housing recovery

Peter Schiff: ‘An Economy That Lives By QE Dies By QE’

“The Federal Reserve decided Wednesday to hold monetary policy steady, saying that conditions remained too weak to pull back from its bond-buying program.

By a vote of 9 to 1, the Fed decided to maintain the pace of its $85 billion-per-month asset purchase plan.”

-MarketWatch.com, October 30, 2013

Another Federal Open Market Committee meeting has come and gone, and with it, the decision by the U.S. central bank to reduce, or “taper,” its $85 billion-per-month stimulus program.

Peter Schiff, CEO and Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital, appeared on Canada’s only all-business and financial news television channel BNN last Friday, and correctly-predicted once again that the Federal Reserve wouldn’t start tapering its quantitative easing just yet. Schiff told Business News Network viewers:

My view has been consistent since the beginning. I said when the Fed first launched QE1 that it was a mistake. That they had checked into the equivalent of the monetary roach motel. That they had no exit strategy. That QE would continue indefinitely. That we would have increasing doses of this monetary heroin. And, eventually it’s going to come to an end. Not because the Fed tapers. The Fed’s actually going to do the opposite of tapering- they’re going to up the dosage. It’s going to end when there’s a currency crisis. When the dollar collapses, and then that morphs into a sovereign debt crisis. That’s going to force the Fed’s hand. But until then, it’s just going to pretend that there’s an exit. It’s going to pretend that there’s tapering. But it can’t do it, because it can’t remove the QE without removing the recovery and putting the economy back into a worse recession than before the Fed began this experiment.

When asked about the possibility of a “beginning to the reduction of bond purchases,” Schiff replied:

No. Because when they even talked about it last time- when the Fed talked about the possibility of maybe reducing QE- interest rates went way up, and that threatened to unravel the housing recovery, the bull market in stocks, and so the Fed had to back off. The Fed is saying that it’s only going to take away the punch bowl if the party keeps going. But the party’s going to stop if it takes away the punch bowl. That is the predicament that it’s in. You know, an economy that lives by QE dies by QE.

Schiff talked of bubbles in housing and stocks, and warned viewers:

But ultimately, those bubbles are going to burst. If the Fed eventually does the right thing, and lets interest rates rise, we’ll have a worse financial crisis than 2008. If it does the wrong thing, and doesn’t let interest rates rise, but keeps printing money instead, then we’re going to have runaway inflation and a much bigger financial disaster than what would happen if the Fed just let rates rise.


“Fed Will Do The Opposite Of Tapering- And Print More Money!”
YouTube Video

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page. I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Doubts About Sustainable Housing ‘Recovery’ Linger

My doubts about the U.S. economy being in any sort of sustainable recovery able to stand on its own without government and central bank intervention spill over to the housing sector.

As it concerns real estate, a lot of that pessimism stems from the following that I’ve heard being discussed (albeit, somewhat quietly) for some days now but which popped up in my Sunday paper this weekend. From one of my favorite real estate reporters, Mary Umberger, over at the Chicago Tribune:

Halfsies. If you’re among those who think we’re in the midst of some kind of “normalization” of the real estate market, I offer you the conclusions of Goldman Sachs investment banking firm, which estimates that more than half of all recent real estate transactions nationwide have been all-cash deals, without mortgages.

Its report found that all-cash deals hit 57 percent in the first quarter of 2013, compared with 19 percent in the first quarter of 2005.

Such sales appear to be concentrated at the lower end of the price scale, Goldman Sachs said, and reflect the efforts of investors who are buying more modest homes to rent out.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

57 percent all-cash deals? During the housing bubble’s heyday, I seem to recall hearing of individuals who couldn’t even afford to buy a new TV somehow getting mortgages for new McMansions.

I just can’t see your typical homebuyer plunking down all cash for a home. So if investors are fueling this housing “recovery,” well, let’s just say my doubts concerning a sustainable residential real estate comeback continue to linger. Especially if mortgage rates continue to climb higher.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Umberger, Mary. “From remodeling lows to Florida highs.” Chicago Tribune. 30 Aug. 2013. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/realestate/sc-cons-0829-umberger-20130830,0,6086796.column). 9 Sep. 2013.

