September 30, 2015

Does Prosperity Come With Less Affordability?

A report from the Irish Independent. “The iconic show of the Noughties was, of course, Location, Location, Location. People buying houses, just like us. It’s still particularly popular with Irish people. We’ll watch anything that proves our neighbours are a bit on the thick side. The proof here being that university-educated Brits seem unable to ring an estate agent and place an offer on a house. Instead, they go to a hipster bar with a Kirstie and Phil to discuss strategy.”

“Location, Location, Location is proof positive that Britain is a nation of goldfish. They must be on their fourth housing bubble since 1990. And still there is no shortage of yuppie couples willing to pay 750 grand for a one-bed flat in London because it’s only three tube stops from an artisan-bread shop.”

“We’re watching over here, the wounds still open after our own crash, shouting, ‘Don’t do it, you crazy yuppie couple, you’ll be stuck there for life.’ They never listen.”

The Malaysia Chronicle. “Property buyers should hold off on purchases until at least next year to enjoy lower prices as cooling measures implemented by Bank Negara Malaysia set in. Prices have stayed stagnant and the property market slowed somewhat in the last year, indicating that tighter lending rules and related measures are achieving their desired impact. National House Buyers Association secretary-general Chang Kim Loong said property buyers should wait as the cooling measures were working well. Prices have gone down and are expected to reduce further.”

“‘Do not buy new property this year. There is still the secondary market and auction properties that can be considered at cheaper prices,’ he said after speaking at the forum, themed ‘Does Greater Prosperity Come With Less Housing Affordability?’ yesterday.”

“Before the central bank’s cooling measures, property prices were on a steep climb, particularly in key markets, believed to be spurred by excessive speculation. Chang said the investors club were now rushing to sell their properties at lower prices as there were no takers, and predicted ‘many foreclosure cases soon due to this.’”

Sky News in Australia. “The Australian share market has plunged 3.8 per cent, pulled down mainly by a big sell-off of resources stocks, especially global miner BHP Billiton. The sell-off stripped almost $60 billion in value from the market. OptionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun said the local bourse was an absolute bloodbath on Tuesday, with selling across all sectors. ‘Resources have led the way down on renewed concerns about China,’ Mr Le Brun said.”

“The Australian share market has taken its worst beating in four years over the September quarter, mainly because of weakness in economic powerhouse China. The market has fallen by just over nine per cent in the past three months, wiping about $160 billion from its value. ‘What’s going on right now is that there is a test of the market’s belief of the commodity story and China going forward,’ IG market strategist Evan Lucas said.”

The Australian Financial Review. “The supply of new apartments and a retreating, resource-based economy is starting to weigh on the market, with more units selling at a loss in the June quarter than the previous three months. The proportion of apartments selling for less than the purchase price rose in Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth and Darwin in the second quarter, bringing the capital city average to 8.4 per cent from 8.1 per cent in June, CoreLogic RP Data’s latest Pain & Gain report shows. Nationally, loss-making apartment sales ticked up to 12.6 per cent from 12.5 per cent.”

“The greatest effect of new supply on prices was seen in the Melbourne central business district CBD, where as many as 20 per cent of all sales – where the product is overwhelmingly apartments – were sold at a loss, for a median figure of $28,125 per transaction. The pain was greatest in the resource-dependent capitals of Perth and Darwin. Loss-making apartment sales in Perth jumped to 18.7 per cent of all transactions from 11.9 per cent in March, while in Darwin the figure jumped to 25.3 per cent – meaning more than a quarter of all apartments and units are selling for less than their purchase price – from 17.3 per cent.”

The New Zealand Herald. “Chinese property investors are rapidly disappearing from the auction room, says the boss of Auckland’s biggest real estate agency. Peter Thompson, of Barfoot & Thompson, blames financial instability in China for the dip in those bidding - partly fuelling the market slowdown. ‘There are a lot less Chinese in the auction room at the moment and at the open homes,’ he said. ‘The market has changed and some of that is the Chinese buyers. There are more requirements in getting money out of China now and that is having an impact.’”

“This week, the Herald on Sunday paid a visit to the Barfoot and Thompson city auctions for central Auckland suburbs. Despite a full room it was clear the frenzied bidding on any and all properties had slowed. A number of houses were passed in with few or no bids.”

