July 25, 2016

It Could Be Sell Time

The Silicon Valley Business Journal reports from California. “A closely watched measure of real estate developers’ sentiment turned sharply lower, suggesting a pullback is on the horizon for the region’s go-go office growth. That’s the message from the latest Allen Matkins/UCLA Anderson Forecast California Commercial Real Estate Survey. The report found that by 2019, Silicon Valley office developers expect rental rates to be lower, and vacancy rates higher, than they are today. ‘What our panelists are saying is as they’re looking forward to 2018, they’re seeing markets that are not quite as good as they are today, that this building boom is kind of topped out,’ said Jerry Nickelsburg of the UCLA Anderson School of Management.”

“Signs have been emerging that the office market is losing steam, and the recent round of brokerage reports found less deal activity and in some submarkets, rising vacancy rates. Adding to the mix: A number of office projects, built without tenants lined up, that are reaching the market still unspoken for. ‘What we saw in this survey was really a bit of a peak in the middle part of 2014. What we’ve been seeing ever since then is a slow but basically continuous decline,’ said John Tipton, an attorney with the law firm Allen Matkins, which works with UCLA on the report.”

The Arizona Republic. “It could be sell time for two big groups of metro Phoenix homeowners. Many Canadians and institutional investors bought bargain foreclosure homes in the Valley during the crash. Tom Ruff, who is author of the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service’s monthly Stat report, has been tracking north-of-the-border addresses on property records, concluding that for every Canadian buying a metro Phoenix home now, another nine others are selling.”

“Big institutional investors, who paid cash for Valley homes and turned them into lucrative rentals, also could start selling at least some of their Phoenix houses soon, Ruff said. They now own about 12,629 houses across metro Phoenix , according to Ruff’s latest count. But institutional homeowners are losing renters as more people opt to buy. Institutional investors Colony Starwood Homes, Invitation Homes and American Homes 4 Rent all report losing more than 20 percent of their renters nationally as those folks decide to buy, Ruff said.”

“Many of the rental houses owned by institutional investors in the Valley were bought for less than $150,000 and could now sell for double that. It’s a good thing there’s a shortage of metro Phoenix homes for sale under $350,000. Still, I hope they don’t all try to sell at once. That could produce a glut of homes for sale, potentially hurting all our home values.”

The Chugiak-Eagle River Star in Alaska. “While the state of the state economy is still forefront on the minds of most Alaskans, some may be wondering whether summer 2016 is a good time to buy or sell. All of the listings in the Chugiak-Eagle River area that The Star looked at had an average falling under $500,000. Inventory is up by nearly 10 percent while homes sold in the first six months are down 8.2 percent. Days on the market are nearly equal to last year, although the average closing price has dipped by about 1.2 percent.”

“Army National Guard Lt. Col. Ruth Anne Cresenzo at JBER said she feels everyone is nervous about the future of oil prices, the state of the economy in Alaska and the future of the Permanent Fund Dividend. She told The Star that homeowners, including her, are afraid their home values will drop and those who are currently renting are afraid to buy.”

“But more encouraging words come from Bill Popp, President and CEO, Anchorage Economic Development Corp.: ‘It’s important that anyone thinking of buying or selling a home know that the Municipality of Anchorage market remains relatively stable. Total listings in Anchorage, while up in the last three months, are still at levels well within the 10-year historical range. In the last four years, it’s been a strong seller’s market in the Municipality, though that trend seems to be softening a little in the first half of 2016.’”

The Forum News Service on North Dakota. “Rental prices in Dickinson are the lowest they’ve been since the oil industry planted stakes here, but people aren’t flocking to fill up rental properties. While residents might be excited about the cheaper prices, property companies are having a difficult time renting out units and houses that once had a waiting list.”

“Amber Lengyel, who manages the Dickinson Meadows apartment complex and oversees multiple properties in the city, said it’s an unstable market. Dickinson Meadows currently has 63 percent occupancy rate and the other properties Lengyel oversees aren’t doing so well either. ‘When we opened (Dickinson Meadows) in October of 2014 we were renting at the $2,500 to $3,300 range and now we are over half that cheaper,’ she said.”

“Dickinson Place Townhome, a low-income housing complex, used to have a waiting list, Lengyel said. Now there are vacancies that can’t be filled. ‘When I first moved here three years ago at Dickinson Place Townhomes … I had a wait list a mile long,’ she said. ‘Now at that property we have something like eight vacancies and nobody on a wait list, and it’s incredibly hard to fill because market rent and low income are competing. So why would anyone want to jump through the hoops of having to do all of the paperwork with low income and you know all of the rules when they can honestly go get a nicer, if not as nice, place where it literally takes a half hour to sign a lease to move in?’”

“Realtor Diana Zietz of Continental Real Estate said the firm has an estimated 190 rentals with 30 percent vacancy. ‘When people were moving into the area, those buildings were starting to fill up even at the higher prices,’ she said. ‘Now that people have vacated, there is an abundance of properties and we haven’t seen that in the past. This is probably the worst that I have seen it.’”

Where Are They Going To Find All These Buyers?

