This article details that house prices continue to drop in the U.S., down 3% in the past year on average. Standard Capital is a bridge lender to builders who buy homes from banks and rehabilitate the homes before re-selling them for a profit to families that occupy the houses. The drop in home values means lower profits for our borrowers. We see affordability becoming attractive which should help create a floor for home values even as prices continue to ease in the next 12 months or so. In our view, as long as the Federal government continues its policy of providing low-cost mortgages, the market is unlikely to drop dramatically from current values. Click here to access the article on the Wall Street Journal website. -or- To access a PDF of the article, please click here: WSJ_Home Market Takes a Tumble
To access the article Jan discusses below, please click here: A Bull Market in Rental Housing - WSJ This article from the Wall Street Journal makes the case that buying apartments should yield attractive returns today. It is true that prices are down from their peak and the outlook for future increases in rental income is positive. However, the article sidesteps the single largest challenge for apartment investors--the market is overheated. In Los Angeles, there are hundreds of wealthy individuals and families searching for small properties to buy for all cash. They have pushed down capitalization rates, defined as initial cash flow from operations divided by purchase price, to the 5% to 6% range. Even though interest rates are low, the initial cash-on-cash return for apartment investors in California, defined as cash flow after debt service divided by the buyer's down payment, is in the low single digits.
For a very long term investor who has lots of extra cash to invest, buying apartments does indeed represent a valid investment investment strategy. However, for professional investors and others with limited resources to invest, buying apartments in Southern California at full retail value should be considered with skepticism. At the moment we prefer to make short-term loans to opportunistic investors who are buying assets from banks. By taking a strategy that is far off the main beaten path, and focusing on loans that are too small for real estate private equity funds, we cut the competition by 80 to 90% vs. the competition to buy apartment deals. With less competition comes better risk-adjusted returns, in our view. This is not to say that we won't buy any apartments...only that there needs to be a very unusual situation in order to entice us to spend time chasing an apartment acquisition, given today's high prices relative to cash flow.
Please see the following article: Mega-Banks and the Next Financial Crisis In the article, fund manager Paul Singer argues that we may be headed for substantial inflation. The Fed "is treating confidence in fiat money--paper money--as inexhaustible." Loose monetary policy is being used as "virtually a complete substitute for sound fiscal, regulatory and taxing policy."
Mr. Singer has a point. Listening to the discussion and debate in Washington D.C. and Sacramento, one can't help but notice how far removed our elected officials are from the rules that govern a typical family's finances. Worse still, there seems to be very little resolve to tackle the tough issues, such as bloated pension promises, ever-rising government health care costs and raising the retirement age.
If Mr. Singer is correct, what does that mean for real estate investors? Here are a few observations about investing in an inflationary world:
* Owning real estate is a pretty good inflation hedge. Like gold, it is a hard asset and the supply is fixed. * Borrowing money for a long period of time at a low fixed rate is a good idea. The real value of the debt and the interest payments will shrink over time. * Lending money for long periods at fixed rates is a terrible idea. Avoid investing in long-maturity bonds because their real value will plummet if inflation comes back strongly. * In addition, any investment that is premised on the unlimited good credit of the U.S. or state governments, or on the credit of giant financial institutions, is risky.
What does all this mean for our program of making short-term real estate loans? Inflation would reduce the real return of these investments. However, because they are typically due in 6 to 24 months, they will fare much better than long-dated debt investments.
This article makes the argument that home prices are still overvalued relative to their 100-year trend of 3.35% price increases per year. If Federal support for the market were removed (e.g. home mortgage interest deduction and government guarantees of mortgages backed bonds from Fannie Mae), prices might drop 20%. Of course the U.S. Government is very unlikely to destabilize the market currently by removing support for the market given current conditions. That being said, investors in residential real estate need to be cautious and should not assume a return to rapidly rising prices.
Access the article on Wall Street Journal online here: Home Prices Are Still Too High
OR, if you are unable to access WSJ online, I've created a pdf of the article for you to read here: Peter Schiff_ Home Prices Are Still Too High - WSJ
In the article, note that the mortgage interest deduction, designed to make houses more affordable, actually does the reverse in dense urban markets such as Los Angeles. Access the article on Wall Street Journal online here: Homeowner Perks Under Fire
OR, if you are unable to access WSJ online, I've created a pdf of the article for you to read here: U.S. Backs Away From Support for Homeowners - WSJ