“A three bedroom bungalow in Ellerslie sold for more than $1.5 million - almost double it’s CV and evidence character homes in desirable suburbs are still hot property. Dawn Buxton, Barfoot and Thompson agent for the Ballin Rd house, said interest was high and she expected the sale price to be about $1.2m. The reserve price of $1.25m was passed easily with the owners pocketing $311,000 more than they would have accepted. ‘We really didn’t expect it to go as high as it did, the vendors were extremely happy,’ Buxton said.”

Bloomberg on Hong Kong. “Cosmetics retailer Colourmix will move to Hong Kong’s Russell Street, once the world’s most expensive shopping strip, and pay about 40 percent less than the former tenant as China’s economic slowdown rattles the city. Hong Kong’s retail property market has slumped with China facing its slowest growth in a quarter-century. ‘Landlords have to face the reality, no matter how reluctant they are,’ Lawrence Wong, a director at property agent Sheraton Valuers Ltd., said in a telephone interview Saturday. ‘It’s still better than leaving their property empty.’”

“Hong Kong’s residential market is also experiencing weaker sentiment. ‘Housing market outlook will likely become more cautious amid increased volatility in the global and Hong Kong’s financial markets,’ the Hong Kong Monetary Authority said in a report. ‘The risk of downward adjustment has picked up steadily.’”

The Associated Press. “Several local officials in eastern China have been detained after a man died in a fire at his home while defending it from a demolition gang, state media reported, underscoring continuing violence in the country’s frequent land disputes. Those suspected of culpability in the death of homeowner Zhang Jimin had been directly responsible for an urban renewal project in Difang township in the Shandong province city of Linyi, the Xinhua News Agency and state broadcaster CCTV said.”

“Zhang was burned to death and his house gutted in Monday’s incident, which followed a prolonged disagreement over terms of compensation for the demolished home. Cellphone footage of the incident circulating widely on the Internet shows what appears to be a group of men throwing stones and gasoline-filled containers into the house, which quickly begins billowing smoke while flames shoot from windows.”

“The use of thugs and strong-arm tactics in housing demolitions is relatively common in China, where local governments are heavily reliant on land sales to top up their coffers. Corrupt officials can pocket generous kickbacks through collusion with real estate developers, giving them even more incentive to force out incalcitrant homeowners.”

“Among those detained were Difang’s Communist Party secretary Wei Yunbo and Guan Yansheng, party secretary of the township’s Donggu community, Xinhua said. The total number of people detained was not immediately clear. An investigation at the city government level was ordered after the video footage and eyewitness reports raised questions about official claims that Zhang had set the fire himself. In a post on its official microblog, the government of Pingyi county, which directly oversees Difang township, had said that Zhang had purchased gasoline and that his death was a matter of ‘his own behavior.’”

Bits Bucket for September 30, 2015

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September 29, 2015

The Housing Bet May Go Bust

Some housing bubble news from Wall Street and Washington. The Washington Examiner. “The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco warned Monday of signs of financial market bubbles in the U.S., saying that the central bank would risk financial instability by keeping rates at zero for too long. ‘I am starting to see signs of imbalances emerge in the form of high asset prices, especially in real estate, and that trips the alert system,’ John Williams said at a speech in Los Angeles, according to text from his office.”

From CNBC. “The $1.2 trillion high-yield debt market could face a double whammy as spreads tighten and investors use the corporate earnings season starting in the second week of October as an excuse to take even more profits. In recent months, select names in other sectors are seeing yields edge higher, like telecom, wireless and semiconductors. ‘Before you know it, it is the entire high-yield market. Earnings growth has been anemic. Leverage is at an all-time high,’ said Steve Antczak, head of U.S. credit strategy at Citigroup.”

“High yield has flourished in the years of low rates and easy Fed policy. ‘Everybody thinks of QE and easy monetary policy and the biggest beneficiary was the equity market. I would argue the biggest beneficiary of the easy monetary policy was the credit market,’ said Michael Contopoulos, head of high-yield strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.”

From Fortune. “A few years ago, houses were suddenly one of Wall Street’s hottest investment ideas. A number of funds popped up to snatch up residential real estate in the wake of the foreclosure crisis. But now, there seems to be a reasonable chance that Wall Street’s housing bet may go bust.”

“Two of the bigger residential real estate investment funds, Sternlicht’s Starwood Waypoint Residential Trust and Colony American Homes, announced they were merging, in part because neither of them were big enough to make it on their own. The terms of the deal should give other housing market investors pause. The merger values Colony at $1.5 billion, or about 50% of what it paid for its 18,000 homes and other assets, minus debt.”

