August 24, 2016

From A Fear Of Missing Out To Maybe I Should Wait

A report from the New Zealand Herald. “One of New Zealand’s most controversial citizens has cut a record-breaking deal over the $40 million assets seized as part of a money-laundering inquiry. The deal struck with William Yan - also known as Bill Liu, Yang Liu and Yong Ming Yan - is the final settlement in a civil case two years after the police raided his penthouse. More than $40m of dollars of assets were frozen as New Zealand detectives worked closely with Chinese authorities who claim Yan stole $129 million in a complex fraud.”

“Court documents allege Yan concealed the fortune in New Zealand through complex money laundering transactions, where property and shares in companies were held by trusts and companies in other people’s names. Those assets included a collection of luxury cars, the Metropolis apartment - five titles joined together on the 35th floor - an 18.8 per cent stake in Mega, millions in bank accounts, a troubled North Shore property development and a Waikato farm.”

From Caixin Online on China. “The ongoing anti-graft campaign has netted one in three suspects on China’s ‘100 most wanted’ list – mostly government officials hiding overseas – to stand trial in China as of July 15, the Communist Party’s corruption watchdog said. The party’s graft buster says fugitives hiding in 40 countries and regions were repatriated in the first half of 2016 and that over 1.2 billion yuan worth of stolen funds were recovered from overseas in the first half of the year. According to Interpol, 40 of China’s 100 most wanted fugitives were thought to be hiding in the United States, 26 in Canada, 11 in New Zealand and 10 in Australia. Other locations include Belize, Sri Lanka, and Grenada.”

“Over 40 percent of the 738 fugitives who returned to China in 2015 were ‘persuaded’ to come back rather than forcibly repatriated, according to the CCDI. Fugitives’ family members sometimes played a role in these ‘persuasion efforts,’ Li Gongjing, a Shanghai police officer, said in an interview with Xinmin Weekly magazine. ‘It’s very effective. A suspect is like a kite. Although he is in a foreign country, his line is in China and we can find him through his relatives,’ Li said.”

The Malaysia Kini. “The ‘Datuk Seri’ who was arrested by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to assist in a corruption investigation is believed to own 31 luxury condomimium units worth more than RM15.5 million, reported Utusan Malaysia. These units located in Kuala Lumpur were ‘purchased’ from five housing developers which had dealings with Kuala Lumpur City Hall. Quoting a source, the report said the MACC found that the suspect had purchased all the condominium units, each priced between RM200,000 and RM300,000, without paying downpayments when the sale and purchase agreements were executed.”

“The houses were bought using the suspect’s own name and those who are close to the suspect. ‘It is believed that the suspect would sell these units with an estimated price of RM500,000 each, once they are completed to gain profit,’ said the source. During the raid, MACC officers also seized huge amounts of cash hidden in the ceiling of a suspect’s house.”

From The Star in Kenya. “The National Youth Service scam suspects Josephine Kabura, Ben Gethi and six others were yesterday ordered to pay Sh300,000 bail each to secure their release, pending trial over money laundering. Chief magistrate Daniel Ogembo says the suspects allegedly knew the money they used to buy property, including high-end vehicles, land and houses, was proceeds of crime, namely Sh791,385,000 stolen from the Devolution ministry.”

“Some of the properties have already been frozen by the Assets Recovery Agency. Some suspects are battling to save their property and have filed cases at the High Court.”

The Richmond News in Canada. “Sales of detached homes for August are predicted to be down by as much as 55 per cent compared to the same time last year, thanks, in part, to the new foreign home buyers tax, according to Steveston realtor Sean Lawson. In fact, Lawson argues the tax, which tacks on another 15 per cent to the purchase price for non-residents, means Richmond has likely reached its high watermark for real estate prices, and the August slump may extend into the fall.”

“‘The market was already slowing and they (government) dropped this bomb on it without any real consultation with the industry,’ he said, adding it has dour consequences for the overall economy. ‘To kick out two of the pillars – construction and real estate – that along with tourism were doing well was ridiculous and foolhardy. It was a purely political move that is likely to backfire on the government.’”

“Vancouver realtor Steve Saretsky said he has been watching market trends closely since the foreign buyers tax was implemented and said it is impossible to know for sure how much the tax has slowed sales in the Richmond area where government tracking of real estate transactions showed about 19 per cent of homes were purchased by non-residents — the highest concentration in Metro Vancouver.”

