out new jobs, retiree migration to Florida is on the rise, and millennials are coming into their prime home-buying years,” Brad O’Connor, chief economist for Florida Realtor, said in a report before the trade association’s annual summit.

New York’s annual net loss was the highest, with a net $8.4 billion leaving the state. Exiting incomes of $19.1 billion were replaced by people who brought in $10.7 billion less in income. Illinois and New Jersey were next with net outflows of $4.8 billion and $3.4 billion, respectively.

Those three states also had three of the four highest proportions of outbound versus inbound residents last year, according to the United Van Lines, the largest U.S. household goods mover.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, New Jersey Real Estate | 15 Comments

Has Asbury made it?

From the NYT:

Carolyn Curtin moved to Asbury Park in 2002 and fell in love with a late Victorian house with a falling-down porch and heaven knows what other problems. She knew nothing about construction, but borrowed a level from a crew rehabbing a building across the street to check it out.

“I walked all three stories and threw down the level; everything was spot on,” she said. She bought the house at auction for $209,000 and began fixing it up. Then she fell in love with her plumber.

Today, Ms. Curtin, 55, has parlayed both romances into a business called Salvage Angel by the Sea. In a former Canada Dry warehouse on the west side of the city, she and her partner, Brett Holloway, collect the architectural fragments of Asbury Park’s upheaval for others to repurpose.

Ms. Curtin is one of the risk-takers who moved to this historic oceanfront resort when it was a capital of crime, drugs and disappointment. Many came, as she did, for the music and art scene that thrived amid the erosion, with small businesses giving the community its character as a culturally rich outlier on the Jersey Shore.

Now that large-scale development has finally taken off after a few false starts, the streets are safer (crime dropped by 13 percent last year) and Asbury Park is attracting more affluent weekend and full-time residents. Stalwarts like Ms. Curtin are poised both to profit from and mourn the transformation.

On the one hand, median home values have risen 42 percent in the last five years. Instead of eyesores, visitors see retrofitted historic buildings like the three-year-old Asbury Hotel, built in a former Salvation Army boardinghouse, and new construction like Asbury Ocean Club, a luxury condominium-and-hotel complex slated to open this summer. The once-desolate boardwalk and shabby downtown have become vibrant retail corridors.

On the other hand, the rising cost of rent, goods and services is putting a squeeze on the population of 16,000 — 30 percent of whom are living below the poverty line — and, some say, threatening the quirky energy that makes Asbury Park unique.

Posted in Economics, Housing Recovery, New Development, Shore Real Estate | 156 Comments

Gives me hope

Click the link, look at the photos. Audible did an incredible job. This is far cooler than anything anyone is doing in SF and the Valley.

From the Star Ledger:

Audible just opened an office inside an old N.J. church, complete with organ pipes and stained glass

An old Newark church has come back to life — and with a new purpose. 

Audible on Friday officially opened its new 80,000 square foot office space, dubbed “Innovation Cathedral,” inside the renovated Second Presbyterian Church on James Street. 

Twenty-five years after the church shut down and its congregation dissolved, the once-abandoned building now dazzles with stunning stained glass windows — all expertly restored. 

There’s a four-lane bowling alley (AudiBowl), conference rooms named after famous Newarkers like Sarah Vaughan and Lilly Martin Spencer, and the old choir loft repurposed as an open work space. 

“It was a dead building for 25 years,” Audible’s founder and CEO Don Katz said. In many ways, he said, the historic church is symbolic of the “deprivation and decline in Newark” and its recent resurgence.

Audible is one of the city’s anchor institutions and relocated its headquarters to Newark in 2007. Since then, the digital audiobook seller has grown from 100 employees to more than 1,500. 

“The Innovation Cathedral, its history and future as a house filled with meaningful work at the cutting edge of technology and culture is, for me, a metaphor for the way we at Audible have worked really hard to define a core element of our strategic purpose, as a company around the comeback of this great American city,” Katz said. 

Posted in New Development, New Jersey Real Estate | 51 Comments

So absurd it needs to be reposted

From SportsTalk:

Paterson, NJ Developers Think An Arena Can Help Save A Struggling Shopping Mall

Sports as an economic generator in Paterson, NJ? 

It doesn’t appear that any sports league is looking to put a team in Paterson, New Jersey. But there is a proposal put forth by the owners of the financially struggling Center City Mall in the northern New Jersey city that calls for the construction of a 12,000 seat arena which presumably could house a minor league hockey or minor league basketball team along with an indoor football franchise and other arena fare and a hotel. The mall owners think by putting an arena and hotel near the mall, people would not only go to arena events but would shop at the mall. Center City Partners think it will cost $100 million to build an arena, a hotel and a parking garage. But the mall owners don’t want to foot the entire bill. Instead, the ownership filed papers with the New Jersey Economic Development Agency seeking $40 million dollars of tax credits. The state is giving city of Paterson $130 million worth of tax credits to help spur the local economy. Paterson is New Jersey’s third biggest city and once was an economic powerhouse with a silk industry leading the way but by the 1960s, Paterson fell into a steep decline.

Paterson was once the home of the Negro League baseball New York Black Yankees. The team played at Hinchliffe Stadium. That ballpark could also be revitalized as part of the Paterson tax credit plan. The stadium has been closed since 1997. There is a proposal on the table to reopen the park using some of the tax credits which would allow the venue that opened up in 1932 to host soccer, football and track and field events. It is unlikely that Paterson could get a minor league baseball team or have high school teams use the park as the planned renovations do not include a full sized baseball field.

Posted in Economics, New Development, New Jersey Real Estate, Politics | 98 Comments