There is a fine, fine line between a gain and a crushing decline:
Hale "Bonddad" Stewart: The Housing Market Is Nowhere Near Bottom.
Go see his chart of housing prices, to see how far prices have yet to fall.
A house near us was offered at $800,000, after several months only one offer came in for $500,000, and they accepted it. But all I can think of is some sucker just spent $500K for a 3 bedroom house that is going to be worth about $300K next year. Another in our area, asking $750K, sold at $450K. Still way too high.
The bloggers were calling it a few years ago, talking about how this was a bubble, and that it would lead to a dramatic collapse. The professionals weren’t seeing it. The lenders were acting like prices alway go up. (Remember the same thinking with the stock collapse?)
And now here we are.
Housing in ‘deepest, most rapid’ decline since Great Depression,
“Housing is in its “deepest, most rapid downswing since the Great Depression,” the chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders said Tuesday, and the downward momentum on housing prices appears to be accelerating.
The NAHB’s latest forecast calls for new-home sales to drop 22% this year, bringing sales 55% under the peak reached in late 2005. Housing starts are predicted to tumble 31% in 2008, putting starts 60% off their high of three years ago. “
And this is just the beginning. Prices always revert to the mean, and the mean is going to be mean.
If they did realize that house prices could fall then they would be discussing this possibility in the context of the Office of Thrift Supervision’s proposal to have the federal government buy up bad mortgages, paying the current market price of the homes. The plan would give the current holders of the mortgage a certificate equal to the difference between the money outstanding on the mortgage and the current value of the home. The reports then tell us that if the house price does not rise back to the amount owed on the mortgage by the time it is sold, then the mortgage holder will eat the loss.
That’s fine, but what happens if house prices fall further? I didn’t hear this scenario mentioned in Market Place’s discussion of the proposal on the radio this morning, or indeed in any other reporting on this proposal.
Answer – if prices fall further, the taxpayers get to hand even more dollars to the banks. Republicans bail out big business and let the rest of us pay for it. Always. The branding is that Republicans are anti-government and fiscally responsible, but it’s just words. Look at what they do, not what they say. They get into office, destroy the government, destroy small businesses, and hand all of our tax dollars to their cronies. Did I leave out the part about getting rid of all oversight (regulation and law enforcement) so the big corporations can rob us blind?
Government buying bad mortgages? Great, just great.
Sales of new homes plunged by a record amount in 2007 while prices posted the weakest showing in 16 years, demonstrating the troubles builders are facing with a huge backlog of unsold homes.
New home sales posted the biggest drop on record in 2007, according to the government’s latest look at the battered housing market, as a year that saw a meltdown in the mortgage market and a drop in home values ended with yet more signs of weakness.
December sales came in at an annual rate of 604,000, the Census Bureau report showed, down from 634,000 in November, which was also revised lower.
The reading was well below the consensus forecast of 645,000, according to economists surveyed by Briefing.com.
. . . No bottom yet Adam York, an economist with Wachovia, said the report confirms fears that the housing market won’t bounce back anytime soon.
“We’re expecting sales to decline into at least mid-2008,” he said. “We think housing still has a long way to go.” [emphasis added.
What is there to add to that? I keep hearing that “we’re at a bottom.” I got yer bottom, right here.
There is a discussion over at Calculated Risk on whether it is “smart” to just walk away from a house that is worth less than you owe. Many states allow you to do that, without owing the difference. In those states, giving the house back pays the loan in full if it is a first mortgage. (Yes, it ruins your credit rating, but you could save hundreds of thousands of dollars.)
What about the moral question? Aside from whether it is smart or not, is it moral? I wonder if a better question is, when dealing with a big corporation, should you ask what the corporation would do if the shoe was on the other foot? I’m thinking about corporations that use the bankruptcy laws to get rid of union contracts and pension obligations, and that always do the “smart” thing at the expense of the employees, customers, public and even shareholders…
What do you think? Especially our conservative commenters?
Ladies and gentlemen, there was a REASON that Americans were loath to elect a Republican into the government for an entire generation after the Great Depression: They remembered.
Update – I was waiting for a comment asking me to explain what I mean, because it would make my point.
Previous generations REMEMBERED. There was nothing to add. Over time people have forgotten how Republican economics caused the depression, and how they fought every single program that helped the people at the expense of the wealthiest and the powerful corporations. (And in fact led to the prosperity that the wealthiest and corporations enjoyed since.)
But now people do not remember how concentration of wealth, corporations preying on citizens, anti-union policies, etc. LED TO the economic collapse.
