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The Real Force Behind Cheap Housing

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The housing market has clearly reached a bottom and is turning higher. After years of dismal sales, increasing foreclosures and short sales, and declining home prices, there's strong optimism, which has resulted in sizzling demand for homebuilder stocks.

Yet the recovery in the housing market has been helped in a great part by heavy buying by both retail real estate investors and major institutions. According to the National Association of Realtors, cash buyers and large investors account for about 32% of home purchases across the country. (Source: Timiraos, N., "Investors Pile Into Housing, This Time as Landlords," Wall Street Journal March 25, 2013.)

Institutional buying in the housing market has been significant. One of the major buyers has been the The Blackstone Group L.P. (NYSE/BX), which has $57.0 billion in real estate holdings and another $11.0 billion available to invest. (Source: The Blackstone Group L.P. web site, last accessed March 26, 2013.) The company started a unit called "Invitation Homes" to acquire distressed single-family homes and eventually lease them.

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