The Wall Street Journal reports on New York. “The number of new rental apartments in New York City is expected to surge in the coming years. But the question remains whether that increase will hit the investment market for such buildings like a wave or a ripple. Over the next three years, more than 38,000 market-rate rental apartments—mostly in Brooklyn and Queens—are expected to be completed, with 14,686 of them added this year, according to Ten-X, an online real-estate company. The company estimates another 17,044 new apartments will be completed in 2017, marking a new high. The last peak came in 2001 when about 5,500 units were added.”

“The forecast from a recent Ten-X report is stark: The supply increase will result in market-rate vacancies of more than 10% by 2017 and zero rent growth for market-rate apartments in 2019. ‘I refer to it as a digestion problem,’ said Peter Muoio, chief economist and head of research at Ten-X. ‘There is so much, so fast at one point in time, that it’s difficult for any market to absorb that wave of supply.’”

From Real Estate Weekly. “With the one-two punch provided by the strong dollar and the volatility in financial markets, the United States’ appeal to foreign homebuyers was expected to wane. The National Association of Realtor’s 2016 Profile of International Activity in US Residential Real Estate, which took into account home sales to international clients between April 2015 and March 2016, found that foreign buyers purchased $102.6 billion in residential properties.”

“This represents a 1.3 percent drop compared to the previous year’s survey. The figures in the current survey show a drastic u-turn for foreign homebuyers. During the previous year, total sales dollar volume from international buyers increased by 13 percent. Edward Mermelstein, the managing partner of law firm Rheem, Bell & Mermelstein, agreed that Chinese investors have been gradually retreating from the US over the past year. ‘We’ve definitely seen a pullback over the past year from Chinese investors. That has more to do with the fact that, internally, China has been having some serious economic issues, as well as political issues,’ he said.”

“New York City is due for some tough times in some segments, According to Wei Min Tan, an associate broker at Rutenberg who works with a lot of Chinese clients, foreign buyers have scaled back their price targets. ‘In New York, you have a lot of these super-luxury buildings and many of them, by super-luxury I’m referring to ones priced seven million dollars and above, a lot of them were built with the intention of selling to rich Chinese buyers. I think that there’s an oversupply and the question would be: ‘Where are they going to find all these ultra-luxury buyers?’ he said.”

The Real Deal. “The U.S. government moved to seize four high-priced condominiums in Manhattan, as well as a stake in the Park Lane Hotel, in connection with a money-laundering scheme that allegedly diverted $3.5 billion away from a Malaysian investment fund. The government’s effort to seize the entities offers a rare glimpse into how dirty money is moved into some of the city’s most expensive properties by a complex global network of shadowy characters, mysterious business entities and willing bankers and lawyers.”

“In a complaint filed Wednesday, federal officials sought to seize valuable artworks, a private jet and real estate in New York and Beverly Hills amid its probe into how billions of dollars meant to benefit the Malaysian citizens were misappropriated from the 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB.”

“The Manhattan properties include a full-floor penthouse at Walker Tower purchased for a then-record-breaking price of $50.9 million in 2014, as well as a penthouse at the Time Warner Center (bought for $30.55 million), Park Laurel ($33.5 million) and a condo at 118 Greene Street ($13.8 million). Federal prosecutors also moved to seize a roughly $200 million stake in the Witkoff Group’s TRData LogoTINY Park Lane Hotel.”

“In all, the New York City real estate – worth nearly $350 million – represents a small slice of the funds federal prosecutors say were misappropriated from 1MDB. But they nonetheless served as a vehicle for concealing the stolen monies and they reflect the ability of anonymous corporations to launder money through U.S. real estate, the government alleges.”

North Country Public Radio. “There are more than 150 abandoned homes in Watertown. A report put out by the city assessor finds homes in the city can be empty for months, even years, before the bank takes them over. Vacant homes have become such a problem in Watertown, the city council has had trouble wrapping their head around what to do. Brian Phelps, the city assessor, visited hundreds of empty homes and poured over stacks of paperwork to figure out why these homes were abandoned.”

“Phelps said he did find a common scenario, though. In many cases, a person had bought a home in Watertown, but two or three years later they had to move away. Often they’re military who had to relocate to another Army base. ‘When it gets time for them to leave the time on market to sell their house is not financially viable for them to make that many payments while the property is for sale,’ said Phelps.”

“Or the house just doesn’t sell. Some homeowners try to rent their property, but that can be hard to do if they don’t live nearby. Phelps said in the last two years, home values in Watertown have been steadily going down. ‘And this is a definitely a factor when you look at the market as a whole. That there are these problem properties out there that people can’t afford to stay in,’ said Phelps.”

“To answer the question of why this is happening you have to look back a few years. In 2008, when the housing market collapsed across the country, home values in Watertown stayed steady. As an influx of soldiers arrived at Fort Drum, Jefferson County and Watertown leaders asked developers to build lots of new homes. Today, selling a home is harder because there’s a lot more choice. ‘The reason why you can’t put a house on the market and sell it in three months is because there is an overabundance of supply and a lack of demand,’ Phelps said.”