September 18, 2018

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September 17, 2018

Many Investors Now Panicking Under Financial Strain

A report from the Ballina Advocate in Australia. “Australia is facing a ‘debt crisis’ - and the property market and our entire economy are at risk as a result. That’s according to the sobering 60 Minutes segment Bricks and Slaughter which aired last night, revealing the country’s property downturn was just the tip of the iceberg. According to reporter Tom Steinfort, the current slump is actually ‘more like falling off a cliff,’ with a number of real estate and finance experts claiming houses could plummet in value by up to 40 per cent in the next 12 months.”

“Mr Steinfort spoke with data scientist Martin North from Digital Finance Analytics, who said Australia was uniquely vulnerable when it came to an economic crash tied to a property downturn. ‘At the worst end of the spectrum, if everything turns against us we could see property prices 40-45 per cent down from their peaks, which is a huge deal,’ he said. There’s $1.7 trillion held by the banks in mortgages for owner-occupies and investors. And that’s about 65 per cent of their total lending. That’s higher than any other country in the Western world by a long way. We are uniquely exposed at the moment.’”

“Mr North said Australia was now in the same position as the US was back in 2006 and 2007 - a position which triggered an economic collapse. ‘As a society, and as a government, and as a regulatory system, we’re all banking on the home price engine that just goes on giving and giving and giving. It’s not going to,’ he said. ‘We’ve got a debt bomb, we’ve got a debt crisis and at some point it’s going to explode in our face.’”

“It’s a sentiment shared by Laing and Simmons real estate agent Peter Younan, who said the median house price in his patch in Granville in Sydney’s west had dropped from $1.2 million to $1 million in just one year - a shocking $200,000 plummet. He said foreclosures had also risen by 600 per cent in the region. ‘The mortgage stress is definitely being felt especially in this area,” he said.

“60 Minutes also spoke with several Aussie homeowners who gave harrowing details of the stress they faced trying to pay off their mortgages, including having their power turned off and being ‘hounded’ by their banks. But property investor Bushy Martin said the blame lay squarely at the feet of buyers who ‘mortgaged themselves up to their eyeballs’ in a bid to snap up dream homes before being able to afford them.”

“However, the segment has also sparked backlash online, with some claiming the situation had been exaggerated. One Reddit user branded the report as an example of ‘alarmist journalism and scare tactics,’ while another said it was ‘dramatic and cringe-worthy.’ And some said it was unfair to blame the banks for the situation, and that homeowners needed to take responsibility for their own decisions.”

“That was in response to comments made by one homeowner on the program, who said the bank had ’suddenly switched the mortgage to interest and principal,’ raising his repayments by 57 per cent. ‘The interest only part annoyed me the most. The bank didn’t ’suddenly change’ your repayment from (interest only) to (Principal and interest) your IO term expired. You a) knew this would happen and b) assumed the bank would renew it when it expired. I hope this speculator gets burnt first,’ one Reddit user said.”

“However, others slammed the banks for handing out multiple interest-only loans to buyers. ‘They raked in the cash from dodgy loans for years and are crying wolf now. It’s negligent beyond words,’ one Reddit user said.”

From Domain News. “Experts have questioned claims of a 40 per cent drop in Australia’s house prices, made over the weekend on 60 Minutes. Experts have rubbished the claims made on Sunday night, saying the very worst case scenario was presented. ‘Mortgage stress and falling prices were the primary factors of concern on the program, which claimed the number of foreclosures was rising, and the banks were obfuscating the real numbers.”

“Market Economics managing director Stephen Koukoulas said this was a weak claim. ‘There’s a whole lot of reasons to suggest prices are going to be weaker for a shorter amount of time, but it’s remarkably orderly,’ he said. ‘People aren’t rushing in to hand over their keys.’”

From ABC News. “Stagnant house prices are likely the new normal for property markets in much of Sydney and Melbourne, analysts are warning as prices fall for the 11th month in a row. Keiran Edwards is experiencing the new reality first hand. He is trying to sell the family home in Penrith on Sydney’s western fringe.”

“‘I thought we might sell it in the first week,’ he told 7.30. ‘Someone would come in and go, yeah, that’s mine. It just hasn’t happened.’ He bought the house six years ago and renovated it himself. Until it went on the market, he thought its value had doubled. ‘I just assumed that people would straight away walk in and love it, like I loved it all those years ago when I bought it,’ he said. ‘But even saying that, they maybe do love it but are having trouble getting finance.’”

The Daily Mail Australia. “Home borrowers are being warned to brace for bad news with the proportion of houses and units selling for a loss at the highest level in five years, new figures show. Across Australia, one in 10 homes sold during the June quarter fetched a lower amount than the purchase price, data from Core Logic showed. The proportion of loss-making sales, at 10.2 per cent, was at the highest level since the three months to October 2013, with apartments more likely than houses to burn the seller.”

“In some Australian capital cities, more than half of all units sold were being offloaded at a loss, with six of the seven mainland capitals seeing a double-digit proportion of apartment owners losing money at sale time.”

“In Perth, 23.4 per cent of homes sold at a loss, followed by 20.1 per cent in regional Queensland. Inner-city apartments fared particularly badly, with 53.4 per cent of central business district Perth units selling at a loss during the three months to June 30. Brisbane’s inner-city was also a bad place to invest with 32.4 per cent of units fetching less than the seller had previously paid, compared with 22.3 per cent in Melbourne’s inner-city.”

“In Darwin, a whopping 71.1 per cent of units sold at a loss during the June quarter, a jump from 51.9 per cent during the same period a year earlier. Sydney, however, was the least risky capital city market to buy a unit, with only 3.1 per cent of units in the city and the inner-south selling at a loss, in Australia’s most densely populated locality where 71 per cent of dwellings sold are apartments. ”

“Across Australia, 9.4 per cent of capital city properties sold at a loss compared with 11.6 per cent in regional markets. Investors were more likely to get assaulted financially, too, with 10.1 per cent of them making a loss, compared with 9.8 per cent of owner occupiers, following an Australian Prudential Regulation Authority crackdown on investor loans.”

From ABC News. “You know things are tough in the property market when a seasoned real estate agent sells his own family home and chooses to rent instead. Greg Rossen has been selling homes in Perth’s wealthy western suburbs for decades, but even he doesn’t have the confidence to invest in housing at the moment. And he can’t see it getting better anytime soon.”

“‘No-one can predict the future, but for my own self I have sold out of the market and I am renting a family property because I don’t see any light on the horizon,’ he said. ‘Investors need to be mindful of where they think the cycle is and make up their own mind. But there is a body of thought, that I subscribe to, that conditions are not good and I believe they could well get worse.’”

