Is the smart money exiting the housing market?

Dramatic rise in all-cash buyers may be a sign the party is over
May 08, 2014 12:50PM

The number of all-cash residential property buyers in the U.S. was on the rise in the first quarter, while institutional investors increasingly bowed out of the market.

All-cash buys constituted 42.7 percent of all residential property sales in the first quarter of 2014 — up 37.8 percent from the previous quarter and a 19.1 percent jump year-over-year, according to RealtyTrac’s first-quarter institutional investor and cash sales report, cited by Zero Hedge.

Institutional investors, meanwhile, are trickling out of the market. Traditional all-cash buyers like Blackstone accounted for only 5.6 percent of U.S. residential sales in the first three months of the year, down from 6.8 percent the previous quarter and 7 percent in the same period a year ago. This marks the lowest level of investment for institutional investors since the first quarter of 2012, according got the report.

“Strict lending standards combined with low inventory continue to give the advantage to investors and other cash buyers in this housing market,” Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, told Zero Hedge. “The good news is that as institutional investors pull back their purchasing in many markets across the country, there is still strong demand from other cash buyers — including individual investors, second-home buyers and even owner-occupant buyers — to fill the vacuum of demand left by institutional investors.”

According to some industry watchers, the trend is evidence that “smart money” is exiting the market, leaving property flippers to pick up the scraps and deep-pocketed foreign buyers to snatch up properties as second, third or fourth homes.

“The cash buyers today mean that all is not well in the housing market,” Clifford Rossi, finance professor at the University of Maryland, told Zero Hedge. “First-time home buyers should make up 40 percent and we’re not seeing it because of mortgage rules.” [Zero Hedge]Julie Strickland