Realty Check

In Housing Today, Cash is King

Foreclosed Home

I've already written a lot about investors in Las Vegas coming in with cash and pushing the organic buyers to the sidelines.

Well apparently it's happening all over now, making me wonder just what exactly is going to happen to all those investor-owned properties?

This morning, as I was heading downstairs from the National Association of Realtors' monthly existing home sales lockup, my chaperone (yes, they send me with a lovely young woman every month, just to make sure I don't report the numbers or even a hint before 10am — fair is fair) was telling me that she's in the market for a condo in Northern Virginia. I said she should be able to get a great deal, given the total collapse of the condo market there and the steep number of foreclosed properties. She said she thought the same thing, until she got out there and found herself having to compete with cash-only investors.

Cash is king in real estate these days.

That should come as no surprise. The banks are the bulk of the home sellers out there today, and they are hungry for cash. We all knew there was a lot of cash on the sidelines, and here it is. I asked the Realtors' chief economist Lawrence Yun today about double counting. I've been hearing a bit about this possible scenario, where investors are buying up properties and flipping them quickly, so one home is getting two sales counts in just a few months. Mr. Yun admitted there was some of that, but added something even more interesting: "What I hear is about large bulk purchase initially which do not show up in the MLS service, so we don't capture that in our sales statistics."

The bulk purchases are by large investors, hedge funds in some cases, that are buying up big blocks of foreclosed properties.

So what are they doing with them??

Well, some will try to fix them up and rent them out, but the rental market is so depressed right now, that's not the most lucrative path. Others are just flipping them. But there is clearly a large inventory of unoccupied homes out there. I'm interested to see what happens to all those properties in 2010.

Questions?  Comments?