January Sales Sink in SoBay

As 2020 ended, it looked like the real estate industry here in the Los Angeles South Bay was going to run right through the pandemic with prices climbing the whole way! It didn’t happen. January put the brakes on sales across the board. Every area showed a drop in the number of sales, with Palos Verdes dropping the deepest at 40% below December’s transaction volume.

Along with a decline in the number of sales, The South Bay showed a 35% drop in sales dollars from December to January. Monthly statistics can be misleading though. With a year like 2020 we need to look at the wider perspective. On a year to year basis, we’re still riding high with a 33% increase across the area.

Keep in mind these are relatively small volumes of data, dealing only with the “hyper-local market” here in the South Bay, so some large percentile swings are unavoidable.

Month-to-Month

Month-to-Month sales volume indicates a general softening of the market with a significant drop in the number of purchases. In addition, the price side of the chart hints at a pending drop in prices.

Much is being said about the January sales decline, most of it anecdotal. There is a seemingly hopeful general consensus that a pandemic peak, combined with the political climate, were the main drivers keeping people from buying real estate. Theoretically, now that spring is in the air and “herd immunity” is in sight we might again see those scorching increases of last year.

The Beach cities showed a 12% decline in January sales prices compared to December, however we need to remember that December 2020 was a record month for median prices at the beach. In fact, for much of the year, high-end sales dominated the charts for Beach area sales.

There’s good reason to hope for stabilizing volume and pricing, though. Even at the comparatively modest 2% monthly increase we’re seeing in PV and the Inland areas, the annual increase is nearly 25%. That far exceeds the 2% annual increase the Federal Reserve Bank is targeting. These numbers are reminiscent of the lead-in to the Great Recession.

Year-to-Year

On the year over year side, things look somewhat different. In January of 2020, before the pandemic became front page news, overall sales volume was 13% higher than 2019. Building on that impressive growth, this January shows a similar 18% sales increase for the South Bay. The pandemic has taken a negative toll in many aspects of life, but real estate here in the South Bay is prospering throughout it all.

While the number of sales has increased over last January, price growth has been equally impressive. Beach areas and the Palos Verdes cities came in at 10% and 11% respectively. Boosted by the record low interest rates, the lower priced Harbor and Inland areas were up an even greater 14% and 15%. Recent inching up of the mortgage loan interest rates threatens to dampen sales as the least qualified buyers slip out of the market.

Beaches

We’ve looked to the Beach area more and more often in recent years as an early indicator of where the market is going. We do that because a large percentage of the transactions in the Beach cities are primarily for investment value as opposed to being simply homes. Right now it’s looking like investors are taking a pause. The coming three to six months should tell us how long it’ll be until they come back into the market.

Harbor

Long Beach, San Pedro, Harbor Gateway and similar locales have benefited greatly from the currently low interest rates. The month to month sales volume has had the least impact of the South Bay, with only a 25% decline compared to 30% across the board.

Similarly, prices have maintained nicely. Up 1% from December and up 14% from last January puts homes there in competition with the Inland cities for being the most marketable homes.

Palos Verdes

Prices are up 2% on the hill compared to December, and they’re up 11% over last January. A very respectable performance considering that month to month sales are off 40% and annual sales are only up by 5%.

It’s always important to note that homes on the peninsula are quite diverse in nature and in size, and the market is relatively small, so one or two transactions can distort statistics.

Inland

While the Beach cities are known to be havens for investment, the Harbor certainly has it’s own share of investment dollars. Many of the remodeled tract homes flying off the market in the Inland areas have already been purchased off-market by developers who refurbish and resell them. This has been especially prevalent over the past year as sales burgeoned in the entry level markets.

Despite dropping 35% from December, sales volume was up 24% over last January. At the same time there was a tidy 15% improvement in pricing over the same month last year.

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

Is 3D Printing the Future of Construction?

New York construction company SQ4D may have the latest and greatest in construction technology. They’ve used a giant 3D printer to print houses from the bottom up out of concrete, right on the site. Their first demo house, as a proof of ability, was in Calverston, New York. The next one is already up for sale, despite not having been built yet. The 1400 square foot house will be located in Riverhead, New York and is listed at $299,000.