PBS Newshour. “This is the story of two housing markets — one that’s doing quite well and another that’s still treading water. Economics correspondent Paul Solman spoke with Nick Retsinas, who teaches real estate at Harvard Business School, about the second, larger, lower-end market. Strolling around Cambridge, Massachusetts the two discussed how there can be bidding wars in one neighborhood and foreclosure signs in another. In the latter neighborhood, banks have refused to refinance mortgages despite the depreciated values of the homes.”

“Solman: ‘Why is it that banks will not accept an offer from a homeowner at the current market price, and then once the homeowner is out, the bank will sell it on the open market?’ Retsinas: ‘Some investors are very afraid of principal reductions. They’re afraid that there will be bad things happening between owners and related parties that would necessitate the bank taking up a reduction in what was the amount owed.’”

“Retsinas: ‘Because the bank thinks my neighbor is looking at me, saying, ‘Wait a minute, there’s something wrong with this. I’m paying my mortgage every month, even though I owe $300,000 dollars, and my house is only worth $200,000 dollars. Why don’t I stop paying my mortgage, so they’ll accept the lower valuation and save me that balance of $100,000 dollars that I owe them?’ The banks are afraid this will be contagious to other people in similar situations with these underwater mortgages.’”

“Solman: ‘So the foreclosure crisis is not over?’ Retsinas: ‘It’s not over. It’s not at its peak where it was two or three years ago, but in many states, say, Florida and California, you still have a residue of foreclosures that are continuing to fill up that pipe and stuff the pipe so we can’t have the free flowing of markets.’”

From Wealth Daily. “A decade ago, U.S. housing prices were rising by double-digit percentages annually in many places, going into the stratosphere. Things looked shaky in 2006/2007. Many people all of a sudden became aware of the possibility of a housing crash. Still, it exceeded expectations, with prices being cut in half in some parts of the country. In the world of finance and business cycles, this was a very short time ago. It should be fresh in people’s heads, particularly since many people who bought during the height of the bubble are still underwater. You would think it would be a lifetime before we ever saw a bubble like this again, especially in housing.”

“Unfortunately, Silicon Valley didn’t get the memo. San Francisco didn’t either. There was a recent story about a house in San Francisco that is over 100 years old that was built as an earthquake shack to house people who lost their homes in the 1906 earthquake. The house is squeezed between two bigger residences. This house has two bedrooms, one bathroom, and is 756 square feet. It is made of rotting wood, and it looks like it could come down with a good gust of wind.”

“The best part is that it can be all yours for just $350,000. That’s right — this shack is listed for the price that you could practically buy a mansion for in other parts of the country.”

“Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently commented on the housing situation in Canada. We will be thankful in a few years that all of his words are documented, thanks to the Internet. Harper said, ‘I think the housing story is a very positive story in this country. You know, you look around the world where they have seen all these crashes, a lot of them centered around the housing market. In Canada, we have seen home ownership rise to record levels.’”

“Could a politician possibly set himself up any more for a political blunder than Harper just has? This is worse than Bernanke saying there was no housing bubble — Harper is actually cheering the Canadian housing bubble on.”

From CBS News. “Whether the Federal Reserve raises interest rates is a question former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is glad HE no longer has to answer. But other questions, Bernanke and his wife, Anna, are happy to discuss. Norah O’Donnell of ‘CBS This Morning’ dropped in on them at their home in Washington.”

“The summer of 2008 saw panic across the globe. Given the Fed’s job to keep the economy stable, it all landed squarely on Bernanke’s desk. ‘If it was the worst in human history,’ asked O’Donnell, ‘why didn’t more experts like you see it coming?’”

“‘Well, we didn’t. We understood part of it. We saw that there were problems in the housing sector. We saw there were developing problems in sub-prime mortgages. What we didn’t see, what I think almost anybody didn’t see, was the vulnerability of the financial system to those factors.’ As an economics professor at Princeton, Bernanke studied the Depression, concluding that, back then, the Fed didn’t do enough. And so with the economy getting ‘messed up’ under Bernanke’s watch, he was acutely aware of the potential devastation. He says the problem was that to save Main Street, he had to bail out Wall Street.”

