The term that property owners and landlords generally cringe at hearing is echoing in cities all across the US. That term is rent control. Oregon passed a law this February to cap rent increases at 7% plus inflation, and now many other locations, including Colorado and New York are considering such measures. In some instances, it is a matter of repealing an existing ban on rent control, which would then let cities set their own rules.
FINSUM: The biggest hit to public markets from the spread of such measures will be in apartment REITs like Equity Residential, AvalonBay Communities, and Essex Property Trust.
The real estate market has been worrying and disappointing for well over a year now. Home sales and new constructions have been trending poorly, all of which has worried investors that a recession may be on the way. However, this year’s drop in yields has made mortgages much more affordable, which seems to be helping the market. Big market player Realtor.com has just put out its updated outlook for the year, saying “lower, but still increasing mortgage rates that will buoy home prices and sales by boosting buyers’ purchasing power beyond what we initially projected”.
FINSUM: For a $200,000 mortgage, the difference in monthly payments right now is already almost a $150 lower versus what it was in the fourth quarter. That is a meaningful difference for many families.
The market has been fretting about real estate for over a year now. Numbers in the sector have been in a funk and there is a definite weakening occurring. However, that may prove short-lived as a new factor may slowly push that market back into a sustainable boom cycle. That factor is the grow of $15 per hour minimum wages across the US. Such wages are likely to significantly increase the earning power of millions of Americans, allowing many couples to afford to buy a home. For instance, a couple with one worker at Target and another at Bank of America could afford to buy up to a $300,000 home at the new wage levels.
FINSUM: If the new higher wage rate takes hold, it is likely to unlock a major source of untapped demand for housing.
How does a big global housing meltdown sound? Crappy. Well, that is exactly one of the things that the IMF is currently warning investors about. Americans will already be well aware of the several month downturn in real estate, but what is likely much less well understood is that many markets around the world, including emerging markets, look at risk of a major housing bust. One of the big worries of the IMF is that a real estate downturn will spark a banking crisis in overseas markets that could then bubble over to the rest of the world.
FINSUM: We don’t tend to think of real estate as a particularly globally-correlated asset class. However, the banking industry that underpins it certainly is, so the risk is definitely there.
Residents of many high tax states are likely feeling the pinch. The reality of much higher tax bills is trickling through for residents in states like New York, New jersey, Connecticut, Oregon, and California. In the New York area, there seems to be a particular downturn in real estate. Many large suburban properties are seeing their prices slashed. Some selling prices for luxury properties are 50% below what they were just a few years ago. While the downturn is partly a product of changing real estate preferences (i.e. buyers wants smaller urban homes), the new SALT limit is a major headwind.
FINSUM: This important for advisors to pay attention to as many clients may have much less value in their home than they anticipate.
There has been a lot of gloomy reporting on the real estate market lately (admittedly in this publication too), but the reality is that the market is not in as poor shape as many think. Here are two points to digest. The first is that national US home prices rose 4.3% (annualized) in January, down from a 4.6% gain in December, but still solid. The figure is two percentage points below January of 2018. The second point is that with yields having fallen so far, cheap mortgages (think 4% or less) are back. The big reduction in mortgage expense is fueling fast refinancings, but it also seems like enough to boost home purchases.
FINSUM: The bond market and the Fed’s dovishness might prove to be a big support to the real estate market. Also, considering all the gloomy news, a 4.3% annualized gain in January (the month after the stock market rout) does not seem too bad at all.