FED MOVE MAY BENEFIT COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE

FED MOVE MAY BENEFIT COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE

Fed Makes Long-Awaited Move; End of an Era, Signal of Confidence

  • The U.S. economy passed a major psychological threshold as the Federal Reserve closed the door on the extraordinary measures put in place to combat the financial crisis. With the quarter-point increase of its overnight lending rate, the Fed signaled that the economy has finally returned to normal operating levels. Though some sectors still face headwinds, broader economic measures including employment, retail sales and even home prices have largely returned to healthy performance standards. The Fed’s policy-setting committee reiterated that it will maintain a gradual pace of rate increases, aligning actions with key indicators such as labor market conditions, inflation, and international developments.
  • While short-term lending will be influenced by the Fed’s move, long-term interest rates will face little upward pressure in the immediate future. During 2016, the cost of long-term debt could see upward pressure, but this will be influenced as much by domestic and international confidence as by the central bank’s actions.
  • The move by the Federal Reserve will likely benefit commercial real estate investors, more because of the message it conveys than the influence of the rate change itself. By raising the rate for the first time since 2006, the Fed
    has finally expressed its confidence in economic growth, potentially opening the door to increased consumption and business investment. These positive trends would benefit all commercial real estate sectors as household formations escalate and increased discretionary income supports the demand for housing, retail goods, and business services.
  • The tempo and sustainability of economic growth that swayed the central bank represent a decidedly positive development for the office sector and industrial properties will also benefit from this trend. Additional hiring will generate new office space demand and put downward pressure on vacancy. Also, incremental demand may also emerge in interest-rate-sensitive financial services businesses, contributing to a projected decrease in the U.S. vacancy rate next year. In the industrial sector, a more robust pace of economic growth stemming from higher consumption will stimulate additional space demand from retailers. However, the rate increase will likely also strengthen the dollar, restraining U.S. companies with significant export business.
  • A solid pace of household creation accompanies an economic expansion and will generate new demand for apartments in the near term. U.S. apartment vacancy will fall this year to 4.2 percent and will rise nominally in 2016 as elevated completions narrowly outpace net absorption. Also, the Fed’s benchmark rate most directly affects consumer borrowing for items that include residential mortgages. Any additional tightening in monetary policy that suppresses the purchase of single-family homes and maintains a low rate of homeownership will provide a supplemental lift for the multifamily sector.

 

Source:  http://blog.marcusmillichap.com/2015/12/15/u-s-consumers-get-in-the-holiday-spirit-retail-sales-rise-fueled-by-gains-in-discretionary-categories/

EB-5 PROGRAM COULD END THIS WEEK

EB-5 PROGRAM COULD END THIS WEEK

The much-publicized EB-5 “Immigrant Investor” program is set to expire this week, putting billions of dollars for commercial development at risk.

81807_1449668733_ulinebydouglasdev-large

EB-5 gives visas to foreign investors who invest $500k in projects that create at least 10 American jobs. When the program first passed in 1990, it required investors to spend $1M but was later adjusted to allow investors to spend half in rural or high-unemployment areas, CNBC reports.

Its popularity has soared in recent years—sparked in large part by Chinese investors, who account for around 90% of all EB-5 visas granted—causing it to hit its visa limit of 10,000 per year in 2013 for the first time. (In 2007, only 700 visas were issued.)

The US Citizenship and Immigration Service estimates that EB-5 has brought in more than $2M and created more than 77,000 jobs, although those numbers are up for debate.

But some are concerned that more EB-5 money is being spent on projects in wealthy areas like New York City’s Hudson Yards or San Francisco’s Hunter’s Point Shipyard.

This week the Securities and Exchange Commission announced enforcement actions against lawyers charged with defrauding the system. A developer was also charged with using $6M from Chinese investors for a building conversion that never happened.

But on the flip side, EB-5 money has been beneficial, with projects like Washington DC’s Uline Arena (pictured), which is being converted into an office and retail center, as part of a project to rejuvenate the entire area.

