Tampa, Florida, December 17, 2007 – Online property auction site FastHomesolutions.com is reporting a record number of foreign investors visiting its web site in search of real estate bargains, especially in the Sunbelt area of the United States. The current weakness of the dollar against foreign currencies is a key contributor to the trend, which works to the advantage of lenders anxious to sell their REO (real estate owned) inventories of defaulted properties to foreign investors.
“It’s a huge opportunity for REO asset managers,” said Jim Case, CEO of Fast Home Solutions, which recently launched its online property auction website at www.FastHomesolutions.com. “We’re seeing investors from all over, especially France, Germany, and Belgium, as well as from the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. They are eager to buy U.S. homes, villas, properties now, while their own currencies are strong against our dollar.”
The British pound is particularly strong, currently trading at over two to one against the dollar. “This trend means that private investors and investment groups are highly motivated to buy,” Case said. “There will be more millionaires coming out of this downswing than ever before.” Foreign investors often use a group strategy when they acquire properties, pooling buying power and distributing risk. They buy multiple properties in targeted areas, then hire local property managers to oversee them and keep them rented. “Canadians are very active right now, especially in the Sunbelt areas like Florida,” Case explained. “Likewise, people from the UK are very familiar with Florida as a vacation spot, so when they see bargains on our website, they are quick to seize the opportunity to purchase.”
This is good news for loan servicers and loss mitigation professionals charged with disposing of owned real estate. The online auction concept, while not new, is experiencing a surge of popularity because of the ease with which properties can be vetted by potential buyers, whether for investment or owner occupancy. “Asset managers are getting slammed right now by the sheer volume of properties they must sell,” observed Case. “Online auctions are the best way to get properties in front of most people, but REO people are so busy at the moment, it is difficult to consider new methods.” Fast Home Solutions’ approach to attracting REO listings is to avoid the negatives buyers and sellers have seen in the past with online auctions. “Buyers hate paying premiums to buy properties online, so we’ve eliminated them,” said Case. “At the same time, investors want to research areas and values, as well as finding local property managers, so we’re adding content to make those available at minimal or no cost,” he added.
The “Half-back” Phenomenon
Further complicating things for REO asset managers desiring sell property in Sunbelt areas is the increase of people leaving places like Florida for financially more hospitable climes. Their properties are competing with REO sales for buyer attention, and keeping prices low. These are people who have been whipsawed by rising insurance rates caused by the hurricanes and sinkholes of recent years, as well as increased property taxes. Rather than moving all the way back up north, they are going halfway, to places like Georgia, the Carolinas and Tennessee, hence the term “half-back.” “These neighboring states have much more attractive scenarios for these sellers,” explains Jim Case. “And they still don’t have to put up with harsh winters.” With these additional properties cluttering up the inventory, REO sellers are finding their work cut out for them.
This new wave of foreign investors may be the key to keeping the market moving, said Case. “We send out over a million opt-in emails to investors every week and I can tell you that the demand for property listings is getting stronger every day,” he said. “The dollar’s weakness right now may work out to be a blessing for the REO asset managers, especially since these foreign investors like to buy more than one.”
About Fast Home Solutions
Fast Home Solutions is a real estate auction web site that harnesses the power of the Internet to benefit REO agents, asset managers, motivated buyers, and sellers. Buyers can search, bid on and acquire REO properties, all at no cost, and sellers can efficiently post properties and market to prospective buyers. Fast Home Solutions is based in Tampa, Florida, and can be found on the Internet at www.FastHomesolutions.com