August 22, 2016

The Departure Of Investors Is Quietening The Market

A report from the Australian Financial Review. “Buyers seeking advice need to take extra care they’re not being flogged developer apartments in deals better suited to their adviser’s pocket than their own situation. Leaked documents show hard-sell strategies being offered to advisers promise them $5000 for one successful residential property referral, or ‘passive income’ of $300,000 a year for just over one successful sale a week. ‘The departure of Asian investors is quietening the market,’ says Suzi Antic, a director and investor advocate for Melbourne Property Acquisition and Investments, which acts as an intermediary between developers and advisers.”

“‘A lot of developers are really struggling to sell apartments that have been built,’ Antic says. ‘That means they are honing in on local buyers,’ she says.”

“Some buyer’s agents claim sales inquiries have slipped by about 40 per cent since lenders cracked down on overseas’ borrowers by increasing deposits, restricting currencies used for payment, boosting scrutiny of overseas income and tightening checks on employment. Lenders have also tightened – or stopped – offering loans to borrowers for high-rise apartments. In addition, an estimated 45,000 apartments are due for completion and settlement over the next nine months in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, an increase of nearly 25 per cent compared with last year, according to planning consultancy MacroPlan Dimasi. Another 53,000 could be coming to market in the same postcodes next year, the consultancy estimates.”

“To attract buyers some developers are discounting, extending settlement terms and offering headline-grabbing incentives such as luxury flights and accommodation packages to Europe and Asia. But others are sceptical about the continued strength of demand if overseas’ buyer numbers continue to fall, price rises outpace income growth and apartment completions result in a big supply surge. ‘They must be on crack cocaine,’ says David Morrell, founder and director of Morrell Koren, about claims that advisers can make hundreds of thousands a year in referral fees.”

The Hindu Business Line in India. “The luxury real estate market has come crashing down in the past few years, leaving developers of opulent housing saddled with an inventory that will, by some accounts, take four years to clear. The situation represents a dramatic turnaround from 2010, up until which year many developers, spurred on by rising demand among investors and end-users, were focussed on luxury projects. ‘We didn’t have as many homeless billionaires as the number of houses that were planned for them,’ Pankaj Kapoor, Managing Director of real estate consultancy Liases Foras, told BusinessLine.”

The Daily Nation on Kenya. “The property market in Mombasa County is experiencing a major shift, with low-cost houses now making their way into upmarket areas of Nyali and Shanzu. The shift from high cost to low -cost housing units comes in the wake of concern by developers that sales of high-end properties were dwindling after supply exceeded demand, with prospective home owners preferring to buy low cost housing units.”

“According to figures released by Hass Property Index, Nairobi is experiencing a glut especially in the high-end segment, with prices for housing units falling in the city’s outskirts. Rent for high-end housing units are also projected to decrease. In Mombasa, although property agents say there are no official statistics yet, the same trend is being witnessed. According to Rescom Properties Managing Director, Michael Masila, sales for high-end units have slowed down.”

“‘I have been trying to sell a house located in Shanzu, going for Sh20 million, for the past one year but have been unable to get a buyer,’ he says.”

The Associated Press on Brazil. “The celebrations are done and the torch extinguished, but now that the Olympics are gone, Rio is left with questions about what will become of the city’s plan to convert the Olympic Park into a bustling recreational district with luxury apartments and offices. Amid a continuing national recession, the consortium behind the park has sold less than 7 per cent of the Olympic Village’s 3,604 apartments, and real estate experts worry a similar fate is ahead for the main Olympic site.”

“‘Right now we are in the bottom of a well. Nobody is making offers on apartments, and there are many apartments sitting empty,’ said Claudio Tavares de Alencar, president of the Latin American Real Estate Society.”

“There’s an oversupply of apartments all over Rio, obvious by the sight of partially built towers. After years of rising, prices per square meter have dropped 6 per cent in the last year and a half to 10,241 reals, or about $3,200, according to real estate index FipeZap. With financial institutions charging prohibitively high rates for lending, real estate agencies have begun offering incentives such as honeymoon trips or private school tuition.”

“Carlos Carvalho, the billionaire who developed the Olympic Park and village, has infuriated many in a country that desperately needs subsidized housing for saying the athletes village caters to the city’s elite. It is called ‘Ilha Pura’ — Pure Island — and apartments average 1.4 million reals ($435,000), offering amenities such as pools, a spa and a beauty salon. Penthouses of 1,700 square feet go for up to 2.3 million reals ($700,000). Another wealthy developer is building luxury marble and glass high-rise apartments around the Olympic golf course, with units that will start at about $2 million.”

“‘They are very nice-looking apartments,’ said Idenir Cunha, a 67-year-old retired physician’s assistant who lives in an older complex nearby. ‘If I had the money, I would love to buy one. But in the middle of this crisis, who does?’”

A Sense Of Scarcity That Drives An Escalation Of Expectations

The Tribeca Citizen reports from New York. “Last August, I counted 100 available retail spaces in Tribeca. This year, there are 129.* This is sure to inspire comments about ‘greedy landlords,’ but the landlords lose money every month their storefronts remain vacant. Asking rents are clearly too high—landlords think their storefronts are worth more than they are—but as one broker I spoke with pointed out, there’s just enough activity to keep hope alive: ‘Landlord #1 hears that landlord #2 was able to get $150 per square foot, so he wants to wait, even though his space is worth more like $80.’”