The depression was ended by pro-union policies, redistributive taxes, REGULATIONS on businesses and the fuinancial sector, and an understanding that We, the People run the government, and the reason we have corporations is for OUR benefit, not just the benefit of the few.
Over time, as I said, people forgot. And here we are again.
Go to The Agonist to read today’s housing bubble post: Most Clueless Banker of the Year Award. It is a comprehensive explanation of that happened, including a timeline.
[. . .]Like the real estate industry in general, banks believe and tell their customers that home values never go down. Their internal models are predicated on this assumption. Everything communicated to the consumer tells them that their home is a piggy bank of ever-increasing value. Withdrawing cash from the piggy bank is made as easy as possible. Consumers are given loans allowing them not to pay any interest at all and build up a balloon balance, which will assuredly be taken care of down the road by market appreciation. These option characteristics allow the banks to charge even higher points up front and stick penalty clauses into mortgages forbidding the homeowner from paying off the loan until the bank receives all fees due them.
The problems of the housing bubble are catching up to us. The real estate crash has started, bringing big losses to the big financial firms — over $100 BILLION in write-downs so far!
And in the past few weeks the stock market has been catching on that things are not so great anymore. But today – with markets closed in the U.S. in honor of Martin Luther King Day – stocks have been plunging around the world. Markets in Asia down as much as 7%, even more. Europe as well. Canada down.
Dow futures are down dramatically – 540 points, more than 4% – which could mean a very bad day tomorrow – or not.
Stocks Plunge Worldwide on Fears of a U.S. Recession – New York Times,
“There is indeed some panic,” said Thomas Mayer, the chief European economist at Deutsche Bank in London. “What we’re seeing, in Europe and Asia, is that the markets are pricing in a recession.”
The sell-off was evenly distributed from West to East, with indexes plunging in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul and Bombay. The Frankfurt Stock Exchange’s Dax index plummeted 7.2 percent, its steepest one-day decline since Sept. 11, 2001. The 7.4 percent drop in Bombay’s Sensex index was the second-worst single-day tumble in its history.
Remember what I said about money market funds. Make sure that your money is in FEDERALLY INSURED ACCOUNTS.
Bay Area housing prices are finally falling, declining last month for the first time in more than four years.
This means that every buyer desparately trying to “get into something” before prices go up even further is going to take a new look around. It means that every seller holding out for that offer “over asking” is going to realize they need to get out.
Even more, it means that all the speculators will understand the party is over, and it’s time to bail. And, finally, the landlords with “negative cash flow” but thinking they’re making up for it with appreciation have to face it that they’re really just losing money. Not to mention all the people who are “over their heads” with mortgage payments they can’t keep up with.
We are at the endgame for housing. Until recently, our national motto has been “in real estate we trust.” Just last week, the Census Bureau reported that median home prices after inflation rose 32 percent from 2000 to 2005. In some places, the gains were huge: 127 percent in San Diego, 110 percent in Los Angeles and 79 percent in New York. But real estate—which has acted as a national piggy bank, with homeowners borrowing and spending against rising house prices—no longer looks so trustworthy. On this, more than falling oil prices or a record Dow, hangs the economy’s immediate fate.
[. . .] Construction workers, real estate agents and mortgage bankers will lose jobs. Consumer spending (computers, cars, vacations) will also suffer, as the borrowing and buying against rising real-estate values subsides. Indeed, the end of the cheap credit that fed the boom means that many borrowers will face higher monthly payments.
It hasn’t even started yet, and they use the ‘D’-word: Housing Prices to Drop, Report Says,
Housing prices, slumping after a five-year boom, are projected to decline in more than 100 of the nation’s metropolitan areas…
… The … firm projects that the median sales price for an existing home will decline in 2007 by 3.6%, which would be the first nationwide decline for an entire year in home prices since the Great Depression of the 1930s. [emphasis added]
This forecast is widely reported, which means that it will be seen by buyers and sellers, and will cause them to adjust their expectations.
Along those lines, a warning to UK investors: US housing market ‘in danger zone’,
British investors who own property in the United States should take a long-term view on the market and focus on maximising rental income as the US teeters on the brink of a housing market price reversal, says Assetz.
… Stuart Law, managing director of Assetz, said: “The U.S. is definitely in the danger zone but we are not currently certain how severe the downturn will be. Holiday home buyers who are getting regular use out of their property are unlikely to be affected in the long term, but investors who were hoping to sell their property on quickly are no longer set to gain and are likely to face losses if they sell now.
Think UK investors will be showing up to pick up some of that excess inventory and bail us out? Me, neither.