Blackstone Sees 2-Year Window to Buy Distressed Homes

Investors buying foreclosed U.S. homes might have less than two years to accumulate properties as competition and rising prices shrink the pool of cheap assets, according to Blackstone Group LP, the largest buyer.

“Prices are starting to move faster,” said Jonathan Gray, global head of real estate for Blackstone, which has invested about $1.5 billion this year in foreclosed homes. “That’s one of the risks that emerge as more people like us get into the space and as individual homeowner confidence grows. Frankly, buying a home today is pretty compelling.”

The opportunity for funds to buy homes at discounts could last less than two or three years, Gray said yesterday at the Bloomberg Commercial Real Estate Conference in New York as record-low mortgage rates and home prices down 40% from the peak entice individuals back into real estate. Atlanta, Phoenix, Las Vegas and other markets hit hard by the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression are rebounding as the economy improves and the supply of homes for sale shrinks.

Home Depot Inc., the largest U.S. home-improvement retailer, is the latest company to benefit from a housing recovery, reporting third-quarter earnings this week that beat analysts’ estimates.

“Geographically, the harder hit areas that were really the epicenter of the housing crisis appear to be on the mend,” Frank Blake, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, said. “It has been consecutive, it has been consistent, so that is why we think it is healing.”