October 28, 2016

The Economy And Withering Demand

A report from CoStar. “The steady addition of new apartments over the past several years appears finally to be catching up with demand. Apartment markets softened in several major markets during the third quarter, especially for those properties at the top of the market, and the impact is starting to show up in the results reported by major multifamily REITs. The National Multifamily Housing Council’s four indexes tracking market tightness, sales volume, equity financing and debt financing, all landed below the breakeven for the third quarter ended Sept. 30, reflecting softening market conditions from the previous quarter.”

“‘The growing supply of new apartments, primarily in the Class A space, appears to have finally reached a level to slow the historically high rent growth,’ said Mark Obrinsky, NMHC’s chief economist.”

“Several apartment REITs reported quarterly results this week and made note of the changes in their portfolios. Most notably, AvalonBay Communities missed its third quarter earnings target and lowered its earnings guidance for the rest of the year. ‘The softer market environment this year obviously has already started to bleed through the portfolio, which was our original expectation at the beginning of the year,’ said Sean J. Breslin, COO of AvalonBay Communities. ‘Obviously in some markets, we are seeing rents go down relative to this point last year, I’d say particularly in markets like San Francisco or a little bit in New York City. Essentially, where the shortfall is occurring is primarily in four places: it’s Northern California, the greater New York region, including parts of New Jersey, the Mid-Atlantic and then in Fairfield County (Connecticut).’”

The Boston Herald in Massachusetts. “A planned 52-story Copley Place residential tower will be delayed — and could be completely canceled — because of rising construction costs and concerns over the rising supply of luxury housing in Boston, Simon Property Group said. In an earnings call on Wednesday, Simon Property Group’s chief executive David Simon referred to ‘our likely decision to postpone the construction of the Copley Residential Tower, due to the rapidly rising construction cost and our beginning concerns around supply and demand in the Boston residential market.’”

“The tower — which was to feature 421 apartments and 121 condos, and 45,000 square feet of more retail and restaurant space — was part of a $500 million expansion, announced in August 2015. Copley Tower was to join a slate of planned and current high-end residential towers, which are rapidly changing the skyline and demographics across Boston’s downtown. ‘We do have to worry about supply and demand. And I’m not worried about supply and demand in our retail portfolio. In the case of Copley I got nervous about it,’ Simon said.”

The Real Deal on Florida. “A winter chill came early for Miami’s rental market in October, interrupting an otherwise steady rise in prices. According to a newly released report from listing service Zumper, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Miami fell 2.16 percent to $1,810 per month. A surge of new apartment supply — Miami-Dade County is on track to see its largest influx of units in 17 years — could keep pushing rental costs downward.”

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette in Pennsylvania. “A long-delayed Station Square apartment project finally may be stirring to life. Dallas-based developer Trammell Crow Co. hopes to start construction of the 316-unit apartment complex at the South Side entertainment and office complex next summer after securing $3 million in state funding. The project is ramping up as some developers are shying away from building apartments in or near Downtown because of fears that the market is becoming oversaturated.”

“According to the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, there are currently 4,339 apartment units located in or near the Golden Triangle and another 3,630 in the pipeline, including the Station Square project.”

The Columbian in Washington. “Clark County’s tight rental market may loosen up in the next year or so. More than 800 apartment units are under construction and about 3,700 are in the pipeline, according to the fall 2016 Apartment Report from Multifamily NW. The Portland metropolitan market is described as ‘maybe not red hot anymore, but moderately warm’ due to thousands of newly completed apartments becoming available.”

“Clark County’s incoming supply of apartments pales in comparison with Portland’s. In Portland, there are more than 7,000 apartments under construction and more than 15,000 proposed. ‘No one wants to miss this market, so as soon as they can get a shovel in the ground, they’re going to do it,’ said Patrick Barry with Barry & Associates. ‘Real estate is a cyclical market. It’s going to decline eventually. It’s just a matter of when.’”

The Houston Chronicle in Texas. “Houston’s economy and withering demand for new apartments dominated the conversation Friday morning on Camden Property Trust’s third-quarter earnings call. The Houston-based real estate investment trust that builds and manages multifamily complexes across the country said revenue growth in Houston was down 1.1 percent in the third quarter and another drop is expected for the last three months of the year.”

“The company said it was tracking 23,000 new apartment units to open in Houston this year and 10,000 will open next year. Many new complexes developed in Houston by merchant builders — those who build to sell — are now offering three months of free rent on new leases. Camden doesn’t offer free rent but bases rental rates on daily demand.”

“That’s supply is expected to far outpace demand. Camden’s President D. Keith Oden said about five new jobs creates demand for one apartment. If 20,000 jobs are created this year, there could be demand for 4,000 apartments. ‘We’ve got 23,000,’ Oden said. ‘Therein lies the problem.’”

Relying On Investors Without Real Demand

It’s Friday desk clearing time for this blogger. “Real estate experts watch the Naples market because it holds clues to the resilience of wealthy buyers. Realtors estimate that 25% of the home-sale market in the Naples area is new construction. Homebuilders have been building and selling speculative homes in recent years, though some have offered incentives as sales slowed this year. Homebuilders have adjusted their prices lower, says Ross McIntosh, longtime Naples commercial real estate broker who has arranged land transactions for homebuilders. Homes that sell well today are in the $300,000 range, not the $500,000 category that was hot a few years ago. ‘I don’t think anyone can put their finger on what caused that,’ says McIntosh. ‘Prices people are willing to pay has eroded substantially.’”