Angelique Brunner, president of EB5 Capital, says the program needs more regulation so it can focus on the reason it was created, which was to spark economic development in distressed areas. One possible solution is a bipartisan proposal spearheaded by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy. The proposal would increase the minimum investment in rural and high-unemployment areas to $800k and would reserve 4,000 of the 10,000 EB-5 visas for rural and high-unemployment areas. [CNBC]

 

Source: EB-5 Program Could End This Week – Commercial Real Estate

Household Incomes now equal to 1989 Levels – Rising Rents Bring Back Feudalism Society

The Fed surprised markets on Wednesday with their taper head fake.  Was it because the economy is booming?  No.  Was it because household incomes were growing?  Not exactly.  Was it because inflation is non-existent?  Not if we look at rents or medical care.  In fact, going through the Fed’s statement it is largely holding back on the taper because of fear of budget negotiations in Congress.  That is, we are hitting our debt ceiling yet again and the Fed wants some leverage here.  Yet the larger signs all pointed to a taper if we consider that rents are rising at nearly twice the rate of the overall CPI.  Also, the Census figures for 2012 were released and household income adjusting for inflation is now back to levels last seen in 1989.  Lost decade?  Try a lost generation.  Also, recent data highlighted that the wealthiest in our country are capturing most of the income gains and given this trend and the Fed’s taper-less September, the feudalism trade is fully on.

Household income

The Fed is the housing market.  Investors are dominating the market and this is their number one client.  It is no surprise that a moderate rise in rates has essentially clobbered the “normal” home buyers out in the market.  Regular buyers need every piece of help buying a home because household incomes have done this:

MedianHouseholdIncome

The above chart shows a full lost decade (24 years of weak income growth).  Even in real terms, household income has plunged since the recovery started in 2009:

2007: $55,627

2008: $53,644

2009: $53,285

2010: $51,892

2011: $51,100

2012: $51,017

The Fed is largely playing the market and ironically, these moves are likely to continue the wealth disparity in the US further as investors once again plow into the real estate market to chase yields.  For regular households, more income is going to go to housing on the rental front:

Rent vs CPI

Keep in mind that rising rents with falling incomes is not exactly a good combination.  Rents are rising at nearly twice the pace of the overall inflation rate.  This divergence has accelerated since 2012.  The Fed has made a one way bet here.  The Fed is operating under a QE forever scenario.  Take a look at the Fed balance sheet and tell me if you think a taper is in serious consideration:

fed balance sheet

The Fed is largely playing one big confidence game.  The too big to fail are even larger today.  Real estate investors are virtually half the market in 2013.  Even in expensive California nearly one-third of all home sales are going to investors (in Las Vegas it is closer to 60 percent).

Reconcile all the facts coming out this month:

-Household incomes adjusting for inflation are back to levels last seen in 1989 (24 years ago – a lost generation)

-50 percent of income generated in 2012 is going to the top 10 percent of earners (highest ever since the early 1900s)

-Rents are rising much faster than overall CPI

-Investors are gobbling up an incredibly large share of all real estate purchases

There has been a serious disconnect going on since the recovery hit and these kind of divergent data points suggest we are in a mania like mode.  Investors are largely chasing yield even on many deals that simply do make sense (i.e., cap rates are simply not panning out in many markets).  The Fed taper is merely a magician’s trick.  The Fed can’t taper to any large degree.  It is an end-game in the mortgage market.  The Fed is the housing market.  The Fed is largely focused on helping member banks so it is no surprise that banks are doing exceptionally well and many financial institutions are the largest real estate buyers in the current market.  For now, the investor trade will continue to play out even if people with common sense realize this is simply one giant shell game and the Fed is on its way to a $4 trillion balance sheet.  Doesn’t seen so farfetched that we are entering a modern age of feudalism.

Dr. Housing Bubble
http://www.doctorhousingbubble.com/federal-reserve-taper-household-income-lost-generation/?

EPA Imposes New Energy Efficient Rules on Commercial Property

If you own commercial property, or intend to own commercial property you should read the following from Joseph Cobert, attorney, at The Cobert Blawg.

This is yet another example of the over-burdening of the private sector through excessive regulations by agencies of the Federal Government.   The government is asserting itself into every aspect of commerce at an unprecedented rate of expansion

DISCLOSURE OF ENERGY EFFICIENCY WILL SOON BE REQUIRED BY LAW WITH RESPECT TO COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS THROUGHOUT THE NATION

By: Joseph M. Cobert

 2013 must be commercial real estate’s year for new disclosure obligations.  Earlier this month, California’s certified access specialist inspection statutes, including disclosure requirements, went into full effect.

