What to watch for in Real Estate in 2017

What should we expect in real estate in 2017 across the Chicagoland area? Will 2017 prove to be a year full of growth in Chicago or will rising interest rates temper growth? Will rent prices decrease due to excess multi-family building or will demand rise and keep up with supply? We all have our own thoughts and opinions; I’m sure you know I have mine. However, regardless of your opinions of the future of the economy, Chicago real estate or the real estate market as a whole, here are a few things to keep an eye on in 2017 in Chicago real estate.

1) Interest Rates

The Fed raised rates in the last quarter of 2016 and is expected to do so two to three more times in 2017. Sub 4% interest rates for a 30yr fixed is no longer in our vocabulary, but how high will interest rates go? Keep an eye out for how consumers react to rising rates. While the economy appears to be very robust and we are at what is considered full economic employment, it will be interesting to see how rising interest rates affects home buyer sentiment. In order to get a feel for the market talk to Realtors and talk to mortgage brokers to see how rising rates are influencing their clients decision making process.

2) Increased programs for low down-payment buyers

In the recent year we’ve seen several new programs come out that are what I call, FHA alternatives. They’re essentially low down-payment programs or programs that give rebates or closing cost credits that allow you to purchase a place with as little as 3% down. As these programs gain more momentum and awareness it will be interesting to see a couple things

a) How long will these programs last

b) How these programs are influencing demand in certain price ranges and areas

3) Keep an eye on how rental supply will influence both the rental and sales market

Increased supply on the rental market can greatly affect both the rental market and the sales market. Rent prices have increased drastically in the past 5 years in Chicago but they’re currently peaking and vacancy rates have increased in multi-family. New buildings are offering concessions as high as 2 months free. With more than 4500 units coming to the market in 2017, will people put off buying in favor of taking advantage of rent concessions? What happens if not only concessions increase but rent prices decrease as well? This coupled with rising interest rates could have first time home buyers thinking twice.

4) Supply….

Depending on the price range you’re looking in, supply is still low relative to the amount of buyers in the market place. We’re seeing increased supply of new construction in areas such as Ukrainian Village and increased high end supply in the Near North area but besides this supply has remained low which has help prices increase over recent years. Keep an eye on two things

a) New construction has been selling at a huge premium. Watch it’s market time in 2017

b) Will we see more existing construction come on the market to compete with new construction in 2017? Existing construction has been selling much cheaper than brand new construction. With rising interest rates existing construction may be more appealing given its lower price point.

5) Everything is wonderful…keep an eye on everything wonderful

Unemployment is at all time lows. Interest rates are still at all time lows despite recent rises. Property values in prime neighborhoods are at 2006 levels. The equities markets are booming. Startups are everywhere. Getting VC funding for new companies is like taking candy from a baby. Everything is going well. Keep an eye on leading indicators in all sectors of the economy that may signal a slow down. In real estate I am specifically watching the following in Chicago

A. Market Time of both existing and new construction

B. Absorption rate (How long does it take to sell all properties on the market if no new ones come on the market).

C. Price to rent versus the price to buy the same property. Currently it makes sense to buy given the increased rental prices. If rent prices decrease this could become a slippery slope.

 

The above is not meant to be a negative outlook or a “debbie-downer” of the real estate market. Personally, I think there are some areas that are a bit over valued but others that are very much under valued. I think the Chicago real estate market is strong, however, I do believe we’re now in a normalization of the market where prices will increase minimally to moderately each year and I think we will see rent prices decrease in the coming years.

Does this mean I shouldn’t buy? No, it doesn’t mean that. In some situations some people maybe should not buy. In others they definitely should. Each persons situation is different and that is why working with a Realtor that is completely transparent and honest with you is always the best policy. Anyone who tells you that buying is always the best option is nothing more than a salesman.

 

Paul Blackburn is a licensed Real Estate Broker and Realtor with @properties in Chicago. Paul has been selling real estate since 2007 and is part of the Skowron Group which has sold in excess of $100 million in 2016 alone. For further information or questions please feel free to contact Paul directly at Paul@pblackburn.com

CHICAGO RENTAL BUBBLE ABOUT TO BURST?