This isn’t just some publicity stunt. 3D printing has some real benefits. Most notably, construction is significantly shorter. SQ4D’s first house took just eight days to build — and that includes the planning process. The actual construction? 48 hours. Making the process this quick must incur significant expenses, right? Well, no, it was actually cheaper according to SQ4D. The transportation and labor costs associated with traditional construction mean that 3D printing is about 30% less expensive. The new method has been met with some skepticism, though. No one is sure exactly how this will affect the construction industry, as skilled tradesmen may suddenly find themselves replaced with printers.

Photo by Mahrous Houses on Unsplash

More: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-tech-3d-printed-house-idUSKBN2AG2CA

2020/2021 Housing Summary & Forecast for the South Bay

The year 2020 was very nearly the least predictable time in local real estate history. Seriously, what other time have we experienced massive unemployment and rising home prices simultaneously? All indications suggest 2021 will be a tad more conventional.

Home Values Grew in 2020

Despite “turmoil” being the watchword of 2020, the year produced some remarkable results in the Los Angeles South Bay. The Beach cities recorded a 28% increase in median price for December compared to December 2019. The cost of building didn’t rise at that rate, so clearly there was a heavy investment in anticipated value. As the chart below shows, Even with all the up and down motion, during the final half of the year buyers & investors were betting heavily that things were headed for calmer, more profitable waters.

That activity was spread across the spectrum of prices, as you can see tracing the community lines shown above.

Note that May reflects the sudden market contraction from the Covid announcement the beginning of March. This is a rare moment when the chart shows how much delay there is between signing a purchase agreement, and closing escrow. In April, 30 days after the announcement of a Covid pandemic, escrows were starting to drop off and were at or slightly down from March closings. By May, 60 days later, the number of closed sales had fallen by ~50K units in each of the four market areas. It took the classic 45 day escrow period to show that the pandemic took away nearly 30% of the business in the local real estate market.

How Many Sales? Where? Why?

While the Beach and the Harbor areas fought it out for the highest total sales dollars throughout the year, the Harbor clearly enjoyed the highest number of units sold every month as we see in the chart below. While the number of sales climbed across the South Bay, at the end of the year it was the Harbor with the largest increase in sales. Starting 2020 with 315 sales in January, the number climbed consistently through the year to a strong finish with 476 in December.

Two factors play into the volume of Harbor area sales. Part is the sheer number of homes in what is physically a larger area. The more interesting aspect of Harbor area sales increasing while the rest are relatively flat is the reason.

Homes in the Harbor cities are lowest priced in the South Bay by about $100K. Interest rates are currently running below 3%, and it’s in the lowest price points of the market where low interest rates are most effective. The low rates mean more buyers can afford to purchase at the same price point, on the same income stream. The larger number of buyers competing creates multiple offers and drives the price higher, which is a major factor pushing the market today. If we are to believe the Federal Reserve Bank, current interest rates are expected to remain historically low for the foreseeable future. The demand should hang around for just about as long.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

In the chart below, it’s interesting to note that the Inland and Harbor cities progress across the months with stability and only a slight change from beginning to end. At the same time, the Beach and PV cities gyrate through the year, sometimes with $200K jumps from one month to the next. One is tempted to say it’s the comparative size of the market area, but the Inland cities have very nearly the same number of homes as the Beach cities.

This difference is often thought of as reflecting the nature of the home buyer in these communities. Looking at stereotypes, it’s easy to imagine an owner in Torrance or Long Beach, for example, who buys in their early twenties and doesn’t move again until retirement–very stable. In the Beach and PV price ranges, where a home is often considered more as an investment vehicle than a residence, it’s easy to see where market forces can result in sudden changes to where one lives.

Moving From 2020 to 2021

The beginning of 2021 marked the end of some of the more impactful aspects of 2020. A ferocious political battle is ended, and a new Federal administration looks inclined to use “all the available tools” to bring our collapsed economy back on line quickly. Time will tell how much that helps us here in the South Bay.

The ever-changing story of the international pandemic may be coming to an end with the approval of multiple vaccines for Covid-19. Rumors still abound as to the actual efficacy of the drugs, and rates of infection are still climbing dramatically, especially here in Los Angeles county. It will end, whether sooner or later. The big question today is if the price increases we’ve seen as a result of bidding wars will sustain as the pandemic eases and government assistance is strengthened.

Looking at December activity, we see big increases in sales volume for Month over Month (M-M) and Year over Year (Y-Y) statistics. A continuance of this trend could make 2021 an exceptional year for real estate in the South Bay.

Median prices show a large variation from area to area, and importantly show a slowdown in the climbing prices. Y-Y price growth was strong in December, reflecting the high demand at current interest rates. However, M-M prices predominantly showed a reversal in price growth. Some of the slowdown could be seasonal, but if you’ve been reading our blog posts you already know there’s a growing backlog of homes poised on the edge of foreclosure. The only thing preventing a mass of short sale and foreclosure properties on the market is the forbearance rules put in place to prevent a sudden jump in homelessness during the pandemic.

Beach

December activity in Beach cities showed insane growth for M-M and Y-Y sales, both in the the number of sales, and especially in the prices of sold homes.

As if annual growth of 28% in median price wasn’t crazy enough, look at that monthly increase of 18.2%! Annualized, that would be over 114% growth! Statistics with this much reach can only be attributed to a profound belief that prices will continue to increase at a similar rate. Or, continue until the property can be flipped, that is.

Palos Verdes

Palos Verdes in December was almost a reverse image of the Beach cities. The explosive growth in PV came in the number of home sales which shot up 18%, bringing the annual number to a phenomenal 42% growth in volume for the year.

Median prices in PV showed modest increases, ending the year only slightly higher than the Fed’s target growth rate. The shift from positive growth to shrinkage in December hints at an overall market trending toward lower median sales prices.

A side note: Homes on the hill have not maintained the “investment quality” image of those on the Beach. PV was once considered the place to buy a home from a prestige angle and from an investment perspective. New money moving into the Beach cities has diminished that role in recent years. I predict a rebirth of property values in the Palos Verdes cities over the next few years, which will make having a home on the peninsula key in local business and society.

Inland

For the most part, Inland homes are family homes. They are the places with hoops in the driveway and lemonade stands at the sidewalk. Investment here is a long term concept.

So, when we see over 20% M-M growth in number of homes sold accompanied by nearly 30% Y-Y, we’re seeing market movement rather than shifts in investment strategy. As it is throughout South Bay, the cause of that movement appears to be the sub-3% interest rate which enlarged the entry level market segment. More buyers flooding in created bidding wars and drove sales and prices higher.

Compared to last December, median prices in the Inland cities were up 5.5%, peaking at $733K. That’s a good healthy increase, only slightly above the expected Consumer Price Index (CPI) numbers. Caution though–the M-M median is down 2.3%. It could be a momentary blip; a result of the holiday season, or the Covid surge. That year end drop may also indicate that the $750K median from November is the market ceiling.

Harbor

In addition to the largest home sales volume in the South Bay, the Harbor area boasts the most entry level homes. There’s a good deal of lifestyle overlap with the Inland cities, to be sure. The Harbor dramatically displays the same message we see across most of the South Bay. Everything was going strong until December, then buyers put the brakes on.

Today’s environment in the Harbor points the direction to the future. Sales here had a stronger growth than the Inland cities over the months leading up to December, and show a more pronounced decline in December.

Some of the slowdown will ultimately prove to be driven by the holiday, and some the election, and some by the pandemic. Even then, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that some of the decline is a recession held back by a thin wall of regulations temporarily preventing foreclosure and eviction.

We can certainly hope for better news from the new year, but as of the end of 2020 many of our indicators are calling for a deeper recession in coming months. It’s possible. Somewhere in the range of 20%-40% of homeowners are in forbearance now, and a roughly equivalent number of tenants are building up deferred rent payments. If adequate measures are taken to protect both sides of the debt, all of this will amount to footnote in history. Otherwise, it’ll be the second worldwide recession in this generation.

Photo ‘Work From Home’ by Nelly Antoniadou on Unsplash

FHA Foreclosure Moratorium Gets An Extension

Foreclosure and eviction moratoriums for FHA-backed loans were previously set to expire December 31st, 2020. The FHA has now given them a two-month extension to February 28th, 2021. Borrowers will also be able to request initial forbearance through this date, potentially allowing them to remain in forbearance through February 2022. The moratorium applies only to legal occupants of single-family residences.

