World’s riskiest places for houses, how to find potential

Houses_of_Parliament_(Cape_Town)By Gideon Rachman

The Financial Times writer

Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner. But, as I travel the world, I can’t stop thinking about property prices. In fact, my interest in property is only stimulated by my day job as the FT’s foreign affairs commentator. As I stare into estate agents’ windows in cities around the world, I find myself wondering how local political conditions are going to affect property prices.

I have even developed a theory of how global property investors should think about geopolitics — call it “the geopolitical play”. The thing to look for is a combination of good fundamentals and bad times. In other words, a place that should be prime real estate, but that has been messed up by politics. The idea is to buy now, when times are bad, and wait for politics and property prices to improve.

Of course, I am both too lazy and too poor actually to do this myself. But it doesn’t stop me thinking about it. And I have discovered that I am not alone in my preoccupation. In a feature last year, John Thornhill, the FT’s deputy editor, recalled: “When I was studying Russian in Saint Petersburg in the early 1990s, my landlady offered me the chance to buy a ramshackle apartment on a canal near the Mariinsky Theatre for the equivalent of £30,000. I’m not sure how I would ever have financed my purchase, but I have regretted my lack of financial imagination ever since. The apartment is now worth, I guess, at least 10 times as much.”

Thornhill’s guess is probably pretty accurate. Research for this article carried out by Savills suggests that the price of a good apartment in Moscow has indeed risen roughly tenfold since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Simultaneously inspired and depressed by this tale, I have canvassed colleagues and friends around the world for similar stories — opportunities missed, opportunities seized and, most important of all, tips for opportunities in the future.

As for opportunities missed, many former foreign correspondents regret not buying in South Africa in the late 1980s. At the time, the country was the subject of international sanctions and threatened by political violence, so it did not seem like a natural place to buy a holiday home. And yet, looking further ahead, it should have been obvious that Cape Town remained one of the most attractive cities in the world. If times improved, it was probably a safe bet that the city would attract people from all over the world. And that, indeed, is what happened. Savills’ research suggests that Cape Town, like Moscow, has seen a tenfold increase in prices since 1991, the year following the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.

However, as John Paul Rathbone reports, things are now beginning to move in Havana with the restoration of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba. It is still a complicated situation, however, not least because it is illegal in most cases for foreigners to buy property. One popular way around this in Cuba and similar markets where foreign buyers are restricted (such as Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand) is for foreigners to buy through a trusted local intermediary. Yet when large sums of money are involved, trust can evaporate alarmingly easily. There has been a rash of cases in Thailand recently where foreign buyers have become involved in bitter property disputes with their Thai wives.

Currency risk is also often a question. The gains in South Africa or Russia would be even more striking had it not been for the collapse of the rand and the rouble against the dollar and the euro. Over the past three years, property prices in South Africa have risen almost 15 per cent in rand terms, but less than 2 per cent in dollar terms. Of course, that also has the effect of making South African property look very cheap to foreign buyers, with one local agent reporting an “acute, exceptional shortage of stock for sale” in Clifton, one of Cape Town’s most attractive beachfront areas.

Currency risk is often related to political risk and both must be considered by anyone thinking of buying in southern Europe. After years of crisis, there are many apparent bargains to be had in Greece, where prime villas on much-loved islands, such as Mykonos or Paros, can now be bought for between €800,000 and €1.2m. Kerin Hope, the FT’s Athens correspondent, notes that “prices across the board are 50 to 60 per cent below pre-crisis — 2008 — levels”. If and when political and economic stability returns to Greece, prices will surely move back up again. Yet what if the opposite happens and Greece is forced to leave the euro — a possibility that was raised at a recent EU summit? The value of your island villa might plummet, as the new Greek currency plunges against the euro. On the other hand, as Hope notes: “Investing in a villa in Mykonos is like buying fancy wine, which you can always drink if the investment doesn’t work out.”

The morality of buying in desperate or despotic countries is often an issue. Not everybody would have felt comfortable buying a house in apartheid South Africa or Castro’s Cuba. Even when political conditions have improved and prices have begun to rise, some people might still feel queasy about the underlying political situation.

The rest of the piece, including a table of the world’s riskiest spots to buy a house, can be found on The Financial Times website.

Best ‘small city’ in the US is Princeton, NJ

Lower_Pyne_(Princeton)With small cities experiencing a growth rate that is more than twice that of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago and roughly 10 percent faster than the national rate since 2000, the personal finance website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of 2015’s Best & Worst Small Cities in America.

To identify the small cities where Americans can enjoy good quality of life and affordable living costs, WalletHub’s analysts compared 1,268 U.S. cities with a population between 25,000 and 100,000. Our data set of 22 key metrics ranges from housing costs to school-system quality to the number of restaurants per capita.

