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Collapse of the Real-Estate “Tech” IPO & SPAC Stocks: House Flippers Opendoor & Redfin Come Unglued, after Zillow – WOLF STREET

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“Tech” real-estate broker Compass and “tech” renters-insurance-seller Lemonade collapsed too. All eyes on “tech” mortgage-broker Better.com’s delayed SPAC deal. I can’t wait.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Even on Glorious Friday, the second day of a big rally after five days of sharp declines, the shares of a real-estate “tech” stock, house-flipper Opendoor, collapsed 23%, after having already collapsed in the months before.

Opendoor Technologies [OPEN], on Thursday evening, had reported a loss of $191 million for Q4, which brought its net loss for the year 2021 to $662 million, which brought its total losses for the four years that have been publicly disclosed to $1.5 billion. How can a house flipper lose $1.5 billion in four years? I don’t know either. But it isn’t over yet. And the company ended the year with an inventory of 17,009 unsold houses.

Opendoor went public in December 2020, at the IPO price of $31.47 amid enormous hoopla. By February 2021, shares had reached $39. If “February 2021” sounds familiar, it’s because that’s the month the stock market started coming unglued beneath the surface as highfliers started collapsing one at a time, each on its own schedule. The damage was such that I started reporting on it in May 2021. And this is just another chapter as it just keeps getting worse. On Friday, she shares closed at $8.44, down 78% from the February 2021 peak and 73% below its IPO price (data via YCharts):

Opendoor reported that it purchased 36,908 houses in 2021 but sold only 21,725 houses (for $8 billion) during the year, leaving it with 17,009 unsold homes ($6.1 billion) in inventory.

Opendoor financed this inventory with $6.1 billion in “non-recourse” debt backed by its houses. Non-recourse means if Opendoor defaults, its lenders get the house and cannot go after Opendoor’s other assets. If Opendoor cannot sell those homes and pay off the debt with the proceeds, it can hand the properties to the lenders and let them worry about selling the homes.

In addition, Opendoor was under contract to purchase 5,411 more homes for $1.9 billion.

About two-thirds of these 17,009 homes are finished and ready for resale. About one-third (about 5,500 homes) are “work-in-process” and are not for sale. Any of these 17,000 homes that haven’t been listed for sale, including all of the 5,500 homes that are work-in-process, are in the unknown pile of vacant homes that don’t show up in the official “supply” of homes and that don’t show up as vacant homes either.

Zillow did the same thing with a big portion of its 7,000 homes that were stuck in the pipeline before it quit the business last November and sold those homes mostly to institutional investors, who’re now trying to figure out what to do with them. These homes that are stuck in the house-flipper pipeline and that are shuffled around are vacant, but don’t show up as vacant, and they are not for sale, and don’t show up as “supply.”

House-flipping is easy – the first part, buying the house, when money is no objective, and your algo can spend as much as it wants. The rest is hard, and making money at it is even harder, especially if you overpaid in the first place. The activity is not suited for people who write algos, it turns out.

Redfin, originally an online real estate broker, also rode up the algo-based house-flipper craze starting in 2020. And its shares [RDFN] rocketed higher amid endless hoopla by the crazed crowd of stock jockeys and hit a high of $98.44 in February 2021 – yup, that February again.

Then shares began their long collapse. On Friday, they closed at $21.83, having collapsed by 78% in one year. They’re now below where they’d been after the first day of trading following its IPO in July 2017:

Zillow [ZG] had a brief respite in its collapse when it announced on February 10 that it lost $881 million in 2021 on its home-flipping escapade, which came unglued in November 2021, when it disclosed that it would lay off 25% of its staff and get out of the house-flipping business, and dump the 7,000 homes it had bought.

Later it disclosed that it had sold most of these houses to institutional investors – rather than to people who might have wanted to live in them. Until those vacant houses are listed for sale they don’t show up in the official “supply,” and many of them may eventually show up on the rental market. And while all this is going on as they’re being shuffled around, they don’t show up as vacant either.

