Apartment Occupancy at Highest Level in Nearly 20 Years

BY  ON JUNE 26, 2019

According to recent data from RealPage.com, strong leasing activity this summer has pushed occupancy levels to their highest level in nearly 20 years.  U.S. apartment occupancy hit 96% in May, up 60 basis points (bps) from April.  In addition, they confirm what we’ve already been seeing with annual rent growth holding solid at 3.1% – marking the 10th consecutive month of annual rent growth at 3% or higher.  In addition, the average rent was $1,394 among the 150 largest apartment markets.

“Healthy demand should be reassuring to developers as the number of units under construction nationwide keeps climbing. More than 426,000 units are under construction in the U.S. as of May, which represents 2.4% of the nation’s existing apartment stock. About 363,192 of those units are expected to complete in the next 12 months.”

Click here to read the full report at RealPage.com.

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Investor Buys Tax Delinquent Villa That's Actually a 1-Foot Wide Strip of Land

BY  ON JUNE 26, 2019

A Florida investor thought he got a great deal when he was buying a $177k-valued villa for $9,100 at a county property tax auction, but it soon turned into sour grapes.  According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, what he actually purchased was not a villa but a 1-foot by 100-foot strip of land worth about $50 (see arrow in photo below).  Now the buyer wants Broward County to void the deal and claims that the photos were misleading and deceptive.  The land actually contains two mailboxes starting at the curb and then runs under a wall separating the garages of the two adjoining villas and then extends out to the back.  Caveat emptor….

“It’s deception,” said Holness, a first-time auction bidder from Tamarac. “There was no demarcation to show you it’s just a line going through [the villa duplex], even though they have the tools to show that.”

FoxNews: Kerville Holness bid at a Broward County auction of tax-defaulted properties $9,100 for what he thought was a $177,000 villa. What he got was a 1-foot-by-100 foot strip of land. (Google Earth)

Click here to read the story at the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

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Vacation Rental Owners Brace for Travelers Who Were Scammed

BY  ON JUNE 25, 2019

If there is a way to cheat short-term rental customers out of their money online you can bet that criminals will find a way to exploit it.  A recent story at the Virginia-Pilot (Virginia Beach area) illustrated the growing problem of scammers using sites like Craigslist to surreptitiously list and then rent short-term rental properties that they do not own or control.  One rental home owner in Virginia Beach says he’s had to turn away people already this year who paid someone else to rent one of his summer rentals – which he only lists on Airbnb and VRBO.  He told the Virginia-Pilot that it’s always the same culprit (Craiglist) when he has to turn away families, often with their cars packed full of luggage, beach chairs, umbrellas and toys.

“Craigslist and vacation rental websites like Airbnb have made it easy for homeowners to rent their properties, and for consumers to find them. But the increase in Internet listings has brought more fake listings posted by scammers….”

“On Craigslist, a rental place might be listed at $200 a night, Ramaekers said. “It’s (actually) triple that during the summer. It’s unheard of. That’s what happened. They see these reduced prices and then wire the money and the wired money goes to an account somewhere,” he said.”

Click here to read the full story at the Virginia-Pilot.

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New York Landlords Gear-Up for Court Battle

BY  ON JUNE 25, 2019

Do you remember the story we posted about the twice-married woman in New York City who was “adopted” at age 58 by an elderly man she befriended so she could stay in his rent-controlled apartment (where he’d been living for at least 85 years, btw)?  Well, as Kathy Fettke reports in a recent episode of Real Estate News for Investors, things just got a lot worse in New York.  She says New York landlords are gearing up for a court battle over new statewide rent control rules that will have a dramatic impact on rent-regulated apartments in New York City, as well as non-rent regulated rental units across the state.  Landlords are planning to fight back with a lawsuit.

Click here to listen on Real Wealth Network.

 

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Zip Codes with the Most Baby Boomers

BY  ON JUNE 24, 2019

Rentcafe reminds us that Baby Boomers certainly don’t fit the mold when it comes to housing preferences because while many are staying put in their houses a growing number have become renters.  So where are the most popular places for them to live?  RentCafe crunched Census data for the 250 largest U.S. cities and then looked at the share and population of Boomers by zip code.  So where are they?

Click here to read the full report at RentCafe.com.

