In many ways, COVID-19 has changed the way we live for both the immediate future and long-term. Brooklyn Law School Dean Michael Cahill has been sitting down with members of the Brooklyn Law School faculty to discuss the legal ramifications of our response to COVID-19 and what a post-pandemic world may look like. Here is the link to our discussion of the effect of the pandemic on the real estate market and beyond: https://youtu.be/j9DFBOsU3qw.
InsuranceNewsNet.com quoted me in Investors ‘Flocking In’ to Real Estate Lending. It reads, in part,
The stock market is off to a roaring start in 2018, but there’s no shortage of investment gurus who warn that continued equities growth is far from guaranteed.
The dreaded market correction could be coming sooner, rather than later, some say.
That gives some money managers pause about what asset tools to steer in and out of a client’s retirement portfolio. But there’s an emerging school of thought that one specific alternative investment could be good protection against a stock market correction.
“We’re seeing financial experts weigh in with their 2018 investing recommendations, citing everything from mutual funds to value stocks,” said Bobby Montagne, chief executive officer at Walnut Street Finance, a private lender.
But one prime retirement savings vehicle often gets overlooked — real estate lending, Montagne said.
Real estate lending means investing in a private loan fund managed by a private lender. Walnut Street is one such lender in the $56 billion home-flipping market.
“Your money helps finance individuals who purchase distressed properties, renovate them, and then quickly resell at a profit,” Montagne explained. “Investments are first-lien position and secured by real assets.”
With real estate lending, investors can put small percentages of their 401(k)s or IRAs in a larger pool of funds, which lenders then match with budding entrepreneurs working on home flipping projects, he said.
“It allows investors to diversify their portfolios without having to collect rent or renovate homes, as they would in hands-on real estate investing,” Montagne added.
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An Aggressive Investment
Some investment experts deem any investment associated with real estate flipping as a higher-risk play.
“Investing a percentage of a retirees funds in real estate flipping would be considered an aggressive investment,” said Sid Miramontes, founder and CEO of Irvine, Calif.-based Miramontes Capital, which has more than $250 million in assets under management.
Even though the investor would not directly manage the real estate project, he or she has to understand the risks involved in funding the project, material costs, project completion time, the current interest rate environment, where the properties are located geographically and the state of the economy, he said.
“I have had pre-retirees invest in these projects with significant returns, as well as clients that did not have experience and results were very poor,” he added. “The investor needs to realize the risks involved.”
A 1 percent to 5 percent allocation is appropriate, only if the investor met the aggressive investment criteria and understood the real estate market, Miramontes said.
Investment advisors and their clients should also be careful about grouping all real estate lending into one basket.
“You could invest in a mortgage REIT, which would be a more traditional vehicle to get exposure to real estate lending,” said David Reiss, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School in Brooklyn, N.Y. “If you’re doing something less traditional, research the fund’s track record, volatility, management, performance and expenses.
“You should be very careful about buying into a fund that does not check out on those fronts.”
TheStreet.com quoted me in Home Loan Down Payments Are in Decline: Will Uncle Sam Ride to the Rescue? It opens,
President-elect Donald Trump has enough problems on his hands as his administration takes shape, with the economy, health care, geopolitical strife and a divided country all on his plate.
“U.S. homebuyers are putting less down to purchase homes due to the wide availability of low- and no-down payment loans such as FHA loans, Fannie Mae’s HomeReady program, a resurgence of ‘piggy-back mortgages’ and other programs,” says Erin Sheckler, president of NexTitle, a full-service title and escrow company located in Belleview, Wash. “Meanwhile, USDA and VA loans also do not require any down payment whatsoever.”
Sheckler also notes that lending requirements have begun to ease nationwide, thus giving homebuyers more wiggle room with home down payments. “According to Ellie Mae’s Origination Insight Report, in August, home buyer down payments varied by loan program but, in nearly all cases, down-payments were near minimums,” says Sheckler.
Sheckler also doesn’t expect the low down payment trend to end anytime soon.
