Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

This year’s National Association of Realtors survey of international investing in U.S. real estate once again revealed that foreign buying is focused first and foremost on Florida, where 22 percent of such activities took place. The Sunshine State was followed by California and Texas (each at 12 percent), and then by New Jersey and Arizona (four percent apiece).

Florida was the most popular state for Canadian buyers, fueled by a sharp increase in sales dollar volume. Chinese buyers mostly chose California, while Texas was the preferred state for Mexican buyers.

Overall, 284,455 U.S. properties were bought by foreign buyers, up 32 percent from 2016. Purchases accounted for 10 percent of the dollar volume of existing-home sales, up from 8 percent last year.

NAR’s study found that between April 2016 and March 2017, foreign buyers and recent immigrants purchased $153 billion of residential property. That’s a 49 percent jump from $103 billion in 2016 and surpasses the $103.9 billion in purchases in 2015 as the new survey high.

“The political and economic uncertainty both here and abroad did not deter foreigners from exponentially ramping up their purchases of U.S. property over the past year,” NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun stated.

“While the strengthening of the U.S. dollar in relation to other currencies and steadfast home-price growth made buying a home more expensive in many areas, foreigners increasingly acted on their beliefs that the U.S. is a safe and secure place to live, work and invest.”

Yun attributed the rise in Canadian purchasing property in U.S. markets that remain more affordable than in their own country.

“Inventory shortages continue to drive up U.S. home values, but prices in five countries, including Canada, experienced even quicker appreciation,” said Yun.

Foreign buyers typically paid $302,290, which was a 9.0 percent increase from the median sales price in the 2016 survey ($277,380) and above the sales price of all existing homes sold during the same period ($235,792).

About 10 percent of foreign buyers paid over $1 million, and 44 percent of transactions were all-cash purchases, down from 50 percent in 2016.

If you are a foreign investor looking to purchase real estate in the United States, contact an expert member of the 9 Core Realty team.

Foreclosures Tell Story of Recovery, Recession

Foreclosures are falling fast in Southwest Florida and the rest of the state.

And more good news: Most of today’s foreclosures are on loans made before the bust, not loans made in recent years. That’s according to a recent report released by ATTOM Data Solutions.

The review of foreclosure activity for the first six months of 2017 shows steady declines in Florida, while eight states have seen such activity rise.

Those in this region eight or 10 years ago remember bleaker days, while newcomers may not grasp the depth of the region’s doldrums.

A refresher: monthly foreclosures in Lee County bottomed out in October 2005, when 127 were filed. That was near the end of the boom. They reached a high of 2,665 in October 2008, when the county represented one of the nation’s “foreclosure capitals.”

Experts say another real estate bust is unlikely

Fast-forward to today. The numbers pale in comparison, though they may be higher than readers might expect.

Filings from the first six months of the year: 1,632 in Lee, down 31 percent compared to the same period a year ago; 435 in Collier, down 32 percent; 392 in Charlotte, down 44 percent. The nation tallied 428,400, down almost 20 percent.

The latest data from ATTOM, curator of a large multi-sourced property database, shows a total of 428,400 properties nationwide with foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions or bank repossessions — in the first half of the year. That’s down 20 percent from the same time a year ago.

Florida registered 41,854 foreclosure filings in the first six months of the year, down 33 percent from a year ago. Despite the drop in foreclosures over the years, the state is still tops in the nation, representing almost 10 percent of the country’s filings.

However, eight states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Montana, Louisiana, Connecticut, New Jersey) and the District of Columbia posted a year-over-year increase in such activity.

Foreclosures in Lee lowest since 2006

The state and this region’s three largest counties are on track for the year to be below the 1 percent benchmark, meaning fewer than one in 100 properties with a foreclosure filing.

“Legacy loans,” those originating between 2004 and 2008, account for 56 percent of Florida’s foreclosure filings during the first six months of the year. In contrast, foreclosure rates on loans originating from 2009 to present are “extremely low.”

Southwest Florida Home Prices Rose $100,000 Since 2013

That’s correct.  Your eyes aren’t deceiving you.  Southwest Florida home prices rose $100,000 since 2013.  We could end the story right there, and it would be a beautiful story.  As you know, there’s always more to the story.

We really like where this market is right now.  We would say it is fully valued.  By that we do not mean it’s headed down.  Our market is balanced.  It’s not all the way back for some homes and for others perhaps it is.  We do not see signs of distress we saw back in late 2005 that caused us concern.

Inventory across the US is down.  Inventory in Southwest Florida went down in May to 5,369 homes.  This was down from 5,719 in April.  The number of closed homes is slightly lagging 2015 and 2016.  This is partly because of limited inventory and partly because home prices have risen so much.  Inventory was down the last few years as well, so we can’t attribute it to that.

Lower prices means more people can afford to purchase.  Let’s look back since 2013.  As you can see by the graph, the median price of a home in January 2013 was $140,000.  In May 2013, it was $176,333.  Fast forward to 2017, in January, our median price was $227,000. That is a difference of $87,000.  The May 2017 median price was $237,500.  That is a difference of $61,167. Going back 4 years and 4 months the difference is $97,500.  Pretty close to $100k in the headline.

