In a Fortune Magazine article by Chris Morris, published in February, it is reported that in January 2019, there was more inventory available and houses sat on the market about a week longer than in January 2018.
As of January, there was an available inventory of 1.59 million homes overall, versus 1.53 million in December 2018. Of course, the article is lacking by treating the entire country as one monolithic real estate market. Needless to say, there are hundreds of markets, and they don’t always perform in lockstep.
Nevertheless, there is a subtle shift, even in mentality, that is more favorable to buyers as opposed to sellers, who until recently reigned supreme. Since we are primarily buyers (and then we hold for the long term), a buyer’s market is a positive for us.
It is interesting to note, and one of the reasons I am posting this blog based on an article several weeks old is that while in January 2019 sales were flat, in February 2019 sales surged up, but then dropped only slightly. This is likely to continue to lower rates and sellers having to adjust expectations. Overall, we can see that while there is a shift towards buyers in many markets, the market is still hovering near a relatively stable point. With the low-interest rates and more friendly sellers, this becomes a positive for the investor.
We like to buy brand-new homes. Clearly, the sellers for us are builders. Some builders don’t want to sell to investors. Our market teams successfully convince the builders that it pays to work with our investors, as they get good volume from us. As the mood changes, these very builders may become more receptive to working with buyers, and perhaps even offer more incentives.
A classic question I get when talking to a would-be real estate investor is: “Shouldn’t we buy a home to live in first before buying investment homes?”
The answer is – it depends on where you live.
When considering owning your own residence, there are various layers of reasoning. Some are logic and numbers-based. Some are emotional, traditional and familial.
Owning your own home can be associated with safety, security, having “arrived”, satisfying family members’ aspirations, the stability of having a (hopefully) permanent place to live, and so on.
Of course, everyone has a different set of emotional considerations when it comes to owning a home. These vary from person to person and, needless to say, are hard to quantify.
In this post, I will address the logical, numbers-based approach to the question of whether to buy your own home as your first real estate move, or rent and buy investment homes instead.
The numbers tell the story when considering buying a home
If you are considering buying your own home, the price of the home matters, the rent required to rent that same home matters, the local property taxes matter, the mortgage interest rates matter, dwelling insurance rates matter, and even the new 2018 tax law weighs in.
If you live in a market where property taxes are relatively low (say, between 1 and 1.7 percent of the home price per year), and insurance rates are reasonable, then if you are considering buying a home under about $400,000, that should be a “no-brainer” as your first step. Between $400,000 and $500,000 would still be a reasonable range to consider buying the home. In such a market, once you step up to the $500,000 range and above, the math may well start to turn as you climb higher in price, in favor of renting a home in the area in which you live. Following that, owning rental homes in more optimal markets makes sense.
Watch out for high property tax and high insurance rates
In markets where the property taxes are high (like in Texas and Oregon), and insurance rates are high (Texas again, for example), the “no-brainer” number may shrink to $300,000 or so, while the range above which you may consider renting your own home while buying affordable investment homes in other markets, will likely be $400,000 or above. This is because with high expenses for property tax and insurance, (which as a homeowner you would be paying) the overall numbers and logic “turn the corner” faster.
Certainly, in expensive areas like the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York City and others such markets, it is usually far more logical to be a renter, while owning rental properties in affordable markets, where rents are actually quite high as a percentage of the home purchase prices.
Our next quarterly expo is December 1st near San Francisco Airport. Email us at email@example.com and add “Read your blog post” in the subject line and come as my guest. We will get back to you with registration information. Learn more about the event at icgre.com/events.
September 8th we had our quarterly ICG 1-Day Expo. It was spectacular.
Market Teams and Lenders
The market teams from relevant U.S. metro areas were present. The property managers were there too as always. Our main brokers and some of the builders (who construct the homes) came to the event as well. What a treat!
We had lenders specializing in both the conventional 30-year fixed rate loans, for investors in all 50 states. Lenders were in attendance who can make loans to people who are over the limit to get the regular (standard loans), as well as issue loans to foreign investors for U.S. rental homes.