This extension means FHA moratoriums are extended beyond the FHFA moratoriums affecting those with loans backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Those were also recently extended, but only through January 31st, 2021. Of course, given how recent that extension was, it’s entirely possible FHFA borrowers will also get another extension in the future if needed.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

More: https://www.housingwire.com/articles/fha-extends-foreclosure-and-forbearance-policies-to-2021/

Neverland Ranch Has a New Owner

The Neverland Ranch, near Santa Barbara, California, is a 2700 acre property previously owned by Michael Jackson. The main residence is 12,500 square feet, and there is also a 3,700 square foot pool house as well as a movie theatre and dance studio. Neverland Ranch additionally features a train station, fire house, and barn. After attempting to list the property for $100 million in 2016 and then again for $67 million in 2017, the trust has now sold it for $22 million.

The new owner is billionaire Ron Burkle, co-founder of the investment firm Yucaipa Companies, who had been an associate of Michael Jackson. Also the controlling shareholder of Soho House, he had been searching for a new location for the members-only club. Burkle eventually concluded that Neverland Ranch was too remote for a new Soho House location, but decided to put in an offer anyway, and was successful.

Photo by Leon Seibert on Unsplash

More: https://apnews.com/article/entertainment-michael-jackson-california-ron-burkle-3ab4c8225d93ac0780aaafcbb2b10055

The Hong Kong Blue Refrigerator Project

In the neighborhood of Jordan in Hong Kong is a street called Woosung Street, popular for its restaurants. There is also a hockey academy there, as well as a sports foundation founded by Ahmen Khan. But Khan is doing something else to make people want to come to Woosung Street — he went to a nearby refuse collection site, picked up a refrigerator, painted it blue, and set it up just outside the hockey academy. The color isn’t important, though; what’s important is the sign reading “Give what you can give, take what you need to take.”

And that’s exactly what’s happening. The blue refrigerator project has gone viral, and people are visiting just to drop off food so that others can pick it up for free. The refrigerator is there 24 hours per day. Even though it’s a refrigerator, food isn’t the only thing people are picking up and dropping off. You’ll also find masks, cleaning supplies such as towels, and even clothing items such as socks.

Photo by Latrach Med Jamil on Unsplash
This photo does not depict the refrigerator described in this article.

More: https://apnews.com/article/international-news-hong-kong-coronavirus-pandemic-53cf19c0422259bf5a540196802d6bce

Prices Rise Despite Pandemic

Quite a year! Soon we’ll have to do a wrap-up on 2020. But, for today it’s going to be November 2020 versus last year, (November 2019) and versus last month (September 2020).

Let’s start with the big numbers. Over all, total sales in the Los Angeles South Bay for November came in at just shy of $880M, 9% off from September. One could easily consider that drop a seasonal variation as we move into the cold months.

Compared to November 2019, total sales dollars for the combined areas of the South Bay were up 25%. Much of that is making up for sales that didn’t happen during the confusion of the first shutdown this year. Now that things are more stable, we’re seeing a lot more come on the market. Nearly everything coming on the market is selling, and at good prices.

Harbor

The star of the month is the Harbor area with a 42% year over year improvement in sales dollars. Units sold were up 26% Y-Y and median sales price was up 13%. This is a big boost for the San Pedro-Carson-Long Beach area. The increased action and the increased price, outpaced the rest of the South Bay by huge margins.

Generally speaking, the Harbor cities have entry level homes. Those are being bid up dramatically by buyers who newly qualify for purchase loans because mortgage interest rates are now down in the 2-3% range. I suspect there are more than a couple of investors are mixed in there, too.

Palos Verdes

The Palos Verdes peninsula presents an anomaly this month. November compared to October universally shows a seasonal decline in the 1-10% range, but PV dropped 27% in dollar volume. Looking deeper we see the M-M median sales price has dropped by 13%, while neighboring areas have remained within 1-2% of last month’s median price. Monthly sales volume also plummeted by 15% versus an average of 4% down for other areas. Year over year values are all in line with the rest of the South Bay, by PV seems to be taking a beating from the pandemic.

Beaches

The Beach, by comparison to PV and the Harbor, had a boring November. Volume was down from October by 9% and median price off by 2%. Total dollar sales fell from October by 9%. All was well within seasonal expectations. Looking at 2020 over 2019, the number of sales was up 1% and median price was up 3%, leaving a tidy 11% increase in Y-Y total dollars sold.