Southwest Florida Home Prices Rose

When we look at average prices we see January 2013 came in at $215,873.  May 2017 official numbers came in at $346,559.  This is a difference of $130,686. Maybe this isn’t fair since it’s not the same months. May 2013 average prices were $288,547.  May 2017 numbers were $58,012 higher.

Either way you look at it, our market has done very well since 2013.  We’ve had a good run, and there’s no reason to believe we won’t have a good market a year from now.  We may not see $100,000 price gains going forward, and that’s OK.  Our market should move in lock-step with the general economy.  As incomes rise, so should housing.  If incomes were to fall or the economy falter, it could put pressure on the housing market.

So far 2017 has been off to a great start.  The stock market has done well and housing has done well.  Consumer confidence is higher and mortgage rates have remained low.  People have money and equity they didn’t have 4 years ago, or even one year ago.  More Southwest Florida homeowners have recently gained positive equity, such that they could now sell if they wanted to.  This wasn’t always the case.

As people’s lives change so does their housing needs.  When kids go off to college parents don’t always need that large home.  Growing families can’t stay in that tiny first home they bought, and so begins the housing cycle. Southwest Florida also has baby boomers buying 2nd homes for vacation enjoyment.  We also get people retiring from Northern states.  As America changes, so too can the Southwest Florida real estate market.  We are affected by local, national, and even world events.

To learn more about the current market in SWFL, contact an expert member of the 9 Core Realty Team.

Foreigners snap up record number of US homes

Foreign purchases of U.S. residential real estate surged to the highest level ever in terms of number of homes sold and dollar volume.

Foreign buyers closed on $153 billion worth of U.S. residential properties between April 2016 and March 2017, a 49 percent jump from the period a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors. That surpasses the previous high, set in 2015.

The jump follows a year-earlier retreat and comes as a surprise, given the current strength of the U.S. dollar against most foreign currencies, which makes U.S. housing even more expensive. Apparently, the value of a financial safe-haven is outweighing the rising costs.

Foreign sales accounted for 10 percent of all existing home sales by dollar volume and 5 percent by number of properties. In total, foreign buyers purchased 284,455 homes, up 32 percent from the previous year.

Half of all foreign sales were in just three states: Florida, California and Texas.

Chinese buyers led the pack for the fourth straight year, followed by buyers from Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico and India. Russian buyers made up barely 1 percent of the purchases.

But the biggest overall surge in sales in the last year came from Canadian buyers, who scooped up $19 billion worth of properties, mostly in Florida. They are also spending more, with the average price of a Canadian-bought home nearly doubling to $561,000.

“There are more [baby] boomers now than ever before. It’s the demographic,” said Elli Davis, a real estate agent in Toronto who said she is seeing more older buyers downsize their primary home and purchase a second or third home in Florida. “The real estate here is worth so much more money. They all have more money. They’re selling the big city houses that are now $2 million-plus, where they went up so much in the last 10 to 15 years, so they’re cashing in.”

Despite the anti-immigrant rhetoric from the Trump administration, especially about building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, nonresident buyers from Mexico were undeterred. Mexican buyers nearly doubled their purchases by dollar volume from a year earlier, coming in third behind China and Canada.

“You could easily make the point that perhaps their uptick was wanting to buy now before new immigration policy was in place,” said Adam DeSanctis, economic issues media manager at the National Association of Realtors.

In general, though, Mexicans have been buying less expensive homes. The average purchase price of buyers from Mexico came in at about $327,000, compared with the $782,000 average among Chinese buyers and $522,000 for Indian buyers. Mexicans overwhelmingly favored homes in Texas, while Chinese buyers opted more for California and, increasingly, Texas.

“The environment is much more Asian-friendly than it used to be with churches, grocery stores and schools that cater to their tastes,” said Laura Barnett, a Dallas-Fort Worth area Re/Max agent. “I have been told they target good schools and newer homes. Yards are not a high priority, but rather community parks.”

It’s also possible that Chinese buyers are being priced out of California. The average price of a home purchased by a buyer from China fell from about $937,000 to $782,000, even as the number of properties purchased jumped to nearly 41,000 from 29,000. The drop in purchasing power likely stems from tightened regulations in China with regards to capital outflow.

While international interest was quite strong in the second half of last year, it may now be weakening due to tighter regulations in China and weakening currencies in some international markets.

“Stricter foreign government regulations and the current uncertainty on policy surrounding U.S. immigration and international trade policy could very well lead to a slowdown in foreign investment,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR.

If you are a foreign investor looking to purchase US real estate, please contact 9 Core Realty today!

Babcock Ranch Inspires Active Living

From miles of trails, lakes and an activities calendar jam-packed with weekly, quarterly and annual events, the new eco-centric town of Babcock Ranch provides boundless opportunities for residents and visitors to immerse themselves in an active, healthy lifestyle.

Located off State Road 31, north of the Lee County Civic Center, the solar-powered town being built by Kitson & Partners will include 19,500 homes, nearly 50,000 residents and six million square feet of commercial space. When pioneer residents begin settling into homes in the Lake Timber neighborhood later this year, they’ll discover a downtown district already vibrant with daily activity.

