August 7, 2016

Rising Defaults By Foreign Investors

A report from The Australian. “As a renowned teacher of English in China, Liu Jiabing planned well for his daughter’s education. He chose a good university in Aus­tralia, and bought an apartment in Melbourne that is due to settle next month. But now the apartment near Monash University that he bought off the plan for $600,000 is keeping him up at night. ‘At the very first, I was told I only had to pay 20 per cent downpayment,’ Mr Liu, who works at a prestige foreign language school in Nanjing, in China’s east, told The Australian. ‘Then they told me I had to pay 30 per cent, and later 40 per cent, as the banks won’t lend and we have to borrow from small ­financial organisations. Last night I was told I have to pay 55 per cent for down-­payment. But how am I supposed to find so much in cash in such a short time? I still have to pay my daughter’s university fees.’”

“Mr Liu is just one of those Chin­ese parents who buy homes, usually new apartments, before sending their children to Aus­tralian universities. However, these buyers are now struggling to settle their purchases after all the big banks shut down lending to overseas buyers. They may have to pay in cash, ­resell at a loss or simply lose the 10 per cent deposit.”

“AC Property, a Melboune-based property portal, has four or five calls every day from buyers who seek to resell their off-the-plan apartments after finding it hard to settle. ‘We have been referring our clients to mortgage brokers to see if they can get alternative finance, but we haven’t seen a single case of success so far,’ said AC Property ­director Esther Yong.”

“Mr Li, who declined to give his first name, is one of those resellers after the Melbourne CBD apartment his parents bought two years ago failed to settle. ‘Everything looked fine when my parents bought it two years ago, and we were told they could get bank finance as overseas buyers,’ said Mr Li, a sales representative in the telco industry. ‘But now they could not get ­finance and could not settle.’”

“Mr Li’s parents, based in Guangzhou, in China’s south, have already missed the settlement deadline of July 18 for the apartment they bought for $440,000. The developer is now charging them about $150 a day as penalty, which is pushing Mr Li to resell as soon as possible. ‘It’s OK if we can just get back 5 per cent, but we haven’t got any buyer yet,’ he said. ‘If we walk away, the worst thing is that we lose the 10 per cent deposit. But if we find ways to ­settle it, I am not sure what we can make out of this, as the market is not looking pretty.’”

“Boxing Overseas, a Nanjing-based agent specialising in Australian properties, only sold two properties last month, compared with about 30 in previous months. ‘The market is really bad now, particularly after July,’ said managing director Jim Huang. ‘I have heard some agent having over 40 properties at default, which means the buyers just give up the 10 per cent deposit.’”

The Courier Mail. “Queensland’s two biggest financial bosses on Thursday renewed their concern about the wave of inner-city apartments arriving in Australia. Their comments follow uncertainty about whether a rush of building in recent years will result in a glut. Bank of Queensland CEO Jon Sutton, appearing at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia conference, warned of rising defaults in the inner-city apartment market. He said too much apartment building was occurring across Australia.”

“‘There are two apartment buildings outside my office where there are no lights on at night,’ Mr Sutton said. ‘My understanding is there has been rising defaults by buyers of those apartments, particularly foreign investors.’”

The Chinchilla News. “Australia’s residential building boom will soon start to run out of steam, with construction of new unit blocks set to halve by 2020, a report has predicted. The Building in Australia 2016-2031 report says new home building will begin to slow from its 2015-16 peak in the coming year as a ‘tsunami of supply’ impacts the market.”

“BIS Shrapnel associate director Kim Hawtrey said while a lack of supply and low interest rates had driven building activity to its current peak, the major markets - with the exception of New South Wales - would soon shift into oversupply. ‘Low interest rates have unlocked significant pent-up demand and underpinned the current boom in activity, but with population growth slowing and a strong backlog of dwellings due for completion, new supply will outpace demand,’ Mr Hawtrey said. ‘This will see the national deficiency of dwellings gradually eroded and most key markets will begin to display signs of fatigue.’”

“Despite building activity starting to slow, however, the report’s author said work starting on new homes would still track at a historic high over the next 12 months. The findings also indicated investors who once drove the ‘apartment boom’ would no longer fuel the market due to financial restrictions.”

“‘With investors facing finance restrictions and first home buyers sidelined, it will be up to upgraders/downsizers to help cushion the decline in activity,’ Mr Hawtrey said. ‘But we’re not confident, given that the national stock deficiency will have been largely satisfied by 2017.’”

