October 10, 2016

Investors Walk From Their Agreements

A report from the New Zealand Herald. “Chinese property investors pulling out of Sydney off-the-plan apartment purchases spooked the Australian banks, and that fallout is now being felt here in Auckland. Jon Sandler, the Kiwi developing Avondale’s now-axed 91-unit Flo, blamed tighter bank lending practices, which partly caused his project to be cancelled. Colliers International’s residential project marketing national director Pete Evans said 35 Auckland multi-unit residential developments have been cancelled in the past year. Sandler referred to a Herald article from September that reported Property Council chief executive Connal Townsend announcing banks had tightened their lending on apartment projects.”

“‘As per the article published in the Herald last month, there has been a significant shift away from funding projects of Flo’s size since we launched the project,’ Sandler said.”

“In August, the Australian reported how a mass of Chinese property buyers who had snapped up Sydney units off the plans had started to walk from their agreements because they could not get their money out of China. The investors were even forgoing their 10 per cent deposits, the newspaper reported. That spooked those Aussie banks so that by last month, Townsend and other New Zealanders were beginning to feel the fallout.”

“Flo apartment buyer Antony Hopper described himself as ‘completely devastated’ by the cancellation. ‘We literally scraped together every dollar we had to make up bank deposits as well as completely changing our lifestyle to live in a tiny, damp and cold house so we could save on top of the deposit while the apartments were being built. All our sacrifices were for nothing. What saddens me the most is the complete lack of transparency regarding the whole project. Everyone was more than happy to sell us a story and take our money but after the contracts were signed we were virtually left in the dark.’”

“Bruce Patten, a mortgage adviser of LoanMarket in Auckland, predicted more project collapses. ‘The Reserve Bank is putting pressure on the banks to be careful in the funding of developments and also obviously there’s pressure from across the Tasman from the mainstream banks,’ Patten said. Nor could developers go elsewhere for money. ‘The non-bank funders are running out of money because the property finance units have effectively pulled out of the market and now the developers are rushing to the non-bank funders for money, but they have limited supply. This is going to see more developments canned in my view,’ he said.”

From CBC News in Canada. “Jordan Hails saw potential in a condominium proposed for north of Oliver Square, but after putting $30,000 down on a unit two years ago, he wants out. Located at 117th Street and 105th Avenue in Edmonton, Infiniti on 105 is only a few blocks from his current home and close to many amenities. Hails, a Canadian Armed Forces signal operator, moved from Toronto with his wife five years ago. The couple had always rented so they wanted to move into something more permanent.”

“Their condo unit was supposed to be the newly married couple’s first home purchase. They were excited and serious about moving in and eventually starting a family. ‘It’s a lot of cash to put down,’ Hails said. ‘A lot more than we than required to secure the unit. We wanted to put ourselves a little bit ahead. We saved up that much and we thought we’d get a leg up and throw it all down.’”

“The couple made the down payment in October 2014. Hails said he once received updates from the development’s Facebook page, but then it disappeared. So he started to visit the condo site to see what was happening. In July, Hails noticed there were no workers on the site and all that existed of the condo building was the underground parking garage. That’s when he started to get concerned.”

“Robert McLeod says work stalled on the site in May. As an associate broker, he handled sales & marketing for the project and helped sell 60 per cent of the 108 units. McLeod has been hearing from buyers who planned to move in as soon as the project finished, and are now growing impatient. ‘Their lives are on hold and they’re seeking more finite information from the developer on the actual state of the project and completion’, he said. ‘That has been up in the air and that’s been of great concern and frustration for them and us.’”

“McLeod would like buyers to wait it out, but Jordan Hails is considering to walk away from the project and get his money back. ‘They won’t give us any information,’ he said. ‘They won’t give us any assurance that it’s actually going to be completed. We just keep getting the run around from all the different parties of the project.’”

Many People Already Have Abandoned Ship

A report from the Richmond Times Dispatch in Virginia. “A barrage of apartments have opened in the past couple of years in renovated old buildings and a smattering of newly constructed buildings in downtown Richmond. What the urban core hasn’t seen is many residential units for sale. That is changing — and bringing with it, an infusion of contemporary design. Developers are ready to move on One Shiplock, a luxury 15-unit, nine-story condominium development near Great Shiplock Park and Tobacco Row — as soon as they get a few buyers to commit.”

