The nation is undergoing a radical transformation where renting is currently outpacing homeownership. The reasons are complex including the multi-year investor orgy into single family homes. Since the crisis hit 7,000,000+ homes have been lost due to the long and drawn out process of foreclosure. No need to worry since investors picked up a solid portion of the slack here. Americans are notoriously bad savers and addicted to debt. For most, housing is a forced savings account. This is why when net worth data is pushed out we find that homeowners clearly outperform renters. It is important however to keep in mind most of the net worth is tied up in equity. That is, you will need to tap your home somehow to get the money flowing out. This is how we end up with dumpster diving baby boomers scrounging the local Whole Foods for goodies while living in a million dollar crap shack. The hipster kids don’t seem to mind since they are now living with mom and dad, unable to afford the high rents in places like California. Yet housing overall does end up being a big forced savings account and that is why the net worth figures between homeowners and renters are not even close. If anything, it adds more evidence to the feudal landlord nation we are witnessing.
Follow the big money has been an adage on Wall Street for many decades. If that philosophy holds true for real estate as well, big money investors are signaling something regarding California real estate. Big investors have entered the single family housing market in a way that is unparalleled in history. We truly are in uncharted waters here. It is clear that the investors pulled the market up from the graveyard and gave it a substantial boost. It is no surprise then, as investors exit the California housing market that sales have waned and inventory has slowly started to pick up. A good way of seeing big money demand is to look at purchases made under LLCs or LPs since these are your big money Wall Street and hedge fund players. They are interested in deploying large sums of money versus your crap shack aspiring flipper or buyer. What is clear is that large buyers have pulled back in a dramatic fashion.
Rinse and repeat. That seems to be the mantra some flippers are adhering to in certain SoCal neighborhoods. Some zip codes seem to attract flippers like flies to a bright light. Eagle Rock is one of those markets. Nestled between Glendale and Pasadena, Eagle Rock seems to be a siren call for hipsters. What I find interesting in these hipster hoods is that they try to pitch a frugal eco-friendly lifestyle yet carry a massive mortgage. Okay, you are growing tomatoes and radishes but now have a mortgage on a $700,000 crap shack. Seems like cognitive dissonance especially when you are getting such a tiny living space. Hipsters seem to be buying it up but the market is now cooling off. Apparently living in a closet and having a tiny garden isn’t so appealing when you look at the underlying price tag.
You would think that the recent rise in home prices across Southern California would be enough to bring most homeowners into a positive equity position. However, we still have 1 out of 10 homeowners in a negative equity position. The total number of homes underwater in SoCal is estimated to be at 288,000 according to CoreLogic. This is a far cry from the 1.1 million underwater homes going back to 2009. Since that time many foreclosures have occurred and many homes have now shifted into the hands of investors. 288,000 is a large number of homes especially in a market with limited inventory. Now that we are entering into the slower fall selling season, you will likely see inventory pullback and buying demand slow down. Investor demand has pulled back dramatically already. Buying a home is a big deal and running the numbers on a crap shack is important in making sure you are seeing the bigger picture. There still seems to be this amnesia as to what happened only a few years ago. Millions of homeowners lost out in the supposedly safe investment vehicle of housing. Why? Because they took on too much debt and paid too much for a property. As prices soared in the last year, we are starting to see a deeper questioning of current values now that investors are pulling back and foreclosure resales make up a small portion of the market. Regular buyers did not push this market up. It was investors. Many regular households have been pushed into renting.
You can smell the end of the summer real estate season as some drunk sellers are pulling properties off the market since they are unable to obtain their ridiculous prices. Funny how expectations work. Some sellers drink the Kool-Aid and suddenly think their home is worth some optimistic appraisal or what a manic market will pay. You even see this in the real estate ads where sellers try to throw in their best curveball on what otherwise is a glorified closet. But hey, prices will only go up so buy with all the confidence in the world and never mind the carrying costs, opportunity costs, or other factors that make buying a more intricate process. The fall housing market always slows down. Now, with foreclosures making a smaller portion of sales, we should expect to see a bit more seasonal changes. However, I just love seeing some of the old neighborhoods where old properties are being sold as if they were newly built quality homes. We are seeing this in places like Pasadena for example. Let us go shopping in Santa Monica and see what we can get with $900,000.