Chinese Real Estate Investors Increasingly Targeting Big Cities With Strong Education Programs

Over the past few years, the United States real estate market has experienced an influx of foreign investment, with Chinese buyers continuing to outpace all other foreign real estate investors. While there has already been a great deal of discussion and analyses regarding the multitude of factors driving Chinese investors to put their money in U.S. real estate, until recently much less was known about why these investors ultimately prefer one particular geographic location over another.

Recognizing the inherent value associated with developing a clear understanding of the various factors at play during the decision-making processes employed by foreign real estate investors, a number of recent studies have identified several key reasons behind regional real estate demand. As a result, the data collected through these studies has made it possible to create a projection system delineating the specific U.S. cities Chinese real estate investors are most likely to target over the course of the next year: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, New York, and Miami.

The projection is quite revealing for a number of reasons, including the fact that even a cursory review of the characteristics common among the five cities highlights the factors Chinese real estate investors find most appealing. In addition to featuring the nation’s most prominent cultural centers and strongest local economies, each of the five cities listed in the projection is also known for offering outstanding educational opportunities to its residents.

Whether it is the proximity to so many of the elite colleges and universities located in the city of Boston or access to one of the many outstanding public campuses associated with the University of California, Chinese investors clearly value educational opportunities when selecting real estate properties (obviously, New York and Miami are also home to outstanding academic institutions as well).

Of course, there are other factors to consider beyond access to exceptional academic opportunities, as Chinese investors also weigh the value of U.S. investment properties relative to international properties. The combination of its excellent public school system and comparatively low — in terms of both national and international prices — property costs are among the primary reasons that Los Angeles is expected to be the top housing market targeted by Chinese investors over the next year or so.

Weather also plays an important role as Chinese investors attempt to identify the ideal region for a real estate investment, so it should not come as much of a surprise that warm-weather climates like Miami and Los Angeles are among the top options in the United States. A lack of year-round sunshine is not necessarily a deterrent, however, as each city’s economic outlook as well as its unique cultural makeup also figure prominently among Chinese investors seeking U.S. real estate.

With all else being equal, Chinese investors appear most interested in properties that range in cost from $300,000 to $700,000. Even though property values vary widely among the five cities most likely to appeal to Chinese real estate investors during the year that follows, a price range of $300,000 to $700,000 still ensures access to a broad array of options in the part of the country that each individual investor ultimately concludes as most appealing according to their own personal preferences.

Investor Anxiety Over Global, Domestic Unrest Push Fixed Mortgage Rates to Two-Month Low

It is one of the most basic rules of economics: Any uptick in political unrest — whether it is global unrest, domestic unrest, or some combination of the two — consistently provokes anxiety among investors. The product of this anxiety can be seen in a multitude of ways, but the most common is the shift in investor focus away from stocks and toward bonds.

With these specific economic conditions, mortgage rates are almost always affected as well. It should come as no surprise, then, that the most up-to-date information provided by Freddie Mac reveals that the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate reached a new two-month low, dropping to an average of 3.89 percent.

The rate is still up from one year ago, when the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate checked in at 3.43 percent. That being said, many analysts have noted that investors — many of whom expressed high hopes for an economic boon in the form of sweeping fiscal reforms — have thus far ignored the near-constant political drama associated with the new administration in the White House.

It is possible that the most recent political turmoil ultimately comes to be viewed as an inflection point in which even the most optimistic of investors see it as less and less likely that the administration will be able to enact the kind of fiscal reforms that had been hoped for. If this is indeed the case, the impact of this increased level of apprehension and anxiety among investors may contribute to an even greater drop in mortgage rates over the weeks and months to follow.

Of course, it’s also possible that even with all the tension and turmoil — including the threat of military intervention in places all over the globe, not to mention the ongoing saber-rattling emanating from officials in both the United States and North Korea — will only have a relatively minor impact on mortgage rates. In fact, many experts expect mortgage rates to remain relatively stable in the coming weeks, as evidenced by the results of a recent survey conducted by Bankrate.com, which showed that half of all the experts surveyed felt that mortgage rates should be expected to enjoy relative stability — at least in the short term.

