Today’s Housing Bubble Post – Marked Down From $725K To $495K, Still Not Selling

A for-sale house around the corner from us (SF Bay peninsula) has gone through all the stages, and now even the “price reduced” sign is gone. The house is empty. The flyers are still there, however. Walking the dog the other day I picked one up to see what they’re offering.
The house, a modest three-bedroom in a modest neighborhood, was originally listed at $725,000. Now that is crossed off by hand on every flyer and $495,000 is written in.
So, marked down from $725,000 to $495,000 it still isn’t selling. No one is looking at it. It is still priced higher than the average person can or will pay for a house like this to live in this neighborhood. House prices around here still have a long way to fall, but you can’t expect other houses around here to sell for a lot more than $495,000 now – not with that one sitting there. But most of them are still priced in the $600-700,000 range.
That leaves a long way left to fall.

Money Market Funds

I guess I’m just ahead of my time… I’ve been warning about money market funds, and now it’s really hitting the news:
Mounting concern about money-market funds,

Millions of U.S. investors with cash in these mainstream vehicles are asking that question as some leading banks, investment managers and mutual-fund companies take steps to shield money funds from potential losses on troubled debt in their portfolios.

Do you want your money in a place where managers are “taking steps”?
So what can you do?

… if you are concerned about your money fund, experts say there are some ways to investigate.
The first — calling the company to ask about the fund’s holdings — might seem daunting given the complexities of many of these portfolios. But in fact the request can test a company’s responsiveness to its customers, observes Bruce Bent, who created the money fund 37 years ago.
“A number of funds will say ‘we don’t give that out,’” said Bent, whose New York-based firm, The Reserve, has about $80 billion in money-fund assets, none of which, he adds, is exposed to subprime loans or SIVs.
If the fund company isn’t forthcoming, he says, “take your money out and say goodbye.”

No shit.
And there’s always what I have been recommending:

The ultimate safe move would be to put your cash in a bank money-market or savings account – they’re insured up to $100,000 and sport comparable yields to money funds, which recently averaged about 4.6% for taxable investors.

Meanwhile, Advisers aren’t ready to dump money-market funds yet – MarketWatch

,With money-market mutual funds scrambling to cover their costs as credit meltdowns spread, some advisers say they’re seeing more interest from high net-worth clients in short-term, bond exchange-traded funds.
One of those is Jerry Slusiewicz. But the president of Pacific Financial Planners in Newport Beach, Calif., doesn’t recommend investors pull out of their money-market funds just yet.

Not just yet?

Several major financial services firms have moved to protect money-market assets in recent months. The latest is Bank of America Corp., which on Tuesday said that it plans to use a $600 million reserve to shore up a group of its money-market funds. Another big financial-services firm, Legg Mason Inc. has made public plans to establish credit lines of roughly $238 million to keep intact credit ratings of two money-market funds.

Did I read that right? They’re putting hundreds of millions in to cover their money market funds so people don’t lose money? So if you have money in one of those funds the only reason you aren’t losing money is because the fund managers are pumping their own money in to shore it up? So what happens if the parent companies are in trouble – which they certainly will be if they’reputting in hundreds of millions to cover the money market funds!
Remember, the money you have in a money-market fund can drop – you can lose principal.
And Atrios has found a General Electric managed fund that is already in such trouble it is paying its depositors only 96 cents on the dollar.

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – Foreclosures Double

Ypu’ll be seeing this headline every month for a while, I expect: Foreclosures nearly double from year ago: report,

Cities in California, Florida and Ohio dominated the 25 U.S. metro areas with the highest home foreclosure rates, though rates jumped in most of the top regions during the third quarter, RealtyTrac said on Wednesday.
. . . A broad credit and liquidity crisis during the third quarter exacerbated U.S. housing industry troubles, pushing sales sharply lower and unsold inventory to record highs.
Overall, residential foreclosure filings nearly doubled in the third quarter from a year earlier, RealtyTrac reported earlier this month.

HOW many foreclosures?

Stockton’s rate of one foreclosure filing for every 31 households, the highest of the metro areas, was a surge of more than 30 percent from the prior quarter. A total of 7,116 filings on 4,409 properties were reported in the metro area during the quarter.
In Detroit, the foreclosure rate of one filing for every 33 households ranked second and was more than double the number of filings reported in the previous quarter, RealtyTrac said. A total of 25,708 filings on 16,079 properties were reported.

Today’s Housing Bubble Post -Foreclosures Double

UPDATE 1-US Q3 foreclosures almost doubled from ’06 -report,

U.S. residential foreclosure filings nearly doubled last quarter from a year earlier, and appear set to increase into 2008, a report said on Thursday.
Foreclosure filings for July-September rose to 635,159, representing one in every 196 households and a 30 percent jump from the second quarter, according to RealtyTrac, a marketer of foreclosure properties based in Irvine, California.

One results: soon there will be many more homes on the market. And remember, MOST of the “ARM resets” – loans with low “teaser” or “qualifying” initial rates that reset to high interest rates – happen into next year. So expect the foreclosures to continue to increase for at least a year. The housing market is nowhere near a “bottom.”

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – Home Prices Fall At Record Pace

Home prices falling at record pace in August: Case-Shiller – MarketWatch

The 13-month-long decline in home prices in 20 major U.S. cities accelerated in August, with prices dropping a record 0.7% in the month, according to the Case-Shiller price index released Tuesday by Standard & Poor’s Corp.
Prices were down 4.4% in the past year, the fastest decline in the seven-year history of the 20-city index. In the original 10-city index, prices have fallen 5% in the past year, the biggest decline since 1991.
“The fall in home prices is showing no real signs of a slowdown or turnaround,” said Robert Shiller, co-creator of the index and chief economist for MacroMarkets, in a release.
… Millions of homeowners who took out adjustable-rate loans in 2005 and 2006 face sharply higher mortgage payments this year and next, with foreclosures having already soared as the result of payment resets.
… Prices could fall much further. In a separate report, analysts at Goldman Sachs figured that prices in California are about 35% to 40% overvalued, compared with past relationships between home prices and income growth. The median sales price of a home in California was $589,000 in August, Goldman said, but should be around $375,000, they said.

