Posted by: Wendy Harpp | February 9, 2012

Are investors hurting the market?

Investors Drive Down Home Prices with Low Bids, Latest HousingPulse Finds

Cash buyers, many of them investors, are putting downward pressure on home prices, according to the latest Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance HousingPulse Tracking Survey.

In December 2011 the overall proportion of cash buyers in the housing market surged to a record 33.2%, up from 29.6% a year earlier. But among investor homebuyers, the proportion of cash buyers was much higher. A huge 74% of investors used all cash to buy homes last month.

The HousingPulse survey also found that cash buyers are able to bid significantly lower – and successfully – on many properties because they offer a shorter and more reliable closing timeline. This is particularly true for bids on distressed properties, because mortgage servicers selling foreclosed properties or real estate owned generally prefer transactions that can settle within 30 days.

The total share of distressed properties in the housing market in December, as represented by the HousingPulse Distressed Property Index (DPI), continued at a high level of 47.2%, using a three-month moving average. This is the 24th month in a row that the DPI has been above 40%.

Investors accounted for 22.8% of home purchases in December 2011, up from 22.2% a month earlier. But despite their relatively small share among homebuyers, investors have an outsize effect on home prices because their bids bring down market prices.

While investor bids may not be the first offers accepted, they often end up winning properties after other homebuyers are eliminated because of mortgageapproval or timeline problems. Appraisals below the contracted price are a common reason for mortgage denials. Most mortgage financing timelines are now in excess of 30 days.

Real estate agents responding to the survey commented on low bids from investors. “Investors usually offer 10%-20% below list up to a price of $250K. First time homebuyers are (offering) close to list (price) as are current homeowners. Investors want 2-4 weeks to close …Financing buyers end up with 6- 8 weeks plus to close,” reported an agent in Arizona. Investors are very aggressive and expect to see 15%-20% off list, they will close in 30 days or less and most are cash buyers. First time homebuyers are in a market that sometimes sell for over list price which is difficult ‘at first’ for them to understand,” reinforced another agent in California.

“In competitive offer situations, cash offers prevail for the most part because of the common knowledge of lender closing issues. Cash sales close in 21-30 days. FHA sales close in 45 to 60 days,” reported an agent in New Jersey.

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