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Early signs of a real-estate rebound

May 24, 2011 1 comment
10 Cities Where Rents Are Rising the Most

It’s not usually welcome news when the landlord hikes your rent. But a surge in rents this year represents a counter intuitive bit of good news for the economy and perhaps even for the beleaguered housing market.

[See the 10 weakest rental markets.]

Like home prices, rents fell nearly everywhere during the recession, as millions of people moved in with parents or found roommates to cut their housing costs. But with the gradual improvement in the job market and the overall economy, grown kids are finally waving goodbye to their parents and many others are moving into a place of their own. That’s pushing high vacancy rates back down, toward levels they were at before the recession—and sending rents back up. Research firm REIS estimates that rents will rise an average of 3.6 percent in 2011. In a few hot areas, like parts of Washington D.C., and New York City, rent hikes could exceed 10 percent.

That sounds like bad news for tenants, but it indicates that more people can afford the added expense, and that parts of the economy are getting back to normal. Eventually, higher rents could turn many tenants into buyers, since purchasing a home will start to seem like a bargain compared with sending a monthly check to a landlord. So rising rents today could signal a pickup in home purchases in the near future. Here’s where rents are likely to rise by the most in 2011, according to REIS:

San Jose, Calif. Average rent: $1,635; annual increase: 6.8 percent; unemployment rate: 10.6 percent.

Proximity to Silicon Valley and a tight supply of real estate make San Jose the market where rents are likely to rise the most in 2011. Hot companies like Google and Facebook are priming the local economy, and the high cost of homes means renting is the only option for younger or lower-income workers. That’s pushing rents up.

[See how buying a home is likely to change.]

New York. Average rent: $3,038; annual increase: 6 percent; unemployment rate: 8.4 percent.

The financial industry is recovering and the overall economy in New York City is relatively strong, which has kept the city’s unemployment rate below the national average. Plus, the high cost of owning makes New York a prime rental market, with about two-thirds of city residents renting their home. New York remains one of the few places in the United States where people are willing to pay a steep premium to live.

District of Columbia. Average rent: $1,521; annual increase: 5.4 percent; unemployment rate: 5.8 percent.

There’s been no recession to speak of in the nation’s capital, where the federal government is a huge industry of its own. In addition to federal workers, D.C. is filled with contractors, lobbyists, and trade groups that feed off the government sector. That has kept demand for all kinds of housing strong.

Greenville, S.C. Average rent: $677; annual increase: 5 percent; unemployment rate: 8 percent.

A low cost of living and a healthy concentration of companies like BMW, Michelin, IBM, Bank of America, and Bausch & Lomb have kept the economy humming in and around this “upcountry” city in northwestern South Carolina. Rents are cheap, so a fairly small hike is enough to land Greenville on the list of biggest percentage increases. That reflects an economy regaining strength throughout the south.

[See what it will take to fix the housing market.]

Portland, Ore. Average rent: $879; annual increase: 4.8 percent; unemployment rate: 9.6 percent.

Portland is known as a green city, and in recent years local officials have cleaned up the Willamette River and gentrified other parts of the city, making it more attractive to young professionals and other urban dwellers likely to rent. A regional economy driven by a blend of technology, service companies, and big employers like Nike seems to be on the mend.

Chattanooga. Average rent: $659; annual increase: 4.7 percent; unemployment rate: 8.2 percent.

Tennessee’s fourth-largest city got a shot in the arm when Volkswagen decided to locate its sole American factory here in 2009, with the first cars rolling off assembly lines this year. A smattering of other companies has helped keep unemployment below the national average. And with a low cost of living to start with, a small boost in rents is enough to land Chattanooga on our top 10 list.

Orange County, Calif. Average rent: $1,586; annual increase: 4.6 percent; unemployment rate: 9.1 percent.

This affluent area south of Los Angeles got crushed in the real-estate bust, but rising rents may be an early sign of a rebound. Home prices remain relatively expensive, so for many younger people, renting is the only option. And since the county borders the Pacific Ocean, there’s not much room for new building, which limits the supply of rental properties.

