Investor selling 1,300 metro Atlanta homes

Investor groups snapped up thousands of metro Atlanta homes during the foreclosure wave.

Investor groups snapped up thousands of metro Atlanta homes during the foreclosure wave.

Blackstone Group’s Invitation Homes, which swooped into metro Atlanta after the crash of the housing market and bought thousands of homes at a discount, now is selling 1,300 of them – apparently to one buyer.

The Dallas-based arm of Blackstone, which currently owns 8,600 houses in the area, has been renting out the houses. The new owner will honor all leases, said Denise Dunckel, senior vice president for the company.

“This is a very small percentage of our homes,” she said. “This is really a pruning.”

She declined to name the buyer or the neighborhoods where the homes are located.

But purchases of homes by investment firms has been a big part of the Atlanta housing story in recent years.

In the housing bust in 2006-2007, the market virtually collapsed. As unemployment soared, tens of thousands of Atlanta-area homeowners lost their homes to foreclosures. Metro Atlanta prices plunged.

Many distressed properties were snapped up by big investors like Blackstone, which reportedly spent $9 billion on those investments. Dunckel said the firm now owns 48,000 houses across the nation.

In Atlanta, where Blackstone was one of several big buyers, about 80,000 homes were sold for less than $50,000 in the past five years, according to ViaSearch, an Atlanta-based real estate research firm.

Now, the tide has seemingly turned, according to a report by Bloomberg Business: Two years ago, Invitation Homes was spending well over $100 million a week purchasing properties. Now it spends less than a quarter of that.

In places like Atlanta, market-watchers have anxiously awaited the day when big investors like Blackstone not only stop buying, but start putting homes back on the market.

If investor-owners dump too many at once, they could undermine prices. On the other hand, the market has been hampered for months by a shortage of homes for sale, so it would be good to have more homes for sale – especially lower-priced homes that typically attract young people and other first-time homebuyers, said Charlotte Sears, president at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Atlanta.

“I think it would be very welcome news,” she said. “More inventory – especially at the lower price-points – has to be good for millennials.”

But that help will have to wait.

The transfer of 1,300 homes to a new owner will have no impact on the overall market, said John Hunt, president of ViaSearch. “All these people are just going to have a new person to pay rent to,” he said.

In June, homes listed for sale represented just 4.1 months of purchases, compared to a healthy market of 6.5, Hunt said. “We have been below normal for a couple of years.”

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