Move-up home buyers still absent

move-up home buyers
Home sale prices July 2017 (Infographic from NAR.Realtor)

Could it be that the housing market is still recovering from the great recession?  Maybe, considering that the housing market has not fully returned to a stable cycle.  Consider the inconsistency of annual home sales that seem to surge every three years, the steep home price increases over the last four years, and the lack of move-up home buyers in the market.

Summer is typically the strongest time of year for the market.  However, the National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales decreased during June and July of this year (a decrease of 1.8 percent and 1.3 percent respectively).  And July’s Pending Home Sale Index (projecting future sales) decreased 0.8 percent (nar.realtor).

Of course, the NAR’s take on this bump in the road is provided by their Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.  Yun described the discrepancy of wage growth to home price gains as a reason for this summer’s home sale slide.  He explained that the median home sale price increased 38 percent in the last five years, while hourly earnings only increase 12 percent.  He points out the obvious, that sharply increasing home prices are creating an affordability gap, which is pricing many home buyers out of the market.

Yet, according to the NAR, “Home buyer” traffic continues to grow, while the housing inventory continues to shrink (the national home sale inventory during July decreased 9.0 percent from the same time last year).

Yun stated:

The reality, therefore, is that sales in coming months will not break out unless supply miraculously improves. This seems unlikely given the inadequate pace of housing starts in recent months and the lack of interest from real estate investors looking to sell.

Home sale inventory has been an issue for the housing market since its slow recovery began four years ago.  Although many will explain away the dearth of homes for sale as a result of strong demand and quick home sales.  However, they do not take into consideration that currently for every three homes that sell, there is one that does not.  The 1 in 3 fallout is the expectation in a typical market, while there is only a 1 in 10 fallout in a market with strong demand (such as in 2005), so home buyer demand is not exceedingly strong.

Of course, the main reason for the low housing inventory is that home owners are staying in their homes much longer than in the past.

According to the NAR, between 1987 to 2008 home owners stayed in their home an average of six years before buying their next home.  However, since 2010, the average time grew to fifteen years!  The result is a lower number of move-up home buyers in the market, and a reduced number of homes to sell.

One of missing pieces to a stable housing market has been the move-up home buyer.  The move-up home buyer is the buyer who will sell their current house to move into another home.  The necessity of move-up home buyers was acknowledged as part of a healthy housing market way back in 1985, when the economy was recovering from the deepest modern recession at that time (Move-up Buyer Provides The Base For A Recovering Housing Market. chicagotribune.com. August 17, 1985). Part of the housing recovery of 1985 was the increased participation of the move-up home buyer. As move-up home buyers “upgraded” to larger home, more affordable modest homes become available to first time home buyers.

Low housing inventory combined with elevated first time home buyer activity has fueled home prices over the last four years.  Until move-up home buyers are fully participating in the market, we will continue to see continued lack of inventory, steeper home sale price increases, and unpredictable market cycles.

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Housing recovery is cliché

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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
©2014

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Bold predictions for real estate and housing

by Dan Krell
DanKrell.com
© 2012
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fortuneWe survived the “Mayan Apocalypse” of 2012, so what’s in store for the housing market and the real estate industry in 2013?

The “Long Slog:” Although analysts disagree about the date of the housing market bottom, most agree that the national housing market bottomed out sometime time in 2009-2010.  Many looked forward toward 2012 to be a phenomenal year for housing and a return to normalcy.  Certainly 2012 housing figures were better than those of 2011, but in many areas of the country (including locally), the market fell short of outperforming 2010.

Unlike the occasional Pollyanna story about the local housing market, analysts expect “the long slog” or “the long grind” that will take years (emphasis on the plural) to get back to normalcy.  No matter how you articulate it, and barring future economic setbacks, experts describe the climb out from the bottom as a long, slow trudge that will have high and low points along the journey.

Home sale prices: When real estate fell into a seemingly endless downward spiral in 2008, some sectors continued to do well.  Homes priced at and above one million dollars continued to outperform other sectors of the housing market through 2011.  The “upper bracket” sector began to show weaknesses in the early part of 2012; as luxury home sales slowed, mid-range home sales picked up momentum.  However, activity flipped toward the end of 2012; as upper bracket activity increased significantly, while activity in other price sectors decreased.  Until fiscal cliff, debt ceiling, and other government budget debates are resolved; local upper bracket home sales will be inconsistent during 2013.  This market bifurcation can skew local monthly average home sales figures, as well as possibly distorting monthly marketplace snapshots.