There are other factors at play that are expected to influence mortgage rates, including the ongoing discussion among officials at the Federal Reserve regarding the potential for another rate increase in late 2017. While the Fed has been relatively transparent concerning its intentions — including in its plans to address the need to correct the balance sheet — analysts have nonetheless found it difficult to accurately predict the impact of the many different factors that might influence mortgage rates.

The economic ambiguity and the hazy expectations concerning the not-too-distant future is evident in the data recently released by MBA (the Mortgage Bankers Association), which showed that mortgage applications essentially remained unchanged over the same week in which fixed mortgage rates continued to fall. Additionally, the purchase index fell by two percent during that same period, and the refinance index increased by two percent. The latter increase serves as a strong indication that borrowers are increasingly recognizing the benefit of taking advantage of the two-month low in fixed mortgage rates by refinancing.

MBA’s data also revealed that although purchase application volume indeed dropped by nearly two percent as fixed mortgage rates hit a two-month low, the overall purchase application rate is still well ahead of 2016’s pace. While 47.8 percent of the loan application volume could be attributed to activity relating to refinancing, the purchase application volume is nonetheless close to 10 percent ahead of pace when compared to the previous year.

Nearly 5 Million Apartments Needed in US by 2030

Several critical factors — including an aging population, international immigration, and couples increasingly choosing to delay marriage — have resulted in projections indicating a need for the United States to add close to 5 million more apartments by 2030 in order to meet the demands of its rapidly changing population. This is according to a recent study conducted on behalf of the NMHC (National Multifamily Housing Council) and the NAA (National Apartment Association).

As it currently stands, the approximately 39 million people dwelling in apartments is already stressing the capacity of the apartment industry, a product of the fact that, over the past five years, an average of one million new renter households formed each year. Based on those figures, the United States needs to create 325,000 new apartment homes per year in order to meet the projections for future demand. The fact that an average of only 244,000 new apartment homes were built per year from 2012 to 2016 illustrates some of the inherent challenges associated with the growing demand for apartment housing.

It’s important to take a closer look at some of the underlying factors driving the rapid increases in demand for apartment homes in the United States. Since life events play such an important role in driving home purchases, the fact that so many Americans are waiting longer to get married is affecting the level of demand for apartment homes. Married couples with children account for less than 20 percent of households in the United States, a 25-percent drop compared to 1960.

The aging population of the United States is also contributing to the rising demand for apartment homes, as the research conducted by the NMHC and NAA indicate that people 55 and older will be responsible for over 30 percent of future rental apartment homes. Over the last 10 years, the demographic of people age 45 or older made up more than 50 percent of the net increase in rental apartment households, a trend that is expected to continue going forward.

Immigration will also have a substantial impact, but disproportionately so in the border states: 51 percent of all population growth in the US is expected to come from immigration, which will in turn drive the increased demand for apartment housing across the country.

Although the entire country should expect to be affected by the changing population and the growing demand for apartment housing, certain regions of the country are likely to experience greater increases when compared to others. Western states, along with Texas, North Carolina, and Florida, should expect to see the sharpest increase in demand for rental apartment housing through 2030, particularly in cities like Austin, Raleigh, and Orlando.

 

With Increase in Home Deliveries, Lennar Corp. Exceeds First-Quarter Expectations

Lennar Corp. posted profit and sales numbers that greatly exceeded expectations for the first fiscal quarter, and it appears the homebuilder is currently poised to continue to outperform expectations in the second quarter after trending upward by almost 1 percent according to recent premarket trade analyses. Of course, it is worth noting that although the homebuilder’s quarterly net income fell compared to one year ago, it still exceeded the earning-per-share consensus and experienced an increase in revenue growth from $1.99 billion to $2.34 billion.

According to our own recent analyses, a renewed economy featuring the promise of sustained growth is part of the reason homebuilders like Lennar Corp. have been able to exceed performance expectations during the early part of 2017. Even though the supply of real estate is limited nationwide — in many cases requiring an increased reliance on off-market expertise — Lennar Corp. was still able to exceed expectations in homebuilding revenue and home deliveries.