“After strong price rises across 12 suburbs — largely at the premium end of Perth’s property market — the Real Estate Institute of WA recently claimed ‘aspirational suburbs are really leading the way in the property market’s recovery.’ ‘It’s lovely to quote certain suburbs where you have what appears to be an increase in price, but in reality, if we look at the total metropolitan market, those are almost anecdotal,’ he said. ‘We are coming off a low base so statistics can lie and they need to be very closely looked at.’”

“Mr Rossen said those price rises were attributable to ‘pent-up’ demand but the broader market ‘is generally in a bad condition.’ He noted that while prices in Nedlands have risen 15 per cent over the past year, he recently re-sold three properties in the area for 10 per cent less than he sold the same houses for a decade ago. He said a ‘devastation’ in commercial rents as well as tenant vacancies in both the residential and retail sector continued to point to poor market conditions.”

“LJ Hooker Rockingham Baldivis director Paul Baird-Murray said the area south of Perth in which he worked was currently saturated with properties for sale, the majority of which were bought as investments, ‘Some of them have actually said ‘but I thought rents just kept going up, I thought property prices would just continue,’ Mr Baird-Murray said. Many investors were now panicking because they were under financial strain or feared further market falls. But Mr Baird-Murray said they were unrealistic about the value of their property in the crowded market.”

“Local resident Steph Moses said ongoing land development in the area was exacerbating the problem. She and husband Daniel have an investment property in Port Kennedy, between Perth and the regional city of Mandurah. They had intended to keep the property for the long term, but were recently forced to list it for sale. ‘I was given the diagnosis that I had stage four cancer so we had to change a lot of things,’ Mrs Moses said. ‘I have had to stop work because of my illness.’”

“The only offer they have had on the property was $70,000 less than they paid for it. ‘If you want to build a house, you get $10,000-$15,000 for building a new home, so there is no incentive for the first-home buyers market to buy an established property,’ Mrs Moses said.”

Increased Supply With Larger-Than-Usual Discounts

A report from the Naples Herald in Florida. “The Naples housing market continues to show strength after closed property sales increased by 5 percent and inventory rose 2 percent in August, according to the Naples Area Board of Realtors. ‘I’m really encouraged by activity in the lower end of the market during August,’ said Mike Hughes, General Manager for Downing-Frye Realty, Inc. ‘Historically, August is where we begin to see an increase in inventory as sellers get ready for our busy winter season.’”

“According to Adam Vellano, West Coast Sales Manager, BEX Realty – Florida, ‘One indication that homeowners were pricing homes to sell in August was apparent in the MLS as 50 percent of the inventory that sold during the month had been on the market for over 100 days.’”

“Overall median closed prices fell 3 percent in August to $319,000 from $328,000 in August 2017, and it fell 13 percent for properties above $300,000 to $446,000 from $510,000 in August 2017.”

From Curbed Atlanta in Georgia. “Following a thorough renovation, this circa-1920 brick bungalow in Roseland, a community between Chosewood Park and South Atlanta, harkens back to a simpler time, but with key modern upgrades. Although the listing states this home ‘won’t last in this fast growing community,’ it’s actually been on the market for nearly 80 days. And that’s after a $30,000 price cut that brought the original asking price of $349,000 down to the current $319,000.”

From Mansion Global on New York. “Manhattan’s luxury housing market logged a slow week as the Jewish New Year cut two business days from many people’s work weeks and children in the city were off from school, according to the Monday Olshan Report. Those homes that did trade hands also went with larger-than-usual discounts. The average property to find a buyer last week went into contract with a 9% discount.”

“Case in point, the most expensive transaction was an Upper West Side townhouse with five bedrooms, an elevator and a $4.5 million price cut. The home first went on the market for $19.5 million in October 2016, but officially found a buyer last week for $15 million.”

From Palo Alto Online in California. “As summer comes to a close, buyers and sellers want to know what to expect this fall. Will the market heat up, kind of like late summer temperatures often do in the Bay Area? Will home prices continue to rise, stay the same or decrease? Does a market like Silicon Valley even slow down? ”

“For the majority of 2018, inventory levels for Silicon Valley have hovered around one month’s supply. Historically speaking, these numbers are very low. But in July, inventory levels crept up a bit to almost one-and-a half-month’s supply. This still doesn’t indicate a buyer’s market, but it does mean buyers had more homes to choose from in July than they’ve had the rest of the year.”

“Accompanying the increase in supply was a drop in the median home price for single-family homes for both Santa Clara and San Mateo counties as a whole, and many of the individual markets they encompass. In July, the median home price in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties fell from second-quarter numbers of $1.4 million and $1.65 million respectively, to $1.35 million and $1.6 million. This represented a 4 percent (Santa Clara) and 3 percent (San Mateo) drop in median home prices.”

You Probably Should Have Sold Last Summer

A report from the Dallas Morning News in Texas. “The slowdown in Dallas-Fort Worth’s housing market may be worse than at first glance. Sales of preowned single-family homes dropped 1 percent annually in August in all of North Texas, according to the latest numbers from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. Those numbers include data on more than two dozen counties stretching from the Red River to Waco. When you drill down in the numbers to just the immediate D-FW area, August’s dip in home purchase activity was much larger. In the Dallas area, sales of preowned homes by real estate agents fell by about 4 percent in August from a year earlier.”

“But some Dallas-area residential districts saw marked declines in home buying last month. Real estate agents say the overall numbers understate the housing sector cool down. Sales last month were down almost 31 percent in Far North Dallas. They dropped 24 percent from August 2017 totals in Allen, and were off 21 percent in Coppell. Plano had a 16 percent year-over-year sales decline and sales were down more than 11 percent in Richardson and about 9 percent lower in Frisco.”

“So what’s the takeaway from all this? D-FW still has a good home sales market, but not as robust as last year. That’s good news if you are trying to buy a house in the area. But you probably should have sold one last summer if you wanted a line of potential buyers at your front door.”

The Scotsman Guide. “Housing analysts told Scotsman Guide News this week that the U.S. housing market has hit a plateau. The latest tracking data for home-purchase mortgages appears to confirm that. Attom Data’s Daren Blomquist told Scotsman Guide News that the demand for home-purchase loans ‘was trudging along,’ but rising mortgage rates and eroding affordability have taken a toll.”

“‘Especially when you look at some of the local markets, we are starting to see mortgage rates have a chilling effect on some of the purchase originations,’ Blomquist said. He noted that home purchase counts have declined by double-digits in Los Angeles and Dallas, where affordability has become a problem.”

“Blomquist said this flatness in the home-purchase market will likely continue until home prices cool off, or come down. ‘It has been such a strong sellers’ market, but this spring and summer may have been a bit of a wake-up call for sellers that they can’t get whatever they want for homes,’ Blomquist said.”

