Although it may feel as if you’re experiencing one, no – you’re not having a déjà-vu. Wall Street and other world markets are once again in crisis mode. However, unlike the crisis of 2008 that was caused by a credit crunch; this week’s crisis is characterized as a debt crisis.
Sure, crises shock the public and economic systems. And much like other crises, we are stunned, worried and confused. However, this crisis is a bit different. Although the imminent effects are yet to be seen, this crisis has been openly brewing for months; and the public has been primed leading up to the debt debate and subsequent debt deal that seemed to satisfy no one – especially Standard & Poor’s. As you already know, S&P downgraded the credit of the United States of America on August 5th (You can read the downgrade report along with the rationale on standardandpoors.com).
As a home owner, you might think that home values are once again in peril. However, a sharp decline in home prices that was characteristic of the housing downturn from 2007 to 2009 is unlikely. In retrospect, the housing bubble lost its turgidity and home values started to erode before the credit crunch of 2008 (one could argue that the credit crunch was caused by the foreclosure crisis). Unlike today’s housing market, the market downturn in 2007 and home prices were mostly affected by the tsunami of distressed properties that swelled the active inventory for over three years. As inventory decreased, home prices seemed to rebound indicating the beginnings of a very modest housing recovery.
Although nationwide home prices may continue to roller coaster until economic stability is achieved; a hyper-local analysis may indicate that neighborhood home values will vary.
As financial markets “correct” themselves, consumer sentiment of home ownership may not be initially or directly affected by the current crisis. It is more likely that most home buyers may initially continue their home search unabated. Home sellers, on the other hand, are more apt to pull their homes from the market if indications are of a slowdown.
Of course there will be consequences. Intuitively, one might have expected mortgage interest rates to increase on the heels of a U.S. credit downgrade. However, at least initially, interest rates decreased. The rationale is that although the U.S. credit was downgraded, investors looking for a “safe haven” for their money view world markets in turmoil; there is fear of a worldwide recession as Europe is dealing with an ongoing debt crisis, while China is coping with inflation and their version of a real estate bubble. Notwithstanding, the long term effects on mortgage interest rates remain to be seen.
Additionally, the short term evaporation of savings and capital in the financial markets can affect the ability of home buyers’ down payments; savings are the most common source of downpayment as indicated by the National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers 2010 (realtor.org). The end result may be a bifurcated housing market, evident by the financial disparity of home buyers. Home buyers who are financially better off will have cash for their downpayment as well as be able to afford the potential higher interest rate mortgage.
As we move forward, uncertainty is felt about the immediate effects of a combined global crisis and/or possible recession. However, like all crises – this too shall pass in time.
by Dan Krell
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