On the horizon, nonresidential realty owners will be facing compliance mandates from some federal environmental legislation and interpretive regulations.  The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) spearheaded the effort which will make commercial building owners have to do the following:

  1. open an account with the EPA for each commercial real estate building;
  2. by means of on-line access to the account for the building, request a printout of data detailing energy consumption from that site during the immediately preceding 12 months; and
  3. disclose the data to (a) a prospective purchaser not later than 24 hours prior to execution of the purchase agreement, (b) a prospective tenant for the entire building not later than 24 hours prior to execution of the lease and (c) a prospective lender for the whole building not later than the date on which the owner submits his, her or its loan application.

Compliance with these rules is being phased in based on commercial property building size.  Structures exceeding 50,000 square feet of floor area must begin compliance beginning on September 1, 2013.  Buildings with 10,000 to 50,000 square feet of floor area have until January 1, 2014 to be in compliance.  Those with 5,000 to 10,000 square feet of floor area get a delay up to July 1, 2014.  Buildings having less than 5,000 total square feet of floor area are currently exempt.

How will the disclosures be used by purchasers, tenants and lenders?  Besides the raw data showing energy consumption, the report which will be sent to an owner will specify an efficiency rating on a scale from 1 to 100, with 100 being the most efficient.  Factors considered will include building size, usage of energy and location.  In theory, the rating is to reflect how the building ranks in energy efficiency compared to other commercial structures across the country.  For example, a rating of 60 would mean that the building so rated is in the 60th percentile among all buildings analyzed and a rating of 90 would put the building in the 90th percentile.

Owners should not wait until the deadlines for disclosure to open their EPA accounts because the utilities which are to furnish the requested data have 30 days to supply same.  Late action in opening an account could delay a deal.  For instance, if you are an owner who expects to lease out a commercial building of 60,000 square feet to a single tenant and that lease is to be signed on September 1, 2013, you have to open the account by August 2 to comply and still avoid delay.

For the specifics of how to comply, owners can look at the EPA’s “Energy Stars” website.  For legal advice as to these new energy consumption requirements, do not hesitate to contact Joseph M. Cobert, A Professional Corporation.

The Dollar Losing Ground As The World’s Reserve Currency

Australia and China have announced that they will trade with each other without using the U.S. Dollar.  China and Russia will chip away at the Dollar’s reserve currency status by establishing direct payment in their own currencies with one trading partner after another.  When the world no longer considers the Dollar a necessary reserve currency, we will be in big trouble.  We will no longer be able to endlessly print money and kick the can further down the road.  That will be the end game for the fiat currency system that has been in place since Bretton Woods.

In a previous article by David Stockton on this blog, he makes the following statement about Richard Nixon, which I completely agree with:

“When Richard M. Nixon essentially defaulted on the nation’s debt obligations by finally ending the convertibility of gold to the dollar. That one act — arguably a sin graver than Watergate — meant the end of national financial discipline and the start of a four-decade spree during which we have lived high on the hog, running a cumulative $8 trillion current-account deficit.”

The following is an article that appeared in zerohedge.com that demonstrates how the world is changing and how the U.S. Dollar is unlikely to remain the worlds reserve currency.

Continue reading “The Dollar Losing Ground As The World’s Reserve Currency”

Sundown in America – David Stockman

There have been a lot of doom and gloom articles appearing lately.  Should we be concerned?  (GA)

By DAVID A. STOCKMAN
New York Times
Published: March 30, 2013

The Dow Jones and Standard & Poor’s 500 indexes reached record highs on Thursday, having completely erased the losses since the stock market’s last peak, in 2007. But instead of cheering, we should be very afraid.

Over the last 13 years, the stock market has twice crashed and touched off a recession: American households lost $5 trillion in the 2000 dot-com bust and more than $7 trillion in the 2007 housing crash. Sooner or later — within a few years, I predict — this latest Wall Street bubble, inflated by an egregious flood of phony money from the Federal Reserve rather than real economic gains, will explode, too.

