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Investors Competing with Home Buyers on Foreclosures

In the last 12 months I’ve had a few situations where my client’s offer on a foreclosure was rejected in favor of a cash offer.  In my office, I know of many others that have experienced the same thing.

With the data provided by RMLS that I used yesterday to comment about FHA transactions, I am also able to dig down deeper and look at the detail at the MLS-area level.  In Minneapolis-North, median sales prices have fallen from around $150,000 in 2006 to around $50,000 today – due almost entirely to the fact that this neighborhood has been one of the hardest hit by foreclosures.

A healthy ratio of rental to owner-occupied housing has long been advocated by the City of Minneapolis and in recent years they’ve made it clear (1,2) that they intend to do what they can to protect the housing stock.  Unfortunately the foreclosure activity is far higher than can be handled by any public or private entity.

While many foreclosures are in need of serious rehabilitation, prospective home buyers can take advantage of programs offered by the city and general rehab loans like the FHA 203(k) to finance the cost of needed repairs into the mortgage.  There are also a large number of foreclosures in generally ok shape and only need a few cosmetics to make them livable again.

Prospective home buyers of these foreclosures, the vast majority being first time buyers, see both good condition and fixer-upper foreclosures as an opportunity to purchase a home at prices not seen since at least the 1990′s.  Consider this a period where the market is providing an affordable housing explosion.  Unfortunately at these prices, these properties also become excellent investment opportunities for rentals, which creates competition with the prospective owner-occupant buyer.

These investors come in with cash offers and when presented with multiple offers where most terms are equal, many banks will take the speed and surety of the cash offer versus entrusting a successful sale to a buyer that needs financing to close.  In fact, cash can often mean double-digit percentage discounts on the list price vs. a financed offer.  These cash offers have succeeded so well in Minneapolis-North recently that while cash offers were only 5% of the transactions in 2005, they made up nearly 65% of the sales in 2009.

While many of these cash purchases may have been for owner-occupied purposes, it is impossible to quantify what percentage are investor vs. owner-occupant.  My experience and gut tell me that most of these cash sales were to investors.

Minneapolis-North is an exaggerated version of what we’re seeing all over the Twin Cities – I have heard stories of investor competition from agents around the metro and at price points up to around $250,000.  Metrowide, cash purchases in 2007 were only 5% of sales but zoomed 240% to 17% of sales two years later in 2009.  Having this strong demand has helped us dramatically reduce the inventory of foreclosures available today and has definitely provided support for the housing market, but this investor demand has also made it hard for many prospective buyers to take advantage of what may become an historic level housing affordability.

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This website is a service of Aaron Dickinson of Edina Realty, a broker Participant of the Regional Multiple Listing Service of Minnesota, Inc.