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The US housing-inventory crisis is starting to bite existing home sales, which fell the most since August last month

Homes are seen for sale in the northwest area of Portland. Reuters Existing home sales fell 6.6% in February to the slowest rate since August,…

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FILE PHOTO: Homes are seen for sale in the northwest area of Portland, Oregon March 20, 2014.  REUTERS/Steve Dipaola  Homes are seen for sale in the northwest area of Portland.

Reuters

  • Existing home sales fell 6.6% in February to the slowest rate since August, according to NAR data.
  • Inventory held at a record-low 1.03 million, underscoring the market’s supply-demand imbalance.
  • The median selling price crept higher to $313,000 to tie the record high seen in October.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sales of previously owned homes in the US declined more than expected in February as the housing market’s supply shortage further curbed the recent buying spree.

Existing home sales fell 6.6% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.22 million, according to data published by the National Association of Realtors. The reading is the first decline since November and drags the pace of sales to its lowest since August. Still, sales are up 9.1% from the year-ago level.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected a more modest drop to a 6.49 million sales rate.

The median existing-home price crept higher to $313,000, marking 108 consecutive months of year-over-year gains. The new level ties October’s record high and sits 15.8% above the year-ago level.

Home inventory remained at a record-low 1.03 million units at the end of last month. Unsold units now count for two months of sales at their current rate, up slightly from January’s 1.9 month supply.

Supply was down 29.5% year-over-year at the end of February, underscoring the shortage that’s contributed to higher prices and a now-slowing pace of sales. Home purchases first boomed at the start of the pandemic as record-low interest rates pulled borrowing costs lower. Mortgage rates set several record lows in 2020 and further boosted buying activity.

Supply strains have since lifted prices even higher, and mortgage rates are now reversing their months-long decline. Lumber shortages have also pressured costs, with the National Association of Home Builders saying last month that rising material costs are adding $24,000 to the price of new homes.

These obstacles will likely curb the market’s rally as the economy reopens, Nancy Vanden Houten, lead US economist at Oxford Economics, said.

“We look for the pace of existing-home sales to drift lower over the course of the year as headwinds from a lack of supply and eroding affordability are partially offset by the tailwinds of still-strong demand, particularly from younger households and a solid recovery,” she added.

The National Association of Realtors is more bullish toward the strained market. While affordability is weakening, strong savings and a boost from Democrats’ latest relief package should keep demand elevated through 2021, Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR, said.

“Various stimulus packages are expected and they will indeed help, but an increase in inventory is the best way to address surging home costs,” he added.

Contractors are struggling to rise to the occasion. Building starts for new privately owned residences fell 10.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.42 million in February, according to the Census Bureau. That’s the lowest level since August and marks a second straight month of decline.

  • The median selling price crept higher to $313,000 to tie the record high seen in October.
  • Source: https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/existing-home-sales-february-supply-shortage-rising-prices-housing-market-2021-3-1030233485

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    Two new Florida cruises have cabins for solo travelers – see inside the ships

    The Solo Suite available in 2022. Atlas Ocean Voyages Over the last month, Oceania Cruises and Atlas Ocean Voyages have unveiled ships with si…

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    The cruise industry is gradually resuming operations, and at the same time, some cruise lines are tapping into a specific segment of customers: solo travelers.

    volunteer employees boarding a cruise ship carrying luggageVolunteer Royal Caribbean employees for the Freedom of the Seas sailing at PortMiami on June 20.

    Marta Lavandier/AP Photo

    Over the past month, two Florida-based cruise lines – including a newcomer to the industry – have unveiled new ships with cabins designed for lone travelers.

    top view of the World NavigatorThe World Navigator.

    Atlas Ocean Voyages

    But solo cruising isn’t a new trend: Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Virgin Voyages, and Norwegian have already successfully rolled out single-person accommodations.

    a bed next to a desk, tv, and mirrorThe Solo Insider.

    Virgin Voyages

    Source: Royal Caribbean, Virgin Voyages, Norwegian Cruise Line

    And so far, it’s been a success. For brands like Virgin, these solo rooms “perform really well,” John Diorio, the cruise line’s associate vice president of sales, told Johanna Jainchill for Travel Weekly.

    a bathroom with a shower, sink, mirrorThe Solo Insider.

    Virgin Voyages

    Source: Travel Weekly

    Staying in solo suites allows independent travelers to bypass paying single supplements, the fees that come with staying in a room designed for more than one occupant.

    a bed besides a balcony with views of the oceanThe Anthem of the Seas’ Studio Ocean View Stateroom with a balcony.

    Royal Caribbean International

    Some solo travelers see this single supplement as a “major obstacle” and a “penalization” for solitary vacations, Alberto Aliberti, president of Atlas Ocean Voyages, told Insider in an email statement.

    a bed besides a balcony with views of the oceanThe Quantum of the Sea’ Superior Studio Ocean View with a balcony.

