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Irvine Housing Blog

Irvine Housing Blog

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Irvine condo and SFR price trends by Global Decision and IHB

Posted: 03 Aug 2011 03:30 AM PDT

Irvine condos are showing the same price weakness as homes in other areas. If Irvine is different and immune to price declines, why aren't it's condos behaving differently as well?

Irvine Home Address ... 203 BRIARWOOD Irvine, CA 92604
Resale Home Price ......  $229,000

I'm Hunting High and Low
Sometimes I may win sometimes I'll lose
It's just a game that I play

Stratovarius -- Hunting High and Low

Many people are hunting for houses. Some are looking at the high end, and some are lookiing low. Which is the better way to go?

Over the last several weeks, the IHB has been proud to present a series of hedonic house price analyses by Jaysen Gillespie of Global Decision:

An accurate view of the Irvine housing market by Global Decision and IHB

A detailed look at Irvine Village premiums by Global Decision and IHB

The market value of Irvine home features by Global Decision and IHB, and

OC Housewife, Ponzi borrower, failed land baron.

This week Jaysen has taken on a comparison of the single family market with the condo market in Irvine to see the similarities and differences. Some of the conclusions may be surprising. Below is Jaysen's writing. My comments pick up afterward.

A presentation by Jaysen Gillespie of Global Decision

Global Decision is an analytics consulting firm.  While our methods are not industry-specific, our engagements are skewed towards specific industries in Southern California, such as real estate (along with online gaming and restaurant chains).  We specialize in applying both foundational and advanced analytics to better understand business and economic issues.

Today continues our series on using the Global Decision Hedonic Price Model to determine how homes values are trending and the underlying factors that create such value. 

Up to this point, we’ve focused on single-family homes (SFRs).  In some parts of the country, SFRs represent the vast majority of the market.  Irvine is not one of them.  In fact, in the Irvine sales data from 2000-2011Q2, condos represent over 50% of all sales by quantity.  As a result, no understanding of the Irvine market is complete without an equally in-depth review of how condos sales are trending.  In expensive coastal California, condos serve as an entry-level market for those moving from rentership to ownership.  More importantly, condos *had* served as a source of equity for those wishing to move up the ownership ladder – into a single-family home.

In the above chart, we compare Irvine SFRs to Irvine condos over the last 11 years.  Not surprisingly, the lower-cost condos rose a bit higher (as a percentage of their Year-2000 starting point) than houses.  Said condos have also fallen farther from their peak. 

Because Irvine condo values rose at a faster rate than the values of Irvine single family homes while the housing bubble was inflating, the above chart’s ratio of home-to-condo values initially shows a “negative premium” for single family residences.  However, as the bubble deflates the home-to-condo value ratio quickly reverts to 1:1 and then rises further as condo prices decline more rapidly than SFR prices.

An interesting chart results when we start the x-axis from peak pricing (2006) for both homes and condos.  Both series peaked in 2006 and have declined 18% (SFRs) and 30% (condos) in the last 5 years.  The magnitude of the decline is important to understand because it directly impacts the probability that a given homeowner is underwater.  At this point, a sizable percentage of 2006 Irvine condo buyers are likely underwater.  Those who purchased in 2006 are especially likely to be underwater as a down payment of 30% would have been required to keep that cohort in a positive equity position after an assumed 5% “get out” cost.

Irvine condo buyers who carefully saved a 20% down payment to buy a condo in 2006 (or even 2007) now find themselves with a paper loss of 100% of invested equity.  At peak median condo prices of around $580,000, such buyers have paper losses of $116,000.  Such losses do not have to be realized until a sale and some owners may not find the loss of said amounts to be particularly problematic.  However, the losses do have a few serious impacts in the market.  First, 2006-2007 condo buyers have no equity to fuel the purchase of more-costly SFRs.  This fact is reflected in the data showing that higher-end homes in Orange County take much longer to sell than lower-end homes.  Second, once buyers are underwater, each additional drop in home values makes them more likely to consider walking away from the debt.

Page 30 of the linked .pdf file, shows that a shortfall of $100k induces 2.5X the propensity to strategically default vs a shortfall of $50k.  Page 49 shows that knowing someone who strategically defaulted also increases reported propensity to strategically default.  For a full read on attitudes regarding strategic default, please see the March 2011 paper at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business linked above.

Somewhat perversely, the 2006-2007 Irvine condo buyer who put down the bare minimum (0-3%) has a much smaller paper loss and has preserved the option of “walking away” with a smaller financial hit.  Using a zero-down program to purchase a home is essentially obtaining a free call option:  if home values rise, you pocket the gain.  If home values fall, you have the option of walking away from the debt (in exchange for a lowered credit rating).  Low-down payment programs thus create a feedback loop that exacerbates swings in the direction of the housing market.  When home values are rising, they induce people to over-invest in residential real estate.  When home values are falling, they exacerbate the drop by adding to inventory (shadow and real) and sap buyer demand for move-up housing.  It’s hard to argue that low down payment programs make sense from a stability standpoint.

