From The Humid, Hot, Shadows Of COVID, The Housing Action Is All Wet

My state of Connecticut is recovering from the extensive storm damage (Hurricane Isaias caused the 3rd most damage in state history – Superstorm Sandy was 4th). So many in the state are just getting their power back on after more than a week of sweltering heat, I think of how amazingly creative people can be despite whatever conditions they are subject to.

But I digress…

The Elliman Rental Report on NYC Illustrates The Sharp Downturn

This week Douglas Elliman published our research on the Manhattan, Brooklyn & Queens rental market for July 2020. I’ve been the author of this expanding series of Elliman Reports since 1994.

Elliman Report: July 2020 Manhattan, Brooklyn & Queens Rentals

Here are some of the key points of the report:


“With the lifting of some of the “shelter-in-place” restrictions, new leasing activity surged month over month but still fell well short of year-ago levels.”

– The largest year over year decline in net effective median rent in nearly nine years of tracking
– The most listing inventory and the third straight month to see a new record vacancy in fourteen years of recording
– The largest market share of landlord concessions in two and a half years
– Non-doorman median rent fell at twice the annual rate of doorman median rent
– Existing median rent fell at five times the annual rate of new development median rent
– The market share of luxury concessions was lower than the non-luxury market share of concessions


“The momentum of sliding median net effective rent continued after the market re-opened along with record-high listing inventory and a large decline in new leases.”

– Net effective median rent fell annually for the first time in twenty-one months
– New leases declined annually for the tenth consecutive straight month
– The landlord concession market share for new development was nearly double that in existing rentals

[Northwest Region]

“The removal of ‘shelter-in-place’ restrictions at the end of June did not expand new lease signings, and rental price trends continued to decline.”

– Largest year over year decline in median net effective rent in three and a half years of tracking
– The twelfth straight month with a year over year decline in new leases
– The smallest new development new lease market share in three and a half years of tracking

Because Bloomberg makes the best charts in town, I usually start with their charts and the result is breathtaking.

And CNBC lays out some of the records:

And my chart gets a shout out on CNBC TV!

Their version

My version

I spoke with Yahoo Finance TV this morning about our rental and contract analysis for Douglas Elliman in the NYC metro area as I was writing these notes so I thought I’d share a clip.

Honestly, I was most excited about my interview on NY1 because I was wearing a new strangely neon striped with black background shirt not especially suited for television. The video interview ran but I can’t get the cable broadcast at home in CT and the video interview wasn’t part of their web feature but was still a good read. Darn it!

There was a lot of other great coverage on our rental report here.

Here are some of our rental market charts.

The ‘Urban To Suburban’ Narrative Is Really ‘Manhattan To Suburban’

The New York Times created a terrific graphic on our Elliman New Signed Contract Report by illustrating the performance of Manhattan and Brooklyn versus Westchester County. Brooklyn’s sales market performance is closer to Westchester than it is to its city counterpart.

Could 420,000 New Yorkers’ Exit Unravel Rent Stabiliztion?

There are many New Yorkers wondering if the surge in vacancies will eventually exceed 5% thereby nullifying rent stabilization. After all, the vacancy rate in Manhattan for July was a record 4.33% – and those questions started trickling in.

There was a great piece that summarized and answered this question. The short answer: No.

But that exodus has created carnage in the rental market and sharply curtailed sales activity in Manhattan. If you missed the amazing Upshot piece in the New York Times, take a look.

The wealthy left.

Showing Why The Rental Market Is Being Hit Harder In One Chart

Lower wage earners skew towards rentals.

The Economy Is Not The Stock Market

Love this.


(For earlier appraisal industry commentary, visit my old clunky REIC site.)

With All That PPP And Without All That Travel, The Appraisal Foundation Doesn’t Need A Grant From ASC This Year

The TAF decline in credibility keeps on coming…

After the recent letter debacle where the Appraisal Foundation (TAF) opined falsely that Title XI did not permit the Appraisal Subcommittee (ASC) to provide oversight on TAF, we now have a letter from TAF essentially saying they are making so much money that they don’t need a grant this year from ASC. Who is writing all these letters? It can’t be Dave.

