What the Big Banks are Hiding

by | Nov 3, 2015 | Archives

Seek good value for anything you buy-stocks, bonds, or real estate.  When seeking value, be especially careful about assumptions regarding the price of real estate.  Big banks have been manipulating prices, but we can use simple principles to make sure we do not overpay.

Since 2009 Merri and I have been building an inventory of real estate in Mount Dora.  Our goal was to develop consistent rental income and this has been good, but prices have not risen as fast as we expected, in part due to real estate involvement by big banks.

Wikivia Parkway

From the homepage of the Wikivia Parkway (1), a road map to wealth.

A reader sent this note: Hi Gary, I was just wondering what your opinion is on the current state of the real estate market is in Florida. Do you think now is a good time to buy a house or do you think the markets could correct substantially next year. Another words, is this a good value market right now or should I wait for a correction? I am a little fearful at this time of a possible global crisis because of high worldwide debt, QE, overvalued stock market, etc.  Any insight/ perspective would be greatly appreciated.  Sincerely,

My reply:   This is a location sensitive question and I am not qualified to answer much, other than where we have been buying rental property around Mount Dora in Central Florida.

I have heard that other areas have seen incredible prices rises. I have not seen this so much where we are.  One reason is that big banks continue to hold a very large number of foreclosures that they are slowly releasing.  This stockpiled inventory keeps prices somewhat stable if there is not much activity.  In areas where there is demand, it creates a housing crisis, a bubble in prices just as we saw in 2007.  Prices rise faster and higher than income.  Many reach a stage where they cannot afford a home.

Don’t count too much on bubbles like this continuing.  Our last inspection of property in this area in August 2015 found almost no inventory available in the price range we seek.  We are just back in Florida and we’ll be looking for more property to buy right away.

How can it be that prices remain low and yet there is nothing for sale?  According to the National Association of Realtors, only a small percentage of the homes that were foreclosed on during the downturn have made their way to the market.  Big banks hold a large inventory.   The reason the banks want to own these properties is that they have booked inflated real estate value.  They keep underwater properties rather than sell them and book a loss. This is why some markets have very little inventory.

Here are some of the tips I gave the reader on how to find good real estate value.

First, I suggested he find an area where he wanted to be.   Make this an enjoyable process!  Merri and I chose Lake County first due to its proximity and attractiveness to grandchildren. In addition, we loved the area with wonderful weather, a rural feel, over 1,000 named lakes and plenty of distance from the coast, floods, hurricanes, no state tax, asset protecting homesteads, etc.

Second, look at the big picture.  There are also some macro economics involved in our Mount Dora choice.  Friends close to the Mount Dora city council explained that the population of Mount Dora is expected to double in the next ten years.  We also saw that the Wekivia Parkway expansion project, kept rolling right along through the 2009 recession.  This is a co-op project between  the Florida Department of Transportation, the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) and the Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise.  The Wekiva Parkway (SR 429) would connect to SR 417, completing the beltway around Central Florida, running near Disney World and all its competition while helping to protect the natural resources surrounding the Wekiva River.  This is an estimated $1.6 billion project that just kept on spending during the recession.

“Someone behind those big bucks knows something about the future or they would not keep spending”, was our thought.

Third, use income and yield to gain a clear understanding of value in the real estate market you choose.  We do not base our valuations on recent selling prices.  We base our valuations on the rent that can be earned.  We know who we like as renters and what rent they can afford to pay without stress.  We won’t be drawn into overpaying for houses where rent cannot support a reasonable return.

Look for bargains:  The state of the market is not as important as knowing the market.  There are always real estate bargains whatever the market’s state may be.  This is possible because real estate is not as fungible as equities or precious metals.  A share or an ounce of gold is the same anywhere.  An individual seller’s motives of equities or precious metals does not alter the price.

Every real estate parcel differs and the seller’s motives matter a lot.  We look for property with easily fixed problems where the seller is in a hurry to sell.  In these cases we can buy below current valuations and profitably improve the value of the property.

It is a simple formula.  Study the market carefully where you want to be.  That is what we did.  Clarify what you want and why.  Look at your time horizon.  If you buy well and have a long enough time horizon, a temporary dip  in the market won’t matter.  If properties are selling quickly, then this might not be a good time to buy.  Also keep in mind that real estate is expensive to buy and sell.  This is why we do not like the idea of trying to flip properties.

Big business always seeks advantage in markets so we as individuals have to beware.  The big banks may be once again distorting real estate prices, but using the simple principles above we can be sure that prices we pay for anything offer value.

Gary

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(1) http://wekivaparkway.com/