Real estate

Housing Starts, Permits Smash Expectations On Surge In Rental Construction

The serial extrapolators will be pleased... and the talking heads will now proclaim this as clear evidence that the cold-weather dysphoria has abated and its blue skies for real estate from here... Housing Permits back over 1 million homes SAAR (and biggest jump in a year) to new 6 year highs and Housing Starts back above 1 million SAAR near last year's highs. However, there is one major caveat - almost the entire surge was led by an almost 40% spike in multi-family units as the 'rental nation' grows ever stronger. Multi-family accounted for almost 30% of all starts - the highest in over 4 years as single-family starts rose a dismal 0.8%. Not exactly the "but housing inventories are so low and they must builder more homes" kind of growth that the headlines will crow about...

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You would think that with all the surefire bets in housing that people would be dialing up their realtors and heading out every weekend to make those lustful multiple offers presented in PowerPoint format on properties. Yet the overall market data shows a different story. The house horniest of them all, investors, are clearly pulling out of markets including sunny and inflated California. Apparently home prices do matter when making investment decisions. Cash strapped hormonal buyers will keep on buying but housing prices are set on the margin. That margin is becoming razor thin on current volume. I find it interesting that the biggest housing supporter of them all, the National Association of Realtors is also somewhat tepid on this recovery. Why? Because home sales volume is pathetic. Keep in mind they make money on selling and buying. Volume is key. Their model doesn’t work so well with banks holding onto properties like Gollum holding onto the ring and the foreclosure process being dragged out like the forever college student enjoying year 10 at Santa Monica City College. You see this overarching trend occurring in many metro areas across the country. Investors have been propping up the market since 2008. They are now slowly pulling back. You are also starting to see a convergence of analysts putting out their predictions on how overvalued housing is and backing it up with mountains of data. The other side of the argument points to prices. Sure, they’ve gone up but value is created by actual price and that is sort of the point. The answer as always isn’t so simple but using your thinking cap it is important to understand that housing is not a “no brainer” decision in this market.

Rising Resource Costs Escalate Odds of Global Unrest

Dwindling resources produce the least admirable human behaviors, something science has tested and understands quite well. Ukraine is a bellwether; we will see other conflicts like it elsewhere in the world, and likely, in time, within our own nation. Which is why understanding the nature of social unrest is so important, particularly to those considering relocation (within or outside of their home country). You certainly don't want to leap from the frying pan into the fire as resource scarcity and conflicts are now part of the global equation.

What Happens When America Goes Bankrupt?

Last week in the Land of the Free, I heard a radio campaign ad for a local political candidate while in Texas. In the ad, he was talking about the debt and excessive government spending. And then he said something along the lines of, “We need to get this under control before America goes bankrupt.”

‘Buddy,’ I remember thinking, "America isn’t going bankrupt. It already IS bankrupt."

This is the stuff that revolutions are made of. It’s already happening around the world from North Africa to Southeast Asia. And it’s starting to spread to the West.

The "Peak Bubble" Deal Is Back: Stuy Town To Be Sold Again

Stuyvesant Town, Manhattan's largest 'rental community', is back on the block as Bloomberg reports Fortress is preparing a $4.7bn bid for the apartmenet complex whose last 'failed' deal came to epitomize the lax lending based on unrealistic projections of future income that fueled the real estate bubble. Tishman Speyer and BlackRock purchased the 11,000-unit complex for $5.4 billion in 2006 - a record at the time - helped by a $3bn senior loan which was sliced-and-diced to investors (and then defaulted upon). But, as one analyst notes, "Stuytown has certainly come a long way since the depths of the crisis,” and Fortress' $4.7bn reflects a "resurgence in pricing." No bubble here at all as they hope rent-stabilized tenants will flip enabling all that fresh cash-flow for yet another yield-chasing investment idea based on the belief that real-estate prices (and rents) never go down (ever)... or potential buyers might remember "too many people have had too many unpleasant surprises at this location."

