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Who outbid you tens of thousands of dollars for your dream home?  A hedge fund.

Lack of supply of single-family homes has driven up house prices in many markets across the country – but potential buyers are finding they are being outbid not only by other home seekers, but by hedge funds.

“In the current neighborhood, I was surprised at the number of homes recently sold and sold to investment groups,” said Nathan Saunders, a Dallas area buyer.

While Saunders grew up in Dallas, finding a home there where he and his wife could raise their two-year-old son was an exhausting process, he told NBC News.

“My wife and I have been looking for a home for about a year,” he said, adding that the couple had made several offers. “On each of these, we’ve had entrepreneurs or investment groups outbid us on properties,” he said.

These buyers are often armed with the kind of financial firepower that ordinary Americans can’t hope to match, housing experts say.

“Historically, the vast majority of these investors were family owners, but after the 2008 crisis… we saw institutional investors and other funds entering this market,” said Karan Kaul, senior research associate for Housing. Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute.

“If you are a first-time home buyer and you are dependent on a mortgage that takes two months to complete and you are competing with someone who is making a cash offer, you are at a disadvantage from the start.” , Kaul said. .

“I can drive around the neighborhood and I know exactly which ones are rentals because the lawns are poorly maintained.”

David M. Dworkin, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference, said cash offers typically made up about 25% of the market, but over the past year they have soared to nearly 25% of the market. ‘one in three. “This has the worst impact on first-time homebuyers, who are generally more dependent on mortgage financing and have limited budgets,” he said. “It hurts millennials… it hurts people of color as well who are trying to become homeowners,” he said.

Kaul said competition from investment entities is a symptom of a much bigger problem in the housing market. “The reason we have this supply crisis right now goes way beyond investors. We just haven’t produced enough homes over the past 10 years, ”he said.

This supply crisis is unlikely to abate in the near future. Although housing starts rose more than expected in June, building permits – which foreshadow housing starts – surprised economists by falling about 5%, a larger-than-expected drop.

In places where large tech companies have recently thrived, an influx of workers from more expensive enclaves compounds the challenge. Especially in small towns, the large number of new arrivals can strain the availability of local stocks. “There are very clear and significant growing pains when this happens,” Dworkin said.

Who outbid you tens of thousands of dollars for your dream home?  A hedge fund.

“In addition to competing with investors, who are often cash buyers, people are competing with people leaving markets where real estate may be more expensive,” said Jami Mumley, real estate agent at North Texas Top Team. Realtors. “These people who come can often pay cash for a house… At the moment, it’s just very discouraging for buyers.

“When you have an investor coming in and outbidding them by thousands and thousands of dollars, it’s hard to compete with that,” said Suzanne Athey, a real estate broker at Re / Max Dallas Suburbs & Remarkable Property Management who worked for help the Saunders. family finds a home. In addition, she said, investment entities are often willing to buy homes on sight, forgo inspections and valuation contingencies.

According to the National Association of Realtors, the valuation contingency waiver, which states that a buyer is locked in on the offer price even if the lender determines the home is not worth that much, is the most common of these waivers. It is also of particular concern to housing policy experts, who argue that widespread use of the practice can encourage bubbles.

“Valuation is one of the controls we have in overheated markets above their value. The reason we have valuations is to make sure the market doesn’t outbid homes beyond what they’re worth, ”Dworkin said.

A deluge of investor dollars in a neighborhood amplifies this distortion. “If you buy as an investment property or to return it, it disrupts the markets a lot,” he said. The practice not only affects potential buyers, but also people who live in neighborhoods in the process of moving from owner-occupied housing to investor-occupied housing.

Marcos Cartagena still lives in the house in the Phoenix area he grew up in, but worries the area will become too expensive for his college-aged daughter to move in, thanks to the number of rental properties owned by investors who have increased. housing costs.

In a Phoenix neighborhood, homes that had typically attracted strong middle-class families are being “taken over” by out-of-state investors.

“All these old neighbors die or go home. Their children are no longer here in the state and they are selling the house for the best price, ”he said. “They’re selling to investors, they’re not selling to people looking to live there,” he said.

In recent years, Cartagena has said much of the neighborhood – the 1950s housing stock that had typically attracted solidly middle-class families – had been taken over by out-of-state investors, including including the neighboring house.

“They were asking for the highest rent in the area that we have ever seen. Our mortgage is less than $ 1,000 a month… and even recently you could rent a house for around $ 1,500, ”he said. The new owners, he said, converted a large room added by a previous owner to a fourth bedroom and charged $ 2,400 per month, which is too high for a dual income family.

Instead, the house was rented out by a group of adults, which created parking and traffic problems, Cartagena said.

“You can know which houses have rentals because you see more cars parked on the streets,” he said. “They always allowed on-street parking, but it was for customers. It’s a daily occurrence and the streets are not that wide, ”he said. His former neighbor’s house next door, he said, regularly has five cars parked on or in front of the property.

In addition, Cartagena said some of the ever-growing properties owned by investors are poorly managed and maintained. Even though rents had risen significantly, he learned from talking to some of the new residents that they were responsible for the landscaping – a cost few could afford on top of the rental fee. “I can drive around the neighborhood and I know exactly which ones are rentals because the lawns are poorly maintained,” he said.

Ultimately, appealing to a sense of neighborhood cohesion is what gave Saunders and his family a happy ending to their months-long quest. After making an offer on another property earlier this month, Saunders wrote a letter to sellers, attaching a photo of her toddler and detailing the family’s dream of settling in, renovating and investing. the time and money to turn the house into a house.

It worked. Saunders and his wife had offered $ 30,000 more than asking price, but Athey, their real estate agent, told them they weren’t even near the highest bid – and Saunders knew he was. vying against corporate interests. “It was shocking to hear that our offer was finally accepted,” he said.

Saunders said he believes the seller is willing to take less money because his family is looking to put down roots, not generate returns.

“I believe that stuff has something to do with it,” he said.

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