12/04/18 9:00am

Overall, the Honolulu Market continues to go from strength to strength, with price increases unbothered by increasing inventory. Often, when inventory rises, prices take a hit as buyers with more choice have increased bargaining room. Not in Hawaii. The only hint of more inventory has been an increase in days on market

For single-family homes, the median time to sell was 29 days compared with 15 days a year ago – nearly double the time. However, for condos, days on market only increased from 21 days last year to 25 days in October 2018. The inventory bump has been welcomed by Darryl Macha, president of Honolulu Board of Realtors.

“The inventory of homes and condominiums available for sale has been rising, providing more options for potential homebuyers and leading to an increase in the days on market,” Macha said. “Oahu’s housing market continues to be a stable environment for both buyers and sellers.”

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11/30/18 9:00am

Honolulu’s Gold Coast is a scant half-mile stretch of oceanfront high-rises at the foot of Diamond Head. You may think that Hawaii has the same unending tonnage of oceanfront high-rises seen around Florida, not true. Within Honolulu, there are just 18 oceanfront residential high-rises. Seventeen are on the Gold Coast, and one in Waikiki. None are newer than 1970, with most dating to the 1950s and 1960s. Typical condos sell between $1,500-to-$2,200-plus per square foot.

Built in 1958, the 12-story Tropic Seas isn’t the toniest building on the street, but that’s where bargains reside. Unit 203 is just such a bargain. The one-bedroom unit has 618 square feet with an additional 121-square-foot lanai. You know there’s a renovation needed when the first listing photo showing the interior is the 13th of 19 photos. But at $499,000, that’s $675 a square foot.

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11/23/18 9:26am

3165 Diamond Head Road (Unit C highlighted)

Back in 1982, two oceanfront thirds of an acre caught the eye of a developer who created a four-unit community behind private gates. Called Ku’u Makana it’s located in Honolulu at the foot of Diamond Head crater on the island of Oahu.  Each of the four units are identical — 3,536 square feet indoors and another 674 square feet of lanai space.

In the photo above, the demarcation of the units is obvious with the center fireplace chimneys.  No, it doesn’t get cold enough to need a fireplace and you’d likely need the air-conditioning cranked if you used it, but there you go. There are left-right and up-down units.

Currently, the two upper units are for sale – one in need of an overhaul and the other already renovated. Unlike a recent gut job I toured in Dallas, with $1.023 million separating the units, the renovation is more than priced into the deal.

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10/17/18 1:15pm

Regardless of whom you read, Brexit is having a negative impact on central London housing. An October 17 European Union summit was presaged by European Council president Donald Tusk saying yesterday there is “no grounds for optimism” given the state of negotiations. Coupled with fresh inflation data, the pound was down again. Since the Brexit vote, the pound has almost exclusively traded +/-$1.30 where as it typically had ranged in the $1.50-$1.60 range previously.

Adding to the stress, in early October, two more large financial institutions announced plans to shift some London operations to Paris with whispers of more to follow. Financial services is one of the largest employers in London as well as one of the highest paid. Removing significant quantities of high earners will cause a glut in some price bands as relocated staff sell up for Gay Purr-ee.

During my London holiday, I was able to meet with a host of HGTV’s House Hunters International, Richard Blanco. A Spanish national growing up in the UK, Blanco was schooled in theater and dance – a story common to many real estate professionals whose early interests gave way to a profession in property. So far Blanco has chalked up over 30 House Hunters International episodes, including being the only presenter to work in multiple countries (eagle eyes have seen him in Spanish episodes). He’s currently a spokesperson for the UK’s National Landlords Association and is a regular commentator on various television shows – in fact, Blanco had popped into the BBC earlier in the day. For those wanting a regular dose of the London property market, Blanco produces a monthly podcast Inside Property.  In his spare time, Blanco flips homes he buys at auction.

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09/28/18 1:00pm

Who will buy this US$3.8 million New Zealand penthouse?

In the good old days, the wealthy used to scoop up gold and jewels and flee in the dead of night before poor, angry peasants descended upon their estates. Today, the million-dollar jewels are often red carpet loans where today’s décolletage is rented like a yesteryear billboard.

