Today’s Housing Bubble Post – Nowhere Near A Bottom

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.

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – “Deepest decline since the Great Depression”

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.

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – If Prices Fall Further

Do Reporters Realize that House Prices Can Fall?,

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.

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – New Home Sales Fall by Record Amount

Yahoo: New Home Sales Fall by Record Amount:,

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.

CNN: New home sales: Biggest drop ever,

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.

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – What Would A Big Corporation Do?

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?

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – Go Read

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.

Go read.

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – Stocks Plunge Worldwide

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.

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – Cashing In Before Crash

m4s0n501

Also titled “I told you so!”
In the LA Times today, How we cashed in before the housing crash,

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.

Today’s Housing Bubble Post

I haven’t done a housing bubble post for a while, so here is a roundup.
Lenders have “tightened up” on their requirements to qualify for a loan, so fewer buyers are qualifying: As mortgage lending tightens, house hunters with weak credit get shut out,

Rising interest rates and dropping home prices have squeezed a market that had been propped up by risky loans and easy credit during the housing boom. As mortgage bills came due, foreclosures rose, and the easy credit dried up for families like the Shields.
[. . .] This year, the volume of subprime mortgages is expected to drop by about 30 percent, said…

So there are fewer buyers.
Meanwhile, foreclosures are up, which means more houses for sale with special deals. So just as there are fewer buyers, there are more sellers.
Stories like these, around the country: National: Brace for wave of foreclosures,

More than 1.1 million homeowners will lose their homes to foreclosure by 2014 because they can’t afford the rising payments on their adjustable-rate mortgages, according to a researcher.

Kansas: Foreclosures up as loan rates adjust,

“We’re just in the first wave of anniversaries now,” Hermes said. “There will be a second, third and maybe a fourth wave of foreclosures. Then, all the people who are getting subprime loans now — they’ll start to kick in.”

Sacramento: Foreclosures Hurting Local Property Values: Many Homeowners Forced To Take Loss

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Today’s Housing Bubble Post – “Worldwide Bubble”

A warning, and not just on housing: All the World’s a Bubble,

Grantham says we are now seeing the first worldwide bubble in history covering all asset classes.
Everything is in bubble territory, he says.
Everything.
[. . .] And it becomes self-sustaining. “The more leverage you take, the better you do; the better you do, the more leverage you take. A critical part of a bubble is the reinforcement you get for your very optimistic view from those around you.”
[. . .] “The bursting of [this] bubble will be across all countries and all assets, with the probable exception of high-grade bonds,” Grantham warned. “Since no similar global event has occurred before, the stresses to the system are likely to be unexpected. All of this is likely to depress confidence and lower economic activity.”
Ouch.

Yes, ouch. Watch your backs. And, maybe buy some gold.

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – “Woes Could Spread”

Greenspan warns subprime woes could spread,

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said on Thursday there was a risk that rising defaults in subprime mortgage markets could spill over into other economic sectors.
Speaking to the Futures Industry Association, Greenspan conceded it was “hard to find any such evidence” about spillover from housing yet, but added: “You can’t take 10 percent out of mortgage originations without some impact.”

Duh! You take away a big percentage of buyers by tightening the rules about who can get a mortgage at the very same time as inventory is rising, and OF COURSE prices have to fall. DUH!
Meanwhile,

He said that subprime woes were “not a small issue” and seemed to result primarily from buyers coming into lofty housing markets late after big price run-ups that had left them vulnerable to hikes in adjustable mortgage rates.
Default rates in the subprime segment of the U.S. mortgage market have jumped in recent months as the housing industry slowed and prices fell.
At least 20 lenders in the subprime mortgage sector, which serves borrowers with poor credit histories at high interest rates, have gone out of business as a result.
The crisis has triggered broader concerns that the fallout may spread to mainstream lenders and damage the economy.

And the good news?

He also noted the problem would be quickly resolved if the housing sector regained its footing and prices moved up by 10 percent.

Right. Prices at the highest ever, fewer buyers, high inventory, and things will be fine IF prices go up. OF COURSE they’ll be fine if prices go up. But at the top of a bubble it’s ALWAYS fine if prices go up. But they won’t.
The situation in Iraq would be fine if Shiites and Sunnis gave each other a big hug, too. But they won’t.

Today’s Housing Bubble Post – Roof Falling?

Is the Roof Falling on Housing?,

It was not particularly surprising to most housing market observers that January starts fell from their December levels. But what did have the market abuzz was the magnitude of the drop. With a 14.3% decline to a seasonally adjusted rate of just 1.408 million units — versus December’s revision to 1.643 million units — the housing activity level for the first month of 2007 was the lowest in nearly a decade.
Not since August 1997 has construction been begun on fewer haciendas in the United States. Indeed, the magnitude of the drop-off has more than a few observers questioning whether the nation’s current housing slump actually will last longer than recently has been anticipated.

Other news:

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