“This month the financial world was watching to see if the Fed would unleash higher interest rates. The glare fell on current Chair Janet Yellen, who decided to maintain the near-zero rates of the Bernanke years. Ben Bernanke seems perfectly happy to let someone else take the heat. O’Donnell asked, ‘Do you miss being Fed Chair?’ ‘No,’ he replied. ‘I really like being able to look in the newspaper, see a story about some kind of problem, and say, ‘Gee, I hope somebody does something about that!’”

Bits Bucket for September 29, 2015

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September 28, 2015

Bits Bucket for September 28, 2015

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September 27, 2015

One Of The Greatest Threats To The U.S. Economy

A weekend topic on two parts of a series from the Post Independent in Colorado. “For a look at one of the greatest threats to our region’s economy — and perhaps to the U.S. economy — meet Krystal Wu and her fiancé, Matt Miller. Both with master’s degrees, in 2013 they accepted teaching positions at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale. Each took a $10,000 pay cut from teaching jobs in Oakland, California, which they left because of the high cost of living. ‘We figured that the cost of living here would be proportionate to that pay cut,’ Wu said.”

“But prices driven up by the area’s overall desirability and proximity to Aspen proved to be a strain for the young teachers, as they are for any middle-income worker. ‘We love it here. I love my job and I love my students,’ Wu said, but added: ‘We didn’t know what we were getting into. We moved here from the Bay Area because that was exorbitantly expensive. But we found that we were paying a similar price for our apartment here as we were in Oakland — $1,500 for a two bedroom. But we were making $20,000 a year more in Oakland.’”

“Although together they earned $80,000 a year, Wu, 27, and Miller, 37, also are paying off $48,000 in graduate school loans. So the couple this summer quit the valley. The University of Idaho beckoned, where Miller is now teaching — and housing is half as expensive. ‘If we stayed here, we would have to ask our parents for help,’ said Wu. ‘There’s no way we could afford to buy a house with the money that we have, and we want to start a family soon.’”

“The Roaring Fork Valley attracts big money along with promises of life in paradise. Despite the glamour of Aspen and a thriving recreation economy, Garfield and Pitkin counties remain essentially rural places with resort prices. Across the country, the middle class is losing ground. But what is happening in the Roaring Fork and Colorado river valleys makes it difficult to attract and retain the people essential to nurturing and protecting communities, such as police officers, nurses and teachers.”

“Teacher and police pay in the region are comparable to that in cities of various sizes around the country, Post Independent research found. Out of the department’s staff of 31, only eight or nine live in Glenwood. Glenwood Police Chief Terry Wilson consistently faces unaffordable housing headaches when he recruits. To move the hiring process along, Wilson acts a bit as a real estate agent himself. ‘We show potential recruits ads in the newspaper, put them in touch with local real estate companies. They need to get the sticker shock out of their systems. They need to do a realistic and comprehensive look at what it’s going cost them to provide housing for themselves and their family. I’ve seen a lot a lot of jaws drop when they do that.’”

“Eighteen months ago, Amy Wright, her husband and their 5-year-old son relocated to the valley because Jason had been offered a job at an Aspen architectural firm. But the small family quickly found out that they could not financially swing it on one salary. ‘When we moved here and things were not shaping up financially, my husband said that I really needed to get a part-time job,’ Wright said.”

“Wright, 44, who holds two master’s degrees and had taught in the Massachusetts public schools for more than six years, took a part-time job as a barista at Starbucks. ‘If we decide to stay in the valley, I’m going to have to take two part-time jobs. I’m kind of dreading that,’ she said.”

“Every day, Wright feels the weight of her troubled finances. ‘My student loans are in the 30s. And since moving to the valley, my credit card debt is in the 30s too. Our rental apartment is just under $2,000, but we have a mortgage that we’re paying for our house in Albuquerque. We rent that out, but we’re upside down $400 a month there. We have to make at least a $100,000. I need to make over $30,000.’”

“The Wright family does not have the time or the money to enjoy all the pleasures of their rich surroundings. And forget about the toys — the skis, the snowboards, the bikes. ‘It’s beautiful,’ Wright said, ‘But it’s a resort. We live in a resort. How do you afford all this?’”

Bits Bucket for September 27, 2015

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September 26, 2015

Bits Bucket for September 26, 2015

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September 25, 2015

The Market Is Speaking Loud And Clear

It’s Friday desk clearing time for this blogger. “Rental rates in Brickell and average days on the market have remained essentially unchanged for two quarters, said Jonathan Garcia, broker for ONE Sotheby’s International Realty. The main difference in the past six months, he said, is more rentals are now available. Several new condominium buildings have opened in 2015, and at least 50% of the inventory is going straight to the rental market, Mr. Garcia said. Mr. Garcia said the median income for tenants in downtown and Brickell is not rising. In fact, he said, Miami-Dade has one of the highest rental rates compared with median income in the country.”

