"We think this is a huge opportunity and we are going to treat it like a factory and create a production line to do this," said Colin Wiel, co-founder of Waypoint Real Estate Group, which has bought 1,200 homes since 2008 and is now buying at least five more per day with the goal of buying up to 15,000 more by the end of 2013.
Buying properties from San Francisco through Southern California, the firm represents a bold, new investment strategy, The New York Times reported Monday.
Using computers to quickly figure out what it considers the break-even point, the company is buying massive numbers of homes, calculating the expense of repairs, and setting them up as rental properties.
Market fundamentals predict that at some point, the prices of homes fall so far they become ripe for the picking, an opportunity for both investors and individual homeowners.
The prices of homes, a Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index said recently is on average 34.4 percent below their 2006 peaks.
Online foreclosure marketplace RealtyTrac, meanwhile, calculates banks are holding onto 650,000 foreclosed properties with more than that in the early stages of foreclosure.
An additional 3.25 million homeowners are at least 30 days behind on their mortgage payments.
That represents a huge market of homes that are headed for auctions. Some investors are ready to pounce, but home rentals has never been treated like mass production of widgets.
Currently, the idea works on paper. A company managing more than 10,000 rental homes spread out over many thousands of square miles is a different matter altogether.
Strictly from an economic point of view, however, it is a reasonable idea to some.
"If you have a lot of foreclosures in one community you will improve everybody's home values if you take them off the market. If those homes are renovated and even rented, it is a lot better than having them stand empty," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial.