Chinese Sovereign Fund Shifts Focus To U.S. Real Estate; How This Will Affect Home Prices

by Emma Davis
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Submitted by Emma Davis of Investment Contrarians as part of our contributors program.

By Sasha Cekerevac

One of the biggest fears for investors is to buy at the top of any market. This is a natural reaction because most of us were taught since childhood to do the opposite. For example, my parents always emphasized the importance of buying products when they’re on sale.

Some people view the significant rise in home prices with apprehension, believing that these prices have risen too far. While it is true that home prices have risen substantially, as long as interest rates remain low, there is potential for further capital appreciation.

Americans aren’t the only ones considering real estate as part of their investment strategy. Recent reports state that China is considering diversifying its foreign exchange reserves, totaling approximately US$3.4 trillion, into U.S. real estate. (Source: Yang, S., et al., “China said to study US property investments with reserves,” Bloomberg, May 27, 2013.)

With the Chinese investment strategy in the past based primarily on investing in U.S. government debt, considering how little this asset class is currently yielding, it does make sense for the Chinese to look at diversifying into other sectors. When looking at the potential for home prices to continue rising versus U.S. government debt, this diversification seems quite prudent.

The ramifications for American home prices could be substantial. It really depends on how China goes about allocating its investment strategy. There are already shortages in many real estate markets across the U.S., which is part of the reason home prices have moved up so quickly.

The Chinese sovereign wealth fund could look at taking stakes in companies that are already involved in real estate and that benefit from higher home prices. Recent statistics show that mortgage quality has risen considerably over the past couple of years.

The latest data from Lender Processing Services Inc. shows that first-time home loan delinquencies dropped to 0.84% in March, which is the first time since 2007 that this level has been below one percent. In comparison, in 2009, first-time home loan delinquencies peaked at 2.89%. (Source: Gittelsohn, J., “Housing Crash Fades as Defaults Decline to 2007 Levels,” Bloomberg, May 6, 2013, accessed May 27, 2013.)

Another positive aspect supporting home prices for the future and benefiting firms that are already involved in real estate as part of their investment strategy is that mortgage quality has significantly improved. Essentially, people who can’t afford a home right now aren’t getting mortgages, which is how it should be.

The latest data by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) shows that 97% of borrowers from the FHA in the third quarter of 2012 had a credit score in excess of 620, in comparison to only 53% in the fourth quarter of 2006.

If the Chinese sovereign wealth fund decides to implement an investment strategy that incorporates American real estate, this would be a net benefit to home prices in general. It’s simple economics: an increase in demand with stable supply will, in turn, increase pressure on home prices.

Companies that have a large investment strategy in real estate will also benefit from higher home prices, even if they do not receive a direct investment from Chinese sovereign wealth funds. The Blackstone Group L.P. (NYSE/BX), which I’ve mentioned several times when it was trading at far lower prices, would be a beneficiary, since it owns an enormous amount of real estate.

The Blackstone Group was one of the earliest and most astute firms in creating an investment strategy built on a rebound in home prices. While the company is currently making a tremendous amount of money in rent, the value of its portfolio of properties will increase substantially if home prices continue their upward trajectory.

While these reports about China adjusting its investment strategy and incorporating real estate are not definitive and are, at this point, only speculative, if they prove to be true, China’s adjustments would certainly add an additional push for U.S. home prices going forward.

This article Chinese Sovereign Fund Shifts Focus to U.S. Real Estate; How This Will Affect Home Prices was originally published at Investment Contrarians

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