A lot of analysts are advising to sell our real estate now. Should we?
I have been seeing more articles like this one attached calling for a Real Estate correction.
Recently, at a seminar held for my pension plan, one of the key-note speakers advised plan members to start unloading real estate holdings as the cycle is coming to an end over the next 12 months – despite low interest rates.
What’s your response to their advice.
Gary – USA
Before we analyze the research article, I want to let the reader know that the author’s site offers a lot of paid services and has posted a YouTube video about how to take advantage of the 2019-2020 bear cycle. He claims to be an expert on Southern California real estate, so I will refer to the area’s housing market.
In April, 6,438 homes changed hands in LA County—up 12 percent over a month earlier. But that was still roughly 1 percent under the number that sold in April 2018.
CoreLogic analyst Andrew LePage points out in the report that, across all of Southern California, the number of sales in April was almost 15 percent below average for the month. Total sales have declined year-over-year for nine consecutive months.
Experts initially pinned the region’s underwhelming sale numbers on rising mortgage interest rates, which raised monthly payments for most buyers. But rates dropped significantly in winter and have remained at relatively low levels since then.
Instead, LePage says the high cost of buying may simply be enough to keep many would-be home shoppers out of the market.
“The slowdown in price growth and sales over the past year suggests that despite a healthy economy, the cost of homeownership has outpaced incomes for many,” he says.
As expensive as homes are now, the median sale price across all of Southern California ($527,500) is still 13 percent below where it was just prior to the Great Recession, when adjusted for inflation. One potential reason home prices haven’t yet hit that level is that it’s tougher for cash-strapped buyers to borrow huge sums of money.
LA home prices back up over $600k, Curbed.com (May 29th)
Okay. Let’s dissect this analysis by looking at the article the email subscriber references. The author bases his research on his experience with the Southern California market. Specifically, he writes;
A subscriber recently mentioned getting into a real estate ETF so we started going over the data which may suggest the Real Estate sector could become the next big trade over the next 12+ months. The news that the US Fed may decrease rates in an attempt to front-run global economic weakness and real estate market weakness may result in a waterfall event in local and regional real estate markets.
Overall, our research has been focused on one of the hottest markets anywhere in the US, California. Los Angeles, Ventura County, Orange County, San Diego, and San Francisco make up the entire massive Southern California real estate market. The California real estate market is a fairly strong indicator for weaker market segments because the number of transactions taking place across the 400+ miles spanning San Francisco to San Diego represent multiple trillions of dollars, vast segments of consumers and types of housing as well as an incredibly diverse economic landscape ranging from coastal regions, farming regions, cities, technology hubs, agriculture and dozens of others
I am not so sure that concentrating on one market, albeit a large one, can afford a person the ability to make a conclusion about the entire investment sector. Here in the Washington D.C. area, things look okay to me.
Moreover, this analyst is concerned about some sort of waterfall event in residential real estate. That’s a big guess. Recall those who employ the gambler’s fallacy to conclude that another 2008 is coming soon. Okay, let’s continue.
This next paragraph is the basis for his thesis about dumping our real estate.
Our concern is that a rate decrease by the US Fed may be interpreted as a “move to attempt to abate fear” instead of a “move to support the markets”. If this decrease in rates does happen and at-risk homeowners fear the Fed is trying to push buttons to adjust the consumer environment toward a “buying bias” and sellers become scared, then the race to sell faster (decreasing prices to attract buyers) may become the norm. In other words, in an effort to support the markets, the Fed could take actions that remove the floor from the markets as sellers attempt to get the best price possible before buyers become aware of the “race to the bottom” in terms of pricing.
Another hazy assumption. How does he make this conclusion? Few home sellers will view what the U.S. Fed does with any real concern. Any sellers are guided by what their Realtors say and mortgage rates are coming down. The demand is still there, just based on population growth alone.
Subscribe to his cycles analysis
People are still pushing this cycles stuff, as it sells.
This analyst is still working with what I would consider an anachronism; the investment cycle. Specifically, he has a paywall that will enable you to see his proprietary research. Just like all the other cyclists and market timers. But the problem with all these analysts is that they refuse to see the elephant in the room.
We have laid out all the points that indicate the owners of the central banks have decided to keep things moving along, and will do whatever it takes to make certain asset prices move north. Higher asset prices plus unlimited central bank debt buying will enable the world to digest all the sovereign debt issuance and keep rates low. Before this whole thing blows up, we will eventually see negative rates across the board. The central banks will try everything before any disaster. Keep that in mind if you are predicting a real estate or stock market crash.