The $881 million loss was less than feared, and shares bounced magically over the following three trading days, but have since then given up a portion of it. On Friday, shares closed at $57.95, down 73% from their high a year ago, and about level with where they’d been in February 2020 before the crash:

Compass, a real-estate broker that calls itself “a tech company reinventing the space,” is one of those examples – one of very many – when you realize something is seriously wrong with Wall Street. But OK, people have fun with their trading apps, and if they get cleaned out, so be it.

Compass grew by using Softbank’s money, and the money of other investors, to buy up real estate brokerages around the country. Over the five years of publicly disclosed financial statements, Compass has lost $1.44 billion. How can a real estate broker in the red-hottest no-questions-asked housing market lose $1.44 billion? That was a rhetorical question.

Compass shares [COMP] peaked on their first day of trading, following the IPO in April last year, at $22.11 and have declined ever since. On Friday, they closed at $7.65, having plunged 65% in 10 months since the high on the first day of trading, and are now 58% below the IPO price of $18 a share:

Lemonade [LMND], which is hyped as an “insurance tech company” and sells insurance for renters, homeowners, pet owners, etc., went public in July 2020 at $29 a share and in the first day of trading, amid immense hoopla, spiked 139%. It then continued spiking until it reached $182 in January 2021. And then came said February 2021, when this whole show started unraveling.

On Friday, shares closed at $23.48, down 83% from the high, and 19% below the IPO price at which the shares never even traded because the first trade was at $50 a share, causing the tech stock pundits to lament how the company “mispriced” the IPO and how much money it “left on the table.” Yup, that’s how crazy this show was at the time.

Waiting for a share-price collapse is Better.com, a “tech” mortgage lender, backed by Softbank. It’s not yet a publicly traded stock because its merger with a SPAC was postponed in December 2021 after the CEO fired 900 employees, most of them in India, via a Zoom meeting that went viral, that idiot.

With the SPAC merger, and therefore the inflow of cash, having been delayed, the company raised $750 million from Softbank and its SPAC backers because, you know, these kinds of companies constantly burn large amounts of cash and constantly need new cash to burn.

So I’m looking forward to the moment the stock finally starts trading so I can add it to this list of collapsing real-estate “tech” stocks. This should be a goodie. So let’s hope that the merger with the SPAC goes through.

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No trend detected in latest real estate data – Whitehorse Star

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For the first time in approximately a year, the average price of a house in Whitehorse has declined.

By Tim Giilck on May 25, 2022

For the first time in approximately a year, the average price of a house in Whitehorse has declined.

The real estate market has been on fire in recent months, with steadily-increasing prices.

In the last report from the Yukon Board of Statistics covering the last three months of 2021, the average house price in the city was $647,000. That represented an increase of $48,600, or 8.1 per cent from the fourth quarter of 2020.

The bureau released its latest report on Tuesday. It shows the average sale price of a single-detached house in Whitehorse was $637,300, lower than the end of 2021 but a rise of $46,700, or 7.9 per cent, from the first quarter of 2021.

In the first quarter of 2022, the total value of real estate transactions in Yukon was $81.4 million, with $70.8 million in Whitehorse and $10.6 million for the rest of Yukon.

It’s a decline of nearly $10,000 from the end-of-year report the bureau issued in March.

The average condo sale price in Whitehorse was $419,900, a decrease of $60,100, or 12.5 per cent, from the first quarter of 2021.

However, Marc Perrault, the president of the Yukon Real Estate Association, cautions people not to read too much into those numbers if they’re thinking the bubble has burst on the property market in the territory.

The first quarter of any year is usually the slowest for real estate sales, he told the Star today.

Coupled with concerns about inflation, Perrault said, he thought that was likely the reason for the dip in market values.

Perrault said he would have to see the trend continue for a year before he would become concerned about it.

The only thing that would change his mind would be other major signals of an economic slowdown, and that’s unlikely in the Yukon.

The market and economy here are very stable, he suggested, because it’s a government-based system which prevents most wild swings and
adjustments.

People are still immigrating into the territory to take advantage of its robust economy and growing public service, as well as other opportunities, Perrault said.

He doesn’t see that changing anytime soon.

