October 11, 2016

Most Think Their Home Always Appreciates

A report from the Seattle Times in 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, 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.”

“‘I think it is remarkable that in just a few years, they’ve appreciated enough in value to cover the costs of selling and make a decent profit,’ Goyer said. ‘It’s also remarkable that the buyers of the flips aren’t fazed by the price increases.’”

“But there are glimmers of hope for homebuyers. July was the second straight month that saw mildly positive news on the number of homes available for sale. At the same time, the number of home sales in the county dropped slightly from a year ago, indicating the balance of power between sellers and buyers might be starting to shift a little. And real-estate researchers at Metrostudy released a report this week showing that job growth and new residents moving into the Seattle region have both slowed.”

“Lastly, two of the most expensive regions actually saw prices drop in the last year: Redmond-Carnation, and Queen Anne-Magnolia. Up north, the far east part of Snohomish County saw prices drop a little, too.”

The Real Deal on New York. “In a market where developers are falling over themselves to offer sweeteners to buyers, one builder is targeting brokers instead. Toll Brothers City Living is encouraging brokers to keep bringing buyers to its Manhattan and Brooklyn projects by offering a new portfolio-wide commission incentive, David Von Spreckelsen, president of the firm, told The Real Deal.”

“While such an incentive has been seen in individual buildings, it’s unusual for a developer to offer it on a portfolio-wide basis, sources said. That, they said, is further evidence that developers are finding it difficult to garner attention for their projects amid a high-end condo supply glut in Manhattan. The developer previously cut prices at several of its buildings, including 400 PAS. ‘We’re thinking that, if we open it up to more buildings, it will give them a better shot,’ Von Spreckelsen said.”

“Toll isn’t the only developer trying to sell brokers on doing business at their buildings. At Claremont Group’s 101 Wall Street, the developer is doling out $5,000 American Express gift cards to brokers whose clients sign contracts, according to previous reports.”

News OK on Oklahoma. “Metro-area housing entered fall firmly in a seller’s market statistically, with the devil lurking, as usual, in the details, particularly price range and location. With more new homes on the market — and not reflected in the Realtors’ numbers if marketed directly by a builder and not listed with a Realtor — some sellers are ‘feeling the effects of a down market,’ said Curtis Kupfersmith, Keller Williams Central Oklahoma, 10 E Campbell in Edmond.”

“‘Most think their home always appreciates and goes up in value which isn’t always the case,’ he said. ‘There’s … a huge oversupply of new construction all over the metro, especially Yukon and Edmond.’”

From MarketWatch on California. “When Lucia Chavez saw her mortgage bill, she thought there had to be a mistake. For years, the 70-year-old Vista, California homeowner had paid about $990 every month. But in early 2015, after solar panels were installed on her roof, Chavez, a retiree, discovered a total of $1,500, a sum she couldn’t afford, had been paid from her bank account.”

“Chavez said the company that pitched her on the panels, Fidelity Home Energy, did not explain how expensive they would be, nor suggest that she consider a different means of financing other than the loan they offered, which has a 10.32% interest rate and gets paid as part of her mortgage bill. They did tell her she’d get a $10,000 tax break – but not that such an incentive is useless to people at her income level.”

“PACE loans date back to 2009, and 32 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws enabling programs to be set up. And as of this summer, the programs have the overt backing of the White House — including from President Obama himself. Not only is PACE financing for upgrades sold with high interest rates, and often at higher prices than might be found elsewhere, but many customers say their claims of energy savings don’t often come true. And the financing can be used for everything from solar panels to AstroTurf and pool covers.”

“But perhaps most important is the fact that PACE loans take priority over the mortgage in situations like foreclosures, a feature that subverts the entire structure of the home lending process. For Chavez, that means that when she fell behind on her mortgage payments, she suddenly owed an entire year’s worth of PACE payments — $4,115.54.”

“The loans are attached to the property, not to the homeowner. That means that if a homeowner has an outstanding PACE loan, he or she passes the obligation on to the next homeowner in case of a sale — or must pay off the entire outstanding balance on the spot. ‘This is not sound lending practice,’ said Pete Mills, who heads residential policy for the Mortgage Bankers Association.”

“Many critics of the PACE program believe it has been developed as raw material for bonds and other investments for Wall Street rather than for its environmental goals. One of the most damning aspects of how PACE loans touch consumers, according to several sources, is that there is no assessment of the borrower’s ability to pay. Instead, lenders assess borrowers based on their home equity — a practice that uncomfortably mirrors the steps that led to the housing crisis.”

“As the MBA’s Mills put it, ‘Why is a financing agreement that is virtually risk-free [to the investor] because it’s attached to the tax assessment, why is the interest rate 6.5% to 7% to 8%?’”

“Chavez is working with a lawyer, Dan Mulligan, to explore legal action against Fidelity - and also to approach her bank about a modification to her mortgage. ‘I feel bad and I didn’t sleep some nights because I was so upset,’ Chavez said in an interview. ‘I feel bad that at my age they did that to me.’”

A Little Oversupply Condition

A report from CNBC. “For the last four years the skies of major U.S. metropolitan housing markets have been littered with cranes. As the homeownership rate fell following the recession, the towers rose — the vast majority boasting luxury rentals, complimented by high-end amenities like rooftop dog parks, fitness centers, private movie theaters and party rooms. Now all that construction has largely come on line, and sky-high rent growth is officially shrinking. Rent growth has now been shrinking each quarter for a full year. In some of the hottest markets, the swiftness of the turnaround came as a surprise. San Francisco in particular saw the rental market cool dramatically.”

