For rental home investors in metropolitan Phoenix, the perfect storm is almost upon us.

I have a lot of investor clients, folks who want to buy rental homes in greater Phoenix — to buy and hold them as long-term investments. Early last fall and again late this spring I have advised many of them to sit tight, to wait the market out.

What are we waiting for?

The final lapsing of the first-time home-buyers’ tax credit. We can be quietly delighted for all the nice folks who were able to get into houses because of the tax credit. But it remains that those sweet people were driving up home prices, making it difficult for investors to latch onto better-quality rental homes.

All that changes this week. The tax credit lapses on April 30th, so we should start to see a significant increase in available properties. Still better, it will be easier to negotiate deals with sellers, and prices should be more attractive.

The first round of the tax credit, last summer and fall, had a much more profound impact on the real estate market. For the kind of stucco and tile suburban homes I like to buy for investors, prices last fall looked like this:

September 2009: +3.15%
October 2009: +2.14%
November 2009: +2.22%
December 2009: -8.03%

That’s a $10,371 drop in average sales prices from November to December. Demand from first-timers has been lighter in this second installment of the tax-credit, but inventories of the homes I’m most interested in for investors have declined by 20% from the start of the year. More significantly, it’s the choice homes that are being cherry-picked, the ones that need the least work to make them rent-ready.

All of which means that we are on the cusp of a perfect storm for real estate investors: Good homes at very attractive prices. Money is still every cheap, if you need a mortgage, and rents are holding firm. There is no appreciation in sight, of course, but positive cash flow is easy from the first tenant.

I’ve written a guide about how out-of-state investors can make good money investing in Phoenix-area rental homes. If you want to discuss this in detail, you can phone me – Greg Swann – at 602-740-7531 or shoot me an email.

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