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Cash purchases for homes decrease.

Investors may be pouring less cash into houses, according to RealtyTrac.

The real estate data company said institutional investors purchased fewer homes in the second quarter of this year than in both the first quarter of this year and the second quarter of 2013, suggesting that the flow of cash purchases which had disrupted some housing finance markets is slowing.

Nationally, 37.9% of all homes purchased in second quarter of 2014 were purchased for cash, RealtyTrac reported. That's down from the three-year high of 42% in 2014's first quarter but still higher than the 35.7% of homes purchased for cash in the second quarter of 2013, the California-based firm said.

"The flurry of purchases by institutional investors and other cash buyers that kicked off two years ago when U.S. home prices hit bottom is finally showing signs of subsiding," said Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac vice president, noting that the U.S. median home prices bottomed out in March 2012.

"Over the past 10 quarters cash sales have accounted for 39% of all home sales on average, and institutional investor purchases have accounted for 5.3% of all home sales on average. Prior to A16 that, from 2001 to 2011, the average quarterly cash share was 30%, and the average quarterly institutional investor share was 2.6%" This move should help first-time homebuyers, Blomquist said.

"This is a classic good news/ bad news scenario for the housing market," he said. "The good news is that fewer cash buyers should help loosen up inventory of homes for sale and reduce competitive bidding, giving first-time homebuyers and other noncash buyers more opportunities. The bad news is that some of those first-time homebuyers and other non-cash buyers may already be priced out of the market thanks to the rapid run-up in home prices over the past two years in many areas."

Significantly, the report found that cash real estate purchases in the second quarter skewed to both ends of the real estate price spectrum. While cash purchased 37.9% of homes overall, it purchased 67% of homes selling for $100,000 or less and 45% of homes selling for more than $2 million, the report said.

RealtyTrac said there were seven metropolitan areas where cash purchases represented more than 50% of second quarter sales: six in Florida and one in Nevada. The six Florida metropolitan areas included Miami (64.1% purchases in cash), Fort Myers (62.1%), Sarasota (61.5%), Tampa (54.6%), Lakeland (53%) and Orlando (52.2%). In Las Vegas, 50.7% of the purchases were in cash, the firm reported.

Greg Barnes, SVP for marketing at One Nevada Credit Union, said he had not seen the RealtyTrac report but that it appeared to resonate with what the $722 million credit union had been seeing.

Barnes said his credit union had seen investors making cash real estate purchases in the markets it served starting in 2012 and extending into 2013, but there had been a drop off in investor activity in 2014.

Barnes linked the declining investor interest in Las Vegas property to the diminishing pool of available homes and a corresponding uptick in prices. The higher prices discouraged some cash investors who had been looking for big returns, he said.

Although headquartered in Las Vegas, One Nevada draws its roughly 76,000 members from around the state. This broader membership has helped the credit union maintain a refinance business through the HARP program as it worked to increase its purchase money business.

According to the credit union's financial statements, One Nevada booked more than $86 million in mortgage loans as of the end of fune, with about 50% of those HARP refinances and about 50% in purchase money loans.

Meanwhile, Matt Kershaw, vice president for sales and mortgage lending for the $531 million Clark County Credit Union, said his Las Vegas institution has booked about $15 million in purchase money loans so far in 2014 and that this is about 30% less than last year.

Like One Nevada, CCCU has seen investor activity peak and then retreat, Kershaw said. "It was a more substantial problem during 2012 and 2013, but during 2014 the cash investor has backed out of the market," he said, adding the credit union had sought to improve its purchase money procedures to help its member become better competitors.

"We developed new mortgage products that provide greater access to all of our members, including those who had problems through the mortgage crisis, i.e. short sale, foreclosure, bankruptcy," Kershaw wrote in an email. "Additionally, we have worked diligently to reduce our closing times so that we are better able to compete."

Credit unions in Florida reported similar trends.

Don Genevie, SVP for real estate and business lending at the $2 billion Grow Financial Federal Credit Union, reported the Tampa, Fla., institution had seen cash investors have an impact on the home aspirations of some of its 174,000 members in 2013, but the pressure had diminished somewhat.

Genevie credited a drop in available housing stock for slacking investor appetite, noting that the Tampa metropolitan area currently carried four months or less of housing stock, when it would customarily carry about six months' worth.

"I've been doing this 38 years, and I have never seen a market quite like this one," Genevie said, noting that cash investor pressure had been felt across the state and that the credit union had adopted things like commitment-to-buy letters to help a credit union member compete in bidding battles.

A loan commitment letter signifies not only loan preapproval, but that an underwriter has reviewed the application and the letter will include all conditions to the loan approval. It demonstrates that much of the most time-consuming part of the housing finance procedure has already been finished.

Genevie said investors had purchased so much of the existing housing stock in Tampa, the credit union worried about what might happen if the rental market began to fail.

"It's still cheaper to buy a house here than rent one," Genevie observed, adding that he worried about whether many of the investors might conclude they need to liquidate the investment and put all their homes on the market at once.

Genevie acknowledged such mass marketing would be against the investors' own interest by driving prices down further, but there was no way of knowing what legal or organizational structures underpinned some of the investor groups that had purchased so much housing. "If a partnership fails or if something else happens, they could wind up selling quickly," he said.

"The smart thing to do would be for them to release their housing a little bit at a time," Genevie said. "If they did that and released enough to move increase our housing stock to a six months' supply, they would still make money."

The Rundown

* Investors buying real estate with cash have dominated housing recovery

* RealtyTrac has issued a report that shows investor pace declining.

* Credit unions in markets with a lot of investor activity share their perspectives.


READ more about credit unions trying to build purchase money business:

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Title Annotation:HOUSING
Author:Morrison, David
Publication:Credit Union Times
Geographic Code:1U8NV
Date:Aug 27, 2014
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