April 2nd, 2024 - This Week in Real Estate

This issue is brought to you by Domain Money, whose team of professionals will help you achieve financial peace of mind


What’s new in the world of Real Estate
  • Renting v. Buying

  • Malls are back

  • A big raise for a furnished rental startup

  • The urban doom loop

Plus: January’s Case Shiller and FHFA reports, deed fraud on the rise, advice for multifamily investors, and more.

Listing of the week: Real estate for the afterlife.


Freddie Mac 30 Year Fixed
6.79% (-.08% weekly)
Dow Jones Real Estate Index
336.05 (-0.5% weekly)
323.94 (-0.2% weekly)
FHFA House Price Index - Jan.
417.5 (-0.3 monthly)


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Market Updates

Renting is cheaper than buying in all top 50 metro areas in the U.S. This is according to a new report from Realtor.com, which found that the monthly cost of buying a starter home was $1,027, or 60% higher, than renting one. This is due to higher mortgage rates raising the cost of buying, and a nationwide decline in rents, with the median 2-bedroom 3.3% lower than its August 2022 peak. The top five rent-favoring markets were Austin, Seattle, Phoenix, San Francisco and Los Angeles, all desirable cities with high concentration of tech workers and high earners. If this pushes more people to rent, that would be encouraging for multi-family investors, as rental demand will go higher, but discouraging for potential sellers, as the pool of buyers diminishes.

After being left for dead, foot traffic at malls is rebounding. Visits in 2023 were down only 2.3% compared to pre-pandemic levels, with open-air centers seeing the biggest rebound in activity. Luxury stores have made up 38% of all new store openings, as high-end shopping centers, often with new amenities, have seen strong performance numbers. As a result, mall-centric REITs Simon Property Group Inc. (SPG) and Macerich Co. (MAC) have seen their share price increase by 9.7% and 11.7% respectively in 2024 so far.

Blueground, a startup that provides furnished rentals, raised $45 million in funding. The company leases apartments and then furnishes and equips them for short-term renters. It has a worldwide inventory of short-term furnished rentals, with over 15,000 apartments in 17 countries, generating $560 million in gross revenue in 2023 with a 35% margin. Blueground’s current valuation was not disclosed, with the CEO only saying that it exceeded the $750 million valuation from its last funding round. While short-term rentals have been struggling since a pandemic boom, this raise clearly shows there is some optimism in that part of the industry.

The commercial real estate “urban doom loop” may still be coming. With the prices of office buildings falling in major urban centers like New York and San Francisco, there has been a concern that it will lead to a so-called “doom loop,” a cycle of lower downtown activity leading to lower tax revenue, leading to lower public services, leading to a population loss, leading to lower activity, and so on. With remote or hybrid work looking like a permanent fixture, cities may need to reimagine their downtowns to avoid this fate. Bloomberg’s Odd Lots podcast spoke with NYU professor Arpit Gupta about whether the “doom loop” is still a possibility in some of the biggest economic centers in the country.

Listing of the Week

A property that caught our eye

(Julien’s Auctions)

Even in the afterlife, real estate is still all about location, location, location. This burial crypt, located at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park & Mortuary in Los Angeles, is located just one row above and a few spaces to the left of Marilyn Monroe’s and Hugh Hefner’s. Sadly, it is no longer on the market, as it sold for $195,000 at Julien’s Auctions, below the initial estimates of $200,000-$400,000. It’s unclear if the buyer intends it as their final resting place or as an investment.


  • The Case-Shiller National Home Price Index showed a slight 0.1% monthly decline in January, but a 6% gain year-over-year.

  • The FHFA House Price Index also showed a 0.1% monthly decline, the first since August 2022, but reported a 6.3% gain year-over-year.

  • With reports of deed fraud gaining national attention, it’s important to understand the options to protect yourself from this scam and avoid a potentially costly legal battle.

  • While the real estate market is down, current and potential multifamily investors can get ahead of the curve and prepare for an economic rebound by tracking economic indicators and doing market research.

  • Alternative asset manager Blackstone sold $1 billion worth of industrial real estate in Southern California to Rexford Industrial Realty, an indication of the high demand for warehouses close to major urban centers.

  • A 175,000 square-foot office building in Washington DC sold for $16 million, a huge drop from when it last sold for $60 million in 2006, in another example of how far office values have dropped.

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