CR: Lawler: How Much Has the Single Family Housing Market Shifted to Rentals (in numbers)?

Lawler: How Much Has the Single Family Housing Market Shifted to Rentals (in numbers)?

by Bill McBride on 4/24/2013

From economist Tom Lawler:

While good, reliable, consistent, and timely government data on the housing stock and housing tenure do not exist, the limited data available suggest that over the last few years (1) there has been a sizable increase in the number of SF housing units occupied by renters; (2) a decent-sized decline in the number of SF housing units occupied by owners; and (3) this trend began several years ago, and several years before widely-publicized “institutional” investor buying emerged.

Estimates of the SHARE of SF housing units occupied by owners vs. renters are available from the American Community Survey annually from 2006 through 2011 and biennially from the American Housing Survey through 2011, and “imprecise” estimates of the owner vs. renter share of “one-unit” structures can be derived from the detailed tables of the Housing Vacancy Survey through 2012 – though rental and homeowner vacancy rates for “one-unit” structures in the HVS include not just SF detached and attached homes but also manufactured/mobile homes. All three surveys show a substantial increase in the share of SF/one-units occupied homes occupied by renters from 2007 to 2011, and the HVS data show a continued share increase in 2012. Both the AHS and the HVS, however, appear to overstated significantly overall homeownership rates (based on a comparison to decennial Census results), while the ACS homeownership rates seem more consistent with decennial Census data. As such, I believe the ACS data on the renter share of the SF housing market is superior to the AHS and HVS data.

Rental Share Single Family Housing Market Click on graph for larger image.

Note: The estimate for 2012 is based on the 2012 vs. 2011 change in the HVS estimate of the renter share of occupied “one-unit” structures.

Translating the ACS share data to numbers, however, requires a little work. First, the numbers for households in the annual ACS results are “benchmarked” to the latest available housing stock estimate for that year, and there have been significant upward revisions in housing stock estimates. Second, the latest available “official” housing stock estimates do not incorporate post-Census analyses of the estimated “undercount” of housing units in the “official” Census numbers. And finally, the ACS appears to overstate the overall housing vacancy rate, though by less than the HVS or AHS. Unfortunately, adjusted for this last factor is difficult, since the degree of the vacancy rate “overstatement” is only available for 2010. As such, I only adjusted the ACS estimates for more reasonable estimates of the housing stock (incorporating the Census 2000 HUCS and the Census 2010 CCM).

Making this adjustment, and using estimates for the 2012 ACS data based on HVS results, it would appear that from 2007 to 2012 the number of SF detached and attached homes that were occupied by renters increased by about 2.6 million, while the number of SF detached and attached homes that were occupied by owners declined by about 1.3 million. The largest increase in both the number and the share of renter-occupied SF homes appears to have been in 2009.

Since “active” investor buying of SF homes that were then rented out has been going on for many years, why has the media only recently begun to focus intently on this “trend? First, investor buying in earlier years occurred when for-sale inventories (and REO inventories) and the pace of foreclosure were high, the economy in general and labor markets in particular were extremely weak, and there were no signs either of a housing “recovery” or improving home prices. Second, last year a number of large institutional firms very publicly announced plans to ramp up purchases of SF homes as rental properties. Third, their ramped-up buying came when overall inventories of existing home for sale, and especially “distressed”/REO properties for sale, had fallen sharply, as well as when an improved economy and record-low mortgage rates were producing a modest increase in potential demand from folks wanting to buy a home to live in. (Folks love anecdotal stories about how investors are “out-bidding” or “crowding out” first-time home buyers!)

And finally, their (and other) aggressive buying in the face of sharply lower inventories (large institutional investors appear to have lower “hurdle rates” than “traditional” investors) has helped fuel a significant recovery in home prices in many parts of the country (oh my, more “de-stickification!”)

All-Cash Share of Home Sales (Yearly Totals)
Phoenix Tucson California* Florida SF Florida C/TH Knoxville Omaha
2007 11.6% 12.6% 10.3% N/A N/A 12.4% N/A
2008 12.6% 18.8% 18.7% 25.5% 43.6% 15.2% 12.1%
2009 37.2% 23.9% 26.3% 36.8% 64.0% 17.8% 11.8%
2010 41.8% 28.3% 28.0% 42.3% 73.2% 22.1% 16.7%
2011 46.9% 34.6% 30.4% 45.5% 76.6% 24.5% 20.2%
2012 46.0% 34.4% 32.6% 45.7% 75.6% 26.6% 17.6%
*Derived from Dataquick chart; new and resale homes based on property records, all others MLS based.

In 2010 there were 141,722 MLS-based home sales (SF and C/TH) in Florida that were all-cash transactions, while there were 79,779 foreclosure sales and 53,780 short sales. In 2012 there were 54,607 foreclosure sales and 63,250 short sales (or 117,867 “distressed” sales, down 15,692 from 2010), but all-cash transactions increased by 28,647 to 170,369.

From 2009 to 2012 MLS-based home sales in Florida increased by 24.2%. All-cash transactions increased by 54.1%, while mortgage-financed transactions were very slightly LOWER in 2012 compared to 2009.

Read more at http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2013/04/lawler-how-much-has-single-family.html#eoU14525vQZTblwA.99

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