These “Just Add Water” Homes Can Be Built in Less Than 24 Hours
Paris-based architecture and design firm Cutwork plans to use roll-out cement paneling to build low-cost, durable housing units for refugee camps.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are an estimated 25,900,000 refugees worldwide, and that number is growing. As a new housing solution, Cutwork has developed a “just add water” building technology that can be used to construct a tiny home in a day’s time—no building experience or tools required.
The technology has myriad advantages over the flimsy, disposable tents found in many refugee camps. They’re fireproof, waterproof, insulated for harsh climates, and can be washed and cleaned easily. The structures also use 90% less raw material than traditional concrete shelters—and they’re three times stronger. Though they’re designed to provide temporary housing, they’ll endure for at least 30 years.
The Cortex shelters can be prefabricated in pieces near refugee camps and then flat packed and shipped to the build site. Upon arrival, the concrete paneling is rolled out and formed around metallic frames. Once the paneling is in place, water is added in situ to harden the concrete composite.
Each home comes with the basics: a strong locking door, a toilet, a shower, and windows for light and air circulation. Solar panels provide electricity for interior lighting, charging electronics, and cooking atop an electric stove. Additional features can be added depending on the specific needs of a home or an encampment.
Cutwork CEO and co-founder Kelsea Crawford says, “Our mission is to create stability and security for people who have lost the most—essential safety, a place to call home, and the simple foundations to rebuild communities and hope.”
Last month, the California Association of Realtorspredicted a slow down for the state’s housing market in 2020.
According to a recent report by CoreLogic, cooling home sales are already here. In fact, August marked the fewest home sales for that month in four years.
“California home sales edged moderately lower in August, marking the twelfth month out of the last 13 in which sales were lower than a year earlier as some would-be buyers remained priced out and others stayed on the sideline, hesitant to buy near a potential price peak,” the report stated.
CoreLogic estimated that during August about 42,440 new and existing houses and condos sold in California. That number is down 0.2% from the previous month and down 2.8% from August 2018. While the number of sales declined, so did the median home price in comparison to its June 2019 peak of $509,000.
According to CoreLogic, the median price paid for all new and existing houses and condos sold statewide this August was $499,000. While this price is down 0.2% from $500,000 in July 2019, it is up 1% from the previous August, when median prices sat at $494,000.
The report stated that home sale activity normally edges higher between July and August. As stated earlier, this August was the twelfth month out of the last 13 in which sales were lower than a year earlier. The only annual gain was seen in July this year, and CoreLogic is attributing that gain to lower mortgage rates.
“The significant drop in mortgage rates in recent months has helped stoke sales by enabling many buyers to purchase homes with at least modestly lower payments than they would have faced last year,” the report stated. “While California’s median sale price was up 1% year over year this August, the state’s ‘typical mortgage payment’ – the monthly principal and interest payment on the median-priced home – fell almost 11% because of a roughly 1 percentage point decline in mortgage rates over that 12-month period.”
California is one step away from enacting statewide rent control after the state’s two legislative bodies both approved the measure.
The bill will cap annual rent increases by 5%, including the rate of inflation. In addition to the rent cap, a bill known as AB-1482, the Tenant Protection Act of 2019, will allow “just cause” eviction policies to qualified housing in California.
The bill was approved this week by the California State Senate and the California State Assembly.
The bill now moves to the desk of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is expected to sign the bill into law.
When Newsom signs the bill, the bill would make the state one of the few in the nation with statewide rent control.
California, one of the nation’s priciest housing markets, is following Oregon’s footsteps in enacting rent control. In March, Oregon approved a law placing an annual limit on rent increases of 7% plus inflation.
The bill appears to have Newsom’s support, as the governor tweeted that “The rent is too damn high — so we’re damn sure doing something about it” and “Because there should be a cap on how much you pay for rent…Because your landlord shouldn’t be able to evict you for no reason.”
