Category Archives: Real Estate

Time to Get Out of Real Estate

Talk about exquisite timing.

Even today, a decade after the fact, the leveraged buyout of Equity Office Properties Trust remains one of the largest of all time: $36 billion for nearly 600 office buildings in New York, Washington D.C. and dozens of the nation’s largest cities.

But in late 2006, some wondered if the billionaire who sold the REIT was being a little rash. After all, the real estate boom was in full swing, and the S&P 500 was primed to hit new all-time highs. “Is he cashing out too early?” asked a Bloomberg headline when the deal was announced.

We all know the answer, of course.

Billionaire Sam Zell deftly sidestepped the coming real estate carnage. Then, with prices at generational lows a few years later, Zell bought hundreds of apartment complexes at dirt-cheap prices.

And today? Well, that’s the ominous part…

Once again, Zell is selling his real estate holdings. Last fall, he unloaded a quarter of his portfolio, buildings totaling about 23,000 rental apartments, to Starwood Capital Group for more than $5 billion.

Zell next sold off apartment buildings in South Florida and Denver, with complexes in Phoenix, Boston and other metro areas expected to be sold before the year is out.

“No one has ever accused me of not being a realist,” Zell told CNBC’s talking heads recently.

Reality Bites

Few things are more real than the threat of rising interest rates. Concerned about the Fed’s late-to-the-party threats and distorted capital markets drunk on years of zero-interest-rate policy, Zell is getting out while the getting is still good.

In the past few months, new-home sales hit their highest level in eight years. Pending home sales rose by the largest percentage gain in a decade.

Even home flipping is back in vogue again. RealtyTrac, measuring 2015 data, estimated a 75% increase in active home flippers – the highest since 2007.

Nationally, the average gross profit on a flipped home was $55,000 – the largest since 2006.

But for the realists like Zell, the widening cracks in the facade are plain to see.

For instance, apartment rent is starting to come down in New York and San Francisco – two of the hottest markets in the country. There is simply too much supply and not enough demand.

A few weeks ago, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston warned about overheated speculation in the commercial real estate market. “We care about potentially inflated commercial real estate prices,” said the bank’s president, Eric Rosengren, “because they might risk a bout of financial instability.”

Translated from “Fedspeak,” Rosengren was saying: Get out now.

Even those ultra ultraluxury homes in the $100 million and up range aren’t selling. It’s a rarefied market, for sure, but The New York Times recently noted that a record 27 properties, each with a nine-figure price tag, are languishing unsold on the market. According to figures kept by Christie’s International Real Estate, 19 such homes were on the market in 2015 and 12 in 2014.

Late last year, I wrote about one of those massive palazzos here in Florida – the beachside $159 million, 60,000 square foot Le Palais Royal. It’s still for sale.

Perhaps the extra gold leaf they painted on the front security gate will help.

Beware the Peak

I can’t see Sam Zell taking up residence in Le Palais Royal. But then again, he sold his office properties in 2006, and watched the market crack wide open a year later. Now he’s unloading his real estate portfolio again, so, who knows?

If history repeats, Zell just might find his next great distressed real estate bargains in the palatial homes of the (once) superrich – dazzling jewels of the “new” gilded age now past its prime.

Real Estate Statistics Explained

Basic Real Estate Statistics Explained

We are going to define some of the basic real estate statistics that get thrown around on a regular basis. To do that, we will use one real estate market, located in Hood County Texas. Even more granular, we will use the single family numbers for homes in Granbury Tx, a small town of approximately 8,000 residents which has seen substantial real estate growth in the past 12 months. It is important when reviewing real estate statistics to use a group of numbers large enough for consistency, but granular enough to tell your story.

The statistics that we will be referencing are true and accurate for the year discussed but are being used to define the real estate statistic itself.

We have chosen Granbury Tx as our example because the growth of the local real estate market there make the statics stand out.

Anytime you are evaluating statistics, especially in real estate, the source of the numbers are extremely important. In most instances, the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) provides the most accurate numbers when referring to real estate. This is because they have all listings by all local real estate brokers in their database. For the sake of explanation of the data, we will be looking at the numbers for home sales in Granbury Tx, directly from the MLS. These numbers are meant to give an example of how to read the statistics themselves. Anytime you evaluate real estate numbers, its important to pay close attention to how the numbers are gathered. In this instance, we will be using ONLY single family properties in the city of Granbury.

