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Home Sales Post Largest Monthly Decline Since Pandemic Onset

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Fewer homes than ever were for sale in December, driving seasonally-adjusted home sales down 3.6%, according to a new report from Redfin, the technology-powered real estate brokerage. This marks the largest month-over-month sales decline since May 2020. Home prices surged 15% from a year earlier, the 17th consecutive month of double-digit increases.

“Home sales are slumping, but not for lack of demand,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “There are plenty of home buyers on the hunt, but there is just nothing for sale. In many markets, shopping for a home feels like going to the grocery store only to find the shelves bare. In January, I expect to see more buyers and sellers in the market, but demand will increase more than supply — pushing prices higher at the start of this year.”

“The wild housing market did not take a break for the holidays,” said Brionna Chang, a Redfin real estate agent in the San Francisco area. “There was one two-bedroom home in Orinda that was listed just before Christmas, and around 40 people immediately came to the open houses. It ended up getting multiple offers and going for $325,000 over the $1.2 million asking price.”

Median sale prices increased from a year earlier in all but one of the 88 largest metro areas Redfin tracks. The only metro area with a decrease was Bridgeport, Connecticut, where home prices fell 0.4% from a year earlier following a 28% year-over-year increase in December 2020. The largest price increases were in Austin, Texas (+30%), North Port, Florida (+28%) and Phoenix (+28%).

Seasonally-adjusted home sales in December were down 3.6% from a month earlier and 11% from a year earlier, the largest annual decline since June 2020. Home sales fell from the prior year in 79 of the 88 largest metro areas Redfin tracks. The biggest sales declines were seen in Nassau County, New York (-22%), New Brunswick, New Jersey (-22%) and Albany, New York (-21%). The largest gains were in Greenville, South Carolina (+9%), Greensboro, North Carolina (+8%) and Baton Rouge, Louisiana (+7%).

Only one of the 88 largest metros tracked by Redfin posted a year-over-year increase in the number of seasonally adjusted active listings of homes for sale: Detroit (+4%). The biggest year-over-year declines in active housing supply in December were in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (-52%), San Jose, California (-49%) and San Francisco (-46%).

Seasonally adjusted new listings of homes for sale were down 13% in December from a year earlier, the largest decline since May 2020. New listings fell from a year ago in 82 of the 88 largest metro areas.

The typical home that sold in December went under contract in 24 days—a week faster than a year earlier, when homes sold in a median 31 days, but up nine days from the record low of 15 days in June.

In December, 43% of homes sold above list price, down 14 percentage points from the record high in June, but up 9 percentage points from a year earlier. The average sale-to-list price ratio in December was 100.5%, down from a record high of 102.6% in June but up from 99.4% a year earlier.



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Real Estate

Hines, Trez Capital team up for 414-acre gated community in McKinney and Prosper ISD

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Construction on new homes is expected to begin later this year with sales expected to begin in 2023.



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Robust 2021 Holiday Sales Pressure Reverse Logistics

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Mastercard reports in spite of hurdles from supply chain disruptions and a Covid-19 resurgence, retail sales were up 8.5% between November 1 and December 24, vis-à-vis the year before. But once holiday season concluded, another kind of work commenced.

A robust holiday shopping season resulted in retailers being inundated with returns and exchanges. In the process of accepting returns, termed a “reverse logistical process,” retailers are presented with an untidy headwind that accounts for more than 10% of total supply chain costs.

It’s a challenge that impacts both retail and real estate strategies, according to a recent report from Savills that is focused on reverse warehouse space.

The report spotlights a number of intriguing findings. First, it indicates two-thirds of consumers are expected to send back at least one gift from the 2021 holiday season. The overall return rate for all retail purchases averages 10.6% but the return rate for the steadily growing e-commerce retail sector is almost twice as high, averaging 18.1%.

Another finding is that reverse logistics requires 20% more warehouse space when compared to forward logistics and that so-called “second-generation” facilities are adequate to meet the demand. Returns processing does not typically need a state-of-the-art distribution center. That’s good, because second-generation space is abundant, representing the majority of inventory in North America’s tightest industrial markets.

In Northern New Jersey and Los Angeles, second-generation space represents more than 50% of the space inventory. The rent discount to newer construction can be steep. It equates to 33% in the Inland Empire and 25% in Seattle, providing substantial value alternatives. Opportunities for reverse logistics aren’t limited to second-generation warehouses. Manufacturing buildings and converted retail stores are other options.   

The best locations for reverse logistics are near consumer households and retail stores. Proximity to recycling centers and other specialized infrastructure is also key.

Many touches

“Reverse warehouses are distribution centers where returned merchandise must be inspected and sorted manually,” says Mark Russo, Savills North America head of industrial research. “Returns operations involve many touches, making them disruptive and necessitating separation from forward logistics.

“This requires accommodation within a specific area of a warehouse or in a stand-alone specialized facility. Returns can also be contracted to a third-party logistics provider or can be processed in co-warehousing space on a short-term basis, since typical space demand is highly seasonal.”  

Reverse logistics has become increasingly important over the past two years, due to the fact the pandemic supercharged growth for e-commerce, with its much higher return rate. The major recent consumer trend has been a shift in spending from services toward goods. A growing percentage of those goods are being returned, Russo says.

A positive returns experience is a critical driver of customer satisfaction and retention. That means an efficient reverse warehouse operation is essential to that positive experience. “It is a key component of building a successful brand,” Russo says.

“On the flipside, reverse logistics is both labor and space intensive, which makes it expensive. The cost to process some returns can be more than the profit margin on the product. This explains why you are starting to see online retailers issuing refunds, while letting people keep lower-priced items.”

Robotic future

So far, reverse warehouses haven’t been successful in generating needed efficiency through automation. As mentioned, inspecting and sorting returned items defies automation because it is exceptionally manual in nature. But that could be changing.

“Looking ahead, we predict that advancements in robotics will eventually reduce the labor intensity,” Russo predicted. “[That] will also change the calculus for what types of buildings and locations make sense for a reverse warehouse.

“But we aren’t seeing that yet.”



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Real Estate

Related Group, W5 break ground on Wynwood co-living project with $29M loan

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The project’s rent-by-the-bed model for co-living allows people to obtain a home for a lower price point.



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