“In this year’s State of the State address, I asked the Legislature to send me a strong renter protection package. Today, they sent me the strongest package in America,” Newsom said in a statement after the Assembly passed the bill. “These anti-gouging and eviction protections will help families afford to keep a roof over their heads, and they will provide California with important new tools to combat our state’s broader housing and affordability crisis. I would like to thank Assembly Speaker Rendon, Senate President pro Tempore Atkins, Assembly member Chiu and the bill’s co-authors for passing this legislation, as well as the broad coalition of stakeholders whose persistence allowed this bill to move forward.”
The move is a reversal from what happened in the state nearly a year ago. In the November 2018 election, California voters shot down a previous rent control initiative, Proposition 10. The proposal would have to capped annual rent increases to prevent unjust evictions.
Proposition 10 was aimed to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. In 1995, California passed the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, limiting the use of rent control and prohibiting local governments from imposing caps on single-family homes and condos.
According to the California Secretary of State, 61.7% of voters were against repealing the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, while a mere 38.3% voted for it.
It’s easy to see that the little red house at 175 Grand Street in Mamaroneck, NY, is no ordinary home just by looking: At a mere 10 feet wide, the Skinny House stands out for its size alone. As 6sqft previously reported, this unique dwelling, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has quite a tale to tell. The little house on a 12.5-foot lot was built in 1932 by Nathan T. Seely, one of New York’s first African American builders. Its story is one of ingenuity and skill, and it provided for its creator during hard times. In need of a new chapter and some real TLC, the house is on the market–for only the second time since its construction–for $275,000.
Seely and his brother had built a successful home-building business constructing houses throughout Mamaroneck, mainly catering to black Southerners who fled northward as part of the Great Migration. But the Great Depression crushed the business; Seely went bankrupt and lost his home.
Seely’s next-door neighbor, Panfino Santangelo, generously gave him a 12.5-foot by 100-foot strip of land in 1931; Seely put his considerable skills to work constructing the Skinny House using salvaged materials. A chicken coop was used as part of the living room; a center beam in the basement is a rusted railroad track; walls were constructed from paperboard hammered into wood scraps. When it was finished the home had everything you’d find in a much bigger dwelling including a cellar, a living room, a kitchen and pantry, two bedrooms and a bathroom on three floors. Seely even accounted for high winds by running cables from the side of the house into the ground.
Seely died in 1962; his house was passed down to members of his family who continued to occupy it. In 1984, Panfino Santangelo’s daughter bought the house from Seely’s daughter for $30,000, returning the property to her family. The house was a rental up until it was discovered that a termite infestation had damaged much of the property. The home was inducted into the National Register in 2015, but the necessary repairs have not yet been done. The home is being sold as-is, but its history and potential remain.
Sometimes it feels like a good deal is hard to find, whether you’re buying a car or going out to dinner. That doesn’t change when you are considering where to live. Some towns just give you more bang for your buck, from the quality of life you’ll experience to the living costs you’ll incur. And especially if you’re taking out a mortgage on a house, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best value you can. But getting good value from your city doesn’t always have to be difficult to attain. With some patience and information, a smart investment in an undervalued property now could mean that your home becomes worth significantly more and nets you a tidy sum if you decide to sell it. For those who aren’t experts in real estate, it can be difficult to figure out which parts of the country offer the best value. To that end, SmartAsset has once again assembled a list of the most undervalued cities in the country.
We analyzed 189 cities to find the most undervalued cities in America. Our model considers data on unemployment rates, price per square foot, high school graduation rates, percentage of residents with a college degree, crime rate, entertainment establishment density, average days with precipitation, average number of days with bad weather and walk score. For more information on how we put together our final rankings, see the Data and Methodology section below.
Consistency among undervalued cities. The most undervalued city in America is Pittsburgh for the second year in a row. All told, eight of the cities from last year’s top 10 finish in the top 10 this year, though the order has certainly shuffled.
Look East. The Eastern United States rules this list. Six of the cities in the top 10 are East Coast cities, with several more close by. Three of the top 10 cities are in Pennsylvania alone. There are only two Midwestern cities and none in the Mountain West or the Pacific Coast in the top 10.
1. Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania tops this list for the second straight year. The Steel City has a high school graduation rate of 93%, the second-highest in the top 10 and a top-40 rate in the study overall. Pittsburgh can also boast a population in which 37% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, a rate that leads the top 10 of our study and ranks 14th out of all 189 cities in our study. Pittsburgh does not place as well for walk score, where it is the second-least walkable city in the top 10.
Zillow estimates that the price per square foot in Pittsburgh is around $104.50, but our model estimates homes should cost $262.79 per square foot, resulting in a surplus value of about $158. As you and your financial advisor scour the market for undervalued investments, Pittsburgh is an undervalued city that can give you the type of deals you crave.
2. Newark, NJ
Newark, New Jersey is the second city on our list and jumps up one spot from its place last year. Walkability is a great benefit of living in Newark – the walk score for the city is the best in the top 10, and fifth-best in the study overall. Newark does not fare as well for education. Only 18% of its residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, the second-lowest percentage for this metric in the top 10, and its high school graduation rate of just 73% is the lowest in the top 10. Overall, our model suggests that living in Newark yields an estimated $155.34 per-square-foot surplus in value.
3. New Haven, CT
New Haven, Connecticut is third on our list. The actual price of real estate in New Haven is $123.50 per square foot, according to Zillow, compared to a projected price of $275.49 based on our model. That’s a surplus value of almost $152. New Haven also has a high school graduation rate of 89%, third-highest in the top 10 of this study. Furthermore, 29% of the population has at least a bachelor’s degree, the third-highest rate in the top 10 and 42nd out of all 189 cities in our study. New Haven also has 2,243 dining and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents.
4. Philadelphia, PA
In the fourth spot on our list is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Homebuyers in the City of Brotherly Love can purchase homes at around $117.17 per square foot, according to data from Zillow. Based on our overall model, living in Philadelphia is equivalent to living in a city where homes are worth $264.77 per square foot, which means the city is undervalued by more than $147. Philadelphia has the second-highest walkability score in the top 10 and the sixth-highest in the study overall.
5. Baltimore, MD
Baltimore, Maryland is fifth on our list. According to Zillow, Baltimore has an actual home sale value of $106.83 per square foot, which is an undervaluation of approximately $116 compared to $223.07, the value our model projects. It also has approximately 50 extreme temperature days per year, which is the second-lowest rate in the top 10 and a top-40 rate overall. Fans of moderate weather will likely find that appealing. They’ll likely find the city’s top-15 walk score appealing as well.
6. Providence, RI
Coming in sixth place is Providence, Rhode Island. Providence has the third-lowest rate of violent crime in the top 10 of this list, at approximately 533 incidents per 100,000 residents. It has 1,276 dining and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents, the third-highest rate in the top 10 and 81st in the study overall. It’s important for people to consider cost of living before moving somewhere, and according to Zillow data, Providence provides good value: the actual price per square foot for real estate in Providence is $164.33, compared to a projected price of $277.08. That yields an undervaluation of almost $113.
7. Chicago, IL
Chicago, Illinois is the seventh-most undervalued city in America, according to our study. Chicago is tied with Providence, Rhode Island for the third-highest walkability score in the top 10 and seventh-highest overall. The actual price of real estate in Chicago is $171 per square foot, according to Zillow data, but our model estimates that homes should cost $282.84. While Chicago does not score relatively well when it comes to violent crime rate, ranking in the bottom 20 for this metric overall, it does have a high school graduation rate of 85% and 676 dining and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents.
8. Charleston, SC
Charleston, South Carolina comes in at No. 8 and ranks in the top half of the study for five metrics. There are only 24 extreme temperature days and approximately 65 days with precipitation each year, both of which are the lowest rates in the top 10. The violent crime rate in Charleston is around 283 incidents of violent crime per 100,000 residents each year. Charleston’s walk score is the lowest in the top 10 and its concentration of entertainment and dining establishments is third-lowest in the study overall, but the city’s unemployment rate is 3.2%, a top-50 rate. According to Zillow, the actual cost of real estate is $187.25 per square foot, but our model estimates homes should cost $289.24 per square foot, yielding a surplus value just shy of $102.