Small-City Living in Princeton (1=Best; 634=Avg.)

  • 589th – Housing Costs
  • 194th – % of Residents below Poverty Level
  • 8th – % of Residents with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher
  • 107th – % of Population with Health-Insurance Coverage
  • 139th – Mean Hours Worked per Week
  • 98th – Number of Restaurants per Capita
  • 255th – % of Millennial Newcomers
  • 55th – Crime Rate

For the full report, visit this link.

Sotheby’s reveals most expensive Los Angeles market


Left: the top five single-family markets, by average selling price from July through September 2015.

Los Angeles, Calif. – Sotheby’s International Realty today revealed Malibu Beach as the market with the highest average price of single family homes (SFH) in the Los Angeles luxury market ($3 million and higher), according to its September 2015 Third Quarter Greater Los Angeles Market Update. Overall, the sold prices of the beachfront properties, vineyards and ranches in Malibu Beach saw a 15 percent increase compared to the same period last year with an average sold price of $9,433,889 from July through September 2015.  The Beverly Hills market ranked second with an increase of 28 percent versus last year to reach an average sold price of $9,428,750.

Released monthly with rolling three-month data, the Sotheby’s International Realty Greater Los Angeles Market Report is a comprehensive analysis of real estate market activity in the area across the top 33 markets to keep audiences up-to-date on trends at the macro and micro level for single-family homes and condominiums.

“The fact that Malibu Beach properties are increasing in price is quite profound, considering predictions of decrease amid the July 2015 initiative by LA County and the coastal commission to provide more public beach access near beachfront properties,” said Frank Symons, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Sotheby’s International Realty’s Western Region. “There seems to be little hesitation from buyers or sellers to invest in the Malibu market as it still provides private beach access alongside public areas.”

In addition to the highest average selling prices, the top luxury markets that sold the most homes in total between July-September 2015 was also revealed, with Pacific Palisades as number one, followed by Santa Monica, Brentwood and Beverly Hills.

Stylish Art Hotel to Open in Downtown Phoenix

image002Phoenix, Ariz. – The concept’s identity is no longer a secret.

The former Lexington Hotel, located on the northwest corner of West Portland Street and North Central Avenue, is being transformed into the FOUND:RE Phoenix, a one-of-a-kind lifestyle hotel experience with details, designs, public spaces and amenities inspired by contemporary art, culture, fashion and music.

The 104-room hotel, managed by Urban Quarters Hospitality, will enhance the city’s arts offerings with an impressive collection of contemporary art and creative guest programming woven into the entire guest experience for visitors and locals to enjoy.

“The FOUND:RE completes our vision of transforming Portland Street back into the gem of Downtown Phoenix that it once was,” said Tim Sprague, principal of Habitat Metro.  “We reached out to Bond Partners for their expertise to assist in creating something special for this unique location next to Hance Park and the Light Rail in the Roosevelt Historic Neighborhood.”

The modern hotel will contain a dynamic art component led by Cultural Curator Michael Oleskow, who will be sourcing contemporary art of various mediums by local artists that will inspire creative guest experiences. The collection is intended to complement the décor and guest programming, including an on-site art gallery and exterior avant-garde art display.

“We‘re thrilled to be part of this project that will be a stylish gathering place for locals and Phoenix visitors to enjoy and become inspired,” said Vittal Calamur, general manager. “The buzz and excitement around the completion of The FOUND:RE has been building for the past few years, and we’re thrilled to see it come to fruition. With plans to embrace the neighboring art galleries and museums, The FOUND:RE will bring a fresh and edgy hotel concept to Phoenix, showcasing an entire collection of local art and curated experiences.”

Ground broken on 35-story condo in New York

image003New York, N.Y. – Developer Macklowe Properties and its partners have begun construction of 200 East 59th Street, a 35-story residential condominium development. The tower continues the Macklowe commitment to classic modernism, and is in the lineage of 432 Park Avenue and the Fifth Avenue Apple Cube.

200 East 59th Street has its own distinct features. To compliment the openness to the light, the palette is grounded in white oak plank flooring and precious white stone. Each home is bordered by a continuous terrace off the main living areas and the interiors are surrounded by column free walls of floor to ceiling glass.

The base of 200 East 59th Street is clad in a basket weave of metals that reflect light during the day and suffuse a glow at night.