“Demand is still greater than supply,” he noted.

The only category to show record-breaking growth was the mobile-home market. It hit a record high of $467,300.

A total of 54 single-detached houses were sold during the first quarter, an increase of 19 compared to the first quarter of 2021.

There were 49 condo sales, an increase of 27 compared to the first quarter of 2021.

The average condo price was $419,900, a decrease of $60,100, or 12.5 per cent, compared to the first quarter of 2021 ($479,900).

Four mobile homes were sold at an average price of $467,300.

Seven duplexes changed hands at an average price of $471,600.

Seven commercial properties were sold at a value totalling $6.9 million

In Whitehorse, a total of 130 real estate transactions was recorded in the first quarter of 2022, a rise of 46 compared to the first quarter of 2021. Over the previous five years, the first quarter average number of sales was 100.

Thirty homes sold in Whistle Bend during the period, with a total value of $18.5 million. It was the busiest neighbourhood in the city.

Copper Ridge saw eight properties sell at a total value of $5.3 million.

Porter Creek was the next-highest, with seven properties selling for $4.4 million.

The report showed that, excluding country residential properties, which typically sell for much higher prices than other single-detached houses, the average price in Whitehorse was $626,200 in the first quarter of 2022.

That compared to $632,100 in the fourth quarter of 2021 and $580,500 in the first quarter of 2021.

In Whitehorse, the median price of single-detached houses in the first quarter of 2022 was $620,500. That means the prices of half the houses sold were above this figure and the remaining half, below.

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B.C. Real Estate: Five homes for sale under $200000 – Vancouver Sun

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Trail, Port Hardy, Richmond and Tumbler Ridge among communities with homes in this price range

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According to a report released by a U.S.-based property management software company, around 10 per cent of all active home listings in Canada right now are priced at less than $200,000.

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There are no listings for less than $200,000 in the Lower Mainland (except in Richmond).

Here are five residential properties in B.C. that are for sale at less than $200,000.


Richmond 106/7240 Lindsay Road

The living room of a Richmond apartment priced at $199,000.
The living room of a Richmond apartment priced at $199,000. Photo by zealty.ca

This 630 square foot apartment is almost 50 years old and has a monthly maintenance fee of $460.

It is on the ground level and a key reason that it is priced at $199,000 is because it is built on leased land. The lease is prepaid until 2087.


Sonora Island Lot 30 Owen Bay

Sonora Island
Sonora Island Photo by Zealty.ca

This 1.26 acre lot comes with a small older cabin that is livable and is priced at $129,000. It has solar and wind power. There is a dock a ten-minute walk away.

Sonara Island is one of the Discovery Islands where Johnstone Strait joins the Georgia Strait.

The closest large community is Campbell River on Vancouver Island. Sonora Island is not serviced by B.C. Ferries.

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Port Hardy 7/7077 Highland Drive

An apartment in Port Hardy that is listed at $169,000.
An apartment in Port Hardy that is listed at $169,000. Photo by Zealty.ca

There are four apartments in different locations within Port Hardy on the top end of Vancouver that are priced at less than $200,000.

This one has two bedrooms and has been updated with new laminate floors and is south facing. It is priced at $169,000.

As a base for ferries to Prince Rupert, Port Hardy sees a lot of tourists in the summer.


Trail 2075 Topping Street

The view from a home in Trail, B.C., that is priced at $199,000.
The view from a home in Trail, B.C., that is priced at $199,000. Photo by Zealty.ca

Trail, the site of Teck Resources zinc and lead smelting and refining complex, was a decade ago a place you could buy a home for $50,000.

It’s now a place where you can get a detached home for less than $200,000. Despite the smelter that looms over the city, Trail is close to excellent skiing and recreation.

This 1,300 square-foot home has views of the Columbia River with a serviceable kitchen and even has a new washer-dryer. It is priced at $199,000.

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Tumbler Ridge 103 Ash Crescent

This home in Tumbler Ridge is for sale at $183,000 and has been on the market for two years.
This home in Tumbler Ridge is for sale at $183,000 and has been on the market for two years. Photo by Zealty.ca

Tumbler Ridge in the Peace River region was built from scratch in the early 1980s to create a community for coal mining companies in the area.

