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Condo Flippers in Miami-Dade Left Twisting in the Wind

by Wolf Richter, Wolf Street:

Ballooning Condo Glut ensnares preconstruction speculators.

Miami-Dade’s spectacular condo flipping mania is in turmoil, with sales plunging, inventory-for-sale soaring, and new supply flooding the market. It’s not like Miami hasn’t been through this before.

In February, existing home sales of all types fell 10% year-over-year, to 1,835 homes. These sales “do not include Miami’s multi-billion dollar new construction condo market,” the Miami Association of Realtors clarified in its report on March 23.

And this new construction market that is not included has become distressed.

Sales of single-family homes fell 10% in February, to 881 houses. The report blamed the shortage of properties “in popular price points.” Prices have been rising sharply, and at the price points where people could actually buy a house – below $250,000 – few sellers were playing ball. Hence a stalling market. Sales of high-priced units rose, but they weren’t enough to pull out the totals.

Condo sales fell 10% as well, to 954 units. This time, the report didn’t blame the lack of supply. Instead: “Existing condo sales are competing with a robust new construction market.” At the same time, inventory of existing condos for sale, not including new units, rose 10% to 15,289. At the current sales rate, supply soared 29% to 14 months.

This chart by StatFunding shows the plunge in sales and the surge in condos listed for sale. I circled the last five Februaries on the sales line (red). From February 2014 to February 2017, condo sales have plunged 25%. Andrew Stearns, StatFunding’s founder and CEO, calls the resale inventory – the dark green line that has soared 90% since early 2013 – “scary”:

Even this “scary” inventory understates the total number of condos for sale. It only includes units listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). But developers normally don’t list their new units on the MLS, and thus they’re not included in the above chart.

This is the distressed market that preconstruction condo flippers are facing.

Preconstruction condo flippers make a highly leveraged bet. They buy the condo from the developer during the construction phase. The initial deposit is small. Additional payments are required as construction progresses. But in a booming market, lenders are eager to lend. Then, often around the time the building is completed, flippers try to unload the condo at a profit. This bet has been hot in the condo construction boom around the country. But in Miami, the bet is now collapsing.

During good times, developers sell all their units either to end-users or to flippers within a few months of completion. But now, developers are getting stuck with unsold units, which, as Stearns points out, marked the “inflection points of previous condo cycles.”

The 12 large developments completed between late 2015 and late 2016 have added 2,743 condos to the market. Developers still own 433 of them (15.8%).

In addition, preconstruction flippers are also trying to unload their units. In those 12 developments alone, 451 condos, or 16.4% of the total, have been listed for sale on the MLS.

Read More @ WolfStreet.com

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