Since the S.&P. 500 first reached its current level, in March 2000, the mad money printers at the Federal Reserve have expanded their balance sheet sixfold (to $3.2 trillion from $500 billion). Yet during that stretch, economic output has grown by an average of 1.7 percent a year (the slowest since the Civil War); real business investment has crawled forward at only 0.8 percent per year; and the payroll job count has crept up at a negligible 0.1 percent annually. Real median family income growth has dropped 8 percent, and the number of full-time middle class jobs, 6 percent. The real net worth of the “bottom” 90 percent has dropped by one-fourth. The number of food stamp and disability aid recipients has more than doubled, to 59 million, about one in five Americans.

So the Main Street economy is failing while Washington is piling a soaring debt burden on our descendants, unable to rein in either the warfare state or the welfare state or raise the taxes needed to pay the nation’s bills. By default, the Fed has resorted to a radical, uncharted spree of money printing. But the flood of liquidity, instead of spurring banks to lend and corporations to spend, has stayed trapped in the canyons of Wall Street, where it is inflating yet another unsustainable bubble.

When it bursts, there will be no new round of bailouts like the ones the banks got in 2008. Instead, America will descend into an era of zero-sum austerity and virulent political conflict, extinguishing even today’s feeble remnants of economic growth.

THIS dyspeptic prospect results from the fact that we are now state-wrecked. With only brief interruptions, we’ve had eight decades of increasingly frenetic fiscal and monetary policy activism intended to counter the cyclical bumps and grinds of the free market and its purported tendency to underproduce jobs and economic output. The toll has been heavy.

Continue reading “Sundown in America – David Stockman”

Keeping the Housing Bubble Inflated

It should be abundantly clear and obvious that thegovernment and Wall Street want nothing more than to keep home prices inflated and are sticking out a giant middle finger to the majority of Americans.

You might have missed the glorious news that our stunningly cunning Senate decided to reinstate the heightened loan limits for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the FHA (aka the entire stinking mortgage market).  Of course the lobbying arms of the housing industry went gaga for this policy even though it keeps prices further inflated in bubble states like California and New York.  Good job politicians, I’m sure the checks from the FIRE industry will come in just in time for the 2012 election!

Since our politicians care so deeply about working Americans, they are also examining a push at giving residential visas to foreigners looking to buy at least $500,000 in real estate.  Forget about the fact that the median home in the U.S. costs more like $170,000 to $180,000.  Then we have the Federal Reserve artificially keeping mortgage rates at historic lows and you hit the trifecta of housing welfare for expensive bubble ridden states while the overall economy falters.

Continue reading “Keeping the Housing Bubble Inflated”

A Housing Apocalypse is Coming

A Housing Apocapyse is Coming

Source:  Dr. Housing Bubble

There will be no sustainable housing recovery until the shadow inventory is cleared out.  As of April with the latest data close to 6.4 million loans are delinquent or in foreclosure.  This is a massive number of homes.  What is downright disturbing of the 2.2 million homes in foreclosure you have 675,000 homes (31 percent of the pool) that have not made a payment in over two years.  That is right, two full years.  Apparently one-third of the bank’s strategy in dealing with foreclosures is simply to ignore missed payments.  Glad it took them giant bailouts and four years to figure that one out.  The housing crisis strategy is really a banking-centric one and that is why nothing has really been resolved since the crisis started.  Banks are dictating the movement going forward so the idea of keeping prices inflated is simply one to protect banking interests.  Since the market has very little desire for inflated real estate, banks just slip it under the rug for another day.  Keep in mind that many Americans are seeing lower wages so lower home prices are actually good for their bottom line since it eats away less of their hard earned income.  Plus, one-third own their home outright and another 30 percent rent.  So this idea of keeping home prices high just for the sake of keeping them high is a ploy that comes out of the suspension of mark-to-market logic.  Do people finally get that home prices have to fall to reflect local area incomes?

The state of distress in U.S. housing

First, it is probably useful to get a sense of the entire potential shadow inventory out in the market:

us home foreclosures

Source:  Calculated Risk

According to CR we have the following:

-2.24 million loans less than 90 days delinquent.
-1.96 million loans 90+ days delinquent.
-2.18 million loans in foreclosure process.