As a result, it’s a lovely town that’s well laid out and has great amenities. It is, however, beholden to coal demand, that has led to a slump in real estate prices.

With an asking price of $183,000, this 2,100 square foot home is on a large corner lot. It has three bedrooms and comes with a new furnace. It has been on the market for over two years.


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Quit judging people who bought houses at the peak of the real estate market and overpaid – The Globe and Mail

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A sale sign in Toronto in May, 2021. The national average resale house price peaked at $816,720 in February and has since come down to $746,146 in April.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

The most positive financial development of 2022 so far is the end of the housing frenzy.

House prices went up too much, too fast. A lot of money has been made in real estate and a lot of economic activity generated, but we need a pullback to restore a degree of economic rationality.

Expect some ugliness as we make the transition from boom to whatever lies ahead for housing – stagnation, mild decline or bust. Canadians have so much invested in housing, both financially and emotionally. Seeing housing deflate will not bring out the good in people.

A prediction on the first to be judged: people who bought at the top of the market. Already, we have the phrase “buyer’s regret” making the rounds in media stories.

Stress Test podcast: Young Canadians on trying to buy in a wild real estate market

With rising interest rates, large mortgage payments are a new hurdle for homebuyers

The national average resale house price peaked at $816,720 in February and has since come down to $746,146 in April. Average prices last month were more than 50 per cent higher than the same time in 2020 and up 7.4 per cent over April, 2021. But housing has sprung a leak for sure. Economists say a price decline of as much as 10 per cent to 20 per cent is possible.

As recently as a month or two ago, we lived in a bid-till-you-bleed real estate market. Prices kept rising no matter how much people paid, so no deal was a bad deal if it got you into the market.

This was intergenerational thinking, not the whim of an inexperienced young generation trying to get into the housing market. Consider all the parental money that went into building down payments for first-time buyers. A CIBC Economics study last fall said almost 30 per cent of first-time buyers got down payment money from parents, and these gifts averaged $82,000 in value.

The home ownership imperative was also fuelled by the evolution of houses into a commodity to invest in, such as oil, metals or gold. In this financialization of housing, investment companies bought houses to rent out and new ventures emerged to allow people to buy fractional shares in houses and buildings.

Housing hardly needed a cheerleading section, but it had one in a real estate industry that was masterly in how it explained away the fundamental problem of house prices rising far ahead of incomes. Immigration justified prices. A lack of supply was the problem. The same goes for red tape holding up construction of new housing.

In Canada, every social cue tells young people to buy a house. Your parents don’t want you to miss out, your friends are buying and Instagramming their new lives and renters are maligned as patsies paying their landlord’s mortgage. In fact, renters pay a legitimate cost for shelter and save a bundle by not owning, money they can use to invest.

Excitement about housing used to be a Toronto and Vancouver thing. The mania later spread to places located within commuting distance of these urban centres and, in the COVID-19 pandemic, to far-flung communities that offered bigger houses for less money. A national consensus emerged: Housing was an unstoppable force. If you could afford to buy, you pushed until you scored a house.

Skeptical voices on housing spoke out along the way, some of them in the real estate business. But house prices steamrolled everyone and everything in their path, including a global pandemic. It sure looked like housing was an exception to the gravitational law of investing, which says everything that goes up in price must come down at some point.

Housing fought the law, and the law won. Now, what?

A few points for all to consider:

  • Rising interest rates make it more expensive to buy a house now compared with earlier this year, even as prices fall.
  • Immigration levels will help sustain demand for housing.
  • Labour shortages will restrain construction of new housing to satisfy this demand.
  • Staying five to 10 years in a house puts you in a position to see any near-term price declines turn into the next leg up for housing.
  • Buying a house you could afford at peak price levels was only a mistake if you planned to flip it.

House prices coming down is good for the country. It doesn’t have to be bad for recent buyers.

Are you a young Canadian with money on your mind? To set yourself up for success and steer clear of costly mistakes, listen to our award-winning Stress Test podcast.

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