[See why gas and food prices are likely to drop.]

Houston. Average rent: $822; annual increase: 4.4 percent; unemployment rate: 8.3 percent.

Texas’s biggest city follows the fortunes of the energy industry, which has been booming thanks to the surge in oil prices and the economic recovery, both here and overseas. Houston is also a growing city that’s still attracting migrants from the north. There’s plenty of room to build, but new rental units haven’t caught up with demand yet, which is pushing rents higher.

Seattle. Average rent: $1,080; annual increase: 4.3 percent; unemployment rate: 9.2 percent.

Nearby Microsoft anchors the local economy, but Seattle also hosts a diverse set of technology and industrial companies that are leading a local recovery. There’s also a fairly limited supply of properties—since Seattle sits on the coast—which should help push rents up. In some ways, Seattle is a subdued version of San Jose, the top city on our list.

Hartford. Average rent: $1,021; annual increase: 4.2 percent; unemployment rate: 9.3 percent.

The insurance companies that still drive Hartford’s economy are recovering thanks to the strong stock market and a broader rebound in the financial industry. The housing market is still tepid, but rising rents suggest that a more pronounced turnaround may be coming for Connecticut’s biggest city.

Notes: Rent figures are projected averages for all of 2011 and represent “asking” rent, which is the amount a landlord requests. That may be slightly higher than actual rent paid. Annual increases are full-year projections for 2011. Figures for the suburbs surrounding Washington, D.C. have been omitted but are similar to the D.C. figures. Unemployment rates are for metro areas, except for Orange County, which is county-wide.

Dave & David Warner

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Forecast: Flat O.C. rents next two years

April 6, 2011 3 comments

The Casden Real Estate Economics Forecast, from the folks at USC’s business school, predicts flat Orange County rents in the next two years – with occupancy rates barely changing.

That’s a bit of a contrast to industry and government reports showing rents slowing increasing in recent months as the local economy modestly improves.

Casden analysis:

  • “Stabilized” employment picture from loss of 75,000 jobs in 2009 to gain of 6,500 jobs, in ’10. Unemployment rate in December 2010 was 8.9 percent, vs. 9.5 percent a year before. “Because of robust employment growth in preceding years, overall unemployment is still lower in Orange County than in neighboring metro areas such as San Diego, Los Angeles or the Inland Empire, and lower than the nation overall.”
  • Demand for apartments increased in year ended Q4 2010 to net 5,830 units, up 39 percent over the prior four quarters. Two Orange County submarkets experienced negative net absorption for the year: Mission Viejo and Central County.
  • Occupancy increased 1.2 percentage points in 2010, to 94.9 percent. Occupancy outpaced the West region by 0.8 percentage points, and had the second-best showing in Southern California.
  • Average rents increased by 0.8 percent in 2010 to $1,475 at year’s end, while “same-store” rents remained unchanged. Orange County’s annual rent performance was the fourth-weakest among the 64 metro areas tracked nationwide by MPF Research.
  • New Orange County apartment openings will drop precipitously in 2011.
  • Orange County home prices, “remain high relative to the rest of Southern California. Both the employment picture and relative lack of home affordability have helped support the multifamily market in 2010.”  Thank you,  OCR

Dave & David Warner
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Will Inflation Help Housing?

April 5, 2011 1 comment
Recent news stories have pointed out that increases in the value of commodities such as oil and food may lead to alarming levels of price inflation. At the same time, the cost of renting has gone up, and is expected to surge even more this year.

As rising prices gobble up more of the American consumer’s budget, buying a home will be a more attractive proposition. Values have fallen precipitously these past few years, which initially — and, some would say, justifiably — damaged the perception of homes as an investment. But now, affordability is looking as good as it has in decades, especially in relation to renting. In fact, in many metro areas, it’s now considerably cheaper to own than rent.