The Scottsdale Independent in Arizona. “For the city of Scottsdale, the housing market started in a lull, but has since picked up steam, according to Becca Lining, a Realtor with RE-Max Excalibur. The market experienced a small delay at the start of the school year, but has made a quick recovery,” she said pointing out all economic indicators suggest a steady, healthy housing market. ‘There is speculation of a ‘bubble’ from consumers and economists, however, I have seen a strong market with moderate appreciation, which indicates a healthy future.’”

“Thus far in 2018, there have been 5,908 single-family homes sold in Scottsdale, numbers show. In Scottsdale, there are 24.5 percent fewer homes for sale, which experts say is fueling healthy gains in both median sales prices and closed sales. There are 21,717 active single-family home listings in the city of Scottsdale, as of Aug. 31.”

“No market illustrates the idea of affluence better than the Town of Paradise Valley, but just as any marketplace, norms and emerging trends are beginning to shift, experts say. However, as much things change, they stay the same, according to Dub Dellis, who serves as chief operating officer at Walt Danley Realty. The group now has an office in the DC Ranch area — Mr. Dellis says the idea of luxury downsize is becoming a want his group is looking meet.”

“‘The buyers today are more educated than ever before,’ he said, pointing out consumers know what they want. ‘We have shifted from being the provider of the information and our role now is to interpret that information.’”

“‘The reality is, when you look at the pricing — it has been flat for a few years, but there has been an uptick,’ he said. ‘The average price of square foot going up is due to the product that is selling. It all depends on the type of property you have. If you have a newer property, that is what the buyers are looking for, but if you are in an older home that isn’t updated, the prices are going the other way.’”

September 16, 2018

More Disappointed Sellers Are Offering Discounts

A report from the Marin Independent Journal in California. “When Sean Cook put his family’s San Jose home up for sale for more than $3 million this summer, he assumed it would fly off the shelf in a week or two. A similar house in his neighborhood took just three days to sell for $3.3 million in the spring. But two months after Cook’s four-bedroom home in the desirable Willow Glen neighborhood hit the market, he still hasn’t received a single offer — even after he shaved $200,000 off the price last month. ‘Given the way the market has been,’ he says, ‘you feel a wee bit disappointed.’”

“After a record-setting run-up, the Bay Area’s red-hot housing market appears to be cooling. ‘For sale’ signs are lingering longer in homeowners’ front yards, and alerts of price reductions — sometimes for hundreds of thousands of dollars — are cropping up on Zillow. And an array of market data — including sale prices, inventory numbers and tallies of discounted listings — supports the notion that the market has shifted in some counties.”

“Wannabe buyers, discouraged after getting outbid again and again, are pulling back, said Sean Manning, a San Jose-based real estate agent with Sereno Group. An increase in inventory also is allowing buyers to be more selective. More homeowners — unaware that the market has cooled slightly, and excited by the high offers their neighbors scored in previous months — are deciding to list their own properties, Manning said.”

“In Oakland, for example, the number of single-family homes for sale last month jumped 18 percent over the year before, according to MLS data from the Bay East Association of Realtors. Meanwhile, the number of homes sold decreased 11 percent.”

“In Santa Clara County last month, 25 percent of homes sold for less than their asking price, up from 19 percent in August 2017, according to MLSListings. Meanwhile, 68 percent of Santa Clara County homes sold above their asking price last month, down from 75 percent in August 2017. In Alameda County, 27 percent of homes sold for less than their asking price last month, up from 21 percent in August 2017, according to the Contra Costa Association of Realtors.”

“And more sellers — disappointed with a lack of interest in their properties — are offering discounts in an attempt to attract buyers. A recent Zillow report found that sellers in 9.5 percent of San Jose area listings slashed their prices in June, up from 7.2 percent a year ago. Rates of price cuts remained steady in the Oakland and San Francisco areas.”

“The housing market is still extremely strong — it’s just not quite as strong as it once was, Manning said. He sold a house in San Jose this month for $1.36 million, after receiving three offers. Four months ago he sold the house next door — which was the same size — for $1.5 million, with eight offers.”

“Real estate agent Joel Garcia, who recently slashed the price of a house in Oakland — twice — said those price cuts are the first he’s made since 2009. The seller tried to drum up interest by offering to cover the buyer’s closing costs — paying for the realtor and other transaction fees — but to no avail, Garcia said. ‘It’s been sitting on the market for two months now,’ Garcia said of the five-bedroom home, now priced at just under $1 million. ‘Normally it only takes a week, two weeks, and it’s gone.’”

“Diane Whitney, 55, put her San Jose condo up for sale in early July, hoping to cash out at the peak of the market and use her windfall to buy a cheaper home outright in Oregon or Washington. Two months later, after dropping the price $45,000, Whitney worries she missed the peak. ‘I wasn’t prepared for it, I’ll be honest,’ Whitney said, of the disappointing reception her home has received. ‘I’m revisiting why I’m moving, and what my feeling is.’”

“Whitney listed her two-bedroom condo for $735,000, and after seeing no offers, reduced the price to $690,000 at the end of August. But even with the discount, Whitney, who paid $115,000 for the home in a foreclosure sale 22 years ago, will walk away with a hefty profit.”

“Four months ago, Whitney’s condo would have sold in days with multiple offers, said Mike Gaines, her real estate agent. Cook, the owner of the San Jose that’s been on the market for two months, is in a similar position — he and his wife paid $1.9 million in 2012 for the house now listed at $2.995 million.”

The Question Of How Well The Learning Stuck

A weekend topic starting with the News Tribune. “We don’t use the word ‘panic’ these days to describe widespread economic calamity. We use ‘great’ — as in Great Depression, Great Recession — or ‘crisis.’ Panic has been relegated to history books that hardly anyone pays attention to. That the term is considered anachronistic is partly because economic downturns look and play out differently than they did in the 19th century, which was littered with panics. The biggest difference is the role of the public sector as regulator, intervenor and safety-net provider, rather than bystander.”

“It’s also because the core financial causes and debates of those panics would seem to have little relevance today. The Panic of 1893 occurred against a backdrop of an issue — whether money should be backed by gold or silver — that would trigger befuddlement among most Americans today.”

“But it’s a mistake to overlook the significance and lessons of those downturns, 1893 in particular. Reminding us why is a recently published book, ‘The Panic of 1893: The Untold Story of Washington State’s First Depression’ (Caxton Press), by longtime business writer (and one-time colleague of this columnist at the late Seattle P-I) Bruce Ramsey.”

