If you think the housing market is near a bottom — or even if it has a lot of room left to fall — there may soon be a way to make money on it without even talking to a realtor.
A new exchange-traded fund (ETF) linked to the Case-Shiller index tracks prices of average homes in 10 metropolitan markets. It will soon be available to investors seeking a novel way to invest in the housing markets.
MacroShares Housing Depositor has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to allow buyers to invest in both the upward and the inverse movement of U.S. home prices.
Unlike earlier MacroShares products that are tied to the price of oil, the new ETFs would give investors access to a large but illiquid asset class for the first time.
The new products mean investors will be able to trade or hedge by betting on the direction of the home price index while trading the housing market like a stock and through a traditional brokerage account.
Industry observer Matthew Hougan expects that investors will factor in their expectations for where housing values are headed when they set the market price for the funds. He also expects that the funds will likely trade like a long-term futures contract on housing prices, reflecting medium- to long-term trends in home price movements.
Like all of the MacroShares, these ETFs will work in teeter-totter fashion, offered in pairs with an equal number of Up and Down shares, a structure that allows them to tie to an illiquid market like housing.
Treasuries are the only asset the funds will hold, and those will shift from one fund to the other as index housing price points change.
When home prices go up, assets are shifted from the Down Macro to the Up Macro. When prices drop, assets move the opposite way.
The MacroShares Major Metro Housing Up ETF will deliver twice the return of the benchmark Case-Shiller index. The MacroShares Major Metro Housing Down ETF will deliver twice the inverse return of the index.
Because they hold Treasuries, the new funds will also provide income: Both the Up and Down Macros earn interest income, which analysts expect will add 4 percent to annual returns at current interest rates.
Like all Macros, they are limited in how far they can move: The Down fund can only fall 100 percent, which would reflect a 50 percent drop in housing prices and the Up fund can only appreciate by 100 percent, which would reflect a 50 percent rise in housing prices.
After that, the funds will be liquidated and investors will be paid based on the net asset value.
The new ETFs will have a 10-year term. Because the S&P Case-Shiller indices are reported monthly but with a two-month lag, the funds’ net asset values will be based on this lagging index price.
The cities tracked index used by the new ETFs are Boston, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.
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