“How much money a person decides to put down on the purchase of a new home is a combination of risk and personal tolerance as well as the loan programs available to them,” she says. “As long as mortgage guidelines remain relaxed and with first-time homebuyers being an increasing segment of the market, we will likely see down-payments hover around the minimums into the near-term future.”
The risk with lower home down payments is real, however. “No one wants to find themselves house-poor,” Sheckler adds. “Being house-poor means that the majority of your wealth and monthly income is tied up in your residence. This can be a catastrophic situation if you find yourself suddenly faced with a loss of income or unexpected expenses.”
Homebuyers looking for more help from Uncle Sam, though, may come away disappointed in the next four years. “While Trump has been pretty silent on the housing market, (vice president-elect Mike) Pence and the Republican party platform have made it clear that they want to reduce the federal government’s footprint in the housing market,” says David Reiss, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School. “This is likely to mean fewer low down payment loan options being offered by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA.”
NYU’s Furman Center has released a Data Brief, Selling the Debt: Properties Affected by the Sale of New York City Tax Liens. It opens,
When properties in New York City accrue taxes or assessments, those debts become liens against the property. If the debt remains unpaid for long enough, the city is authorized to sell the lien to a third party. In practice, the city retains some liens (because it is legally required to do so in some cases and for strategic reasons in other cases), but it sells many of the liens that are eligible for sale. In this fact brief, we explore the types of properties subject to tax lien sales but exclude Staten Island due to data limitations and exclude condominium units. Between 2010 and 2015, we find that 15,038 individual properties with 43,616 residential units were impacted by the tax lien sale. We answer three questions: (i) what kinds of properties have had a municipal lien sold in recent years? (ii) where are those properties located in the city? (iii) what happens to a property following a lien sale?
We present this information to shine a light on a somewhat obscure process that affects a significant number of properties in the city. Also, the lien sale has a number of policy implications. Tax delinquency can be an indicator of distress; property owners who have not paid their taxes may also cut back on building maintenance and investment. This could have ramifications for owners, tenants, and neighborhoods. The city, social service providers, and practitioners in the community development and housing fields may find this descriptive information helpful as they think about interventions related to the health of housing and neighborhoods.
In addition, the choice of whether to retain a tax lien or to sell the lien also presents a policy choice for the city—selling the lien allows the city to collect needed revenue it is owed; but, with the sale, the city gives up the leverage that it holds over delinquent property owners, which can be used in some cases to move properties into affordable housing programs or meet other strategic goals. The city could retain that leverage by selling fewer liens; but, then it would not only lose the revenue generated by the sale, it would also incur the cost of foreclosing or alternative interventions. The lien sale is part of the city’s municipal debt collection program, and the city must be careful that policy changes do not undermine the city’s debt collection efforts.
With this fact brief, we aim to shed some light on the real world consequences and opportunities triggered by the city’s current treatment of municipal liens. (1-2, footnotes omitted)
New York City has sure come a long way from the 1970s when the City was authorized to foreclose on properties with tax liens. The issue then was that the owners of thousands of buildings did not think it was worth it to pay their taxes. Their preferred strategy was to stop paying their bills and collect rents until the City took their properties away from them. After the City took possession of these buildings, it repurposed many of them into affordable housing projects owned by a range of not-for-profit and for-profit entities.
The Furman brief does not report on why building owners are failing to pay their taxes today. It is reasonable to think that, at least as to multifamily buildings, it is because of operational issues more than because of fundamental problems relating to the profitability of real estate investments in New York City. This is supported by the fact that, when it comes to tax liens, “many if not most debts would be repaid before foreclosure.” (11) Thus, while this brief sheds light on this shadowy corner of the NYC real estate market, it does not seem (as the authors agree) that tax liens will open a path to increasing the stock of affordable housing in the City as it had in the 1980s and 1990s.
Realtor.com quoted me in Buy a House for a Buck? The Real Story Behind $1 Listings. The story reads, in part,
Hidden deep within the bowels of real estate listings are a few head-scratchers that would no doubt catch any bargain hunter’s eye. They’re homes for sale for the grand total of one crisp American dollar. So what’s the deal? Are they for real?