“He’s doubtful condo rental rates can grow higher. He also says it’s becoming less and less feasible to have condo units as investment properties, given that landlords are carrying more expense with rising taxes. ‘Rents are already at a peak,’ he said. ‘Perhaps some of the units will be sold to people who live there.’”

“The Triangle housing market continued its strong performance this summer, with sales increasing 8 percent in August compared with the same period a year ago. The lack of inventory, combined with steady demand, is helping raise home prices. The average sales price of homes that sold in August was $271,400, up 5 percent from the same period a year ago. Homes that are in good condition and priced correctly continue to sell quickly. Sixty-three percent of existing homes that sold in August did so within 30 days.”

“Still, there are signs that the housing market recovery may not be as robust as it appears. The percentage of sellers that paid financial concessions in August was 68 percent, up from 52 percent during the same period a year ago.”

“According to the Ohio Association of Realtors, the number of housing units sold through the first eight months of this year in the Mansfield Multiple Listing Service area, or Richland and Crawford counties, is up 7.0 percent above the same period in 2014. That’s consistent with the trend in nearly all of the 18 MLS regions in the state. Pam Gruvel, a Realtor at Martin Realty in Bucyrus, voicing a long-held truism in the real estate business, said, ‘The quickest homes to go are the ones that are priced right.’”

“Still, all is not ideal with the Bucyrus housing market, even seven years after the last recession. There are more than 150 properties in Bucyrus that are in foreclosure, whether it’s through default, auction, or as a bank-owned property. And 10.35 percent of the homes in Bucyrus are vacant.”

“With oil prices in the tank, and Alberta’s economy weakening, million-dollar houses in Edmonton are flooding the market. There are currently about 250 homes in Edmonton listed over one million with the highest at $6 million and about 30 over the $2 million mark. ‘There are a lot of houses for sale between $1 million and $1.5 million, but some of those might not be worth $1 million,’ said Sally Munro, an Edmonton real estate agent for over 35 years. ‘This year has been trying, to say the least — they’re not flying off the shelf. If you’ve tried to sell at $1.1 million or $1.2 million and it hasn’t moved in six months or a year, then I think the market is speaking loud and clear.’”

“In spring 2014, it was not uncommon for brand new houses priced in the $500,000 range to jump 10 per cent to 15 per cent a few months later without making any adjustments to the houses themselves. ‘There was nothing to substantiate these increases other than buyers were buying,’ said Munro. But if you’re having troubles selling your house, don’t panic. ‘Stay positive. Slow and steady wins the race,’ says Munro. ‘It’s panicking that causes all the problems.’”

“In Perth’s most popular auction suburb, Wilson, 13km south of the Perth CBD, the median price for homes sold at auction was $624,500 — $20,000 more than homes sold at private treaty. When Jessica Wright saw a sale sign go up in the street she was renting, she couldn’t resist. ‘We were driving by and saw the sign and had a bit of a ‘stop the car’ moment,’ the 27-year-old said. She was able to nab the home for under $700,000. The first-homebuyer had been researching prices for some time and noticed Perth had become a buyers’ market.”

“‘One girl at the auction said she bought a house around the corner for $50,000 less recently, so we knew it wouldn’t get any better,’ she said.”

“Ahmed and Mohamed are both married with children but still live with their mother, unable to afford one of the hundreds of thousands of homes sitting empty in Egypt’s capital. A construction boom has seen new housing developments mushroom around Cairo but they are out of reach for many, including the two brothers in their 30s. Almost half of Cairo’s population of about 20 million lives in informal settlements with poor infrastructure and buildings often constructed with no permits.”

“At the same time, the government says there are 1.5 million vacant homes across the country. In 2013, then-housing minister Tarek Wafik, quoted by state-run newspaper Al-Ahram, said 30 percent of the country’s housing units were left unused. According to experts, empty units are either held as an investment by their owner, bought for children for when they get married, or remain empty because they have no water or electricity. ‘Those projects are not made for us,’ said Ahmed, a father-of-two who earns about $160 a month.”