“There are likely other factors at work. As another broker explained, a lot of landlords get financing with high expected rents as part of the equation. No one wants to admit he or she overpaid, and it’s not in a landlord’s interest to only make enough rental income to pay the bank—so, in a twist on a banking term, better to extend and pretend. What I wrote last year still feels applicable—and only more so as FiDi turns into a massive mall: ‘Even if Tribeca continues to get aggressively developed, it will never be a high-density neighborhood when developers keep building 4,000-square-foot, single-family apartments. And the lack of corresponding foot traffic is what caps the amount of money any business can make here.’”

The Houston Chronicle in Texas. “One Hermann Place, a new luxury midrise apartment, is slated to open in September on 2.5 acres in the Museum District. Tema Development’s seven-story building is an example of the Class A buildings that began construction during high times in Houston’s economy, when deep-pocketed renters seeking luxury housing were moving to the city by the thousands.”

“The building will offer one to two months free rent for new tenants, but developers hope its proximity to the park will help make the project successful. Nadim Zabaneh, vice president at Tema Development, touted the building’s location near the Texas Medical Center and Rice University. ‘Our location will make us a success,’ Zabaneh said. ‘We do realize that it is a more challenging market.’”

“The rental market — particularly at the high end — has weakened, and economists have warned of a glut of new construction. The ongoing slump in crude-oil prices paired with plummeting job prospects comes at a time when more than 29,000 units are under construction. Many of the 20,000 or so units set to open this year were built to carry rents much higher than the city traditionally has seen, raising concerns that the demand may lag.”

The Mountain View Voice in California. “With favorable polling and two separate rent stabilization measures going before voters this November, the possibility that Mountain View will enact some form of rent control is causing angst among some apartment owners. Some owners say they have been investigating selling their properties and making an exit, but they say buyers who previously would have jumped at the opportunity are now wary of how Mountain View’s rent-control campaign will take shape.”

“A Mountain View resident for more than 40 years, Linda Curtis owns eight apartment units, one of which she lives in with her husband, located one block off Castro Street. They became full owners of the property in 2009 after buying out their partners for about $2 million, she said. Around 2015, the value of their property peaked at around $5 million according to an appraisal they commissioned. But Curtis decided to wait on a sale in hopes of getting a little more.”

“A second appraisal conducted earlier this year indicated their building’s value had dropped to $3.3 million, which she attributed to the growing possibility of rent-control. Curtis says she is having trouble going forward with her plan to sell the apartments to get a mortgage on a new place to live because her property’s value has plummeted. ‘I lost $2 million by just sitting here doing nothing,’ she mused. ‘People have always told me Mountain View won’t ever do (rent control). It never occurred to me that the Tenants Coalition would get this on the ballot.’”

“On the other side of the landlord spectrum are John and Stephanie Sorenson, a young married couple in their 20s and both early in their careers as attorneys. Last November, without knowing a political groundswell for rent control in Mountain View was emerging, the Sorensons said they purchased a four-unit apartment building for $2.55 million. Now Sorenson says he has no idea what his property is worth, and he feels like a ‘nervous wreck’ fretting about what will be left of his investment.”

“‘In pure speculation, I think it’s worth nothing because no one’s buying,’ he said. ‘We worked our asses off, saved up and put forward all this money, and now we’re looking at a loss.’”

From Los Angeles Downtown News in California. “The signs are everywhere. Literally. From a string of spaces in developer Hanover Company’s South Park apartment buildings, to the base of the office tower at 615 W. Sixth St., to the Spring Arcade Building in the Historic Core, the ‘Retail For Lease’ signs have bloomed across Downtown Los Angeles. The surge of both new development and upgraded older buildings in Downtown has brought not only thousands of residents, but hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail space.”

“The residential rise and the new retail arrivals have a number of market analysts and Downtown stakeholders feeling rosy about the future. In their eyes, the ‘For Lease’ signs hint at further growth and additional activity.”

“Others, however, are urging caution. While local real estate experts are not using the B word — bubble — more than one pointed to storefronts in seemingly attractive areas that have stood empty for six months or longer, whether because of supply issues or price. This comes as a wave of huge retail projects are on the horizon.”

“Avison Young Principal Derrick Moore has been helping fill retail space in Downtown for a decade, and he’s among the first to laud the real estate boom. That said, he is concerned that landlords both new and old are asking for rents that are unsustainable. ‘Simply put, residential density hasn’t caught up to pricing,’ Moore said. ‘The pricing for retail space is better suited for a more mature market, because it’s too expensive. A lot of new tenants are coming here, but there’s a lot being left on the table.’”

“While some observers blame landlords or developers for jacking up prices and kicking out older tenants, there’s only so much a property owner can ask for before they hit the limits of the market, said longtime Downtown developer Yuval Bar-Zemer, principal of the firm Linear City. That said, Bar-Zemer sees increasingly aggressive deals that he believes are likely to backfire for landlords and tenants alike. ‘The inflation of rent has been so radical that whoever entered in the last two years is probably the most vulnerable,’ Bar-Zemer said. ‘Within the next year, we’re gonna see casualties.’”

“Some of the hottest action in the past two years has come in the Arts District’s retail market, which Bar-Zemer calls ‘hyperinflated.’ He thinks it could be a barometer for other areas of Downtown.”

“‘There’s a sense of scarcity where people think they have to open a store Downtown, and that typically drives an escalation of rents and expectations. Existing landlords that had $1.50 per square foot, if they hear a rumor of $3 around them, that sets an internal standard,’ he said. ‘Plus, new projects are coming to the market with the advice of brokers, but I think pricing is higher than the market can afford. It’s a formula for disaster.’”