Touched By The Modern Gold Rush

The Seattle Times reports from Washington. “Just how hot is the Seattle real-estate market? People are now reserving condos under construction and then flipping them for a six-figure profit before they even open. Matt Goyer, a local real-estate broker and blogger, combed through some recent sales at the new Insignia high-rises in the Denny Triangle. He found several brand-new condos that their owners reserved during construction over the last couple of years and just sold again before ever living in them. The condos fetched an average of $637,000, up from their original purchase price of about $526,000 — a profit of 21 percent.”

“Bree Al-Rashid, a Redfin agent who sold one of the condos that sold again before the original buyer ever lived in it, says the trend of flipping new-construction homes is especially appealing to foreign buyers and investors because they are usually sold initially for a set price, avoiding a bidding war. ‘It’s a less risky investment than flipping homes that have been on the market before,’ Al-Rashid said.”

From Tech Crunch on California. “Buying a home in Silicon Valley is no joke. It’s difficult for tech workers and it’s even more difficult for those not touched by the modern gold rush. One mortgage originator, Opes Advisors, is incorporating restricted stock units (RSU) and private shares to make it easier for techies to move from incubator to nest egg. But what appears helpful to a population that sees housing prices moving out of reach could actually end up damaging the Bay Area economy if startup valuations take a turn south.”

“A reasonable reaction to this might be to wonder how a mortgage lender values a mostly illiquid asset like a restricted stock unit, and ultimately forms a judgement of the borrower’s ability to repay. Opes is counting RSUs as income, which in simple terms is a metric for earnings. The key lies in debt to income ratios of prospective borrowers. Because Opes can visualize RSUs as income or stock, it can effectively make a statement about how close a borrower is to being overwhelmed by debt. ‘We have investors that allow Opes Advisors to look at RSU’s as both income and / or stock,’ said Edgar Urrutia, Marketing Communications Manager for Opes Advisors. ‘Because of this we can help clients come up with mortgage solutions that are ideally suited to their individual needs.’”

“Markets for trading secondary shares have helped some entrepreneurs convert nebulous equity into income, but it’s always the participating market determining the value of shares. There are enough problems with information disclosure and cognitive bias in this process alone without letting mortgage lenders take a stab at it. In the simplest terms, the 2008 housing crisis was born partially out of the link between the public stock market and the housing market and partially out of loans being originated to folks who couldn’t pay them back. When banks bet on future income that could disappear in the blink of an eye, they create unnecessary risk in the system that can have major consequences.”

The New York Times. “At first blush, it seems as if times are good for the real estate industry in New York. The superhigh end — as in apartments for $10 million or more — has met with headwinds recently, but people continue to stream into New York, while developers benefit from cheap capital and a pro-growth mood. Apartments have been built and sales overall have been strong. Some projects have nonetheless struggled to take off.”

“Developers say delays are normal and no cause for alarm, even though building permits have expiration dates and loans can have strict terms about construction start dates and other milestones. Some of the developers and developers’ representatives who were contacted for this article refused to talk on the record about their projects; even then, most had little to say beyond asserting that the projects would eventually be built. Others failed to return multiple phone calls over the course of weeks.”

“These projects are in limbo just as the ultraluxury market weakens and there are warnings of a coming downturn across the board. Whether the projects can recover in time is an open question. ‘I think we are due for a reset in the residential condo market,’ said Jason Meister, a senior director and an investment sales broker at Ackman-Ziff Real Estate Group, a commercial brokerage. ‘We’re starting to see the beginning of a correction.’”

The Miami New Times in Florida. “Right now, the downtown Miami skyline is absolutely flooded with cranes, and it’s impossible to drive more than ten blocks in any direction without hitting construction traffic. But a study released this week by the Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA) might be the first hint that the city’s latest construction boom is finally ending: Following five straight years of price hikes, downtown Miami condo resale prices have dropped 4 percent this year.”

“In essence, the price drop shows there have been so many new condos built over the past few years that investors simply have no need to buy old units. This is a problem, because gigantic condo towers are a bit harder to dispose of than last year’s BMW X6. A city with no resale market means entire towers could end up empty in a few years’ time.”

“Though the DDA expects things to “level off” as more condos are built, Miami doesn’t exactly weather that whole ‘leveling off’ period well. As famed cocaine importer Mickey Munday told Vice in February: This city is basically one gigantic pyramid scheme, centered around selling condos to an ever-increasing list of outside investors.”