Friday, September 19, 2008

Turmoil on Wall Street Allows Obama To Get the Upper Hand

The recent turmoil has clearly blunted the momentum that John McCain developed from his selection of Sarah Palin and the Republican Convention. He had a nice run where he had Obama on the defensive and the polls were all going in his direction. He had the high ground and was shooting downhill.

That has all changed. McCain stumbled when the s**t hit the fan on Wall Street and Obama gained the advantage. Now the polls are all going his way. Is all lost for McCain.

Hardly. Despite the reversal in the polls, people are still uneasy about Obama and that makes him vulnerable. Poll after poll shows that people want a change in direction but are uneasy about Obama as the man to lead the way. McCain can get back on top by exploiting that fundamental weakness in his candicacy.

Obama has taken to mocking, belittling and otherwise demeaning his opponent. McCain can turn that around by hammering home the point that this behavior clearly demonstrates Mr. Obama's immaturity and lack of leadership in this troubling and challenging time.

He can also demonstrate, once again, Mr. Obama's poor judgment by highlighted the ecomonic advisers he has on his team. Two of his most trusted ecomonic advisers are former heads of Fannie Mae and were responsible for the policies at Fannie Mae that led it's collapse. Since Mr. Obama's resume has nothing on it that could be call an accomplishment, judgement is all he has. Time and time again, Mr. Obama gives us proof, through his associations and policy positions that his judgment is seriously flawed and makes him a dangerous person to put in the White House.

No doubt McCain finds himself shooting uphill, but the situation is reversable. He needs to keep hammering home that point that most Americans already know and makes them very uneasy. Mr. Obama lacks the judgment, experience and the policies to make him the person to lead us at this time.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Reflections on the Sarah Palin Interview

Although this is a real estate blog, I must admit the election that lies ahead has captured my imagination. First off, let me make it clear that I am excited by the selection of Sarah Palin by John McCain, a selection that has made me a strong supporter of that ticket.

That said, I would judge Sarah Palin's performance, especially when dealing with the area of foreign affairs as OK. She didn't blow herself up and she didn't hit it out of the park. I suspect that those people who supported her going in still support her, those that thought her unqualified still hold that view and the undecided are still undecided.

I do think she made a mistake when answering questions in the area of foreign policy. She struck me as wanting to answer all the questions, when there were times she would have been better off questioning the validity of some questions or the premise of the question. It appeared to me that she was trying to demonstrate a complete understanding in an area that it is impossible for her to have a complete understanding, and that was a mistake. To even attempt to answer what she would do in a hypothetical situation created by Charlie Gibson is a no win situation.

She would have been far better off, in my opinion, to state the obvious. As a governor she has no responsibility for foreign policy, so it is completely unrealistic for any reasonable person to expect her to be fully versed in that area, especially after being thrust into the campaign just two weeks ago. She should state that she is confident, should she need to assume the Presidency, that with the outstanding team John McCain will have assembled that she will have the judgement to conduct a foreign policy that will protect American interests abroad.

At times the tone Charlie Gibson's questioning was almost as if she was the one running for President and she would be making decisions on day one. That I think was unfair, but her mistate was to answer the question with that as the premise. She would have been far better off pointing out that she is running for Vice President and should she find herself in the Presidency she would have the benefit of the John McCain team in place to supply her with the information and options that would enable her to make decisions that would protect the interests of the American people.

As for the hypothetical questions, like those regarding Israel and Russia, she should have answered in only the broadest terms. She should have pointed out that she can't possibly say what she would do without all the facts at her disposal. At this point, it is not possible for her to have all the facts, none of the four candidates do. The only person who does is the sitting President. In my opinion, it would have been better to question the validity of the question or simply state it is unwise to answer hypothetical answers with specifics because they are only that, not actual circumstances.

I think her interest would have been better served to state what we all know, that she does not have all the facts in areas of foreign policy or understand all the nuances of our current foreign policy because, as Governor of Alaska, that is not part of her job description. She should state that she is confident that will a quality team around her and good information on which to make decisions she has the head and backbone to make decisions that will protect the interests of the United States.

No doubt she will practice more and perform better in the next interview. The Democrats are still confronted with the same problem. If they and their minnions in the press are unable to destroy her, John McCain will be the next President

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's Not Just Change Americans Want, It's Reform!

Although this is a real estate blog dealing with my local market, I can't help but make some observations about the upcoming election and how the selection of Sarah Palin has completely transformed the campaign. What was shaping up as another humdrum campaign, has overnight been turned into the most exciting in recent history.

For almost two years now we have heard the Democrats call for "change, change and more change" in an effort to tap the growing discontent Americans are feeling toward the government. This is a discontent we all feel. There is no doubt our government does not represent the interests of Main Street. We all want things to change and that is a desire that runs deep.