The Chicago rental market has been on an upward swing since 2010. Downtown Class A rents are up 36% (on a per square foot basis) since 2009 according to Appraisal Research Counselors. But is the end near? I don’t know about you, but every time I speak with someone in multi-family or read an article regarding an apartment sale, I am feeling reminiscent of the 2005 and 2006 sales market. Before I go into a rant regarding the current state of the market, let us back up and discuss the rental market in Chicago over the past decade.

Rental prices sharply declined toward the tail end of the first decade in the 2000s for several reasons. When the economy was still ticking along rental prices remained flat or only saw nominal increases (in some cases decreases) due to the fact that mortgages were not only easy to come by, but cheap to get. Factor in increasing property values and the ability to gain quick equity and everyone and their dog was buying a condo. It made more sense to buy at the time and home ownership in Chicago was at an all time high (71.2% in 2006). Less renters and more buyers meant lower or flat rents and more vacancy in rental buildings. Once the economy started to soften at the end of 2007 and then drastically so in 2008 and 2009, we saw rents decline even further. The other item to remember is during the 2000s very little new construction apartment buildings were built. ALL developers were focused on condo buildings. In addition, some existing supply of apartment buildings were converted into condos (10 E. Ontario, 440 N. Wabash…think American Invsco and Crescent Heights). Now the year is the end of 2009 and 2010. People either 1) cannot afford to buy, 2) cannot get a mortgage or 3) are still hungover from the crash of the market and are afraid to buy. These people then are forced to rent. Remember what I just said about no new construction of apartment buildings in the past 10 years? Remember what I just said about apartment buildings converted into condos? Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened – supply on apartments were low but demand was now high. Home ownership was dropping for the first time in decades and therefore rents started spiking.

Rent prices in 2007 and 2008 were quite low in Chicago. The rent increases of 2009 and 2010 and even 2011 were simply making up for lost time. Recovering back to where they should have been had the mortgage market not been flooded with such toxic mortgages that ended up contributing to not only the decline in rental prices but the collapse of the entire financial system. But then something strange happened…rents continued to increase and developers took note. Developers could not get a construction loan to save their lives to build a condo building, but if they wanted to build a 500 unit apartment building backed by secure rents…it was like stealing candy from a baby. Financial institutions could not wait to lend money to developers and developers could not wait to get back in the game.

Why would developers want to become landlords you ask? Are they not in the condo game? Don’t they want to sell? Well, here is a secret – developers are not in the landlord business. They have ZERO interest in being so. Once developers saw the increase in rents and what institutional investors were paying for these apartment buildings they knew they could build a building, with cheap money, partially fill it and then sell it off. Guess what – that is what almost all have done in Chicago. EnV (161 W. Kinzie), 111 W. Wacker, North Water Apartments…just to name a few, were all flipped for a big profit. Developers simply went back to what they knew how to do: build and sell.

The Chicago market LOVED it. After all there had not been any high end rental buildings built in quite some time and renters craved new construction. Each building that opened up after the next had better amenities and better finishes. Renters hopped from building to building and had no problem paying the exorbitant rents. Prices were increasing double digits year after year. Then more developers rushed in and we are sitting where we are today. The question we must now ask ourselves is “Is this market sustainable?”

Is this market sustainable? That is a good question to ask don’t you think? This was a question asked to developers in 2005 in which nearly 100% responded with “Yes….” and then gave some bullshit answer derived from misconstrued facts and skewed data. But, what about now? Will we see a market crash in rentals like we did before? Well…lets check out some facts.

Here is a list provided by Appraisal Research Counselors of new rental units added in downtown Chicago. Keep in mind we are only talking about downtown Chicago and only talking about top tier buildings.

2013: 2,750 units     2014: 2,000 units    2015: 3,100 units and projected in 2016 an additional 3,500 units and in 20017 an additional 4,500. 

This is only downtown Chicago. This does not count north side markets and this certainly does not count any suburbs.

