We all know something’s rotten in real estate. Even people paying no attention to markets notice how dramatically rent and property values have risen. In my area, property values have quintupled in the last ten years. What bought a house on acreage ten years ago now wouldn’t get you a small house on a tiny lot in a terrifying neighborhood.
It’s not that tons of people are moving to my state. Nearly as many are leaving. It’s also not that there is a building shortage. Enormous housing subdivisions are going up, but they’re full of $500,000 homes in an area where the median income is $80,000. It just doesn’t make sense.
Investment firms are snapping up homes.
That is, unless you’re looking at homes not as a place for real people to inhabit but as investment opportunities. Sellers are usually happy to sell to investment firms because they can pay so much more than average individual buyers, but that’s because investment firms have access to much lower interest rates.
While investors dramatically slowed down their purchases of single-family homes in 2023 due to the mortgage rate increases, they still purchased about 18% of homes sold because individuals have slowed down their purchases of homes, too.
Everyone knows that the luxury home bubble is going to burst at some point, and investment firms are backing off accordingly. This year they have shifted their focus to low-income homes, buying up an increasingly large share of starter homes around the country. Investment firms see these as safer bets financially, but this concentration of cheaper homes into the hands of investment firms makes it harder than ever for lower earners to buy their own homes.
Rural land is being artificially inflated by investors too.
Some young people have been thinking, well, maybe I’ll just move to the country, buy some cheap acreage, and do the homesteading thing. But farmland prices have been artificially inflated, too.
Now, I know for a fact that many investors simply look at aerial photography, pick out pieces they think look interesting, and then start making offers. I know because I live on an interesting-looking piece of property, and I have been contacted by investors who know absolutely nothing about the zoning laws or long-term plans in my area.
They do similar things with farmland, except that misreading aerial photography with farmland can have much bigger consequences in terms of price. Looking at the 2023 Nebraska Farm Real Estate Report, you can see that, for the Southwest portion of the state, center-pivot irrigated cropland is worth $5495 per acre, whereas dryland cropland with irrigation potential goes for $2080 per acre, less than half the price. And I’m using Southwest Nebraska as an example, but land all over the drier parts of the High Plains shows a large price disparity between irrigated and non-irrigated cropland.