October 16, 2016

Handing A Drowning Man A Glass Of Water

A report from Bloomberg on the UK. “London house prices fell for a fifth month in August, the worst streak for the U.K. capital since the depths of the recession seven years ago. The decline is being led by higher-priced boroughs in central London, according to LSL Property Services. That analysis is echoed in forecasts by Savills Plc, which said last month that luxury homes in the city will slump 9 percent this year, the most since 2008. Property website operator Rightmove has also highlighted a divergence in London’s market, with the most expensive district — Kensington and Chelsea — seeing asking prices down almost 12 percent in the past year. That’s partly due to the recent introduction of tax surcharge on buyers of such properties.”

“‘We’re seeing a two-speed market become firmly established as cheaper parts of the capital and the regions record big price increases driven by demand for affordable homes, while prime London property stalls,’ said Adrian Gill, director of Your Move and Reeds Rains estate agents.”

CBC News in Canada. “Condo purchasers in central Edmonton who feel stuck after building construction delays are calling for legislation to hold developers accountable. ‘I think there should be some sort of legislation moving forward,’ said 25-year-old Brennan Belliveau, who in late 2014 put a $60,000 down payment on a unit in a downtown highrise that has not yet been built. ‘There should be some sort of opt-out date where if the project isn’t done by that date, then you should have the ability to opt out of that contract. It needs to be a fair agreement.’”

“Nearly two years after putting down his money, he’s frustrated. Construction hasn’t started and all that exists is a sales building and an old parking lot. ‘I’ve tried to be as optimistic as possible and hopeful that things will go through, but I think I’m going to have a little bit of regret later on.’”

The Chinchilla News in Australia. “For the first time this year Gladstone’s property market is showing signs that it’s getting its mojo back. Although property valuation experts Herron Todd White still say the market is yet to hit the bottom, in a big change, the volume of house sales increased. Although Herron Todd White found that first home buyers were getting into the game, which was helping to boost sales, Real Estate Institute Queensland CEO Antonia Mercorella said the first home owner’s grant was failing to help regional Queensland.”

“The state government recently increased the grant from $15,000 to $20,000 but it is only available for new homes. ‘These (regional) markets have a surplus of housing, established homes, and there is no need to build more housing - but to qualify for the Government’s grant home owners are forced to build,’ Ms Mercorella said. ‘In regional Queensland, it’s like handing a drowning man a glass of water.’”

From China Daily. “Despite growing concern about a potential bubble ballooning in the real estate sector, an increasing number of investors are jumping on the housing bandwagon because they don’t have many alternatives to maintain or increase the value of their assets, industry observers said. For instance, the interest rate on one-year deposits is 1.75 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index, after a slump last year, has been moving around 3,000 points with trading remaining muted last month.”

“Zhang Di and his wife, a young couple living in Tianjin, recently used idle funds to invest in the housing market because their family business in the chemical industry was treading on thin ice. ‘My father has been talking about closing the factory, after a lifetime of efforts. What can I do? Investing in property seems to be the only way out,’ Zhang said on phone.”

What It Means To Be Hot Can Change Over Time

A report from the Columbus Dispatch. “It’s repeated so often, it’s a cliche: This is the hottest housing market in years. But what, exactly, does that mean? The most expensive market? The one with the most sales? The one with the fastest sales? The truth is, real-estate statistics can often paint a Picasso-like image. Zillow senior economist Skylar Olsen noted that the housing crisis dramatically illustrated that relying on real-estate data such as price appreciation to gauge a market can be misleading because it bypasses the underlying health of the market. ‘Hot’ housing markets such as Las Vegas crashed so precipitously because they lacked a foundation in job, income and population growth.”

“But, Olsen added, identifying ‘hot’ markets isn’t easy; Zillow might tweak the formula for the 2017 edition. ‘Each time we look at this, we have a slightly different approach because what it means to be hot can change over time,’ she said.”

The San Francisco Chronicle in California. “Are we past the pricing peak for new construction condos in San Francisco? It looks that way, according to new data from the Mark Company that shows new condos entering the market last month were priced eight percent lower than new condos coming to market one year ago. ‘The decrease is due to fierce competition for buyers, especially among high-rise developments with top-tier finishes and amenities,’ according to a statement from the real estate sales and marketing firm.”

“New condo absorption was also down 40 percent from one year ago. The inventory of 1,200 new construction condos available last month was 83 percent higher than it was one year ago.”

The Houston Chronicle in Texas.”Houston’s housing market is experiencing simultaneous highs and lows, with some neighborhoods reeling from the energy slump while others are benefitting from pent-up demand left over from the boom. That’s leaves little comfort for Houstonians considering selling their homes in places like the Energy Corridor or the Memorial area, where the supply of homes for sale is growing and demand is softening. The market is most robust in places with lower-priced homes, a stark contrast from a couple of years ago, when luxury homes and condominiums were experiencing most of the gains.”

“‘Developers all wanted to do high end and they ignored the middle market,’ said Patrick Jankowski, economist for the Greater Houston Partnership. ‘Now, the high end is gone.’”

From Business Den in Colorado. “The cash crunch at a Broomfield-based luxury timeshare business got so bad this year, there wasn’t money to keep paying lawyers every time disgruntled customers sued to get back their six-figure membership deposits. Quintess, which rents out 90 homes in 50 locations, including seven homes in Aspen, has submitted a pre-packaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy turnaround plan to erase more than $120 million in debt and tweak its business model from a real estate owner to an upscale rental agency.”

“But to do that, it needs to raise between $6 million and $10 million – and it needs to get the bankruptcy court’s blessing. The firm lists assets of $12 million and liabilities of $168 million, according to a balance sheet included in its Chapter 11 filing. The vacation rental company says in documents filed this week that it owes a total of $123 million to refund the deposits 542 wealthy customers plunked down, mostly before the recession, to access large homes with fancy amenities. At least 152 of those customers have demanded their deposits back, and the waitlist on redemptions stretches to more than 3 years.”

“Quintess claims the recession ruined its business model. Bankrolled by serial tech entrepreneurs and other Colorado investors, Quintess in 2004 started buying multi-million dollar homes in coveted travel destinations from Aspen to Zermatt, renting them to customers that could afford upfront membership fees as high as $350,000 with yearly dues amounting to many thousands more.”

“The business model hinged on real estate prices and memberships increasing. But as home prices crashed in 2008, Quintess scrambled to pay off $150 million in secured real estate loans in 2012. Those homes were sold at prices below what Quintess paid, court documents claim. Quintess claims that if it can’t reorganize, it will close and liquidate, and there will be nothing for creditors to recover.”