“‘The implementation of the tax put an immediate halt on peoples’ plans,’ Saretsky said via email. ‘Everyone wants to see what’s going to happen next before making any decisions. It changed the mentality of locals from a ‘fear of missing out’ to maybe I should wait.’”

“‘Here’s what I see, things are clearly trending downwards,’ Saretsky said. ‘After basically hitting a 40 per cent increase in price at one point how much further can we really expect it to go up? Real estate is cyclical. I don’t want to make any predictions, but if you look at all the data and the trends over the last four months, it’s certainly not encouraging. I would expect things to continue cooling, however September is generally an active month.’”

“‘If September is another slow month, then the writing is on the wall,’ he added.”

At Its Peak Or Beginning A Downturn

A report from the Tennessean. “Some things are more predictable than others. The topic and timing of this week’s column is one of those. For the last several years, David and I have attended a late summer conference in steamy Austin, Texas. Keller Williams Realty International’s (KWRI) Mega Agent Camp is routinely packed full of insights. One of the most valued presentations is always the market update presented by KWRI chairman and co-founder Gary Keller. As always, Keller’s presentations take an historical look at where we have been and then challenge us to draw reasonable assumptions about the future. The starting point was a broad-based question posed to all in attendance: Where are we in the housing cycle?”

“Nationally, the current market is at its peak or beginning a downturn. The market traditionally works its way through the cycle every seven years, so this should come as no surprise. The indicators of a downturn have already begun to surface in several markets across the U.S.; fortunately Middle Tennessee is lagging behind. Increasing days on the market, flat or increasing inventory, coupled with a slowdown in sales units and drop in average price are indicators that a downturn is imminent.”

Bloomberg on California. “Stacey Smith and her husband looked at about three dozen homes in the San Francisco Bay area and lost a bidding war before finally purchasing a four-bedroom house in June for $1.5 million — 40 percent more than the asking price. Their search wasn’t in Silicon Valley or San Francisco. It was just across the bay in Oakland, which has supplanted its pricier and better-known neighbors to become the region’s most heated real estate market.”

“‘Something we had to wrap our head around really quickly was the fact that we were automatically going to bid at least 30 percent over asking,’ said Smith, a 50-year-old strategy consultant who moved from San Francisco in search of more space for her family’s three kids. ‘It’s the new normal.’”

“The median home price in Oakland has soared 178 percent since 2011, almost double the gain in San Francisco, Paragon Real Estate Group data show. ‘Most markets would be pleased if they averaged asking price, or 1 or 2 percent over asking price,’ said Patrick Carlisle, chief market analyst at Paragon. ‘To see things averaging 9 to 17 percent over asking price is virtually unheard of. It’s the highest I’ve ever seen.’”

From Community Impact on Texas. “Previously the top single-family housing market in the U.S., the Greater Houston area fell behind the Dallas-Fort Worth market early this year, according to Metrostudy. The Houston market had 27,263 new homes under construction during the first quarter of this year—down 3,089 from the same time period in 2015. Similarly, the Conroe, Montgomery and Willis area saw a decline in new home construction during the second quarter of this year.”

“‘We built a lot of new communities with the goal of capturing some of the people that would be relocating to work at the new ExxonMobil campus, but that has not materialized in the volume that we thought it would,’ said Metrostudy-Houston Regional Director Lawrence Dean. ‘While the new home market is still going strong, we probably built too many new subdivisions and too many lots at the same time. It will take a little bit longer to build and sell the homes than we thought.’”

“‘It has been a pretty significant shift in the market,’ Gracepoint Homes President Tom Cox said. ‘The buyers that are above $450,000 are very discretionary buyers, and they are in a significant holding pattern right now.’”

“Additionally, homeowners who are looking to sell their homes are having a difficult time in the current market because homebuilders offer incentives to sell their inventory, such as paying bonuses to real estate agents and covering closing costs for homebuyers, said The Woodlands Realty Realtor Marisol Luyckx. ‘Homebuilders give a significant amount of incentives to real estate agents as well as buyers, so it is difficult to compete when you have a home for resale,’ Luyckx said. ‘That is when you know that [builders] are desperate to get rid of their inventory. If [homes] were selling quickly, they wouldn’t offer those things.’”