Housing bubble countdown

The March S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index (spindices.com) was announced May 31st to reveal a 5.2% increase in home prices.  Although down from last March’s 5.3% increase, home prices seem to be appreciating at a regular pace, with the metro areas of Portland, Seattle, and Denver leading the way with double digit gains (year-over-year price increases of 12.3%, 10.8%, 10.0% respectively).  As home prices climb, so too are the claims that we are experiencing a housing bubble.

Those concerned about the next bubble have been ringing the alarm bells since last fall, when the combination of limited inventory, multiple offers, and rising prices created an environment in some regions that was reminiscent of the go-go market just prior to the last market bust.  And like the broken watch that is correct twice a day, those naysayers may eventually be correct – but it may not be for another eight years.

How to predict a housing bubble

According to Ted Nicolais, the real estate cycle has been steady since 1800 (How to Use Real Estate Trends to Predict the Next Housing Bubble; dce.harvard.edu; February 20, 2014).  Writing for the Harvard University’s Department of Continuing Education’s The Language of Business blog, Nicolais maps out Homer Hoyt’s cycles and found a regular 18-year cycle to the bubble and bust housing market (albeit two exceptions).

The 18-year cycle, as it turns out can be observed by analyzing trends.  An applying Henry George’s four phases of the real estate cycle (as modernized by Glenn R. Mueller), Nicolais can determine how and when the next housing bubble will occur.  (Henry George was a nineteenth century economist who studied the boom-bust cycle of the economy).

The first phase is the “recovery.”  Home prices are at the bottom, and demand increases.  Real estate vacancies decrease as economic activity increases, which fuels the economy.

real estate bubbleThe second phase is the “expansion.”  Housing inventories dwindle, there is little is available to buy, and finding a rental becomes difficult.  Nicolais explains that an issue with real estate is that once demand increases, filling inventory takes a long time.  New development can take two to five years.  Until new inventory is added, price growth accelerates; and rather than valued at market conditions, real estate becomes priced to future gains.  During a real estate boom, people buy into the prospect of “future growth” and believe the escalating prices are reasonable.

Phase three is “hyper supply.”  When the completion of new development begins to satisfy demand, inventories fist stabilizes and then swells.  Price growth begins to slow.  Nicolais stated that the amount of continued development will determine the severity of the impending recession; while demand is satiated, new inventory comes to market and vacancies increase.  He asserted that “wise” developers stop building during this phase.

Phase four is the “recession.”  New development is stopped, while projects coming to completion add to a growing inventory.  Occupancy rates and prices fall; property values and profits dwindle.  Developments in mid-construction may not be completed because they are no longer financially feasible.

Following the four phases and the 18-year cycle; Nicolais stated that the great recession was not caused by external forces, but rather occurred on schedule!  He figures that the current housing market is transitioning from recovery to an expansion phase.  And with the exception of the occasional slow down, he predicts that the next housing bubble will be in 2024.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2016/06/03/housing-bubble-countdown/

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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

real estate

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

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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.

This is not your father’s housing recession or recovery

by Dan Krell ©2012

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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Signs of Recovery or Anomalous Blips of Activity?

by Dan Krell

As President Bush officially proclaimed the month of June as National Home Ownership Month this year, many wondered about the future of the housing market. As the national media continues to portray the housing market as a financial black hole by telling stories of dread and dismay, it is a wonder if any of the industry initiatives have actually helped to stimulate the market. Generally the bad news is that the market continues to be slow; however the good news is there are signs of recovery.

National real estate sales numbers continue to slide, as reported by the National Association of Realtors (Realtor.org). The recent report indicated that home sales were down again for the month of April 2008 (as compared to sales from the same time the previous year). Additionally, the NAR reports that the national median home price for all types of housing fell to $202,300 (from $219,900 the same time a year ago).

However, the NAR reported positive news about localized markets, such as Greenville, SC and Springfield, MO, where strong home value increases are attributed to healthy local economies. Additionally, markets in areas such as San Diego, CA and Fort Meyers, FL have experienced increased home sales after significant price reductions, which is an indication that these localized markets have found their equilibrium.

Locally, there are micro markets rebounding as well. Sales statistics compiled and reported by the local MLS (Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc.; MRIS.com) indicate that there are localized market increases even though Montgomery County, as a whole, continues to post decreased sales numbers. And even though the county average sales price has lowered to $575,513 (as reported by the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors; GCAAR.com), sales statistics within specific zip codes (such as 20814, 20815, 20816, 20854, 20852, 20833, 20878, 20882) indicate increases in sales prices as compared to the same time last year. Some of these areas had slight sales price increases, while others had moderate gains; the average sale price for the zip code 20854 (Potomac, MD) increased over 30% in April 2008 as compared to the same time last year!

Along with these signs of recovery, a March 2008 announcement by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac indicated that there will be an increase of $200B to increase the liquidity of the mortgage industry. Analysts explain that the liquidity will reduce restrictions on high loan-to-vale mortgage programs. Restrictions on these loans were imposed to minimize further losses to Fannie and Freddie after foreclosure related losses increased as the housing market declined.

As much of the secondary mortgage market has all but shriveled and died, the importance of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is now underscored. With an additional $200B, Fannie and Freddie have committed to increase the availability of low down payment mortgage programs that have been the center of home ownership programs for years.

While many housing and economic indicators are down, there are many signals that the economy as well as the housing market is seeking its equilibrium. While some economists feel these signs are anomalous, others remain optimistic that stronger economic growth in the second half of 2008 will assist in stabilizing the housing market.

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 2, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.