Friday, September 12, 2014

Construction Loans Are Gaining Strength

  




In a Wall Street Journal article from a couple of weeks ago by Kris Hudson, it is indicated that construction loans posted the largest gain in the second quarter of 2014 since its recovery began about a year ago. According to Hudson, outstanding construction loans for both residential and commercial projects increased to $223.2 billion in the 2nd quarter, up 4% from the first.

The overall lending environment, not only for construction loans but also for individual investor loans and even foreign investor loans, is getting more open and the willingness on the part of banks to lend is increasing.

As for the construction loans, what it means for us as individual Single Family Home investors is that our new-build markets are expanding and will continue to do so.

We are already buying brand-new builder-built homes in the Oklahoma City metro area. Local lenders are extending loans to FOREIGN buyers (!) as well as to American investors with up to 15 outstanding home loans (5 more than the FNMA limit).

Not only will we discuss this at our 1-Day real Estate Expo this Saturday (near SFO – details at www.icgre.com/events), but due to the massive changes in the lending landscape, we will have a special session just for a lenders panel to discuss residential, commercial, hard-money and foreigner loans.


Anyone citing this blog post can attend for free with up to two free guests – just email us at info@icgre.com and show up for an amazing day of information, learning and networking.

Housing Starts Up Sharply

In a Wall Street Journal article from August 19th by Josh Mitchell, it is reported that housing starts are sharply up for the year and have seen a strong uptick in July. Housing starts bode well for a general housing recovery. We have already begun to go back to our old buying style of buying new homes from developers in Oklahoma City.
I am relatively sure in the coming months we will be seeing more attractive opportunities in buying brand new product in other markets as well. It took a long time for the builders to be able to put out a competitive product for real estate investors, as they played a serious “second fiddle” to existing homes, which were priced well below what they could offer.
We are pleased to see the trend as it was always our opinion that a prudent and safe real estate investment certainly includes brand-new homes with a builder’s warranty, with a fixed-rate 30-year loan paid off by the tenant and eroded steadily by inflation (as it is not pegged to the cost of living). This mode of real estate investment serves as the foundation of building a solid financial future and achieving long-term life goals of a solid retirement and sending our kids to college.
Builders have the ability to offer the buyers many “goodies” at a cost to them- that is much lower than the retail cost (an example might be a covered patio which costs $6K but only costs the builder $2K to build). This can create an attractive package for the investor.
We will have builders and new properties available at our upcoming 1-Day Real Estate Expo near SFO on Saturday September 13th. I am looking forward to seeing you.
I am enclosing the full WSJ article for convenience:
U.S. Housing Starts Up Sharply in July - Renewed Strength in Housing Market Could Boost Economy
By Josh Mitchell

Updated Aug. 19, 2014 11:03 a.m. ET
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WASHINGTON—Home construction surged in July, a sign that renewed strength in the housing market could boost the economy in coming months.

Housing starts climbed almost 16% last month to an annual rate of 1.093 million units, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That marked the highest level of construction since November, driven by a pronounced rise in new apartments.

Home construction rose 22% in the year through July, and a rise in applications for building permits last month suggests further gains this year. That could ease concerns at the Federal Reserve of a weak housing sector weighing on economic growth this year.

"With housing starts up 22% over the last year, the Fed's concern about a 'slow' recovery in the housing market looks misplaced to us," Economist John Ryding of RDQ Economics said in a note to clients. But details within Tuesday's report raised questions about whether the construction gains will be sustained. Last month's rise appeared to be due partly to a rebound in construction in the South after rainy weather caused delays earlier this summer.

Such rebounds are typically temporary. Also, the bulk of the increase was due to surging apartment construction, a volatile category that can mask underlying strength in the market. And it's unclear whether the housing market will be able to maintain momentum if mortgages rates rise, as many economists expect them to as the Federal Reserve moves toward raising its benchmark short-term interest rates from near zero.

Amid the prospect of higher costs and weak income growth, Fannie Mae's economics group downgraded its forecast for home sales and construction on Monday. It now expects construction of 1.43 million single-family units this year and next combined, down from an earlier forecast of 1.61 million units.

A measure of affordability, which takes into account interest rates, home prices and median household income, hit its lowest level in six years in June. That reflects a run-up in home prices.
Interest rates have fallen back to year-ago levels in recent weeks after rising late last year. The average rate on a conventional 30-year mortgage stood at 4.12% last week, down from 4.53% in the first week of the year, according to Freddie Mac.

But overall the report boosted hopes of a stronger housing recovery. In July, applications for building permits, a construction bellwether, climbed 8.1% to a 1.052 million rate. That suggests construction could pick up further in coming months. Sales of previously owned homes have picked up in recent months, buoyed by historically low interest rates, mild weather, and stronger job growth in the U.S. But sales of new homes have moved sideways. The latest pickup in home construction could signal builders are gaining confidence that overall sales will rise as the broader economy gains momentum.

From a year ago, home construction was up 21.7%. The home-construction market has steadily recovered from the depths of the recession but has yet to regain its strength from the levels that preceded the boom years in the 2000s.

At the height of the housing boom in 2005, just over 2 million homes were built. After the crash, housing starts fell to 554,000 in 2009, during the recession. Tuesday's report showed that starts on single-family homes, which reflects the bulk of the market, climbed 8.3% in July from June.
Construction of multifamily units—mostly condominiums and apartments--rose 33% to a pace of 423,000 units, the highest level since January 2006. That category is more volatile. Other recent signs point to a strengthening housing sector.