9. St. Louis, MO
St. Louis, Missouri, coming in at ninth place, is the westernmost city in our top 10. St. Louis does have the fourth-highest high school graduation rate in the top 10, at 88%, which ranks 91st in the study overall. Furthermore, 28% of the adults in the city’s population have at least a bachelor’s degree, the fourth-highest rate in the top 10 and 61st out of 189 cities overall. The unemployment rate in St. Louis is 3.9%, the second-lowest rate in the top 10.
Zillow data shows that actual cost per square foot in St. Louis is $104.25, while our model estimates that it should cost about $100 more than that, at$205.58. For those looking to get a smart start, it’s also one of the best cities for new college grads.
10. Allentown, PA
Taking the 10th spot in our list is Allentown, Pennsylvania. Allentown has just 461 incidents of violent crime per 100,000 residents each year, which ranks the second-lowest in the top 10 of this study and 84th in the study overall. Allentown also has 1,042 dining and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents, the fourth-highest concentration in the top 10 and 96th overall. Actual cost per square foot in Allentown is $92.17 according to Zillow data, while our model estimates that it should be $190.73, yielding an undervaluation of $98.57.
Data and Methodology
To determine the most undervalued cities in America, we created a model to project home values based on various quality-of-life metrics. We collected data for nine metrics for 189 of the largest cities in the country. Specifically, we compared the cities across the following metrics:
Home value per square foot. Data is from Zillow and is for 2018.
Violent crime rate per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting tool and is for 2017.
High school graduation rate. Data comes from the U.S. Department of Education EdFacts and is for the 2016 – 2017 school year.
Number of extreme temperature days. This is the average number of bad weather days a city has in a year. To measure this, we found the average number of days where the temperature exceeds 90 degrees or is under 40 degrees. Data is a 30-year average from 1981 – 2010. Data comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Average number of precipitation days per year. This is the average number of days per year with at least 0.1 inches of precipitation. Data comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is the 30-year average from 1981-2010.
Walkability. This is a measure of how walkable a city is. Data comes from walkscore.com
Percentage of population with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.
Unemployment rate. Data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics local area unemployment statistics. It is the average of the unemployment rates between January 2018 and February 2019.
Concentration of dining and entertainment establishments. This is the number of dining and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 Zip Codes Business Pattern Survey.
To model home value per square foot, we ran a linear least squares regression with home value per square foot as the dependent variable and using the eight quality of life metrics as explanatory variables. Below is the formula to measure estimated dollars per square foot:
Home value per square foot = 41.71 – (0.05 * violent crime rate) + (1.57 * average high school graduation rate) + (5.56 * dining and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents) – (2.47 * average number of days of significant precipitation per year) – (1.45 * number of days with extreme high or low temperatures per year) + (3.03 * percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree or higher) + (5.26 * walk score) – (21.07 * unemployment rate).
The above formula may seem complicated, but it is actually quite easy to read. For example, we see that in our formula walk score is multiplied by 5.26 (this figure is known as the coefficient). This means that if a city’s walk score improves by 1, assuming all other metrics remain constant, the projected home value per square foot would increase by $5.26 per square foot.
We can see how overvalued or undervalued a city is by plugging our data back into our formula. By plugging the collected data back into our model, we get a projection for home value per square foot, which we can then compare to the Zillow data. In order to create our final rankings, we subtracted the estimated value per square foot by the actual Zillow value per square foot. The city with the largest positive difference ranked first while the city with the largest negative difference ranked last.
In order to create our model, we only included quality of life metrics. We left out other potentially explanatory variables like population change and new home change. Because of this, these figures are not meant as a prediction.
Kodasema, the Estonian design collective known for its ultra-stylish tiny homes, has created yet another ultra-stylish tiny home. Only this time it floats on water.
The company’s new minimalist design, the Koda Light Float, sits atop of pontoons, allowing it to float at a dock or hitch to a boat. Unlike Koda’s sleek, concrete tiny homes, the Light Float is built from a timber and glass frame that’s clad in a variety of materials including zinc and wood.
