In spite of the confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic and high unemployment in 2020, the total number of home-purchase loan applications rose by 11% from 2019. The need for more space (to accommodate an office or school room from home), reduced need to commute and record-low mortgage interest rates influenced strong buyer demand and may have offered an opportunity to relocate to more affordable areas. According to CoreLogic data, homebuyers relocating to another metro were often choosing metros that are either adjacent to their current location, had a lower cost of living, or both.
One year into the pandemic and clearly the current market downturn is not like the last one just over a decade ago. Commercial property prices have not been the adjustment mechanism for the disruptions from the pandemic — deal volume has suffered instead. A functioning debt market with far higher levels of liquidity than in the last crisis is a big part of the difference between these recessions. Liquidity is not just a story about volume. To measure trends in liquidity in the equity portion of the capital stack, Real Capital Analytics publishes a composite scoring system looking at numerous indicators that can influence a market.
Historically, when it comes to recessions, home prices don’t always dovetail with economic instability. In fact, home sales numbers have a much tighter relationship with recessions. The current recession is unique, however, and that uniqueness can be seen in the behavior of the national housing market.
While the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan will provide a sizable block of funds to help households struggling to meet their rent obligations, a modest block of renters living in professionally managed apartments continue to fall behind on rent payments as of mid-March. The share of households paying March rent through the 13th is off by 2.8 percentage points from the year-earlier level, according to RealPage statistics from multifamily community owners and operators using the company’s property management software.
U.S. single-family rent growth remained strong in January 2021, increasing 3.8% year over year, showing solid improvement from the low of 1.4% reported for June 2020, and up from the 2.9% rate recorded for January 2020, according to the CoreLogic Single-Family Rent Index (SFRI). The index measures rent changes among single-family rental homes, including condominiums, using a repeat-rent analysis to measure the same rental properties over time.
After a rough second quarter in 2020 when the multifamily industry was dealing with the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, national apartment demand rebounded strongly in the second half of the year. It was this resurgence, above and beyond demand seen in the same portion of 2019, that buoyed overall annual performance numbers and prevented dramatic declines in average occupancy and rent. This positive momentum has carried over into the new year so far with net absorption in both January and February surpassing the same months last year.
As with so many things, then, the U.S. apartment market entered a fundamentally different period one year ago today. Starting on March 12 and then proceeding through most of April, many apartment renters froze in place. Searches for new accommodations dropped drastically from year-earlier levels, and new-resident lease signings plunged. At the same time, retention of existing renter households at initial lease expiration soared to record heights. Said bluntly, people stopped moving and hunkered down. One year later, key stats for the apartment market are in much better shape than what was initially feared back in March 2020.
Transactions involving U.S. self storage assets reached a record level in 2020 despite the disruption and uncertainties caused by the global pandemic. While two outsized entity-level deals boosted transaction volume, individual deals and a wide range of buyers are evidence of ongoing broad interest in the sector. At $7.7 billion for the year, self storage deal activity was one-third higher than that of 2019, a stark outperformance compared to the U.S. market overall which slumped by more than a quarter.
In January 2020, mortgage delinquencies were at a generational low. After the pandemic hit, many families, especially those working in service occupations that entail in-person contact, faced a large income shock through job loss, illness, or death of a family member. Places that were hardest hit by job loss saw the biggest spikes in past-due loans over the last year. Nationwide, the CoreLogic Loan Performance Indicators reported past-due rates up by 2 percentage points last year. In Hawaii and Nevada past-due rates jumped 4 percentage points.
The amount of equity in mortgaged real estate increased by $1.5 trillion in 2020, an annual increase of 16.2%, according to the latest CoreLogic Equity Report. The average annual gain in equity was $26,300 per homeowner -- the largest average equity gain since the third quarter of 2013. The nationwide negative equity share for the fourth quarter of 2020 was 2.8% of all homes with a mortgage, the lowest share of homes with negative equity since CoreLogic started tracking this number in the third quarter of 2009.
The number of unique, active buyers in a market is a key signal for liquidity and one of six measures that Real Capital Analytics uses to calculate the RCA Capital Liquidity Scores. In the chart below we show 18 leading commercial real estate markets and the buyer count measure for Q4 2020 compared to the average and range of the past 10 years.
After deep rent cuts in some markets and notable growth in others, the affordability gap among the major California markets tightened in the past year. San Francisco usually claims the title of the most expensive apartment market in California by a very large margin. While the market still holds that rank, its lead has closed notably.
The National Multifamily Housing Council reports that 80.4% of households living in the country’s stock of professionally managed market-rate apartment properties have paid rent for March as of the 6th. The latest results are off by 4.1 percentage points from the 84.5% share of households making payments through March 6, 2020. These findings come from the National Multifamily Housing Council’s Rent Payment Tracker research, compiling information provided by five technology firms, including RealPage, Inc., for more than 11 million market-rate apartment units.
In December 2020, 5.8% of home mortgages were in some stage of delinquency (30 days or more past due, including those in foreclosure), a small decrease from November 2020, but a 2.1-percentage point increase from December 2019, according to the latest CoreLogic Loan Performance Insights Report. The share of mortgages that were 30 to 59 days past due – considered early-stage delinquencies – was 1.4% in December 2020, down sharply from a post-pandemic high of 4.2% in April 2020 and below the year ago rate of 1.8%. The share of mortgages 60 to 89 days past due was 0.5% in December 2020, down from 0.6% in December 2019 and down from 2.8% in May 2020.
Commercial property market liquidity at the end of 2020 was below the levels from a year prior in 126 out of 155 markets worldwide, the latest update of the RCA Capital Liquidity Scores shows. The count of markets with scores falling on an annual basis was the highest since the end of 2009, during the Global Financial Crisis. However, there are signs of optimism.
Conventional apartment sales slowed amid the pandemic, but transactions surged in the last three months of 2020. Nearly $56.7 billion changed hands with roughly 2,300 conventional apartment properties transacted during 4th quarter 2020, according to Real Capital Analytics (RCA). That activity compares to $15.4 billion in transactions in 2nd quarter, following the onset of the pandemic. In 3rd quarter, RCA reported $26.3 billion in transactions.
Multifamily permits got quite a boost in January, surging to the highest level in nearly five years. Building permits for the construction of multifamily projects hit an annual level of 557,000 units in January 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s monthly building permits survey. That is the highest annual permitting level since June 2015 and represents a 28% increase from December’s annual rate. Compared to last year, multifamily permitting was up by 7.9%.
The top global investors acquired more commercial real estate in 2020 despite the challenges of the pandemic. There are clear signals in what they bought, however, that these investors are reacting to the uncertainty presented by the Covid-19 turmoil. Net purchases by property sector indicate that concerns about the office sector surfaced in 2020.
National home prices increased 10% year over year in January 2021, according to the latest CoreLogic Home Price Index (HPI®) Report. The January 2021 HPI gain was up from the January 2020 gain of 4.1% and was the highest year-over-year gain since November 2013. Low mortgage rates and low for-sale inventory drove the increase in home prices, however affordability constraints may work to slow home price growth later this year.
One of the major determining factors for multifamily performance is population and household change. 2020 appears to have brought about some dramatic shifts in population movement according to some early analyses such as one using LinkedIn data. Whether it was apartment demand results in suburban areas versus urban core, or the difference in demand between certain markets, signs of these shifts appear in the multifamily data.