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Monday, September 9th, 2013 Business, Housing, Recovery No Comments

More Chicago-Area Homes Underwater Last Quarter

Back when I was running “The Most Hated Blog On Wall Street” I used to talk with increasing regularity about the “underwater people”- Americans who owed more on their mortgages than their homes were worth. According to online home and real estate marketplace Zillow, their ranks are now thinning out. At least in certain parts of the country. Cory Hopkins reported on the Zillow Blog yesterday:

Almost 2 million American homeowners were freed from negative equity in 2012, and the overall percentage of all homeowners with a mortgage in negative equity fell to 27.5 percent at the end of the fourth quarter, according to Zillow’s fourth quarter Negative Equity Report.

The falling negative equity rate is good news for struggling homeowners and is largely attributable to a 5.9 percent bump in home values nationwide last year to a median Zillow Home Value Index of $157,400 (when home values rise, negative equity falls). At the end of 2011, 31.1 percent of homeowners with a mortgage were underwater, or more than 15.7 million people…

Still, despite more than 1.9 million homeowners nationwide finding their way back above water last year, 13.8 million American homeowners are still struggling with negative equity.

Here in the Chicagoland region, there’s still plenty of “underwater people” around. Francine Knowles reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website early this morning:

Nearly 37 percent of homeowners with mortgages in the Chicago area had negative equity in the fourth quarter of 2012, edging up from the third quarter, according to a new report that forecasts conditions will be worse by the end of the year… That was up from 36.6 percent in the third quarter, but down from 39.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.

The Seattle, Washington-based company predicts falling home prices for the “Windy City.” Knowles added:

Zillow expects the percent of homes with negative equity will rise to 37.3 by the end of this year.

“Our forecast shows that Chicago’s negative equity rate is expected to rise because home values are expected to decrease by 0.6 percent” in the metropolitan area in December 2013, Zillow senior economist Svenja Gudell said in an email.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

I’ve been reading/hearing about a Chicago-area housing market recovery in the local media outlets with more frequency these days. Sure, sales are up. But prices have been going down. Plus there’s a whole bunch of foreclosures in the pipeline.

A recovery? I’ll believe it when I see it. And let you know when that happens.

UPDATE: This afternoon the Chicago media is running stories about a February 21 Illinois Association of REALTORS press release which might be interpreted as showing the Chicago-area housing market is experiencing a solid recovery. The problem is, January 2013 home sales and median prices are being compared to just one month (“year-over-year”)- January 2012. Instead, consider what the REALTORS wrote on January 22 about the nine-county Chicago Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area (PMSA) over 12 months (January through December 2012):

Year-end 2012 home sales totaled 90,365, up 26.7 percent from 71,315 homes sold in the region in 2011… The year-end 2012 median price reached $160,000, down -1.5 percent from $162,500 in 2011.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Like I said before: Sales up. Prices down.

Analyze year-end totals for home sales and median prices, and a clearer picture emerges of how healthy the Chicago-area housing market really is.

Or isn’t.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Hopkins, Cory. “2 Million Homeowners Freed From Negative Equity in 2012; 1 Million More to Come in 2013.” Zillow Blog. 20 Feb. 2013. (http://www.zillowblog.com/2013-02-20/2-million-homeowners-freed-from-negative-equity-in-2012-1-million-more-to-come-in-2013/). 21 Feb 2013.

Knowles, Francine. “More Chicago homes underwater in last 3 months of 2012.” Chicago Sun-Times. 21 Feb. 2013. (http://www.suntimes.com/business/18361768-420/more-chicago-homes-underwater-in-last-3-months-of-2012.html). 21 Feb. 2013.

“Home sales, median prices increase in January; housing gains extend into new year.” Illinois Association of REALTORS. 21 Feb. 2013. (http://www.illinoisrealtor.org/node/3203). 21 Feb. 2013.

“Illinois sees home sales increase in December; 2012 notches 22.9 percent sales gain over 2011.” Illinois Association of REALTORS. 22 Jan. 2013. (http://www.illinoisrealtor.org/node/3182). 21 Feb. 2013.

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Thursday, February 21st, 2013 Housing, Main Street, Mainstream Media, Recovery No Comments

S&P/Case-Shiller: Chicago-Area Home Prices Decline Again

Data through October 2012 from the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price indices paints a not-too-pretty picture for Chicago-area residential real estate. Sandra Guy wrote on the Chicago Sun-Times website yesterday:

The Chicago-area housing market continued to lag national numbers, posting the largest non-seasonally adjusted single-home price decline — 1.5 percent from September to October and 1.3 percent year-over-year — of 20 major cities in the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller national home price index released Wednesday.

Of the 20 cities, 12 saw housing prices drop.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Recent rising prices have led to claims the U.S. housing market is in recovery-mode.

However, doubts remain. AnnaMaria Andriotis reported on the MarketWatch website on December 20:

But experts say that spike is largely due to the limited number of homes on the market. There were about two million existing homes available for sale at the end of November, which equates to the lowest housing supply since September 2005, according to the NAR. With fewer homes to choose from, buyers intent on purchasing a property are more inclined to offer a higher price or engage in bidding wars, housing analysts say, which ultimately drives prices up.

The problem is this limited inventory underscores a weakness in the housing market: Many sellers have resisted putting their home up for sale, out of concern that it will sell for far less than they paid for it, says Jack McCabe, an independent housing analyst in Deerfield Beach, Fla. That’s set off a domino effect. Because they’ve held off, supply has remained limited, in turn pushing prices up. “Prices have gone up in the last year because of this temporary, artificial market,” he says…

Separately, in some neighborhoods, median or average sales prices are rising because the mix of homes selling has been shifting toward higher-end, more expensive properties — not necessarily because the value of the typical home is rising, says Jed Kolko, chief economist at Trulia.com, a real-estate listing site. Sales of existing single-family homes priced at $1 million or more increased 52% in November from a year ago, a trend that’s been in play for most of the year, according to the NAR.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

More later on these doubts…

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (http://www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Guy, Sandra. “Chicago-area home prices see steepest drop nationwide: report.” Chicago Sun-Times. 26 Dec. 2012. (http://www.suntimes.com/business/17230482-420/chicago-area-home-prices-see-steepest-drop-nationwide-report.html). 27 Dec. 2012.

Andriotis, AnnaMaria. “The real meaning of rising home prices.” MarketWatch. 20 Dec. 2012. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-real-meaning-of-rising-home-prices-2012-12-20). 27 Dec. 2012.

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Thursday, December 27th, 2012 Housing, Recovery No Comments

‘Irrational Exuberance’ Back In Housing

There are two real estate reporters I like to follow on a regular basis. CNBC’s Diana Olick and the Chicago Tribune’s Mary Umberger. Why do I like them so much? Because they don’t hold back on reporting the real conditions of the U.S. and Chicago housing markets. I remember them pretty much telling it as it was as the United States went through that housing bubble and subsequent crash- while many of their colleagues assumed the role of self-appointed real estate cheerleaders even as home sales and prices plummeted.

And these days, I’m detecting ‘irrational exuberance’ again in residential real estate. It’s not just me either. Umberger wrote in last weekend’s Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune:

If the Chicago real estate market were a patient recovering from a lingering, debilitating illness, the doctor might be obliged to set the patient’s over-expectant family straight: Yes, your loved one’s symptoms have eased up, says the MD, but, gee, it’s a little too soon to be training for a marathon.

Those are the kinds of expectations that many Chicago-area homeowners seem to harbor these days, according to Naperville appraiser Alvin “Chip” Wagner, whose recent newsletter to members of the local real estate community sought to address a form of irrational exuberance he’s seeing lately: Yes, the market is better, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your home is gaining in value — in fact, some prices might fall further.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Umberger interviewed Wagner, who had this to say about Chicagoland homeowners being overly-optimistic. From the piece:

Well, absolutely, the market is improving, but not in the area of pricing, which is what homeowners want to know about. In the third quarter, the average sales price throughout the area was $244,203. One year ago, the average was $258,364. That’s about a 5.5 percent decline.

Yet, I go to people’s houses to do appraisals, and (the homeowners’ expectations are) driven by what they see in the media, and they say to me, the market has picked up, and they expect their house is growing in value. They expect to see a 3 to 5 percent growth. I end up having to tell them, your values aren’t appreciating, they may be flat or even declining.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

I don’t like hearing about the housing market being crummy as much as the next person. But what I do like are people being straight with me. Especially journalists.

“And (the homeowners’ expectations are) driven by what they see in the media.”