Inside, the 277-square-foot tiny home has a spacious living room with tall ceilings, a modern kitchen, a sleeping area, and a bathroom with a shower and toilet. It also comes with an expansive wooden deck that’s asking for lounge chairs.
The minimalist interiors turn the tiny home into a blank canvas—Koda says the Light Float can be used as a houseboat, artists’ studio, harbor cafe, or a “fisherman’s dream boat.”
The floating Koda home, which can be stacked to create a bigger dwelling, has a three-month turnaround time. Price is upon request.
To lure house hunters, sellers of high-end homes are slashing prices by as much as 30 percent. Many metro areas are succumbing to downward pressure from the U.S.-China trade war, uncertainty in Europe, rising interest rates, or a combination of all three. Of course, all real estate is local, so some discounts are better than others. Here’s where policymakers, central bankers, and developers are creating an environment for juicy deals today—or even better bargains tomorrow.
By the numbers: Home values in the city’s prime neighborhoods are 19 percent below their 2014 peak, according to broker Savills Plc.
What happened? Few sellers anywhere have faced such a poisonous economic cocktail as those in the Chelsea, Kensington, and Westminster districts, where tax changes on luxury properties have hit hard. Add in Brexit and an anti-money-laundering crackdown on cash from countries such as Russia and China, and demand for high-end homes has dried up. The discounts were enough to lure hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin to spend £95 million ($122 million) on a mansion near Buckingham Palace in January, a cut of almost 35 percent from the original price.
Act now! A five-bedroom home in the city’s most expensive apartment block, One Hyde Park, has been languishing on the market for two years. The asking price is £50 million, down from £55 million.
By the numbers:Australian home prices have fallen more than 6 percent since their October 2017 peak. The decline in Sydney has been sharper—about 12 percent—making this the worst slump in four decades. Economists have predicted that Australia’s most populous city could see an additional 8 percent drop this year.
What happened? Easy credit caused prices to go crazy, then policymakers stepped in with a series of cooling measures including a restriction on banks from issuing interest-only loans popular with speculators. Regulations designed to deter foreign buyers, such as higher sales taxes, have only made it worse for investors, with many pulling out of the market. Because interest rates are at record lows and the country’s economy is growing modestly, it’s hard to see the window for bargain shopping closing anytime soon.
Act now! This four-bedroom home in Avalon Beach in Sydney’s Northern Beaches district comes with a private jetty, a boathouse, and a koi pond. Listed for A$6.9 million ($5.3 million) in December 2017, it’s now going for A$4.3 million, a 38 percent discount.
By the numbers: Dubai’s residential prices are down about 25 percent since their 2014 peak, according to broker Jones Lang LaSalle Inc.
What happened? If politicians and central bankers are to blame in most other places, overzealous developers in Dubai are responsible for the emirate’s slump. Dubai is planning to erect a record 31,500 homes this year, double the annual demand of the past five years, raising the risk that prices could fall further, according to JLL.
Act now! A typical six-bedroom, 7,000-square-foot Signature Villas home on the artificial archipelago of Palm Jumeriah, among the desert city’s most expensive neighborhoods, costs 20.5 million U.A.E. dirham ($5.6 million), according to Savills. That’s down from 22.75 million dirham in 2014, the broker says, an almost 10 percent discount.
By the numbers: Home prices have been clipped almost 10 percent since August, according to Centaline Property Agency Ltd.’s Centa-City Leading Index. Several forecasts expect another 10 percent fall in 2019, depending on the direction of interest rates, with broker JLL warning in November that prices could plummet by 25 percent in 2019 if the U.S.-China trade war worsens.
What happened? Because of the Hong Kong currency’s ties to the U.S. dollar (it effectively imports American monetary policy), borrowing costs have gone up as the Federal Reserve has hiked rates. Also weighing on prices: an upcoming vacancy tax designed to stop developers from hoarding empty apartments in the hopes that they fetch better prices later. There are signs that investors are already unloading empty units in anticipation.