    Royal Caribbean International

    Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Atlas Ocean Voyages just debuted this month, and it’s the first luxury cruise line to join the market in over 20 years, according to the company.

    the exterior of the World NavigatorThe World Navigator.

    Atlas Ocean Voyages

    Source: Insider

    To cater to this solo traveler segment, Atlas Ocean Voyages decided to include single-person suites aboard its first and and only vessel.

    a rendering of a bed facing a TV with a window in the backThe Solo Suite available in 2022.

    Atlas Ocean Voyages

    The brand’s World Navigator cruise ship has 98 guest rooms that can accommodate just under 200 travelers.

    a bed besides a armchair, lights, and a nightstandThe Veranda Stateroom.

    Atlas Ocean Voyages

    Beginning March 2022, the World Navigator will also have six 183-square-foot suites designated for solo travelers.

    a rendering of a bed facing a TV with a window in the backThe Solo Suite available in 2022.

    Atlas Ocean Voyages

    These single rooms – which Aliberti says have prompted “very positive responses” – will come with the same perks as the ship’s other suites. This includes binoculars and in-room Nespresso coffee, a stocked mini-refrigerator, and bar and butler services.

    a rendering of a bed facing a TV with a window in the backThe Solo Suite available in 2022.

    Atlas Ocean Voyages

    Similarly, in July, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ Oceania Cruises brand announced plans for its Vista cruise ship, which will officially debut in 2023.

    a living room with a couch, coffee table, and deskThe Concierge Level Solo Veranda stateroom.

    Oceania Cruises

    Source: Oceania Cruises

    The Miami-based cruise line’s upcoming ship will have “concierge level solo veranda staterooms” created for lone travelers, a first for the cruise line.

    a bed tucked away in the corner of the suite with the living room in the backgroundThe Concierge Level Solo Veranda stateroom.

    Oceania Cruises

    Like Atlas Ocean Voyages, solo guests sailing with Oceania will have the same luxury amenities as other concierge level passengers, such as free laundry and access to the Concierge Lounge.

    a living room with a couch, coffee table, desk, and bed in the backgroundThe Concierge Level Solo Veranda stateroom.

    Oceania Cruises

    And according to Aliberti, that’s the point. Many of these “underserved” solo travelers want the suite amenities, just not the single supplement payments.

    a table with seats and a mirrorThe Solo Insider.

    Virgin Voyages

    Source: https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/photos-florida-cruise-ships-cabins-for-solo-travelers-2021-8

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    Blackstone’s betting $6 billion on the rental market – here’s why private-equity loves real estate right now

    Jonathan Gray, Blackstone president and chief operating officer Heidi Gutman/NBCUniversal via Getty Images Blackstone is all-in on rent resets…

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    Jonathan GrayJonathan Gray, Blackstone president and chief operating officer

    Heidi Gutman/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

    • Blackstone is all-in on rent resets and long-term property assets to combat potential inflation.
    • Private equity firms have trillions of dollars in cash to put to work on acquisitions.
    • Blackstone’s share price ticked over $100 for the first time this month.
    • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

    It’s been quite the month for Blackstone.

    The private-equity behemoth is part of a consortium of investors that bought Medline for about $34 billion, its share price ticked over $100 for the first time, and it’s doubling down on residential real estate with a $6 billion Home Partners of America buy.

    It’s a bet on scorching demand for housing continuing, and also a defensive move as inflation worries start to seep into investors’ minds. The average price of a home topped $350,000 for the first time inn May, according to the National Association of Realtors, logging the largest-ever increase in prices since the NAR began tracking data.

    “Whether it’s apartments, storage facilities for warehouse distribution, or single-family homes, private-equity is getting into this as an inflation hedge,” Nicholas Tsafos, a partner with accounting firm EisnerAmper, told Insider.

    Home Partners, which owns more than 17,000 homes in the US, rents out these properties, but tenants have an opportunity to someday buy the home.

    In the single-family rental arena, private-equity firms can hike rents, while also holding onto profitable, tangible assets.

    “Because interest rates are low, and with the potential for a pick-up in inflation, private-equity also feels the need to be long on hard assets,” Tsafos said. “In real estate, you buy it today and then flip it for a higher price.”

    Jon Gray, Blackstone’s president and COO, alluded to it during the firm’s earnings call in April when he said multi-family apartments that come with the ability to reset rents were key for Blackstone.

    The firm bought many houses at remarkable discounts after the housing market crashed in 2007. It accumulated a number of single-family homes through a former portfolio company Invitation Homes. Blackstone sold its final block of shares in the company in 2019.

    The private-equity shop also favors logistics spaces, such as warehousing, life sciences offices, and media and studio businesses with offices, according to a June 22 research note from UBS.