A measure of home builder optimism rose two points to a reading of 55 this month, the National Association of Home Builders said Monday. Existing-home sales rose in June to the highest level since October, the National Association of Realtors said last month. The trade group is expected to release July's data Thursday.



Write to Josh Mitchell at joshua.mitchell@wsj.com

Decline In Short Sales Reduces House Inventory, Boon For Investors?

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Joe Light, it talks about the decline in house inventory created due to the drop in short sales inventory. There are references in the article to the inventory shortage being negative for some markets. Needless to say for the real estate investor, having lower inventory usually translates to appreciation. As sellers are more and more on the sidelines and the overall inventory goes down, the old supply-demand equation rears its (pretty) head resulting in price appreciation. This of course is a two-edged sword. It's great for the properties you had already purchased, but it is not so great for the ones you eye buying in the future. The very drop in short sales itself has to do with appreciation. As houses get closer to parity with their loans, short sales don’t make sense anymore.

Another reason, of course, is the expiration (in December) of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act (passed by congress in 2007). With the expiration of the Act, sellers are now liable for taxes on the forgiven portion of their loans during short sales, naturally creating reluctance on the part of sellers to go that route. In the meantime we are seeing financing improving for investors and even some initial programs here and there for the foreign buyers. Stay tuned. We will be discussing the state of the market on short sales at our next Real Estate 1 Day Expo, on September 13th. You can register here.

Below, for convenience, is the entire WSJ article:

Drop in Short Sales Trims House Inventory
By Joe Light
June 20, 2014 9:43 p.m. ET

Short sales of underwater homes have fallen sharply amid the expiration of a key tax break, a situation that could slow the housing recovery and further limits an already thin supply of houses for sale. Such sales, where owners sell their homes for a price below the balance on the mortgage, reduce the number of houses that end up in foreclosure. In most cases for the sale to proceed, lenders must approve the purchase and agree to forgive the unpaid portion of the mortgage owed by the homeowner.

Short sales had been especially common in recent years in hard-hit states like Florida, Michigan and Nevada, where most homes remain valued at prices that are substantially lower than during the housing boom. In March, about 5% of home purchases nationwide—some 18,258—were short sales, according to mortgage-technology-and-services firm Black Knight Financial Services. That was down from 6.4% in February and off sharply from the 19.7%, or 51,909, that were short sales in January 2012.

This year's drop can be traced in part to the December expiration of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, which Congress originally passed in 2007. Before the act, when a home was sold through a short sale and the lender forgave a portion of the mortgage debt, the seller would typically be required to pay income taxes on the amount forgiven. The act made the forgiven debt tax-free, which paved the way for short sales and helped speed the housing recovery.

"It's a big concern," said Veronica Malolos, a real-estate broker in Kissimmee, Fla. Ms. Malolos said some underwater sellers delisted their properties in January and February after learning that the tax provision wouldn't be extended. Ms. Malolos's clients Javier and Mayra Gonzalez in Kissimmee said they tried to sell their home last summer after Mr. Gonzalez found a new job but took it off the market in the new year. The couple received offers of about $145,000 on the home, on which they owe about $206,000, including debt from a home-equity line of credit, but their bank wouldn't accept them. Because the mortgage act wasn't extended, the couple estimate they would owe about $15,000 in additional income taxes based on the $61,000 difference, something they say they couldn't afford.

This year, the couple's bank began foreclosure proceedings on their home, but they said they are working things out with the bank and are staying put, even though Mr. Gonzalez now has a commute of about an hour and 40 minutes each way to his new job in Vero Beach. Short sales also have tumbled because of rising home prices, which pushed many homes back above water or closer to it. The median existing-home price nationwide was $201,700 in April, 5.2% higher than in April 2013, according to the National Association of Realtors. In the first quarter, about 19% of homes were worth less than their mortgage, according to the real-estate-information website Zillow, down from 31% a year ago.

With would-be short sellers on the sidelines, the housing market may take longer to work through remaining underwater homes, restricting the already tight home inventory on the market. If some potential short sellers decide to go through a foreclosure instead, that could cause higher losses for mortgage-bond investors, or companies that guarantee payment of mortgages, which tend to recover less in a foreclosure because of the costs of carrying a home.

The Senate Finance Committee in April passed a bill to extend the forgiveness provision, along with many other tax breaks that had expired. But the bill stalled in May after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republicans couldn't agree on how to amend the measure. Now some analysts don't expect Congress to move on a bill until December, after the midterm elections. Any extension would likely come as part of a wider package of tax-break extensions. "This is trapped, and there's little hope of prying it loose," said Jaret Seiberg, financial-policy analyst for Guggenheim Securities LLC.

In the meantime, real-estate agents say sellers are loath to consider short sales on homes, even when facing foreclosure as the alternative. That is a problem not just for troubled homeowners, but also for banks and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which typically lose more money when homes are sold through a foreclosure than through a short sale. In the first quarter, for example, Freddie Mac said that in short sales, it recovered 68.4 cents for every dollar of unpaid principal. In foreclosures, Freddie recovered 64.4 cents for every dollar. "There are still millions of homes underwater, but short sales have fallen off considerably," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "It's gumming up the system" and could be limiting home-buyer activity.

Write to Joe Light at joe.light@wsj.com