'The Fed screwed up': Real estate billionaire Sam Zell just warned that hot inflation isn't going away anytime soon … – Yahoo Finance
With headline inflation figures coming down and a strong labor market, some say that the U.S. economy could be on its way back up.
But billionaire investor Sam Zell does not share that optimism.
“When you spread out free money for years at a time, you create significant drag, and I just don’t see how we are going to avoid a slowdown as that whole process comes to an end,” he says in a recent interview with CNBC.
According to Zell, the problem lies with the U.S. Federal Reserve’s easy money policies.
“I think the Fed screwed up by allowing zero interest rates to go on too long, I think we are just beginning to pay the price for that,” Zell points out. “It would be nice to say that it would be great if the Fed got lucky. I’ve been around for 50 years and I’ve never seen the Fed get lucky.”
To be sure, consumer prices in the U.S. rose 6.5% from a year ago in January 2023 — down from their peak 9.1% increase in June 2022. But inflation remains a big concern for Zell.
“Is the definition of coming down going from 9[%] to 6[%]?” Zell asks. “The point is 6[%] is a serious problem.”
And while some believe it’s time to get ready for disinflation, Zell believes that price levels could stay elevated.
“Preparing for disinflation would be a very optimistic thing to do at this point. It’s going to take a while for the inflation pressures to ease, and I think that’s what we have to look forward to.”
If you share Zell’s view, here’s a look at three assets that can help investors fight inflation.
Zell made billions in real estate. And it just so happens that real estate can be a great hedge against inflation.
As the price of raw materials and labor goes up, new properties are more expensive to build. And that drives up the price of existing real estate.
Of course, the Fed has been raising interest rates to tame inflation, and that means mortgage rates have gone up as well. So shouldn’t that be bad for the real estate market?
While it’s true that mortgage payments have been on the rise, real estate has actually demonstrated its resilience in times of rising interest rates according to investment management company Invesco.
“Between 1978 and 2021 there were 10 distinct years where the Federal Funds rate increased,” Invesco says. “Within these 10 identified years, US private real estate outperformed equities and bonds seven times and US public real estate outperformed six times.”
Well-chosen properties can provide more than just price appreciation. Investors also get to earn a steady stream of rental income.
Of course, given the uncertainty ahead, you’d want to rent to high-quality tenants.
The good news? Some real estate investment trusts (REITs) have very high-quality tenants — including the U.S. government. Meanwhile, there are crowdfunding platforms that let you invest in grocery store-anchored properties, which tend to be resilient throughout economic cycles.
Read more: Here’s how much money the average middle-class American household makes — how do you stack up?
It’s easy to see why art pieces often fetch new highs at auctions: The supply of the best works of art is limited, and many paintings have already been bought by museums and collectors.
Contemporary artwork has outperformed the S&P 500 by a commanding 174% over the past 25 years, according to the Citi Global Art Market chart.
Artwork is becoming a popular way to diversify because it’s a “real” physical asset with little correlation to the stock market.
According to Deloitte’s Art & Finance Report, 85% of wealth managers in 2021 believed art should be included as part of a wealth management service.
It’s true that investing in fine art by the likes of Banksy and Andy Warhol used to be an option only for the ultra-rich. But with a new investing platform, you can invest in iconic artworks too, just like Jeff Bezos and Peggy Guggenheim.
People have been consuming wine for thousands of years. While most collect wine for enjoyment rather than investment, bottles of fine wine become rarer and potentially more valuable as time goes by.
Since 2005, Sotheby’s Fine Wine Index has gone up 316%.
As a real asset, fine wine can also provide the diversification you need to protect your portfolio against the volatile effects of inflation and recession.
You can invest in wine by purchasing individual bottles — but you’ll need a place to store them properly. Residential wine cellars often cost tens of thousands of dollars. If not stored at the right temperature or humidity, the bottle could be compromised.
That’s one of the reasons why investing in fine wine used to be an option only for the ultra-rich. But new platforms allow you to invest in investment-grade wine too, just like Bill Koch and LeBron James.
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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.
Build Rentals/Apartments: Ownership is a Privilege and Not A Right
The availability of apartments and units that can be rented is staggeringly low. Because vacancy is so tight, competition in the open market has intensified, lifting rental prices along the way. In Canada, rent for a two-bedroom unit rose 5.6% in 2022. Some of the highest rental prices were recorded in Ottawa-Gatineau at 9.1%, Toronto at 6.5%, and Calgary at 6%.
Less housing stocks, higher prices. The marketplace and our elected officials all knew this would happen. Real Estate Agencies and land developers all but jumped for joy at the prospect of selling homes that sold for $350,000 a few years ago, and are now selling for 3X the amount. Bidding wars drive prices higher and higher. Developers who make a home at @$195,000 cost sell these homes as affordable within the 650-1M range.