I conducted lengthy Q&A sessions and gave the opening keynote speech and a couple of seminars. At the end of the day, there was a recap of the expo. During the breaks and lunch, I talked with investors, answered questions and enjoyed their company.
Expert Speakers and Hundreds in Attendance
We had a CPA talks about the new tax law and how taxes are optimized for rental home investors. There was an expert who discussed getting college grants for our kids (or grandkids), as many of us still need help (and think we earn too much to qualify). Our last expert spoke on the new structure of reverse mortgages, which has become highly regulated and different than we have previously known. It is useful to understand how all of this works as many are ready to make use of the reverse mortgage, and those of us not quite there learned a lot too.
Hundreds of people were in attendance – one of our best expos to date because it was a wonderful mix of seasoned and brand new investors. We also had many new people who had just been exposed via the PBS Special “Remote Control Retirement Riches with Adiel Gorel.” Also in attendance were veteran ICG investors. The mix was very useful, as the mere questions asked were a great source of learning for everyone. Our veteran investors love talking to people and helping them learn more about the process and to share their experience. It is like a family reunion every quarter! Many investors come to share stories that have been investing for decades – they like to reconnect. The best part is learning how their lives have evolved and to see their dreams coming true for their future.
People All Came Together for the Quarterly ICG 1-Day Expo
The market teams were available in an airy, spacious and enjoyable space all day, to answer any questions and interact with investors new and old. They brought property offering for us to examine.
The day was highly enjoyable! People were from all over the San Francisco Bay Area, and many flew in from other states to attend the event, which was near the San Francisco Airport.
Many of the attendees have already registered to attend the next Quarterly ICG 1-Day Expo on Saturday, December 1, 2018. We will have a brilliant attorney to discuss Asset Protection, LLCs and other structures, and the correct way to implement it while avoiding common mistakes. We will also have an expert on credit optimization, so that we can qualify for the best rates possible, using special procedures that will be outlined. We are still evaluating several exciting experts to choose the third speaker.
In addition to the most relevant market teams, updates and so on, there will be a NEW MARKET introduced on December 1st.
Everyone reading this blog can register for free, just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and in the subject line write: “Read your blog, please sign me up for free on December 1st!” You can register up to three guests (also for free).
Looking forward to seeing you!
Many would-be rental home investors waste years before getting started. Some of the reasons for that are: too busy, fear of the unknown, the all-too-known paralysis of over-analysis, and lack of information. Conversely, the notion that they might never have enough information or money, and need to spend more time researching and studying before they act. Exacerbating this phenomenon, many new investors make what we call “rookie” mistakes when they finally do get going.
The most typical rookie mistake is believing that low-quality homes in bad areas in lesser cities will provide better “cash flow” (foreigners like to call it “yield”). While cash flow may appear to be better ON PAPER for such lesser properties, life doesn’t happen on paper. In real life, these bad properties usually end up wasting even more years of the investor’s time (and also the investor’s money).
Get started on the right foot
There are ways to get started fast (and correctly). They are: buy the right type of property (s), get the right (type) of financing, and use the proper management. Using these simple steps, the new investor can get off to a good start regardless of how much time or knowledge they have.
Remote Control Retirement Riches
On my Public Television special titled “Remote Control Retirement Riches with Adiel Gorel”, which will be airing through the weekend and into early September on Public Television stations across the country (KQED-TV in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example) this coming weekend, August 24th and 25th, I cover these points. Of course, I cover many other important related topics as well.
In the package I have created for the people who pledge to help Public Television, I have included two newly-written books, an extensive video course complete with motion graphics, three booklets, a quiz, and a newsletter. The package also comes with the DVD of the show, as many may miss the showtimes.
One of the booklets I have written Is called “Making it Happen”. It targets the exact barriers preventing an investor from getting started correctly. This booklet also contains a self-quiz defining your readiness.
This booklet, coupled with all the other extensive information, and the PBS Special itself, which hits the important points, should get anyone up an running in no time. I will also happily support any investor, as we have already changed the lives of thousands, and I believe in continuing to change lives for the better.
For a partial list of the Public Television stations’ showtimes, please click here.
