lack of inventory

Americans are moving less than ever before and this declining mobility is a problem for Millenials…Here are the major contributing factors…

According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of Americans moving over a one-year period fell to an all-time low of 11.2 percent last year. The drop is particularly prevalent among millennials. New survey data from the Pew Research Center found that 25- to 35-year-olds are relocating at much lower rates than the previous generation. Last year, 20 percent of millennials moved sometime in the last year. When older generations were the same age as millennials now, they moved at higher rates: Gen X was at 26 percent, as was the generation between 1925 and 1942.

This drop has many worried about the housing market and economic vitality as this change has been tough on young adults. The job market has improved since the recession and unemployment is down yet we aren’t seeing more Americans, especially Milennials, take the next step and purchase property.

Instead, they are stuck renting with upwards to 45% a renters income in Los Angeles going to rent for people between the ages of 22-34. They are unlikely to be able to save up enough to purchase a home and with more people renting, and more rental demand, property values rise. There is more incentive for property owners to be landlords with rental payments as percentage of U.S. GDP growth hitting an all-time high last month.

According to data from Moody’s Analytics, the average time someone stays in their home is up over 8.5 years, the longest amount of time since they began collecting this data. As little as 15 years ago, the median homeownership tenure was between 5-6.5 years. In another ten years, we could easily see homeownership average up over 11 years, especially with the “lock-in” effect with current homeowners being addicted to low monthly payments thanks to the record low interest rates we have enjoyed over the past five years. If rates rise a few percentage points, current owners have even less of an incentive to move when you figure in higher monthly payments and taxes. This “lock-in”, especially in areas like Los Angeles, is creating a vicious cycle of stagnation, less inventory, and higher prices.

The other issue that negatively impacts millennials ability to buy where the best jobs are is in the major cities and they are already dealing with population overflow, and the current residents don’t want new development and support laws that can’t accommodate new demand. Without new development, the supply is artificially constrained in hot housing markets, prices are bid up and only the rich elite can own property (see recent notes on a realtors scorecard blurb about the Westside rich playing a real monopoly game with homes). It is an increasingly winner-take all economy and the land-use restrictions help lock people out of opportunity. Between 2010 and 2014, 5% of metro areas accounted for half of the U.S. job growth.

These market realities make it extremely difficult for millennials, especially those without help from parents, to purchase a home. A homeowner’s net worth is approximately 45 times greater than that of renters and we need more people sharing in that expansion of wealth
Sources- LA Curbed, Census Bureau, Zillow, Housing Wire

Homes are selling in 30 days or less

According to the California Association of Realtors, the median amount of time homes spent on the market before finding a buyer dropped below 30 days- from 38.8 in February and 43.2 last March. That’s the shortest amount of time on the market in over a year for the Los Angeles area. 

Most real estate economists and professionals believe Westside/South Bay real estate will continue steady appreciation at least through 2017

The South Bay and Westside real estate markets are continuing to see an influx of buyers and investors despite many highly desirable areas being up over 40% in the past 4 years. A lack of inventory combined with low interest rates, foreign investment and a thriving white collar Los Angeles job market (Silicon Beach) will continue to drive market appreciation. Though we have seen a slight slow-down lately with buyers seeming to be a bit pickier and value conscious (especially above the $2M price point), multiple offers are the norm on properties that are listed at market value.

However, we would see a slow down and lose the positive momentum if the tech industry boom in Los Angeles starts to sputter. Some economic analysts are expressing concern that the tech sector could see a wave of lay-offs in the near future with venture capital funding more difficult to come by in 2016 and young companies not showing the profits that were expected. Despite this possibility looming, most economists that study Westside/South Bay real estate feel the market will stay in the seller’s favor in the foreseeable future and here are the reasons why:

Lack of Inventory– Homeowners are not in a hurry to move. According the California Association of Realtors, first-time homebuyers typically moved to another home within 5 years in the 1980’s and 90’s. Now, the average first-time homebuyers is staying in their property for 8-10 years. Many property owners see value in renovating their current home and keeping the lower property tax as opposed to buying a new home and seeing a dramatic property tax jump. The younger generation of homebuyers also witnessed the housing crisis from 2007-2010 and are a bit gun shy when it comes to pushing affordability on the homeownership front.

Interest Rates- Some economists believe the economy, especially the real estate sector, could not handle much of a jump in interest rates with society acclimating to low interest rates for a prolonged stretch. A jump in rates could paralyze the economy. Those that can afford homeownership are taking advantage of the low rates and with rents continuing to increase at break-neck speeds, the incentive to buy continues to stay strong. Though it is tougher to qualify for a loan, when you do qualify, banks are extremely competitive for the mortgage business. Real estate has proven to be a great long-term leveraged investment and being able to borrow at low rates drives those with money to acquire property. Despite a jump in rates over the past two weeks, rates for a 30 year fixed mortgage are still below where they ended in 2015 (3.64% vs. 3.86%).