Hyper-local real estate: Regional and local variances in home sale prices will require home buyers and sellers to continue to focus on hyper-local data to determine selling prices.  One of the best ways for you to clarify neighborhood sales trends is to consult a local real estate agent for recent neighborhood comparables.

Mortgages & Appraisals:  Getting a mortgage may become be increasing difficult in 2013.  Recent reports of FHA losses and a possible bailout could force new guideline changes to help the venerable mortgage program.  Because of increased foreclosures and delinquencies, there is talk about FHA becoming increasingly credit score reliant, and increasing mortgage insurance premiums for riskier borrowers.

Appraisals will continue to be a lightening rod of criticism and a source frustration.  Since its inception, the Home Valuation Code of Conduct was confusing to everyone, and eventually became a scapegoat for many seemingly inconsistent valuations.  However, a low sales volume due to lack of resale inventory will also create issues with appraisals.

Pent-up demand: No need to worry about interest rates – yet.  Keeping mortgage interest rates low, the Federal Reserve has commented on continued purchases of mortgage backed securities as part of a larger stimulus program.  However, continued low mortgage interest rates may not be the reason for home buyer activity as much as pent up demand.  However, home buyers waiting on the sidelines to purchase a home have been met with low resale inventories during 2012.  For many home owners, the general lack of home equity remains the major reason to not sell a home; and it’s also a reason for low resale inventories to continue through 2013.  Continued low inventory environment will create a competitive environment for home buyers.

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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 January 1, 2013. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2013 Dan Krell.

Missing pieces to a housing recovery

by Dan Krell
DanKrell.com
© 2012
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Home salesAs the housing market expectantly slows for the winter months, we can start reflecting on this year’s housing statistics.  Home sale figures appear to point to a year ending slightly better than last.  But it may be that local home sale stats may not best those posted during the 2009-2010 period.  It appears that there are missing pieces to the housing market, which if not put into place, could result in a new real estate norm.  Let’s take a look at the puzzle…

First, the National Association of Realtors® (Realtor.org) reported that national pending home sales have been elevated most of the year; and although national existing home sales have increased during October, the numbers fluctuated throughout the year.  Of course, trying to determine the local state of housing through the national market snapshot may be like trying to see a local road map by looking at the solar system; but there is truth to what NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun described as “…rising consumer confidence about home buying…”

Second, New home sales have increased compared to last year.  Although the existing home sales statistics reported by the NAR may have co-mingled some new home figures in the data (due to the methodology), the U.S. Census Bureau (census.gov/construction/nrs/) reports new home sales.  Not surprisingly, October new home sales increased about 17% compared to October 2011, and 2012 year to date new home sales increased about 20% compared to 2011.

A forthcoming piece to the puzzle, which may likely be reported in the latter weeks of December, is that November was another positive month for real estate.  And more importantly – November may have been a brilliant month locally.  A preliminary analysis of Montgomery County MLS (Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc.) home sale figures (all inclusive) point to a marked sales volume increase in November compared to November 2011, as well as an increase in the average monthly home sale price (dankrell.com/realestate).

AnotNew Home Salesher piece to the local real estate puzzle is home buyer behavior.  Home buyers in the market are increasingly demanding about what they are getting for their money.  Given the lack of home listings in the resale market (down about 27% from 2011 year to date through October for Montgomery County single family homes: gcaar.com), combined with variances in home sale prices and the cost for renovations and updates on many homes; home buyers perceive value in purchasing new homes compared to buying a resale in today’s market.  This is an unacknowledged reason for the surge of new home sales this year, and why new home builders have rebounded before the resale market.

The missing pieces to improving the resale market are inventory and home prices.  As mentioned, a lack of home inventory continues.  If resale inventory were to match those of previous years, it stands to reason that resale inventory would also increase.  Inventories are lackluster most likely because many home owners have put their selling plans on hold until they are convinced that home prices have stabilized.

It’s welcome news that the 2012 housing market is slightly better than the 2011.  And although the landscape of the local market has improved, home sale figures are not much better than those posted during 2009-2010.  If resale inventory does not increase, the resale market of 2013 will probably be much like that of 2012.

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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 December 3, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

This is not your father’s housing recession or recovery

by Dan Krell ©2012
DanKrell.com

homesWhen 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.

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