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Existing Home Sales Up 2.5% in May

BY  ON JUNE 24, 2019

The National Association of Realtors are reporting that existing home sales were up 2.5% in May, marking the first time in two months that there was an increase in sales.  The NAR says that all four major U.S. regions saw a sales growth, with the Northeast experiencing the biggest surge.  The median existing-home price for all housing types was $277,700, up 4.8% from May, 2018.   Total housing inventory at the end of May was 1.92 million, representing a 4.3-month supply at the current sales pace.  However, they do point out that while inventory is up, the months’ supply numbers remain near historic lows.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said the 2.5% jump shows that consumers are eager to take advantage of the favorable conditions. “The purchasing power to buy a home has been bolstered by falling mortgage rates, and buyers are responding.”

Click here to read the full release at the National Association of Realtors.

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FHFA Chief Tells Congress to Fix Mortgage Finance

BY  ON JUNE 18, 2019

The head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie and Freddie, recently asked Congress to “Help the Trump administration overhaul mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or he will do what he can on his own.”  According to The Wall Street Journal (reposted on Realtor.com) FHFA Director Mark Calabria expressed his frustration with repeated efforts to overhaul Fannie and Freddie but have failed to gain traction because of widespread disagreement over how to do it.  Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the WSJ says are critical to half the nation’s mortgages, have been under federal control since the 2008 financial crisis.

Fannie and Freddie for decades have played a key role in maintaining the plumbing of the U.S. mortgage market. They purchase loans from lenders and repackage them as securities that are insured if the loans default, guaranteeing roughly half of the $10 trillion housing market. The companies also are central to the popular 30-year mortgage, which locks in low payments for buyers.

Click here to read the full story at Realtor.com.

Click here to read the full story at the Wall Street Journal.

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Control Freak: Rent Control Resuscitated

BY  ON JUNE 17, 2019

“Rent control is a problem for other places, not here.”  It’s a familiar refrain. After all, there are only five states (California, Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Oregon) and the District of Columbia that allow for rent control. Moreover, 36 states explicitly preempt localities from implementing it. By the numbers alone, it could reasonably be assumed that this doesn’t affect most of the country. Considering the broad agreement among academics, public policy researchers and industry experts about the disastrous consequences of this policy, this mindset is no surprise. This agreement is backed up by the experience in those areas with historical ties to this kind of regulation.

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, history tends to repeat itself.

As it revolves, old political ideas tend to return in modern times in shiny new packaging hiding tired old fallacies. Rent control is being yanked, again, from the waste bin of history and given new life as a viable option to address the nation’s housing affordability problem. This time rent control has received a round of rhetorical plastic surgery that redefines the policy in more “practical” terms.

Oregon is patient zero in this budding epidemic. Its newly adopted, state-wide rent control law has opened Pandora’s box, prompting several states to follow suit with their own rent regulation proposals (see chart and map). The law, which caps rent increases at 7 percent plus inflation, represents a successful attempt by advocates to characterize rent regulation as “anti-rent gouging,” giving it a thin gilding of reasonability. Advocates in California have used this blueprint to get a similar bill introduced this session by the state Assembly’s Housing Committee Chairman David Chiu.

Advocates have never stopped talking about rent control; they’ve just rebranded it to seem more acceptable under the guise of setting sensible limits on annual rent increases. With “housing as a human right” as a call to action, renters’ rights advocates and their champions in government are looking for a quick fix to an emotionally-charged issue. Rent regulation provides an out-of-the-box solution for policymakers that is easy for voters to understand, simple to implement and affords short-term relief to low-income households who are fortunate enough to reside in the small segment of newly rent-controlled apartments.

Keeping Score

Consensus today is rare; consensus among economists is exceedingly rare. To bolster that point, some cite a poll conducted by the American Economic Review that resulted in 93 percent of economists agreeing that “a ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available.”

Socialist economist Assar Lindbeck frames rent control in stark but clear terms: “Next to bombing, rent control seems in many cases to be the most efficient technique so far known for destroying cities.”

Why do these arguments no longer resonate? Because factual arguments are giving way to emotional politics. Political forces have shifted to create an environment-friendly to this new wave of rent control.

