Will Apartments Be Stronger in the Post-Coronavirus World?

JP Morgan Chase, the largest lender by assets and fourth largest lender overall in the US, recently announced that they are raising borrowing standards for most new home loans to reduce their exposure during the coronavirus pandemic.

JPMorgan Chase’s chief marketing officer for the home lending business said “due to the economic uncertainty, we are making temporary changes that will allow us to more closely focus on serving our existing customers.”

What are these temporary changes? To qualify for a residential mortgage at Chase, a borrower must have a credit score of at least 700 and will be required to make a 20% down payment.

Additionally, Chase also announced that they are temporarily halting HELOC loan offerings.

JPMorgan is the first large lending institution to announce major changes to their lending criteria. I think a fair assumption is that other large lending institutions will follow suit in the coming weeks and months.

What does this mean for real estate investing and, more particular, apartments?

First, if less people qualify for residential financing, less people will be able to purchase their own homes. As a result, more people will be forced to rent. According to Experian, approximately 59% of Americans have a FICO Score of at least 700. And according to MBA, the average down payment across the housing market is around 10%. Therefore, the majority – and possibly the vast majority – of the population cannot qualify for Chase’s residential financing. Even if someone has a 700-credit score or higher, they may not be able to afford the 20% down payment due to the surge in home prices during the post-2009 economic expansion.

One benefit from buying a home during the post-2008 economic expansion was the increase in the value of the property from natural appreciation. According to Zillow, the average home value increased from $175,000 in March 2010 to $248,000 in March 2020. That is an overall increase of 47%, or 4.7% per year. This means that on average, the value of a home grew by nearly 5% each year. However, the Federal Reserve March consumer survey said home prices were expected to grow by only 1.32% this year, the lowest reading since the survey began in 2013. Therefore, one of the main financial benefits from owning a home has been eliminated, which may make renting more attractive.

16 million people are out of work due to the coronavirus. As a result, the number of borrowers who requested to delay mortgage payments rose by 1,900% in the second half of March. Currently, there has been a federal halt on foreclosures. So the question is, will foreclosures resume before or after these borrowers secure new employment? If it resumes before, many people will lose their homes and be forced to rent.

Overall, tighter lending criteria, the lowest projected home value increase since 2013, and the massive increase in the mortgage delay requests indicates that more people will be renting as opposed to buying in the near future. In fact, we are already seeing this happen. In March, the National Association of Realtors announced that they expect home sales to fall by around 10% compared to historical sales for this time of the year.

What do you think? Do you think more people will be renting or buying post-coronavirus?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action.

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Joe Fairless