Distressed Housing Attracts Speculators
There seems to be an important exception to that notion that this is a buyers’ market when it comes to housing: distressed real estate. Properties that are delinquent and nearing foreclosures or are already in foreclosure are now attracting bubble-like interest.
According to a report by RealtyTrac, “1.5 million U.S. owners have been told they are in danger of losing their homes. The company Thursday said one in every 84 households got at least one foreclosure notice during the first six months of the year, a new record.” As a result, “The existing home market is still vastly oversupplied, and we continue to be inundated with an influx of distressed and foreclosed properties,” observes another analyst.
Unfortunately – at least from the standpoint of “genuine” buyers – many of these properties are being snatched up by speculators and institutional investors, who have finally found a corner of the real estate market that remains buoyant. “Vornado Realty Trust, one of the biggest real-estate investment trusts in the U.S.,” made headlines when it announced its intention to “raise $1 billion for a private-equity fund to invest in the wave of distressed properties expected to hit in the next few years.” According to marketing materials, the fund is aiming for a 20% annualized return on its investment, which is in indication of just how excited people are about the market for foreclosed properties. Distressed commercial real estate, meanwhile, is nearing $100 Billion and growing rapidly.
Other investors, meanwhile, are hoping to benefit indirectly from a new federal program “designed to stabilize and revitalize neighborhoods ravaged by foreclosures and abandonment.” Across the country, “Out-of-state speculators continue to swoop into these neighborhoods, plucking properties they might fix up and rent out. Then again, they might try to flip them or simply sit on them, perhaps fouling any attempt to stabilize these areas.” These properties are being snatched up for eye-poppingly low prices- under $10,000.
Real estate agents are also getting into the game. A just-announced arrangement “will give local RE/MAX agents…access to RealtyTrac’s database of properties that are in some state of foreclosure — including properties in default, homes scheduled for public foreclosure auction and bank-owned properties…Going forward, prospective homebuyers visiting remax.com also will be able to search RealtyTrac’s database.” While ostensibly affording both buyers and sellers of foreclosed homes more opportunities, a byproduct of this arrangement is that speculators will also have an easier time spotting such properties.
Investors have another advantage – beside deep pockets – over regular homeowners; they almost always pay cash. Until the credit crisis is fully resolved and banks once again trust each others’ credit, it seems speculators will have the upper hand.
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