Basic Real Estate Statistics

  • Number of Sales – This one is pretty self explanatory. It is simply the number of single family homes sold in a particular month. In January of 2015, they had 51 single family homes sold. One thing to pay attention to when looking at this statistic is are they using the Under Contract date or the day the property actually went to closing. These two dates are usually between 30 and 60 days apart, so its critical that you know which one is being referenced. In addition, many of the homes that get calculated, if you are using the “under contract” number may not actually close! In our example, we are using the number of homes that actually closed. In January of 2016 they had an increase of over 49% which brought the total to 77 from 51. Growth of that level is very seldom ever seen.
  • Sales Volume – Sales Volume is simply the total amount of dollars spent on single family housing within that month. Once again, when reviewing this statistic, its important to keep the property types consistent. If you are comparing two areas to see which one has grown more and you include vacant land in the number for one area, you must include it in the other too. As previously mentioned, our examples only include single family properties. With Number of Sales looking at the units, you would expect the Sales Volume to go up appropriately, but in this instance, it went up even more than the units (by percentage). The total Sales Volume of single family homes in Granbury in January of 2016 was $15,191,500 as opposed to the January of 2015 number of $9,281,915. That is an increase of over 63%. Because the Sales Volume went up at a larger rate than the number of units, this reflects the average home sale being much larger in 2016 than 2015.
  • Months of Inventory – This is a commonly referred to statistic when examining a real estate market. This statistic refers to at the current rate of sales, how long will it take to sell through the existing level of inventory. This reflects the supply and demand for the market. In our example, in January of 2015 the level of inventory was 9 months and in January of 2016 it had dropped to 6 months. That is a 33% drop in available inventory! This means if you are looking to buy a home in Granbury Tx, it will be a little tougher in 2016 as there is less inventory available to buy.
  • Median Days To Sell – This stat simply refers to how long it takes for single family properties to be put under contract. Don’t let the “to sell” confuse you. To accurately show the demand for active homes, you really want to track how long it takes to go “under contract”. The process of acquiring final lender approval, insurance and getting to a closing can vary on a variety of factors. In January of 2015, the Median Days to Sell was 88. That number dropped by over 30% to 61. Once again, this tells you if you are looking for homes in Granbury TX, you better get your offers in quickly as the most desirable homes are going fast!
  • Average Price – This statistic can be derived in a variety of ways. We are going to use it in its most raw form and simply be the Average Price of Homes Sold within that month. Be careful when looking at this statistic printed anywhere as how the user defines the date sold can vary. Needless to say, Average Price can be used for active homes for sale or for the homes that sold. The Average Price of ACTIVE homes for sale is generally a pretty useless number as you can list a home for any price, without any possibility of it ever selling. Many homes listed for sale are at unrealistic prices thus the Average Price of Active homes for sale can fluctuate dramatically and give little insight into the market. You will want to look at the Average Price of SOLD homes. In January of 2015, the Average Home Sale was $181,998 and it jumped to $199,888 in the same month in 2016. This is an increase of almost 10%. This is not a number that truly tells the increase in home values across the board, but simply of the homes sold in that month, what the average was.
  • Median Price – The Average Home Sales Price can be skewed by a variety of factors. All it takes is one 5 million dollar home sale to throw those numbers off. To get a better view of the overall increase in value, it can be better to look at the Median Sales Price. Median Sales Price takes the number that is perfectly in the middle. For instance, if you have 11 homes that you are using in your statistic, you would take the sales price of the 6th one. This leaves 5 homes sold higher and 5 homes sold lower. In this instance, they are pretty close as the Median Sales Price increase from January 2015 to 2016 was 9.69%. This shows that we didn’t have the Average Price skewed too much because of an extremely large or extremely small sale.

There are hundreds of ways to look at the same numbers, when referencing to real estate, so be very careful to read the fine print on exactly what numbers they are using. When making comparisons, you will want to make absolutely sure that both are referencing the same property types, dates etc. It like the old saying says… there are lies, damn lies and statistics.

In an effort to describe some of the most basic real estate statistics, we are using the market statistics from Granbury Tx as they have seen some extraordinary growth.

Pressures That Dominate Real Estate Value

When people usually think of real estate value they think of two forces; supply and demand. Yes, this is correct; however supply and demand only fall under the one of the four main categories that drive/depress real estate value. Supply and demand fall under the economic category of influences in real estate value. The other three include; social impact, government subjection and environmental forces.

When looking at social impact, there are a few things one would want to consider determining the effect it will have on real estate value. Most of all the value would fluctuate accordingly with population characteristics. This tie into the potential for demand in the economic section of value; the more demand, the more value a property can derive. Population however should be looked at in more depth by breaking down the sample by age and gender, rate of household formation and partition, as well as analysis of the social values such as education, law and order, and lifestyle preferences. Careful consideration of these factors will help establish trends in what would be reflected in real estate values.