The architect is CetraRuddy Architecture.  For more information on 200 East 59th Street, please visit

Sales launch for breathtaking Grand Two in Queens

CaptureFlushing, Queens, N.Y. – Onex Real Estate Partners announced the launch of sales for Grand Two, the second building within The Grand at Sky View Parc, serving as Phase II of Onex’s multi-phase luxury condominium development, Sky View Parc. Located in Flushing, New York, Grand Two launched sales following the successful sellout of Grand One, the first of three buildings to ultimately comprise The Grand at Sky View Parc.

Drawing in hundreds of prospective buyers from various locations, Grand Two’s $85 million in sales, during its preview event, serves as evidence that The Grand at Sky View Parc continues to be a highly desired residential development amongst those in search of full-service luxury living within the Flushing neighborhood.

“Hitting the $85 million sales mark in the opening weekend for Grand Two is a tremendous accomplishment for our team,” said Michael Dana, President of Onex Real Estate Partners. “The buyers’ confidence in the product serves as a true testament to the quality of luxury living we create for each of our residents.”

The Grand at Sky View Parc will bring a total of 750 additional homes and amenities to this mixed-use development. Sky View Parc Sales LLC will be handling the sales for Grand Two, the same team responsible for selling out Grand One and the first phase at Sky View Parc. With the intent of creating a new level of luxury for the neighborhood, each of the spacious 258-units, designed by Peter Clewes and the award winning architectsAlliance team, feature top-of-the-line finishes, floor-to-ceiling windows and a balcony in each unit, offering residents breathtaking views of the New York City skyline.

“Flushing is recognized as a neighborhood on the rise with a growing inventory of luxury listings,” said Dana, “developments such as The Grand support the new identity of Queens.”

Massive casino and resort opens in Macau, China


Macau, China – Gary Goddard, Chairman and CEO of Hollywood, CA-based Gary Goddard Entertainment + Design (GGE), has designed Studio City, a new $3.2 billion casino and resort in Macau, which opened this week. GGE is an international leader in the design of major integrated resorts and destination theme parks worldwide. The Studio City opening was a star-studded event attended by Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, and Mariah Carey.
GGE is responsible for Studio City’s conceptual design, master planning, architectural design, and exterior design. This is the second multi-billion dollar project designed by GGE in Macau—the first being the award winning Galaxy Macau Resort, which opened to the public in 2011.
Located in the Cotai Strip, Macau’s version of the Vegas Strip, Studio City is a unique, Hollywood-inspired 600,000-square-meter casino and resort that will offer visitors the next generation of leisure destination experiences. Leigh and Orange are the architects of record.
The 35-story resort and casino, a monument to Hollywood’s myth making on the silver screen, has been built with recyclable materials. The façade of the hotel towers is a silver-reflective curtain wall. Flanking the entrance are 2 statues, The Silver Titans, which represent male energy. Lining the north and south rooflines are 2 more statues, The Guardians of Light, which represent female energy. These powerful figures bring balance and order to Studio City from the border to the heart of the development. The exterior cladding of the statues and fenestration of the building is stainless steel designed to achieve a larger than life, cinematic appearance.
GGE was selected as the lead design firm by Studio City International Holdings Limited, a company led by Lawrence Ho and a subsidiary of Melco Crown Entertainment Limited, (Nasdaq: MPEL) (“Melco Crown Entertainment“), a developer, owner and operator of casino gaming and entertainment resort facilities in Asia. Studio City was built on Ho’s vision for a resort inspired by the world of motion pictures. Goddard worked closely with Ho to fulfill that vision.
“Lawrence and I share a vision when it comes to Hollywood and the world of motion pictures, which has resulted in one of the most architecturally stunning integrated resorts we have ever created,” said Goddard. “The design for Studio City will also act as a magnet for visitors staying in Hong Kong and in cities throughout China who might not otherwise have planned a visit to Macau.”


In-demand Carnegie Park continues sales streak

1_centralparkNew York, N.Y. – Related Companies, a leading global real estate developer, is pleased to announce that Carnegie Park has achieved 75 percent sold in just under 10 months. The luxury condominium tower continues its rapid sales trajectory following last month’s announcement of its 200th sale, and remains one of Manhattan’s fastest selling residential developments of 2015.

“Carnegie Park’s continued sales momentum has been truly remarkable,” said Benjamin Joseph, Senior Vice President of Related Companies. “The desirability of the neighborhood, exceptional price points, and the building’s unparalleled amenities have proven to be instrumental in the property’s success.”

Located at 200 East 94th Street in the Carnegie Hill neighborhood, Carnegie Park’s desirable setting has proven to be a great selling point for the building. The residential building is just steps away from charming cafes and upscale dining options, luxury shops and boutiques, and some of Manhattan’s most elite schools. Central Park, Carl Schurz Park, Asphalt Green and the East River Esplanade are also within reach of Carnegie Park. Additionally, the Second Avenue subway, which is scheduled to have the first phase completed in 2016 and will span from 57th to 96th Street, will provide the area with an additional layer of convenience.