“More than two-third of the unsold housing inventory in Mumbai is priced above Rs 1 crore, well beyond the reach of most of the city’s prospective home buyers. Currently, there are about 33,500 residential apartments in this category out of a total 44,032 units. About 83 per cent of the housing units launched in the second quarter ended June fall in this price range. It is overwhelmingly high for a city where only a limited percentage of residents can afford ticket sizes of over Rs 1 crore. ‘The need of the hour is to reduce the size of apartments and undertake value engineering of construction cost to ensure more home buyers can afford houses in Mumbai,’ said Ramesh Nair, COO & International Director, JLL India.”

“Macau casinos’ decline over the past 15 months has been both stunning and surprisingly sustained, with revenue heading for a 30% fall this year. Wells Fargo Securities senior analyst Cameron McKnight suggests Macau’s growth spurt of mid-2009 to early 2014 came from a bubble that’s unlikely to repeat. Structural changes, as the report calls them, have also reshaped the landscape. McKnight says contacts tell him that the era of ‘easy money’ in China is over, which means the growth of Chinese wealth, and therefore the Macau gaming market, is likely to be below the rates witnessed during the previous five years.”

“A recent attack on Hong Kong billionaire property tycoon Li Ka-shing in China’s state-controlled media highlights the symbolic importance of his recent decision to sell off his holdings in Shanghai, analysts said. A recent attack on Hong Kong billionaire property tycoon Li Ka-shing in China’s state-controlled media highlights the symbolic importance of his recent decision to sell off his holdings in Shanghai, analysts said.”

“A Sept. 13 editorial by Liaowang Institute, which is linked to the official news agency Xinhua, attacked Li after his plans were revealed. ‘At this sensitive time, when China’s economy is in crisis, he continues to sell off his assets and to spread pessimistic sentiment,’ the article said. ‘He has fallen from the moral high ground,’ it said, reminding Li that his huge wealth as head of the Hutchison Whampoa conglomerate had come from his connections to powerful Chinese officials, not from a level playing field in a market economy. Li, dubbed ‘Superman’ for his business acumen, had enjoyed huge discounts to land in prime locations, the article said.”

“A Beijing-based writer identified only by his surname Liu said the official reaction to Li’s withdrawal was the public manifestation of political changes going on behind the scenes in Beijing, however. ‘There are quite a lot of investors from the U.S., Japan and Hong Kong and Taiwan who are also pulling out, because of rising costs,’ Liu said. Xie Tian, an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina at Aiken, said ‘China’s property bubble is in a serious state right now, with high prices but no market. Everyone has got boxed in, except for him, because he quit.’”

“‘The worst is yet to come.’ Those were the words of Amarillo economist Karr Ingham — words sure to bring a collective groan from this community. We heard it, as reported by business reporter Rye Druzin, and, yes, we have concerns. Earlier this week, the city reported a seventh-straight month of falling city sales tax collections, and this month’s was a 15 percent drop. And, yes, there has been a decrease in hotel-motel tax revenue.”

“Fewer crews are needed in the oil patch because fewer holes are being drilled, and, therefore, there is less money floating around. Sales tax money is down, but again, what are we talking about? The answer right now is 2013 levels, which at the time were the highest in the city’s history. The idea of this downturn lasting into late 2016 and beyond is reason to worry. But remember when community leaders told us the number of students walking the halls inside Midland ISD schools would be down? We know now that isn’t taking place.”

“We ask our community one question: What did you expect? People have moved from the community. Hotels and apartments are no longer needed to handle the overflow, and the artificially high housing rates that punished many in our community also are creeping back to relatively normal levels.”

Bits Bucket for September 25, 2015

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September 24, 2015

The Impression They Might Not Sell For What They Bought

A report from the Seattle Times in Washington. “After years of sizzling growth, rents could be headed for a cool-down. The slowdown in rent growth for the older units is even more striking in or near downtown where most of the new units are being built. Mike Scott, co-owner of Dupre+Scott, said he expects rent growth will be slower over the next three years and could even turn negative. If developers keep building legions of apartment units, he said, that could extend the cooling-off period after an intense growth period for rents. Only about a third of landlords in Dupre+Scott’s semiannual survey expect to raise rents by March, compared with about three-quarters a year ago. And while few properties offer move-in incentives, among those that do, the total amount is growing.”

