One month after we reported that home prices finally dropped for the first time in year, an observation echoed yesterday by Black Knight which also found that home prices had fallen for the first time in 3 years last month - in the biggest decline since 2011 - we knew the other shoe in the ongoing housing crash was set to drop any minute.
We didn't have long to wait, because just after the close today, all those who had defended housing as backstopped by Wall Street's biggest firms and thus unlikely to crash, were suddenly silenced when Bloomberg reported that Home Partners of America, the single-family landlord owned by Blackstone, the largest residential and commercial landlord in the US, will stop buying homes in 38 US cities, becoming the latest institutional investor to back away from an overheated housing market.
The company, which was acquired by Blackstone in June 2021 for $6 billion, told customers that as of Sept. 1, it is pausing applications and property submissions in Boise, Idaho; Fresno, California; Memphis, Tennessee, and 25 other areas. The company will go on hiatus in 10 additional cities on Oct. 1 (incidentally, Boise, ID is the city which saw explosive price increases during the covid pandemic, and has since then seen an unprecedented plunge with Redfin reporting that a record 70% of home sellers had dropped their asking price in July).
“We assessed several factors such as home price appreciation, state and local regulations and market demand to guide our investment plans to best serve consumers,” Home Partners of America said in an announcement on its website. “We hope to resume purchasing homes in these markets in the future.”
According to Bloomberg, Home Partners of America, which operates in more than 80 markets, stands out from other large single-family landlords because it’s designed to give tenants a pathway to homeownership. Customers apply for the program and, if approved, can submit homes they would like to eventually buy. Home Partners purchases the property in cash, then rents it to the customer, who gets the right to purchase the home at a predetermined price.
Under the new policy, customers who have been approved but don’t submit a home by the cutoff date will be withdrawn from the program and have their application fee refunded, according to the announcement.
Home Partners isn’t the first Wall Street institutional investor to back away from the US housing market, which reached a frenzied bubble during the first half of the year, a bubble which has since popped with both new and existing home sales collapsing at near record rates. As we reported last month, Invitation Homes, American Homes 4 Rent, and KKR’s My Community Homes are among landlords that have slowed purchases during a period of high home prices and rising financing costs.
Mynd Management, a real estate platform that helps investors find, buy, lease, manage, and sell residential investment properties, advised institutional clients to dial back acquisitions and wait for housing prices to readjust to the interest rate shock. In an interview, Mynd's CEO Doug Brien told Bloomberg that market conditions could improve in the fall as "buying opportunities" emerge. He said, for the time being, "let's tap the brakes and watch the markets."
Only instead of tapping the breaks, they were slammed full force...