The Wall Street Journal says that wealthy New Yorkers are having a hard time believing that real estate prices are falling. After a decade long boom, they have difficulty believing home prices are actually dropping. Nonetheless, they are. Anecdotes abound, especially at the high end of the market, of residents losing millions even after ten-year holding periods. The big question home owners need to be asking themselves is whether New York is a bellwether of what is coming in US real estate, or whether it is just suffering from its own idiosyncratic problems.
FINSUM: In our view, this is mostly a unique-to-NYC problem. It is a combination of oversupply (from new builds), higher tax rates, lower demand from foreign buyers, and rising interest rates.
It would be easy to think that real estate is headed towards a buyer’s market. Inventory has been increasing, prices gains have slowed or disappeared, rates are rising, and prices are very high. However, despite all of this, many real estate experts think 2019 will still be a better year to be a seller than a buyer. The reason why is that inventory may only increase slightly, which will keep prices relatively high and not lead to massive price cuts like in the last housing downturn. A recession still looks a little way off, which could also insulate prices as the employment market stays tight.
FINSUM: We think the housing market is definitely going to see prices stay flat or fall next year, mostly because demand is falling as rates rise. However, we do agree that the bottom is not going to fall out by any means.
REITs are an interesting sector at the moment. The real estate sector is obviously past peak, and rates are rising, a double whammy for REITs. The initial reaction for many would be “stay away”, however, there is some value to be had. One interesting area is in regional mall REITs, which have actually outperformed the S&P 500 this year. There is a lot of variation in quality between different regional malls, however. In particular, the performance is bifurcating between the very best malls and the rest, with the former thriving, and the rest lagging.
FINSUM: The US has 1,000 malls and some estimates say there is only enough demand to solidly support around 300. The ones that stick around, particularly the top 20, will likely do very well.
One of the surest signs in the economy right now is that real estate is in trouble. Data coming out of the sector has been consistently weak for months and shows a clear downtrend in the housing market. Rates seem to be playing a big part of that, as demand for housing has sunk as rates have risen. That could prove one of the few brakes on the Fed’s relentless rate hike path. The fall in real estate comes at a time when the market should be surging, as unemployment is at extreme lows and Millennials are entering their peak home buying years.
FINSUM: Besides stocks and bonds freaking out, real estate is one of the areas showing a lot of weakness, and this it is perhaps one of the few aspects that could stop the Fed.
There is a lot of focus on stocks, bonds, and oil right now, but a very important US asset class is sending increasingly bleak signals: real estate. Data out of the sector has been growing weaker for months, and now new figures reinforce the trend. US homebuilder confidence has fallen to its lowest level in two years. The National Association of Homebuilders commented that “While home price growth accommodated increasing construction costs during this period, rising mortgage interest rates in recent months coupled with the cumulative run-up in pricing has caused housing demand to stall. As a consequence, builders have adopted a more cautious approach to market conditions”.
FINSUM: The rea estate market is slowly but surely tightening up. However, because price gains were never as over-the-top as pre-Crisis we only expect shallow declines as the next recession unfolds.
Advisors have probably started to see some discussion of so-called “opportunity zone” investing. The idea of the concept is to invest in designated “opportunity zones”, which are economically depressed areas, and reap benefits. But the real opportunity is in the tax treatment of such investments. Barron’ sums it up this way, saying “How significant? If you roll the capital gains from the sale of anything—your home, shares of Amazon.com , a Modigliani—into a “qualified opportunity fund,” and hold for 10 years, you get to defer paying capital-gains tax until the end. Then you’re taxed on just 85% of the original investment, and 0% on any money generated by that initial money”.
FINSUM: This is a very good plan for people who don’t need the immediate liquidity associated with some asset sale and want to defer a lot of capital gains. There are several firms that are setting up special funds just for this new purpose.