August 18, 2018

They Kept On Drinking The Kool-Aid

A weekend topic starting with Steve Keen, an Australian economist and author. “Australia’s central bank, the RBA (Reserve Bank of Australia) didn’t have to rescue its economy from the crash, because prompt fiscal action by the Australian government (and re-starting the housing bubble via a bribe to entice first-home buyers into the market) stopped the private sector deleveraging that caused the crisis everywhere else. So Australia’s long boom since its last recession in 1990 was prolonged by continuing its private-debt bubble.”

“However, this isn’t how the RBA interpreted Australia’s success. Because its chieftains are as blissfully unaware of the importance of private debt to macroeconomics, as was Ben Bernanke (and I know this from personal interactions with them at up to the deputy governor level). Instead, Australia’s apparent success led its political and economic pundits to believe that the GFC was not in fact a global phenomenon, but a ‘North Atlantic Financial Crisis’ due to how poorly financial systems were managed in the US and UK, versus their excellent management in Australia.”

“Ha! The real reason that Australia (and Canada) avoided the worst of the GFC is that they kept on drinking the Kool-Aid that caused it: private debt, and especially household mortgage debt. Whereas the other Anglo-sphere countries which had serious crises in 2007-08 (the US, UK and Ireland) have reduced their household debt levels since then, Canada and Australia have continued to lever up – Australia to the spectacular level of over 120 percent of GDP. This additional leverage is what has kept the housing bubbles alive in both these countries well after they burst in the rest of the English-speaking world. But it’s starting to turn in both states now.”

From Nine Finance. “The number of properties being sold at or above the magic $1 million mark has plummeted as Sydney and Melbourne’s more expensive properties struggle to find a buyer. New data from CoreLogic shows that over the 12 months to June 2018, just 16 percent of all houses and 8.8 percent of units sold nationally cracked seven figures. At the peak of the market in March 2018, a staggering 50.4 percent of all houses in Sydney sold for at least $1 million or more.”

“Analyst Cameron Kusher said things are only looking worse for owners hopeful of pulling a record result from the auctions market in the coming months. ‘With dwelling values declining and much more rapid declines across the most expensive housing stock it is reasonable to expect the share of $1 million sales to trend lower over the coming year,’ said Kusher. ‘This will be driven by weakening in Sydney and Melbourne. Smaller capital cities are also likely to continue to see the share of $1 million sales climb further too.’”

From Sunday Telegraph. “Although the clearance rate yesterday was 56.9 per cent — 5.92 per cent lower than last week — it disguises some of the auction misery. Many of the deals were stitched up ahead of the big day. Vendors are also having to lower their reserves at auction. The most significant drop was 34 per cent in Leppington, in the heart of the state government’s South West Growth Area.”

“Investors who bought into estates several years ago are trying to cash in but are competing with a sea of house-and-land packages in newer suburbs. ‘I’ve been selling property for 20 years and been through a few downturns, but not coupled with this rapid new development we’re now seeing, Ray White’s Julie Latham said. ‘Vendors are starting to adjust their expectations, but the market is falling faster than what their expectations are.’”

“Tommy Sipina of McGrath insists he is still achieving sales within four to six weeks, provided homes are marketed well and priced right. He sold a four-bedroom family home at 25 Jamboree Ave, Leppington, to young Horsley Park couple Brendon Inthachack, 23, and his partner, Tayla Hancock, 24, at the lower end of the $830,000 to $860,000 price guide, Mr Inthachack, who sells real estate for Ray White Erskineville, thinks he’s on a winner long-term.”

“‘It’s going to have good capital growth in the future because there’s so much infrastructure going in,’ he said.”

“The second-biggest drop in house values was 12.2 per cent in Campsie and, interestingly, it was exactly the same in North Bondi. The biggest drops for apartments have been 21 per cent in Hunters Hill, followed by 13.4 per cent in Concord in the inner west, and then 12.7 per cent in North Sydney.”

