Housing recovery is cliché

real estate

The word “recovery” has been used a lot over the last five years.  So much so, it seems as if the term is automatically associated with anything written about real estate and housing.  But, maybe it’s time for a shift in our perception and expectations.

If you look up the definition of recovery, you might find: “re·cov·erynoun \ri-ˈkə-və-rē,\ : the act or process of returning to a normal state (after a period of difficulty).”  It might make sense to refer to the housing market as still recovering, and in the process of returning to normal; but then again, who’s to say that the home price and market activity peaks realized during 2005 – 2006 was normal?

A number of research papers (such as Reinhart & Rogoff’s The Aftermath of Financial Crises) were produced to discuss how the recovery from the Great Recession would take shape.  Although there is not a clear consensus, many concluded that a recovery after a financial crisis is much longer in duration than recoveries from non-crisis recessions.  However, some claim that may not be the case because the comparisons to other financial crises around the globe are not analogous the U.S. financial system.

Regardless, maybe the use of the term “recovery” is, after five years, cliché.  Niraj Chokshi seemed to allude to this in his November 2013 article on Washingtonpost.com, “What housing recovery? Home values and ownership are down post-recession.”  Chokshi pointed out that home ownership and home values have not even recovered to the levels of the three years during the recession (2007-2009).

But then again, it could be that there is a journalistic license to use “recovery” when referring to housing; because there is an expectation for the real estate market to return to the peaks it experienced in the last decade.  An April 7th National Association of Home Builders (nahb.org) press release of the NAHB/First American Leading Markets Index was titled, “Latest NAHB Index Reading Shows Recovery Continues to Spread;” highlighted that there are 59 of 350 metro areas that “returned to or exceeded” their normal market levels.  However, “market levels” are based on a metro area’s employment, home prices, and single family home permits (it is unclear if the labor participation rate, which is the labor force as a percent of the civilian noninstitutional population, is included in the employment data).

Talking about a recovery is no longer acceptable for home buyers and sellers planning their futures; rather it is more appropriate to again talk about relative market conditions.  Considering that references to a recovery that is extending into a fifth year seems distant and confusing; the dramatic changes that the industry underwent after the recession makes it almost inconceivable for the marketplace to return to the exact state that existed prior to 2007.  Relative market conditions are more meaningful to home buyers and sellers, specifically when they are deciding listing and offer prices.

Although the National Association of Reltors® Existing Home-Sales stats are due out April 22nd, and Pending Home Sales Index due April 28th; Wells Fargo Housing Chartbook: March 2014 (April 9, 2014) states, “Although we still see conditions improving in 2014 and 2015, the road back to normal will, in all likelihood, remain a long one…” and outlines a “Brave New Housing World.”

With that in mind, a look at local market conditions; March 2014 year-over-year Montgomery County MD home sale statistics for single family homes as reported by the Greater Capital Association of Realtors® (gcaar.com) indicated: total active listings increased 27.5%; contracts (e.g., pending sales) decreased 7.4%; and settlements (e.g., sales) decreased 12.6%.  Additionally, the March 2014 county average single family home sale price of $562,157 is less than the county average SFH price of $573,281 reported for March 2013.

by Dan Krell

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