U.S. Home-Buying Spree Easing for Investors

U.S. Home-Buying Spree Easing for Investors

Residential News » North America Residential News Edition | By WPJ Staff | March 14, 2014 11:02 AM ET

Blackstone Group, the largest single-family owner in the U.S., has eased its home-buying spree and is now focusing on certain markets.

The New York-based private equity firm has dropped the pace of its purchases for homes to rent by 70 percent from its peak in 2013, when the company spent more than $100 million a week on homes.

Since April 2012, the company has invested $8 billion to purchase 43,000 homes in 14 cities. Now it is focusing on the U.S. cities of Seattle, Atlanta, Miami, Orlando and Tampa, Jonathan Gray, Blackstone's global head of real estate, told Bloomberg.

"The institutional wave has passed," Mr. Gray said. "It's at a much lower level than it was 12 or 24 months ago."

Various investors including private-equity firms, hedge funds and real estate investment trusts have turned to the rental home market, together investing more than $20 billion to buy as much as 200,000 homes.

Investors bought properties with prices as much as 35 percent below their peak seven years ago, as rental demand grows from owners who lost their homes through foreclosures.

Earlier this year, the hot topic in Wall Street was the securitization involving debt tied to the growing single-family rental market.

Some estimates say financial opportunities in the new market can go as high as $1.5 trillion.

American Homes 4 Rent, the second-largest single-family landlord in the U.S., is also scaling back on its purchases. In the fourth quarter, the company purchased 2,001 homes, compared to 2,941 homes the previous quarter. The company added 1,533 homes in the first two months of 2014, increasing its portfolio to approximately 24,801, according to a statement.

Home prices in the U.S. increased in January by the largest margin since in seven years.

At the same time, U.S. foreclosures are at a seven-year low as rising prices have allowed homeowners to sell their properties, according to RealtyTrac.

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