With the Irvine condo dataset, we find that a large chunk (21%) of all condo sales occur in the Irvine village of Woodbridge.  As a result, we can also construct a valid hedonic price index for Woodbridge Condos.  Doing so allows us to not only see trends in an established high-quality area (see our previous analysis of Irvine neighborhood values to see why “high-quality” is not our opinion, but based on market valuations), but also allows us to remove the “area” as a variable in the underlying regression. 

In the chart above, you can see that the value trend for Woodbridge condos (light blue) and the value trend for Irvine condos (light green) are similar.  Such results provide evidence that having an “area” variable in our underlying Irvine condo model is not skewing price trends and serve as a good gut check for each other.

Looking again at the post-bubble behavior of price trends in Irvine, Coto, and the region (as proxied by the Case-Shiller LAOC high tier index), we find that most indexes have fallen between 29% and 33% in value.  Irvine’s condos (in both Woodbridge and city-wide) have dropped 30-31% in value while the LAOC Case Shiller High-Tier is also down just under 30%.  Coto SFRs have slightly underperformed with a drop of 33%. 

The Future:  Irvine SFRs vs. Irvine Condos

Interestingly, Irvine SFRs have declined only about 18% from peak pricing.  Even more interesting, it appears that temporary incentives (such as an $8,000 tax credit) lifted Irvine SFR prices more, as compared to a 2009-Q1 floor, than condo prices.  Irvine SFRs have retained some of their gains since the 2009-Q1 recent bottom, while Irvine condos have now reached new post-bubble lows.  Logic would have dictated an opposite result – a fixed $8,000 “incentive” should have more greatly swayed lower-priced markets.

A common theme in housing analysis is the (in)famous substitution effect.  We’ve discussed this effect when looking at Coto vs. Irvine, and now we can consider the Irvine-vs-Irvine substitution effect of SFRs vs Condos.  A frequently mentioned benefit of living in Irvine is access to excellent schools and proximity to employment.  Unless the Irvine Unified School District utilizes some highly gerrymandered attendance zones, owners of Irvine condos are entitled to receive and same quality of schools as Irvine SFR owners.  Rumor also has it that the IUSD allows children from SFRs, condos, and even apartments to sit in the same classrooms as each other.  We do indeed hope that SFR parents have that difficult talk with their children about what a “middle unit” is before kids learn the hard way.  Oh, the horror!

All Irvine residents enjoy the same overall crime rate, proximity to jobs, microclimate and so forth.  As a result, Irvine condos are a close substitute for Irvine SFRs, especially given that Irvine contains many larger 3-bedroom condos.  A long-term equilibrium will likely either have condo prices rebound, relative to SFR prices – or will have SFR prices decline, relative to condo prices.

IrvineRenter's Commentary

Falling condo prices mean the move-up market is broken. It isn't until condo prices bottom then come up a bit that buyers have equity to put 20% down on a different property. The move up market doesn't happen by magic. People still need a raise in pay to afford better accommodations because houses all rise in price together in a healthy market. If the low end of the market is moving down, it is robbing the equity of prospective buyers looking to move upward.

Condo prices are more volatile than SFR prices because not all the equity from a condo sale is used to push up the next rung on the property ladder. There is always some diffusion as people endure transaction costs, and during the housing bubble, extracted and spent their equity. This makes condo prices rise quicker in a good market; however, since condos are less desirable than SFRs, they also tend to fall faster in a bad market.

Jaysen's commentary on the effects of 100% financing are right on. Mortgages take on the characteristics of options, and what started as an affordability program, 100% financing ended up making houses very unaffordable as prices were driven up to the stratosphere. 

Jaysen's conclusion is a point I want to reitereate; "A long-term equilibrium will likely either have condo prices rebound, relative to SFR prices – or will have SFR prices decline, relative to condo prices."

Regardless of which path the market takes, if you are buying as an investment, it makes little sense to buy an Irvine SFR. If you believe in the Gospel of Irvine, and you want to make money purchasing Irvine real estate, you should be buying condos. When the equilibrium is restored -- up or down -- condos will move positively more than SFRs.

What capitulation looks like

If you are interested in Irvine condos as an investment, today's featured property is an opportunity to make money from a desperate seller capitulating to the market. If you want to see what capitulation looks like, examine the price history of this previously featured condo.

