Air Whooshing Out of 2nd Home Market
(Baron's) "The market for second homes could use a second wind. After a long string of double-digit annual price increases, a number of second-home meccas across the country are suddenly suffering from plunging sales volume and burgeoning inventories of unsold homes."
"Though the official figures on sales prices have yet to reflect the current round of cuts, interviews with real- estate pros and others strongly suggest that the averages are deteriorating in a number of key markets."
"IT'S ALL A BIG CHANGE from the seemingly endless rises in prices. For more than a decade, baby boomers have been flocking to the second-homes market and lifting prices, just as they'd earlier lifted the market for primary residences. But first, the market has some correcting to tend to."
"While pundits debate when the bubble might burst in the primary-housing market, the air already is whooshing out of parts of the second-homes market."
"The price runups of the past several years are reason enough for concern. A report from Cleveland-based National City, a top banking and mortgage concern, points to serious overvaluation in a number of second-home hot spots in Florida, California and elsewhere."
"For starters, many second homes have been sold not to serious vacationers but to speculative investors hoping to cash on the national real-estate craze. How else to explain why six out of 10 second-home owners surveyed by the Realtors group own two or more homes in addition to their main residences?"
"The danger is that if enough of those investors decide the market has peaked, they could trigger a selling frenzy throughout the second-homes market. That, in turn, could add to the pressures in the main housing market. After all, second homes now account for a full 40% of all homes sold in America."
"Statistics compiled for Barron's by The Local Market Monitor, a Wellesley, Mass.-based consulting firm, show just how big a role can be played by investors."
"Behind all this is a fervor eerily reminiscent of the late 1990s on Wall Street. Some 65% of second-home owners surveyed by the National Association of Realtors said they considered their second homes better investments than stocks, and 29% said they planned to buy additional properties within two years. An eye-popping 64% of investors with four or more properties planned to buy another property within two years."
"Ingo Winzer, president of The Local Market Monitor: "This makes me very worried because it implies that the price increases have been driven more by speculators than by people who are going to hold onto these properties, and indicates to me that there's a speculative boom."'
"Realtors' chief economist, David Lereah, expects the volume of second-home sales to decline at least somewhat this year. And there's every reason to think that some markets could be hit hard."
"Naples, on the sun-drenched edge of the Gulf of Mexico in Southwest Florida, is perhaps the most striking example."
"Vacationers long have been attracted to Naples' proximity to water, the Everglades and shopping at the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue. Last year alone, buyers bid up the area's median price by 30%, to $482,400. Charles Ashby, president of Naples' VIP Realtors, recalls that one of his sales associates was able to go down to a local bar and sell 26 units in a nearby Fort Myers high-rise the first night contracts were being accepted."
"Today, about the most visible activity in that area is the 400 or so daily additions on the multiple listing service -- and price reductions by the dozens. In the 35 years that Ashby has been in the business, this is the first downturn he's seen, even counting recessions. "The mule died," he says."
"With mortgage rates rising and home-price appreciation slowing or vanishing, buyers in Naples have pulled back in a big way. The area's sales of homes costing less than $1 million declined 45% in unit volume in the first four months of this year. More expensive homes fared somewhat better, falling 34%. But pressures at the higher end clearly are mounting. All along the pricey Gulf shore, builders still are tearing down old ranch houses and replacing them with two-story mansions, pushing the market toward a classic glut."
"The Naples experience is being repeated, to one degree or another, in a variety of other vacation hot spots."
'"People don't believe in the laws of supply and demand anymore," says Alan Skrainka, chief market strategist at Edward Jones. "We're not saying it's a bubble, but we're saying prices are overstated and will likely correct 20% to 25% over four or five years."'
"He rejects a notion advanced by housing bulls that shore communities in Florida and California will be protected because of the limited supply of coastline. "Japanese real estate and land prices went down for 15 years and Japan is an island," Skrainka says."
"The tough conditions in the second-home market are no small matter for the people who own the homes. And the so-called mass affluent -- folks with investable assets of $100,000 to $1 million -- will probably take the brunt of any price declines. Spectrem Group, a Chicago-based consulting firm, says this group has more than one-third of its assets tied up in real estate."
"In general, these home owners are more vulnerable than the ultra-wealthy, both because they can ill afford to wait out a prolonged downturn and their losses can hurt if they're forced to sell into a glut."
"There's little doubt, however, that the market is starting to run out of buyers."
'"The homeowner that absolutely has to sell will take a hit," says Paul Boomsma, executive vice president of Chicago-based Luxury Portfolio Fine Property, a unit of Leading Real Estate Cos. of the World. The problems are worsened, he points out, by the continued acceleration of development in overheated areas."
"Investors hoping to sell luxury condos that they bought over the past couple of years could be in for some special trouble."
'"It's a very spotty market in all of the U.S.," says Robert Toll, CEO of luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers. In some of the markets where Toll builds golf-course and lake communities, like Palm Springs, Calif., Delaware and southwest Florida, demand has softened."
"Mike Messenger, the Scottsdale, Ariz., broker, sounds considerably more glum. He says this is the first time in 16 years that the lower end of the market -- always the driver -- has weakened. The culprits? Mainly the flippers; Messenger figures investors account for 35% to 40% of the market."