Consider the following: As the economy has continued to improve since the financial crash, there has been a concerted effort to legislate in favor of the populations perceived as being “left behind.” At the same time, the apartment industry, compared to other real estate sectors, has done well during the economic downturn and subsequent recovery. The number of people choosing to rent, whether by choice or because of financial constraints, has quickly risen and continues to rise.

Despite this growth, the industry continues to suffer from a supply and demand imbalance, largely because of government-imposed barriers to construction at the local level and not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) community opposition. Meanwhile, states and localities are plagued by housing affordability challenges. Elected officials are feeling the pressure to provide relief to cost-burdened renters or populations in their communities who are facing homelessness or displacement, stifling the growth of housing supply and increasing the cost of developing and operating rental housing. Given the perceived solvency of the apartment industry, apartment owners and operators are an easy target for shouldering the resulting impacts of regulation.

Making matters worse, housing policy is being driven by a generation of elected officials who have no practical real estate experience nor knowledge of the historical failures of rent regulation and are under pressure to adhere to an ideology of “housing justice.”

The Numbers Are Scary

For decades, the industry has warned of the consequences of supply failing to keep pace with demand. In 2017, NAA and NMHC committed the problem to paper by producing a report, “U.S. Apartment Demand– A Forward Look,” which identifies the need for 4.6 million new units by 2030.

At that time, it would have required the construction of 328,000 units per year just to keep pace with demand. We have only begun to meet those goals within the past two years. But even so, decades of under-construction have left a massive shortage in the overall apartment housing supply, which were not accounted for in the Demand Report. Add to that the existing older stock of apartments, which could number up to 11.7 million units, that need to be rehabilitated.

Policymakers understand this and are concerned; however, they are pressed to do something in the short-term, even if that “something” hobbles the sustainable solution: Construction of more units. Unfortunately, that “something” is often to force affordability. Enter Rent Control.

We Need You

Jason Furman, former Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors to the Obama Administration, states it perfectly: “The U.S. could build a lot more apartments, but multifamily housing units are the form of housing supply that is most often the target of regulations.”

To overcome this hurdle, the industry must actively engage with governments at all levels to prioritize, plan and partner with policymakers at all levels of government to reach our shared goals:

PRIORITIZE the Development of Apartment Housing. Apartments make the most of a community’s limited infrastructure and resources through their design and efficient use of land. Communities should capitalize on these efficiencies by removing regulatory barriers to apartment construction and rejecting proposals that act as barriers to investment and development.

PLAN for a Diversity in Apartment Housing. Apartments represent America’s most affordable housing option. They are both responsive to the needs of residents and flexible enough to accommodate the demands of a modern-day workforce. Today’s successful communities serve residents of all economic levels. Those that encourage this diversity best position themselves to remain competitive in an increasingly global economy.

PARTNER with your local Apartment Association. Not all communities are alike. What works for one may not work for another. To find the best solution for each community, policymakers should work directly with NAA’s network of more than 150 affiliates. As active members of the apartment industry that reside in the communities that are served, NAA members are best positioned to act as partners in a community’s success, because they are vested in its success!

Placing A Face with the Name

California voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 10, an effort to repeal the state’s 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which preempts localities from instituting rent control after its passage. Two campaigns were waged against Proposition 10 and included all the right messaging against the expansion of onerous rent control. That said, it wasn’t just the message that won the day, it was the messengers.

The campaigns engaged and assembled the groups of people who would be hurt by the passage of the policy. The diversity of opponents came from the affordable housing community, seniors, civil rights, labor, veterans, ethnic organizations, civic groups, elected officials and the business community. Notably, this included groups like the California State Conference of the NAACP, State Building & Construction Trades Council of California and the California Senior Advocates League.

This year, the Illinois legislature refused to advance a bill that would have overturned its statewide preemption on rent control. Like California, the SHAPE Illinois Coalition assembled a diverse group to articulate what the adoption of rent control would do to their communities. With the help of groups like the Chicago & Cook County Building & Construction Trades Council, Hispanic Housing Development Corporation and South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, the industry was able to communicate the impact to the broader community in a very personal way.

At the end of the day, successful campaigns communicate their effect on people and their well-being, not an economic or policy argument. By communicating that impact, these campaigns were successful in exceedingly challenging environments. They were successful because they put a large community behind their effort—a concept this industry knows a thing or two about.