If Economic Cycle Theorists Are Correct, 2015 To 2020 Will Be Devastating For The US

Does the economy move in predictable waves, cycles or patterns?  There are many economists that believe that it does, and if their projections are correct, the rest of this decade is going to be pure hell for the United States.  Many mainstream economists want nothing to do with economic cycle theorists, but it should be noted that economic cycle theories have enabled some analysts to correctly predict the timing of recessions, stock market peaks and stock market crashes over the past couple of decades.  Of course none of the theories discussed below is perfect, but it is very interesting to note that all of them seem to indicate that the U.S. economy is about to enter a major downturn.  So will the period of 2015 to 2020 turn out to be pure hell for the United States?  We will just have to wait and see.

The "Quite Gloomy" Chinese Housing Market Completes "Head And Shoulders" Formation

"New starts contracted 15% yoy (vs. -21.9% yoy in March); property sales fell 14.3% yoy (vs. -7.5% yoy); and land sales (by area) plunged 20.5% yoy (vs. -16.9% yoy previously). ... the housing market situation has undoubtedly turned quite gloomy. There has been a constant news stream of falling property prices everywhere, even in the 1-tier cities. A number of local governments, as we expected, have started to ease policy locally, especially relaxation of the home-purchase restrictions." - Soc Gen

Frontrunning: May 13

  • EU Court: Google Must Remove Certain Links on Request (WSJ), people have right to be forgotten on Internet (Reuters)
  • Harsh weather: German Investor Confidence Drops for Fifth Straight Month (BBG)
  • More harsh weather: China Slowdown Deepens (BBG)
  • Harsh weather as far as the eye can see: China’s New Credit Declines (BBG)
  • "Alien" artist, surrealist H.R. Giger dies aged 74 (Reuters)
  • Pfizer urges AstraZeneca to talk as UK lawmakers slam offer (Reuters)
  • Property sector slowdown adds to China fears (FT)
  • Russia says EU sanctions will hurt Ukraine peace efforts (Reuters)
  • U.S. Considers Relaxing Crude Oil Export Restrictions (WSJ)

Europe's Luxury Home Bubble: People Are Dying To Own Dracula's Castle

With 560,000 visitors a year, Dracula's Castle may not be the ideal seclusion spot for the uber-wealthy European real estate magnate, but, as the realtor notes "n the right hands it has the potential to generate far more revenue than we could ever imagine," - we suspect followed by an echoing 'mwuahahahahaha'. Construction on Bran Castle (for it's not actually Vlad The Impaler's residence of old but he was imprisoned there briefly) began in 1377 and as HuffPo notes, the 57-room manor on 22 acres has been on the market several times in recent years, with investors at one point hoping to get $135 million. As the firm running the castle noted, “If someone comes in with a reasonable offer, we will seriously entertain the idea." We suspect people will be dying to buy this and with rates so low, it won't bleed you dry either...

Guest Post: Yellen's Wand Is Running Low On Magic

There's not much good news for housing these days. For a little while, the Fed's suppression of interest rates juiced housing enough to distract Americans from weak job creation and stagnant real wages. Don't have a job? No problem! Just borrow against the appreciation of your house to feed your family. But Yellen's interest rate wand looks to be out of magic. The government had a pipe dream of white picket fences for everyone. But Americans can't refinance their way to wealth. Especially in the Greater Depression.

Angela Merkel On The Ledge: "This Is Not Fair... I Am Not Going To Commit Suicide"

... To the astonishment of almost everyone in the room, Angela Merkel began to cry.  “Das ist nicht fair.” That is not fair, the German chancellor said angrily, tears welling in her eyes. “Ich bringe mich nicht selbst um.” I am not going to commit suicide. For those who witnessed the breakdown in a small conference room in the French seaside resort of Cannes, it was shocking enough to watch Europe’s most powerful and emotionally controlled leader brought to tears....

The Decline Of Small Business And The Middle Class

It is not coincidental that the middle class and small business are both in decline. Entrepreneurial enterprise and small business have long been stepping stones to middle class incomes and generational wealth, i.e. wealth that is passed down to future generations rather than consumed. As the headwinds to entrepreneurial enterprise and small business rise, the pathway to middle class prosperity narrows.