“Some builders are responding to the shift in the market, building homes in the $300,000 to $350,000 range. ‘Buyers who delayed buying decision have been rewarded,’ McIntosh says. ‘The die is being recast on the new-housing side.’”

“Is the Bay Area housing market losing steam? Could be. With more buyers saying ‘no’ to mile-high prices, September sales of single-family homes were up a modest 2.3 percent — a far cry from the red-hot market of the last several years. And even more revealing, June-through-September sales for the nine-county region were down 5.1 percent from the same period of 2015. The numbers mirrored the observations of brokers and agents, who cited push-back from buyers after years of bidding wars and spiraling prices.”

“‘Buyers are kind of digging their feet in and saying, ‘We’ve hit a threshold of pain in terms of affordability and you’ve got to say no,’ said Jennifer Branchini, past president of the East Bay Association of Realtors. ‘It’s going to be a big issue going forward. It’s not going away.’”

“It’s a good time to buy for anyone looking to purchase a high-end home in Thunder Bay. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation analyst Warren Philp said there’s an over-supply of houses priced at more than $300,000 on the market, adding overall the resale market appears to be a balanced one. ‘We no longer have a seller’s market, we have a balanced market and arguably in parts of the reseller’s market in Thunder Bay, we’ve got a buyer’s market conditions … Which means there are little to no price increases, and in fact, some price adjustments are taking place, especially at the high end of the market,’ Philp said.”

“To sell their 10-bedroom home, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and his wife may have to first undo what they’ve done. Six years ago, the couple bought adjacent townhouses in North London’s Primrose Hill neighbourhood and combined them into one very large home. The couple, who have five children, now plan to move and are listing the property for £9.95 million, or about $15.7m. Amid a slump in London’s luxury market, the Olivers’ house has failed to sell — despite a $3m price cut earlier this month.”

“So now they’re planning to revert the house back into two properties likely to list for around $7.9m to $9.5m apiece. But while high-net-worth buyers can afford to create these urban mansions — and some still do — the decision may haunt them when it comes time to sell. That’s because market demand for these vast homes has softened significantly. The average sale price of homes in the £10m-plus bracket has fallen 10.4 per cent in the past two years, according to estate agents Savills.”

“On October 1, seven property investors and four industry experts joined the Property Investor Roundtable Luncheon jointly organized by Knight Frank and Property Club Singapore. ‘My friends are having 20 percent decrease in rent,’ said Investor A. ‘Mine are 30 to 50 percent. One of my properties the rent drops from $18,000 to $10,000,’ echoed Investor H. ‘Many MNCs are moving their staff out of Singapore because of cost. No market can rely only on investors without real demand. Investors need rental income.’”

“Debbie Lam, Consultancy & Research Manager at Knight Frank, told the property investors that there are currently over 21,000 unsold units. Given buyers can clear about 7,000 homes a year, it will take at least three years for the market to absorb all the unsold units. ‘The questions we need to ask are: What is the rate the market is buying these unsold units? Who is going to rent or buy them? At what price?’”

“Apartment rents in popular central Doha districts such as Al Sadd, Bin Mahmoud and Al Mirqab are finally starting to come down, according to a new real estate report. Some properties are now up to 10 percent cheaper than last year. The change comes following an exodus of people from Qatar earlier this year, DTZ Qatar said in its Property Times report for Q3 of this year. Additionally, in recent months, more ‘affordable’ apartments have convinced residents to relocate to areas like Ain Khalid and Muaither.”

“A glance through the latest housing index – both the locally compiled index and international index – reveals that consumers worldwide are feeling the pinch in their pockets. There is simply no money as the world economy exhibits signs of continuous slowdown. And Namibia is no exception. There are cautions that things would get tighter in the months to come. For Namibians this could translate into some people being no longer able to afford mortgages, those who were thinking of buying houses may find themselves putting it off until the burden on their pocket eases.”

“In Oshikango, for instance, house prices fell by nearly 53 percent. A house that in 2014 was priced at N$1.1 million is now priced at N$425 000. In Oshakati, a house that was priced at N$964 100 in 2014 is now priced at N$539 900. It was not long ago that the FNB Housing Index of 2015 declared Oshakati as Namibia’s town with the highest house price increases in 2014 – as well as for the last five years. An Oshakati house that cost N$486 300 in 2009 was priced at N$964 100 in December 2014, while as a similar house in Windhoek priced at N$472 000 in 2009 was priced at N$900 000 in December 2014.”

“FNB Housing Index author Daniel Kavishe says a comparison of Namibia’s first quarter house price index growth data with the latest report from the Knight Frank House Price Index ranks Namibia at number six in the world. Which is good news, seeing that Namibia was at one point ranked as the most expensive country, up there with Hong Kong.”

“Nevertheless, property price growth across the world has started to cool with increasing economic and political uncertainty creeping in.”

“A federal grant was supposed to create four homes in the inner city to help kick-start revitalization, but there’s a problem. The money for the program ran out and the homes were never finished. There are four homes for sale in the Blue Hills Neighborhood, but they’re not attracting any buyers. Construction stopped because the money from a Housing and Urban Development grant ran out. Anthony Bolton, who has lived in the neighborhood for six years, is concerned the project will never be finished. ‘There was a lot of work and then there was nothing,’ said Bolton.”

“The houses are intended for buyers with low incomes and are listed at $125,000, but that’s not enough to drive a sale. ‘I think it’s a waste of money. They could be using the money for something else instead of wasting it on houses they’re not going to finish,’ said neighbor Lakeisha Ridge.”