As many as 40% of the homes sold in the U.S. in July were purchased in cash, up from 31% a year earlier, according to data published this week.
Rising interest rates are partly driving this uptick in cash sales, according to real estate data company RealtyTrac. Another reason may be the opportunity investors see in some markets. In some states, all-cash transactions made up a larger portion of sales than others. In Florida, nearly two-thirds of home sales were completed without a mortgage loan. Based on the RealtyTrac report, these are the states where the most homebuyers pay cash.
Click here to see the housing markets driven by cash
In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., RealtyTrac CEO Daren Blomquist explained that higher levels of institutional investing -- rather than private purchases of families buying a home to live in -- were the likely cause of the increased cash purchases in some of these states. This is because institutional investors almost always pay for homes in full upfront. Indeed, the majority of the states with the 10 highest cash purchases in July also had among the highest levels of institutional buying. In Georgia, which was sixth in the country for home cash purchases, 22% of all sales were to institutional investors, compared to a national rate of just 9%.
Many of the states with the most homes sold for cash are among the ones hardest hit by the housing crisis. Home prices in Florida, Nevada and Michigan plummeted 50% or more. Homes prices also are particularly low in some of these states. The median list price in Ohio was just $118,900 in July. This was more than $75,000 below the national median.
Blomquist explained that the decline in prices may be the reason for the higher cash sales in these states. “Both investors and regular buyers are seeing the most opportunity to jump in and buy, and are willing to use their own money,” he said.
In many of these states, a large segment of home sales are “distressed,” or homes purchased in foreclosure or owned by a bank. In Nevada, more than one in five homes sold in July were repossessed properties.
This is likely affecting the number of homes being purchased with cash in two ways. First, distressed homes can be bought at a significant discount -- a median of just $52,000 in Michigan, for example. Second, “By nature, with distressed sales, besides the fact that it's low-priced, when you buy a foreclosure property at the public foreclosure auction, in most states, you do have to pay cash there. No matter what the price, you do have to pay cash,” Bloomquist added.
Based on data provided by RealtyTrac, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 states where the largest percentage of homes sold in July were purchased with cash. RealtyTrrac also provided median list price, as well as data on bank-owned sales, short sales and institutional sales for the states and the largest metro areas. All data is as of July 2013.
These are the states where the most homebuyers pay cash.
> Pct. cash sales: 44.3%
> Median list price: $429,900 (the highest)
> Pct. institutional sales: 2.3% (7th lowest)
While nearly half of all home sales in Hawaii in July were cash sales, the state has little in common with other states on this list. Unlike other states where home buyers pay cash, just 2.3% of homes bought in Hawaii in July were acquired by institutional buyers. Instead, institutional investors largely focused on buying commercial properties, with substantial activity in buying retail locations, rental facilities and showcase hotels. And again unlike other states, Hawaii had fewer homes sold at a loss and very few homes sold by banks -- sales that are typically conducted in cash. One reason many buyers may choose to pay cash is that the Hawaiian market is expensive -- the July median list price of $429,900 was the highest in the nation -- and many homes may only be affordable for the truly wealthy.
9. New Jersey
> Pct. cash sales: 45.0%
> Median list price: $279,900 (5th highest)
> Pct. institutional sales: 3.1% (9th lowest)
Roughly 45% of homes sold in New Jersey in July were cash sales, above the 40% nationwide. However, just over 3% of homes sold in New Jersey were sales to institutional investors, versus 9.1% nationwide. Sales of those types of homes that are frequently conducted in cash, including bank-owned and short-sold homes, were less common in New Jersey relative to the rest of the United States as well. However, many homes placed for sale in the state were fairly expensive -- the median list price of nearly $280,000 was among the highest in the nation. Wealth may explain many of the buyers' abilities to purchase a house in cash as New Jersey had one of the highest median incomes in the nation as of 2011.
> Pct. cash sales: 47.0%
> Median list price: $118,900 (the lowest)
> Pct. institutional sales: 7.0% (23rd highest)
Ohio had among the highest rates for distressed property sales in July, at 16% of all homes sold. A short sale means the prior owner’s mortgage balance exceeds the sales value of the home. Additionally, 15% of homes sold in the state were bank-owned, more than all but three other states. Like many states where home buyers are paying all cash, the number of distressed home sales had an impact on the state's median home price. Ohio had the nation’s lowest median list price in July, at $118,900. Cash sales were widespread in some of the state’s largest cities, representing 44% of all purchases in the Cleveland area, and 47% in Cincinnati.
> Pct. cash sales: 47.8%
> Median list price: $192,500 (22nd highest)
> Pct. institutional sales: 14.6% (3rd highest)
Fifteen percent of available properties in July were purchased by institutional investors, more than in all but two other states. This is actually down from a year earlier, when Arizona led the nation with 19.8% of all the state’s sales acquired by institutional investors. Several other types of transactions usually completed in cash were also popular in the state. More than 17% of homes bought in the state in July were bank-owned, one of the highest percentages in the nation. Similarly, short-sales accounted for more than 18% of sales, also among the highest. In Tucson, 57% of all July home sales were paid in full up front.
> Pct. cash sales: 49.5%
> Median list price: $169,500 (21st lowest)
> Pct. institutional sales: 22.2% (the highest)
Georgia has become the preferred destination for institutional investors. They were the buyers for more than 22% of all home sales in July, the highest proportion in the nation. Many of these sales were in the Atlanta metro area, which led the nation in homes sales going to institutional investors with 25% of all residential properties sold. Also fueling the high proportion of cash purchases, nearly 15% of all homes sold in Georgia in July were bank-owned, one of the highest rates in the nation.
5. South Carolina
> Pct. cash sales: 49.9%
> Median list price: $164,039 (19th lowest)
> Pct. institutional sales: 13.7% (6th highest)
Relatively few of South Carolina’s cash sales were of distressed properties. Just under 7% of homes sold were bank-owned, higher than most states but still below the 9% nationwide. Further, 13.6% of sales were short sales, meaning they likely were sold for cash, which is in line with the national figure. However, the market has been fairly popular with investors. Institutional investor purchases accounted for almost 14% of all home sales, higher than all but a handful of states. In Greeneville, institutional investors accounted for nearly 20% of all purchases, the fourth-highest proportion of any large metro area.
> Pct. cash sales: 53.1%
> Median list price: $129,900 (4th lowest)
> Pct. institutional sales: 10.5% (9th highest)
In Michigan, “prices are so low that in a lot of cases, it doesn’t even make sense for buyers to get financing," according to RealtyTrac’s Blomquist. The state had one of the lowest median home prices in the nation, while home prices in Detroit were lower in June than they were in 2000. Nearly two-thirds of homes purchased in the Detroit metro area were paid for in cash, while 26% of homes sold were bank-owned, more than any major metropolitan area in the nation. Despite Michigan's continued economic struggles, some institutional investors were willing to invest in the state’s housing market. Just over 10% of homes sold in Michigan during July were bought by institutional buyers.
> Pct. cash sales: 59.5%
> Median list price: $209,950 (20th highest)
> Pct. institutional sales: 3.3% (10th lowest)
Maine is a fairly small housing market, and it has not attracted much attention from institutional home buyers, which accounted for just 3.3% of sales last month. However, nearly 60% of homes sold in Michigan in July were paid for in cash, well above the 16% just the month before. Much of this activity may be the result of the uptick in cash purchases in Portland, which jumped from 13% of sales in June to 59% of sales in July. The jump in cash purchases in Maine may have been an anomaly, although local real estate agents have noted that home sales and sales prices have risen considerably.
> Pct. cash sales: 64.4%
> Median list price: $185,000 (24th highest)
> Pct. institutional sales: 15.6% (2nd highest)
Nevada home prices tanked during the Great Recession. This left many homeowners in dire straits, as many had outstanding mortgage balances well in excess of their home values. In July, more than 35% of sales were short sales, the highest percentage in the nation. A collapsing local economy also led many homeowners to default. Nearly 21% of homes sold in July were bank-owned, the highest in the country. As a result, many homes sold were inexpensive enough for buyers to pay for them in cash. Demand from investors for these properties was also fairly high, with 15.6% of July home sales listing an institutional investor as the buyer. This may have something to do with the the gambling capital’s global appeal, which attracts international investors, said Blomquist.
> Pct. cash sales: 65.8%
> Median list price: $159,900 (18th lowest)
> Pct. institutional sales: 14.4% (4th highest)
Home prices plummeted in Florida during the recession, from a peak median listing price of $299,00 in June 2006 to as low as $124,000 in December 2010. Prices were still very low in the state as recently as July. That month, institutional investment made up a large part of total sales, at over 14% of all purchases. The state, according to RealtyTrac’s Blomquist, has attracted much attention from international investors. This is particularly the case in the Miami area, he noted, where cash sales accounted for 69% of all purchases. In Tampa Bay, institutional investors bought 22% of all homes sold that month, more than any major metropolitan area besides Atlanta.
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