I was driving this morning and clicking through the AM radio stations. On one station there was a “financial advice” show, with a guy talking about how to make a “236% return” by buying foreclosed houses and renting them out until prices go back up.
In case you were wondering who is buying houses right now, it’s the people who fall for this stuff. Where will housing prices fall to? Prices will revert to the mean, and the mean is where prices were before they started going way up, plus a bit for inflation. Another way is to realize that the price of the house, if rented out, should be low enough that you have positive cash flow after all expenses, and that cash flow should be a lot better than you could get from buying bonds because of the work you are putting into it. (In my area that means house prices should be about a third what they still are.)
But before they do that they will fall a bit below the mean. Here is why. There are several factors that will pressure housing prices even when they reach the pre-bubble level.
Before prices can normalize people have to stop thinking that prices will go up again, and get rid of property they are “holding on to.” So at the point where they reach the normal level there will be little buying interest. In fact people will understand that buying a house can be a good path to financial ruin.
Everyone who wanted a house really, really had a chance to buy a house. If they didn’t buy a house when you could get money without even stating whether you had a job…
Next there is the huge buildup of inventory. There are many, many more houses out there than there were before the bubble.
There are all the housing developments built way outside of areas where people work, with the expectation that they would buy at as lower price there and when prices went up they could sell and make the down payment for a place closer to the job. Now that gas prices are up no one will want to buy these.
Then there is the coming rise in utility prices which means that the McMansions are going to cost too much to heat and cool.
The baby boomers are retiring, which means they will want to sell bigger houses and rent or buy smaller houses.
People have no idea how far prices are going to fall.
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.
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?
[. . .]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.
Our friends said we were crazy. Relatives asked whether we were in financial trouble. But in April 2005, my wife and I bailed out of the American dream. We sold our two-bedroom Pasadena condominium and became renters again.
We got nearly three times what we had paid for the place nine years earlier. It seemed to us like a staggering profit — and a sign that the market had been pumped up beyond reason.
. . .But at the time, a lot of people thought we had sold too early. To stay on course, I adopted a personal anthem. It was a Public Enemy song that hit big in 1988 during the previous real estate run-up: “Don’t Believe the Hype.”
Sold too early. And now they’re saying “We’re at the bottom.” Right.
So far we have been hearing about a “problem” with “subprime” mortgages that went to people with bad credit. Then we heard about problems with “adjustable” mortgages where the payments go up after a period of time and mortgages with no down payments and mortgages where the borrower didn’t have to verify how much income they really had. You can readily see where there could be problems with all of those.
My prediction for next year is that the problem will spread to regular mortgages given to regular people with good credit. The reason I think this will happen is that I think housing prices are going to fall quite a bit. If prices go to where they should be according to historical norms, or according to the historic ratio between rents and prices,or according to what always happens when bubbles pop, then they are going to fall as much as 40-50%. Maybe even more. (And never mind that the “boomers” are starting to retire and will not need the houses many of them have further increasing inventory and decreasing demand…)
So next year we’re going to see a LOT of regular people with regular mortgages go “underwater” — meaning they will owe a lot more than the current market price of their houses. In many states the regulations allow people to get out of their mortgages by giving the house to the lender and not have to make up the difference if the mortgage is for more than the house can sell for. And many will do exactly that. (Which will even further increase inventory and put pressure on prices.)
So next year I predict the credit crisis is going to get a LOT worse.
A bulletin arrived in my e-mail this morning with the headline, “U.S. new-home sales fall more significantly than forecast in November” All I could think to say was “NOT”
No, everyone who actually learns about what is going on with housing is surprised that ANY new homes were sold, and that ANYone is stupid enough to buy ANY house until the price reverts to the mean. This is a popping bubble, people. If you buy a house now it will be worth a third less in two years. ANY house! Remember how many stocks went to zero after being “golden” for so long? This is what HAPPENS when bubbles pop. DUH!
Sorry. U.S. Nov. new-home sales fall 9% to 647,000 pace – MarketWatch
Sales of new U.S. homes fell by a more-than-expected 9% in November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 647,000, the Commerce Department reported Friday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch were expecting new home sales to drop to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 710,000 in November. Meanwhile, October’s sales rate was revised downward, to rise by 711,000, or 1.7%. They were previously estimated to have risen to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 728,000. In the past year, sales of new U.S. homes are down 34.4% nationwide.
Home prices in 20 major U.S. cities were down 6.1% on average in the past year as of October, according to the Case-Shiller price index released Wednesday by Standard & Poor’s.
Since October 2006, prices in 10 cities fell 6.7% — a record drop. The prior largest decline was 6.3% in April 1991.
. . . Miami sustained the largest drop over the past year, with a decline of 12.4%. Next came: Tampa, with a drop of 11.8%, Detroit with a drop of 11.2%, and San Diego with a drop of 11.1%.
This is only the beginning.
By the way, does this price drop take into account 4% inflation? If not the real decline was quite a bit greater.