As homes were foreclosed by the millions following the housing crisis, Wall Street stepped in and investors, according to Zillow, gobbled up over 5 million homes, turning them into rental properties. They were bought as individual homes, via bulk sales of lender real estate owned (REO), or as distressed loans upon which the investors later foreclosed.
It was expected that these properties would return to the owner-occupied status once home prices recovered and the investors, largely big hedge funds, could realize a profit. Instead, they have found ways to manage the geographically dispersed properties and continue to hold hundreds of thousands of them.
This has been problematic. While the investor purchases helped put a floor under home prices at a time when there was little appetite for buying distressed properties, it has continued to reduce the inventory of available homes for sale. There have also been many apartment complaints of tenant abuses and deferred maintenance. Many of these were spotlighted last March in a New York Times Magazine article, “A $60 Billion Housing Grab by Wall Street” by Francesco Mari. We summarized her work here.
So far, the COVID-19 pandemic has not resulted in massive foreclosures due both to mortgage forbearance programs and a foreclosure moratorium put in place by the U.S. Congress’s Cares Act. Still, mortgage delinquencies are rising, and weekly first-time unemployment claims have remained above 800,000 since March. Most forbearance plans are due to expire by next March lacking further government action.
What the future will hold in the Boston real estate market is shaky at best
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