“The Panic of 1893 is relevant and timely in multiple ways, especially as we mark the 10th anniversary of news events that in accumulation launched the Great Recession. While the panic’s look, sound and feel might be unfamiliar to us, the factors that made it so painful are all too familiar and recent — too much debt, too much leverage, too much reliance on housing.”

“Housing — and the financing of same — played a role in both the Panic of 1893 and the Great Recession. Entire cities were platted and sold on the expectation of a population boom everyone was certain to come. Banks lent enthusiastically to finance that development. Governments borrowed with equal zeal. When the economy went sour — the people didn’t show up, commodity prices tumbled, someone else got the port or the railroad terminus — borrowers were stuck with debt they couldn’t repay, which meant lenders were stuck with worthless assets as well as debts of their own.”

“That was especially true of banks, which had lent depositors’ money for schemes that went bust. Banks failed in huge numbers during the Great Recession too, because of their exposure to the housing market. But in an era of no deposit insurance, the prospect of a bank closing without notice or likelihood of repaying its customers made the term ‘panic’ much more than an abstract concept, and helped deepen the downturn.”

“Ramsey’s book concludes with newspapers of the time noting that the panic did serve the purpose of reminding people of the hazards of debt. The Oregonian writes in 1897 that those who lived through the panic and the hard times that followed would retain a ‘horror of debt.’ Adds, Ramsey, ‘They will, of course, eventually unlearn it.’”

“Indeed they will. It took decades for the lessons of the Great Depression to wear off. The Great Recession taught people who had never learned those lessons in the first place some painful truths (incomes and housing prices don’t always go up, interest rates don’t always stay low, employment isn’t guaranteed). Now the question is how well that learning stuck.”

From Nine News. “When it comes to the rapidly cooling property market, I’m part of the problem. At the start of this year I was looking to buy a house in Sydney, despite most likely having to sell a kidney and ownership rights of my first born to do so.”

“We’ve all been told for so long you need to be on that you need to get on that property ladder sooner or later, and as house prices continued to soar to unprecedented levels, I figured I had better opt for sooner.”

“But after a couple of months after I began my search, I got an email from a real estate agent telling me that the owner of a property I’d taken an interest in was willing to accept offers of $250,000 below the asking price.”

“‘Sorry, do you mean $25,000?’ I replied, assuming that was some sort of typo. Nope, it was spot on – they were willing to cop a quarter of a million-dollar loss.”

“That to me said they were panicking, and in turn, it made me panic that this was definitely not a good time to be getting in to the market. And so I decided I was going to sit it out for a year or two and just see how far prices will fall.”

“Turns out I’m far from alone – clearance rates are now down significantly from the madness of a year or two ago, and the dip in property prices can so quickly become a crash when people like me lose confidence in the market. The million/trillion dollar question now is how far will prices fall.”

September 15, 2018

My House Got Stolen In The Housing Bubble

A report from the Bakersfield Californian. “Ten-and-a-half years ago, sorting through the day’s mail, I would often marvel at the number of let-me-sell-your-home postcards from real estate agents. We were surely half-millionaires on paper, I remember thinking, because our nothing-special suburban house had, apparently and quite suddenly, nearly doubled in value. I had known something wasn’t quite right, but the glitter of found money was dazzling — just not dazzling enough, fortunately, for me to suggest that we do something about it. And so we sat and watched.”

“Millions of other dazzled Americans took the leap, though. Then, 10 years ago this weekend, it all collapsed. Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 protection, an event generally acknowledged as the start of the Great Recession. The abyss began swallowing homes — and lives.”

“Scott Shaw of Bakersfield saw much of it play out before him. The retired postal worker was selling real estate in the months leading up the bubble’s bursting, and he remembers how one seller in particular, in way too deep, didn’t fully grasp what has happening.”

“‘I went out to show a house that the owner had paid about $950,000 for, then used his equity to buy furniture, a swimming pool, more cars, et cetera,’ Shaw said. ‘Now he was trying to sell it for somewhere in the low $700,000s, and he asked me if he would have to pay the loans back. Wow! I had to catch myself from laughing. ‘Yeah, you’ve got to pay it back.’”

“The seller was a self-employed truck driver and his wife had a minimum wage job making sandwiches at a hospital. Their stated income had been enough for them to qualify for their loan.”

“Dawn Reichel puts it like this: ‘My house got stolen in the housing bubble.’ It wasn’t just any house. It was Reichel’s family home. The roof she’d grown up living under. Her parents had given it to her and her husband when they’d moved out. Now she was losing her inheritance. ”

“‘We got a ridiculously high appraisal, then refinanced,’ said Reichel, who lives in Bakersfield. ‘We did a bunch of home improvements. We used the money to rebuild the fence, fix the roof, repaint the house, upgrade our air-conditioning system. When we went to refi again at the end of the term, our house was worth $100,000 less than we owed.’”

“Their monthly house payment almost tripled from $890 to $2,400. They had to walk away. And when the house was auctioned off one Christmas Day it went for $58,000. ‘When you’re 50 years old and you’re watching everything go down the toilet, it’s not conducive to a happy marriage,’ she said.”

“Reichel still has not recovered financially. She has been a renter ever since the meltdown, though she says she is slowly but surely getting back on her feet. Reichel blames the American condition. ‘So much of it is our sense of entitlement,’ Reichel said. ‘We feel that we have to have everything, so we get everything and then we find out we don’t need everything. But we’re willing to take risks to find out.’”

“And so we did. Have we learned? Check back in 10 more years.”

Has The Hottest New Neighborhood Suddenly Gone Ice Cold?

A weekend topic starting with the Mountain View Voice in California. “Bay Area housing advocates were thrilled last year when Mountain View leaders pledged to go hard on residential growth, transforming the corporate office park of North Bayshore into a dense urban neighborhood with 9,850 homes. But despite that grand vision, almost nothing has changed for North Bayshore. After one year, not a single new apartment project has been pitched to the city for review, let alone constructed. In fact, city planners say at least one housing proposal already in the pipeline is now being pulled back by its applicants.”

“Why has the city’s hottest new neighborhood suddenly gone ice cold? City officials say the culprit is that housing is too expensive — even for developers to build. A line of developers at the Mountain View City Council meeting took aim at the city’s fees and requirements, which reportedly would add about $120,000 in costs per apartment unit. These costs were intended to help make North Bayshore into a vibrant neighborhood with parks, transportation and even a new school for residents.”

“But for the companies poised to build those homes, those costs are becoming a deal breaker, said Tim Steele, vice president with the Sobrato Organization. Steele explained that his company needed to amend the plan because the city’s park fees had dramatically increased, from $32,000 to $60,000 per apartment. Basically, the project no longer penciled out, he said. ‘Never in our mind did we anticipate the fees would double over that time,’ he said. ‘Even with the financial influence of offices, these projects can’t overcome this burden.’”

