Tags: Slumlord

A Closer Look at the Decrepit World of Wall Street Rental Homes

This new incursion by hedge funds and private equity groups into the American single-family home rental market is unprecedented, and is proving disastrous for many of the tens of thousands of families who are moving into these newly converted rental homes. In recent weeks, HuffPost spoke with more than a dozen current tenants, along with former employees who recently left the real estate companies. Though it’s not uncommon for tenants to complain about their landlords, many who had rented before described their current experience as the worst they’ve ever had.

A former inspector for American Homes 4 Rent who worked in the Dallas office said he routinely examined homes just prior to rental that were not habitable. Though it wasn’t his job to answer complaints, he said he fielded “hundreds of calls” from irate tenants.

– From the Huffington Post’s excellent article: Here’s What Happens When Wall Street Builds A Rental Empire

This is a topic that I have been writing extensively on since the beginning of the year. In fact, I don’t think there’s another topic I have focused so intently on in the whole of 2013, with the exception of the NSA revelations. It all started back in January with my post titled, America Meet Your New Slumlord: Wall Street, which received a huge amount of attention in the alternative media world.

I knew from the start that this whole “buy-to-rent” thing would be a disaster. Over the last decade or so, everything that Wall Street touched has turned into a scheme primarily focused on parasitically funneling wealth and resources away from society at large to itself. This is no different. They call it a “new asset class.” I call it Wall Street serfdom.

What makes this article even more interesting is that it’s not simply greed, it is also obvious that these Wall Street firms have no idea what the fuck they are doing. For example:

Former employees of the companies, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they worry about jeopardizing their careers, said their former colleagues can’t keep up with the volume of complaints. The rush to buy up as many homes as possible has stretched resources to the point of breaking, these people said. 

My advice to people out there in the rental market, is they should try to avoid Wall Street rentals. The three main companies highlighted in this article are: Invitation Homes (owned by Blackstone), Colony American and American Homes 4 Rent. Unfortunately, it appears these companies may try to hide their presence in certain markets so you may have to do additional digging. For example, WRI Property Management is the local agent of Colony American in Georgia.

More from the Huffington Post:

There’s no escaping the stench of raw sewage in Mindy Culpepper’s Atlanta-area rental home. The odor greets her before she turns into her driveway each evening as she returns from work. It’s there when she prepares dinner, and only diminishes when she and her husband hunker down in their bedroom, where they now eat their meals.

For the $1,225 a month she pays for the three-bedroom house in the quiet suburb of Lilburn, Culpepper thinks it isn’t too much to expect that her landlord, Colony American Homes, make the necessary plumbing repairs to eliminate the smell. But her complaints have gone unanswered, she said. Short of buying a plane ticket to visit the company’s office in Scottsdale, Ariz., she is out of ideas.

“You can not get in touch with them, you can’t get them on the phone, you can’t get them to respond to an email,” said Culpepper, whose family has lived with the problem since the day they moved in five months ago. “My certified letters, they don’t get answered.”

Most rental houses in the U.S. are owned by individuals, or small, local businesses. Culpepper’s landlord is part of a new breed: a Wall Street-backed investment company with billions of dollars at its disposal. Over the past two years, Colony American and its two biggest competitors, Invitation Homes and American Homes 4 Rent, have spent more than $12 billion buying and renovating at least 75,000 homes in order to rent them out.

Most who spoke with HuffPost said they moved into their rental homes only to find that renovations they were assured were comprehensive amounted to little more than a fresh coat of paint and new carpeting. Tenants said they immediately discovered major mechanical and plumbing problems: broken water heaters and air conditioners, broken toilets and in some cases even vermin infestations, including fleas, silverfish and rodents.

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America Meet Your New Slumlord: Wall Street

And I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.

– Letter from Thomas Jefferson to John Taylor, May 28, 1816

Well they aren’t really your “new” slumlord in the sense you have been debt slaves to the financials system for decades.  What I really mean is that it is now becoming overt and literal.  Literal because financiers are now the main players in the real estate market and are buying all the homes ordinary citizens were kicked out of over the past few years.  Yep, we bailed out the financial system so that financiers with access to cheap credit can buy up all of America’s real estate so that they can then rent it back to you later.

Of course, my opinion is that this will ultimately backfire on all the private equity buyers once they find out multiple generations will start living together and a weak economy will not provide the rental income they envision going forward.  Particularly once we have another severe slowdown…which always happens eventually.  Incredibly, Blackstone has spent $1.5 billion to buy homes in the last 2-3 months alone!

From Bloomberg:

Blackstone has spent more than more than $2.5 billion on 16,000 homes to manage as rentals, deploying capital from the $13.3 billion fund it raised last year, said Jonathan Gray, global head of real estate for the world’s largest private equity firm. That’s up from $1 billion of homes owned in October, when Blackstone Chairman Stephen Schwarzman said the company was spending $100 million a week on houses.

“The market is moving much faster than anybody thought possible,” Gray said during an interview in Blackstone’s New York headquarters. “Housing is much stronger than people anticipated.”

Of course the market is improving.  Not because citizens are buying, but because financiers with access to cheap credit are in a bidding war to become America’s slumlords.

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