“Developers have more than 22,000 units under construction in King and Snohomish counties, the majority of which are in Seattle, said Tom Cain, head of Apartment Insights Washington. His firm is tracking a total of nearly 64,000 units at various stages in the pipeline. Scott says the picture for investors in apartment properties is not pretty over the next decade. Since 2000, rents have gone up just 2.8 percent compounded annually, while real-estate taxes and utilities have increased 5.4 percent over the same period. ‘The problem is that taxes and utilities are eating up more of the total rent,’ Scott said.”

The Houston Business Journal in Texas. “When Exxon Mobil Corp. announced plans to construct a new campus north of Houston, residential developers and homebuilders swung their hammers into action. However, now that the first phase of the new Exxon campus is complete, homebuilders are realizing this so-called ‘Exxon Effect’ isn’t as immediate as originally thought. ‘The Exxon Effect is slower than expected,’ said Lawrence Dean, senior advisor with Metrostudy Corp.’s Houston office, a housing research firm. ‘It’s caught a lot of developers and builders by surprise.’”

“Instead of immediately buying homes in the north Houston suburbs, new Houston energy transplants are signing nine- and 10-month apartment leases.”

The Daily Advertiser in Louisiana. “The Lafayette area’s housing market, ablaze with record-setting sales in recent years, may face cooler prospects as effects of the oil and gas downturn linger or worsen here. Thus far in September, real estate in general is showing a significant decline from numbers recorded in the Lafayette area in September 2014. ‘The economy drives the real estate industry,’ said Bill Bacque, president of Van Eaton & Romero real estate in Lafayette. And the local economy here, with unemployment creeping up and sales tax collections dipping over the last several months, suggests that the economy is not robust. He said he expects ‘corrections’ in the local housing market.”

“Nationwide’s study, said senior economist Ben Ayers, seeks out stability in housing markets through what he called the ‘goldilocks index’: Economists are rating MSAs that are ‘not too hot, not too cold, but just right.’ Markets like Dallas and Denver, he said, were ‘too hot,’ with sales and prices that are unlikely to sustain themselves.”

The Denver Channel in Colorado. “Over Labor Day weekend everything changed. That’s what experts are saying about the housing market in metro Denver. After a white hot spring and summer, the hottest housing market in the nation has cooled quite a bit. ‘We’ve seen a big slowdown’ said RE/MAX Unlimited realtor Ronda Courtney. ‘I have a listing that I’ve had to reduce twice in the past month.’”

The Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota. “Some man camps are becoming ghost camps in the oil patch. There are 3,600 temporary beds in Williston city limits or its extended one-mile zoning territory — about half and half in each, said city planner Donald Kress. ‘I would like to see them go away,’ said Williston Mayor Howard Klug, adding that it’s time for workers to double down on Williston and become part of the community. ‘The apartments and housing have caught up now.’”

“A website lists 370 homes for sale in Williston, 141 in Watford City and 530 in Dickinson. Apartment rentals aren’t centralized, but a quick Internet search shows hundreds, if not thousands, for rent across the oil drilling region and construction still going strong.”

The Watertown Daily Times in New York. “For-sale signs have increasingly popped up since the spring on lawns of homes in the city, where a strong buyer’s market has been created by an influx of new rental housing that real estate agents describe as ‘overbuilt.’ ‘Homes are selling faster but not as many of them are selling,’ said Lance M. Evans, executive officer of Jefferson-Lewis board. ‘And it’s not just happening in Watertown but throughout Jefferson County. This is a buyer’s market, and it’s going to be harder to sell a house now because there are a lot more rental choices.’”

“Along with a rising number of vacant homes in the Watertown area, the number of vacant apartments has climbed, said Carl A. McLaughlin, executive director of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization. ‘People are less satisfied with the older housing stock because it hasn’t been improved and doesn’t have some of the options the newer housing is coming with,’ he said, adding the city has had an increasing number of so-called ‘zombie houses’ that have been abandoned. ‘These houses aren’t moving and nobody’s taking them.’”

“Mary C. Adair, broker/owner of Exit More Real Estate in Watertown, said move-in specials are offered by rental complexes that are ‘feeling the crunch’ to keep apartments occupied. ‘They’re lowering the rent or giving away three months of rent, or a flat-screen TV. So those first-time homebuyers are maybe waiting until next year to buy,’ she said, adding that military families aren’t buying as many homes. ‘Some military families are under the impression they might not be able to sell it for what they bought it.’”

Bits Bucket for September 24, 2015

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