Key line: “Prices could fall much further.”

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – Foreclosure Filings Double

It gets worse and worse. Foreclosure filings nearly double,

Foreclosure filings across the U.S. nearly doubled last month compared with September 2006, as financially strapped homeowners already behind on mortgage payments defaulted on their loans or came closer to losing their homes to foreclosure, a real estate information company said Thursday.

And remember, the real wave of ARM resets is yet to come. (ARM resets are adjustable rate mortgages resetting out of their initial, low “teaser” rates to the real interest rate. When this happens mortgage payments can as much as double.) Figure maybe five months after an ARM reset until the homeowner is in such trouble that a foreclosure occurs.
So this is just the beginning of the beginning. And as more and more foreclosed properties come up for auction, prices WILL fall, and fall… until houses are again selling for what they are worth.

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – From $630,000 to $285,000

San Jose Mercury News – ‘Betrayed by our builder’.
A homebuilder is marking homes down from $630,000 to $285,000. The front-page story includes a large graphic: “$630,000 – current residents — $285,000 prospective residents”
A San Francisco Bay Area homebuilder can’t sell all the houses it built in a development in Manteca. Current residents paid up to $630,000 for a 3-hour round-trip commute. But now they’re auctioning the remaining homes, starting at a more realistic price of $285,000.
This headline is going to have a huge impact because it means every homeowner in the SF Bay Area who thinks they have a $630,000 property now will begin to realize that in the end, if they want – or need – to sell that house, they are going to be competing with $285,000 prices.
Let that sink in a while…

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – Homebuilders Forced To Build MORE Inventory

This one takes some explaining. The big homebuilders borrowed money and bought up a lot of land. Now they are in trouble, running out of cash to run their businesses and pay down the debt – and the only way they can hope to surive is to build MORE houses to sell at a steep discount, because this brings in at least SOME cash.
Of course, the effect on the rest of the economy will be terrible: MORE houses dumped on an already-saturated market, at even lower prices. This will force prices to drop further, and more people to be in trouble.
Calculated Risk: Homebuilders Struggle to Survive,

We could make fun of the analysts that claimed the homebuilders would have strong cash flow during a downturn (due to less investment in land and improvements) and that the homebuilders were “land banks”. Those investment ideas were Dumb and Dumber!
But the more important point is that the homebuilders struggle to survive shows why the builders are still overbuilding. Building homes, and selling at a deep discount, is the only way they can liquidate land to raise cash and pay down their debts in the current environment. This is why housing starts are still too high and will likely fall further over the next few quarters.

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – Homebuilder Stocks — Suckers

Home-builder stocks rise on Citigroup upgrade,

Home-builder stocks rose Monday after a Citigroup analyst raised his stock ratings on several of the sector’s largest companies on signs the worst may be behind the embattled industry.

Worst may be OVER?
Let’s see, highest housing inventory ever, difficult to get credit, mortgage rates rising in response to Fed bailout attempt, prices far, far, far above what an average person can afford, a huge wave of ARM resets coming next year… and some probably-23-year-old analyst sees a price bottom?
Oh yes, go buy stocks based on a bottom – suckers.

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Today’s Housing Bubble Post – New-Home Sales And Prices Plunge (Again)

New-home sales plunge 8.3% to seven-year low,

Median sales price down 7.5% in past year, biggest drop in 37 years
Sales of new homes dropped 8.3% in August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 795,000, the slowest sales pace since June 2000, the Commerce Department estimated Thursday.
Sales are now down 21.2% in the past year, with no sign of a bottom in the crippled housing market.
… The median sales price fell 7.5% to $225,700 compared with a year earlier, the largest year-over-year decline in 37 years.

The worst is yet to come. Maybe a year from now is the time to start thinking about loking for a bottom.

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – Biggest Price Drop in 16 Years

Imissed this yesterday because I was traveling… S&P: US Home Price Decline Accelerates,

U.S. Homes Post Steepest Price Drop in 16 Years
The decline in U.S. home prices accelerated nationwide in July, posting the steepest drop in 16 years, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index released Tuesday.

So the situation: a huge wave of “ARM resets” – steep rises in monthly payments for holders of adjustable mortgages – is only beginning. Then it takes several months before they get into enough trouble to be forced into foreclosure. At the same time, it is hard to get a mortgage now, the largest number of homes for sale in history, and everyone aware that prices are falling and it is just stupid to buy a house now. So prices are going to be dropping, maybe a lot, for some time. There is no way around it.
(Feel free to add other “doom and gloom” factors in the comments.)

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – Foreclosures Soar

U.S. home foreclosures soar in August,

The number of foreclosure filings reported in the U.S. last month more than doubled versus August 2006 and jumped 36 percent from July, a trend that signals many homeowners are increasingly unable to make timely payments on their mortgages or sell their homes amid a national housing slump.
… The national foreclosure rate last month was one filing for every 510 households, the company said.

The BIG ARM Reset jump – increasing numbers of people with adjustable mortgages that adjust to much higher monthly payments – hasn’t happened yet. And then it takes several months for them to fall behind on payments and eventually face foreclosure. So this is just the start of a wave – a tsunami.

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