How To Profit From The Disturbing Trend In Housing

If I time it just right, I can cut across three lanes of oncoming traffic to escape the bustling rush hour that plagues me every day on my way to work.

Once I veer off the main road into this quiet residential neighborhood lined with oak trees, I keep an eye out for any “For Sale” signs. I like to stay informed with the happenings of the local residential market. And what I’ve noticed over the past few weeks has been, quite frankly, pretty shocking.

#-ad_banner-#You see, here in the Austin market, it can often be only a matter of days before an offer is made when a house comes to the market. For example, one house with a sticker price of around $650,000 was only up for five days before a “pending” sign was hanging beneath the “For Sale” sign. Soon the sign was taken down all together and within around 40 days, cars were parked in the driveway. (Keep in mind it typically takes at least 30 days to close on a mortgage.)

Talking with one of my mortgage lending buddies, he said this was how it was all over Austin. It wasn’t uncommon for a house to go on the market and immediately have one or two offers on it.

But that’s beginning to change…

In that same neighborhood there are now three houses for sale — all with a sticker price between $550,000 and $650,000 — and two have been on the market for well over 60 days. The third is approaching 30 days. The two houses that have been on the market for over 60 days have each reduced their prices twice… and still no one has bitten.

But something didn’t make sense. The feverish buying that I had noticed the past year… well that doesn’t seem like it’s the case any longer.

Even though national home sales increased last month, homeownership in the United States has plummeted.

The chart of home ownership in the United States paints a perfect picture:

As you can see homeownership peaked in 2005 and has quickly retreated to a 20-year low, hitting 64.4% in the third quarter.

On the flipside, the residential rental vacancy rate fell in the third quarter to its lowest level since the first quarter of 1995.

Put simply, more people are content renting than they are buying. But this gets clouded in the housing facts that are released every month.

For example, new residential construction, when looked at as a whole, looks pretty good. The rebound in new construction looks like it’s off to a great start. Total construction came in at 790,000 total units for the month of September:

But when I broke it down to see what kind of construction is really happening, over half of the total new construction (429,000) involves buildings with five units or more. Construction of multifamily units, like apartments, has surged:

It’s no secret why this is happening. While the economy has improved since the depths of the Great Recession, it’s clear that folks on Main Street are still feeling pinched by the overall economic environment. My colleague Christian Hudspeth has been researching this issue for months, and has mentioned several ways to profit from this phenomenon. (You can read more from him here and here.)

But bottom line, with more and more people moving into rentals rather than buying houses, now is a perfect time to invest in this surging sector. One of our my favorite plays is Camden Property Trust (NYSE: CPT).

Camden is a real estate investment trust (REIT) that owns, develops, acquires and manages multifamily residential apartment communities across the United States. Its current portfolio consists of 183 properties containing over 64,000 apartment homes, which generated over $180 million in rental revenue in its most recent quarter.

The other great thing about investing in a company that owns apartment homes is it can serve as a great hedge against rising interest rates and inflation. If interest rates rise, this will put more downward pressure on the housing market, turning people toward rentals. And if inflation begins to increase, apartments can always increase rental rates — which can add to the bottom line. On top of the capital gain potential from Camden Property Trust, the shares throw off a solid 3.6% dividend yield — making this a great growth and income play.

P.S. — I’m not the only StreetAuthority analyst looking to generate solid dividends from real estate. In fact, my colleague Amy Calistri owns a couple of investments in her Daily Paycheck portfolio that are throwing off impressive yields of 6% and 8%. To learn more about her income strategy, which has allowed her to earn $72,266.67 in dividends and receive a dividend “paycheck” every month, you’ll want to watch Amy’s live presentation here.