In an article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, August 11th, titled “Stronger Inflation Eats Into Paychecks”, by Josh Mitchell he discusses how rising inflation creates more expenses across the board, lowering the actual standard of living for most people. This is always true. Even in years when inflation is “lower” than it is right now. Inflation constantly erodes the buying power of the dollar and weakens people’s ability to live to a certain standard they may be accustomed to. Inflation is likely to also exist in the United States for the foreseeable future, due in part to the large budget deficit, and is unlikely to abate. In fact, as the article mentions, it is now accelerating.
As I wrote about in my books, mentioned in my upcoming public television special “Remote Control Retirement Riches With Adiel Gorel”, and specifically in my booklet (which is part of the package for pledgers who help support public television stations) called “How to Harness Inflation As Your Ally”, the very act of buying a solid, affordable single-family home in the right market (please refer to the same source materials, including the booklet “Where to Invest?”), and financing them with the incomprehensible 30-year fixed-rate loan, which NEVER keeps up with inflation, actually REVERSES the effect inflation has on you.
Instead of eroding your income and buying power, when you have a 30-year fixed rate loan on a single-family home (technically these loans are possible to obtain on 1-4 residential units), inflation keep eroding BOTH your fixed monthly payment, AND the loan balance (which goes down gradually with the 30-year amortization principal payments as well).
When inflation constantly erodes your DEBT, obviously you owe less in terms of real dollars. This is an integral part of why rental single-family homes in the United States (to the best of my knowledge the only country where such loans exist), can improve your financial future, enable you to have a potentially far more powerful retirement, send your kids and grand-kids to college (as many have done using this investment style under our guidance), and actually have a constantly rising average net worth (long term, since local fluctuations both up & down in prices can vary that temporarily). In addition, you are building up to the future when either the loan balance looks so small it can just be paid off (usually well before 30 years are up), or the loan is paid off and now there is one more free and clear home providing income for the rest of your life.
I recently came back from speaking and meeting with investors in a foreign country. They are simply SHOCKED at the fact that United States investors can get the 30-year-loan (which is why I called it “incomprehensible”. Foreigners can’t understand why U.S. investors don’t get and many of these “gifts” as they possibly can. The foreign investor usually cannot get these “miracle loans.” Ironically foreigners can appreciate what these loans really mean and how they turn inflation into your ally, instead of your foe, more clearly than most Americans.
Starting this weekend, on August 18th my Public Television special “Remote Control Retirement Riches With Adiel Gorel” will start airing on various Public Television stations across the U.S. In the San Francisco Bay Area the special will air on KQED. A partial list of the air times in various markets (the list gets updated all the time) is here. For additional air times for KQED click here.
Interest rates are rising. In the past year mortgage rates went up by over 0.5%. Homeowner mortgage rates are now about 4.4%; investor rates are always higher, and are currently at about 5.25%. Historically, these are still very low rates. Even in the past 20 years, which saw some of the lowest interest rates in nearly a century, the average rate is about 6%; based on the past 7% and even 7.5% are considered low.
In the 1980’s there were periods where interest rates were over 14%. For many years, rates were in the “double digits.” There was a lot of joy when rates finally got down to a “single digit.” I recall everyone running to refinance to get the amazing new rate of 9.95%!
The single-family home investor
For the single-family home investor, given their ability to get a 30-year fixed rate loan, which miraculously never keeps up with inflation, these recent changes in interest rates should mean very little. I have seen thousands of people’s lives change dramatically over the years buying good solid single- family home rentals. The trick is to hold them for a long time (leaving it be–no refinancing for debt consolidation) and let inflation erode the fixed loan to the point of ridiculousness, while natural average price appreciation happens steadily (that includes booms and busts – on average single-family home prices have appreciated at least 1.5 times the rate of inflation historically).
So why do I talk about interest rate rises potentially ruining your future?
That has to do with human behavior. I have seen many cases recently, of investors who understood the powerful future benefit of buying single-family rentals, and as it happens, were looking during the period when rates were super low (investor rates were 4.7%). A few months later, when investor rates are now 5.3%, I have been hearing investors saying “Well, I don’t want to invest anymore, since rates went up from 4.7% to 5.3%”.