“One Shiplock will have condos as large as 4,000 square feet with some patios more than twice the size of some downtown studio apartments that are about 600 square feet each. The condos start at 2,375 square feet with prices ranging from $650,000 to $1.5 million. One Shiplock condos were first marketed in what the Realtor called the dead of summer. None have sold to date. However, research is being conducted to fine tune the marketing.”

The Advertiser in Louisiana. “Acadiana real estate agents are selling fewer homes for less money, according to the nine-month report from the REALTOR Association of Acadiana Multiple Listing Service. But new home sales have plummeted in Lafayette Parish by 17.32 percent in January through September this year, the report shows. While the market has shown decline, the drop off is from a record-setting home sales year in 2015. ‘The bottom line is that the impact of the slowdown in the oil and gas sector of our economy has impacted our housing market, particularly in Lafayette, Parish,’ said Bill Bacque, president of Van Eaton & Romero, in introducing the report.”

From Crain’s Chicago Business in Illinois. “Ten years ago this month, the developers of a striking modernist condo building in River North sold the 10th of its 11 units, to be followed the next month by the final sale in the building. A decade later, that one-bedroom unit on the fourth floor of 156 W. Superior St. is for sale. The seller is asking $399,900, or just $900 more than she paid for the condo in October 2006. Yet even that slim margin may be an ambitious profit to ask for; according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index, Chicago condominiums are worth about 7 percent less than they were a decade ago.”

“In 2006, Chicago was at the beginning of what would turn out to be an epochal logjam of new condos. The year finished with about 2,500 left unsold, a figure that would triple the next year. But Ranquist Development Group, which built 156 W. Superior, sold all of its 11 units between March and November 2006. ‘We felt great about getting it all sold,’ Karen Ranquist, a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group agent, says today.”

The Omaha World-Herald in Nebraska. “Two years ago you would’ve been hard-pressed to find a home for sale in Sidney, Nebraska. The town of about 6,800, where Cabela’s employs 2,000, had more jobs than people to fill them. Houses sold fast. And the hometown outdoor retailing giant was pushing full-steam ahead on financing a new subdivision to meet demand for worker housing.”

“Now, in the wake of the company’s announced sale to Springfield, Missouri-based competitor Bass Pro Shops, construction on the subdivision has halted. And Sidney homeowners are facing a new reality: They may be stuck with nice homes that no one wants to buy. As one Cabela’s employee put it, the housing market has been ‘the only topic of conversation in my house for the past year.’”

“He purchased his home about a year and a half ago. Back then, he said, there were three houses for sale in the family’s price range. Now, using the same parameters, there are slightly more than 100 on the market. The employee, who asked not to be identified, expects to lose at least $80,000 on the investment in his home. ‘The issue isn’t the loss of money, although that is huge. It’s being able to ever sell the house at all, even if I’m offered a position at Bass Pro in Springfield,’ the employee said. ‘For the first time ever, we are considering having to walk away and absorb the foreclosure,’ he said. ‘Incredibly stressful.’”

“Many people already have abandoned ship and listed their homes. That puts downward pressure on all real estate prices, said Kevin Ross, managing partner at Asmus Brothers Realty in Scottsbluff. Even if a third of Cabela’s employees lose their jobs, it could devastate Sidney’s housing market, Ross said. ‘You take a town that size and put even 200 homes on the market, all at once, it’s going to have a terrible effect,’ he said. ‘Values are going to drop; there’s going to be no one to sell them to. That’s going to be a really, really tough market.’”

“The flood of homes already for sale is in stark contrast with what’s been a severe housing shortage in Sidney, which made hiring a challenge for Cabela’s over the years. In 2013 the company announced that it would develop a $350 million to $500 million project bringing more than 700 single-family homes in a new subdivision called The Ranch.”

“Today, The Ranch is more like a ghost town. About 80 lots are ready for construction, but only four houses are under construction. StoneCrest Construction of Fort Collins, Colorado, is nearing completion on those first four homes, but its president, Robert Millward, said he has little hope of selling them now. He said he might miss out on an estimated $1 million in sale value on the four homes. ‘We kept being told ‘We’re just restructuring, everything’s good,’ he said. Now he and his investors are angry. ‘To say that I feel misled would not be inaccurate.’”