Tag Archives: renting

Who Will Live in the Suburbs if Millennials Favor Cities?

Longtime readers know I follow the work of urbanist Richard Florida, whose recent book was the topic of Are Cities the Incubators of Decentralized Solutions? (March 14, 2017).

Florida’s thesis–that urban zones are the primary incubators of technological and economic growth–is well-supported by data that shows that the large urban regions (NYC, L.A., S.F. Bay Area, Seattle, Minneapolis,etc.) generate the majority of GDP and wage gains.

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Cities have always attracted capital, talent and people rich and poor alike. Indeed, “city” is the root of our word “civilization.” So in this sense, Florida is simply confirming the central role cities have played for millennia.

More recently, Florida has addressed the rising wealth/income inequality that is making desirable urban areas un-affordable to all but the top 10% or even 5% wage earners. This is a critical concern, because vitality is a function of diversity: a city of wealthy elites paying low wages to masses of service workers is not an economic powerhouse.

What happens as buying a home in a desirable city becomes out of reach of all but the most highly paid tranche of workers?

The larger question is: what happens to home ownership as housing prices continue higher while the next generation’s wages remain significantly lower than previous generations’ incomes?

Millennials are typically earning less than Baby Boomers and Gen-X did in their 20s and 30s, and if this continues–and history suggests it will–then how many Millennials will be able to buy a pricey house?

One consequence of stagnating wages and rising home valuations is a “nation of homeowners” morphs into a “nation of renters.”

The other big question is: if Millennials aren’t earning enough to buy pricey homes, who is going to buy the tens of millions of houses Baby Boomers will be selling as they downsize/move to assisted living? As for inheriting Mom and Dad’s house–that’s not likely if Mom or Dad need the cash to fund their retirement/assisted living.

This question is especially relevant to suburban homes, especially those far from employment centers. Though data on this trend is sketchy, it seems Millennials strongly favor city living over exurban/suburban living.

Anecdotally, I can’t think of a single individual in their 20s or 30s that I know personally who has bought a house in a distant suburb. Everyone in this age group has bought a house in an urban zone. Not a highrise condo in the city center, but a house in a ring city near public transport.

Though data on this is hard to find (if it exists at all), Millennials seem more willing to make the sacrifices necessary to live in the urban core, either by renting rather than buying a cheaper suburban home, or by purchasing a modest bungalow on a small lot rather than an expansive suburban home on a big lot.

(This could change if Millennials start having lots of children, but to date small bungalows in urban regions appear big enough for families with two children.)

In a turn-around from the postwar era, which saw a mass exodus of the middle class from city centers to suburbia, the upper middle class is moving back to urban centers and the lower-income populace–once the urban poor–are being pushed out to the suburbs. We can now speak of the suburban poor.

To some degree, the suburbs have become victims of their own success. Long commutes in heavy traffic are the inevitable result of the vast expansion of suburban subdivisions, shopping malls and business parks. These killer commutes detract from the desirability of suburbs, especially to auto-agnostics of the Millennial generation, who exhibit low enthusiasm for auto ownership.

Rather than symbolizing freedom, auto ownership is viewed as a burdensome necessity at best.

If we overlay these trends (assuming they continue into the future), we discern the possibility that marginal suburban housing could crash in price and morph into suburban ghettos of isolated low-income residents.

The Pareto Distribution may play a role in this transformation. Should 20% of the suburban housing stock fall into disrepair, that could trigger the collapse of valuation in the remaining 80%.

Not all suburbs are equal. Those with diverse job growth may well act as magnets much like small cities. Those with few jobs and long commutes are less desirable and have smaller tax bases to support services.

The asymmetry between modest/stagnant Millennial wages and the soaring cost of housing cannot be bridged. If these trends continue, only the top tranche of highly paid young workers will be able to afford housing in desirable areas. Given a choice between affordable ownership in a small city or in a distant suburb, Millennials may well choose the affordable small city rather than the distant exurb or low-services suburb.