Inland

Inland cities sales volume for November dropped off from last month by 3%. It should be noted that October volume was already down by 10% from September. Median sales price declined a mere 1%, while total sales dollars were off by 3%. Minor drops given seasonal impact. Looking back to last year, the Torrance-Gardena-Lomita area showed respectable middle-of-the-road growth. Sales volume was up 12% over 2019. Median price was up 10%. Those increases created a total sales dollar increase of 25% above last year.

Not bad for being in a pandemic. We’re left with two questions to look closely at for the year end report in January: “What’s happening with values on the Hill?” and “What and who is driving the 42% annual increase in sales dollars for the Harbor?” We’ll be back with more on that in our next post.

Not bad for being in a pandemic. Existence of a vaccine should relieve the fear keeping many people away from buying and selling during the coming months. The Federal Reserve Bank has indicated that interest rates will stay down for another 12-24 months. Everything points to a growing confidence over the winter and a booming market in the spring.

The High and the Low

The Los Angeles South Bay is a very diverse set of communities. To show you the breadth of that diversity, let’s take a quick look at the highest priced sale for November, versus the lowest priced sale.

On The Strand in Manhattan Beach a 6025 sq ft house on a double width lot of 6927sf sold for $17,750,000. The listing agent bills this property as a perfect opportunity to build a world class home of over 11,500sf of living space. The sold price per square foot of residence is $2,946.

On Ackerfield Ave in Long Beach a one bedroom one bathroom condo of 641sf sold for $205,000. Per the listing agent the home boasts a community pool and laundry facility, with one carport plus storage. The sold price represents a rate of $319 per square foot.

NASA Has Partnered With Brazil to Help Combat COVID

Earlier this year, in April, NASA announced development of Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally (VITAL), a ventilator designed specifically with COVID-19 in mind. Existing ventilators have more general use cases, but are more expensive and more difficult to build. Currently, 28 manufacturers are licensed to build VITAL, with models variably either pneumatic or using compressed air. In August, one such manufacturer, Russer, has gained approval for its pneumatic model from Anvisa, which is Brazil’s equivalent of the FDA. Nonprofit research organization CIMATEC in Brazil helped develop the Brazilian model. Leone Andrade, the Director of CIMATEC, says that VITAL can also help boost Brazilian industry in addition to helping combat the pandemic.

Photo by Laurel and Michael Evans on Unsplash

More: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7733&utm_source=iContact&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=nasajpl&utm_content=daily-20200824-1

Apartment Conversions Will Become More Common

It’s no secret that California has a shortage of affordable housing, and the diminishing construction rates definitely aren’t helping. Fortunately, there’s a rising statistic that isn’t captured in construction rates — conversions. Various types of commercial structures have been being converted into apartments over the past three decades. In the 90s, the most common type was hotels, followed by factories in the 2000s then offices in the 2010s. Now it seems we’re likely to circle back to hotels, which are experiencing extraordinarily high vacancy rates as travel has decreased during the lockdowns and recession. Hotels are also the best target for conversion to affordable housing because they generally produce lower tier apartments. We shouldn’t discount office conversions, either. As businesses are transitioning to partial or full work-from-home models, less office space is required and businesses will be looking for mixed-use structures.

Photo by Rika Sato on Unsplash

More: https://journal.firsttuesday.us/apartment-conversions-add-to-rental-inventory/75350/

Federal Foreclosure Moratorium Gets a Short Extension

Here in California, the foreclosure moratorium is set to end in February. The federal government has now caught up with California, with the FHFA extending the federal moratorium through January 31, 2021. It was previously set to expire at the end of December. The FHFA will be keeping tabs on what’s happening and continue to provide extensions as needed.

More than 28 million homeowners in the US have an Enterprise-backed mortgage, so the hope is that this extension helps a lot of people. FHFA Director Mark Calabria wanted to make sure borrowers had peace of mind during the pandemic. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are expected to incur between $1.1 billion and $1.7 billion in additional expenses between now and January 31, in addition to the approximately $6 billion they’ve already incurred during the moratorium.

Photo by Eliza Diamond on Unsplash

More: https://www.fhfa.gov/Media/PublicAffairs/Pages/FHFA-Extends-Foreclosure-and-REO-Eviction-Moratoriums-12022020.aspx