Saturday, August 20, 2005

Just Sit Right Back and Watch the Slaughter of the Housing Speculators

This article makes it clear that the so-called "demand" for housing is speculator demand. These speculators will get slaughtered unless they cash out now and bank their profits. Unfortunately, they just roll it into the next "great can't-lose-real-estate-always-goes-up-everyone-wants-to-live-here deal".
"These days, “Get Rich Quick” has been the mantra for too many people trying to cash in while buying real estate speculatively. With so much “free” money still flowing from the Federal Reserve, it has become a real estate speculator’s dream world. These so called speculators have purchased over 3 million residences, practically with their eyes closed, with the sole intention of flipping them like pancakes to the next guy, marked up 25 percent or more. However, signs are beginning to appear that indicate this game of getting rich quick may soon be over. "

" Less than 20 percent of Californians can now afford a home with a fixed rate mortgage. The Federal Reserve is still raising variable interest rates. In 2004, when the housing bubble was really gathering steam, the National Association of Realtors calculated that 23 percent of homes purchased were for investment, and 13 percent were for second homes. With housing prices in some markets rising 20 to 40 percent in the past year – and 50 to 100 percent or more since 2000 – buying a house on spec looked like a sure thing to make a quick profit. But this housing deck of cards, in an already over-heated market, could have a domino affect. Why?"

"Home sales run about 9 million a year (this includes housing starts of 2 million and existing home sales of 7 million). If over 20 percent of homes purchased are investor properties, it appears that practically all new housing starts in America are accounted for by speculative buying. If second home buyers are added into the equation, speculative and investment buying of real estate (not owning to live in) actually exceeds total housing starts!"

"Let’s look at the economics of a “poster property” in San Diego called Park Place. The New York Times reported recently that a one bedroom condo is being offered for $719,000. A prospective buyer would expect to pay about $3,775 a month for a mortgage, plus maintenance fees, taxes and insurance. These additional costs can bring the monthly out-of -pocket total to well over $5,000 a month, or $60,000 a year. However, a renter, who would benefit from the same granite countertops, hardwood floors and fantastic views, can rent a nearly identical unit for only $2,400 a month, or $28,800 a year. At these price levels, the speculator who bought in could run an annual negative cash flow of close to $31,000 if they were forced to rent because no buyers could be found."

"In looking at some cities with major price appreciation (New York, Boston, San Diego, Miami, to name a few), in today’s world it just doesn’t seem possible to buy a house or condo and expect to make an economic return renting it out! Nationwide, there are over 3.8 million vacant units available for rent. In some communities, the over-supply of rental units on the market has pushed the average rent down as much as 20 percent. There remains a surplus of rental units."

"In achieving this record home ownership, the following has occurred: Sub-prime buyers now account for more than 10 percent; Another 10 percent can only buy with a “negative amortization mortgage” (very popular in California where 40 percent of mortgages are negative amortization); Up to two-thirds of mortgages are Interest Only (“IO”) or Adjustable Rate (“ARM”); Second homes now account for 8 percent of mortgages; and, 38 percent of homes this year have been purchased with less than 5 percent down (if this doesn’t reflect scrapping the bottom of the barrel for homeowners, nothing ever would). Yet, household earnings haven’t kept up!"

"If housing speculators stop buying, who’s left to buy? The average American with a job has already bought. America has been creating new homes faster than new jobs, and it has been the home speculator, and second home investor, holding up the market for at least the past year"

"There is another “dark side” to speculating in real estate. Hundreds of thousands of units that have been sold in advance by developers to speculators. This method is used by developers so they can get the construction finance they need. The speculator is responsible for the purchase but he won’t actually “buy” the unit until the project is complete and the unit has a Certificate of Occupancy. Therefore, the sale will not be counted as a sale until the date of closing! (Moreover, the developer has gotten the speculator to sign an agreement preventing him from reselling the unit for at least a year – after the speculator has taken occupancy – so the developer won’t be selling against himself. This leaves the speculator holding the bag, but they seem willing to take the risk."

"It could get interesting over the next six months as interest rates continue to go up and thousands of high-priced housing units come on the market that have been artificially snapped up by the get rich quick crowd. It may pay to simply sit back and watch the slaughter from a distance and stay short some home builders and sub-prime mortgage companies."

2 Comments:

Blogger marin_explorer said...

I overheard this yesterday at a wine auction, from some people came across as big spenders:
"Real estate in London has gone down--it's the time to buy. My realtor can set you up; he knows alot about the market."
There was little caution in the air. I have to wonder if they're riding the market back up...or down?

Aug 21, 2005, 11:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Jerrold Lo said...

I do not think so.

Jan 7, 2006, 4:36:00 AM  

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