Two thousand eight was a year that can’t be forgotten soon enough by the browbeaten souls unfortunate enough to make their living in the city’s real estate market, which proved to be a much choppier sea to navigate than most expected over the past 12 months. It mattered little if you were in the commercial game or the residential game, worked the sales market or rentals, the negative conditions shipwrecked all.
Just like the rest of America, real estate professionals are eagerly anticipating not only the start of a new year, but a new presidential administration. Along with the 73 percent of Americans ready to close the chapter on the Bush era (according to a recent CBS/New York Times poll), property owners, sales brokers, commercial developers and rental agents are hopeful that President Barack Obama can do something to help build back up a market that has, and this is putting it mildly, taken a belly flop off the high board.
So, sometime after finishing our business in Iraq and fixing the economy, between shutting down Guantánamo Bay and solving the Middle East crisis, President Obama, do you mind, terribly, rescuing New York City’s real estate market?
It’s possible that real estate insiders, many of whom are genuine believers in Mr. Obama’s abilities, might be asking a bit much of a man who is, after all, but four years removed from the Illinois State Senate and who last lived in New York in the early 1980s as a college student.
But, hey, since Manhattan’s annual apartment sales fell 23 percent from 2007 to 2008, and the office vacancy rate spiked to a four-year high of 7.6 percent, what’s so bad about a little unfiltered hope?
Michael Signet, the sales director at Bond New York, is a believer in Barack. “The stock market and real estate market perform on people’s perceptions,” he said last week. “If people have optimism, and interest rates are low, then people will feel safer making purchases; and so I am onboard with the idea that things will be better after the inauguration.”
And according to a recent CBS/New York Times poll, 79 percent of Americans are optimistic about an Obama presidency. Judging by the sustained level of enthusiasm from Obama supporters over the past two years, and the throngs of people who mobbed the Mall for his inauguration, there is certainly no lacking in good feelings.
BUT EVEN THOUGH Mr. Obama’s ascension is enough to get Pete Seeger out of the house, is it the kind of thing that will translate into noticeable actions, something similar to the countless Republican parents who named their children Reagan back in the 1980s, the better to honor their dear Gipper?
Jonathan Miller, chief executive of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel and author of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s quarterly housing market reports, is less sanguine when it comes to the new president’s healing powers.
“Consumer confidence is certainly a component of the problem, but it’s not going to significantly change the conditions that we are experiencing,” Mr. Miller said, “so it’s more of a complementary moment, not a watershed one.”
According to Mr. Miller, there are a large number of potential buyers who are intently monitoring the sales market and waiting for prices to fall even further. A changing of the presidential guard can’t possibly be expected to change that.