[click for full pdf]

In other words, because TAF saved so much money from not being able to fly around the country during the pandemic, they don’t need ASC Grant money this year. From this point, it’s only a hop skip and a jump to saying they don’t need the grant money so therefore they don’t need oversight. And grant money comes with “strings attached” – that the money used from a grant had to be accounted for to the ASC. And if TAF doesn’t need oversight this year, what is to stop them from raising USPAP related fees and stop collecting grant money forever? The conspiracy theorist in me is starting to worry about that aspect of this new more forceful tone out of TAF these days against any oversight.

No Grants = TAF + PPP

Why would the TAF turn down the annual grant process but still have the need to request PPP? What is the hardship they are declaring when they are saving hundreds of thousands in travel costs that are already questionable in their scale?

My appraisal firm in Manhattan applied for PPP because our business collapsed more than 90% almost immediately for two months. It enabled us to survive. I would think it would be obvious to TAF that their $626,000 annual travel expense would collapse. What other revenues would be sharply curtailed in the new online world?

That’s why Jeremy Bagott, MAI, AI-GRS, the Cosmic Cobra guy, issued this press release on July 6th:




(LOS ANGELES, July 6, 2020) – Over the years, the tiny, publicly funded Appraisal Foundation has built up a large reserve in cash and publicly traded equities. Its war chest grew from $3.6 million in 2010 to $6.5 million in 2018, the most recent year its IRS Form 990 is available. Its Cause IQ peer nonprofits had nothing like it in their reserves. Despite this burgeoning pot, it has continued to receive public grant money each year from state-licensed appraisers via the mandatory National Registry Fee. In early July 2020, it was learned that, despite wielding this hefty reserve and its guarantee of annual public grant money, the nonprofit also applied for and received CARES Act relief through the Small Business Administration of between $150,000 and $350,000. This is money that could otherwise have gone to struggling mom-and-pop appraisers hurt by the pandemic.

From 2010 to 2018, the nation’s licensed appraisers paid the 14-employee organization more than $6 million through the mandatory National Registry Fee. The group then parlayed that subsidy into more than $27.6 million in publishing revenue extracted from the same captive appraisers during that time. It has copyrighted the publicly subsidized materials and granted exclusive online course rights.

In 2017, the foundation paid its top officer more than $760,000 in an internal retirement-plus-salary deal that effectively doubled his pay from the previous year. For 2018, trustees paid him $414,000 – less than the previous year’s haul but still more than twice the salary of the chairman of the Federal Reserve, who oversees 20,000 employees and the nation’s central bank.

These issues would be no one’s business were this organization not receiving guaranteed annual public grants, tax-exempt status and allowed to wield a government-authorized publishing franchise and contracts with the U.S. Department of the Interior and Department of Justice – and it is now receiving PPP money. A congressionally authorized federal contractor with guaranteed public grants is not what lawmakers had in mind when they passed the CARES Act, which includes the PPP program.

During this pandemic, expect to see licensed appraisers further weakened with fewer options and higher license upkeep costs. Expect the nonprofit to further leverage its copyrights – the development of which appraisers pay for. It is now receiving CARES Act relief. It has never let a good crisis go to waste.

If you’re frustrated, here’s something you can do right away:

Email Mark Abbott, Grants Director at the Appraisal Subcommittee, at and James Park, its Executive Director, at and tell them you want the Appraisal Foundation’s next grant to be reduced by whatever public funding the foundation has received from the CARES Act during the pandemic and its reserves of cash and publicly traded securities, which totaled $6.5 million as of its most recent IRS Form 990. The $40 National Registry Fee paid by appraisers each year ($80 at biennial license renewal) needs to be rolled back by a commensurate amount to provide relief to appraisers. The waste and abuse going on at this tiny nonprofit is being underwritten by the public and it needs to stop. Please cc Arthur Lindo at the Federal Reserve at

* * *

About “Dispatches from the Cosmic Cobra Breeding Farm”: The culmination of two years of research, a new book illuminates over-the-top spending and questionable dealings at the familiar Beltway nonprofit. Published just before the pandemic, it chronicles international jet-setting by officers and trustees, conflicts of interest, lobbyist tie-ins, outsized cash reserves and swollen pay at the tiny nonprofit. The book is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions. You can read more about it on the book’s Amazon page.

