As an investor in Detroit neighborhoods, I can’t help but notice the vast opportunity for residents to achieve the American Dream of homeownership and financial independence. Whether it’s a family buying their first home or an investor buying property for additional cash flow, there has not been a better time to buy in Detroit.
For the first time in 30 years (others may say longer), the response Detroit is receiving is filled with optimism, as opposed to concerns. The impact of corporations occupying space downtown, restructuring of city government to provide better services, improved public transportation, growing retail destinations, restaurant and entertainment venues, and the like are spurring quiet investment in Detroit neighborhoods.
It’s causing a reverse migration.
More and more young families and millennials want to move into Detroit’s neighborhoods. Putting race aside, the reasons for the influx of residents mirror those that once caused many to leave the city – better opportunities, energy and activities, as well as closer proximity to where they work and play.
In many cases, young families, who initially came back to the city and live in downtown and Midtown, are leaving their smaller units for more space and repopulating Detroit’s neighborhoods.
Metro Detroit-based developer Sterling Howard says the time to invest in the city is now.
When you drive down many streets you see long-time residents and newcomers alike renovating properties that used to be abandoned or overlooked. Everyone’s reinvesting in those properties. Dollars are flowing in.
Yes, now is the time to buy.
Property values are rising gradually across the city and that has created lots of upside for homebuyers and more value, which will make getting a mortgage easier.
The past decade’s market recession and foreclosure crisis left a trail of mortgage and tax foreclosures that eroded property values – or at least the perception of eroded values – often making it difficult to secure a mortgage.
Compounding the loss of value, lenders have been reluctant to finance properties priced less than $50,000. In addition, homeowners have been reluctant to sell because there was a gap between the appraised value and the market value of their homes. As a result, fewer than 500 home loans were underwritten for a mortgage, out of 7,700 Detroit home sales in 2014.
Fortunately, that trend is turning around.
A local public-private partnership called Detroit Home Mortgage aims to fund the appraisal gap. This program is assisting with homeownership, and rehabilitation and is starting to show meaningful impact. In 2016, just over 700 mortgages were written.
Programs such as HomeLift also offer downpayment assistance. There is even a mechanism for residents who receive Section 8 to purchase a home through The Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership program.
Hopefully, other banks and economic development organizations will see the success of these programs and be encouraged to launch similar efforts.
As for investors, buying in Detroit not only has financial benefits. It also helps spur economic revitalization. Historically, the popular investing areas have been in downtown or Midtown, but for a new investor the high cost of the properties can be a barrier to entry.
Rising property values squeeze their cash flow on leasing properties, so it often makes more sense to sell rehabbed properties and look at programs like the Detroit Home Mortgage Program to make the sale work.
Many investors are finding success buying homes from the Wayne County Tax Foreclosure Auction or Land Bank in stable, yet affordable, neighborhoods such as Bagley, near the newly-invigorated Livernois Avenue of Fashion corridor, and the Fitzgerald area near the University of Detroit Mercy and Marygrove College.
An investor in these neighborhoods can buy a home for about $50,000 and rent it for nearly $1,000 a month. This investment provides monthly cash flow, and the investor can capture upside equity over time as the values continue to appreciate.
Similar to the programs offered for homeowners, banks are beginning to support investors interested in Detroit’s neighborhood revitalization.
Some say there are drawbacks to having investors buy in neighborhoods. As a landlord in Detroit for more than 15 years, I’ve heard the chorus of neighbors voicing concerns that renters dilute property values. To the contrary, during the recession many investors stepped into the fray to buy, renovate and lease distressed properties. Their presence definitely helped keep some strong neighborhoods afloat.
A case in point.
Several scattered-site residential developers and the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp. acquired and renovated historically designated properties on the city’s west side. Property values in this area have rebounded significantly.
This investment saved many vacant houses from becoming the kind of blight that destroys neighborhoods. Moreover, the investment helped long-time residents remain in the area when they did not qualify for a home loan. Rentals also provided an entry point for residents who are not in position to purchase a home, or require flexibility.
While landlords helped keep these areas occupied and safe from total devastation, as values continue to rise, investors will eventually be priced out of the market because returns will fall on rental property. Also, landlords who helped stabilize the market will begin selling units for profit as prices rise. This should create a steady flow of properties to the market. This is good for the next wave of potential buyers.
Yes, now is the time to buy in Detroit. Together, investors and new homeowners can deliver the neighborhood revitalization Detroit residents so richly deserve.
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