-For a total of 6.39 million loans delinquent or in foreclosure in April.

That is a large number of homes.  Now keep in mind many foreclosures are now starting to make their way onto the MLS since banks are actually taking full possession of the homes (although the reality that 675,000 people have not made a single payment in two years tells you where things stand).  Think about the above data; you have roughly 600,000 to 800,000 as current REOs (all the way through the foreclosure process) but you also have 675,000+ people in foreclosure who haven’t made a payment in two years:

loans in foreclosure

I’ve seen some pundits argue that many of these loans will cure.  We know for a hardcore fact that if you are behind on your payments for two years it is likely that your home is going to move from the shadow inventory into the REO pipeline.  This also doesn’t examine the fact that we have close to 2.2 million homes in foreclosure.  How many have made no payment in one year?  Keep in mind we are only looking at the foreclosure category so far.  So the entire U.S. banking system is being overwhelmed with 600,000 to 800,000 active REOs yet we have that many in foreclosure without two years of payments.  Here is a good estimate of REO data in the U.S.

LawlerSelectedREO

Source:  Tom Lawler via Calcualted Risk

The above doesn’t cover the entire universe of REOs but does a good job.  I went ahead and took a quick look at active foreclosures in the state of California and found the following:

calif foreclosures

calif foreclosures2

Depending on what data source you look at California has roughly 80,000 to 89,000 homes that are REOs and ready for sale.  That still leaves another 600,000 to 700,000 REOs across the country that need to be sold.  You also have to wonder of the 675,000 foreclosures with two years of missed payments how many are in massively overpriced bubble states like California or New York?  Well I can tell you that California currently has 157,000 homes in the foreclosure process that have yet to go REO.  The bottom line is you have a massive pipeline of distressed properties waiting to make their entrance on the MLS stage.

And the foreclosures will work through the system like a rabbit filtering through a python.  We have another 4.2 million homes delinquent where the foreclosure process hasn’t even started (1.96 million of the loans 90+ days late).  Don’t fool yourself because many of these will end up as REOs at some point (could be years down the road given the absurd timeline we are experiencing).  It can’t be stated enough that keeping the process slow and providing banks with trillions of dollars of bailout money is simply a method of clogging the financial pipes so the FIRE economy can figure out what other sector to gut and inflate into a bubble.  In the end it is the taxpayer that will foot the bill unless something radical changes.

I wanted to draw the current distress universe to show how little of the shadow inventory is being shown to the public:

foreclosures q2 2011

The bars are drawn to scale to show actual magnitude relative to other buckets.  The only homes the public is viewing are those in the purple box above.  But look at what we have coming down the pipeline.  Things don’t seem to be changing so it is looking more and more likely that we will witness a Japan like real estate market with zombie banks walking the Earth in search of easy capital brains.

It is extremely troubling that we have so much money being lobbed at the banks with such horrible results.  But what do you expect?  Someone was going to pay for this decade long orgy in real estate.  As it turns out it is the prudent public and middle class.  The people living rent free are simply the other side of the coin to the morally bankrupt financial sector.  We have to go back to watching archived films to remember a time when banking and finance actually carried a positive connotation.

I’m curious to know how many people are living in million dollar homes rent free.  We’ve seen homes in foreclosure in Beverly Hills so it is certainly happening and readers have sent over confirmation of this in their own neighborhoods.  Talk about a giant mess.  The New York Times had an interesting graph showing how long it would take to move 872,000 foreclosures:

timeline to clear foreclosures

Source:  New York Times

It would take roughly 40 months to clear the current foreclosure inventory (aka the tiny blue rectangle in our earlier chart).  And more will be coming into the pipeline but banks are trying to make their speculative gains in other bubbles to soften the blow here.  After all, they wouldn’t want to spoil the trillions in loot they have stolen from Americans.

The Bears Come Forth – A Major Crash Coming?

Barry Ritholtz writes a blog post that predicts doom and gloom… soon.

“I am on an email list that is from a group of  smart hedgies and strategists. The discussions range far and wide, and while I sometimes disagree with the conclusions, but I always find the conversation provocative.