Beyond Carnegie Park’s attractive neighborhood, the 31-story property also offers residents the experience of Five Star Living by Related. The innovative concept brings together world-class locations, inspired architecture and design, breathtaking views, unmatched amenities, and superior services. The Five Star Living program is matched by Carnegie Park’s spectacular lobby and suite of amenities designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects.

‘Stunning’ cabinetry collection makes waves in Boston

image001Boston, Ma. – Millennium Partners recently unveiled The Millennium Collection by Christopher Peacock at Millennium Tower Boston.  The stunning new cabinetry collection by the acclaimed London-born designer is offered on all penthouse units in the forthcoming residential tower. The collection represents a groundbreaking new concept for high-rise residences, a reflection of Millennium Partners’ ongoing commitment to take urban luxury living to previously unimagined levels of comfort, grace and elegance.

Specializing in gorgeous fitted furniture, cabinetry and spectacular hardware, Peacock’s work can be found in many of the most luxurious private estates around the globe.  He is the leader in the design and manufacture of premium lifestyle products for the home, and The Millennium Collection of meticulously designed kitchen and master bath cabinetry is his first collaboration with a luxury high-rise in Boston.

“Buyers expect the best in luxury urban living from Millennium Partners,” said Richard Baumert, partner at Millennium Partners.  “Joining forces with designer Christopher Peacock is yet another way to fulfill that commitment.”

The Millennium Collection by Christopher Peacock ensures the seamless creation of penthouses finished in accordance with each buyer’s personalized vision.  Millennium Collection buyers will work directly with Christopher Peacock and his team to customize cabinetry selections, choosing from more than 90 colors and an assortment of designs and hardware to complement the exquisite stone personally chosen by Peacock.

The kitchens and baths in the new collection will be one-of-a-kind – each room a bespoke work of art created specifically for each buyer.  Kitchen counters and backsplashes will feature hand-selected slabs of white Italian marble, honed to provide an exquisitely soft tactile experience, while the custom cabinetry hardware will be fashioned from polished nickel.  Island counter slabs will be two inches thick, providing ample support for all culinary endeavors.

The Millennium Collection is an excellent representation of what the Christopher Peacock Cabinetry brand is all about – finely crafted cabinetry designed to meet the most discerning tastes,” said Peacock.  “All the pieces have been styled in a transitional manner, artfully marrying traditional lines with contemporary sophistication.  The result is a clean and fresh look perfect for all occasions.”

Home gifting model aims to boost Manila’s slums

About-pageSan Diego, Calif. – Bosa Development, in partnership with World Housing, announced its plans to gift an entire community of 64 homes to house more than 300 people currently living in metro Manila’s slums. Every purchase of a home at Pacific Gate, Bosa’s latest residential building in downtown San Diego, Calif., will trigger a contribution to World Housing from Bosa.

With seven downtown San Diego residential communities encompassing nine towers, Bosa’s contributions to the San Diego community remain prolific. Bosa’s Pacific Gate building in downtown San Diego will attract domestic and international buyers, so it is a natural progression for the company to expand its philanthropic footprint outside the U.S.

Currently, Bosa Development is sponsor of the Rethink Downtown: Behind San Diego’s Skyline exhibit, which presents a series of “rethinks” the city has gone through as it evolves and grows.  As part of the exhibition, a dynamic lecture series takes place and on Tuesday, November 10, 2015 with World Housing presenting a panel discussion on “Rethinking Community Building Worldwide” from 6-8 p.m.  World Housing’s story, along with a scale model of a World Housing home, will remain part of the Rethink Exhibition. The panel discussion will include:

  • Luis Oquinena, Executive Director of Gawad Kalinga (World Housing’s partner)
  • Peter Dupuis, Founder of World Housing
  • Erin Spiewak, CEO of  Monarch Schools
  • Moderator – Graham Brewster, Managing Director, World Housing

The significance of this announcement marks the first community-for-community partnership of its kind in the United States. World Housing gifts homes to families living in slums around the world, who make up approximately 14 per cent of the world’s population. While it is homes that are gifted to individuals, World Housing thinks beyond building standalone houses and designs each project with community and social impact in mind.

“We have always placed strong emphasis on social responsibility and community contribution, so when we were approached by World Housing with this socially innovative partnership opportunity, we knew it would be a strong fit, and one the future purchasers of Pacific Gate would be proud to be a part of,” said Nat Bosa, president of Bosa Development. “Through World Housing, we hope to set a new norm in community building worldwide, both locally and internationally.”