(New York)

Another day, another round of bad news for US real estate. New data on housing starts in February was just released and the results aren’t pretty. The number of new homes under construction fell 8.7% last month, a steep drop. The northeast was hit the hardest, with new starts dropping nearly 30% (thanks SALT limit). The only real gains in the country were in the Midwest, and only in apartments.

FINSUM: Not only did starts fall but new permits also declined, which means the bad run is likely to continue. We are curious how falling yields may boost mortgage issuance.

(New York)

There are many in the market who think that real estate, and perhaps particularly commercial real estate, is in for a real headache. The real estate market tends to slump in recessions and there are special fears that the commercial real estate markets looks inflated. However, Barron’s argues the opposite, saying the three fundamental pillars of the CRE market are solid—overbuilding, overheating, over-indebtedness. The article uses a number of points to show that the market is not as overbuilt as many say it is, that price rises have been modest, and that borrowers and lenders have been restrained.

FINSUM: We don’t think it is as simple as just saying CRE looks fine. There are a lot of different areas of CRE. For instance, we are a lot less worried about new warehouses/logistics centers than simple office space.

(New York)

The high end of the real estate market is faltering, and banks are feeling it acutely. So-called jumbo mortgages, or those outside of Fannie and Freddie backing, have been shrinking recently. In a sign of caution from rich home buyers, issuance of jumbo mortgages fell 12% last year and were off 27% from their post-Crisis peak a couple of years ago. That compares to just a 7% decline in normal mortgages last year. Jumbo mortgages dominate some cities. For instance, 61% of mortgages in Manhattan qualify as such. Banks are feeling the sting as jumbo mortgages have been a big profit center for them in recent years.

FINSUM: The housing market is slowing in all areas. The big question is whether this is a leading indicator of a recession, or just an isolated asset-level downturn.

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