Hiding assets from pillagees, modern-day pillagers have offshore banks, blind trusts, LLCs and cryptocurrencies. Fleeing is now the purview of private jets to far-away lands – but the local residents in those faraway lands are getting ticked-off at being priced out of their own markets and they’re mobilizing.

Last month, New Zealand passed a law banning many foreigners from purchasing existing homes. The legislation was part of a promise during Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s campaign in 2017 to reduce the country’s skyrocketing housing prices. Earlier in the year The New Yorker published a story about super wealthy Americans purchasing New Zealand real estate as a hedge against potential political or nuclear Armageddon – nicknamed “apocalypse insurance.”

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09/17/18 9:00am
Manafort

Manafort’s Long Island Home at 174 Jobs Lane, Water Mill, New York

In the first of two trials, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty in August on eight of 18 counts of fraud. All that kept him from being found guilty on all 18 counts was a lone juror.

The “witch hunt” had found another witch. Not eager for a potentially worse repeat at his upcoming second trial, Manafort cut a deal with the feds pleading guilty (admitting his witchcraft) and agreeing to surrender a bunch of assets including some real estate some are valuing at $22 million.

In a “birds of a feather” twist, Manafort’s spec builder son-in-law Jeffrey Yohai filed for bankruptcy in 2016 as four multi-million dollar (unsold) spec homes fell into foreclosure. The whole affair also ignited lawsuits by Dustin Hoffman and others claiming Yohai was running a Ponzi scheme. No stranger to legal troubles, Yohai and wife Jessica Manafort were sued for running an illegal Airbnb operation from their three New York apartments – in the middle of divorce proceedings. (more…)

08/06/18 7:30am

From 1969 to 1974, the Brady Bunch was America’s family. The show was originally a reaction to creator Sherwood Schwartz reading that a third of American marriages contained children from previous relationships. But as we learned well after the show ended, the Brady’s were more American than we knew. Patriarch Mike Brady actor Robert Reed was a closeted gay man who’d had his own sham marriage. Alice the maid was played by long-rumored lesbian Ann B. Davis. Meanwhile, the various Brady children over the years have struggled with drugs, alcohol, hair plugs, homophobic tirades, and a lot of reality TV.

The 1959 Brady Bunch house, at 11222 Dilling Street in Studio City, California, ignited a bidding war after being listed for the first time since 1973. The three-bedroom, three-bathroom home has 2,477 square feet on nearly a third of an acre. Priced at $1.885 million, its fame pushed the listing price a third more than neighboring comps. The bidding war included Lance Bass and Miley Cyrus, who’d bid waaaay above the already fame-inflated asking price. Bass tweeted he’d gotten the home over the weekend only to retract that statement in a last-minute twist. As of this writing, the home has reportedly been purchased by an unnamed Hollywood studio willing to pay any price for the home.

UPDATE: It’s been revealed that HGTV is the buyer of the home. Parent company Discovery networks made the announcement on their earning call early this morning (8/7). The most likely scenario will be a show following the renovation and restoration of the home. Will the home then be flipped or wind up as an HGTV Giveaway home?

Being Hollywood, the home, like the show’s actors, offers a different reality to its “America’s family” façade.

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07/05/18 10:42am

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Coonley House: Second Floor Living Room (Main House)

Exploring the history of a 100-year-old house is interesting. Exploring the history of a 105-year-old Frank Lloyd Wright structure leaves “interesting” in the rearview mirror. To begin, Avery Coonley and Queene Ferry-Coonley were both heirs to fortunes, but it was Mrs. Coonley who purchased the 10-acre parcel in Riverside, Illinois, and engaged Wright as architect. Mr. Coonley was said to have been interested in a Georgian-Colonial house. That the estate is called the Avery Coonley House, instead of the Queene Coonley House, reflects the woman’s subordinate role of the era.

The house is actually an estate comprising several buildings totaling over 9,000 square feet. Flashing forward for a second, it’s important to understand that in 1952 the property was in the crosshairs of developer Arnold Skow who wanted to demolish the property and put up 14 ranch homes. A deal was reached to split the main residence in half with a firewall and sell off the gardener’s cottage, stable and playhouse as separate residences. Compared to Wright’s brilliance, the resulting ranch homes have all the majesty of a Taco Bell next to Versailles (one is currently for sale).

Two of Wright’s original compound are currently on the market.

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