THIS is how you can ruin your financial future. Over the years, I have seen it time and time again – investors not taking action, not cementing their future by actually investing in a single-family home rental. Rather, they would find a reason not to do it – “interest rates are too high now”, “I read the economy will tank”, “it’s too late”, “I am too old” etc.
Using a minute change in interest rates as an excuse not to move forward, especially at a time when rates, even for investors, are supremely low – like today, is simply not going to let the powerful effect of rental homes change your future for the better.
Take action now to change your financial future
I have seen many such cases in the past, for example: two friends were considering investing in houses, one thought “the interest rates were too high” and didn’t do anything. The other went ahead and invested. Once he saw it was easy and profitable, he invested again, and again. Today, the financial difference between the two friends is staggering. The one who owns the rental homes, bought over 15 years ago, is retired with great ease, has sent his kids to great colleges, and is wealthy. His friend – not so much. It’s almost heartbreaking.
Don’t let these minor perturbations in interest rates ruin YOUR financial future.
We will discuss this and a lot more at our ICG Quarterly 1-Day Expo on Saturday 5/19/2018 near the San Francisco Airport. I will be teaching and holding extensive Q & A sessions. We will have expert speakers on Asset Protection, 1031 Exchanges, Financial Planning overall, as well as lenders, 5-star networking, and market teams from the most relevant markets in the U.S. You can attend free (or with a guest), by emailing us at email@example.com, and mentioning this blog. Be sure to give us your name and the name of your guest. Looking forward to seeing you.
In an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle from February 7th by Christopher Rugaber (AP Economics Writer), called “Why Investors’ Fear of High Inflation is Probably Overblown,” Mr. Rugaber explains inflation by going into the pros and cons of higher and lower inflation. He provides an overall concise glimpse of the situation as it is currently. The Fed’s dilemma with increasing taxes in the face of strong employment and rising wages is certain to bring inflation to the economy. However, he also discusses how inflation assists borrowers.
ICG educates investors
Of course, at ICG, we constantly talk about how inflation erodes the 30-year fixed-rate loan. This, in turn, becomes the borrower’s ally in reducing the real buying power of the loans fixed dollar amount. We will talk about this and many other important topics during our ICG Quarterly 1-Day Expo near SFO on Saturday 3/3/2018.
Topics to be covered
Our expert speakers will cover topics including the new tax law and how it pertains to real estate investors, how to buy rental homes out of a self-directed IRA, and how to use insurance as the first line of defense of protecting your assets. There will also be lenders available to discuss what they have available and what you can expect over the next several months. Property management, legal expertise, and one-on-one’s can be found as well. And as always, we offer a lot of question and answer time. Market teams from the most relevant metro areas in the US will be present. Everyone mentioning this blog will receive free entry. Please email us that you read this at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A view of new residential buildings under construction in the Hudson Yards development, August 16, 2016, in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Perhaps nothing thrills mayors and urban boosters like the notion of endless towers rising above their city centers. And to be sure, new high-rise residential construction has been among the hottest areas for real estate investors, particularly those from abroad, with high-end products accounting for 8o% of all new construction.
Yet this is not an entirely high-end country, and these products, particularly the luxury high-rises in cities, largely depend on a small segment of the population that can afford such digs.
No surprise, then, that we see reports of declining prices in areas as attractive as New York, Miami, and San Francisco, where a weakening tech market is beginning to erode prices, much as occurred in the 2000 tech bust, John Burns Real Estate Consulting notes. There have been big jumps in the number of expired and withdrawn condo listings, particularly at the high end; last year, San Francisco saw a 128% spike in the number of withdrawn or expired listings for condos over $1.5 million.
Several factors suggest the high-rise residential boom is over, including a growing recognition that these structures do little to relieve the housing affordability crisis facing middle-class residents, the inevitable aging of millennials and their shift to suburbs and less expensive cities, and the impending withdrawal of some major foreign investors who have come to dominate the market in many cities.
