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Welcome to Wall Street’s housing market

06/10/2017

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After gorging on subprime mortgages 10 years ago, Wall Street is investing in the U.S. housing market again — this time by snatching up homes. Investment banks, private-equity firms and hedge funds are turning to a variety of financial vehicles and building the technology to become the largest buyers of most Americans’ biggest asset. The trend could improve housing affordability, make it easier to buy and sell a home, and increase mobility, but it will hand unprecedented control of the U.S. housing stock to giant corporations and allow them to grab transaction fees from real estate agents. As landlords or co-investors presiding over millions of units, they will exert considerable influence over the living conditions of American tenants, handling upkeep, management and eviction. And as “iBuyers,” they could set the prices and terms under which homebuyers and sellers transact, including commission rates. The rental shift has been playing out since the end of the housing m…

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