“The reasons for the sudden spike in development costs are complicated. On one hand, land values have nearly doubled since 2016, going from $5.2 million to $10 million an acre in 2018. The city’s ambitious and well-publicized housing plans were surely helping to drive these dramatic valuations. But as land values went through the roof, that also meant city fees for parks and schools were also rising to new heights.”

“Taken together, each apartment in North Bayshore would cost about $645,000 to build, according to city officials, a $120,000 increase from roughly one year earlier. Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga warned that the city was being pushed into a corner where they could end up subsidizing the developers’ costs. ‘We know what the school fees are based on what we’ve heard, but (the developers) just don’t want to pay it,’ Abe-Koga said. ‘Someone has to subsidize for this, and I don’t know if it should be us.’”

From KQED News. “Reid Williamson is an urban planning nerd. He lives in Oakland and was recently on a trip to Los Angeles. ‘We were driving from the Getty in northern Los Angeles all the way down to Manhattan Beach, and that’s really just one city,’ Reid says. Whereas up here, many people drive through multiple cities just to get to work each day. And those cities aren’t always working together.”

“‘So Cupertino adds jobs at Apple, and Cupertino says, ‘We’ll pass on housing, it’s not our thing.’ And then the next town over says, ‘That’s not our thing either.’ And all of a sudden you’re all the way in Tracy,’ he says. He asked Bay Curious: ‘If the Bay Area united to become one city, would that solve some of our problems?’”

“Downtown Redwood City has a lot to offer its residents. To Maureen Sedonaen, CEO at Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco, it was an ideal place for a new affordable housing project. In 2014, Sedonaen proposed a nine-story building with 46 units. But to win approval from the city, Habitat’s proposal was cut by more than half — down to 20 units.”

“Then a neighbor, with a history of obstructing development projects, halted the project for more than a year. He cited an environmental concern, saying the building would increase traffic. More than three years later, the lot Sedonaen hopes to build on still sits empty with a price tag that keeps on growing.”

From Fox 2 KTVU. “After at least three years in the making, the modern, luxury Baxter on Broadway apartments and town homes are finally for rent in Oakland. And the prices are staggering. A 400-square foot studio is going for about $3,000 a month. A one-bedroom with about 570 square feet is $3,500 a month. And a three-bedroom town home with slightly more than 2,700 square feet is going for $8,000 a month – or $96,000 a year in rent.”

“Legacy Property regional manager Jonathan Figone told KTVU that he believes the rental rates are in line with the rest of the Bay Area. The property is located at 4901 Broadway, at the intersection of the affluent Temescal and Rockridge neighborhoods. ‘We’re just being competitive,’ he said. As of Friday, he said he’s leased ‘just a few apartments. We opened our doors a few weeks ago.’”

“Earlier this week at the Oak Knoll Naval groundbreaking for another mixed-use project where 918 town homes will also be offered at market rate, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said: ‘Housing at any price point helps relieve the supply and demand pressures and helps provide new places for new Oakland-ers to move into.’”

“It’s well known that Bay Area rental prices are sky high. Looking at other similar apartments nearby, seemingly comparable two-bedroom apartments at Jack London Square, 777 Broadway and on Jefferson Street are renting for $3,500 a month. As of this month, Rent Cafe, listed the average rent for a one-bedroom San Francisco apartment at about $3,500 a month, and a studio at about $2,500 a month.”

“The new Baxter on Broadway two-bedrooms, which boast 1,000 square feet, however, are renting for about $5,000 a month.”

“Figone pointed out that the Baxter on Broadway apartments are brand new. The 130 units feature a rooftop with a club room and barbecue pit, a bocce ball court, vegetable garden, dog run, pet grooming area and electric vehicle charging stations. The five-story building is near two BART stations, a Safeway grocery store and plenty of restaurants, book stores and coffee shops. It also sits kitty corner to a now-stalled retail project, where a vacant lot still sits awaiting development.”

“‘They all have stainless steel appliances,’ he said, ‘and beautiful flooring.’”

“Baxter on Broadway is one of several new apartment buildings coming online in Oakland. City housing records showed there were 6,982 housing units under construction in Oakland.”

From CBS Sacramento. “A major construction project in Roseville will bring approximately 20,000 new residents. Renee Bennett asked us: ‘What are they building on Fiddyment between Baseline and Pleasant Grove in Roseville?’”

“We took the question to the City of Roseville and found out that construction is part of the Sierra Vista Specific Plan. At that particular intersection, a retail center called Baseline Marketplace is being built. North of that will be residential housing. The Sierra Vista Specific Plan was approved 8 years ago using land annexed from unincorporated Placer County to the City of Roseville.”

“The plan includes: 8,679 single and multi-family homes. 259 acres of commercial space. 106 acres of parks. 304 acres of open space. 56 acres for schools. 40 acres of urban reserve. Once completed, an expected 2,045 people will live in the new neighborhoods.”

From The Inquistr. “Demi Lovato has officially listed her Hollywood Hills home for sale, but hasn’t sold the mansion just yet. However, it seems that she is so anxious to unload the property, where she suffered a scary overdose, that she’s willing to drop the price. Now that Demi is out of the hospital and looking for a fresh start when it comes to her recovery, the singer is said to want to sell her Hollywood Hills home as soon as possible.”

“‘She’s rather eager to sell and there might be a little wiggle room in the price,’ a source told the outlet.”

“Lovato reportedly paid a little over $8 million for the mansion, which boasts four bedrooms and six bathrooms, when she bought it back in 2016. She’s now asking nearly $9.5 million for the home, and would make almost $1.2 million in profit if the mansion sells for the asking price.”

September 14, 2018

It Is Very Much A Confidence Game

It’s Friday desk clearing time for this blogger. “The price of a tech mogul’s Los Altos Hills compound is now listed for about $38 million less than the original asking price, Socket Site has discovered. In Silicon Valley, where real estate is scarce and high-paying jobs abundant, homes famously sell for over asking, so it’s interesting that the price on this one has dropped so dramatically. The house at 27500 La Vida Real first went on the market with a big splash for $88 million in November 2015. The five-bedroom, 12-bathroom home never sold and the price was then dropped to $68 million last May and then to $55 million in June. Still without a buyer, is now listed for $49.99 million, that’s roughly 43 percent less from the original asking price.”

“Loudoun County Supervisor Matt Letourneau said residents often oppose any move to add housing in their communities for one simple reason. ‘They’re tired of sitting in traffic,’ he said. ‘Frederick County, Maryland, and Loudoun County, Virginia — both are seeing a lot of growth in housing. Route 15 goes between those two — it’s a parking lot from Leesburg to Point of Rocks,’ Letourneau said. ‘Every afternoon. I mean, literally, a parking lot.’”

