Investment and vacation homes sales surged in 2011

Sales of investment and vacation homes* jumped in 2011, with the combined market share rising to the highest level since 2005, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

NAR’s 2012 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey, covering existing- and new-home transactions in 2011, shows investment-home sales surged an extraordinary 64.5 percent to 1.23 million last year from 749,000 in 2010. Vacation-home sales rose 7.0 percent to 502,000 in 2011 from 469,000 in 2010. Owner-occupied purchases fell 15.5 percent to 2.78 million.

Vacation-home sales accounted for 11 percent of all transactions last year, up from 10 percent in 2010, while the portion of investment sales jumped to 27 percent in 2011 from 17 percent in 2010.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said investors with cash took advantage of market conditions in 2011. “During the past year investors have been swooping into the market to take advantage of bargain home prices,” he said. “Rising rental income easily beat cash sitting in banks as an added inducement. In addition, 41 percent of investment buyers purchased more than one property.”

Yun said the shift in investment buyer patterns in 2011 shows the market, for the large part, is able to absorb foreclosures hitting the market. “Small-time investors are helping the market heal since REO (bank real estate owned) inventory is not lingering for an extended period. Any government program to sell REO inventory in bulk to large institutional companies should be limited to small geographic areas. Even where alternatives are needed, it’s best to rely on the expertise of local businesses, nonprofit organizations and government,” he said.

All-cash purchases have become fairly common in the investment- and vacation-home market during recent years: 49 percent of investment buyers paid cash in 2011, as did 42 percent of vacation-home buyers. Half of all investment home purchases in 2011 were distressed homes, as were 39 percent of vacation homes.

“Clearly we’re looking at investors with financial resources who see real estate as a good investment and who aren’t hesitant to use cash,” Yun said. Of buyers who financed their purchase with a mortgage, large down-payments were typical. The median down-payment for both investment- and vacation-home buyers in 2011 was 27 percent.

“Given the tight credit in recent years, many would-be normal home buyers for owner occupancy declined,” Yun said.

NAR’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows there are 8.0 million vacation homes and 42.8 million investment units in the U.S., compared with 75.3 million owner-occupied homes.

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