Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Economy: next three to six months

(Bloomberg, May 19) -- "The index of leading U.S. economic indicators rose in April for a second month, the first back-to-back gain since October 2006, signaling that the current slowdown will be short-lived. The Conference Board's gauge increased 0.1 percent, better than forecast and matching the gain in March, the New York-based research group said today. The measure points to the direction of the economy over the next three to six months."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Best months to buy and sell a home

The best months to buy a home are late July, August, Dec, and early January. Buyers are on vacation or tied up with the holidays. As a result, there are less bidders driving up the cost of properties.

The best months to sell your home are early March through the end of June. And the Fall months of Sept, Oct, and early Nov. The kids are in school and parents have time to look for homes.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Commercial mortgage-backed securities

Billionaire Sam Zell said institutional investors are beginning to return to the market for mortgage-backed securities that finance commercial real estate deals and new construction.

“I believe the overall market has already started to ease,” Zell, chairman of Equity Residential, the largest US apartment owner, said in an interview in New York. “Is it in large volumes? No. Is it the first natural step in the evolution? Yes.”

For the first time since July, when credit Markets froze in reaction to rising home-loan defaults, investors are starting to move their money from Treasury bonds, whose returns are below the inflation rate, and into commercial mortgage-backed securities. Insurance Companies and pension funds need to earn at least 6% to cover their liabilities, Zell said.

The yield on the two-year Treasury note closed at 2.258% yesterday, while one measure of the cost of commercial real estate borrowing, 10-year fixed conduit spreads, dropped 28% in the last month, according to Morgan Stanley.

Zell, 66, sold Equity Office Properties Trust, the largest owner of US office buildings, for $39 billion including debt in February 2007, five months before the credit crunch.

‘Ex-urban’ offices

The value of the best office buildings in city centres will weather the slowing Economy, Zell said. He said he’s more concerned about flashy glass towers built in far suburbs.

“I’m sure there’s going to be some casualties, particularly in what I would call ex-urban, the glass-block commodity office building,” he said. “I don’t think there is going to be any casualties in Manhattan, I don’t think there’s going to be any casualties in any of the first-class office space around the country. The commercial real estate market is going to do terrific no matter what the Economy does, short of a depression.”

International investments will also continue to boost US commercial real estate, with available opportunities overriding overseas antipathy toward President George W Bush, Zell said.

“After they get through bashing George Bush, the very next question is, ‘Where’s my visa?’ There is not another environment in the world that matches the US in terms of opportunity, creativity, acceptance of change, acceptance of failure.” Zell said.

In June, Zell bought Chicago-based media company Tribune Co for $8.3 billion and took it private. Tribune’s holdings include the Chicago Tribune newspaper, the Chicago Cubs baseball team and its Wrigley Field home, and WGN-TV. He remains chairman of Equity Residential, the largest US owner of rental property.

Zell ranked 164th on Forbes Magazine’s list...