A variety of classes in Founder’s Square are open to any and everyone who wants to get fit. From paddleboard yoga to boot camp there is a diverse menu of fitness activities for all ages and interests.

If you prefer to chart your own path to fitness, the staff at Curry Creek Outfitters is ready to help. Rent a kayak or canoe, or grab a fishing pole and hike (or bike) up to the fishing dock on Sunset Lake. The first two of many Zagster bike share stations planned for Babcock make it easy to grab a bike for an hour or a full day of exploration using an app on your smartphone.

Bottom of Form

For those who don’t want to ride solo, grab a friend and pedal out in a bright red Surrey complete with canopy.

Fun is what keeps people coming back. And there’s much more to come. The five miles of trails now open is the start of a trail network that will extend over 50 miles when completed. This summer, Lake Babcock will double in size.

To learn more about purchasing new construction at Babcock Ranch, contact a member of the 9 Core Realty team.

 

Smart development, eco-tourism make for happy neighbors in Punta Gorda, Florida

Florida’s Gulf Coast is a weirdly dissociated place.

True, there’s a cohesiveness to it all, mainly in that the Gulf Coast is more laid-back and less preoccupied with appearances than Florida’s Atlantic Coast. It clings to the vestiges of Old Florida a bit tighter. Yet this cohesiveness begins to crack and the distinct personalities of each Gulf Coast sub-region emerge depending on where you veer off Interstate 75.

Much of this can be credited to Florida’s ages-old knack for self-promotion — after all, tourism is the Sunshine State’s top industry. Each individual “coast” boasts its own allure, its own socio-cultural identity.

Looking for something a touch more urbane — art galleries, opera and the like? Get thee to the Cultural Coast (Sarasota County). Are sprawling white sand beaches, no matter how mobbed, your top priority? The Sun Coast (the Tampa Bay Area) beckons. In search of an upscale boomer Xanadu? The Paradise Coast (Naples/Marco Island) awaits. Don’t mind smaller crowds and bigger mosquito bites? The Nature Coast (Citrus, Levy, Pasco, Hernando, Dixie and Wakulla counties) is your best bet.

Located roughly equidistance between Fort Myers and Sarasota, Charlotte County, which includes the small city of Punta Gorda along with the communities of Englewood and Port Charlotte, is trickier to pin down.

Charlotte County is an often overlooked misfit, really, borrowing bits from the above vernacular coastal regions to form its own identity. Compared to Charlotte County’s neighbors to the north and south, it’s an unassuming destination where the biggest draws are its relative lack of big draws. Friendly and low-key, it doesn’t need to showboat and tout its natural beauty.

If anything, you could say that Charlotte County plays the role of “Sustainable Coast” — not the sexiest moniker, but it works.

With Punta Gorda serving as a base camp of sorts, visitors come for the intimate, unspoiled beaches of Manasota Key; a handful of scenic state parks; nearly a dozen birder-friendly conservation preserves and environmental parks; and miles of aquatic wilderness best explored by paddleboard or kayak along Charlotte County’s Blueway Trails. Eva and Chris Worden’s eponymous 85-acre organic farm and CSA program along with TEAM Punta Gorda, a volunteer-run organization focused on building out Punta Gorda’s bicycling infrastructure and promoting community gardening efforts, are just two local enterprises helping to veer residents of Charlotte County down a more sustainable path.

Yet Charlotte County’s newest eco-asset offers a drastic departure from the norm.

It revolves around the built environment, specifically a mixed-use development complete with ultra-efficient homes and a utility-scale in-house solar power plant. Named Babcock Ranch, this 18,000-acre utopia-in-the-making was borne from the largest conservation land acquisition in Florida history and is poised to put sleepy Charlotte County on the map in a big way.

To learn more about Babcock Ranch and investment opportunities, contact 9 Core Realty today.

 

Top-Heavy U.S. Housing Market Is Crowding Out the Little Guys

The U.S. housing market is looking a little top-heavy these days.

Beneath a steady May existing home-sales number that helped put to rest fears that the busy selling season had perhaps hit a lull, the lingering supply issues haunting the industry could be making the market less stable as it continues to limit entry for lower-end buyers.

Purchases of the previously owned homes that make up more than 90 percent of the market held at a solid pace last month, in spite of inventories that are troublingly low, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. The supply of homes for sale inched up to 4.2 months from 4.1 months, while remaining below the five months that the group considers a tight market.

The supply that is being added to the market has been lopsided, with more affordable homes getting short shrift as builders play to the luxury market. This has coincided with more sales on the high end, while bargain buyers have fewer choices — a potentially destabilizing trend.

With fewer options on the lower end, first-time buyers have been slow to enter the market even with mortgage rates that have held near record lows. The share of existing-home purchases made by debut buyers in May was 33 percent, little changed from 30 percent a year ago even as economists gauge whether the sweeping millennial cohort will put renting behind them.

The key to evening out market participants is wage growth. Average hourly earnings, while showing spotty signs of pickup, are still running at barely half the pace of home-price growth, which is accelerating faster.

To learn more about the state of the real estate market, contact 9 Core Realty today!