Act now! At Mayfair by the Sea 8, a development in the Tai Po neighborhood, apartments are selling for an average of HK$16,000 ($2,039) a square foot, more than 10 percent lower than the price of nearby developments last summer.
By the numbers: In the last quarter of 2018, the median price of Manhattan condos dropped below $1 million for the first time in three years, down 5.8 percent from a year earlier, according to broker Douglas Elliman Real Estate. For the most expensive homes, the market is worse: Sales of Manhattan properties priced at $5 million or more dropped 22 percent last year from 2017, their steepest decline in a decade, according to Stribling & Associates Ltd.
What happened? A postrecession building boom led to a glut of condos. The annual inventory of homes for sale rose 15.4 percent in 2018, according to real estate website StreetEasy. At the same time, federal changes that limit deductions on property and state taxes and mortgages have encouraged people to flee to lower-tax states. More than 8 percent of New York state residents will face higher taxes for 2018, with 29 percent of the highest earners seeing a hike, according to the Tax Policy Center.
Act now! In January, hedge fund manager Steven Cohen slashed the price of his penthouse at One Beacon Court to $45 million, a $70 million cut from its asking price of $115 million in 2013.
By the numbers: Prices in Dublin’s most desirable districts, including the D2 and D4 postal codes, fell 2.8 percent last year, according to broker Knight Frank LLP. That ended five years of price growth following a 56 percent collapse citywide starting in 2008.
What happened? Given how interconnected Ireland’s economy is with the U.K.’s, Brexit wobbliness is at least partly to blame for the falling prices, according to Knight Frank. The weak pound is deterring wealthy U.K. buyers, and limits introduced in 2015 by the Irish Central Bank on the amounts that can be borrowed have also helped cool the market. First-time buyers, for example, now have to put down at least 10 percent of the price.
Act now! A five-bedroom, five-bath Victorian home on Ailesbury Road, one of the most sought-after Dublin avenues, is now listed at €6.5 million ($6.8 million), a 13 percent discount from its 2016 asking price.
By the numbers: Home prices fell 4.5 percent in January from a year earlier, and they’re now 8 percent below their June 2018 peak, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. High-price districts are faring much worse; properties in West Vancouver, which had been attractive to overseas buyers, are down 14 percent from the previous year.
What happened? After prices surged about 63 percent from December 2013 to December 2018—putting owning a home beyond the reach of most locals— Vancouver’s market developed an unhealthy dependency on foreign cash. China’s clampdown on money fleeing the country and local measures in Canada, including a 20 percent foreign-buyers tax, have discouraged the overseas high-rollers. At the same time, the Canadian government’s new tighter mortgage rules have made it even harder for locals to afford homes.
Act now! A five-bedroom house in West Vancouver for sale since December 2017 is now listed for C$6.9 million ($5.1 million) after a C$1 million price cut in November.
By the numbers: Luxury home values in the Turkish city dropped 4.3 percent in the final quarter of 2018 from the previous one, bringing the 12-month decline to 10.4 percent, according to Knight Frank.
What happened? An expanding middle class, readily available mortgage financing, and migration seem to be supporting the market for more affordable homes, but the sharp drop in the value of the lira has decimated the top end. Turkey’s currency is down almost 41 percent against the U.S. dollar in the past two years amid political tensions—with the U.S., within the Middle East, and inside Turkey. Additionally, investors have been spooked by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who lashed out against his central bank, raising concerns about its independence.
Act now! About 60 sought-after mansions on the banks of the Bosphorus—many of them built during the Ottoman Empire—were for sale as of October, according to a survey of brokers by Agence France-Presse. Although listings can be opaque, one modern six-bedroom home is for sale for 55 million lira, which converts to $10.5 million now compared with $14.5 million a year ago.
How Do You Say “Penthouse” in German?*
One city ripe for a future correction: Munich. It saw a 9 percent increase in home prices last year, and they’ve doubled in the past decade. While all of Germany’s big cities have seen rapid price appreciation from the influx of migrants and record-low interest rates, the Bavarian capital has been particularly affected by the global corporations that call it home, such as Siemens, Allianz, and BMW. Gross domestic product growth in Munich has significantly outpaced that of Germany as a whole, and unemployment is at its lowest level in 20 years.
