Investors scooped up close to 15% of homes sold in first quarter—‘a bigger piece of the pie than in any other’



Real Estate Money 6g

Last year was a slump for investors in the housing world: mortgage rates were too high, home prices and rents were cooling. But things are picking up; in the first quarter of this year, “14.8% of sold homes were purchased by investors, the highest share on record,” according to Realtor.com. 

Still, there’s a caveat. “Though investors took a bigger piece of the pie than in any other quarter, the pie was much smaller,” Realtor.com’s senior economics research analyst, Hannah Jones, wrote today. “Overall home sales fell to the lowest level in more than a decade, led by a decline in non-investor purchases.”

So really it’s not comparable to investor activity throughout the pandemic-fueled housing boom, but it’s more than pre-pandemic activity. In the first quarter of the year, investors bought 10.6% more homes than five years ago—but the number of purchases fell to their lowest level since 2020. We could be in the midst of a post-pandemic bottom for investors, but they won’t disappear, Jones wrote.

“It seems that the pre-pandemic ‘ceiling’ in investor purchases lines up with this post-pandemic ‘floor,’” she wrote, so, “even with the recent slow-down in investor purchases, investor activity generally continues to trend higher, with more investors purchasing homes and competing with homebuyers than was common pre-pandemic.”

An earlier analysis from Redfin found that investors bought almost 19% of homes sold in the first quarter this year. At the time, Redfin said that while it amounted to fewer homes than before or during the pandemic, it was the highest share in almost two years—investors’ return having to do with “home prices and rents back on the rise and the initial shock of elevated mortgage rates in the rearview mirror,” Redfin said. 

Investors are still buying more homes than they sell, Realtor.com pointed out. Between the summers of 2021 and 2022, investors increased their holdings by more than 20,000 properties a month. In March of this year, investors only bought 8,000 more homes than they sold. “Altogether, between March 2020 and March 2024, investors bought roughly 690,000 more properties than they sold,” Jones wrote. “These homes contribute to rental inventory, but further limit already scarce for-sale inventory.”

Interestingly enough, smaller investors made up the majority of this group for the first time on record, which is why all-cash purchases were down, too, because small investors don’t have as much cash on hand as large landlords. “Once home prices and mortgage rates reached new heights, bigger investors pulled back and the small investor share started to climb once again,” Jones wrote. And of the 150 largest metropolitan areas, the places with the highest share of investors were in the Midwest and South. In the first quarter of the year, Missouri cities made up three of the top five markets with the highest share of investors. In Springfield, for instance, investors scooped up almost 1 in 5 homes sold, according to Realtor.com. 

The housing market hasn’t changed much in the past year. Last year, existing home sales fell to their lowest level in almost 30 years and mortgage rates shot up to a more than 20-year high. Existing home sales are still weak, falling on an annual and monthly basis in May. But mortgage rates have come down, punching in at 6.85% on the back of today’s positive consumer price index report. Inventory has increased, a sign the lock-in effect is easing as more and more people come to realize a new mortgage rate reality is setting in. Home prices are still so high, but there are signs that price inflation is slowing. Either way, it’s not clear if investor activity will ever return to that of the pandemic, especially as rents flatline and home price growth stalls, though both may prove to be temporary phenomena.  

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