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.
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.
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.
The real estate market has been heading south for almost a year. Disappointing numbers keep coming in, but there has not been major urgency or alarm. In fact, homebuilders are having a stellar year, up almost 20% and well above the S&P 500’s gain. However, Stephen Kim at Evercore is warning that investors should be wary of hosuing stocks. Citing the most risky names as DR Horton, PulteGroup, Toll Brothers, and KBHome, Kim says about the group that “Hope is not a strategy”. Kim was bullish on the shares in the Fall before their big move higher, but now believes they are fully valued.
FINSUM: The trend may be your friend, but given the direction of the housing market and the big recent price rises, we wouldn’t want to be long the homebuilders index right now.
Another month, anther patch of really rough data on the US real estate market. New data from December has just been released, and shows a clearly negative trend for the market. Housing starts dropped 11.2% in the month, and overall, the market saw the worst price growth (4.7% in major metropolitan areas) since 2014. Stock market turbulence and higher rates plagued the market at the end of 2018.
FINSUM: We have seen many months of deteriorating real estate performance. The big question now is whether the market can rebound in time for the peak spring selling season.
Along with warehouse growth, data center expansion is one of the hottest areas of commercial real estate. So how to play it? These REITs were hit pretty hard at the end of the year, but they are now making a strong comeback. The big driver at the macro level is demand for cloud services and the growth of AI, both of which increase the need for data center space. Four stocks to look at are Equinix, CoreSite Realty (COR), Iron Mountain (IRM), and InterXion Holding (INXN).
FINSUM: Data centers seem to have some strong growth drivers behind them, and along with warehouses, we think they are strong ideas for REITs.