Cost And Affordability
One common refrain among housing advocates and politicians is that high-rise construction is a solution to the problem of housing affordability. The causes of the problem, however, are principally prohibitions on urban fringe development of starter homes. Critics also note that high-rises in urban neighborhoods often replace older buildings, which are generally more affordable.
One big problem: High-density housing is far more expensive to build. Gerard Mildner, the academic director of the Center for Real Estate at Portland State University, notes that development of a building of more than five stories requires rents approximately two and a half times those from the development of garden apartments. Even higher construction costs are reported in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the cost of townhouse development per square foot can double that of detached houses (excluding land costs) and units in high-rise condominium buildings can cost up to seven and a half times as much.
Almost without exception, then, the most expensive areas are precisely those that have the most high-rise buildings: New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Miami. More to the point, these buildings don’t tend to be occupied by middle-class, much less working-class, families. And in many cases, these units are not people’s actual homes; in New York, as many as 60% of new luxury units are not primary residences, leaving many unoccupied at any given time.
Even worse, a high-density strategy tends to raise the price of surrounding real estate. As Tim Redmond, a veteran San Francisco journalist, points out, luxury apartments often tend to be built in areas with older, more affordable buildings. The notion that simply building more of an expensive product helps keep prices down elsewhere misses the distinction between markets; the high-rises in Washington, DC, are not the affordable units that the vast majority of city residents need.
Other cities favored by luxury developers – like Vancouver, Toronto, Seattle and San Francisco – have also seen deteriorating affordability and, in some cases, a mass exodus of middle- and working-class residents, particularly minorities. San Francisco’s black population, for example, is roughly half of what it was in 1970. In the nation’s whitest major city, Portland, African-Americans are being driven out of the urban core by high-density gentrification, partly supported by city funding. Similar phenomena can be seen in Seattle and Boston, where long-existing black communities are gradually disappearing.
The New Demography Works Against This Trend
It is common in retro-urbanist circles to maintain that more Americans, particularly younger ones, will opt to remain customers for ever-greater density, a preference that could sustain an ever-growing market for high-rises. Yet that notion may be past its sell-by date, with demographic evidence suggesting that most Americans, including younger ones, are looking less for an apartment in the sky than for a house with a little backyard.
Suburbs, consigned to the dustbin of history by many urban boosters, are back. Demographer Jed Kolko, analyzing the most recent Census Bureau numbers, suggests that population growth in most big cities now lags that of their suburbs, which have accounted for more than 80% of metropolitan growth since 2011. Even where the urban core renaissance has been most prominent, there are ominous signs. The population growth rate for Brooklyn and Manhattan fell nearly 90% from 2010-11 to 2015-16.
The real trend in migration is to sprawling, heavily suburbanized areas, particularly in the Sun Belt. To be sure, there are high-rises in most of these markets – quite a gusher of them in Austin, for instance – but the growth in all these regions is overwhelmingly suburban.
The most critical factor over time may be the aging of millennials. Among those under 35 who do buy homes, four-fifths choose single-family detached houses, a form found most often in suburbs. Surveys consistently find that most millennials see suburbs as the ideal place to live in the long run. According to a recent National Homebuilders Association report, more than 66%, including those living in cities, would actually prefer a house in the suburbs.
The largely anecdotal media accounts of millennial lifestyles conflict with reality, Kolko notes. Although younger Millennials have tended toward core cities more than previous generations, the website FiveThirtyEight notes that those ages 30-44 are actually moving to suburban locales more than in the past.
The China Syndrome
Given the limits of the domestic market, the luxury high-rise sector depends heavily on foreign investors. Already, harder times for some traditional investors – Russians and Brazilians, for example – have hurt the Miami market, long attractive to overseas buyers. There is now three years’ worth of inventory of luxury high-rises there, with areas such as Edgewater, Midtown and the A&E District suffering an incredibly high inventory of seven and a half years. Miami Beach is faring a bit better but is still a buyer’s market at a little over two years of inventory.
Still, the greatest threat to the luxury high-rise market may come from the Far East, the region of the world with the most surplus capital and, given the rapidly aging society, often the fewest profitable places to put it. Korea and Japan have lots of money sitting around looking for a home. Japan and its companies, according to World Bank data, are hoarding more than $2 trillion in unused liquid assets.