Despite this desire, Americans have been reluctant to buy into the change that the Democrats have proposed. When you cut through the lofty oratory, the bottom line is that they are proposing higher taxes on our society, more government spending and bigger deficits. These are not new ideas. We have tried them before, remember Jimmy Carter, and then finally discarded them when Bill Clinton became President and the Republicans took control of Congress. Deep down inside most Americans know that bigger government is not the best way to solve the problems that confront us.

The Democrats selected Barack Obama as their messenger and have tried to package him as a transformational political figure. But there is a problem with the choice. Mr. Obama's story is one that many, if not most Americans do not relate to. There is no doubt he is a very talented man who loves his country, but there is still something about him that does not resonate with enough Americans. Maybe it's his personal story, maybe it's professorial tone, perhaps it's his questionable past associations or perhaps it's his frighteningly thin resume. Whatever it is, he hasn't been able to seal the deal.

In the other camp we have John McCain and there are things to like about him. His personal story is compelling. Have we ever had a presidential candidate that knows from personal experience what torture is all about? He does have a reputation for attempting reform, often costing him support within his party. But he has his limitations as well. His age is a problem and he does seem to have a hard time relating to the day to day struggles of Main Street, America. Throw in the fact that his passion is foreign policy and, by his own admission, thoughts of the economic woes of Americans do not capture his imagination, and you have another candidate with a lot to like but one that also leaves to many people unenthusiastic.

It was shaping up as trench warfare campaign, which each side throwing bombs across enemy lines with the hopes of picking up a vote here and there. Then something remarkable happened. Some how, some way, John McCain came up with Sarah Palin as his running mate and the whole campaign has been turned upside down. How he did it really doesn't matter. Almost instantly, a new energy swept across the country, some for her, some against her, but all stood up and took notice.

How could a 44 year old woman, a first term governor from the hinterlands of America transform the campaign and make this election one of the most exciting in modern American history? I believe it is because she taps into and represents what Americans have desperately been searching for. The Democrats were correct in that we are seeking change, but it is more than that. We are seeking reform and she represents reform. Has there ever been a leader that successfully took on his/her own party before throwing stones across the isle? Has there ever been a leader that successfully took on the interests of the powerful in such a way where there was something in the solution for both the powerful and the people as she did with her tackling of Big Oil in Alaska? Has there ever been a leader who, when confronted with a budgetary surplus, decided to return the money to the people rather than figure out ways to spend it? Has there been a leader with a better record of reaching across the isle to effect change that will benefit all of her constituents, as she did when reaching across to Democrats to get the long stalled natural gas pipeline approved? There is something in her thinking that resonates with Americans. She understands that government can't solve all our problems. She understands that governments needs to be fiscally responsible, just as households need to be. Her theme of putting government back on the side of the people is one that gets people excited.

Not only does she have the message Americans have been hungering for, she is the perfect messenger to fit the message. There is something in her personal story that almost every American can relate to. Whatever your background or your beliefs, there is something in Sarah Palin that we can all relate to. He life story is the quintessenial American story.

John McCain, unwittingly or not, has unleashed a force that will be hard to stop. There is talk that this is just a bounce or wave and will dissipate. Something tells me that this is not a wave or a bounce, but there is a tide building that will sweep over America. The Democrats have no choice but to try to destroy her. If they can't, they will lose the election, it's that simple. Something tells me they won't succeed. Something tells me that before this is over, John McCain will be swept into office. Not because the voters wanted John McCain, but because they want Sarah Palin.

In the past I have voted both Democratic and Republican, but usually made my choice based on who I didn't want as opposed to who I did want. I can't remember that last time I was enthusiastic about a candidte. This year I was going to vote for John McCain, not so much because I was excited about him, but because I was convinced that Barach Obama does not have the right answers to our problems. Now I am voting for McCain, again not so much because I am excited about him, but because I am excited about Sarah Palin, what she represents and the belief that she is tranformational leader that the Democrats thought they had in Barack Obama.

Ronald Reagan campaigned on the slogan "Morning in America". The sun is rising on America again, in the form of Sarah Palin. What an exciting time to be alive in America!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Condo Options in Monmouth Beach

Clients come to us and ask "What are the condo options in Monmouth Beach?" Although a town just one mile square, Monmouth Beach offers a blend that range from high rise condominiums on the beach and river to townhouses within walking distance to the beach and condo conversions, those condos that started their lives as garden complexes, which appear to owners on the lower end of the price scale.

The three high rise condominiums are the Admiralty, Shores and Channel Club. The Admiralty and Shores are located on the beach, while the Channel Club is located right by the Shrewsbury River. All three are full service condominiums and range in size from 120 apartments to over 200 apartments for the Channel Club. The views can are great and there are plenty of services, however, they don't allow dogs and seasonal rentals are not allowed.

