If the chain of easy credit and dangerous leverage that started on Wall Street fanned the housing bubble and eventual crash, some analysts find it disturbing that major investors are the ones snapping up the bargains — and eventual big profits — left in its wake.
“There is the possibility that Wall Street and the banks and the affluent 1 percent stand to gain the most from this,” said Jack McCabe, a real estate consultant based in Deerfield Beach, Fla. “Meanwhile, lower-income Americans will lose their opportunity for the American Dream of building wealth through owning a home.”
Real estate executives say institutional investors — who in some cases are bidding on hundreds of homes a day — account for as much as 70 percent of sales in some Florida markets. Over the past two years, analysts say, they also have accounted for a majority of purchases in other parts of the country where housing prices are rebounding sharply.
The influx of investors may explain why home prices have been rising in parts of the country most affected by the housing crash, despite high jobless rates and relatively few new mortgages being issued by lenders. In the past year, prices have risen 23 percent in the Phoenix area, 15 percent in Las Vegas, 9 percent in Tampa and 11 percent in Miami, according to the
Case-Shiller home-price indices
. Nationally, prices are up more than 8 percent over the past year.
“I don’t know whether things are as good as they seem to be. A lot of properties are being occupied by institutional investors, not the end-user,” said Scott Kranz, co-principal of Title Capital Management, a firm that helps big investors scout, buy and manage homes in Florida. “The end-user would need to see a great increase in jobs, availability of mortgage money and a loosening of the reins that have been holding them back. But all the economic indicators are that we are not at that point.”
The ability of investors to make cash deals is helping them buy a large portion of the distressed homes that continue to flood the market. Property brokers and others in Florida say traditional buyers — even those able to qualify for financing in a still-tight mortgage market — are finding it difficult to compete with the cash and market savvy of large investors.
“The investors are making it hard for a regular homeowner to buy a property,” said Robert Russotto, a broker with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate in Fort Lauderdale. “They are getting outbid by people with cash.” Russotto noted that out of the 20 home sale contracts he is the process of completing, 17 of the buyers are major investors.