Why Blackstone’s $69 Billion Property Fund Is Signaling Pain Ahead for Real Estate IndustryAdvisor Perspectives
Pain is deepening across the US real estate industry.
Two of the biggest players — Blackstone Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. — took steps this week to contend with weaker demand as the industry faces a rapidly cooling property market, rising interest rates and waning investor appetite.
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The well-heeled investors in the $69 billion Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust Inc. learned Thursday the fund will limit withdrawals as people seek to pull money from what’s been a cash magnet for one of the largest owners of real estate globally. Also Thursday, Wells Fargo, the biggest home loan originator among US banks, confirmed it’s cutting hundreds more mortgage employees as soaring borrowing costs crush demand.
In the housing market, mortgage rates that have doubled this year are sidelining potential buyers and causing sellers to pull back on new listings. A measure of prices has dropped for the last three months, while pending home sales have fallen for five months in a row. The volume of mortgages with rate locks plunged 61% in October from 2021 levels, according to Black Knight Inc.
Commercial real estate is also feeling the sting. Property prices have slumped 13% from a peak this year, according to Green Street’s October price index. The financing environment has become trickier as some big lenders have scaled back, leading property owners such as a Brookfield Asset Management Inc. unit to warn that it might struggle to refinance certain debt.
The industry fallout has been wide-ranging. Reverse Mortgage Funding, a home lender backed by Starwood Capital Group, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week.
Layoffs have been widespread. Opendoor Technologies Inc., which pioneered a data-driven spin on home-flipping known as iBuying, laid off about 18% of its workforce and wrote down the value of its property holdings by $573 million. Brokerage Redfin Corp. went through two rounds of layoffs and shuttered its iBuying business, while competitor Compass Inc. also made deep cuts to its technology teams in a quest for profitability.
Layoffs only tell part of the story of the pain. While mortgage firms and real estate technology companies cut costs by firing workers, real estate agents make up a large share of the industry’s workforce. They’re usually considered independent contractors and depend on commissions for a living. They don’t show up in layoff tallies but are also exposed to slowing home sales.
“There are hundreds of thousands of real estate agents who are not going to be practicing because people are buying and selling fewer homes,” said Mike DelPrete, a scholar-in-residence at the University of Colorado Boulder. “It’s like a silent culling of the ranks.”
Read the full article here by John Gittelsohn, Patrick Clark, Advisor Perspectives.