From The Advertiser. “Adelaide’s northeastern property market is facing a glut of townhouses, according to three leading area-specialist agents. Tom Hector of Harris Real Estate, Gary Musolino of Real Estate Partners and Tony D’Angelica of Harcourts Glynde say heavy sub division developments in the Campbelltown council area have resulted in a market flooded with two-storey high density housing that lacks broad market appeal.And it is starting to affect price. ‘What we’re finding at the moment is the prices have definitely softened for townhouse development,’ Mr Hector says.”

“Campbelltown Mayor Simon Brewer said developers only built what they thought they could sell and that no one was forcing them to subdivide or build particular types of properties. ‘If speculative developers have overextended then it’s a case of not reading or adapting to the changing market very well.’”

From the Daily Mercury. “Queensland’s cheapest house has been sold for less than the price of a new hatchback. The property at 19 Hardwicke St in Hughenden was listed for sale in ‘as is’ condition for $18,000. Ray White Richmond agent Alison Vohland said the property was now under contract, and had sold ‘for less than $18,000.’”

“Another property on Ms Vohland’s books is 52 Brodie Street, also in Hughenden. The three bedroom cottage is on the market for $24,900 and sits on a 1012sq m block. To put that in perspective - that amount of land alone could set you back over $20 million in some of Sydney’s most expensive suburbs. Another house at 38 Brodie St in Hughenden is on the market for $40,000.”

“In the mining regions, a search for jobs yielded 1430 mining-specific listings on employment website, Of those, 550 job ads were listed for Dysart, where the median house sales price has fallen from a whopping $330,000 at the height of the mining boom to just $71,000. Raine and Horne Moranbah agent Emmarina Watene has 4 Roper Court, which is on the market for $70,000. ‘I have had some interest, mostly from investors down south,’ she said. ‘I feel like we have hit rock bottom now and we should hopefully start seeing some improvement.’”

Agents Are Like Frenzied Fish That Are Starving

A weekend topic starting with the Kokomo Tribune in Indiana. “Across Indiana, real estate agents have gone to battle, fighting over a meager supply of homes as they juggle a growing number of potential buyers emboldened by a robust economy. And the amount those buyers are willing to pay is only going up. ‘It’s nationwide, the low inventory,’ noted RACI President Dee Dee Richards. ‘There are a lot of buyers. When a house goes on the market, all of us agents are like frenzied fish in a pond that are starving. I’m just hoping that Kokomo and our area will be steady and it won’t over-inflate too quickly and then people get in over their heads.’”

From MTN News in Montana. “In just one year, Butte’s housing values made a significant jump. ‘I’m going to tell you the average price of a house of the houses sold was $143,000. This year to date it’s $173,000,’ said Denise Kelly, broker at Re/Max in Butte. Realtors credit home buyers from Bozeman and Missoula turning their sights on Butte. ‘West coast towns like LA and Seattle have moved into Bozeman and Missoula and in turn have priced a lot of people out of their homes so they’re moving into Butte and Helena,’ Kelly said.”

“Increased housing values in Bozeman come with increased sticker shock. ‘We’re seeing the average price of a house in Bozeman is $462,000. How can a new family afford that?’ Kelly asked.”

From Las Vegas Now in Nevada. “Las Vegas is number one in the country for rising home values, beating out other major cities like Chicago, Houston, and San Diego. ‘It is currently a seller’s market as buyers choose to pay over market value because of all the competition,’ said Zar Zanganeh, a broker at Luxe Estates & Lifestyles.”

“As for what is next: Zanganeh says he does not think the housing market will dip anytime soon. ‘I don’t see the bubble bursting any time soon,’ he said. ‘We have multiple casino projects; we have the Raider stadium, we have the medical school coming in so there’s a lot of things that are going to keep the market strong.’”

The Miami Herald in Florida. “It’s no secret to anyone living in Miami that once again, real estate prices are up quite a bit. And if you’re a home buyer today, you are left wondering if you should buy now or wait. The biggest fear that you might have as a home buyer, naturally, is that you don’t want to overpay. And that’s perfectly understandable.”

