Home renovation spending reached a record high this summer, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Although they expected those numbers to continue to soar through the end of 2019, the JCHS now says it expects a complete stall come 2020.
The Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity released by the Remodeling Futures Program at JCHS said that annual gains in homeowner spending for improvements and repairs will dissipate by the second half of 2020.
To that point, the LIRA states that the annual home improvement and maintenance expenditures will post a modest decline of 0.3% through the third quarter of 2020.
“Continued weakness in existing home sales and new construction will lead to sluggish remodeling activity next year,” said Chris Herbert, managing director of the JCHS. “Slowdowns in other key indicators of improvement spending—project permitting, sales of building materials, and home prices—also suggest the remodeling market may be reaching a turning point.”
Back in July, JCHS said that it expected remodeling spending to total a record $331 billion for all of 2019.
Now, the furthest projection in the index (the end of Q2 2020) suggests that spending over the prior 12 months will probably total $323 billion.
“At $325 billion, owner improvement and repair spending in the coming year is expected to essentially remain flat compared to market spending of $326 billion over the past four quarters,” says Abbe Will, associate project director in the Remodeling Futures Program at the Center. “However, today’s low mortgage interest rates may help counter some of these headwinds, which could buoy home improvement expenditure over the coming year.”
Americans are on the move, but where are they moving to and from?
Interactive Map: To understand inbound and outbound percentages for each state, use the legend. To view reasons for moving and demographic data, select the year and state that you would like to view using the dropdown menus. (If you are using a desktop computer, you can use your mouse to click and select a state.)
Americans are on the move, relocating to western and southern parts of the country. We love moving from Los Angeles to another city as it brings in excitement and also new adventures in life. The results of United Van Lines’ 42nd Annual National Movers Study, which tracks customers’ state-to-state migration patterns over the past year, revealed that more residents moved out of New Jersey than any other state in 2018, with 66.8 percent of New Jersey moves being outbound. The study also found that the state with the highest percentage of inbound migration was Vermont (72.6 percent), with 234 total moves. Oregon, which had 3,346 total moves, experienced the second highest percentage nationally, with 63.8 percent inbound moves.
States in the Mountain West and Pacific West regions, including Oregon, Idaho (62.4 percent), Nevada (61.8 percent), Washington (58.8 percent) and South Dakota (57 percent) continue to increase in popularity for inbound moves. In tune with this trend, Arizona (60.2 percent) joined the list of top 10 inbound states in 2018.
Several southern states also experienced high percentages of inbound migration, such as South Carolina (59.9 percent, this makes moving to Greenville very popular) and North Carolina (57 percent). United Van Lines determined the top reasons for moving south include job change (46.6 percent) and retirement (22.3 percent).
In the Northeast, however, an outbound moving trend continues. New Jersey (66.8 percent), Connecticut (62 percent) and New York (61.5 percent) were included among the top 10 outbound states for the fourth consecutive year. Midwestern states like Illinois (65.9 percent), Kansas (58.7 percent), Ohio (56.5 percent) and Iowa (55.5 percent) saw high outbound relocation as well.
“As the nation’s largest household goods mover, our study allows us to identify the most and least popular states for residential relocation throughout the country, year after year,” said Eily Cummings, director of corporate communications at United Van Lines. “These findings accurately reflect not only where Americans are moving to and from, but also the reasons why.”
The National Movers Study reveals the business data of inbound and outbound moves from 2018. In addition to this study, United Van Lines also conducts a survey to find out more about the reasons behind these moves. A leading motivation behind these migration patterns across all regions is a career change, as the survey showed approximately one out of every two people who moved in the past year moved for a new job or company transfer. Other reasons for the high percentage of moves to the Mountain West in 2018 include retirement (28.1 percent), proximity to family (20.8 percent) and lifestyle change (19.4 percent). Compared to all other states, Idaho saw the largest influx of new residents desiring a lifestyle change (25.95 percent), and more people flocked to New Mexico for retirement than any other state (42.74 percent).
“The data collected by United Van Lines aligns with longer-term migration patterns to southern and western states, trends driven by factors like job growth, lower costs of living, state budgetary challenges and more temperate climates,” said Michael Stoll, economist and professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Unlike a few decades ago, retirees are leaving California, instead choosing other states in the Pacific West and Mountain West. We’re also seeing young professionals migrating to vibrant, metropolitan economies, like Washington, D.C. and Seattle.”