Strong Los Angeles job market- With the continued growth of Silicon Beach (i.e.- google constructing a 12-acre campus in Playa Vista), high paying jobs are rolling into the area and unless a tech bubble develops, we don’t see this ending anytime soon. The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. released a report showing that the area has more high-tech jobs (368,600) than Boston-Cambridge, Santa Clara County and New York City. The direct high-tech workforce generated over $32 billion in wages back in 2013, accounting for 16.8% of all wages paid in L.A. County, the report said. Silicon Beach has continued to grow at a strong pace over the past two years and Google won’t open its campus for at least another year. The latest report from the LA Economic Development Corporation showed that Los Angeles County should continue to add jobs at a 1.7% annual rate this year and personal income is expected to grow by 4.4%.

Foreign Investment- Overseas investors have had a tremendous impact on the Westside/South Bay markets in the past four years feeling it was safer to put money into American real estate than invest in their own countries. Though the pace of that investing has slowed down over the past six months, it is still happening and will continue with programs like the EB-5 Visa. In its simplest form, the EB-5 visa program enables foreign investors to gain permanent residence status if they invest $1 million dollars in business development or $500,000 in a high un-employment area. Once this investment is made, they usually buy personal residences typically in an all-cash transaction. California is by far the most popular destination for EB-5 investors. The amount of EB-5 applications that are accepted every year is capped around 10,000, with 60,000 applicants awaiting processing. From a global perspective, Los Angeles real estate is considered a good buy when compared to other major cities and will continue to draw strong interest from the Pacific Rim and Canada.

Lack of Inventory Causing Headache for Buyers in Westside/South Bay Markets

Usually when one picks up the LA Times and reads about a fledgling housing market or tunes to the business networks on TV and sees signs of national distress, they naturally believe a buyer in this market would have all of the leverage. Unfortunately for buyers searching for phenomenal deals on the Westside and Manhattan Beach deals are extremely hard to come by thanks to a severe lack of inventory.

Westside prices which in our estimation are higher than they should in the grand scheme of things have stabilized and even gone up in some areas this year. Our recent Townhouse listing at 2922 Montana Ave. Unit B recently sold in three weeks for $1.1M, 70K higher than a similar unit in the building sold four months prior. Though we would love to take all of the credit for the uptick as the agent (will take some along with the stellar job of staging by our client), the reality is we were helped by the fact that we did not have much competition for a stylish unit in a great location.

In the 90402 zip there are only 15 new listings since March 1st. Of those, 3 are already in escrow. Areas like Mar Vista have seen 30% of new listings sell within 20 days of coming on the market and we can give you individual examples of clients recently losing out in multiple offer situations to bids that appeared to be above market. Multiple offer situations have been feverishly popping up in all price ranges as long as the property is priced at market.

This has been frustrating many buyers who have recently moved to the area or have been waiting for an opportunity to buy prime real estate. It doesn’t make logical sense in comparison to the economy as a whole and here are the reasons as to why this is happening.

Massive amount of purchases during the bubble peak: Most high priced areas like the Westside and Manhattan Beach saw historical sales volume between 2004 and 2007, at or near the top of the peak. Many of these purchases were done with less than 20% down (many at 5-10% even in the jumbo markets) and buyers were turning around and refinancing if prices trended upward after they bought. These purchasers now owe quite a bit more than the home is worth and are simply not in position where they can afford to sell. They also refinanced at historically low rates and if they are in a similar position from a job standpoint they are simply stuck and “hanging on” until a significant jump in the market happens. Short sales and foreclosures are happening but only with people in dire financial straits and many on the Westside tend to have jobs or family money to help them. Speaking of foreclosures and short sales…

Shadow inventory has not appeared: Bank owned homes and short sales have been slow to hit prominent markets like the Westside. Banks are incentivized to slowly release high priced assets. Until they lose a loan valued at $2.5M, the banks can report it as an asset at that value even though it may only be worth $1.8M. Once that asset sells for $1.8M, the bank not only loses a $2.5M asset but also reports a loss of $700K. Legislation slowing down foreclosures in California has also hurt this pipeline. I am currently working on one short sale where the seller has been in default for over 15 months and we have yet to reach an auction date. The short sale process has also contributed to this mess with some taking over a year to close from beginning to end. Expect the shadow inventory to continue to hit the market at a snail’s pace.

Buyers are anxious: Due to the lack of opportunity for purchasers cited above the leverage they enjoyed in 2009 and the first part of 2010 is dissipating for now. Many purchasers have been waiting for the right opportunity to buy on the Westside and feel now is the time with interest rates at or near record lows with the looming threat of rates going higher as the economy seems to recover.

When you couple this mentality with a strong pool of international buyers (most notably all cash buyers China and Europe taking advantage of the weak dollar) and tech companies like Google and Facebook strategically opening offices on the Westside, you end up with a strong pool of purchasers competing for a limited product causing quite a bit of frustration.

Another factor pushing buyers valued in the $800K-$1M range is the conforming loan rate of $729,500 is expiring October 1st and being replaced by a rate limit of only $625,000. Loans above $625K will be a a higher rate and that $100K+ difference will definitely impact the market and what one can afford to buy.

For now, purchasers have to understand what they are dealing with due to the circumstances above. The days of trying to “steal” a property have been suspended for the time being and replaced with patience and knowing they are not the only ones out there. It is a good time for a seller to list a home and get good terms from a buyer if they are willing to acknowledge about a 20% cut from bubble prices.

Scroll to top