“The great news is that banks won’t let you overpay! Not only will they require an appraisal of the property (which will be on the conservative side after the last financial crisis), but they also will only lend to people who can prove their financial stability, work history, good credit, and ability to come up with money for their down payment and closing costs.”

“Since the market crash of 2008, according to statistics from the Miami Association of Realtors, more than half of all properties were bought by cash investors and the other half, were bought by buyers who needed financing, and who needed to go through that extensive process of documenting their ability to afford the property. Although we don’t have a crystal ball, the chances of these property owners simply walking away from their properties and letting them go into foreclosure are minimal.”

“The math doesn’t lie, and even if prices dropped by 10 percent and interest rates went up to 6 percent, the monthly loan payments would be very similar, about $8 more per month. The difference is that you would have stayed renting for an additional two years and paying down someone else’s mortgage. Alternatively, if prices continue to go up along with interest rates, the monthly payment will only be higher. If this happens, it’s likely rent prices will go up as well.”

“However, if you buy a home you like and can afford, at the current 2018 value and with today’s interest rates, you’ll not only get the fantastic feeling of achievement, pride and stability that comes from homeownership, but you’ll also lock in your housing loan payment. This will allow you to better plan your savings for things like your kids’ college educations, retirement and even vacations.”

“Besides this, as a homeowner you’ll be able to take advantage of other financial incentives such as discounts in car insurance, improved credit score and being able to deduct the mortgage interest and property taxes from your taxable income, all while building equity.”

“The most important decision is simply to buy a home you can afford and that fits your family’s needs. Besides that, from a financial perspective I’ll leave you with a great piece of advice I received from a real estate multimillionaire… ‘You don’t wait to buy real estate. You buy real estate and wait.’”

From The Real Deal on New York. “In 2011, with the condominium market booming, Greg Altshuler’s Colonnade Group scooped up 403 Greenwich Street with plans to redevelop the former warehouse into high-end condos. But by the summer of 2017, when the building was complete, the luxury sector was teetering toward a slowdown. In October of that year, Residence A — a three-bedroom pad asking $3.8 million — hit the market. It sat there for the next 235 days.”

‘Then in May, a new listing agent hit reboot: The apartment was re-listed for $3.69 million as the building’s ‘Garden’ apartment and went into contract 18 days later. The lengthy listing history of ‘Residence A’ was still online — if you knew where to find it.”

“Real estate has never been more transparent — but amid a market slowdown, buyers are acutely aware that some units are sitting on the shelf. And as they pass over anything that’s not ‘new’ to the market, some agents are looking for ways to make their listings seem fresh. Changing apartment numbers to make a listing appear new is ‘an old trick,’ said Olshan Realty’s Donna Olshan, who tracks the luxury market.”

“Lately, though, looking new requires some finesse. During the last week of July, Olshan said properties asking $4 million-plus spent an average of 536 days on the market. That kind of tortured marketing time is giving agents added incentive to circumvent online portals with granular detail about each unit.”

“Brown Harris Stevens’ Lisa Lippman, for example, has used several iterations to describe one of her listings at 160 West 86th Street. In January, she listed ‘Unit 3′ for $7.395 million. After cutting the price to $6.9 million in April, Lippman re-named the apartment unit ‘3A’ last month, according to RealPlus. ‘When we switched it, people started calling,’ said Lippman, who played around with the unit number not just to avoid looking stale. Without a letter after the number three, she said, buyers did not realize the apartment is a full-floor condo.”

“‘Of course it’s somewhat disingenuous, but in the end, I don’t think you’re really fooling anybody,’ she said.”

“If brokers can make a listing look fresh, many will jump at the chance, and with good reason. During the second quarter of 2018, the number of sales dropped 24.9 percent year-over-year to 10,819, according to appraisal firm Miller Samuel. Meanwhile, inventory was up 6.5 percent (to 19,753 active listings). Compared to this time last year, the absorption rate — how long it would take to sell out all active listings — ballooned 41 percent to 5.5 months.”