“John Foust, a Fairfax County Supervisor said there’s no shortage of market-priced housing. ‘The challenge is obviously what the market won’t deliver — and that is affordable and workforce housing,’ he said.”

“They each saw year-over-year declines, but Arlington’s was smaller and, as a result, the county posted the largest average per-square-foot price for real estate across Northern Virginia in August. At an average of $456 per square foot, Arlington was down 3.4 percent from $472 a year before, but Falls Church (which had seen a per-square-foot cost of $530 in August 2017) was down 18.3 percent to $433. Alexandria, which placed third in Northern Virginia at $374, was down $22 per square foot, or 5.6 percent, for the month.”

“A rise in interest rates and slowing home sales have caused a decline in Dallas-Fort Worth residential mortgage activity. North Texas home loan activity fell 6 percent in the second quarter compared with the same period last year, according to Attom Data Solutions. The number of D-FW home purchase loans was down 15 percent. Any decline in home loan originations is significant for North Texas, which has one of the country’s largest concentrations of mortgage industry businesses and workers. Several companies have already begun cutting back on the ranks of workers because of the reduced loan activity.”

“The decline in home mortgage activity in North Texas comes as housing activity is slowing in many neighborhoods. ‘I would expect this somewhat disappointing spring selling season will be a bit of a wake-up call for home sellers, and they will eventually consider lowering asking prices, which in turn will bring some buyers back to the table,’ said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at Attom Data Solutions.”

“The Foxrock childhood home of Nobel laureate and writer Samuel Beckett, which has been on the market since 2013, has dropped its asking price by €1 million following a change of selling agent. Cooldrinagh was originally brought to market in the depths of the downturn, seeking an ambitious €4.25 million. This price was later amended to €3.5 million, though it still failed to attract buyer interest. Now the property is being returned to market with a 21 per cent price drop and a €2.75 million asking price.”

“The fall in rents has created a lot of buzz in the real estate market with tenants taking advantage of the situation, going for better options. ‘The rents have gone down between 15 and 20 per cent in many areas. This has given people an opportunity to negotiate with their landlords or look for other options as new buildings keep coming up,’ Salman Jalil, head of property division at Al Balushi Investments, told Muscat Daily.”

“Q: Can you say that the administration of high rents by landlords and realtors was responsible for the large number of vacant houses in Ikoyi, Lekki and Maitaima among others? Chief Kola Akomolede, Principal Partner, Kola Akomolede and Co: Again this is another problem we had, over the years during the boom years; we were living in artificial economy. The rents people were paying were just unreasonable. The high rents were not determined by market forces. For example, people are paying as much as $100,000 on a 3-bedroom flat in Ikoyi. I don’t know anywhere, even in America where people pay $100,000 as rent for a 3-bedroom flat; talk less of Ikoyi in Lagos? The rent was artificial. So with the boom coming to an end, some of the owners found it difficult to see the reality when rents started falling and people were asking them to take $50,000 and $40,000.”

“Initially they were saying no because the reality did not dawn on them on time. Some of them are still vacant till today because of the owner are not yet aware that the situation that created that artificial rent is no longer there. There still have those artificial rents especially in Lagos and Abuja. But the truth is that nobody that works honestly will be able to be paying $100,000 as rent. That is why some of these houses are still vacant.”

“The number of construction permits issued by the government rose more than 10 percent from a year earlier in the first seven months of this year. Liu Pei-chen, a research fellow at the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, said it remains to be seen whether the local property market has bounced back. The economist said the local property market has been faced with a supply glut, so even though the value of the newly launched housing projects is expected to hit NT$1 trillion (US$32.47 billion) this year, less than 40 percent of the projects are expected to be sold. Liu said the local property market remained awash in empty homes.”

“An investor who purchased an off-the-plan ‘dream home’ in Brisbane from cold-calling property spruikers lost more than one-third of its value when he resold, despite several years of booming residential property markets. Mal Jones, a father of three, says he was persuaded by a ‘free’ trip to Queensland with his wife, Michelle, and persuasive pitches about tax breaks, leveraging and confident predictions about future growth.”

“But eight years after investing $415,000 (including commissions, management and refinancing costs), the property was sold for $295,000 – a loss of $120,000, or almost 29 per cent. ‘I trusted advisers’ professional opinion,’ Jones, whose children are aged between and 17 and 27, says about the deal. ‘It is very much a confidence game about future returns and I bought into it,’ he says. ‘I feel stupid about the outcome. I should have done more due diligence.’”

“In 2010 Jones accepted an invitation from a cold caller to have an adviser from Reventon, a Melbourne-based property company, visit his Eltham home for a ‘free’ consultation valued at $300. Property prices were running red hot in 2010 after a succession of interest rate cuts intended to protect the Australian economy from the global financial crisis. His purchase was financed with two loans with interest rates of more than 7 per cent. The intention was to find a tenant and let rent pay off the mortgages as rising capital boosted the resale value.”

“But property prices tanked and the highest weekly rent was $350, which meant an annual shortfall of about $12,000. Jones estimates total commission payments to be more than $40,000. ‘Foolishly we believed everything we were told about rising markets, capital gains and rental income,’ says Jones, who wishes he had consulted with his accountant and third parties to analyse the deal. ‘I went into the deal with eyes wide open,’ he says. ‘It looked too good to be true – and it was.’”

“Jones says he is grateful he got out when he did because similar properties in the same postcode are selling for even less.”

“His experience is consistent with market analysis by BIS Oxford Economics that found the number of negative or flat off-the-plan transactions in Brisbane was 26 per cent and 53 per cent respectively. ‘The substantial apartment pipeline, particularly in inner Melbourne and inner Brisbane, will deepen this issue with commencements on track to increase and remain high in the next two years,’ it concludes.”

There Seems To Be Surprise After Surprise

A report from the Denver Post in Colorado. “Developers in metro Denver are churning out so many luxury apartments it is depressing rents in the priciest neighborhoods, forcing landlords to provide more concessions and shrinking the premium tenants pay to live downtown. But is it a bubble ready to burst? The real estate community remains divided about what comes next as a record number of units continue to hit the market in Denver.”

“‘I personally believe that Denver is overbuilt,’ Kelley Klobetanz, chief underwriter at Greystone & Co. in Denver., told attendees at a multifamily conference hosted by Bisnow in Cherry Creek on Thursday.”

