What’s Driving the Luxury Housing Market

9305-Nightingale-Dr28The biggest drivers behind the continued expansion of luxury home sales: Low mortgage rates, rising consumer confidence, cash buyers, and international buyers. International buyers are fueling some purchases, with an estimate of up to 20% of buyers in L.A. being from overseas. Many of them are paying full cash, speeding up closings and eliminating the need for appraisals. This year we are on pace to exceed the the all time high of 697 home sales over $5 million in California set last year in 2012, many of which were all-cash deals. However, with low mortgage rates, some luxury home buyers are financing their home purchases. Jumbo loans are traditionally associated with higher interest  rates– about 0.25 percentage points more — than they do for conforming loans, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. But over the past couple of months, the tables have turned. “Never in my memory have jumbos been such a bargain,” said Peter Grabel, a loan officer at Luxury Mortgage Corp. For example, some buyers who traditionally would pay cash are instead securing sub 3 percent interest rates and 10-year loan terms. One big reason jumbo rates are so low is because lenders want to attract wealthy clients and hang on to them, said Malcolm Hollensteiner, head of consumer lending for TD Bank. Once clients sign up for a mortgage, the bank can “cross sell them other products, like brokerage services,” he said. As for pricing,  it won’t be long before the U.S. sees a $200 million listing — the record now is believed to be $190 million for a property in Greenwich, Conn. — but that many of these ultra-high-end properties are priced that way merely as a suggestion, or to invite only a certain caliber of buyers to the table. Most ultra-high-priced homes end up selling for 50% to 60% of the original list price.  We are also seeing an increase in pocket listings, or listings that aren’t publicly put into the multiple-listing service, both as a way to keep a seller’s name confidential and to up the exclusivity factor.