Combine these pricing trends with moderate improvements in employment, and we’ve got a recipe for a housing turnaround over the next couple of years, with a few caveats:

  1. Interest rates will have to remain relatively low (no higher than, say, 6-7 percent).
  2. Some mortgage financing system that continues to offer accessible, fixed-rate loans will have to be implemented.
  3. Housing supply will have to be somewhat low — that is, no sharp, sudden increases in the shadow inventory or new construction.
  4. There are no broader economic crises that negatively affect the industry.

If those criteria are met, then we could remember 2011 as a comeback year for residential real estate.

Thank you, Brian Summerfield, Online Editor, REALTOR® Magazine

Dave & David Warner
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Real Estate – Headlines Sell Papers

April 1, 2011 2 comments

Another reminder of the importance of getting the whole picture when sourcing real estate information was brought to light by the Keeping Current Matters team.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again –  real estate is local – national stats can be misleading.  You need a market consultant that can lay out the truth.  We are here to provide it.

Many headlines in the media right now are proclaiming the total collapse of the housing market. What makes it seem very believable is the headlines are based on two reports from theNational Association of Realtors (NAR): theExisting Home Sales Report and thePending Home Sales Report. However, all is not what it seems.

Both reports look at two different sets of data:

  • A year-over-year comparison of transactions (Y-O-Y)
  • A month-over-month comparison of transactions (M-O-M)

The negative headlines you have been reading are based on the Y-O-Y statistics. They are horrific. There is a logical explanation for this however. Last year, at this time, we were headed toward the expiration of the Homebuyer Tax Credit, one of the greatest buyer tax incentives in American history. There were people rushing to get their home into contract and/or to a closing. This dragged demand forward. People who would have normally closed later in the year moved their closing up in order to take advantage of the tax credit. Comparing sales in the first four months of this year to the same time last year wouldn’t be comparing similar situations. That wouldn’t make sense.

A better way to judge the market at this time is to compare month-over-month sales. Here is a graph showing the increase in pending sales over the last twelve months.

As we can see, sales dropped dramatically after the expiration of the tax credit in April 2010. Then sales began to slowly rebuild and are now increasing nicely.

Bottom Line

The market is gaining momentum not losing ground. Headlines sell papers. Actually knowing what is truly happening in the real estate market is what’s important.

Dave & David Warner

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Weekly Mortgage Rates March31, 2011

March 31, 2011 1 comment

March 31, 2011

Regional Breakdown 30-Yr FRM 15-Yr FRM 5/1-Yr ARM 1-Yr ARM
Average Rates 4.86 % 4.09 % 3.70 % 3.26 %
Fees & Points 0.7 0.7 0.7 0.6
Margin N/A N/A 2.74 2.76

 

From Freddie Mac

 

Dave & David Warner

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Pending Home Sales Unexpectedly Rise in February

March 28, 2011 1 comment

MARCH 28,  2011

Below you will find an article appearing this morning in Reuters citing that pending home sales unexpectedly rose in February on a national level.  As we all know the national picture does not also reflect what is happening at the local level.  At the bottom of the article, I have added the pending sales statistics from CARETS showing the local statistics, which were even stronger.

Also noteworthy is that Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economist, is expecting a national rise in existing home sales of 5 to 10 percent for this year.  This is more optimistic than his previous predictions.

Pending Home Sales Unexpectedly Rise in February

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Pending sales of previously owned U.S. homes unexpectedly rose in  February, a trade group said on Monday, pointing to a modest pick-up in home sales.

The National Association of Realtors said its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in February, increased 2.1 percent to 90.8.

Economists had expected the index, which leads existing home sales by a month or two, to fall 1.0 percent after a previously reported 2.8 percent decline.

“We may not see notable gains in existing-home sales in the near term, but they’re expected to rise 5 to 10 percent this year with the economic recovery, job creation and excellent affordability conditions providing confidence to buyers who have been on the sidelines,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.

NOTE:  The above are national statistics.  The local Pending Sales numbers, based on data from CARETS, are even better:

Dave & David Warner

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