Rents have continued to increase even as new supply has come on the market. There are many reasons for this. Millennials continue to rent as opposed to buy. Baby boomers are coming into the city and renting second homes or selling their home in the burbs and making their rental in the city their primary residence. Job growth in Chicago is steady (it is doing well, but not amazingly well) and lets face it, people love new construction. Home ownership has declined back to 1999 levels in the city of Chicago as well. These are all great factors and reasons why the market has done well, but this is not the only data that we should consider. The most important item to consider is the following: VACANCY. Vacancy is the ultimate determining factor. During the real estate boom of the 2000s the major factor that would have let you known the market was cooling off way ahead of a decline in prices was market time and number of homes on the market. We saw market time increase and number of homes on the market start to increase 1 year before pricing actually peaked. 1 full year…it goes to show you how slow the real estate market is to react to change. There are many reasons for this but the main reason is because most investors and many of us brokers in sales love to have blinders on and simply focus on only the good and not the bad. No one likes the bear in the room.

So, here is a fun fact for you. Apartment occupancy rates on a national level decreased for the first time since 2009 last quarter. Specifically in Chicago Class A (top tier luxury rental buildings) occupancy rates went from 94.2% in the 3rd quarter of 2014 to 93.7% in 2015. This may not seem like much of a change, only half a percent but it is drastic. In 2006 for instance, due to many apartment buildings being converted to condos, occupancy was at 97%. In 2007 and 2008 we saw occupancy dip to 91%. We are really only dealing with a small percentage range of occupancy between the lowest occupancy we’ve seen in a while and the highest. Therefore, a half a percent year over year is something to take note of.

So we have looked at occupancy and we saw it decline a nominal amount. What else should we be considering? Well, let us consider new units projected. Perhaps, if not many new units are coming online then the market will be fine.

Well, in 2016 and 2017 a total of 8,000 new units will be coming to market. This is more than 2013, 2014, and 2015.

During this winter I’ve seen more buildings offer concessions than I have in several years. I’ve seen rent prices at some buildings in downtown down 20% from their summer prices PLUS 1 month or 2 month concessions offered. Some will say “but prices always decrease in the winter.” While this may be true; what I would like to note is the amount prices have decreased this winter is more than years prior and the level of concessions have increased more than years prior.

Continue to bear with me here!

Restaurant Theory:  Pretend a new hot restaurant has opened up. During the “Hot” time of 6:30pm to 9:30pm getting a table is impossible. But you really want to try this restaurant so you go at an off peak time, maybe 5pm or 4pm or 10pm. You walk in and you notice how crowded the restaurant is during that off-peak time. You think wow, this restaurant is doing very well! Once that restaurant starts to loose its luster and is no longer as desirable any more, the first sign would be 4pm diners will stop dining. People will no longer wait until 10pm to eat dinner or want to start at 4pm because either 1) They don’t feel that inconvenient time is worth it or 2) They’re able to snag  reservations during peak times. Now, if you were just looking at the number of tables full between 6:30pm and 9:30pm you might think that restaurant is doing very well. You might think that the sky is the limit and this restaurant needs to expand! But what you’ve failed to realize is that there is already a sign right in front of you that demand is starting to taper off and that would be the fact that less diners are there during the less desirable times. If you only looked at the peak times then your understanding of the restaurant would be mistaken.

Obviously the rental market is very different from the restaurant business, but basic observations of supply and demand can be looked at in the same way. It is important to understand the leading indicators in the rental market. These leading indicators are occupancy rates (vacancy rates) and rent prices and concessions during the slow months of the year.

My Thoughts

If you’ve made it this far thank you for reading through my long winded blog. I’ll keep my thoughts short. The rental market party is over, plain and simply. It may take another 3 quarters for us to start to see price adjustments in the downtown market, but we will see price adjustments eventually. As occupancy rates continue to slide, especially among buildings that are now owned by institutional investors, they will have no choice but to lower rents or increase concessions to attract renters. I believe this will be most prevalent at the end of 2016 / beginning of 2017 as we head into next winter and see the new 2016 supply hit the market. Overall, I do not see a CRASH in rental pricing, but I do see a decrease on the horizon and I would not be surprised if we see rents decrease in Class A buildings by 10% over the next 2 years.

Chicago Real Estate Market Update!

