October 7, 2016

Grand Ideas Are Floated Toward The Top

A report from Multi-Housing News on Nevada. “Shopoff Realty Investments, a national manager of opportunistic and value-add real estate investments, has announced the purchase of Sky Pointe Landing, a 624-unit apartment community located in northwestern Las Vegas. ‘Our strategy is to bring the asset up to modern standards, improving the living experience for the residents and with that, the value of the asset,’ David Placek, executive VP of Shopoff Realty Investments, said in prepared remarks.”

“‘As a market, Las Vegas is coming back from the depths of the 2008 Great Recession, with steady job growth a greatly reduced inventory of shadow market single family homes which is helping to push market rents and occupancy for apartments across the Las Vegas Valley,’ stated William Shopoff, CEO of Shopoff Realty Investments.”

From KQED in California. “The fight over who is responsible for California’s fast-rising rents and its housing crisis is playing out on ballots across the Bay Area. There are six cities in the region asking voters to weigh in on ballot measures that would limit certain evictions and make it harder for property owners to raise rents. The new and proposed laws have caused some smaller landlords to feel that they, too, might get priced out of the city. Karen Francisco, a 69-year-old landlord, bought her fourplex right near Lake Merritt in 1979. It’s an older building from the 1930s. All four families who live in the building, including herself, share one furnace.”

“Francisco wants to pay to install separate heating units. She also wants new windows with thicker panes, but she can’t afford it. She estimates she’s spending about $1,000 more each month than she makes in income, she said. ‘I was ready to move out because I couldn’t afford it. But I’ve changed my mind because I’m not ready to go,’ she said. But she also can’t afford to stay.”

The Los Angeles Times in California. “In downtown Los Angeles, cranes dot the skyline, operated by workers busy erecting new hotel, condominium and apartment towers. In all, more than 10,000 residential units are under construction, with thousands more planned. And now, with the building boom reaching new heights, a developer is proposing the most futuristic plan yet: a nearly 60-story condo tower where home buyers will swim in their own lap pools that extend from their units and hover above the street.”

“The proposal also comes as some in the real estate industry wonder how long the current boom can last and whether some recent plans will go the way of Park Fifth. Grand ideas are floated toward the top of every real estate cycle, only to never see the light of day after the market turns south and financing becomes hard to get.”

“Already, some new luxury apartment buildings are offering a free month’s rent to lure tenants. The trend is worrisome for developers, although welcomed by housing advocates who hope that the supply can lower the cost of rentals. Any concerns, however, haven’t dampened a flurry of recent skyscraper proposals.”

From Chalkbeat Colorado. “Aurora Public Schools is preparing to slash $3 million from its budget in the face of its largest enrollment decline in decades, a sign that the metro area’s skyrocketing housing costs are transforming what has long been an affordable alternative for low-income families. The number of students who showed up at Aurora schools this fall was less than school district officials had expected, especially in lower-income schools.”

“Looking to the coming years, officials are now expecting more budget cuts — and in the next round, schools and teachers would not be shielded from the impact. Enrollment eventually will stabilize and may grow again, officials predict, but the city could look different by then. ‘Aurora has lots of developable land,’ said Josh Hensley, planning coordinator for Aurora Public Schools. ‘There are several hundred homes being completed,’ many of them with more expensive price tags than what has been the norm in Aurora.”

The Denver Post in Colorado. “Metro Denver rent increases, after slowing this year, should kick it up a notch next year, with the biggest hikes coming in more affordable areas and outlying communities such as Bailey, Elizabeth and Black Hawk, according to Zillow. Of the 11,000 new apartments arriving this year in metro Denver, almost all are coming with pricier rents in a small number of urban neighborhoods. A big theme next year will be high-rise luxury, with 10 projects at 12 stories or taller, including one at 34 stories and another at 31 stories, currently underway in either downtown Denver or in Five Points.”

“‘A lot of the new product is being built in the central core. As more and more units come on, that market will get softer,’ said Richard Bird, Rocky Mountain district manager for Marcus & Millichap.”