The top inbound states of 2018 were:
District of Columbia
New to the 2018 top inbound list are Arizona at No. 5 and District of Columbia at No. 10, with 60.2 percent and 56.7 percent inbound moves, respectively.
The top outbound states for 2018 were:
New Jersey (66.8 percent), which has ranked in the top 10 for the past 10 years, moved up one spot on the outbound list to No. 1. New additions to the 2018 top outbound list include Iowa (55.5 percent), Montana (55 percent) and Michigan (55 percent).
In several states, the number of residents moving inbound was approximately the same as the number moving outbound. Arkansas and Mississippi are among these “balanced states.”
Since 1977, United Van Lines has annually tracked migration patterns on a state-by-state basis. The 2018 study is based on household moves handled by United within the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C. and ranks states based off the inbound and outbound percentages of total moves in each state. United classifies states as “high inbound” if 55 percent or more of the moves are going into a state, “high outbound” if 55 percent or more moves were coming out of a state or “balanced” if the difference between inbound and outbound is negligible.
To view the entire 2018 study, an interactive map and archived press releases from United, visit the United Van Lines website.
Cotacachi, in the Imbabura province, is getting the lion’s share of expat attention these days. Many, especially those of retirement age, are finding their way here to enjoy the perfect weather, beautiful scenery, low cost of living, and especially the tranquil, slow-paced small-town lifestyle.
Like Otavalo and many other villages in this part of Ecuador, Cotacachi (population: about 8,000) is an artisan town. Just 20 minutes northwest of Otavalo, Cotacachi is Ecuador’s famous “leather” town. Artisan shops line the main street and you can buy any type of leather item, from shoes, boots and jackets to coin purses, bags, and suitcases…even upholstered furniture. Prices for all these items are 50% to 75% less than you would pay in the U.S.
Cotacachi has always enjoyed a reputation as a clean, peaceful village, and its plazas are kept neat and tidy. At night the artisan shops close up and only a few restaurants and small mom-and-pop shops are open. On the corners, you may find families congregating around a hot grill, where ears of corn are roasting along with pork and chicken kabobs. The cool, crisp air smells faintly of wood smoke, roasting corn, and eucalyptus. Eucalyptus trees grow abundantly wild, as do palm trees.
Cotacachi has become one of Ecuador’s most active expat communities in recent years, as many foreigners have chosen to locate here—and they enjoy a great lifestyle in Cotacachi. It’s a small, mostly indigenous town with a strong sense of community.
Largely dependent on agriculture, it is the sort of town many of us remember from our childhoods. Fresh raw milk can be bought from local farms, along with eggs laid by free-range chickens. Children still help with the family businesses after school and are well-mannered.
In the quaint downtown, you’ll find a couple of barbers, a small health clinic, and a pavilion for the town band. Ethnic restaurants and cozy cafés make welcoming spots to catch up with friends or just sit and watch life unfold in the Ecuadorian highlands.
Though Cotacachi has a slow and relaxed pace there are constant events and activities to take part in. Every month at least one parade or festival takes place. There are live music events, dances, and even horse processions to be watched and photographed. Seed exchanges, food fairs, and leather expos are all annual events too.
Of course it’s always nice to explore other areas too and there are plenty of great day-trips to choose from. Within two hours you could be at Chachimbiro Hot Springs relaxing in the thermal springs, or enjoying a mud bath at the spa. Lake Cuicocha is just a 15-minute taxi ride from town where you can marvel at the deep blue volcanic crater lake. If you’re up for some physical activity you can take a four-hour hike around the rim, or if you prefer to relax, take the boat tour around the islands in the center of the lake.
The famed market town of Otavalo is nearby, where you can explore the streets filled with craft items, food, and even animals for sale. Ibarra is a larger city just 45 minutes away with shopping malls, dining options, and large parks and plazas to enjoy.
When the sun sets in Cotacachi, the artisan shops close up and only a few restaurants and small mom-and-pop shops are open. That’s all you need, really. After a day of sunshine in the 8,000-foot-elevation, mountain climate, night-time is for sleeping.
Retire in Cotacachi, Ecuador
Cotacachi is becoming something of an expat magnet. Estimates are that about 100 expats live full-time in Cotacachi now. It’s a diverse group—not all American. There are Israelis, Cubans, Brits, and more among them, who get together regularly to discuss topics of interest or just to celebrate life. This makes retirement in Cotacachi enjoyable. The expats here are outgoing and relaxed, since there’s not much to worry about. No traffic, no temperature swings, no pesky insects, and certainly no money problems.