The Appraisal Foundation’s IRS Form 990 may be viewed online at Propublica’s Nonprofit Explorer. To find it, Google “Propublica Nonprofit Explorer” and type “Appraisal Foundation” into the search box and follow the links.

# # #


Here is another email from appraiser Jeremy Bagott (The Cosmic Cobra guy). Bold my emphasis.


Dear Colleague,

Thanks to the Small Business Administration’s data release on July 6, a few news outlets are working doggedly to expose organizations that, with dubious need, have applied for and received federal PPP relief. Ryan Tracy of the Wall Street Journal recently wrote about double-dipping by state highway contractors in Florida who applied for and received PPP relief despite holding government contracts unaffected by Covid. You can read the story here (but you’ll have to get past the Journal’s paywall).

A rogues’ gallery of organizations that have applied for PPP relief include Harvard University (with its $39 billion endowment), the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (with its reported $3.7 billion valuation) and, yes, the congressionally authorized Appraisal Foundation. The former two were shamed into giving the money back once the matter was made public.

Unlike Harvard and the L.A. Lakers, survival of the Appraisal Foundation and its paid panels is literally guaranteed in a federal statute. The statute mandates its guaranteed annual government grants. The making of the grants is part of the Appraisal Subcommittee’s charter. According to its IRS Form 990 for 2018, the most recent available, the Appraisal Foundation spent $626,000 on travel that year. (If past years are any measure, some of it was on international junkets for top officers and favored trustees.) It no longer has that travel expenditure due to the pandemic. The foundation also had $6.5 million in cash and publicly traded equities, according to its 2018 tax form. Why did it apply for between $150,000 and $350,000 in PPP relief?

If you now google “Appraisal Foundation” and “PPP,” the top hit is a CNN Politics site that identifies the Appraisal Foundation as a nonprofit that has applied for and received PPP funding. You can see it here. The Wall Street Journal and CNN are doing God’s work in this respect.

If you’re frustrated, here’s something you can do right away:

Email Mark Abbott, Grants Director at the Appraisal Subcommittee, at and James Park, its Executive Director, at and tell them you want the Appraisal Foundation’s next grant to be reduced by whatever public funding the foundation has received from the CARES Act during the pandemic and its reserves of cash and publicly traded securities. The $40 National Registry Fee paid by appraisers each year ($80 at biennial license renewal) needs to be rolled back by a commensurate amount to provide relief to appraisers during the pandemic. The waste and abuse going on at this nonprofit is being underwritten by appraisers (who are also voters and taxpayers). It needs to stop. Please cc Arthur Lindo at the Federal Reserve at

Best regards,

Jeremy Bagott, MAI, AI-GRS

The Appraisal Foundation Is Being Taken Over Personal Property Appraisers

My public criticism of TAF in recent weeks means that I will never be allowed to be on the BOT with the current leadership. Everyone I have met at TAF has been very nice to me. This isn’t personal.

Publically I have focused on the unethical and self-dealing behavior of the Appraisal Institute and its disrespect for its members over the past four years. I have been very outspoken about their sham election maneuvering to keep the current CEO in power indefinitely and fly first class all over the world with the hard-working membership picking up the tab. My goal was to reduce the national credibility of AI National by exposing their actions after years of damaging the residential appraisal industry. With the help of many others, we have outed their unethical actions in public with more efforts to come.

Yet a number of colleagues over the past year have been insistent that the actions of TAF have been far more damaging to the appraisal industry than a silly trade group over the long run. I finally get it.