Zillow’s stock plunged as much as 20% late Tuesday after the company warnedthat revenue this quarter would fall short of Wall Street expectations, exacerbating investor concerns about the prospects of online real-estate startups like Zillow and Redfin as the U.S. housing market is starting to slow down.
The news caused Zillow’s stock to fall as low as $32.40 a share in after-hours trading, or 20% below its official closing price of $41.04 a share. Redfin, another online real-estate company, fell as much as 6.5% in aftermarket trading.
After nearly a decade of recovery and slow growth, the U.S. housing market has been heading into a slowdown in 2018. Not only are mortgage rates rising, but housing prices have been climbing about twice as fast as average incomes. Sales of new homes as well as previously owned homes have been slowing from a year ago. Tax reform enacted late last year has also reduced tax incentives to buy homes.
Those trends have hurt the stock performance of Zillow and Redfin alike. At its low point late Tuesday, Zillow was down 51% from its 52-week high, while Redfin was down 53% from its high point in the past year.
Zillow started out as an online real-estate listings service that, once successful, began to seek out new business models. Like Redfin, it moved into buying and selling homes. In May, Zillow’s stock plunged on news that it would start buying and quickly flipping homes for resale. In August, its stock plunged on again on news it was buying an online-mortgage lender, Mortgage Lenders of America. Both represent traditionally risky markets that Zillow believed would pay off in the long term.
“Zillow Group is undergoing a period of transformational innovation,” Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff said in the company’s earnings release. “We believe that these changes will have positive long-term effects for consumers, our industry partners and our business. It will take time for advertisers to adapt to these changes, but we are confident that they set us up for long-term growth.”
During that expansion, however, Zillow and Redfin have had to face dual headwinds in rising interest rates, which can deter home purchases, and in slowing home purchases.
While Zillow’s move into adjacent markets may hold some long-term promise, investors are concerned about their short-term outlook. “Zillow was in fantastic shape just six months ago,” CNBC’s Jim Cramer said last month. “We loved their attempts to corner the real estate advertising market. Then they decided to move into a totally new, totally risky business at what may be the worst possible time, and the stock has since cratered.”
The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas in the US rose 5.9 percent year-on-year in March of 2017, the same as in February and above market expectations of following a 5.7 percent gain. Prices rose the most in Seattle (12.3 percent), Portland (9.2 percent) and Dallas (8.6 percent). Meanwhile, the national index, covering all nine US census divisions rose 5.8 percent, up from 5.7 percent in February and setting a 33-month high. Case Shiller Home Price Index in the United States averaged 158.44 Index Points from 2000 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 206.52 Index Points in July of 2006 and a record low of 100 Index Points in January of 2000.
The National Association of Home Builders’ Multifamily Production Index (MPI) increased two points to 55 in the fourth quarter of 2016. For five straight years, the MPI has been at or above 50, which indicates that more respondents report conditions are improving than report conditions are getting worse (Figure 1).
Figure 1: NAHB Multifamily Production Index (MPI) and Multifamily Starts (in thousands)
The MPI is a composite measure of three key segments of the multifamily housing market: construction of low-rent units, market-rate rental units and “for-sale” units, or condominiums. In the fourth quarter, low-rent units remained unchanged at 54 while market-rate rental units rose one point to 58 and for-sale units increased three points to 53.
The Multifamily Vacancy Index (MVI), which measures the multifamily housing industry’s perception of vacancies, remained unchanged at 42, with lower numbers indicating fewer vacancies (Figure 2).
Figure 2: NAHB Multifamily Vacancy Index (MVI) and 5+ Rental Vacancy Rate
After peaking at 70 in the second quarter of 2009, the MVI improved consistently through 2010 and has been fairly stable since 2011. Historically, the MVI has shown to be a leading indicator of Census multifamily vacancy rates, which is displayed in Figure 2 as well.