The town is also scenic. Two of the most majestic cordilleras of the Andes flank either side of the small village of Cotacachi. And several of Ecuador’s most famous volcanoes can be seen from just about anywhere in town, including Volcan Cotacachi to the west and Imbabura to the east. On a clear day, you can see Volcan Pichincha to the south.
If you want to enjoy good weather, clean air, great scenery, and a rich indigenous culture, but still be within two hours of the international airport in Quito, then retirement in Cotacachi could fit the bill.
Lifestyle in Cotacachi, Ecuador
Cotacachi is a fabulous place to improve your health. The moderate climate with little variation throughout the year means that nearly every fruit and vegetable can be grown within a hundred miles. Not only is healthy produce readily available, but it’s also very affordable. With avocados priced at 3 for a dollar, organic leaf lettuce at 25 cents, and 6 plump carrots for 50 cents there is no monetary reason not to eat right.
In addition, the small size of the town makes it perfect for walking. Instead of jumping in your car to run to the grocery store, pay bills, or meet a friend for lunch you can easily accomplish it all with your own two feet. Many folks find that they lose weight without even trying after being in Cotacachi for only a few months. The healthy food choices and extra walking each day help shed excess pounds.
For a small town there are few things lacking. Residents can take advantage of spas, fitness centers, and basic medical needs all within a few blocks of each other. They can also participate in art classes, hiking groups, dance lessons, live musical events, yoga, foreign films, and science courses.
If you’re a social person, Cotacachi is the place for you. There are plenty of other expats to get to know, but the locals are friendly and welcoming too. It’s tough to spend much time in this town without quickly and easily making friends.
Real Estate in Cotacachi, Ecuador
This influx of foreigners has caused something of a building boom in Cotacachi in recent years, and if you come to look for real estate, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Older homes and apartments in need of renovation can be had for the price of a good used car.
Recognizing the trend of foreign baby boomers looking for an unspoiled and inexpensive retirement destination, local builders offer appealing homes and condos with features like large modern kitchens, elegant bathrooms, fireplaces, and more.
Rentals go for as little as $150 a month for a modern, three-bedroom apartment while furnished units with all utilities included go for $600.
Cost of Living in Cotacachi, Ecuador
The cost of living is low in Ecuador, but especially so in smaller towns like Cotacachi. If you’re living on a budget or just looking to save money, this is a great place to do so.
Sunday is market day, when the villagers bring their wares to sell. Everything from fruits and vegetables to ground spices, woven baskets, and rope made of woven plastic shopping bags—recycling at its best. And then there are the roses…you pay $2 for one dozen, long-stemmed roses that are so fresh they last nearly three weeks.
On Saturdays head to Otavalo—to the largest open-air indigenous market in South America. If you’re a good negotiator, you can buy scarves, woolen socks, and hats for $2 each, or pretty wool and alpaca sweaters for $8 ($4 for kids’ sizes). The 30-minute bus ride from Cotacachi to Otavalo costs 35 cents; a taxi costs $5.
You can hire a maid to clean your condo for $10, and gardeners or landscapers charge around $4 per hour. Furnishing that same condo can be fun and inexpensive as well. There are master carpenters right in town that will build furniture to your specs for 50% to 75% of U.S. costs. Artistic paintings, colorful weavings, and wooden carvings are all easily found in the area and are priced at or below half of what you would pay back home.
Unless you must have imported food items or expensive cuts of meat you’ll save on your grocery bill here. Five dollars at the farmers’ market will get you an extra-large grocery bag filled to the brim with good healthy produce. Bananas, pineapples, mangos, avocados, tomatoes, leafy greens, and dozens of varieties of potatoes are just a few things you’ll find for sale. Whole chickens range from $5 to $8 depending on the size while fresh free-range eggs cost around $1.30 per dozen.
Many restaurants in town serve a menu del dia that consists of a beverage, soup, salad, main course, and dessert. How much? $2.50 each. It’s almost cheaper to eat out than to cook at home.
There are several good doctors in Cotacachi who typically charge $10 for an office visit. An eye exam costs $5 while a dental cleaning and exam will run around $20.