“Charlie Williams, a senior vice president at KeyBank in Denver, countered that for four years observers have worried about overbuilding in apartments. He even passed on deals that looked too speculative, only to see them succeed. Maybe it takes 18 months instead of 14 to fill a building, or more concessions need to be offered, but every time a new project hits the market, it eventually gets filled, he said. ‘We are a market that is diversified finally. Denver isn’t a boom and bust town anymore,’ he said.”

“But that doesn’t mean the market isn’t straining to absorb what is being built. David Pierce, a market analyst with CoStar Group, detailed the downward pressure all the new supply is having. About one in seven units downtown come with concessions like a month or more of free rent versus 1 in 10 elsewhere. Five years ago, a developer who built or purchased Class A units outside Denver’s core would have enjoyed rent increases of 20 percent versus only 10 percent for those who followed the herd and stayed in the urban core, Pierce’s numbers show.”

“So what are developers doing? Last year, they increased the supply of downtown units by about two-thirds over the annual average going back to 2014. They are doubling down rather than pulling back. In the most expensive submarkets, like Cherry Creek and the Golden Triangle, rents are falling. Another warning sign comes in the narrowing spread in rents between Class A units downtown and the older or lower quality Class B and C units. Typically, tenants have paid a 50 percent rent premium to live downtown in the nicest units, but now the gap is only 25 percent, and even lower once concessions are included.”

“‘The premium to live downtown has narrowed,’ said Pierce, who offered a silver lining.”

From Tulsa World in Oklahoma. “The University of Oklahoma will likely have less of a budget loss than anticipated during the current fiscal year, its president said Thursday. At a University of Oklahoma Board of Regents meeting, James Gallogly said the state’s flagship university was originally going to have about a $15 million operating loss for the current fiscal year, but the university has found about $12.3 million in cost-savings since he took the helm on July 1. He said that the now-projected loss of about $3 million will likely change as he continues to evaluate the budget and identify further cost-saving measures.”

“‘We’ve also discovered some items that we were not aware of relating to some budget categories that weren’t properly accounted for,’ Gallogly said. ‘One of the things I’ll just simply say is that our budgeting process is very weak, and, as a result of that, there seems to be surprise after surprise.’”

“Gallogly first made headlines in June when the then-incoming OU president expressed alarm about the university’s debt obligations, which are more than $1 billion including interest. He then said layoffs were possible as part of the cost-saving measures. At the regents meeting at OU-Tulsa Thursday, Gallogly also described the negative fiscal impact of certain OU student-housing projects on the university.”

“He said the university’s two residential colleges — Headington and Dunham — have about a 63 percent occupancy rate between the two, which equates to about a $2.3 million loss. If 100 percent occupied, the colleges would run about a $1 million loss, Gallogly said.”

“‘At this moment we have about $81.7 million of debt related to those two colleges,’ said Gallogly. ‘I would also point out that one of the things that we learned in the process of during the construction period that the university had contributed an extra $10 million to construction from general funds so this project has been a very, very difficult project for the university. It does have a significant financial loss.’”

“One of the financial ’surprises,’ according to Gallogly, is the expenses incurred by the Cross housing-project. ‘We had been told that we had no fiscal responsibility related to that project and we weren’t involved in the debt,’ said Gallogly. ‘It turns out … the cash amount that goes out the door from the University of Oklahoma related to the Cross project is about $7.1 million a year.’”

The Union Tribune in California. “Materials for construction of San Diego’s newest buildings are rising fast and some in the industry say it might slow the building boom that has altered downtown’s skyline since the end of the recession. Slowed rent growth and increased labor costs are also seen as problems for the building industry.”

“There are enough major building projects ongoing, especially downtown, that it might be a while before anyone notices a slowdown in construction. Companies like Canadian-based Bosa Development have no option but to continue construction on major projects, such as its planned tower off Broadway that will be the tallest residential building in San Diego County’s history.”

“‘It’s ridiculous,’ said Nat Bosa, president of the company, said of steel price increases. ‘It’s costing us a few million bucks more.’”

“Rent prices are still going up, but they have slowed considerably compared to past years and the influx of new apartments has meant more open units. New apartment complexes have the highest vacancy rates, according to CoStar. East Village’s newest tower Shift — known for its orange 240-foot tower — has a vacancy rate of 73.6 percent. It has 368 apartments and opened this spring. AV8, a 130-unit aviation-themed complex in Little Italy that opened this spring, has a vacancy rate of 76.9 percent.”

“Darcy Miramontes, executive vice president for commercial real estate firm JLL, said it is possible developers might decide to sit on land where they have already gotten approvals to start building. ‘I know there is a perception out there that there are a lot of greedy developers,’ she said, ‘but I will tell you that no developer is really hitting it out of the park on returns at this point.’”

“Bosa said it will ultimately be up to market conditions in the coming years if the cranes that have dotted the skyline for several years will continue. ‘If the market (renters and buyers) is willing to pay for it, then it’s OK,’ he said. ‘If the market is not willing to pay for it, then everything comes to a halt.’”

The Williston Herald in North Dakota. “Vacancy rates went up quite a bit during the downturn, stoking fears that the multifamily sector had overbuilt for the long-term need in the Williston region. However, with crude oil prices in the $60 range, Williston apartments have filled up fast. Despite the fact that apartments are running out of room, however, Mike Elliott, managing principal of Energy Real Estate Solutions doesn’t expect to see too many more multifamily units built, at least, not in the near future.”

“The replacement cost on multifamily is $180,000 to $220,000 per unit, Elliott said, ‘and they are still trading below $100,000. So it will be a long time before we see developers for multifamily units coming back to market.’”

The Boom Days Over And The Distress Days Coming

A report from the Miami Herald in Florida. “One of Miami’s highest-profile real estate brokerages is engaged in an ugly split, with accusations of substance abuse, mismanagement and runaway expenditures. For 25 years, International Sales Group — ISG — has been known as the sales wizards behind condo projects at Brickell City Centre, Echo Brickell and Muse Residences in Sunny Isles. But earlier this week, the Real Deal reported on a legal fight between principals Philip Spiegelman and Craig Studnicky that began last spring.”

“The legal tussle has become Topic No. 1 in Miami real estate circles. At least one observer believes the breakup is a symptom of the cooling luxury market and may be a harbinger of tougher times to come. In May, a corporate entity run by Spiegelman filed a lawsuit to dissolve ISG, claiming that his longtime partner, a Studnicky-run entity called Craig Nicole Inc, ‘burned through large amounts of cash collected by ISG on sales without producing any profit.’ He accused CNI of running up excessive expenses: ‘ISG’s current overhead expenses approximate $2.4 million per year. It should be one-fifth of that.’”

“In June, Studnicky’s firm counter-sued, claiming ‘Spiegelman’s waste and dissipation of company assets has caused the company to lose customers, employees, independent agent sales people and corporate opportunities. Spiegelman’s substance abuse problems and his unpredictable anti-social behavior and inebriation caused him to be unable to function in any productive capacity.’”

