According to several industry sources the average value of bank owned, REO Properties, has actually increased in the last years while the value of non-bank owned real estate has dropped on average! There are several reasons in the realm of conventional wisdom as to why this is happening; the most common reason given is that REO properties are being bought up by investment groups and turned into rentals thus driving up the price of REO’s on average. While this certainly is a factor there are other factors that are probably more important to the change in real estate values that I see happening as a “boots on the ground REALTOR”.
Here’s how I see it. The initial wave of foreclosures was for the most part badly maintained and marginal properties: no real surprise that the most marginal home owners were the least able to maintain and upgrade their homes and least able to hang on through tough, tougher and tougher economic times. These homes languished off the market as so called “shadow inventory” for months and in many cases years due to a hostile regulatory and legal environment in which mortgage holders found themselves, thus slowing up the process of foreclosure, resale and return of these residential assets to productive use. No news there really. What the facts recently made public noted about rising REO prices and declining price on non-bank owned real estate indicates is not that we are “moving toward the middle” but in-fact indicate that we are continuing to crater the housing market in slow motion.
This pattern of rising REO value reflects exactly what many experienced REO REALTORS have noted over the last six to nine months: we are getting better quality inventory. The better quality inventory is the result of the economic damage moving up the food chain from the economic bottom into the middle and above. The middle class buyer that bought his house at a fair market price in 2009 is likely to find that when he goes to sell his home today it’s worth the same or a little less and that any improvements he made have added little or no value. So, if they can’t hang on and they can’t sell they let it go. Thus leading to a better class REO property and putting further and continuing pressure on the middle of the market.
What does it all mean? It means that there is no foreseeable improvement coming for non-REO properties and that REO properties will continue to dominate the residential real estate market. Warren Buffet is right: single family homes are likely to continue to be an excellent investment for those who can“buy and hold” but only for those who can buy and hold either as owner occupants or as investors looking at increasingly higher and higher rents over the foreseeable future.
By Dick Thackston CRB, ABR, ABRM
Broker NH, MA & VT