So, because he believes residential real estate is going to fall, he recommends buying SRS – ProShares ULTRASHORT REAL ESTATE at some point in the near future. Okay, let’s take a look at the chart. The ProShares UltraShort Real Estate (SRS) seeks daily investment results, before fees and expenses, that correspond to two times the inverse (-2x) of the daily performance of the Dow Jones U.S. Real Estate Index.
Next, I took a look at the top weightings in the Dow Jones U.S. Real Estate Index (DJRI). Here is what I came across:
American Tower (AMT) – Owner and operator of cell towers and infrastructure
Crown Castle (CCI) – Crown Castle is America’s largest provider of shared communications infrastructure, with more than 40,000 cell towers and approximately 70,000 route miles of fiber
ProLogis (PLD) – Currently the world’s largest owner of warehouses and distribution centers
Simon Property Group (SPG) – Simon Property Group, Inc. is an American commercial real estate company, the largest retail real estate investment trust, and the largest shopping mall operator in the US.
Equinix (EQIX) – Specializes in internet connection and data centers.
Public Storage (PSA) – The largest brand of self-storage services in the US
Welltower (WELL) – mostly invests in seniors housing, assisted living and memory care communities, post-acute care facilities, and medical office buildings. It also owns hospitals and other healthcare properties outside the United States.
AvalonBay Communities (AVB) – a publicly traded real estate investment trust that invests in apartments
Equity Residential (EQR) – A publicly traded real estate investment trust that invests in apartments.
SBA Communications (SBAC) – Owns and operates wireless infrastructure, including small cells, indoor/outdoor distributed antenna systems, and traditional cell sites.
Based on his belief that residential housing is due for a correction, this analyst claims that the SRS is primed for a big jump. But, based on the top 10 weightings for the DJRI, I have to conclude that this is the wrong investment to trade. The DJRI has only a muted connection to residential real estate. Moreover, the DJRI’s weightings in residential RE is based on apartment buildings, not single family housing.
I see little reason to think that residential real estate is going to waterfall like last decade. Moreover, I would not take this person’s advice on how to trade whatever he thinks is coming to real estate.
- The Fed would never let that happen, and it would open the financial flood gates, as it would get the blame.
- Moreover, the Federal government would stand ready to offer whatever tax incentives and subsidies were needed.
- The U.S. city population continues to rise much faster than what housing is available. You can thank open borders for that. This trend is also taking place in most of the large cities in Western Europe and the former Commonwealth nations.
- This analyst’s selection of the SRS is a poor choice for shorting the housing market. Since you and I have determined that interest rates are coming down, the stocks and REITs that comprise the DJRI will directly benefit from dovish Fed policy. These businesses will be even more attractive with low rates. These companies run cell towers, call center, warehouses, shopping centers, hospitals, and other infrastructure. This is why the performance of SRS has been an unmitigated disaster. Buying the SRS is like shorting the stock market. Go to the casino instead; you will have better odds.
- Home sales may have topped out, but I am certainly not calling a top in home prices. The whole market dynamic is different from last decade. Rising interest rates were the cause of last decade’s debacle and the Fed will not make this mistake again. In fact, we will see sub-1% 10-year rates in all the former Commonwealth nations. All other things being equal, I think real estate will be a disaster… to those who continue to rent.
- Most areas in the U.S. are just breaking even with last decade’s top in nominal prices, but that was 13-14 years ago. Adjusted for inflation, many areas are still down by up to 20% or more.
- Maybe the analyst’s prediction will one day be correct, but not before seasoned investors have paid down mortgages, derived tax benefits, and earned rental income.
- If I believed that residential real estate was going to fall, I would build up cash positions and pay down debt, so I could take advantage of the lower prices. Selling real estate is expensive; out and back in is at least 10% of the houses prices. This amount is even higher if you have to spend money to fix up a property for sale, because many times you will not get your money back out.
- I normally do not recommend investing in real estate via REITs. They may be okay in a passive portfolio, but their dividend yields are way too low for my taste. Direct ownership of the property is much more profitable in the long run.
- There are clearly some areas that are extremely overpriced (e.g. Toronto, San Francisco, Manhattan, Vancouver, San Jose), so stay away from these areas for investment. Just use common sense. If you have to live there, then don’t overpay.