In the case of homebuilding revenue, Lennar Corp. succeeded in generating $2.02 billion despite expectations indicating just $1.95 billion. As for the total number of home deliveries, Lennar Corp. again outperformed expectations, increasing home deliveries from 4,806 up to 5,433. In addition to the impact created by early indications pointing to a renewal in economic strength as well as sustained economic growth, the fact that Lennar Corp.’s home-buying incentives increased by $1,100 (up to $22,700 from last year’s average of $21,600) might have also factored into the homebuilder’s ability to outperform its first-quarter expectations.

The increase in the average incentives provided to homebuyers also paired with relatively static average home sales prices, with first-quarter analyses showing an average home sales price of $365,000. Even so, Lennar Corp.’s first-quarter performance is clearly the driving force behind the homebuilder’s stock price rising by 27 percent thus far this year. Lennar Corp.’s year-to-date stock spike of 27 percent compares with a 10 percent increase in the SPDR S&P Homebuilder exchange-traded fund and a 6 percent gain in the S&P 500 SPX.

As Lennar Corp. continues to exceed performance expectations while also outpacing both the SPDR S&P Homebuilder ETF and the S&P 500 SPX, it is fair to wonder whether the homebuilder will be able to sustain its impressive first-quarter performance numbers. Should Lennar Corp. succeed in doing so, it will be interesting to conduct an analysis that properly explores the role of all the different factors enabling the homebuilder to outperform expectations while increasing home deliveries and consistently generating greater homebuilding revenue.

 

References:

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/lennar-beats-profit-and-sales-expectations-as-home-deliveries-increase-2017-03-21?siteid=bnbh

https://seekingalpha.com/article/4056950-lennar-corps-len-ceo-stuart-miller-q1-2017-results-earnings-call-transcript

Federal Reserve Minutes: Balance Sheet Reduction Linked to Planned Interest Rate Increases

The Federal Reserve’s March policy meeting offered some new insight into the central bank’s plans for the remainder of the year. While the Federal Reserve has long telegraphed its intention to increase interest rates as it closes in on its inflation goal of 2 percent, the minutes from the most recent policy meeting show that the Fed also intends to reduce its balance sheet as a consequence of rising interest rates.

This revelation is certainly of interest for many reasons, but the level of disagreement among committee members is also worthy of deeper exploration. The committee, which is comprised of 17 total members and 10 voting members, appeared somewhat divided with regard to the timing of the planned interest rate increases and the subsequent reduction in the balance sheet.

As the minutes indicate, the voting members preferred a more measured approach — and relied on their status as voting members to assert this preference — while many of the non-voting members expressed at least some level of dissent, preferring more immediate action given the potential for headline inflation to cross the previously outlined threshold of 2 percent. After raising their concerns over the potential of exceeding a 2 percent rate of inflation in relatively short order, the prevailing members cited the limited risk associated with increased inflation, largely due to current expectations among consumers and businesses.

Overall, the Federal Reserve expressed optimism for the long-term prospects of the economy. In doing so, however, officials also noted the possibility that the first-quarter GDP reading will fall short of expectations despite the overall health of the economy and the likelihood of substantial growth over the long term. Officials also engaged in a bit of hedging as well, indicating the possibility that an unexpected or otherwise sudden uptick in economic activity could accelerate their current plans for increasing interest rates and reducing the balance sheet.

Addressing the balance sheet, whatever the timing ends up being, will require a reduction in the $4.5 trillion worth of government- and mortgage-backed bonds. As for the actual timing of the balance sheet reduction, the minutes from the policy meeting indicate that officials are currently eyeing a December announcement, which would follow two separate increases in interest rates. In the meantime, it seems quite likely to expect a slowdown in reinvestment as the year continues to progress.

All of this, of course, is subject to change over the coming months. Despite the plan outlined during the policy meeting minutes, the Federal Reserve will surely allow the performance of the economy to dictate the ideal timing for raising interest rates, reducing the balance sheet, and slowing reinvestment.

 

References:

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fed-plans-to-reduce-its-45-trillion-balance-sheet-this-year-minutes-show-2017-04-05?siteid=bnbh

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/15/fed-raises-rates-at-march-meeting.html

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-fed-analysis-idUSKBN16E2S2