by Dan Krell ©2012
When the housing market began its decent into uncharted territory in 2007, people talked of a “V” shaped housing market recovery, meaning that they braced for a market bottom followed by an upturn of increasing activity. What many experts are now talking about is an “L” shaped market recovery, where the housing market will hit bottom and not begin its ascent for a number of years. In retrospect, we have experienced the market’s bouncing along the bottom for at least 2 years (seeing inconsistent activity from month to month); although some still think that the market has yet to bottom out.
Two reasons why the housing market may continue to drag along the bottom include the dramatic loss of net worth in recent years and the recent increase in foreclosure activity.
The fact that the mean (average) income fell 7.7% is nothing compared to the 38.8% drop of mean net worth, as reported by a recent Federal Reserve Bulletin, “Changes in U.S. Family Finances from 2007 to 2010: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances” (fed.gov). The report stated, “Although declines in the values of financial assets or business were important factors for some families, the decreases in median net worth appear to have been driven most strongly by a broad collapse in house prices.” The report further clarifies, “…The decline in median net worth was especially large for families in groups where housing was a larger share of assets, such as families headed by someone 35 to 44 years old (median net worth fell 54.4 percent)…”
This report underscores what many in the industry have known, but have not fully admitted about the weak move-up market; the dramatic loss of home equity in recent years has not only made it difficult for many to sell their homes, but also has taken away the means to purchase another [home]. Additionally, the combination of diminished net worth and reduced income has forced many would-be first time home buyers to wait on the sidelines.
Additionally, foreclosures have not been news for some time, but the reduced foreclosure activity in the past year was said to be temporary in response to legal challenges and the robo-signing fiasco. As the shadow inventory (homes in foreclosure or bank owned) has been building up, many speculate the impact when foreclosure activity picks up.
A recent RealtyTrac (realtytrac.com) press release reveals that foreclosure filings have picked up and discusses the possible outcome. Besides a 9% increase in nationwide default notices was reported in May; RealtyTrack reported, “Foreclosure starts nationwide increased on an annual basis after 27 consecutive months of year-over-year declines.”
Lenders are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of selling distressed homes as short sales over repossessing them. Brandon Moore, CEO of RealtyTrac, was reported to say that the increase of pre-foreclosure sales is an indication that many recent foreclosure filings may end up as short sales or auctioned to third parties, rather than becoming REO (bank owned).
The dramatic loss of net worth along with continued foreclosure activity only contributes to the changing perception of home ownership. This housing recovery will certainly be recorded in the history books as one of the most protracted and having a lasting impact; this is not your father’s housing recovery.
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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 25, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.