“All the new construction is capping rent increases in the luxury apartment market. Class A apartments in metro Denver rent for $1,765 a month on average and have a 7.5 percent vacancy rate, while class C units, with an average rent of $997 a month, have a low vacancy rate of 2.6 percent, according to Marcus & Millichap. Bird said investors are showing a greater interest in older buildings in outlying suburbs passed over earlier. But they are paying a premium, and that could come back to bite them and their tenants.”

“‘In order to have any cash flow, they have to push the rents up,’ he said.”

From Realtor.com. “Prices have been rising in Portland as the city’s population has spiked in the past few years. ‘The rents have gone up so much that it makes sense to buy,’ local Realtor® Dawn Barry-Griffin of Portlandia Properties says of the increases over the past few years. ‘That’s really a big reason why a lot of people who have been here for the last five years are buying.’”

“Despite the influx of new residents, home prices are now beginning to soften—particularly in the $500,000-and-up range, Barry-Griffin says. She’s still seeing multiple offers on more affordable properties under $350,000. However, over the past two months, bids are only typically 1% to 2% over the list prices compared with higher percentages just a few months ago.”

“Median prices in Denver are also starting to come down. They were up 12.99% in September compared with the same time a year ago, but were down 0.57% from a month earlier, according to the Denver Metro Association of Realtors.”

Adjusting To Something That Is Much Less Irrational

It’s Friday desk clearing time for this blogger. “Another housing market report is raising red flags about Dallas’ runaway home market. Record prices in the Dallas area have made this one of the most ‘mismatched’ markets in the country - where buyers can’t find homes at prices they want, according to Trulia. More than 30 percent of Dallas-area home shoppers aren’t able to buy a house in a price range they can afford, Trulia researchers found. ‘In Dallas, job growth accelerated from early 2015 to today, yet the mismatch is large and growing when compared with the same period in 2015,’ says Trulia analyst Felipe Chacon. ‘The median listing price and price per square foot in Dallas climbed 11.8 percent and 10.4 percent year over year in August 2016, while search interest remained relatively unchanged.’”

“Dallas-Fort Worth home prices are about 40 percent higher over the last few years. Home prices in North Texas this year are almost 60 percent higher than they were at the peak of the last housing cycle in June of 2007.”

“As the newest set of Manhattan real estate market reports make the rounds, many were taken aback by the rather large number of units sitting on the market, with a relative lack of sales from this time last year. The greater abundance of resale means that there is less of an incentive for buyers to engage in bidding wars, resulting in many sellers realizing that they’re going to have to lower listing prices. ‘It’s a collection of factors that influence price—there is not any one smoking gun,’ Engel & Völkers New York president Stuart Siegel said. ‘Buyers think they are buying 18 months from now, and sellers think they are selling 18 months ago,’ when sales were at a high.”

“‘We’re adjusting to something that is a new market, but one which is much less irrational! I think it’s a better place to be,’ Miller Samuel CEO Jonathan Miller told the Observer. ‘Well, unless you’re a super luxury developer,’ he laughed.”

“Hundreds of new apartments have opened in downtown New Orleans in converted office towers and the newly built South Market District, adding supply on the more expensive side of the market. Some rental property owners who have enjoyed top rents in pricey neighborhoods in recent years are now finding it tough to find tenants and lowering their rates, real estate agents say. ‘You drive around Uptown and you see ‘For Rent’ sign after ‘For Rent’ sign after ‘For Rent’ sign,’ said David Reeves with Latter & Blum.”

“Meanwhile, home prices in Uptown and the French Quarter have actually declined. Julie McGehee owns a small apartment building near St. Charles and Napoleon avenues. One of the units has been empty but available for rent since mid-August. She is renting the two-bedroom, one-bath unit for $1,450. Given the prime location, she said, it usually doesn’t take this long. ‘I’m in a big bind,’ McGehee said. ‘I have a mortgage … It wakes you up at night.’”

“The Angelgate development in the city’s Green Quarter, proposed to build 344 ‘luxury’ apartments in the city centre. However, after the contractors for the development - PHD1 - went into administration, plans began to stall and work has yet to fully commence. Candy Choi and her husband Eddie Lau had bought two properties off-site at Angelgate, investing approximately £290,000 - of which they have paid £230,000 - in the development.”

