The Apartment Glut Cometh – Adios Housing Market

coyoteAdios Amigo!…
From Fund Manager Dave Kranzler:

Driving by the west-side border of downtown Denver (on I-25), I can count 9 cranes in air plus one semi-finished high-rise building.  What’s amusing about this is that there’s already an oversupply of rental apartments and condos as the 1-2 month free + free parking incentives reflect.   What will happen when all these new projects hit the market?

This is not unique to Denver.   I witnessed it first-hand in New York City over the holidays. Douglas Elliman, the high profile NYC real estate brokerage, issued a report which showed that NYC real estate prices plunged in Q4, with the median sales price dropping nearly 9% from Q3. Days on the market increased 14.6% and the number of sales dropped 3.7% I can recall from the demise of the big housing bubble that the impending housing bust started first in NYC.  I remember walking around NYC in late 2006 and seeing several apartment complexes under construction on which work had been abandoned. I would
suggest that the current bubble is already popping in several bubble areas per this canceled contract data: LINK.  I also am confident that the weakness that is developing in NYC will soon spread to the rest of the country.  – from the  Jan 15th Short Seller’s Journal

Miami was the leading indicator of the demise of the mid-2000’s housing bubble.  An apartment glut quickly appeared as speculators took almost free money and put deposits on apartments being built by reckless builders.  Builders always get reckless when other people’s money is cheap. Greenspan and Bernanke made sure there was plenty of cheap capital for developers.   Wolf Richter details the current apartment market implosion occurring in Miami – LINK – and coming to city near you soon.

Ditto for San Francisco/Bay Area, which was right behind Miami during the big housing bubble and is concomitantly blowing up with Miami.  The SF/Bay Area market was driven by big foreign money laundering and a massive private equity tech bubble in Palo Alto. The foreign money has dried up and the PE tech bubble is fading quickly.  It’s like the cheap money rug has been pulled out from under reckless speculators and developers.  Mark Hanson describes the situation here:  Adios SF Housing Market.

Even some of the industry associations are starting to report the truth -something we’ll NEVER get from the National Association of Realtors, as the National Multifamily Housing Council reported a week ago that, “weaker conditions are evident across all sectors of the apartment industry.”  Its sales volume index dropped for the second quarter in a row.

At the same time that a glut in apartment/condo buildings is appearing everywhere, the luxury high-end market is falling apart as well, the latter of which was also a leading feature of the demise of the big housing bubble. Douglas Elliman reported recently, “that prices in the Hamptons real estate market dropped nearly 30% in Q4, with sales volume down 14.5% But in the luxury end of the market – homes with an average price of $7 million – prices were down 42.6% in Q4. This is an all-out crash in housing in one of the most high-end areas of the country. This is exactly what began occurring in 2006/2007 in the Hamptons.

CNBC reported last week that “luxury home sales continued to slump in Q4.” It cited the
Hamptons but also Aspen and Beverly Hills. I reported in SSJ a few months ago that Aspen
was starting to go into a price freefall. Prices and volume started collapsing in the summer.
Apparently in Q4 sales volume fell another 25% and prices were down another 11%. Beverly Hills sales volume plummeted 33%, though prices were flat. Again, the affects of the bursting big mid-2000’s real estate bubble was first felt in these same markets.

Record low mortgage rates combined with the U.S. Government’s providing the easiest, most accessible borrowing terms and credit standards in the GSE program history has enabled the greatest misallocation of financial resources in history.  It’s been manifest in every asset class but is particularly prevalent in stocks and the housing market.  While it may be somewhat easy to unload stocks when they are dropping out of the sky, housing is a different matter.  It’s easy to sell a home when the buying frenzy is rampant.  But as the market begins to head south, the entire real estate becomes “offered with no bid,” meaning that everyone stuck with an “investment” is looking to dump and buyers scatter like cockroaches when the kitchen light is switched on.

The home construction market is over-ripe with short opportunities.  I have been focusing on the sector (plus retail and autos) in the Short Seller’s Journal.  Since August,  shorting the retailers has been a lay-up.

In the SSJ, I present in detail the ways in which the industry associations, Wall Street – with the help of mainstream media cheerleading – distort the facts about the housing and auto markets.    As the reality of what I described above sinks in to the market, the price path of least resistance for home builders, home construction suppliers and auto-related equities will be down.   The same is true for the companies that provide financing to these industries.

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