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Real Estate: It’s Time To Buy Again

Real Estate:  It’s Time To Buy AgainReal Estate

A recent CNNMoney.com article posted by Shawn Tully, senior editor-at-large, declares:

Forget stocks. Don’t bet on gold.  After four years of plunging home prices, the most attractive asset class in America is housing.

“… I’ve never seen a shortage of new construction like the one I’m seeing today,” declares Mike Castleman, founder and CEO of Metrostudy.  Metrostudy tracks real-time data on the country’s inventory of new homes and covers 19 states, or around 65% of the U.S. housing market, including all the ones hardest hit by the crash: Florida, California, Arizona and Nevada.  The company’s client list includes virtually every major homebuilder and bank.

The key figures that Metrostudy collects are the number of homes that are vacant and for sale in each city, and the number of months it takes to sell all of them.  Together those figures measure inventory, the key measurement in determining whether a market has a surplus or a shortage of new housing.

The Makings Of A Shortage

Today Castleman is seeing an extraordinary reversal of the new-home glut that caused prices to sink just a few years ago.  In the 41 cities Metrostudy covers, a total of 78,000 houses are now either vacant and for sale, or under construction.  That’s less than 1/4 of the 343,000 units in those two categories at the peak of the frenzy in mid-2006, and well below the level of a decade ago.  “If we had anything like normal levels of buying, those houses would sell in 2.5 months,” says Castleman.  “We would see an incredible shortage.  And that’s where we’re heading.”

In a interview with Fortune, Karl Case, who together with Robert Shiller created the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price indices, says “the lack of new home building is a huge help that a lot of people are ignoring. People think I’m crazy to be optimistic, but housing is looking like the little engine that could.”

Two basic factors are laying the foundation for a recovery in residential real estate:

  1. the historic drop in new construction
  2. a steep decline in prices (about 30% nationwide since 2006, and as much as 55% in the hardest-hit markets)

The new affordability will gradually attract Americans back to buying homes, and the return of the homeowner will start raising prices in many markets this year.

In 28 out of 54 major markets, it’s now cheaper to pay a mortgage and other major costs than to rent the same house.  In all the distressed markets, owning now beats renting by a wide margin.  A major reversal from 4 years ago.  In Miami the average rent is now $1,031 a month versus the $856 it costs to carry a ranch house or stucco cottage as an owner.

The true disaster areas for housing since the bubble burst have been Sunbelt cities such as Las Vegas, Phoenix and Miami.  But people always want to live in those sunny locations, and their job markets are starting to recover, albeit slowly.  In foreclosure markets the inventory problem is far greater because it includes not just traditional resales homes, but millions of distressed properties.  Fortunately those houses are now such a deal that investors, including lots of mom-and-pop buyers, are purchasing them at a rapid pace.

The outlook is brightening for Phoenix, Las Vegas, Miami and parts of Northern California.  A big positive is the tiny supply of new homes entering the market.

Mike Castleman tells editor-at-large Shawn Tully “… the naysayers are about to get a big surprise:  rising prices for new homes.”

For more information on real estate in Aventura and the South Florida area please contact me at (305) 329-4929 or solovay.m@ewm.com.

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