With the lack of severe temperature fluxes you’ll find that heating and air conditioning aren’t necessary, saving you plenty of money. Average electric costs for a household run between $15 and $20 per month. Monthly bills for water and propane gas usually come in at around $5 each. A package of cable TV, internet, and landline phone service can be had for around $100 per month.
Many folks live without a vehicle which eliminates fuel, maintenance, and insurance expenses. Bus fare usually averages around $1 per hour of travel time, and taxis are cheap too, charging $5 to nearby Otavalo (20 minute drive) and $12 to Ibarra (40 minute drive).
Depending upon the lifestyle you want a couple can easily live on $1,200 to $1,800 per month here. Of course frequent dining at high-end restaurants and traveling will require more income, but can still be done for far less than what it would cost in many other parts of the world. Don’t forget to factor in extra funds for trips back home, initial moving and visa costs, and for routine medical care.
A recent release by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York indicates that, in aggregate, 90 or more day delinquency rates are falling on most household debt products. However, serious delinquency on student loans remains elevated while a greater portion of auto debt held by households with low credit scores is entering serious delinquency. The results indicate that household balance sheets are likely improving on balance but some concerns persist.
As the figure below illustrates, the majority of consumer loan types have seen the share of balances 90 or more days delinquent fall from their cycle peaks. The proportion of credit card debt 90 or more days past due has dropped to 7.1 percent 6.6 percentage points below its peak in 2010, 13.7 percent. The percentage of mortgage debt has dived 7.3 percentage points to 1.6 percent while the portion of 90 or more days late home equity lines of credit has fallen from 4.9 percent to 2.0 percent.
Although credit card debt, mortgages, and home equity lines of credit have trended downward since reaching their cycle peaks, the share of student loan debt 90 or more days delinquent jumped in 2012 to 11.7 percent and has remained near this level in subsequent years.
Interestingly, the 90 or more day delinquency rate on auto debt followed the same pattern as credit card and mortgage debt, declining in the years immediately after reaching its peak. However, since 2014, the proportion of auto loan debt 90 or more days delinquent has held steady. More precisely, the percent of auto loans 90 or more days delinquent has trended up slightly since the middle of 2014.
Additional analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York indicates that, after declines from their cycle peaks, the flow of auto debt into 90 or more day delinquency has been generally flat for households with a 620 and above. However, as shown in the figure below which was reproduced from the blog post linked to above, the flow of auto loans into 90 or more day delinquency has increased noticeably for consumers with a credit score below a 620.
More precisely, the flow of auto debt flowing into 90 or more day delinquency for those with a credit score between 620 and 659 rose a bit in 2014 before returning in 2015. In addition, there has been a very slight upward trend in the flow of auto debt into 90 or more day delinquency by borrowers with a credit score between 660 and 719 and a small uptick over 2016 in the flow for consumers with a score between 720 and 759.
Like the rest of us suffering through August’s oppressive heat, mortgage rates have been disinclined to move much.
There just hasn’t been enough positive or negative economic data recently to have an effect on rates. Even the Federal Reserve minutes, which were released Wednesday, provided no clear signal. They showed the central bank remains divided on when to raise interest rates again.
Without much guidance, home loan rates have been listless. Since late June, the 30-year fixed-rate average — the most popular mortgage product — has been stuck between a high of 3.48 percent and a low of 3.41 percent.
In its most recent monthly outlook, which was released earlier this week, Freddie Mac projected mortgage rates would remain below 4 percent not only for the rest of this year but also next year. The government-backed mortgage-backer revised its 2017 forecast for the 30-year fixed rate to 3.7 percent.
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rates trend index, found that three-quarters of the experts it surveyed believe rates will remain relatively unchanged in the next week, moving no more than plus or minus two basis points (a basis point is 0.01 percentage point) in the next week. According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average slipped to 3.43 percent with an average 0.5 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.) It was 3.45 percent a week ago and 3.93 percent a year ago. The 30-year fixed rate has remained below 3.5 percent the past two months.
The 15-year fixed-rate average fell to 2.74 percent with an average 0.5 point. It was 2.76 percent a week ago and 3.15 percent a year ago.
The five-year adjustable rate average crept up to 2.76 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 2.74 percent a week ago and 2.94 percent a year ago.
“For eight consecutive weeks mortgage rates have ranged between 3.41 and 3.48 percent,” Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac chief economist, said in a statement. “Inflation is not adding any upward pressure on interest rates as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the Consumer Price Index was unchanged in July.”
