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Home Flippers Using Cash Exceed Pre-Recession Levels: RealtyTrac

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(Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on ThinkAdvisor sister publication

The percentage of home flippers buying with cash and buying distressed homes is greater now than it was 10 years ago, RealtyTrac’s VP Daren Blomquist tells As GlobeSt. recently reported, the firm has released a report showing that 6.6% of all single family home and condo sales in the first quarter of 2016 were flips, a 20% increase from the previous quarter and up 3% from a year ago to the highest rate of home flips since the first quarter of 2014. GlobeSt. spoke with Blomquist exclusively about the increase in all-cash-buying and distressed-home flippers today versus 2006. How does today’s home flippers’ mentality differ from that of pre-recession?

Blomquist: Two big differences. First is that a much higher percentage are buying with cash the homes they eventually flip: 71.1% for homes flipped in Q1 2016 versus 36.6% in Q1 2006 prior to the recession and at the peak of flipping activity. This is a good sign for the health of the housing market because flippers using their own cash (or the cash of friends and family) are much more likely to behave more rationally and conservatively than flippers using a loan that they can walk away from without any risk of losing a place to live.

Second difference is that a much higher percentage are buying distressed homes now compared to 10 years ago: 21.1% of homes flipped in Q1 2016 were purchased by the flipper as a bank-owned (REO) home compared to only 8.6% for homes flipped in Q1 2006. This is also a healthy sign since it indicates flippers are taking on the properties that are most likely in poor condition and that other buyers are less likely to be interested in and then adding value to those home through rehab. During the pre-recession flipping boom, many flippers were just buying regular, non-distressed properties at full market value and then just riding the coattails of home-price appreciation to get their profit rather than adding any real value to the home. What factors are leading home-flipping purchases to be mostly cash vs. pre-recession home-flipping purchases, which were more highly leveraged?

Blomquist: Tighter lending requirements and regulation are the primary reasons. While there is nascent industry of non-bank lenders such as hedge funds offering loans to investors that are outside of the Dodd-Frank rules, this new breed of lender has not yet gained a large market share—which I guess is good news for them. Lastly, with interest rates so low, there is a lot of private capital domestically and internationally looking for good returns, and flipping real estate is still offering good returns. That makes it fairly easy for flippers to raise money from friends and family. How do lenders view home-flipping mortgages today vs. the peak?

Blomquist: Traditional bank lenders view these mortgages with much more scrutiny since they are higher risk given the non-owner occupied status; however, this new breed of lender backed by private equity and hedge funds is more willing to take on the risk because many of them are also in the business of building a portfolio of rental properties. If the loan goes bad they are happy to take back the property (which they vetted upfront before approving the loan) and add to their portfolio of rentals—or flip themselves if that is a better option. What else should our readers know about home flipping this time around?

Blomquist: While flippers appear to still be behaving rationally in most markets, too much flipping is still unhealthy for a market, and we are starting to see an increasing number of markets that are reaching new highs for flipping rates or hitting nine- or 10-year highs for flipping rates, which is an indication that those markets are at risk for overheating given the disproportionate share of home flips.

(Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on ThinkAdvisor sister publication


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