Property History for 203 BRIARWOOD

Date Event Price Source  
Jul 27, 2011 Price Changed $229,000 SoCalMLS #P776605  
Jul 14, 2011 Price Changed $239,000 SoCalMLS #P776605  
Jun 29, 2011 Price Changed $244,900 SoCalMLS #P776605  
Jun 04, 2011 Price Changed $247,000 SoCalMLS #P776605  
May 27, 2011 Price Changed $248,000 SoCalMLS #P776605  
May 19, 2011 Price Changed $249,000 SoCalMLS #P776605  
May 13, 2011 Price Changed $254,900 SoCalMLS #P776605  
Apr 28, 2011 Price Changed $259,000 SoCalMLS #P776605  
Apr 06, 2011 Listed (Active) $269,000 SoCalMLS #P776605  
Apr 04, 2011 - Delisted (Cancelled) -- Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
Apr 02, 2011 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
Mar 26, 2011 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
Mar 24, 2011 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
Mar 18, 2011 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
Mar 05, 2011 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
Feb 24, 2011 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
Feb 09, 2011 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
Jan 15, 2011 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
Dec 14, 2010 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
Nov 23, 2010 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
Nov 18, 2010 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
Sep 07, 2010 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
Jul 23, 2010 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
Jun 30, 2010 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
Jun 22, 2010 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
Jun 07, 2010 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
May 20, 2010 - Listed (Active) * Inactive SoCalMLS #2  
May 19, 2010 - Delisted (Cancelled) -- Inactive SoCalMLS #1  
May 01, 2010 - Relisted (Active) -- Inactive SoCalMLS #1  
May 01, 2010 - Pending (Backup Offers Accepted) -- Inactive SoCalMLS #1  
Mar 20, 2010 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #1  
Mar 15, 2010 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #1  
Feb 23, 2010 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #1  
Feb 22, 2010 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #1  
Feb 12, 2010 - Price Changed * Inactive SoCalMLS #1  
Feb 03, 2010 - Listed (Active) * Inactive SoCalMLS #1  
Jan 27, 2010 Sold (Public Records)
This home was sold at a foreclosure auction.
$258,000 Public Records

This property was purchased at auction on 1/27/2010 for $258,000. As all auction purchases are, this one was all cash.

It looks as if they had the property in escrow just as the tax credit was expiring in May of 2010, and the property fell out of escrow. As we all know, prices have gone straight down ever since.

They relisted the property and chased the double-dip for a full year finally terminating their listing in April. After 16 months of ownership paying the $385 per month association fee, property taxes, insurance, and utilities, the carrying costs finally forced these sellers to give up their denial and lower their price to sell the property.

The emotional decision to sell a loser is tough, but once it's made, only then does a seller really get to assess the damage their denial caused. They have lowered their price $40,000 since April 4. That is over 15% of the purchase price, and they still haven't found a buyer.

That is a motivated seller. If you're interested, give them a lowball offer. They might surprise you and take it.

This property is available for sale via the MLS.
Please contact Shevy Akason, #01836707 

Irvine House Address ...  203 BRIARWOOD Irvine, CA 92604
Resale House Price ......  $229,000

Beds:  2
Baths:  1
Sq. Ft.:  941
Property Type: Residential, Condominium
Style: One Level, Other
Year Built:  1978
Community:  Woodbridge
County:  Orange
MLS#:  P776605
Source:  SoCalMLS
Status:  Active
On Redfin:  113 days
===== PRICE REDUCED FOR QUICK SALE AND BEST PRICE IN THIS COMMUNITY ===== Private end unit overlooking greenbelt in beautiful, peaceful neighborhood of Irvine. This unit has been renovated with new paint throughout, new carpet, new baseboards around all rooms and brand new kitchen appliances. Tile entry opens to spacious living room. There is also a separate room for laundry. Walking distance to parks, North Lake, schools and association pool. === CLOSE TO UCI & IVC ===
Proprietary IHB commentary and analysis 


Resale Home Price ......  $229,000
House Purchase Price … $258,000
House Purchase Date .... 1/27/2010

Net Gain (Loss) .......... ($42,740)
Percent Change .......... -16.6%
Annual Appreciation … -7.5%

Cost of Home Ownership
$229,000 .......... Asking Price
$8,015 .......... 3.5% Down FHA Financing
4.53% ............... Mortgage Interest Rate
$220,985 .......... 30-Year Mortgage
$48,156 .......... Income Requirement 

$1,124 .......... Monthly Mortgage Payment 
$198 .......... Property Tax (@1.04%)
$0 .......... Special Taxes and Levies (Mello Roos)
$48 .......... Homeowners Insurance (@ 0.25%)
$254 .......... Private Mortgage Insurance
$385 .......... Homeowners Association Fees
$2,009 .......... Monthly Cash Outlays

-$103 .......... Tax Savings (% of Interest and Property Tax)
-$289 .......... Equity Hidden in Payment (Amortization)
$13 .......... Lost Income to Down Payment (net of taxes)
$49 .......... Maintenance and Replacement Reserves
$1,678 .......... Monthly Cost of Ownership 

Cash Acquisition Demands
$2,290 .......... Furnishing and Move In @1%
$2,290 .......... Closing Costs @1%
$2,210 ............ Interest Points @1% of Loan
$8,015 .......... Down Payment
$14,805 .......... Total Cash Costs
$25,700 ............ Emergency Cash Reserves
$40,505 .......... Total Savings Needed

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