Meanwhile, mortgage applications were lower this week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.
The market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — fell 4 percent from the previous week. The refinance index decreased 4 percent, while the purchase index dropped 4 percent. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 62.6 percent of all applications.
“Application volume dropped across the board for both refinance and purchase loans last week, despite little change in rates,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA chief economist. “Refinance volume continues to tail off its recent highs as markets return to normal post Brexit. As for home purchases, the strong job market and still very low rates continue to support volume almost 10 percent higher than this time last year, despite last week’s dip.”
International concerns such as slowing growth in Chinaand the Brexit vote in the U.K. played a major role in driving down mortgage rates in the U.S., according toFreddie Mac’s monthly Outlook for July.
In fact, after the U.K’s vote to leave the European Union, mortgage rates continue to lower, closing the gap even more to all-time lows at 3.41%.
This is likely to result in a boost in housing activity, particularly refinance, as homeowners take advantage of the current low rates, according to Freddie Mac’s report.
“With the U.K.’s decision to exit from the European Union, global risks increased substantially leading us to revise our views for the remainder of 2016 and all of 2017,” Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti said.
“Nonetheless, the turbulence abroad should continue to create demand for U.S. Treasuries and keep mortgage rates near historic lows,” Becketti said. “Thereby, allowing home sales to have their best year in a decade, along with a boost in refinance activity.”
The remaining quarters of 2016 should show an increase in Gross Domestic Product at 1.9% and 2.2% in 2016 and 2017.
Due to these recent global pressures, Freddie Mac revised the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage forecast down by 30 basis points for 2016 and by 50 basis points for 2017 to 3.6% and 4% respectively.
With this new drop in mortgage rates, the refinance share of originations will rise by 49% in 2016, an increase of 8% from last month’s forecast. That will be an increase of $100 billion in originations, bringing the total to $1,825 billion.
Look around any rented apartment, condominium or house and you’re likely to find the same things you would see in an owner-occupied home — furniture, clothes, electronics, and other belongings. In other words, you’ll see the same items that play an important role in everyday life.
A standard home insurance policy typically provides a homeowner with some protection for these types of belongings, and similar protection is also available to renters. Unfortunately, renters insurance remains a vastly underused resource. Surveys and studies show that less than half of renters in the U.S. have renters insurance.
You may be a young professional in your first loft or a retiree enjoying more coziness and less yardwork. Either way, if you rent, the best way to help protect your valued belongings is renters insurance.
Two kinds of property: the landlord’s and yours
Why is it so important for renters to get protection for their belongings? It’s a matter of where the landlord’s coverage ends and where your coverage should begin.
Say, for example, that a severe storm tears part of the roof off your apartment building while you’re at work and lets the rain pour in. Just your luck, the hole in the roof is directly above the spot in the kitchen where you keep the coffee maker that brews a perfect cup every time.
You come home, see this dripping disaster and wonder, “Who’s going to pay for this?” Actually, you should rephrase it as a two-part question:
“Who pays for the damage to the building?” If your landlord has adequately insured the property, that coverage could help ensure that you’ll have a sound roof over your head again when repairs are complete.
“Now that the building is squared away, who pays for my coffee maker?” A standard renters policy could help pay to replace your little morning brewmeister, if your policy covers this type of damage.
The reason for turning one question into two is simple. Your landlord’s policy typically covers the structure of the building and the appliances. Your belongings, however, are more than likely excluded from his or her coverage.
What do renters need protection from?
A renters policy could provide some of the same safeguards as homeowners insurance, which could help protect your belongings from threats including:
Explosion (yes, you read that right.)
Here’s an important point to remember: As with homeowners insurance, your coverage may be subject to limitations. Your agent can help you understand what items may be covered and what kind of threats may not be applicable.
For example, the scenario above could be viable in the case of a rainstorm, in which the water falls from the sky. Floodwaters, on the other hand, typically aren’t covered by standard homeowners or renters policies, and fall under the domain of flood insurance coverage, which is available for purchase through the U.S. government’s FloodSmart program.
The good news is that a renters policy may help protect your property from more common types of water damage, such as damage resulting from a burst pipe.
Protect your wallet along with your stuff
A renters policy could offer a potential safeguard for more than your personal belongings.
You try to be a good host, but some guests just find their way to trouble like a dog finds its way to dropped food. If one of your guests suffers an injury at your rental and tries to hold you responsible, renters insurance could help pay the cost of legal expenses and/or medical treatment.
