Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Consumer confidence mostly unchanged in July after June's rise

Consumer confidence held steady in July, after improving in June. Consumers were slightly more positive about current business and labor market conditions, suggesting the economy will continue to expand at a moderate pace. Expectations regarding business and labor market conditions, as well as personal income prospects, declined slightly as consumers remain cautiously optimistic about growth in the near-term.


May Case-Shiller Index up 1.2 percent from April and 5.0 percent year-on-year

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, covering all nine U.S. census divisions, reported a 5.0% annual gain in May, the same as the prior month. Before seasonal adjustment, the National Index posted a month-over-month gain of 1.2% in May.


June new home sales rise to highest level in nearly 8.5 years

New U.S. single-family home sales rose more than expected in June, reaching their highest level in nearly 8.5 years.  Sales were up 3.5 percent from May and 25.4 percent year-on-year to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 592,000.  With this increase, new home sales in the second quarter are well above their average for the first three months of the year.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The State of Infill Development

In the year 1900, less than 46 percent of the U.S. population lived in urban areas. Fast-forward to 2016, and that percentage is now over 82 percent, and expected to keep growing as exurbs are added to existing metropolitan boundaries and cities become denser.

In addition, as existing land uses and buildings continue to become obsolete, urban infill will certainly be a crucial part of meeting future demand for not just housing, but also offices, services, entertainment and whatever the future is for ‘brick and mortar’ retail outlets.

To be sure, infill projects enjoy many advantages, including tapping existing infrastructure and transit options, closer proximity to retail stores and services, and even potential incentives provided by local government.  Yet there are also serious challenges for even the most seasoned builder, including increased and unique project costs, longer time frames to receive entitlements, and the need to appeal not just to residents or tenants, but also to the surrounding neighbors.

More recently, according to Tom Doyle, co-founder and principal of WDLand in Irvine, California, which has been at the forefront of infill sites since being launched in 1996, another recent challenge is the disconnect on perceived land values between buyer and seller.

As Doyle explains, there are three reasons for this over the past two years:  Higher direct site improvement costs, steeper development fees and a more restrictive and time-consuming regulatory process, especially for greenfield sites.  The result has been lower residual land values than what sellers would have hoped. Moreover, he adds that because those providing equity and debt all prefer core areas, it’s become an extremely competitive market for builders in search of decent volume.

Infill development also presents a different challenge for builders accustomed to creating traditional subdivisions.  Justin Esayian, a broker with The Hoffman Company of Irvine, cautions that simply selling a project in an infill location doesn’t guarantee success.  “Builders have had mixed results in infill markets, and that has given them pause,” he explains.  “Their unit count is generally lower and the projects are more complicated to construct or not familiar to them, and costs can escalate out of control.”

That’s also why due diligence and market research is so important for infill sites, especially at the earliest stages. According to Doyle, it’s crucial for builders to do their community outreach and with the cities, noting that some are simply not being diligent enough with the cities and other jurisdictions.  Esayian agrees, adding that when builders try to entitle with only residential volume in mind, they often get their hand slapped, and that even adding in some token retail fronting the street can help them obtain approvals.

So what’s popular today for infill communities?  Doyle finds that small-lot, single-family detached product can often yield the highest residual values, although a lot depends on the allowable densities per city code.  Even denser attached homes above 20 to the acre are still attractive, although he adds that podium-style product is difficult unless it’s along the coast or higher-priced areas such as West Los Angeles.

From his experience, Esayian suggests that builders take a second look at three-story detached homes selectively, because they often “live far better than two-story designs; while you have that extra staircase, you’ve got much more room to move around, and the livability increases.”  Even so, even the best three-story plans perform well in certain urban submarkets, but less so in more suburban ones.  In addition, he’s seeing a ‘proliferation of roof decks’ commanding premiums, but don’t put them everywhere, as they’re often more appropriate for more contemporary architecture.

As for non-residential infill uses, Doyle points to The Anaheim Packing House, where developer Lab Holdings repurposed a former 42,000-square-foot Sunkist facility dating from 1919 into a wildly popular collection of more than 20 small restaurants under a single roof.

Anaheim Packing House
Started by former fashion industry executive Shaheen Sadeghi in 1991, Lab Holdings become famous for its ‘Anti-Mall’ redevelopment of an abandoned factory two years later, and has become a favored partner with Orange County cities in need of creative solutions.