Different Flavors of Rent Control

Rent Control or Rent Cap: A government-run board sets the maximum rent—this is exceedingly rare.

Rent Stabilization or “Anti-gouging”: A government-run board sets the amount that rent can be increased within a specified time—this is more common.

Inclusionary Zoning: The government requires a percentage of apartments to be set aside with rents at a specific income level as a condition of approval—currently the most common.

Rent Control Support: The Road to Ruin Is Easy to Travel

Rent control’s main supporters are professional advocates, armed with the notion that our current housing affordability problems are insurmountable by anything less than government intervention, and cannot get any worse. To them, rent control is an off-the-rack “solution” with little to no cost to government (or so they think).

That combination tempts legislators, especially when they look at the alternative of having to wait for years to build new supply in an environment that was hostile to begin with.  Rent control represents an easy out. It satisfies the cries to do something today without having to deal with the future fallout.

The good news—and the bad news—is we don’t have to wait for the future to know what awaits the implementation of rent control. It’s a lesson we’ve learned many times and many ways.

Other Perspectives

To get an idea why policymakers would ignore this broad consensus, look at the helplessness with which they view the crisis. Try to see the issue from these perspectives:

Their Constituents: While most have recovered from The Great Recession, some have been “left behind.” The number of people renting apartments is at an all-time high. What’s more, that number is growing at a faster pace than previous generations, making renters a more potent voting bloc.

The Real Estate Industry: By and large, the rental housing industry has done well – particularly when compared to other real estate sectors. However, despite strong demand for rental housing, communities have not built enough apartment homes to keep up with demand, leading us to today’s crisis.

The Body Politic: There is a generation of public officials that have inherited the housing crisis and have no practical experience with the many failures of rent control. This is exacerbated by last November’s election, wherein a distinct movement of left-leaning candidates, buoyed by far-left progressives, focused on topics like social justice and equity.

The Apartment Industry: These factors have converged on the rental housing industry. It seemingly shoulders both the blame and the responsibility to alleviate years of active and passive neglect.

On one side, the industry has been unable to develop new supply because of onerous government regulations which appease Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) community hostility. On the other side, the industry is challenged to keep units affordable in the face of escalating operations and management costs—therefore finding itself caught in the crossfire with little control and less sympathy.

Further, it has been so long since the industry has dealt with the idea of preemption that not many people within the industry can either remember or articulate why preemption is necessary. Given that, what makes you think your state policymaker will know?

 

Fred Tayco is Director, External Affairs, and Alex Rossello is Manager, Public Policy, for NAA.

 

Click here to read the article at the National Apartments Association’s Units Magazine.

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Foreclosure Inventory Rate Lowest Since 1999

BY  ON JUNE 17, 2019

According to the latest CoreLogic monthly Loan Insights Report, 4% of mortgages were in some stage of delinquency (30 days or more past due, including those in foreclosure) in March, 2019.  These loans represent a 0.3-percentage-point decline in the overall delinquency rate compared with March 2018 and was the lowest for the month of March in 13 years. In addition, they report that the foreclosure inventory rate (measuring the share of mortgages in some stage of the foreclosure process) was 0.4% and was the lowest for any month since January, 1999.

“The increase in the overall delinquency rate in 42% of states most likely indicates many Americans were caught off guard by their expenses in early 2019,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic. “A strong economy, labor market and record levels of home equity should limit delinquencies from progressing to later stages.”

Click here to read the full report at CoreLogic.com.

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Are Record low Birth Rates Suppressing Housing Demand?

BY  ON JUNE 13, 2019

The NAHB’s Eye on Housing is reporting that with declining birthrates, there will be lower demand for rental housing two decades from now when those born in recent years will be entering the rental market. Citing data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, they say the effects will spread to the single-family market in the following years and will persist for many years to come.

“The effects of declining birth rates on housing demand are not limited to the distant future. As fewer and fewer females get married and have children before they turn 35, the socio-demographic incentives to start their own household are weakening. This, in turn, suppresses housing demand for both for-sale and for-rent single-family housing, the preferred choices of families with children under 18 years.”

Click here to read the full report at the NAHB’s Eye on Housing.

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