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Note that most incomes have gone nowhere since about 1998. Even the top 5% has made modest gains in real (inflation-adjusted) income.

https://i2.wp.com/www.oftwominds.com/photos2017/wage-disparity.jpg

Meanwhile, home prices are back in bubble territory. “Hot” urban areas such as Seattle, Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Brooklyn NYC, etc. have logged double-digit gains in recent years.

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So who’s going to pay bubble-valuation prices for the millions of suburban homes Baby Boomers will be off-loading in the coming decade as they retire/ downsize? We know one part of the answer: it won’t be Millennials, as they don’t have the income or savings to afford homes at these prices.

These trends promise to remake the financial geography of cities (large and small) and suburbia–and in the process, radically shift the financial assets of households, renters and owners alike.

By Max Keiser | Financial War Reports

Should You Buy A House Today?

By Ramsey Su

Examining the reasons to buy a house today may give us some idea where the housing market is heading in the future.

There are three reasons to buy a house:

Reason 1 – Utility

A house (any dwelling) is a shelter.  It provides enjoyment, a home to raise one’s family, or just a place to watch that big screen TV.  Utility is not quantifiable and it differs from household to household.

Reason 2 – Savings

If financed, a mortgage is a way of saving something every month until the mortgage is paid in full.  If paid for, the savings come in the form of “owners’ equivalent rent”, which is what the census bureau uses to measure inflation in housing.

Reason 3 – Asset appreciation

At 5% appreciation per year, a $100k house today will be worth $412k in 30 years. Even a more modest 3% appreciation would result in better than a double.

 house, modern
Why Not to Buy a House Today

Based on the reasons above, it appears to be a slam dunk decision.  Why would anyone not want to buy a house?  There are three obstacles:

Obstacle 1 – Affordability

Housing, as a percentage of household income, is too expensive.  A decade of ill-conceived government intervention and Federal Reserve accommodations prevented natural economic forces from driving house prices to equilibrium.  As a result, not only is entry difficult, but many are struggling and are stuck in dire housing traps.  Corelogic estimated that as of the 1st quarter of 2015, 10.2% of mortgages are still under water while 9.7 million households have less than 20% equity.

Obstacle 2 – High Risk

Say you are young couple that purchased a home two years ago, using minimal down financing.  The wife is now pregnant and the husband has an excellent career opportunity in another city.  The couple has insufficient savings and the house has not appreciated enough to facilitate a sale, which results in negative equity after selling expenses.  The house can become a trap that diminishes a life time of income stream.

Obstacle 3 – “Dead zones”

Say you live in the middle of the country, in Kane County Illinois.  For the privilege of living there, you pay 3% in property taxes.  That is like adding 3% to a mortgage that never gets paid down.  Your property would have to appreciate 3% per year just to break even. By the way, “appreciation” is unheard of in Kane County, good times or bad.  There are many Kane Counties in the US.  Real estate in these counties should be named something else and should not be co-mingled with other housing statistics.  Employment is continuing to trend away from these areas.  What is going to happen to real estate in these markets?

 courthouseLGThe Kane County court house: where real estate goes to vegetate

The factors listed above are nothing new.  They provide some perspective as to where are are heading.  Looking at each of the reasons and obstacles, they are all trending negatively.

The country is spending too much on housing, a luxury that is made possible by irresponsible Fed policies.  50% debt to income ratios are just insane and Ms. Yellen has the gall to call mortgage lending restrictive.  Can we not see what is happening to Greece?

Fed MBS holdingsMortgage backed securities held by the Federal Reserve System, a non-market central economic planning institution that is the chief instigator of house price inflation. Still growing, in spite of QE having officially ended – via Saint Louis Federal Reserve Research, click to enlarge.