Meanwhile, over in nearby Costa Mesa, Esayian was instrumental in finding a joint venture partner for the redevelopment of the former L.A. Times printing press site in Costa Mesa. To be known as The Press, about 300,000 square feet of creative office space will be repurposed and developed on a roomy 25-acre site along with amenities like volleyball courts, grills and outdoor seating now popular even with law firms as well as advertising agencies.

The Press

Friday, July 22, 2016

Philadelphia Fed's Business Outlook Survey falls slightly in July

Manufacturing activity in the region fell slightly in July, according to firms responding to this month’s Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey. Although the indicator for current general activity turned negative, indicators for new orders and shipments were positive. The survey’s index of future activity improved slightly, and firms expect growth in new orders and shipments over the next six months.

Leading Economic Index rebounded in June

The U.S. LEI picked up in June, reversing its May decline. Improvements in initial claims for unemployment insurance, building permits, and financial indicators were the primary drivers. While the LEI continues to point to moderating economic growth in the U.S. through the end of 2016, the expansion still appears resilient enough to weather volatility in financial markets and a moderating outlook in labor markets.

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 7/22/16

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 7/22/16 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, I covered the following indicator
  • Existing home sales rose for the fourth straight month in June
  • FHFA:  Home prices up 0.2 percent in May and 5.6 percent year-on-year
  • Mortgage applications dip 1.3 percent in latest survey
  • Initial unemployment claims fall 1,000 in latest report
Want to advertise in the newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact the editor at nslevin@penpubinc.com.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

BuilderBytes' MetroIntelligence Economic Update for 7/21/16

Please click here to see the edition of BuilderBytes for 7/21/16 on the Web.

In this issue of the MetroIntelligence Economic Update, we covered the following indicators:

  • June building permits up 1.5 percent from May but down 13.6 percent year-on-year
  • June housing starts up 4.8 percent from May but down 2.0 percent year-on-year
Want to advertise in this three-times-per-week newsletter and reach over 130,000 readers? Contact the editor at nslevin@penpubinc.com.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Register now for 7th annual Inland Empire Economic Forecast Conference on 9/29/16!

Want to know what to expect for the Inland Empire economy now through 2035?

Please join MetroIntelligence, Beacon Economics and UC Riverside for the 7th annual Inland Empire Economic Forecast Conference on September 29, 2016 in Riverside.

Use our special discount code to save $25 to register!

For more info, visit http://conference.economicforecasting.org/

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What was the impact of Brexit on Britain's property market?

Now that American stock markets have more than regained the losses sustained after the pro-Brexit vote, another question remaining is the impact on the property market.

What’s in store for the property market post Brexit?

In the weeks leading up to the EU referendum, there was much speculation about the potential impact of a leave vote. George Osborne, chancellor of the Exchequer and effectively the No. 2 official in the British government, warned that house prices could fall by as much as 18% by 2018 - a forecast branded as 'scaremongery' by leave campaigners. The International Monetary Fund also agreed that Brexit would trigger sharp drops in house prices.

Now that the result is known and the dust has started to settle, everyone is wondering how Britain leaving the Union will affect them. The only thing that’s certain in the current climate is uncertainty.

Homeowners and Landlords

In the Bank of England’s bi-annual Financial Stability Report released recently, economist and bank Governor Mark Carney warned that “conditions will be difficult” for future mortgage borrowers due to the economic volatility in the past week.

For existing homeowners and landlords, the predicted drop in house prices is worrying. Falling house prices and inflated interest rates could cause fluctuation in loan to value ratios, resulting in negative equity.

Landlord insurance provider HomeLet reported in its most recent Rental Index that rents have continued to rise in the first half of the year, although they have slightly slowed during the past last year in the wake of the UK deciding to leave the EU.

The average rent (excluding Greater London) has risen to £773 (US$1,031) per month, which is 3.5 per cent higher than last year, according to the report. Average rent in London has risen to £1,575 (US$2101) per month, up 3.9 per cent over the last year.

Housing crisis

One prediction made by the Leave Campaign was that the housing crisis would be resolved by leaving the EU. This prediction was made on the assumption that the demand for housing would be decreased by reduced immigration. However, sharp drops in share prices caused by the leave vote may mean that house builders will not be able to secure funding for new developments, resulting in housing targets not being met. Berkeley and Barratt Developments both experienced a significant drop, followed by a slight rise, in share prices.

Commercial property

Commercial property funds, with over £9bn ($US12bn) of investors’ money, halted redemptions early in July after an increase in investors withdrawing. Companies including M&G, Aviva and Standard Life all made this move, with others expecting to follow. Share prices have gradually stabilized, but there is still widespread uncertainty.