Employment is the key to a stable housing market

by Dan Krell © 2010

The one question that everyone is asking, “where is the housing market headed?” A new focus is needed to stabilize the housing market as the national home buyer tax credit expires (state home buyer tax credit programs, such as California, may continue through the end of the year), and criticism for government foreclosure relief programs increases.

As the national home buyer tax credit sunsets, some in the industry (such as the National Association of Realtors) are scrambling to get a further extension. Proponents of the tax credit point to home sales spikes through the year as evidence of the tax credit’s efficacy. A June 25th NAR press release (realtor.org), described efforts to extend the closing deadline to assist those who could not close by the June 30th target. An amendment to extend the deadline was inserted into H.R. 4213: “American Workers, State, and Business Relief Act of 2010,” which passed both the House and Senate, but still needs to go to conference prior to becoming law.

Doubt remains over the efficacy of the home buyer tax credit; many critics applaud its none too soon conclusion. Putting aside the reports of fraud and abuse by those who have undeservedly filed for the credit, Fannie Mae’s March revised 2010 housing outlook (Economic and Mortgage Market Analysis; March 17, 2010) expressed doubts over continued effectiveness. The report cited various reasons that the most recent tax credit would not be as successful as prior tax credits. June’s Economic and Mortgage Market Analysis (FannieMae.com) reported that the most recent tax credit in fact only temporarily boosted home sales in April. April’s increased sales may have been due to many home buyers seeking to meet the initial qualifier for tax credit (which was to have a contract on a principle residence).

In addition to increasing home sales is the attempt to keep distressed home owners in their homes. Reports criticizing government mortgage modification and relief programs citing a lack luster performance seem to be appearing with increased frequency. Take for example the an April 20th Bloomberg story citing the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Neil Barofsky (“U.S. Treasury’s Housing Program Fails to Stem Foreclosures, Watchdog Says”). Mr. Barofsky criticized HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program) saying it has made very little progress. Additionally, it is estimated that 40% of those helped will eventually default; which could stem from HAMP’s high median debt to income ratios of 61.3% after lowered mortgage payments (FHA guidelines allow for a maximum overall debt to income ratio of 41%).

Since the fourth quarter of 2008, housing indicators have been inconsistent (much like other economic indicators). Even though doubt exists about tax credit and foreclosure relief effectiveness others argue the future of housing may lie with employment and personal earnings.

A recent Florida Realors® study (“The Face of Foreclosure”; floridarealtors.org) points out the correlation between unemployment and foreclosure. The April 6th 2010 press release quoted, Florida Realtors® vice president of public policy, John Sebree, as saying “…In most cases, it was a combination of rising living costs, unemployment or decreased pay, health issues and other factors that caused homeowners to get into trouble. Simple answers and trite political responses just don’t tell the whole story.”

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of June 28, 2010. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell.

%d bloggers like this: