PodcastNational Housing Market Outlook

Building Up: Walton Global’s Strategic Land Insights

Dean Wehrli

Dean Wehrli

April 26, 2024

Land is precious. Without it, we can’t build homes, and you wouldn’t be reading this because we couldn’t have had Kate Kaminski, Chief Operating Officer at Walton Global, as our latest guest on the New Home Insights podcast. Kate and Walton Global know land. They bank it, they buy it, they develop it. Here are some highlights from the latest podcast: Kate gives her take on land banking, land development, the land market, the housing market, and more.

To better understand the relationship between land bankers and builders, check out our recent article Banking on the Future. 

Featured guest

Kate Kaminski, Chief Operating Officer, Walton Global

Land Banking

  • Land banking has moved from an intriguing idea through a growth spurt to a thoroughly mainstream strategy. Wall Street hates things that don’t provide an immediate return—like land on the books of public builders. While that is kind of like getting mad at a deep-sea diver for bringing along an extra tank of oxygen, it is where Walton steps in. Walton buys the lots with an agreement to sell them back to the builder in biteable chunks. That is the essence of land banking and is usually a win-win.

  • Walton looks to the same key metrics that most developers do—jobs, population growth, permits, and places in the path of development. But the scarcity of land means you have to be open-minded. If a builder client can make a convincing case, Walton will be there. 

Land Development and Land Market

  • As a developer, Walton looks to add value. They start at the beginning of the land food chain—acquiring, planning, and entitling.

  • The land market is hot almost everywhere, according to Kate, and, not surprisingly, strongest in the Smile States, where Walton is most active.

  • One of the hot buttons for everyone is affordability (more on that in a minute), so developers and builders are looking for solutions. One tactic is density, but Kate often sees local antagonism to that, and density has to make market sense.

Housing Market

  • To make smart decisions, Walton has to understand the housing market and prepare for what might come next. That means Kate has to have a take on the market. She does.

     

  • Kate and Walton see mostly positive signs. Starts and permits continue upward at healthy levels, existing home inventories remain low, and good omens are coming from every region of the country.

     

  • But Walton also considers the politics of a jurisdiction when sifting through a potential deal. Constraints add costs. No one wants endless sprawl, but adding costs to developing and building pushes up the price of homes, and Kate sees the lack of affordability as a key concern.

     

  • Another concern is mortgage rates—we recorded this just before rates started on their latest upward slant. So far, the market has been able to shrug off higher rates, though often at the cost of heightened incentives. Rates will be a concern until they start slipping and stay there.
 
  • And then there is remote work. Kate sees this as another positive. Remote work has freed people to live where they want and get more for their money. While that may have the opposite effect on core commercial—and Walton is also in the commercial sector—it has been a boon for housing.

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About The Author

Dean Wehrli
Dean Wehrli
Principal
Dean helps housing sector clients figure out not just what might work and what might not, but why.

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