Looking for something more affordable and still within walking distance to the beach? Try Wharfside, Breakwater Cove, Monmouth Commons or Sands Point South. Wharfside was once a garden complex and is a block from the beach and located on the Shrewsbury River. Prices start in the lower $200,000's for a one bedroom apartment. These two are pet restricted, but they do allow shorter term rentals, as long as they area at least three months.

Breakwater Cove and Monmouth Commons offer townhouse living (multiple levels in each unit) and are also a short walk to the beach. Prices for a one bedroom in Breakwater Cove start in the lower $300,000's, while prices for a townhouse in Monmouth Commons are generally in the $500,000's

That brings us to Sands Point South. Yes, there is also a Sands Point North, but we will get to that one shortly. Sands Point South offers one and two bedroom apartment style condominiums and is located on the Shrewsbury River about a quarter of a mile from the beach. Price for a one bedroom start in the upper $200,000's.

Last but not least is Sands Point North. This is a townhouse community, equally divided between one and two bedroom townhouses. Built in the 1970's, it was one of the first townhouse communities in the area. Not considered walking distance to the beach, a one bedroom here will start in the low $300,000's.

Got a question about the local real estate market? Feel free to ask. My 30 years of productive experience can help you make the right choice.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Full Service vs. Limited Service Condominiums, What's the Difference

In the Monmouth Beach and Long Branch beachfront market we have two two types of high rise condominiums, full service and limted service buildings. Very often when talking to clients exploring their options the question often comes up, "Full service vs. limited service condominiums, what's the difference?

Full service condominiums are generally larger building with more apartment and offer more services to the owners. They often have an onsite management office, a concierge desk manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, valet parking, pool, tennis, social rooms and fitness rooms. There is also a social component to living there, with a wider range of social activities available to residents. Because of the additional services they offer, they generally have higher association fees.

Limited service condominums have fewer apartments, no concierge desk and no valet parking. Although some have pools, tennis courts are rare and, if there are fitness rooms they are generally more modest than those in the full service buildings. Because of the fewer number of apartments in the building, 24 apartments is a common number, they don't have the social aspect the full service buildings offer. Although there is no concierge, access to the building are restricted with electronically locked lobby doors. Because they don't offer the full range of services found in the full service buildings, the monthly association fees are lower than in the full service buildings.

Which is better for you? That's a personal decision. We suggest you look at both, compare the upside and downside of both so you can make an informed decision.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Are Prices Going Down on the Beachfront Properties

As we all know, we are in a Buyer's Market and real estate prices have come down from their highs of 2005-2006. But a question I still get is "Are prices going down on the beachfront properties?" The short answer is "yes", but there is more to it than that.

When prices are going down, no class of real estate gets exempted from the market conditions, but that doesn't mean that all types of homes are impacted to the same degree. As a general rule, those properties that perform best, regardless of whether prices are going up or down, are those with locational advantages and those that are the most modern. If a home has both of those advantages, it will hold it's value the best in a Buyer's Market.

All of the properties along the beachfront automatically have a locational advantage. Beachfront properties are the ones in shortest supply so there is an advantage there. Some of beachfront homes also have the advantage of being modern when compared other options in the market. Although all the prices of all properties feel the impact of the current market, beachfront properties generally hold their value better than non-beachfront homes.

The two complexes that seem to have been impacted the least are Grand Resorts and The Bluffs in Long Branch, both of which are on the beachfront and both are the newest options out there, being only about two years old. Based on the sales, the impact on prices has been minor.

Got a question, feel free to ask. Hopefully I can help you benefit from my 30 years of productive experience right here in the Monmouth County Shore market.

Monday, September 1, 2008

What's Ahead as We Move to Fall

With the month of August concluded, it's good to take a look at the current market and to take a look at what's ahead as we move to the fall. Despite a number of hopeful predictions that we are reaching a market bottom, the sales and inventory figures for single family homes in Monmouth county indicate that is not the case. Statistics from the Monmouth MLS indicate that, as off today, reported closed sales in August were off by more than 30% when compared to August of 2007 and new contracts for August were about 20% figures for the same period last year. Couple the declining sales figures with about 5% more homes for sale than a year ago, and it is clear that we are still in a full blown Buyer's Market.

What does that mean for the Fall? There is going to be continued pressure for lower prices. By the turn of the year, no doubt the prices in the market will be lower than today. If you are a seller, you will get a better price for your house if you find a buyer today than at some point later this year, regardless of how you may feel about that price. If you are a buyer, the opportunity for outstanding value is the best it has been in the past five years.

Got a question? Feel free to write. Hopefully my 30 years of productive experience in the real estate business will help you make the right decisions when it comes to your real estate needs.