New homes sales were up 10.8% in December to 544,000 on a seasonally-adjusted annual basis (SAAR) and finished 2015 just past half million (501,000) for the best year since 2007. The increase in signed contracts to purchase a new home comes as mortgage rates remain very low by historic standards and the US economy continues to gain strength. Sales were up in every census region although nominally in the South by 0.4%, to 273,000. In other regions, the Northeast was up 21% to 29,000 (SAAR), the Midwest up 32% to 75,000 and the West up 21% to 167,000. For the year, the Northeast was down 12% to 24,000 new homes sales, which is the worse year since 2011. Other regions performed much better with the Midwest up 3.2% to 60,000, the best year since 2008; the South was up 17.6% to 285,000, the best year since 2007; and the West was up 20.5% to 130,000, the best year since 2007.
Inventories continue to build even in the face of labor and lot shortages. December’s unsold inventory increased 2.6 to 237,000, the highest since October 2009. Even with the increase in sales, the months’ supply fell to 5.2 months. The median sales price fell 4.3% to $288,900 due primarily to a decline in sales over $750,000 and an increase in sales between $200,000 and $300,000. The trend suggests more first time home buyers are entering the market. The shares of signed contracts that are still under construction or not yet started have climbed back to near the same levels has the early 2000s as builders switch from selling off left over inventory to selling from the stock of homes under construction or planned but not yet started.
An aerial view of Miami Beach and South Beach, where the condo market is showing signs of stagnation. Photo by Chris Condon / Getty Images.
There was a time, only two years ago, when Miami’s condo market seemed like an ever-expanding balloon. South Florida was the nation’s biggest real estate comeback story. Miami became a go-to destination for luxury buyers looking to add to their property portfolios.
But like most things filled with hot air, eventually the balloon starts its gradual descent back to earth.
For those who have been waiting for the drop, 2016 may well be the year when softening demand—fueled by stock market volatility in China, low oil prices, currency devaluations in South America, and a heck of a lot of new condo units coming on the market—becomes too much to overcome.
As 2016 begins, signs of a slowdown abound. While prices continue to rise for single-family houses, fewer are selling. The market for condos, which many consider a health indicator of vacationer-heavy Miami Beach, is also showing early signs of stagnation.
The number of single-family home sales that closed dipped by 6.7 percent in November compared to the same month in 2014, while new pending sales fell by 15 percent, making it the fifth straight month of decline, according to the Miami Association of Realtors. Nevertheless, median home prices rose by 12 percent to $274,900—the third straight month of double-digit increases.
The condo market told a slightly different story. Overall, closed sales inched up by 1.9 percent, reversing a two-month slide. New pending sales slid by 16.5 percent, year-over-year, the second highest month of decline in 2015 (October being the highest, at 17.9 percent). Median prices grew by 7 percent to $203,000.
While overall the median days on the market for condos fell by 12 percent, units selling for $300,000 to $999,999 proved particularly sluggish, with homes from $300,000 to $399,999 spending 72 days on the market, a median increase of 50 percent, according to Miami Real Estate Association.
In the condo market especially, there seems to be a growing disconnect between sellers’ expectations and market reality. And local brokers say they are seeing mounting frustration. “We are seeing a lot of sellers calling us saying, ‘What is happening? Nothing is moving,'” said Mark Zilbert, president of Brown Harris Zilbert in Miami.
How did this happen? Blame the foreigners. In 2012, developer Gil Dezer publicly said “obrigado” (thank you) to the many Brazilians who were scooping up condos in Miami and Miami Beach. Dezer, who has been developing the 60-story Porsche Design Tower, credited the Brazilians for almost single-handedly turning around the depressed condo market. Other groups followed suit, including Argentines, Venezuelans, Colombians, Russians and other Europeans, and many Canadians.
Today, much of that interest has disappeared. “We are seeing a lower intensity of demand from foreign investors, comprising an estimated one third of the condo market sales” in Miami, said Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, a real estate appraisal and consulting firm in New York.
The view from the under-construction Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles. Photo by Joel Auerbach / AP Photo.
Miller cited a stronger U.S. dollar, volatile financial markets, and “sharp declines in GDP in source countries that fed Miami demand” as the biggest reasons for the turnaround.