So much for independent home units. What about apartment buildings? Are they being built? In Quebec they are but not in the # needed. Europeans are comfortable with renting an apartment for decades, but not so in the rest of Canada. Status, and keeping up with the “joneses” have been all the rage. First-time home buyers will spend decades gathering enough funds to make an initial deposit if the bank so allows it. Why do developers not build rental units/apartments? Well, developers would need to look upon such builds as long-term investments, waiting some time to get back their costs and make some profit. Building other types of homes guarantee them immediate compensation, gratifying their profiteering.
Why do regional, City, and Provincial Governments prefer housing builds of larger houses? The revenue they make of course. Even Premier Ford’s push to have 50,000 houses built in a few years centers upon individual homes being sold, not rented(aftermarket). Has our economic system forgotten the small fry, the average Canadian who does not make a salary over $100,000 annually? Yes, it has, and the reason for this forgetfulness is that the wealthy and mid-level middle class hold greater influence on these elected officials. They are the same people, while the dirty unwashed working stiff has very little in common with real estate agents, developers, and elected officials too. A true class system with regard to housing exists in Ontario and Canada. Are the New Democrats crying out loud for reforming this system? No, they are not. They want to represent the higher-ups. those with excess revenue and economic purchasing power.
Rental Units are Needed Stupids. A housing revolution is needed not just in Ontario but across this land. Why won’t the government put its hands into the direct building of these units? They have the funds, and the regulations to make sure these units are made appropriately and in a timely manner. The very power of the elite, real estate, and developers lobby will always sway our elected officials away from competing with these financial aggressors. In 2016 548 formers members of a government in Canada registered as lobbyists, often representing the wishes of those who once were their suppliers(developers). What am I saying? Perhaps many of our elected representatives have been padding their pocketbooks and ensuring their future careers in well-paid jobs. Corruption? Find out how much an MPP or MP was worth when they started their position, and after 4-5 years what are they worth???
Only the average Canadian, worker, student, or elderly who cares about their children’s future, can force this issue before the politicians in Ottawa, Toronto, and through out Canada. Protests like those that happened in Ottawa last spring could really change the way our representatives represent us. A wee Revolution we need indeed.
Housing and shelter are human rights. Right? So get off your couch and gather with like-minded neighbors to demand real affordable housing, and build nonprofit apartments too.
Homebuyers move swiftly to ‘lock in a good deal now’: Mortgage rates continue to melt as economists dream of a real estate ‘rebound’ in spring
Mortgage rates are still falling as the Fed announced another quarter-point rate hike on Wednesday — and indicated increases may be nearing their long-awaited end.
In the meanwhile, the homebuyer front is seeing “improved purchase demand and stabilizing home prices,” says Freddie Mac chief economist Sam Khater.
“If mortgage rates continue to slide over the next few weeks, look for a continued rebound during the first weeks of the spring homebuying season.”
Khater and other experts are anticipating more buyers will return to the market as rates become more affordable. However, that doesn’t mean housing prices are going to subside anytime soon.
30-year fixed-rate mortgages
The average 30-year fixed rate slid further to 6.42% this week, compared to last week’s average of 6.60%.
A year ago at this time, a 30-year home loan averaged 4.42%.
“With rates below 6.5%, more Americans can purchase the median-price home by putting 18% down without being cost-burdened,” says Nadia Evangelou, senior economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Evangelou anticipates the housing market to rebound even faster than expected if mortgage rates continue their decline this spring.
15-year fixed-rate mortgage rate trend
The average rate on a 15-year home loan tumbled from 5.90% to 5.68% this week. This time a year ago, the 15-year fixed-rate averaged 3.63%.
Hannah Jones, economic research analyst at Realtor.com, notes that despite the Fed’s softened stance on additional rate hikes, the federal funds rate will still remain fairly high — “meaning that a higher interest rate environment is here to stay for the time being, including for home loans.”
Jones says that while buyer demand is increasing due to slightly lower financing costs, many Americans are still grappling with affordability challenges.
“At the current price and mortgage rate level, the typical housing payment on a median-priced home is still 36.4% higher than one year ago.”
U.S. home sales pick up in February
There was an unexpected uptick in new home sales in February, inching 1.1% from January to an annual pace of 640,000 new home sales, reports Realtor.com. This is still 19% lower compared to the housing market a year ago, but sales may continue to rise as mortgage rates fall.
“Higher mortgage rates are the new normal, which leaves home shoppers measuring their willingness to participate in the market with each change in rates,” writes Jones.
She adds that sales activity is becoming increasingly concentrated toward new homes that haven’t been started yet — making up about 23% of new home sales in February, compared to 17% in January — suggesting that “buyers are looking to lock in a good deal now, before construction has started.”
Although lower mortgage rates signal increased affordability, the median new home sale price climbed to $438,200 last month — 2.5% higher than the same period last year.
“As long as the housing market remains undersupplied, buyer competition will put upward pressure on prices,” explains Jones.
Mortgage applications continue to rise
Demand for mortgages rose 3% from last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).
Homeowners have also been more encouraged to refinance — thanks to lower rates — with the refinance index climbing 5% since the week prior.
“Both purchase and refinance applications increased for the third week in a row as borrowers took the opportunity to act, even though overall application volume remains at relatively low levels,” says Joel Kan, vice president and deputy chief economist at the MBA.