“Some experts say ISG’s breakup reflects the stress of a real estate cycle entering a downturn. While middle-class neighborhood property values are going up, luxury market values in high-end areas such as Key Biscayne and Sunny Isles Beach are down. ‘This is a result of the boom days being over and the distress days coming,’ said Peter Zalewski, principal with the Miami real estate consultancy Condo Vultures. ‘Warren Buffett always said: ‘A low tide exposes who’s naked.’”

“This type of brokerage breakup sometimes happens during stress periods, he noted. ‘But the vitriol between the two speaks to how bad our situation may be.’”

From The Real Deal. “After a more than eight-year run that changed the Magic City’s skyline, Greater Downtown Miami’s condo cycle is likely nearing the end. The Downtown Development Authority’s mid-year report, prepared by Integra Realty Resources, suggests that the cycle is coming to a close as Miami’s urban core has yet to see a new condo project break ground so far this year.”

“The average resale prices for condos fell to $392 per square foot from $405 per square foot at the end of 2017 – a sign that per-square-foot prices are returning to 2014 levels. Condo prices will likely continue to fall in the near future on a per-foot basis to about $360 per square foot. ‘It’s hard to argue there could be any better time to buy as pricing edges down late cycle,’ the report states.”

“The number of units under construction in Greater Downtown Miami totaled 3,849 by mid-year 2018, down from nearly 5,000 units at the end of 2017. By the second quarter of this year, there were nearly 28,000 condo units in the pipeline, up 5 percent year-over-year, according to the DDA. The pipeline includes units that are completed, under construction, under contract, reserved and proposed in downtown Miami, Brickell, Arts & Entertainment District, Edgewater, Midtown Miami and Wynwood.”

“Anthony ‘Tony’ Graziano, who authored the report, stresses that this cycle is healthier than the previous one because developers have more equity in their projects. In most condo projects this cycle, developers required buyers put down 50 percent deposits and banks generally required 50 percent presales before providing a construction loan. ‘You don’t have any of the big banking risk exposure,’ Graziano said.”

September 13, 2018

Sellers Are Slashing Prices After Growing Anxious

A report from Bloomberg on China. “Chinese property developers are offering free luxury cars and hefty discounts to lure buyers as lending curbs and funding constraints squeeze their finances. China Merchants Shekou Industrial Zone Holdings Co is giving away a BMW Series 3 or X1 to buyers of a three-bedroom unit or townhouse at its Shanghai development. The car, or cash equivalent, equates to about a 10 percent discount on the 3.1 million yuan ($450,000) price of the 89-square-meter apartment.”

“At China Evergrande Group’s 646 nationwide projects, a basic 11 per cent price cut widens to as much as 26 per cent once extra perks, such as discounts to buyers referred by Evergrande employees or previous buyers, are thrown in. A further incentive: An initial down-payment of just 5 per cent is required, compared with the usual 30 per cent deposit required by local governments.”

“The giveaways and discounts suggest debt-laden developers are pulling out all stops to raise revenue, with the sector facing a record $23 billion maturity wall in the first quarter of 2019. At the same time, China’s determination to keep a lid on home prices has made it harder for developers to generate swift cash from sales.”

“‘Financing is becoming hard for everyone, even including the giant players,’ said Sabrina Wei, head of northern China research at Cushman & Wakefield Inc in Beijing. ‘They need discounts to boost sales and collect cash.’”

“Developers in neighboring Hong Kong are also offering perks such as free holiday and travel packages and easy credit to lure buyers in a sign one of the world’s hottest property markets may finally be cooling. At China Merchants Shekou’s ‘Harmonious’ development, prospective buyers have signed up for just 25 of the 350 apartments, local land registry filings show. Only eight buyers signed up for Gezhouba Real Estate’s 223-unit ‘Magnolia Garden’ project in Shanghai’s west. In the city’s north, Sanxiang Impression Co’s 161-unit complex enticed just five people.”

“‘Property projects are no longer an easy sale,’ Cushman’s Wei said. ‘We may soon see this prolonged upbeat property season behind us.’”

The Daily Telegraph in Australia. “Home sellers in some popular pockets of Sydney are slashing their asking prices by more than $150,000 after growing anxious with the long wait to find buyers. New sales figures reveal properties in parts of the Hills District, St George and Canterbury are taking an average of more than four months to sell, with some listed for even longer without finding a buyer. Purchasers are capitalising by negotiating up to 12 per cent off the listed price, in some cases saving more than $150,000, the CoreLogic data shows.”

“ chief economist Nerida Conisbee said buyers were often getting big discounts because they faced little competition. And buyers are cashing in on homes initially listed with ‘unrealistic’ price expectations, Ms Conisbee added. ‘These sellers have to make big drops to their prices to attract buyers because their homes have been listed for so long without selling,’ she said.”

“Among the biggest discounts was on the sale of a four-bedroom Kenthurst house at 241 Pitt Town Rd, which sold for about $300,000 below the listed price after seven months on the market. A few blocks down the road, number 192 recently sold eight months after first being listed. The $1.75 million sales price was well below the initial price guide of $1.93 million to $2.05 million.”

“The typical price in these suburbs was 10-12 per cent below the listed price, but in some cases was even lower. This included on the sale of a five-bedroom house on Adam St in Campsie, which sold for $330,000 below the listed price, and a four-bedroom townhouse on Isabel St in Belmore for $364,000 below the listed price.”

From Domain News. in Australia. “Properties in the affordability heartland of Sydney are languishing on the market, with the time it takes to sell climbing to its highest level in years. Vendors in the west and north-west have taken the biggest hit with houses taking 23 days longer to sell than they did over the same period last year.”

“Among them is Ropes Crossing homeowner Matt Crabbe, whose four-bedroom duplex has been for sale since July. Had he sold this time last year, his sales campaign would likely be over. Instead, his family’s modern duplex has been on the market for 54 days … and counting, and the price guide has been reduced to $620,000 to $640,000 — sitting just above the $618,000 records show it sold for in 2016.”

“‘We knew that we’d probably cop a little bit of a hit [with prices pulling back],’ he said. ‘If [66 days] is what it takes, that’s what it takes,’ Mr Crabbe said. ‘We’re lucky as we’re not desperate and we don’t have a deadline [to sell], so for us it doesn’t matter if it takes 100 days.’”

“‘You’ve got to be realistic … or the property will stay on the market too long and go stale so it just depends on your priorities,’ Mr Crabbe said. ‘[But] we’re also very mindful that we’re not prepared to lose on it, so it’s a bit of a balancing act.’”