Author Archives: Fanny Rutledge

Real Estate Investment Strategies For Low-Growth Markets In The Northeast

Hartford, Connecticut (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

In only one of the 20 markets we analyzed for this review—Boston—did percent population over the past three years increase faster than the national rate. Most grew very slowly or, in a good number of cases, the population was flat or shrank.

In addition, the number of jobs in these markets in the past year increased at the average rate in only four. These are not growth markets, not even close. Stagnation is a better description.

Population and jobs are the strongest drivers of demand for housing, so how do you invest in markets where those drivers are absent? It’s not as though there’s no demand for housing here: home prices in some of these markets increased smartly in the past year.

Clearly, we have to assess low-growth markets in a different way than we would markets where people are pouring in. Even in high-growth markets it’s possible to make bad investments, but the chances for success are just better. So, similarly, in low-growth markets it’s perfectly possible to make good investments, you just have to be more careful about it.

One way to be careful, of course, is to invest in the right location. These days that means closer to downtown, or near a college, hospital or retail complex, or by a major transportation access point—a metro rail station or major highway intersection.

In those markets where home prices have recently been flat or down—Hartford, Fairfield County, Atlantic City, with New Haven, Camden and Trenton close behind, where home prices are well below the income price, and where the Home-Price/Rent ratio is low—you may be best off rehabbing a property in a favorable area. You can then either enter the upper-middle rent market, which is less affected by a poor economic climate, or just resell at a higher price.

In down markets like these it’s also a good idea to simply invest in an apartment building. Even though home prices may be flat, rents increase with inflation and local income and could give you a superior return down the road if the local economy picks up again. Just keep in mind that the location is key, and avoid renting in the bottom half of the market, that’s where economic distress can affect both your occupancy rate and your management costs. Low-end renting is a highly specialized field.

In markets with a high Home-Price/Rent ratio—Portland, Boston, the New York area and Newark—the rental and single-family markets are disconnected. It’s very difficult to rent out an expensive single-family home because the number of potential renters with the necessary income is fairly small. Instead, investors can split a single-family home into several rental units, or just invest in apartment buildings. Rehabbing is also an option, but in these markets with low growth, the time and expense to rehab a property or to split one into rental units may not be worth the potential payoff.

The income price gives a final clue about what can be done in markets that remain under-priced almost 10 years after the big recession. Hartford, Fairfield County, Rochester, Syracuse and Camden are significantly under-priced and also have low home prices (Fairfield county splits into the expensive Greenwich-Stamford end and the inexpensive Bridgeport end). With the current economic situation poor and prices so low, you might take a flyer and risk short-term stagnation in exchange for a big payoff down the road. Again, find a property in a favorable location, do minimal rehab, rent into the upper half of the market—and just sit on this one without expectations for five years. Your downside is low, your eventual upside pretty good.

It’s easier to invest in markets that are growing, but people everywhere need a place to live. Within every market there are sub-markets with good potential. You have to work a little harder to find them, you need to think about different ways to invest, but even in the slow-growth Northeast there are plenty of possibilities.

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PDX Real Estate Insider: Three things I’ve heard about a Hood expansion, a Fred Meyer redo and what Mark Wattles is up to – Portland Business Journal

A piece of journalistic advice I’ve heard over and over again is to get out of the office as much as possible. And every time we here at the Business Journal get out of the office, whether it’s for a day of skiing on Mt. Hood or a trip to the grocery store, that advice pays out. Read on to see just how.

Hood happenings

The slopes were like glue when when we went up to Timberline to ski on Mother’s Day weekend, essentially marking the end of a pretty solid ski season this year. As we were driving down through Government Camp, I noticed a Bremik Construction sign on some fencing around an old gas station that sits right next to Mt. Hood Brewing Co. on Highway 26.

Curious, I did some poking around at PSU’s real estate conference last week and found out that Mt. Hood Brewing, which is owned by Jeff Kohnstamm — head of the company that runs Timberline Lodge — has a little expansion in mind. Word is that the property is being renovated into an extension of the brewery and will be home to a canning line as well as some kind of a charcuterie operation. Could be a nice little addition to a nice little mountain hamlet.

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An expansion of Mt. Hood Brewing Co. in Government Camp will give skiers and other visitors to Mt. Hood another place to sip and snack on the mountain.

Fred Meyer Redo

The already bustling Fred Meyer at Southeast Cesar Chavez Boulevard and Hawthorne is supposedly about to get a little more bustling. My colleague, and frequent PDX REI contributor, Malia Spencer, was chatting with a checker the other day who told her that not only has the store been seeing more crowds since the closing of the Fred Meyer on Southeast Foster Road, but a big remodel is planned to kick off next month that could make the store a little more hectic, at least temporarily. A call to Fred Meyer’s media folks wasn’t returned by deadline, but we’ll follow up.

One of the last Fred Meyer’s to get a big makeover was the Stadium Fred Meyer in Northwest, which underwent a $30 million remake back in 2015.

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The Stadium Fred Meyer got a $30 million facelift in 2015. The Hawthorne store may be next.

Wattles returns to the headlines

In case you missed it, Mark Wattles, founder of the formerly Oregon-based Hollywood Video, is back in local news this week. Not only has one of the state’s most successful businessmen decided to put his 32-acre riverfront estate — including the shell of a 50,000-square-foot mansion that’s never been completed — up for auction, but he’s also launched a new coffee company that has some very Oregon inspiration.

You can read about his latest goings-on here and here.

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Wattles started Hollywood Video in Portland and grew it into a movie rental giant with some 2,000 stores at its peak. He sold his final stake in the company in 2005 for almost $53 million.

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IOTAS, Intel-backed Portland startup, brings the digital home to thousands of apartments

Sce Pike

When Miranda Brown comes home to her Beaverton apartment each evening, the lights come on the moment she opens the door. They go off again anytime she leaves.

And not just the lights. Some “smart” outlets shut off, too, preserving power that little gadgets would otherwise suck up. Brown can turn lights or gadgets back on, while she’s away, with an app on her phone. Or she can turn up the heat when she’s lingering in bed on a chilly morning.  Continue reading →

Portland Real Estate Market Still Adjusting to Inclusionary Housing

Stephanie Reyes analyzed 1,379 policies and programs last year, all dedicated to inclusionary housing, the mandatory or voluntary inclusion of affordable housing units as part of market-rate or luxury developments.

One of the insights she came to realize: it’s important for cities to provide certainty in the market about whatever policies they choose to adopt. If developers think they can wait out a policy that the city might change its mind about, they’ll try to. Inclusionary housing policies need to be seen as a permanent part of the regulatory environment before they can work, she says.  Continue reading →