He added that the “significant volume of new housing stock” that is being added has “provided a lot of information for investors to process and removed the sense of urgency from the market.” Also contributing to the general slowdown has been a decline in distressed sales in 2015, which previously helped skew overall prices higher. Foreclosures and short sales both dipped by double digit percentages in November.
But problems abroad are clearly at the heart of the Miami slowdown. Brazil’s currency, the real, has fallen off by more than half since Dezer gave thanks, and the country’s economy is poised for a second straight year of contraction. Economic sanctions on Russia are finally taking a toll on Miami buying at all but the billionaire oligarch level. “Rubles? We don’t see much of those any more,” Zilbert said.
Falling oil prices have hurt Brazil and Russia as well, and compounded problems even further for Miami’s biggest foreign buying group: Venezuelans. Despite government restrictions on how much money they can pull out of their country, Venezuelans continued to buy in and around Miami in 2015. But the restrictions “have had a huge effect on the flow of business,” Philip Siegelman, a principal at real estate marketer ISG, told me late last year.
Venezuelans and Brazilians, it can be argued, are smart to play the currency game. In a downward economic spiral, waiting can end up costing them more, as inflation rises and currencies continue to decline at home. Brazilians that paid hefty deposits in 2014 for pre-construction Miami condos look brilliant now. Their money has more than doubled in Brazilian currency terms.
But there is too much of that new development coming on line to keep the market surging.
The result is that, while a lot of Americans and foreigners continue to show interest in Miami, “There is a shrinking number of people willing to pull the trigger,” Zilbert said. “And the sellers are starting to notice.”
What is especially troubling to brokers is that the expected surge of buying in the last quarter of 2015 didn’t pan out. The bottom line: Many buyers are no longer accepting the price increases that sellers are pushing for.
“I think we are going to see pricing slip back to 2014 levels in order to attract the buyers,” Zilbert said.
Sales have remained fairly stable at mid-tier properties priced between $350,000 to about $700,000, where condos have not appreciated enough to scare away buyers, brokers say. Units in buildings like the Waverly South Beach and the Yacht Club at Portofino continue to find buyers, Zilbert said.
But lately, resale units at the Icon South Beach, the Floridian South Beach and 900 Biscayne in downtown Miami, have struggled to move, as buyers have balked at higher listing prices.
Construction in Miami’s South of Fifth neighborhood. Photo by Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock.
In Zilbert’s own South of Fifth neighborhood, he is seeing buyers pass on a number of units for sale in premium buildings like the Murano Grande (where he lives) and the Continuum. Just two years ago, South of Fifth, a once-blighted section of the beach known for crack houses and rampant crime, was considered Miami Beach’s most-expensive and hottest neighborhood, a truly stunning rebirth story. Lately, more and more units are lingering on the market, Zilbert said.
As Miller noted, sellers are “usually the last to recognize a change in the market when it is weakening,” which results in lower sales activity. “It is not that demand is weak, but rather that there is a growing disconnect between what sellers want and what the market can support,” he said.
Not every segment of the Miami market is showing signs of softening. The high end, with prices in excess of $3 million, is still raging. Sales remain brisk at luxury towers like Faena House, the newly announced Eighty Seven Park, and the Surf Club Four Seasons.
Move over Houston, make way for Dallas-Fort Worth — and a host of other up-and-coming secondary markets such as Charlotte, N.C., Seattle, Atlanta, Denver, Nashville, Tenn., and Portland, Ore.
That’s the conclusion of real-estate professionals who were asked about their views on the best markets for property investment and development in 2016.
The survey was conducted by the Urban Land Institute and PcW and released this week at the ULI’s fall meeting in San Francisco.
Houston was the No. 1 pick in last year’s survey on markets to watch in 2015, but it sunk to No. 23 in the latest survey for 2016 expectations, amid worries about the impact of prolonged low oil prices on the energy capital’s local economy.
In its decline, Houston was in distinguished company: Also not making the top-10 list were major gateway cities of New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., which have been losing favor with real-estate professionals in recent years.
Sixth-place Denver, also known as an energy market, “is more diversified (than Houston) and seems to be chugging right through” the low-price oil environment, said Ben Breslau, managing director of Americas Research at commercial real-estate firm JLL (NYSE:JLL), during a ULI conference panel. He noted that 5 million to 6 million square feet of commercial space hit the market this year in Houston as rents trended down.
Another panelist, Kenneth Rosen, chairman of Rosen Consulting Group, said the energy belt has a “digestive issue” and warned investors to avoid Houston.