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Feb 17, 2009 9:39 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Lunch With John Halsted: Finding the silver lining in a bad economy

Feb 17, 2009 9:39 AM

Corcoran Group Real Estate Senior Managing Director John Halsted has only been with the company for going on five years now, but his position overseeing the Southampton office and administering strategic projects for the firm makes him extremely knowledgeable about local real estate.

Mr. Halsted came to Corcoran from Allan Schneider Associates, where he was the director of relocation and information technology.

During a recent interview at Le Chef in Southampton, Mr. Halsted explained that he and his family—wife, Leslie, and daughters Tabor and Drue—settled permanently in Southampton in 2001 after extensive international travel due to his former career as a business manager of the international sales division for Allied Mineral Products. He said that he chose real estate at the prompting of a friend, mainly because he wanted to regain a better quality of life with his family instead of travelling 70 percent of the time.

And his 15 years of prior executive experience, though perhaps not a usual route to real estate, taught Mr. Halsted immeasurable skills about the management of business and a keen understanding of the global marketplace.

Mr. Halsted is now not only a hands-on leader at Corcoran, but is also the president of the Hamptons and North Fork Realtors Association (HANFRA) for the second year running.

Over lunch last week, Mr. Halsted discussed the state of the economy and forecasted how it will continue to affect the East End real estate market for at least the next year. But he also offered some hopeful thoughts about some of the positive changes the slump will eventually bring.

Q: In your opinion, where do you see the local real estate market heading?

A: I think obviously we’re in somewhat of a declining market. Year-end transfers, unit sales were down approximately 40 percent and volume was down by about 40 percent. In this market we’re going to continue to see somewhat of a contraction going forward for the next nine to 12 months.

Q: House prices have fallen, can you give some broad strokes about where the comparative price points are now?

A: The prices are coming down. Houses that are now in the $300,0000 and $400,000 range have historically been in the $400,000s to $700,000s.

Q: Does that mean that now is a good time to buy for well-qualified buyers?

A: I think it’s always a great time to buy real estate, but it depends on the value that you’re getting. And that’s why the houses that are best in show are still the best value. The challenge for those that have to sell or want to sell is to make the price right now so we don’t miss the market.

Q: In your opinion, are the big auctions that have been advertised recently good or bad for the market?

A: I question whether or not those auctions are actually going to happen [At the time of the interview, no date had been set for the auctions advertised for February and March by competitor Prudential Douglas Elliman.]. It could be a way to pick up buyers who are looking for something on the very cheap and would-be sellers that are somewhat distressed.

Q: Do you think the current real estate reporting in the national media is sending panic waves?

A: I don’t think panic, I think the people that are over-leveraged in their homes today, they’re panicked regardless of the press. They are having to pay that monthly mortgage payment and not seeing that money coming in whether through investors, or lost their job or something else. Most people that are involved in the market see it for what it is and understand the market dynamics.

Q: Is there a different market for the first-time buyer versus somebody who already owns a primary residence and is looking for a second or third home?

A: I think it’s a great time for first-time home buyers. Never have prices been so affordable as they are now at least in the last 10, 12 or 15 years. For first-time home buyers with good credit and access to cash, mortgage rates are at historical lows.

Q: But isn’t it a lot harder right now to get financing?

A: Banks are looking for more money down. Your credit score has to be high and you still have to find a lender that believes and sees the value in the property you want to purchase. There’s no question the credit markets have tightened up and that’s what Washington is spending so much time on, trying to loosen up the credit markets. They’ve injected a serious amount of money into the markets but we’ve not seen that money come back and open up these credit markets yet.

Q: How do you see the bailout going? There really aren’t a lot of loans being made right now.

A: At the HANFRA breakfast this week, Tim Bishop answered a lot of these questions. I think the old adage that time heals all wounds says a lot. I think we’ve got to go through a certain amount of time before the banks feel secure enough and they shore up their balance sheets to be able to feel comfortable about lending freely again.

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Great interview! John is one of the most professional and dignified people in the real estate business on the East End.
By michael daly (12), Sag Harbor on Feb 18, 09 9:38 AM
Did this guy really say that it is ALWAYS a great time to buy real estate?? What a moronic comment.
By serenity_now (1), new york on Feb 18, 09 1:18 PM
A "most professional and dignified" person on the east end certainly makes idiotic choices- no fault but his own. Sorry, but this person has no business representing sellers or buyers on the east end until his own company respects consumers. Until that happens, no respect for someone that makes "moronic" suggestions to a public that hopes for integrity from Corcoran. So far...NOT GOOD.
By LM (35), riverhead on Feb 20, 09 12:01 AM
George...I am not sure of your beef with east end real estate people but you seem to be someone who talks a good game but has chip on your shoulder. Can it be because your business model failed? Is this the only way you can bring attention to yourself?
I have met you before...several years ago...I am sure you don't remember me but you had that same chip on your shoulder then. Perhaps the aliens that you claim abducted you on your website took your reasoning skills. Enough is enough we are tired ...more
By nospinhamptons (3), sag harbor on Feb 20, 09 8:36 PM
nospinhamptons, you sound like someone that ignored the early warnings of a Madoff question mark- while that's OK for you, it might not be for others- your choice, and opinion.
By LM (35), riverhead on Feb 20, 09 8:51 PM
Very well said nospinhamptons. Just becasue you have a beef with the company doesn't make him a bad person. I guarantee he has more knowlege than all you against him. If you all had the same knowlege as him, wouldn't you be an executive in a major real estate group just like him. If you brought home the same checks that John did, I don't think you would be making these comments!

P.S. Everyone has their own opinions and mine is keep all your negative opinions to yourselves!
By courtesy (43), Southampton on Feb 24, 09 11:14 PM
I don't think that anyone cares whether or not he's a good or bad person- if the practices of his company are bad for consumers and other agents, he CLEARLY doesn't have "more knowledge" than those that take issue with practices and choices made by a "leader" of east end real estate. The kind of checks he brings home are his business only, and are irrelevant- a bunch of sappy followers is what's gotten the east end (Hamptons) and NYC real estate agents into the horrific public perception issue that ...more
By LM (35), riverhead on Feb 25, 09 8:52 AM
John and his family have lived in the in the hamptons for over a decade. His family has been around in Southampton for centuries so he ceratinly knows about "east end reality". He obviously has alot of knowledge and makes good choices or else he wouldn't be the president of HANFRA. Also everyone makes idiotic choices. You might be making an idiotic choice by commenting here with your moronic comments... I think everyone might be jealous of him that he might be selling more real estate then you guys ...more
By courtesy (43), Southampton on Feb 25, 09 12:39 PM
You must be joking, courtesy.
By LM (35), riverhead on Feb 25, 09 4:34 PM
Why doesn't someone ask John why all the good Corcoran agents are leaving?
By we could run this town! (129), wonderful Wainscott on Feb 25, 09 6:28 PM
No I'm not joking LM, are you joking? Its sad that so many of you are doubting his knowledge and his roots here in southampton. The man is trying to make a living and you are just tearing him up.
By courtesy (43), Southampton on Feb 26, 09 12:17 AM
Courtesy, to the contrary. If that is your impression, you have my apology. What I DO object to is his company's participation in a listing system in the Hamptons that severely impact OTHER companies ability to make a living- he's the unfortunate mast head of this awful practice, so is taking what might be viewed as an unfair hit. A person knowledgable in real estate wouldn't consider a harmful practice that impacts sellers, buyers, and real estate agents. It doesn't make him a bad person, but it ...more
By LM (35), riverhead on Feb 27, 09 2:27 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Amanda (8), Southampton on Mar 13, 09 10:49 AM