    In October, Blackstone made a handsome investment when it sold life sciences real-estate company BioMed Realty for $14.6 billion, after acquiring it for about $8 billion in January 2016.

    And it’s not just Blackstone. Fellow private-equity investor KKR is investing in My Community Homes, a platform that buys and manages single-family rental properties, according to Bloomberg.

    KKR will invest in My Community Homes through its real-estate and private-credit vehicles.

    A spokesperson for KKR was not immediately available to comment.

    The Carlyle Group said in May that it provided up to $300 million to Four Springs Capital Trust, a private REIT that acquires and manages single-tenant properties with long-term net leases.

    Four Springs will use the money to build its portfolio, which encompasses 122 properties across 29 states, Carlyle said in a press release.

    The move on real estate comes while private investment firms sit on more than $1 trillion in cash. Borrowing costs, too, remain subdued as the Fed keeps interest rates at all-time lows.

    Given the sheer amount of dry powder available, coupled with accommodative credit markets, private-equity is keen to conduct a surfeit of acquisitions, and isn’t shy about injecting large sums of equity into prospective investments.

    Medline, for example, is expected to raise roughly $17 billion from the debt markets, while the private investors are providing a similar amount in equity.

    “Big leveraged buyouts are back in vogue,” said Christopher Zook, chairman and CIO of alternative investment manager CAZ Investments. “Whether it’s KKR or Blackstone, they have large capital to put to work. So they’ve got to do a ton of deals.”

    Disclaimer: KKR holds a majority stake in Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer.

    It’s been quite the month for Blackstone.

    Source: https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/blackstone-home-partners-america-single-family-rental-real-estate-inflation-2021-6-1030556791

    blackstone's-betting-$6-billion-on-the-rental-market---here's-why-private-equity-loves-real-estate-right-now

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    Trading the Fed, plus insights from a 99th-percentile fund manager

    Hello and welcome to Insider Investing. I'm Joe Ciolli, and I'm here to guide you through the current market and investing landscape. Here…

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    Hello and welcome to Insider Investing. I’m Joe Ciolli, and I’m here to guide you through the current market and investing landscape. Here’s what’s on the docket:

    If you aren’t yet a subscriber to Insider Investing, you can sign up here.

    Have thoughts on the newsletter? Just want to talk markets? Feel free to drop me a line at [email protected] or on Twitter @JoeCiolli.

    Fed-driven portfolio adjustments GettyImages 1228670990

    Pool/Getty Images

    The Federal Reserve left interest rates steady this past week while setting the stage for two hikes by year-end 2023. Traders, who took a wait-and-see approach before the Fed meeting, quickly sprung into action. Insider spoke with Wall Street and crypto investors to gauge how to position for the hawkish shift.

    Read the full story here:

    The Fed has left rates steady while signaling 2 potential hikes by the end of 2023. Here is what to do with your stocks, bonds, and digital assets, according to top Wall Street and crypto investors.99th-percentile insights and stock picks Dave Ellison

    Hennessy Funds

    Financial-sector stocks have outperformed the rest of the market over the last several months. Hennessy Funds’ Dave Ellison – who’s in the 99th percentile compared to peers over the past year – told Insider he expects their strong performance to continue. He shared 5 financial stocks to buy now in order to take advantage of the remaining upside.

    Read the full stories here:

    Dave Ellison has beaten 99% of his peers over the last year managing the Hennessy Small-Cap Financial Fund. He breaks down why he thinks financial stocks still have room to run – and shares 5 names to bet onSPAC shorts SPACs and hedge funds 2x1

    Brian Snyder/Reuters; Michael Loccisano/Getty Images; Samantha Lee/Insider

    Short interest in SPACs stood at $3.2 billion in mid-June, up from $2.7 billion. The uptick in SPAC shorts comes as the market works to recover from a weeks-long slowdown, and one ETF manager expects recently “de-SPACed” companies to see short activity surge soon. Exclusive data shows the 20 most-shorted blank-check companies right now.

    Read the full stories here:

    Bets against SPACs are revving back up as the market attempts a comeback. Here are the 20 most-shorted blank-check companies now.YOU’RE INVITED: A Millennial Guide to Home Ownership

    Join us and learn how to navigate the complicated process of buying a home in today’s hot market on Tuesday, June 22 at 12 p.m. ET – during a free, hour-long virtual event presented by Fidelity.

    Register here.

    Stock pick central

    Seeking experts who are willing to name names? Look no further:

    Have thoughts on the newsletter? Just want to talk markets? Feel free to drop me a line at [email protected] or on Twitter @JoeCiolli.

    Source: https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/trading-fed-99th-percentile-picks-spac-short-selling-insider-investing-2021-6-1030537490

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