Bill McBride over at Calculated Risk has a post out this morning with 2 charts of data from LPS on the housing recovery. The first shows that homes in ‘active’ status, either in foreclosure, delinquent or otherwise ‘non-current’ has fallen below 2008 levels for the first time.
Which is the primary axis and which is the secondary is kind of a mystery and we are left to assume that both are x1,000 so that would imply the left axis is secondary (Or is it?) The most interesting factoid on the chart is in the box on the upper left; The percent of DQ homeowners active (in the foreclosure pipeline instead of being ignored) has doubled. To me this looks like a market that’s starting to clear, which is good for housing and the economy in general.
Colony Capital has big plans for the REO-to-Rentals (RtR) sector. Not only do they want to buy 30,000 plus houses to rent them out, they also want to turn RtR into an institutional grade asset class. That has big implications for single family real estate investors who will now have deep pocketed competition that enjoys economies of scale.
In a piece called Positioning for a Housing Recovery PIMCO says that the risks to housing have been overstated and while prices may continue to fall there are opportunities in the mispricing of that risk. They believe that the risk of the 11 million underwater home loans all becoming delinquent and going into foreclosure is much lower than most think. They also point out that the record low interest rates have created housing demand from large institutions (Like PIMCO, and individual investors too) searching for positive returns.
One of the opportunities they list is in apartment building investment, either through equity (owning) or debt (loaning). However they pass over multifamily in favor of REOs-to-rentals and distressed housing debt. It’s ironic that they would favor buying large numbers of single family homes to rent because the logistical nightmare of the scattered homes is what drives most real estate investors to apartments and other commercial real estate. The convenience of having 10, 20, even 200 units or more at one location on a single property on top of the economies of scale available make owning multifamily a much better investment.
While they do acknowledge the challenge of REOs-to-Rentals:
However, investors must be mindful of the operational complexity and illiquidity of a single-family rental portfolio. Managing a nationally diversified portfolio of rental properties presents unique challenges of surveillance and scaling, and procedures for maintenance and leasing must be designed to help protect earnings.
… Somehow that doesn’t lead them to picking multifamily investment. Are you a real estate investor who started out in single family properties and moved on to apartment buildings? We would love to hear your story-
When it comes to apartment building investing one has to consider homeownership as competition for ‘our’ residents. But now in a post that’s part of his series on where the housing market stands today, Barry Ritholtz over at The Big Picture blog has this to say:
“There are many good reasons to believe that the 5.5 million foreclosures we have so far brings us only to the 5th inning of this real estate cycle. We are, in my best guess, barely halfway through the full course of foreclosures. By the time this entire unwind is complete, the United States may end up with a total of 8-10 million foreclosures.
Therein lay the Psychology factor. Once we begin to see an increase in foreclosures, the data is going to be far less accommodating. Monthly prices start falling, fear levels rise, and a viscous cycle could begin. Consider the recent college grads, who typically form each wave of first time buyers. From their perspectives, this whole housing thing must seem absurd. Their observations about home ownership is not the American Dream, but rather, a nightmare. Yale professor Robert Shiller worries that we have lost an entire generation of potential home buyers.” [Emphasis mine] BTW, Shiller is co-author of the Case-Shiller index, a measure of the state of the housing market. Continue reading Attention apartment investors: An entire generation has lost its interest in homeownership.
A common theme adopted by the industry is that lenders continue to delay action on distressed assets for as long as possible.
The fact is that this scenario is borrower-specific. If a borrower is acting in good faith, the lender may allow the asset to continue operating, resulting in a commercial property “Twilight Zone.”
The Twilight Zone is made up of properties on which loans have defaulted or in which default is likely imminent, but the borrower is still willing to provide all available cash flow to the lender, even if it is not enough to cover the payments. The lender agrees to accept net rents and, in turn, keeps the building operational, albeit in a limbo period.