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WOODARD: Home flipping up; some markets overheating

Despite rising prices, home flipping is increasing. It has increased 20 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with the previous quarter. It’s now at a two-year high.

RealtyTrac, a source for housing data, released its Home Flipping Report, which shows that 6.6 percent (43,740) of all single-family home and condo sales in the first quarter of 2016 were flips, a 20 percent increase from the previous quarter and up 3 percent from a year ago to the highest rate of home flips since the first quarter of 2014.

“For the report, a home flip is defined as a property that is sold in an arms-length sale for the second time within a 12-month period based on publicly recorded sales deed data collected by RealtyTrac in more than 950 counties accounting for more than 80 percent of the U.S. population,” the report noted.

It also pointed out that the 6.6 percent share of total home sales that were flips in Q1 2016 was still 26 percent below the 9.0 percent share at the peak of home flipping in Q1 2006, but was 55 percent above the recent trough in home flipping – 4.3 percent of total home sales in Q3 2014.

“After faltering in late 2014, home flipping has been gaining steam for the last year and a half thanks to falling interest rates and a dearth of housing inventory for flippers to compete against,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at RealtyTrac.

“While responsible home flipping is helpful for a housing market, excessive and irresponsible flipping activity can contribute to a home price pressure cooker that overheats a housing market, and we are starting to see evidence of that pressure cooker environment in a handful of markets.

“The good news is that – despite the 20 percent jump in the first quarter – home flipping nationally is not far above its historic norm, and home flippers in most markets appear to be behaving rationally and responsibly,” Blomquist continued.

“In the first quarter, 71 percent homes flipped were purchased by the home flipper with cash – compared to only 37 percent who purchased with cash at the height of the flipping boom. Spending their own money rather than other people’s money is keeping flippers conservative.

“On average they are buying the homes they flip at a 27 percent discount below full market value and selling them at a 6 percent premium above full market value, helping to deliver strong flipping returns on average.”

Q: Are mortgage rates still rising?

A: Yes, but very slowly. According to a recent report from Freddie Mac, there is a slight increase in the weekly average mortgage rate but it’s still near a three-year low.

“The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.66 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week, up from last week when it averaged 3.64 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.87 percent,” according to the report.

Q: Is summer the most active time for selling a home?

A: Usually the spring season is considered the hottest home selling time. But this year is an exception, according to several economists.

“From a buyer’s perspective you have more choice, but you’re also competing against far more buyers,” says Ken Johnson, a real estate broker as well as a professor of finance and associate dean at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Business.

“Sellers are also looking to sell over the summer, particularly if they have children and want to get a deal done before school starts again.”

“The groundwork for a booming summer market has already been laid out. New-home sales in April posted their strongest month in more than eight years. Existing-home sales were up for the second consecutive month. What’s more, historically low mortgage rates may increase the demand for housing this summer,” according to a report from the National Association of Realtors.

Q: What is the most popular material for home exteriors?

A: A recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders found that baby boomers rank brick highest over other home exteriors. The survey tracks their home buying preferences and those of other generations.

WOODARD has been writing about real estate news and trends since 1971 and is the resident storyteller at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

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