Next is the government subjection, accounting for a large aspect of real estate value. This includes political and legal activities on several levels of government. These government influences have the power to overwhelm natural market forces such that you would find in the economic category. Government has their hand in providing facilities and services that affect values as well as a one of the main contributors to patterns of land use (zoning, by-laws, etc). The following are some things to look out for when assessing the government subjection of a market; fire and police services, garbage collection, transportation arrangement, utilities, zoning, building codes, health codes, and fiscal policies. Also the legislation that is set forth by the governmental factor must be accounted for, this would include; rent control laws, rights to farm, rights for managing forest, rights to agricultural land, restriction on ownership, new development laws, control of hazardous and toxic materials, and laws affecting investment power, loan terms, and mortgage lending institutions. All in all this is quite the category and its understanding will provide for a great idea of where values are currently and where they are headed.

In addition to the social impact, as well as government subjection, the environmental forces also play a part in real estate values. These can be natural or man-made and are analyzed by observing several aspects. Climatic conditions (snowfall, rainfall, temperature, humidity) would be an obvious one that would affect the values of building somewhere as well as maintenance and carrying costs, as well as the quality and type of build. Topography, soil and consideration of any toxic contaminants would also be of great importance as well as natural barriers, such as rivers, mountains, lakes, etc.

Just to get out of the 4 factors of real estate value; it is important to mention that there are some overlying factors that would be part of 2 or more of the categories. Once such factor is location, this is the link of a property in time/distance to any given origin or destination of a resident/user of the property. Location could fall under for environmental and economic, if not all categories. Due to the area and property type, properties access to public transport, schools, hospitals, stores, employment, suppliers, recreational and cultural facilities, parks, and places of worship would of importance.

This would also lead us back to the economic factor of influence on real estate value. The fundamental aspects to look for here include: employment, price levels, wage levels, industrial and commercial expansion, mortgage credit availability and cost, stock of vacant property, stock of improved property, occupancy rates, construction costs and rental/price trajectories of existing properties.

And there you have it, the 4 major pillars of real estate value; social, governmental, environmental, and economic. Taking a deep look at each of these sections one would assemble the entire spectrum of current real estate values and more importantly future real estate values.

Rent or Buy? Which Option Makes Sense for You?

If you are the individual who is weighing the option of buying or renting a house, you need to consider a few factors. Your financial situation has to be assessed for your long-term planning and that it is not that simple as well.

Understanding your house budget and expenses

It is wise to review your household budget in comparison to the expenses before you begin looking for a new house. You have to find out how much can you afford to pay for accommodation without putting a burden on the budget.

You simply cannot go for rent or mortgage payments if you are unable to pay them on time. Several factors are involved both for renting or buying that should be considered prior to making a decision.

What are the requirements while renting or buying a house?

Your credit history and credit score are crucial and that they will be looked upon by the rental agency or the landlords for the mortgage or rent. You will be checked whether you are can pay the bills on time and are not overdue with the loans or the credit card balances. You have to check your score and credit history before applying for the apartment or the mortgage.

Other factors that are important include your strong employment history, W-2 forms and current bank statements that have to depict a good picture. A few rental agencies require professional or personal references as well as background check and contact information from the previous landlord respectively.

When is renting a viable option?

If you have uncertain employment: According to Evelyn Zohlen (financial planner), if you are unsure about your living paycheck and job situation, it is best to save money for the future living expenses. This will help you to build an emergency fund for you as well.

Limited funds: Renting is the better alternative when you do not have enough money for making the down payment or for managing the additional costs of owning the house.

Short time frame: If you have an assignment that lasts two years or you plan to move abroad in a couple of years, then renting a house is a better option.

When is purchasing a house a feasible option?

Buying a house only makes sense when you have the ability to cover the additional costs for owning a house. It is vital that you pay the closing costs and the down payment before you buy a house. It is seen that many banks receive a 20 percent down payment. This means for a house that costs 250,000 dollars, at 20 percent the down payment will be 50,000 dollars. So, the total amount includes percent in commission and another one percent in closing cost as well.

But if you have much debt, you should not put your savings for the down payment at all. It will be better to pay off the entire debt first until you get a better financial position for yourself. If there is no debt, then you need to work out the buying or renting options in detail.

The Importance of Master Planned Communities

Why Master Planned Communities?

According to predictions, there will be changes around the globe in the future that will challenge the way people live. These changes include:

  • Much higher gasoline prices
  • Greater emphasis on energy efficiency
  • Environmental protection and other green features
  • Growing water shortages
  • A 24-7 world that will demand amenities that are open 24-7

To be able to keep up with the global changes, innovations are needed, especially in the real state industry. Understanding the future requires understanding the demographics and how they influenced the market. Thus the birth of the Master Planned Community.What Is A Master Planed Community?

A Master Planned Community (MPC) is a large-scale self-sustaining residential plan. It has a number of various essential amenities not normally found in a regular housing subdivision. A Master Planned Community gives the ability to work, live and play all within walking distance. Some real estate professionals consider this type of luxury real estate development a “Mixed Use” development since they include retail, housing and entertainment In previous times, clubhouses and pools were at the top of home buyers’ lists. Today, access to neighborhood retail services, high quality restaurants and health care is becoming the top priority according to the latest research. People want to get access to everything they need quickly and at reasonable prices, thus walkable access to civic use areas is in high demand.

Convenience

Master Planned Communities are designed to provide a master planned convenience. In its varied housing within a community layout, homes are designed to conform to the lifestyle of diverse generations. They are created to provide both soft and hard amenities and services in the way people want them delivered. These luxury communities facilitate residents building and living comfortable lives and having more time to spend with their families. This lifestyle also enhances connectivity between neighbors and their surroundings through shared spaces created for everyone across varied demographics to use whether alone or together.

Important Aspects of Master Planned Communities

To highlight the benefits and most significant aspects of Master Planned Communities, listed below are some of the reasons why it is important to the home buyer.

1. Better Access to Important Resources

As mentioned above, people nowadays want to have easy and quick access from their own homes to their most important resources. In regular housing subdivisions, however, people bought all lands and built huge properties to maximize their lots, leaving no space for other amenities. In Master Planned Communities, lots and houses are planned accordingly by providing a required minimum and maximum size. That ensures that there are more open spaces for the building of other amenities. For example, park and play spaces are already built within the community and cannot be removed or replaced by any other infrastructures. In Master Planned Communities, virtually everything a resident needs is within the community or within short distances. This kind of setting is not just good for working parents, young professionals, aspiring entrepreneurs, and retiring baby boomers, it is also great for children going in and out of school most of all.

2. A Sense of Community Among Residents

The quality of neighbors defines a community. Not surprisingly, most people living in a luxury real estate development such as a Master Planned Community share a common interest which instantly creates a sense of togetherness among neighbors. As a result, residents feel safer, more serene, and more secure. Community events are organized within MPCs to provide residents with an avenue to socialize, get to know each other, and build strong connections. Additionally, the Master Planned Communities are founded on good governance with the rules and responsibilities of every community member that are declared beforehand. Many Luxury Master Planned Luxury Communities provide different community activities based upon the area within the PUD. For instance, in the luxury area, where homes start at $850,000 or so, you may find high-end marinas, with wet slips and dry boat storage. Some luxury developments even have their own private beach, or other waterfront home aminities in the luxury sectors. In the sections of the Planned Unit Development (PUD) where the homes are in the $300,000’s you may find community activities that involve fishing and pool parties.

3. Incorporated Agriculture

Gardens owned by the community is becoming popular in some Master Planned Communities. MPCs work to assist its residents to have their own local food production through either providing community gardens or incorporating small-scale farms.

4. Best Practices for Handling Transportation Issues

The use of multiple trails for biking and walking as well as the presence of sidewalks are necessary features of Master Planned Communities. And, as a solution to the most frequent and current demands of the community on transportation, MPCs implement various, sometimes combined, options of transporting people such as an electric autonomous vehicle systems, bus transit stops, car-sharing services, charging stations for electric vehicles, providing golf carts for driving within the community, or implementing shuttle services.

Other Significant Aspects

Play spaces, fitness boot camps, sand entry beaches, and co-workspaces are a few additional amenities to present in Master Planned Communities. Health and wellness is also one thing that MPCs are giving special attention to as more and more people are wanting to become healthier. The great outdoors with fresh, local produce and fantastic health care are things they are incorporating into the community in addition to sidewalks, pedestrian ways, multi-use trails, and social gathering places. On top of it all, Master Planned Communities have long-term increase in value which leads to great Return On Investment for home owners if planning to sell or rent their property. Master Planned Communities are also great for entrepreneurs. Business opportunities tend to be in abundance as many new partnership opportunities with companies that offer products and services wanted by the new generation of consumers emerge. For aspiring business owners, office spaces tend to be nearby at reasonable prices. The workers of businesses within planned communities tend to earn higher than average incomes. Many residential buyers look for the best location, easy access, quality neighbors, important amenities, and valuable future developments in choosing a home. A Master Planned Community is the realization of what was once just a dream community for many.

Condominiums

Although much of what has been metioned may sound like a condominium complex, that is not necessarily the case. Condominiums are planned out by a developer and may have similar shared areas, but they are a totally different real estate type.