But as in all things East Asian, China stands apart. Last year, the country had a record of $725 billion in capital outflows, according to the Institute of International Finance. China is now the largest foreign investor in US real estate.
But now the Chinese government has placed strong controls on these investments, which could leave some places vulnerable. In Downtown Los Angeles, according to local brokers, many of the new high-rise towers are marketed primarily in China. (LA claims to have the second-highest number of cranes, behind only Seattle.)
These expensive units are far out of reach for the younger people who tend to inhabit the neighborhood, instead of serving as what one executive called “vertical safe deposit boxes” for people trying to get their money out of China. If the new crackdown on such investments is strongly enforced, this could leave a lot of expensive units without buyers. Prices have already softened, and with several new luxury buildings coming up, Downtown is likely to experience a glut.
Even in Manhattan, another market long dependent on foreign investment, projects are now stalled, including some once-hot properties in Midtown that are delaying their sales launches. Overall sales of condos over $4 million dropped 18% last year from the high levels of the previous three years. The ultra-premium market for condos over $10 million saw a 5% sales decrease in 2016.
The current slowdown, and perhaps longer-term stabilization, could lead to lower rates of migration out of the expensive cores. Yet this trend is not likely to reverse the movement of younger people to less dense areas. Luxury high-rise units were not built for families, and they are often located in areas with poor schools and limited open space. They may simply become high-priced rentals, attractive no doubt to childless professionals but not to middle- and working-class families.
In the end, the real need is not for more luxury towers. What is needed, particularly in America’s cities, from the urban core to the urban fringe, is the kind of housing middle- and working-class families can afford.
It is not surprising with lower unemployment, still-low interest rates and FHA loans with 3.5% down payments available to home buyers (*buy to OWN, not as an investment). What effect does this have on us as investors? Seemingly it will drain the rental pool.
In reality, however, there is a great shortage of good single family homes since housing starts have not yet made up for the gap in new construction created during the recession. Thus renters are still likely to be quite plentiful. Prices, however, are likely to get a boost from this increased buying activity. The home buyers using the 3.5%-down FHA loan are less price-sensitive and willing to pay more for a home they like (after all the difference for them is only 3.5% of the extra amount which is negligible).
Another benefit is since the younger generation of buyers seeks less expensive homes, the builders are creating more and more of those see in the WSJ (article below). Since these homes have exactly the kind of size and price we seek as investors, it will widen the inventory pool from which to buy, as investors are sometimes faced with tight selections.
Millennials are buying homes, steering builders toward lower price points
Home buyer Darin Fredericks and his wife Summer Fredericks in the kitchen of their new home in Ontario, Calif., last November. PHOTO: PATRICK T. FALLON FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Updated May 11, 2017 8:09 p.m. ET
First-time buyers are rushing to buy homes after a decade on the sidelines, promising to kick a housing market already flush with luxury sales into a higher gear.
Tracking home sales to a particular age group is hard, but a series of data points form a mosaic of a generation of young people ready to buy: The number of new-owner households was double the number of new renter households in the first quarter of this year, the share of first-time buyers is creeping back toward the historical average, and mortgages for first-timers are on the rise.
“They’re crawling out of their parents’ basements, they’re forming households and they’re looking to buy,” said Doug Bauer, chief executive of home builder Tri Pointe Group which operates in eight states.
In a shift, new households are overwhelmingly choosing to buy rather than rent. Some 854,000 new-owner households were formed during the first three months of the year, more than double the 365,000 new-renter households formed during the period, according to Census Bureau data. It was the first time in a decade there were more new buyers than renters, according to an analysis by home-tracker Trulia.
Homebuilders are beginning to shift their focus away from luxury homes and toward homes at lower price points to cater to this burgeoning millennial clientele. Demographers generally define millennials as people born between roughly 1980 and 2000.
In the first quarter of this year, 31% of the speculative homes built by major builders were smaller than 2,250 square feet, indicating they were in the starter-home range, according to housing-research firm Zelman & Associates. That is up from 27% a year ago and 24% in the first quarter of 2015.