“Multifamily construction is now slowing, but there are still thousands of high-end units coming on line. ‘Market conditions in the apartment market softened a bit in the third quarter, a period they generally see the highest activity and strongest rent growth,’ said Barbara Byrne Denham, an economist with Reis, a commercial real estate analytics firm. ‘Evidence that recent multifamily permits have slowed considerably suggests that developers, and likely lenders, are concerned about leasing the plethora of units expected to come online in the coming year or so.’”

The Topeka Capital Journal in Kansas. “Thousands of apartments have been built in Manhattan and Lawrence in the last 15 years, following national building trends, but Topeka’s multifamily housing market has flatlined. ‘If you’re building market-rate communities, you need to have pretty high rents. The high rents justify new construction,’ said national housing expert Matt Fransen, of Timberland Partners, which owns two complexes in Topeka. ‘I don’t have any doubt that a cool property with a lot of amenities would lease there. In order to build it, the rents are going to have to be double what the product is now. To justify new construction, average rents for a real luxury class A community are probably going to have to be over $1,000 a unit.’”

“Lawrence and Manhattan have seen population growth of more than 20 percent in the past 15 years, but does that support the kind of apartment growth that came at the same time? ‘We’re certainly seeing a little bit of a softening of the rental market here in town,’ said Jeff Pfannenstiel, president of the Manhattan Association of Realtors. ‘We have a lot more competition now than we used to.’”

The Memphis Daily News in Tennessee. “Two projects planned a block apart from each other will flood the Midtown market with luxury rental units. Both projects will bring nearly 300 apartment units to Midtown, an area mostly populated by mid-century apartment complexes. Tony Pellicciotti, a principal with Looney Ricks Kiss, sees the repopulation of the urban core as a counterpoint to the eastward migration of the last 30 years.”

“‘What we expect to happen is that same migration will happen, but it will happen in reverse as millennials and people who have grown up in a more suburban environment come back to that vibrant environment,’ Pellicciotti said.”

The REBusiness Online on Texas. “The multifamily market in Texas has cooled off on the lending and development front, and even leasing activity isn’t as robust as it once was in some markets. That’s the consensus of panelists at Interface Multifamily Texas, which took place last Oct. 6 at the InterContinental Dallas. Lending on new multifamily properties is another area where the market is more tempered than in the past, according to the panelists. While cap rates have remained stable, financing for new multifamily properties has become much more difficult to obtain. New banking regulations are forcing lenders to focus intensely on deal terms and specific projects.”

“‘There has been a pullback on capital flow from the banks in general,’ said Greg Willett, chief economist with RealPage. ‘They are being much more selective on which deals they choose.’”

“Buyers are still interested in Texas multifamily properties, all agreed. The flight to quality from international capital has trickled down to many Texas markets, especially Houston and Dallas. Brian O’Boyle, senior vice chairman with ARA, said that while high-net-worth buyers were still the biggest buyers of multifamily assets, foreign capital was the second largest group.”

“Over the past year, O’Boyle said investment groups from Hong Kong, Bahrain and Germany have sought to invest in multifamily assets in Texas. Paul Nelson, senior director with Invesco Real Estate, said Canadian, Asian and Australian capital groups have been pursuing real estate investments in the United States as well. While the investment sales market remains healthy with low cap rates, the number of interested buyers has thinned, according to brokers on the panel.”

“‘A year ago you might have had six or seven groups in the call for best-and-final offers,’ said O’Boyle. ‘Today, you have three.’”

“Houston has lost 70,000 jobs over the past few years in the energy sector, causing some concern in the apartment industry. There is negative rent growth in the market, especially among Class A properties, a segment that has experienced a 6 percent dip in rents on average. Additionally, many landlords of Class A properties in the Houston apartment market are offering one to three months free rent as a concession for lessees. Approximately 19,000 multifamily units are under construction in the Houston market.”

WWL TV in Louisiana. “The price to own and rent a home in New Orleans has been rising for years, but that trend is changing. From his front porch in Mid-City, Thomas Ecker has been watching home prices climb since Hurricane Katrina. ‘I’ve seen an insane leap in the pricing here,’ Ecker said. ‘I don’t understand why a single shotgun house is $300,000. You’re buying, if you want to put your math together, $60,000 a room.’”

“But the cost of real estate in New Orleans is starting to level off. Real Estate Appraiser Wade Ragas said sales typically slow during a presidential election year, but this year’s slowdown in the oil and gas industry and the capping of the film tax credit have caused jobs to move elsewhere. ‘We’ve only been up for a few years — we’re due to flatten out and go down a little,’ Ragas said. ‘That’s a little oversupply condition and that will put downward pressure on price, downward pressure on rents and things will stay on the market a little bit longer in some of the neighborhoods.’”

“High priced properties in areas that were hot like Uptown, the Marigny and the Warehouse District are going to see price drops, some of them significant. ‘Wherever they started moving above $250 or $300 a foot, for a typical multi-family rental property, you’re going to have some buyer resistance now.’”

“Ecker said the slowdown needed to happen. ‘Maybe the vacuum created will allow residents to move back into the city and afford the housing and newly created infrastructure that comes along with it because so many New Orleanians have been priced out of the neighborhoods they love,’ Ecker said.”