Real estate is an investment that matures over time.  The first few years are the toughest, until equity can be built up.  With appreciation slowing, not to mention the possibility of depreciation, it is taking much longer to reach financial safety.  The current base is weak, with too high a percentage of low equity and no equity ownership.  The stress of a recession, or just a few years of a flat market, can impact the economy beyond expectations.  The risks that might have been negligible once upon a time are much higher today.  Many who purchased ten years ago are still living with the consequences of that ill-timed decision today.

By stepping back and looking at the big picture, we can see that real estate should be correcting and trending down.  The reasons why our grandparents bought their homes have changed.  Government intervention cannot last forever.  It will change from accommodation to devastation, when they finally run out of ideas.

Conclusion

In summary, my working life had its origins in real estate and I am not trying to bite the hand that fed me.  However, the reality is that the circumstances that prevailed when I entered the market are non-existent today.  I seriously doubt that I would chose real estate as a career, or as an investment avenue, if I were starting over.  As for buying a house, I would consider it more of a luxury as opposed to an investment, and one has to be prepared for the possibility of it being a depreciating asset, especially if one decides to move.

Not Buying a Home Could Cost You $65,000 a Year

Renters are missing out on savings in most metros

https://i1.wp.com/media.gotraffic.net/images/i8RsMVwGVLHw/v1/1200x-1.jpg Patrick Clark for Bloomberg

Not buying a home right now will cost you, because home prices and interest rates are going to rise. Many renters would like to own, but they can’t afford down payments or don’t qualify for mortgages. Those two conclusions, drawn from separate reports released this week, sum up the housing market dilemma for many young professionals: Buyers get more for their money than renters—but most renters can’t afford to enter the home buying market.

The chart below comes from data published today by realtor.com that estimates the financial benefits of buying a home based on projected increases in mortgage rates and home prices in local housing markets. Specifically, it shows the amount that buyers gain, over a 30-year period, over renters in the country’s largest metropolitan areas.

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The penalties for waiting to buy tend to be greater in smaller metro areas, especially in California. For example, the estimated cost of waiting one year was $61,805 in San Jose and $65,780 in Santa Cruz. Over the course of 30 years, homeowners save more than $1 million in Santa Cruz, the largest amount of any U.S. city.

 

To compile those numbers, realtor.com compared median home prices and the cost of renting a three-bedroom home in 382 local markets, then factored in estimates for transaction costs, price appreciation, future mortgage rates, and interest earned on any money renters saved when it was cheaper to rent.

In other words, researchers went to a lot of trouble to quantify something that renters intuitively know: They would probably be better off if they could come up with the money to buy. Eighty-one percent of renters said they would prefer to own but can’t afford it, according to a new report on Americans’ economic well-being published by the Federal Reserve.

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Not all markets favor buyers over renters. In Dallas, the benefit of buying was about $800 over 30 years, according to realtor.com’s model, which expects price appreciation to regress to historical norms. In many popular markets, though, there are greater benefits to owning.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise that the places where you can have the highest reward over time also have the highest prices,” said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com. “It’s not true that if you’re a median-income household, that you can’t find a home that’s affordable, but in places like San Jose and Santa Cruz, less than 10 percent of inventory would be affordable.”

Or as Logan Mohtashami, a senior loan officer at AMC Lending Group in Irvine, Calif., told Bloomberg Radio this week: “The rich have no problem buying homes.”


Trend Towards Renter Households Will Continue Deep Into 2015

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If you bought or rented in 2014 a larger portion of your income went to housing.  Rents and housing values are quickly outpacing any pathetic gains to be had with wages.  With the stock market at a peak, talking heads are surprised when the public is still largely negative on the economy.  Can it be that many younger adults are living at home or wages are stagnant?  It can also be that our housing market is still largely operated as some feudal operation.  Many lucrative deals were done with big banks and generous offers circumventing accounting rules.  This works because many perceive they are temporarily embarrassed Trumps, only one flip away from being a millionaire.  Why punish financial crimes when you will likely need those laws to protect your gains once you join the club?  The radio talk shows are all trying to convince people to over leverage and buy a home because you know, this time is the last time ever to buy.  Yet home sales are pathetic because people don’t have the wages to support current prices.  So sales drop and many sellers pull properties off the market.  You want to play, you have to pay today.  Rents are also rising and this is where a large portion of household growth has occurred.  2015 will continue to see housing consume a large portion of income and will lead many into a new modern day serfdom.

