Adobe Stock

High prices, elevated mortgage rates, and falling rents cooled investor activity in the housing market, though the investor share remained elevated above pre-pandemic levels, according to the Fall 2023 Investor Report from Realtor.com. Investors purchased 10.8% of homes sold during the first three quarters of 2023, down from 12% in the previous year.

Overall, investor purchase activity fell an average of 32.9% year to date in September compared with the previous year, a decline more severe than the 25% drop in overall housing sales during the same timeframe. Investor activity cooled as home prices remained elevated, cutting into the potential upside for investors.

Another factor in falling investor activity is the decline in rental rates coupled with elevated mortgage rates. As a result, the benefit of investing in a home to use as a rental has become less certain for investors, according to Realtor.com

According to Realtor.com, investors purchased 16.8% fewer homes in September than the year prior. The annual gap in investor purchases narrowed from April through September, indicating that investor activity is picking up some momentum.

After more than two-thirds of investor buyers purchased with all cash in the first three quarters of 2021, the share of all-cash purchases has fallen off. The cash share of investor purchases was 60.2% in the first three quarters of 2023. The 2023 cash share was the lowest share since the first three quarters of 2008, according to Realtor.com.

The decline in the cash share of investor purchases is also a reflection of the resurgence of smaller investors, who are more likely to make purchases using mortgages. Large investors—defined as those having purchased more than 50 homes since 2001—have seen a decline in market share since the height of the pandemic, falling to just 15.3% of investor purchases year to date in 2023. Small investors—defined as those who have purchased 10 or fewer homes since 2001—increased market share to 67.6% of investors in 2023.

On a regional basis, Southern and Midwestern metros have experienced the greatest share of investor activity in 2023. In Oklahoma City, 20.8% of all homes sold were purchased by an investor. Memphis, Tennessee; Baltimore; Birmingham, Alabama; and Tulsa, Oklahoma all had investor purchase levels at or above 17%.

The top five metros that saw the greatest increase in the investor share of the market were Baltimore (+3.8 percentage points), Youngstown, Ohio (+3.3 percentage points), Des Moines, Iowa (+1.6 percentage points), Bakersfield, California (+1.4 percentage points), and Scranton, Pennsylvania (+1.4 percentage points). Eight of the top 10 metros with the greatest increase in the investor share of purchases over the past year had a lower median listing price than the national median in November, according to Realtor.com.