 Chicago Market Update

I am sure you have seen market updates in the news and in the paper over the past months speaking of the positive trends in the real estate market. While these market reports can be very valuable in understanding the current market conditions, however, I prefer to write my own to explain in my own words with regard to what is taking place in the current real estate market.

Buyers

Buyer traffic has increased dramatically not only for my own business but for that of my colleagues. When the market first started to stabilize we saw first time home buyers primarily driving the numbers up. However, in recent months we have seen an increase in second and third time buyers as well as those purchasing in-town and vacation properties in Chicago.

While individual markets within Chicago are highly localized with respect to demand levels, we have seen increased demand throughout Chicago’s most popular neighborhoods.

Inventory

Believe it or not the largest challenge currently facing the market place, from the Realtor perspective, is the lack of inventory. While great deals can still be had and property prices are phenomenally low, demand has gobbled up excess inventory in most markets. This decrease in supply levels has caused multiple offer situations and some properties to sell in excess of the list price.

Investors Getting Back Into the Market

We have seen a tremendous amount of investors get back into the housing market, which is more than likely due to the low return in other areas such as treasuries and equities. Foreclosed properties, particularly in the downtown market are often selling for well above list price and are receiving multiple offers within hours of hitting the market.  This has greatly helped the market overall as it has started to increase prices in some of Chicago’s most troubled buildings such as 10 E. Ontario, 440 N. Wabash, 345 N. LaSalle, etc.

We are even starting to see areas that were dramatically over built during the boom, such as the South Loop, regain excellent traction. Specific areas within the South Loop (short walking distance to Roosevelt & Michigan/State) have seen a great Increase in buyer demand. These buyers have depleted inventory in several of the South Loop’s most established buildings.

Sellers

Some seller’s are under the assumption that since the market is picking back up they can now obtain the price they paid years ago. This is definitely NOT the case. While the market has picked up significantly we are only seeing marginal increases in pricing at the current time.  While demand is strong it is not strong enough to sustain excess levels of price increase or interest rate increase.

Financing

Financing has eased slightly and is heading in the right direction but obtaining a mortgage still requires good qualification on the part of the borrower. We have, however, seen increased lending options for investors as well as owner occupants in “troubled” buildings. These financing options are definitely more expensive as the lender must take into account the increased risk, but we are starting to see a glimmer of hope for some buildings that were impossible to finance years ago.

Is it a Good Time to Buy?

It is actually a great time to buy! Currently this market requires patience, as inventory levels are low. The positive side is that interest rates and prices are still extremely low.  Builders are slowly starting to enter the market again and are delivering High Quality product that in 2007 would have cost anywhere from 20 to 50% more.

 

Rental Market

The rental market in Chicago remains strong and we have seen double digit rent increases over the past several years. As the job market recovers we are seeing increased demand for rental property as young professionals seek housing in the downtown market place. However, developers are quick to answer that call and currently have 15 high rises under construction in downtown Chicago which will add over 5,000 units to the market in the next year.

My concern for the rental market is with interest rates low and a stabilized housing market we will see a decrease in demand growth for rental property. While I do believe that rental demand will increase in the coming year it will do so at a slower pace than expected and I do believe that developers are outpacing demand with supply for 2014.

Rental Market in Chicago starting to slow?

Is the rental market in Chicago starting to slow? I have yet to run any statistical analysis from the MLS regarding rental data but my pulse on the market has accurate in the past and now I’m getting the feeling that the rental market is starting to slow. The fall is always a slower time to rent and December will be even slower than previous months, but I have noticed activity slow in the market place in comparison to last year.

While I have seen rental activity slow I have seen buyers come out of the woodwork, many of whom plan to buy this winter!

What do I believe is causing the slow down? I think we are seeing more renters turn into buyers. This is evident by inventory levels of homes for sale decreasing month after month in Chicago. The rental market slow down I speak of is only very minor. Prices are still at record highs and rentals are still renting quick but when I am starting to get the sense that rental prices are hitting a plateau. In Chicago we will see over 3,000 rental units hit the market in the coming year. While all these rental units target the class A downtown rental market (studios near 2,000/mo, 1 beds from 2,500, etc) other rental markets such as Lakeview, Lincoln Park, etc. can still feel the impact of increased inventory levels if a price war ensues downtown.