How many more years for housing recovery?

moving dayA recent study may indicate that housing market may not fully recover for most cities until 2018.

The “long slog” housing recovery prediction appears to be relevant as a recent study published by the Demand Institute (DI) now estimates that the recovery may take several more years.  DI, a non-profit that studies consumer demand, suggests that home values may not rebound until 2018.

The DI study was reported by Realtor Magazine (Uneven Recovery to Continue for 5 Years; March 03, 2014) to be comprehensive and include 2,200 cities across the country and 10,000 interviews.  Overall, the report concludes that the recent sharp increase in home prices was mostly due to real estate investors who purchased distressed properties.  Now that distressed home sales are declining, values are not expected to increase as precipitously; the continued housing recovery is expected to be driven by new household formation.

The study reported the appreciation rate of the 50 largest metro areas in the country through 2018; home prices are estimated to appreciate about 2.1% annually.  However, the top five appreciating cities will average an overall increase of 32% through the recovery; while the bottom five will only average about 11% (Washington DC is listed among the bottom five).  Cities that experienced the highest appreciation and subsequently sharpest depreciation in home prices will likely have the longest and protracted recovery, and yet may only recover a fraction of the peak home values by 2018.

Not highlighted, and not yet expected to be an impact on the housing recovery,  is the move-up home buyer.  The typical move-up home buyer is sometimes characterized as a home owner who decides they need more space, which results in the sale of their smaller home and the purchase of a larger home.  Similar to previous recessionary periods and real estate down markets, the move- up home buyer was the missing piece to a housing recovery; the move-up home buyer provides much of the housing inventory that first time home buyers seek.  However, it seems as if psychological barriers hold back many move-up buyers today as it did in past recoveries.  During the current housing recovery, many potential move-up buyers have remained in their homes.  And until the move-up home buyer presence is felt in the marketplace, we may yet to endure a few more years of “recovery.”

Much like the DI study, there has been a lot of discussion and debate about the effects (on housing) of the lack of housing formation during the recession and in the subsequent recovery.  Andrew Paciorek, an economist at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, described household formation during a presentation given at the Atlanta Fed’s Perspectives on Real Estate speaker series (June 2013); “Think of the unemployed or underemployed college graduates living in their parents’ basements instead of renting or buying their own place. When a person establishes a residence, whether that’s an apartment or a house or another dwelling, that person is forming a household. Mainly because of a weak labor market that held down incomes, the rate of household formation cratered during the recession and subsequent recovery…

To give perspective to the issue, the rate of decrease of household formation during the great recession was significant (an 800,000 per year decrease compared to the previous seven years).  Additionally, household formation between 2007 and 2011 was at the lowest level since World War II, and was 59% below the 2000 to 2006 average.  Most significantly: during 2012, 45% of 18 to 30 year olds lived with older family members; compared to 39% during 1990, and 35% during 1980.  He described the household formation crash as an indirect contributor to declining home prices, which diminished household wealth linked to home values.

Although household formation continues to be a concern as the labor participation rate has decreased, Paciorek points to improvements in the job market as the spark to increasing household formation.  He forecasts that household formation should increase to 1.6 million over the next several years, and could possibly exceed the pre-recession average due to pent up demand of those who waited to form a household during the recession.  However, a disclaimer was provided saying his forecast is “based on assumptions that could prove overly optimistic;” and has “lots of caveats and lots of uncertainty” – much like the housing recovery.

by Dan Krell
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