The Gain Of 7 Million Rental Households

Over the last decade we have added 7 million renting households.  Is this because of population growth?  No.  This trend was driven because of the boom and bust in the housing market.  Investors crowded out regular home buyers in buying single family homes and now, we have millions of new renters out in the market.  Many of these people are folks who lost their homes via foreclosure.

Take a look at the obvious jump in renters:

renter-occupied

For better or worse, home ownership is a path to building equity.  It is a forced saving account for many.  Most Americans don’t even benefit from the stock market peaking because nearly half of the country doesn’t even own stocks.  And many own only a small amount.  Most Americans derive their net worth from their primary residence.  With fewer buying and more renting, I doubt that on a full scale people are suddenly buying stocks for the long-term.  But it is also the case that many are simply renting because that is all they can afford.  Many young Americans have so much debt that this is all they can pay.  Think of places like San Francisco where jobs pay well but rents are simply out of this world and home prices are nutty.

Rents More Stable Versus Wild Housing Prices

Thanks to low rates, generous tax structures, and the American Dream marketing machine home values are operating in a casino like environment.  This wasn’t the case in previous generation but take a look at fluctuations in rents versus home prices:

rents and home prices

A crazy year for rents is when rents go up over 4 percent year-over-year.  For home values we routinely had year-over-year gains of 25 percent in the last 20 years (including the latest boom in 2013).  Rents are driven by net income of local families.  No funny leverage here.  But with buying homes, you have investors chasing yields, or loans that allow tiny down payments for buyers but then tack on a massive 30 year mortgage with a monthly nut that seems reasonable but only because of a low interest rate.  Some of these people have no retirement account yet take on a $600,000 or $800,000 mortgage without batting an eye.  So what we find is this psychological shift where some that want to buy are convinced that they need to start at the bottom of the ladder and pay an enormous price tag just to get in.  To move out of serfdom, you have to embrace the cult of Mega Debt.

Young Adults More Likely To Stay Close To Home – And Rent

Young adults are facing the biggest impact of the housing crunch.  Many are living at home because they can’t even afford current rents.  Those that do venture out, will likely rent as their first step.  A recent survey found that many young adults are planning on staying local.  Say you live with your baby boomer parents in Pasadena or San Francisco.  You want to buy like they did but good luck.  So many have their network within said community and will likely rent (or live with mom and dad deep into their 30s and 40s):

rentals young adults

I found this data interesting.  People are simply moving less from their home area.  So this will create more demand for rentals in these markets.  In California, we have 2.3 million adults living at home.  Pent up demand?  Unlikely.  The main reason they are at home is because of financial constraints.  These are people that can’t even afford a rental.  I’m sure this trend is occurring in other higher priced metro areas as well.

Rental Income Soaring For Investors

Rental income has soared since the bust happened.  The biggest winners?  Those who bought properties to become the new feudal landlords.  You can see by the below chart that there was a larger concerted effort to consolidate rental income beyond the mom and pop buyers of former years:

rental income

Serfdom is also occurring to many households buying.  They are leveraging every penny into their mortgage payment.  Think you own your place?  Try missing a few payments and become part of the 7 million completed foreclosures since the crisis hit.  2014 simply saw more net income going into housing.  Is this good?  Not really since housing is a dud for the economy unless we have new construction being built but that is not happening on a large scale.  2015 will likely see this continuation of serfdom via renting or buying but at least you might save a few bucks with lower oil!  The road to serfdom apparently runs through housing.

Source: Dr. Housing Bubble