“There’s an increasing confidence level in that part of the market,” said Gregg Nelson, co-founder of California home builder Trumark Cos. “The recovery is finally starting to take hold in a broader way.”
The shift reflects a reversal of a pattern that has driven the five-year housing-market expansion.
Up until now, the luxury market has soared, while the more affordable end of the market has struggled. Tough lending standards, slow wage growth, growing student-debt obligations and a newfound fear of homeownership have combined to crimp demand among millennials in particular.
Now, the return of first-time buyers is allaying fears that millennials might eschew homeownership permanently. But it also provides an infusion of new demand while housing supply is tight and home price growth is significantly outstripping wage gains.
Home prices in February increased by 5.8% over the same month a year earlier, according to the most recent S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index.
The return of first-time buyers is accelerating. In all, they have accounted for 42% of buyers this year, up from 38% in 2015 and 31% at the lowest point during the recent housing cycle in 2011, according to Fannie Mae, which defines first-time buyers as anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the past three years.
While economists and builders said lending standards have started to ease, getting a mortgage remains challenging for young buyers with shorter credit histories and, in many cases, student debt. Mortgage rates are also expected to rise further this year, posing an added challenge. Rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has risen to 4.05%, up from about 3.5% in November, according to Freddie Mac.
In Orange County, Calif., Trumark’s Mr. Nelson said he has been selling entry-level homes at nearly double the rate of his higher-end ones. He is even gaining confidence to build homes in more far-flung locations. The company is about to begin construction on a 114-home project in the Inland Empire east of Los Angeles and another development in Manteca, Calif., about 80 miles east of San Francisco. Both areas were hard-hit during the housing crash and were among the slowest to recover.
Builders largely avoided the exurbs after the bubble burst in 2006. But because the land there is cheaper, they can build lower-end homes more profitably.
“Most builders really preferred to stick straight down the fairway, right at the corner of Main and Main. They were afraid to go back into the rough where they built a lot of homes in the prior cycle,” said Alan Ratner, a senior home-building analyst at Zelman.
Outside Las Vegas, Tri Pointe has introduced a new home design that is specifically targeted to millennial buyers, featuring indoor-outdoor patios and deck spaces, as well as a separate downstairs bedroom-and-bathroom suite that could be rented out to a housemate. Mr. Bauer said the homes, geared toward first-time buyers, have been selling more rapidly than pricier homes.
Joey Liu, a 28-year-old technology worker, purchased his first home in San Jose, Calif., earlier this year. He said it is more expensive than renting but that he is getting to the stage in life where it was time to buy.
“A lot of friends of mine bought a home so I started thinking maybe it was time to buy a home and stop paying rent,” said Mr. Liu, who settled on a three-bedroom townhouse for $690,000. He plans to rent out a room to help with the expenses.
He had three housewarming parties to celebrate his newfound status. “This is my first house, so it definitely feels different,” he said.
Builders say their return to the starter-home market shouldn’t invite comparisons to the fevered construction of the mid-2000s.
“One of the misconceptions is that here we go again, this is another 2005, 2006 where all these builders are going to build hundreds of thousands of homes. We’re not going crazy,” said Brent Anderson, vice president of investor relations at Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Meritage Homes Mr. Anderson said that last year the company was building four to five speculative homes per community and is now up to 6.4 on average.
Building executives said one challenge is that many people are buying first homes later in life, meaning they have higher incomes and greater expectations molded by years of living in luxury downtown rentals. Such buyers also appear wary of driving farther out to get more space.
Sheryl Palmer, president, and chief executive of Scottsdale-Ariz.-based Taylor Morrison Home , said to cater to this demographic the company is building more three-story townhouses or single-family homes on narrow lots. She said about one-third of the company’s buyers this year are millennials, up from 22% last year.
Even Toll Brothers which typically builds homes for the top end of the market, is venturing into lower price points. In Houston, the company is building homes starting in the mid-$300,000s range, while a typical Toll home in the area costs around $850,000.
Appeared in the May. 12, 2017, print edition as ‘Generation of Renters Now Buying.’