“Mrs Choi said: ‘Buyers are considering to sue Pinnacle, so we are considering to pay money to our litigation lawyer, but not Pinnacle. The whole affair reflects that there is loophole in the UK legislation in the sense that buyers’ deposit is not sufficiently protected in off-plan purchases.’”

“Parts of WA hit by the mining construction downturn or rising unemployment are becoming no-go zones for the nation’s big banks, fearful of making losses on crumbling property markets. During the past 12 months the median house value in South Hedland has dropped by 45 per cent while one of the older areas of Karratha, Nickol, has suffered a 44 per cent drop. This week the International Monetary Fund raised concerns about the total level of debt across the world, which has now reached $200 trillion, and singled out Australia because private debt levels are on the rise.”

“Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer said banks did not benefit from sky-rocketing prices which were now preventing increasing numbers of potential buyers out of the market. ‘Housing has become more difficult for families to afford,’ he said.”

“Singapore home prices dropped by the most in more than seven years as developers offered discounts amid signals from the government that it won’t roll back property curbs initiated in 2009. The head of Singapore’s central bank, Ravi Menon, said last month that the city-state doesn’t plan to ease property curbs anytime soon, even as home prices have fallen 11 percent from a peak in September 2013 and sales have halved. That’s increasing the pressure on developers to offer discounts, payment programs and other incentives to stoke sales. ‘The haemorrhage continues for home prices,’ said Nicholas Mak, an executive director at SLP International Property Consultants in Singapore.”

“The existing stock of unsold homes may take three years to sell, according to Augustine Tan, President of the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore. In addition to the oversupply, home vacancy rates are at their highest in more than 11 years, Tan said last month.”

“Tony Joe, a real estate agent in Victoria, received a predictable earful last spring when he distributed flyers that screamed: ‘Investors and foreign buyers want your property!’ The glossy mailouts touted Joe’s connections to—you guessed it—China. But then a funny thing happened. Joe’s phone started ringing and it didn’t stop. ‘Honestly, it was a very successful campaign for us,’ he says. ‘There were a lot of people who said, ‘I know you deal with a lot of Chinese, can you sell my property?’”

“How did we get here? Years of relative government inaction on the housing file are one reason. Failure to grasp the potential impact of foreign money on Canadian real estate is another. But much of the blame falls on the shoulders of individual Canadians.”

“Vancouver lawyer Jonathan Weisman sits on the board of the Dunbar Residents Association. He says he and other homeowners are ‘tremendously concerned’ about the impact of risky new government policies aimed at promoting housing affordability on their coveted West Side neighbourhood, where a modest, 70-year-old bungalow sold for $4 million earlier this spring. Like himself, Weisman says many residents scrimped and saved to buy a slice of West Coast paradise. ‘They shouldn’t be penalized for owning something that’s valuable,’ he says.”

“But foreigners weren’t the only ones who stopped buying. So did everyone else. ‘The market’s gone cold,’ says Keith Roy, a local agent. He points to his neighbour’s house across the street. Worth as much as $1.85 million back in May, it was put up for sale several weeks ago for $1.8 million and the price has been dropped twice since. ‘It’s now down to $1.6 million,’ he says. ‘No action.’”

“Some homeowners in Canada’s biggest city are eager to cash in while they still can. Local agent Victoria Boscariol says she now receives at least one call a week from someone with the following message: ‘I’ve got this property and I want to sell for a high price to the Chinese.’”

“It’s unfortunate that Ottawa didn’t take more assertive steps to bring the housing market to heel back five years ago when Canada’s economy was still the envy of the world. Now, the country finds itself in the unenviable position of having to explore untested and ever-riskier measures to cool house prices at a time when GDP growth is limping along at just 1.2 per cent. ‘It would be a very bad thing if foreigners were to sell properties in Canada, because all of us—homeowners or not—would experience a very significant slowdown in the economy,’ says Sherry Cooper, the chief economist at Dominion Lending Centres, who worries governments are being motivated more by political promises to help the middle class than they are by sound economic judgment.”

“Of course, that assumes the middle class actually wants to be protected from rising prices. Roy, the Vancouver agent, isn’t so sure. ‘Everybody believes in affordable housing,’ he says, ‘until it comes time to sell their house.’”