Kan notes that mortgage rates haven’t plunged as drastically as Treasury rates due to increased volatility in the mortgage-backed securities market.
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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.
Commercial real estate is in trouble. A banking crisis will make it worse.
If there is anything commercial real estate owners don’t need right now, it’s a banking crisis.
Big owners of property around the country were already under pressure from the Federal Reserve’s aggressive campaign to raise interest rates, which raised borrowing costs and lowered building values. They also had lots of space still sitting empty in city centers as a result of more hybrid and remote work arrangements resulting from the pandemic.
Now they face the prospect that beleaguered banks, especially smaller ones, could get more aggressive with lending arrangements, giving landlords even less room to breathe as they try to refinance a mountain of loans coming due. This year, roughly $270 billion in commercial mortgages held by banks are set to expire, according to Trepp, and $1.4 trillion over the next five years.
“There were already liquidity issues. There were fewer deals getting done,” Xander Snyder, First American senior commercial real estate economist, told Yahoo Finance in an interview. “Access to capital was getting scarcer, and this banking crisis is almost certainly gonna compound that.”
Most of the banks that hold commercial real estate mortgages are small to mid-sized institutions that are experiencing the most pressure during the current crisis, which began this month with the high-profile failures of regional lenders Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. The pressure on regional banks continued Friday, stoked by intensifying investor pressure on German lender Deutsche Bank as the cost to insure against default on its debt soared.
Smaller banks began ramping up their exposure to commercial real estate in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, which was triggered by a housing bust, and stuck with it even after the pandemic emptied out many city-center properties and other forms of borrowing provided by commercial mortgage backed securities and life insurers dried up.
Signature was among the banks that made some of these bets, becoming an aggressive lender in New York City to office towers and multifamily properties. By the end of 2022 it had amassed nearly $36 billion in commercial real estate loans, half of which were to apartments. That portfolio comprised nearly one-third of its $110 billion in assets.
More than 80% of all commercial real estate loans are now held by banks with fewer than $250 billion in assets, according to a report by Goldman Sachs economists Manuel Abecasis and David Mericle. These loans now comprise the highest percentage of industry loan portfolios in 13 years, according to John Velis of BNY Mellon.
“There’s a lot of commercial real estate that’s been financed over the last few years,” BlackRock Global Fixed Income CIO Rick Rieder told Yahoo Finance on Wednesday. “When you raise rates this quickly, the interest-sensitive parts of the economy, and particularly where there’s financing or leverage attached to it, then that’s where you create stress. That’s not going away tomorrow.” Commercial real estate, he added, doesn’t represent the same type of systematic risk to the economy as housing did during the 2008 financial crisis but there are “isolated pockets that can lead to contagion risk.”
Two early warnings of the danger that rising interest rates pose to commercial real estate came last month. Giant landlord Columbia Property Trust defaulted on $1.7 billion in floating-rate loans tied to seven buildings in New York, San Francisco, Boston and Jersey City, N.J. That followed a default by giant money manager Brookfield Asset Management on more than $750 million in debt backing two 52-story towers in Los Angeles.
Forced sales of more trophy buildings at large discounts are expected in the coming years as owners struggle to refinance at affordable rates. “Sellers will want the price that everyone was getting [back] in December 2021, and buyers are kind of even afraid to buy something right now cause they don’t even know what the price of these buildings are,” Snyder said.
Banks were already squeezing terms on commercial real estate loans before this month’s chaos. According to the Federal Reserve’s latest senior loan officer opinion survey, nearly 60 percent of banks reported tighter lending standards in January for nonresidential and multifamily property loans.
“Bank lending standards had already tightened significantly over the last few quarters to levels previously unseen outside of recessions, presumably because many bank risk divisions shared the recession fears that have been widespread in financial markets,” according to a note last week from Goldman Sachs. More tightening of lending standards expected as a result of new bank stresses could slow economic growth this year, Goldman said.
Fed chair Jerome Powell agreed with that view at a Wednesday press conference following the announcement of another rate hike. He said he also anticipates a tightening of credit conditions as banks pull back, which will help cool the economy. “We’re thinking about that as effectively doing the same things that rate hikes do,” he said.
But he said regional banks with high amounts of commercial estate loans were not likely to become the next Silicon Valley Bank.
“We’re well aware of the concentrations people have in commercial real estate,” he said. “I really don’t think it’s comparable to this. The banking system is strong. It is sound. It is resilient. It’s well-capitalized.”
The larger commercial real estate world is still absorbing the shock of the Fed’s aggressive campaign, according to Marcus & Millichap CEO Hessam Nadji. The effects may not pose a systemic risk, he added, but they will add to the industry’s many challenges.
“Commercial real estate has been through a pandemic, very rapid recovery, then massive tightening of financial conditions unlike anything we’ve seen in modern history,” he told Yahoo Finance Thursday. “The last three years have moved the industry through a significant rollercoaster.”
Dani Romero is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @daniromerotv
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