I applied for a Board of Trustee position at TAF this year and had three highly reputable state regulators as references. As a public person in the appraisal industry, I thought I had a reasonable shot at at least getting an interview. I’ve represented RAC in TAFAC. My appraisal firm is a member of IAC. I’ve attended many DC meetings. Yet I was told by TAF that I would likely be passed over because they wanted to get more personal property appraisers on the boards…”but keep trying.”

The selection process is not transparent. I know of one real property appraiser who is credible that has applied approximately 15 times. This person is constantly passed over for personal property appraisers because this person was too abrasive.

I didn’t understand the personal property appraiser reasoning at all. The “TAF reason for being” is, was, and will be real property appraisers. Emphasis on real property appraisers is quite clear in Title XI.

The driver of Title XI’s ‘reason for being’ was real property appraisal and its licensing. Period. No argument.

Personal property appraisers sit on the Appraisal Standards Board (ASB) and BOT and the informal joke around TAF and attendees of sessions and board members themselves is that these personal property appraisers know nothing about real property appraisals and just sit there. How on earth can anyone justify a personal appraiser sitting on the ASB board?

Business appraisers are less of a concern (but still should be separate) because they tend to be CPAs that already adhere to strict guidelines in other organizations.

Here are some thoughts on personal property appraisers:

– The current TAF Board of Trustees (BOT) chairperson is a personal property appraiser. She signed that aggressive/threatening TAF letter in July that claimed that ASC had no rights of oversight over TAF.

– ****Right now the five-person ASB is comprised of 2 real property appraisers, 2 personal property appraisers, and 1 retired attorney who was not a real estate lawyer. Throw in the informal mandate of updating USPAP every two years and you have a structural problem with TAF.

Why is TAF so excited to bring personal property appraisers into the mix?

– I’m happy to see all types of appraisers be part of TAF but personal property and business property appraisers should be on a completely separate board. There are situations of standards being rejected because personal property appraisers didn’t like them even though it would help real property appraisers.

– Real property appraisers essentially pay for USPAP and continuing education in their respective states. Personal property appraisers do not answer to their states and therefore do not drive the economics of TAF.

– Personal property appraisal organizations are thrilled to be part of TAF because it elevates their industry credibility (at the expense of real property appraisers). I can only assume they are good at schmoozing TAF leadership.

The exaggerated focus on personal property appraisers by TAF means that TAF has lost its way.

My goodness.

Voice of Appraisal: New FHFA Refi Costs And The Biz-O-Meter

My good friend Phil Crawford and podcast/radio personality with the smooth velvety voice lay it out for us.

Besides talking into a microphone, one of Phil’s other passions is whose focus is to If I’ve learned anything about the appraisal profession since 1986 is that residential mortgage appraisers are seen as “pain-points” by most lending institutions, appraisal management companies, as well as most banking regulators. We’ve also realized that the Appraisal Institute has shown disdain to their residential members. Why waste your years of hard-earned expertise working for clients that don’t appreciate it or want to pay for it? Spend your productive time focusing on appraisal assignments that rely on your professional expertise. Consumers are being ill-served in the current regulatory environment. Why not work for them and have someone help you market to them?

I’ve spent my appraisal career looking for clients outside of the banking industry and aligns with that mission. Disclaimer: I am part of the FMA effort because it aligns with mine.

Check out

OFT (One Final Thought)

In 1970, when I was ten and had no idea what an appraiser was, my Dad was friends with the Rear-Admiral of the Atlantic Fleet. He gave our family a VIP tour of the USS John F. Kennedy in Norfolk Virginia. We dined with the Captain and got an incredible tour. Literally a floating city of 5K people dedicated to protecting our country. The flight deck seemed incredibly big, windy and loud to a ten-year-old but so tiny here:

Brilliant Idea #1

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Brilliant Idea #2

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See you next week.

Jonathan J. Miller, CRP, CRE, Member of RAC
Miller Samuel Inc.
Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants
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