Unstructured Finance

The gold rush in foreclosed homes picks up steam as mad money flows freely

By Matthew Goldstein

Institutional money keeps rushing into the market for foreclosed homes, with some big players snapping up homes at breakneck speed. But the question is whether the big buyers are throwing money around indiscriminately and Wall Street’s big housing long will come up a bit short.

The other day Bloomberg reported that Blackstone Group has already spent $2.5 billion to buy 16,000 homes to manage as rentals and eventually sell them when prices appreciate high enough. Blackstone says it’s finding that the going price for homes sold at foreclosure auctions and out of bank inventories are rising quicker than anticipated.

But Blackstone, which some believe could spend up to $5 billion on single family home space, isn’t alone in racing to snap-up foreclosed homes in states like Florida, Georgia, California, Nevada and Arizona. American Homes 4 Rent, a firm that has $600 million from the Alaska Permanent Fund, is buying up hundreds of homes a month, industry sources say. Colony Capital, the other big institutional player is no less aggressive.

Other significant players also are still appearing in the market.

Private equity shop Apollo Global Management is committing hundreds of millions to the market and partnering with several firms that specialize in acquiring and operating single family homes. People familiar with what Apollo is doing say it’s a less aggressive approach than the one taken by Blackstone.  In one partnership, Apollo is providing financing to Calif.-based Haven Realty Capital and has begun buying homes in Las Vegas, for instance.

Don Mullen, a former Goldman Sachs executive who helped design the firm’s subprime mortgage trade, has raised at least $170 million for his foreclosed home fund with the help of Goldman’s wealth management group, which is marketing the fund to its wealthy customers. Mullen’s fund also began buying homes a few months ago in Las Vegas and Florida.

Some Hedge Funds Throwing in Keys as “Landlords”

By Matthew Goldstein and Jennifer Ablan

All year the big money has been talking up one of the more intriguing trades to emerge from the housing crisis: buying up foreclosed homes in large scale and rent those out for several years and then unload them when the price is right. But questions about the so-called rent-to-own trade are being raised now that an early mover in the space, hedge fund giant Och-Ziff Capital, is looking to cash in its chips now and is abandoning the idea of operating foreclosed homes as rental properties for years to come.

Now we’re not quite ready to declare the foreclosed home rent-to-own trade is dead as the tireless, prolific financial bloggers at ZeroHedge did in a good riff on our exclusive story on Och-Ziff’s decision. But Daniel Och’s concern that the income to be generated from renting out foreclosed homes may not be as high as originally anticipated bears close scrutiny because it could spell trouble for other hedge funds, private equity firms and smaller money managers counting on rental income to generate an annual 8 pct or greater return on investment.

Way back in March, when we first wrote about all the big money that was racing into the foreclosed home market, we noted that some were concerned that a lot of the newer entrants might not really up to the challenge of managing and renting single-family homes for the long haul. Historically, the business of buying, rehabbing and renting foreclosed homes has been a mom-and-pop endeavor, conducted by people with strong community roots. The skeptics wondered whether institutional players were too blinded by the potential to capture yield and overlooking the challenges that comes with bringing often vacant foreclosed homes up  to code and habitable conditions.

FHFA is not on an REO speed wagon when it comes to full disclosure

By Matthew Goldstein

The FHFA continues to reveal as little as possible about its pilot project of selling foreclosed homes to private investors in bulk sales.

With surprisingly little fanfare, the Federal Housing Agency announced this week that Pacifica Companies, a little-known San Diego investment firm, is the first company to emerge as the winner in the pilot project. Pacifica is buying 699 single-family homes that are part of Fannie Mae’s REO portfolio in Florida.

In the coming weeks, FHFA says it will announce the winning bids for bulks sales of REO homes in California, Arizona and Illinois as part of the much-hyped pilot project to sell 2,500 foreclosed homes. The agency that regulates Fannie and Freddie Mac says there will be no winning bid for some 541 homes it was planning to sell in Atlanta. The agency didn’t offer an explanation.

Wall Street gold rush in foreclosed homes heads north

By Matthew Goldstein and Jennifer Ablan

The state of Alaska is looking to cash in on the growing demand for renting out foreclosed single-family homes.

A spokeswoman for the $40 billion Alaska Permanent Fund recently approved a $400 million investment with a California-based company that specializes in buying foreclosed homes and renting them out. Laura Achee said the fund is still negotiating the terms of the deal with American Homes 4 Rent LLC.

The Alaska fund, which is managed by a state-owned corporation, is believed to be one of the first public investment arms to sink money into the market for foreclosed homes.

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