I decided to find out by actually clicking, and calling, and learning the stories behind these tempting facades. And it turns out, $1 listings can mean many things. Here’s what this lowball price is actually all about.
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Possibility No. 3: It truly is for sale for $1, but…
The next four places for $1 that I check out are all rundown properties in Detroit. They range in description from “fire damage sold as is” (translation: a charred pile of lumber—pic below) to “bungalow with three bedrooms, one bathroom, basement and much more” (translation: “more” means plywood for windows and doors).
Still, some houses sit on decent lot sizes of 3,000+ square feet in neighborhoods that seem habitable at first glance. The listing agent won’t return my call, but I track down an agent willing to show me the various rundown homes. Though back taxes or liens on the property may jack up the price, I ask whether the house will really sell for $1. “Sure,” he says. “This is Detroit.”
Now that I’ve found a true $1 listing, should I hand over a George Washington for one of these fixer-uppers?
“When a house is being sold for a dollar, it means that the local real estate market has cratered,” says David Reiss, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School who focuses on real estate issues and community development. “Land has no value. Or even worse, it has negative value and buyers of $1 homes will end up getting snookered. Owning land comes with various mandatory expenses like real property taxes. It’s possible the true value is even lower than a dollar. In that case, you will see a lot of $1 houses staying on the market, as hard as that is to believe.”
Reiss further explains how the Motor City’s market cratered so deeply: “Real estate’s value typically comes down to location. If jobs have disappeared, if residents have disappeared, if services have disappeared—then value disappears.”
Beyond having zero worth, a $1 home is likely a gaping money pit. When the New York Times ran a piece on the subject in 2007, it found that “the houses often require hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovations.”
Though my search for $1 properties was a bust in the end, there once were $1 homes worth buying. “Think of New York City,” says Reiss. “Homes that were abandoned in the 1970s are now selling for seven figures.”
Bottom line? One-dollar listings may be a risky gamble, but, hey, you never know.
James Mills, Raven Molloy and Rebecca Zarutskie have posted Large-Scale Buy-to-Rent Investors in the Single-Family Housing Market: The Emergence of a New Asset Class? to SSRN. The abstract reads,
In 2012, several large firms began purchasing single-family homes with the stated intention of creating large portfolios of rental property. We present the first systematic evidence on how this new investor activity differs from that of other investors in the housing market. Many aspects of buy-to-rent investor behavior are consistent with holding property for rent rather than reselling quickly. Additionally, the large size of these investors imparts a few important advantages. In the short run, this investment activity appears to have supported house prices in the areas where it is concentrated. The longer-run impacts remain to be seen.
I had been very skeptical of this asset class when it first appeared, thinking that the housing crisis presented a one-time opportunity for investors to profit from this type of investment. The conventional wisdom had been that it was too hard to manage so many units scattered over so much territory. The authors identify reasons to think that that conventional wisdom is now outdated:
To the extent that technological improvements, economies of scale, and lower financing costs have substantially reduced the operating costs of buy-to-rent investors relative to smaller investors, large portfolios of single-family rental property may become a permanent feature of the real estate market. As such, the events of the past three years may signal the emergence of a new class of real estate asset. A similar transformation occurred in the market for multifamily structures in the 1990s, when large firms began to purchase multifamily property and created portfolios of professionally-managed multifamily units that were traded on public stock exchanges as REITs. (32-33)
Nonetheless, the authors are cautious (rightfully so, as far as I am concerned) in their predictions: “only time will tell whether the recent purchases of large-scale buy-to-rent investors reflect the emergence of a new asset class or whether the business model will fail to be viable over the longer-term.” (33, footnote omitted)
- MakeRoom’s campaign to bring awareness to the housing affordability concert by arranging concerts on the first (when rent is due) in the homes of families struggling to pay the rent. On August 1st Nashville an single mom, Marlene and her family were serenaded by the country music rock band John and Jacob. Marlene is an adjunct professor who spends 75% of her income on rent.
- The Urban Institute’s Housing Finance at a Glance Monthly Chartbook, contains a wealth of information on today’s real estate market including size and financing trends.