Lately, they’ve been emailing a collection of warnings of various fund managers and strategists:

• Long time Dow Theorist Richard Russell set out this dire warning:

“Do your friends a favor. Tell them to “batten down the hatches” because there’s a HARD RAIN coming. Tell them to get out of debt and sell anything they can sell (and don’t need) in order to get liquid. Tell them that Richard Russell says that by the end of this year they won’t recognize the country. They’ll retort, “How the dickens does Russell know — who told him?” Tell them the stock market told him.”

Reuters reported that well regarded hedge fund manager Seth Klarman “sees few bargains in the current environment and predicted on Tuesday that the stock market could suffer another lost decade without any gains.” Klarman is concerned that we could see “another 10 years of zero returns.” He has 30 percent of assets at his $22 billion Baupost Group in cash, he said. (His firm started in 1982 with $27 million and has averaged 20 percent annual gains ever since).

Raoul Pal of Global Macro Investor got even more specific warning in his newsletter: Crash Is Coming In Two Days-To-Two Weeks. He sees as an “archetypal crash pattern — a sharp decline followed by a failed rally followed by a collapse.”

• But as Art Cashin of UBS pointed out in his morning missive, stark bear warnings are not restricted to equities. He cites Nouriel Roubini warned on the U.S. Treasury Market:

“Bond market vigilantes have already woken up in Greece, in Spain, in Portugal, in Ireland, in Iceland, and soon enough they could wake up in the U.K., in Japan, in the United States, if we keep on running very large fiscal deficits,” Roubini said at an event at the London School of Economics yesterday. “The chances are, they are going to wake up in the United States in the next three years and say, ‘this is unsustainable.”

• Lastly, I was tickled by this tongue in cheek warning about Gold from Jeremy Grantham: The GMO chair guaranteed that Gold will crash. Why the gold crash? Because he just bought some . . .”

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but when you get a preponderance of professional financial types agreeing that the market is headed in a particular direction, they are either right, and we should pay attention, or they may be wrong, and seeing the wrong signals. In my view, there are too many professionals who do this for a living who see a crash coming, for different reasons, that my bet is that it will happen. This might be a good time to do some stock liquidation and hold cash. It might also be a good time to move some of that capital out of stocks and bonds into hard assets like gold or real estate. Keep in mind that real estate generates cash flow where gold does not. Something to think about.

Past the Point of No Return?

Casey Research has an article, “The U.S. Government is About to Get Hit with the ‘Perfect Storm’ of Debt. Anyone concerned about the financial health of the US, and the world, should read the article.  Here is an excerpt:

Hearing President Obama’s economic peptalks, you might be under the impression that the U.S. needs to keep spending for just a little while longer to stimulate the economy – but then will swear off big deficits.

Reinforcing the point, to address concerns stirred by a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecast that the U.S. government will accumulate total deficits in excess of $6 trillion over the next decade, in February President Obama issued an executive order to create a bipartisan fiscal commission. The commission’s task is to deliver recommendations to the president by December 1 for limiting future deficits to 3% of GDP. (The FY 2009 deficit approached 10% of GDP. The FY 2010 deficit will probably go even higher.)

It’s our contention that the president’s fiscal commission is mostly for show; the 3% limit is just a hoop for the clowns to jump through. U.S. government finances are now past the point of no return; the U.S. government lacks not just the will but the ability to close the gap between revenue and expenditure.

At The Casey Report, we like to focus on facts. Unfortunately, when it comes to government debt, the facts aren’t pretty. They show that the country is already sliding towards financial collapse and hyperinflation in a way not dissimilar to the Weimar Republic.

Let’s first look at recent history to see how reliable CBO forecasts have been. In 1999 the CBO issued its 10-year forecast for 2000-2009 (see charts below). It looked as though we were heading into ten years of prosperity that would rescue us from little worries like the trillions in unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare.

As you can see in the charts titled “CBO Revenue Projections 2000 – 2009” and “CBO Outlay Projections 2000 – 2009,” the CBO expected a budget surplus in every year from 2000 to 2009. And not just that, but that the surpluses would grow at an annual rate of more than 13% and would accumulate to $2.5 trillion over the decade.

The article is quite sobering and indicates that it is possible we have reached the point of no return. Continue reading “Past the Point of No Return?”