Where have all the Buyers Gone?
Sung to the tune of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone…”

Where have all the buyers gone, long time passing
Where have all the buyers gone, not so long ago
Where have all the buyers gone, gone to rentals everyone
Oh when will they ever return? Oh when will they ever return?

2014 will go down in local real estate lore as the year we Phoenicians caught our collective real estate breath. This is a good thing. Though the Phoenix-Scottsdale metro market has been languishing for a year plus now, our prices have so far held up.

As far as sales are concerned, we have to go back to September 2006 to find as few sales as we had last month. So, this begs the question, where have all the buyers gone? More importantly, when will they return? And what will bring them back?

There’s good news on this front (in my opinion). Before I go there, let’s take a look to see where our buyers did go. Here’s a quick review, thanks to Michael Orr, of the Cromford Report. It is generally agreed that a number of issues contributed to the current real estate malaise, including:

Where Have all the Buyers Gone?
• Investor activity dropped 36% from September 2013 (our peak)
• Millennials are not buying homes like their parents did (more of them are living with their parents, sharing or renting)
• One in four former homeowners are in the “Penalty Box.” (The “Penalty Box” is where these former homeowners have to wait before they can buy a home again. Typically, this wait runs from 3-7 years, (2 years if VA) no matter how well their fico credit scores rise)
• 367,000 owners lost homes to foreclosure, short sales
• Large Lenders are holding back as they are very much risk averse and so buyer qualification standards are still pretty rough
• Demand is currently favoring Renting

A Closer Look at the Millennial Buyer:
• Starting families later than earlier generations
• Lower birth rates
• Many Still living with parents
• Higher preference for urban lifestyle
• Tendency to share accommodation and transportation
• Not convinced home ownership is good for wealth
• Expect to own a home one day – Not a high priority for them in 2014
• Mostly renting, creating demand for landlords.

A Closer Look at the Penalty Box:
• 232,767 (19% of Maricopa homeowners) have been foreclosed since 2008
• 83,849 (7% of homeowners) completed short sales since 2008
• 26% of former owners have credit issues
• Peak foreclosures were from 2008 – 2011

So What’s the Good News?

In this case, what goes down should go back up. As there were peak foreclosures and short sales in 2008-2011, the penalty box release phase begins in 2015 and continues through 2018, meaning that these buyers, assuming their regular credit is good, can qualify for conventional and FHA loans again.

If only 5% of these Boomerang Buyers (18,000+-) bought a home in each of the next four years, each of those years, save one, would make a record sales year. And if that happens, look out, we could see the wild, wild west all over again.