See what I mean about those cheerleaders? This is why I like straight-shooting reporters like Olick and Umberger. Wish more of their contemporaries could be like them, instead of barfing up a whole lot of nonsense all over my computer screen.

Source:

Umberger, Mary. “A reality check on housing market.” Chicago Tribune. 30 Nov. 2012. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-11-30/classified/ct-mre-1202-umberger-housing-20121130_1_number-of-active-listings-naperville-appraiser-sales-price). 7 Dec. 2012.

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Friday, December 7th, 2012 Bubbles, Housing, Mainstream Media, Propaganda No Comments

CoreLogic: Home Prices Up Year-Over-Year, But Not Around Chicago

There’s been a lot of talk lately about a supposed recovery in the U.S. housing market.

Fueling such chatter is a report released earlier this morning from Irvine, California-based real estate analytics and services provider CoreLogic concerning home prices. From their website:

CoreLogic (NYSE: CLGX), a leading provider of information, analytics and business services, today released its October CoreLogic HPI report. Home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased on a year-over-year basis by 6.3 percent in October 2012 compared to October 2011. This change represents the biggest increase since June 2006 and the eighth consecutive increase in home prices nationally on a year-over-year basis. On a month-over-month basis, including distressed sales, home prices decreased by 0.2 percent in October 2012 compared to September 2012…

I noticed the following in the “Highlights” section of this latest report:

Including distressed sales, the five states with the greatest home price depreciation were: Illinois (-2.7 percent), Delaware (-2.7 percent), Rhode Island (-0.6 percent), New Jersey (-0.6 percent) and Alabama (-0.3 percent).

Once again, Illinois is number one on a list you don’t want to be at the top of.

Reuters (with Chicago Tribune real estate reporter Mary Ellen Podmolik contributing) published the following on the Tribune website this morning as it concerns CoreLogic findings for the Chicagoland area:

In the Chicago area, October home prices fell 2.3 percent compared with a year ago and were down 1.1 percent since September.

Down 2.3 percent year-over-year? No recovery here.

Interestingly, I noticed the following uttered twice in the piece:

Excluding distressed sales…

Followed by prices rose or were up.

You don’t say?

Is it just me, or does excluding distressed sales skew home price calculations to the upside, making the housing market look better than it really is?

You can read the entire CoreLogic report on their website here.

Source:

“CoreLogic: U.S. home prices show biggest annual gain since June 2006.” Reuters. 4 Dec. 2012. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-corelogic-us-home-prices-show-biggest-annual-gain-since-june-2006-20121204,0,5529349.story). 4 Dec. 2012.

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Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 Housing, Recovery No Comments

Robert Shiller: ‘I’m Not Ready Yet’ To Call U.S. Housing Bottom

The housing bulls are out in full-force these days after repeated smack-downs since the air was let out of the U.S. housing bubble (“housing’s coming back in 2007, no 2008, maybe 2009, make that 2010, 2011 anyone?”)

But one housing expert, who was out there in the mid-2000s warning anyone who would listen about the housing bubble and subsequent crash, isn’t sure residential real estate in the United States has bottomed-out just yet.

Yale University economist Robert Shiller talked to CNBC’s Scott Wapner on the TV show Fast Money earlier today. From their exchange on the “Halftime Report”:

WAPNER: You don’t think that housing is on the road to recovery?

SHILLER: I think it might be. There are a lot of positive indicators. But I think people tend to overreact to these. And if you look at the trend- which has been down since 2006- it’s a pretty strong trend that we have to see reversed. You know, maybe, you know, I might call it later this year that we’ve reached the bottom. But I’m not ready yet.

Dr. Shiller noted that there have been four attempts at a housing recovery since the subprime crisis.


“Shiller: ‘Not Ready Yet’ to Call Housing Bottom”
CNBC Video

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Tuesday, September 18th, 2012 Bubbles, Crash Prophets, Housing, Recovery No Comments

U.S. Home Prices, Housing Market Finally Recovering?

When conducting research, I like to keep an open mind about the news sources I use. For example, I read both the FOX News and MSNBC websites daily during the business week- among others. Not taking this diverse approach might prevent me from getting the whole story. Take the following from MSNBC.com this morning:

“Home prices up for first time in 10 months”

Single-family home prices rose for the first time in 10 months, in an encouraging sign the battered sector is starting to stabilize, a closely watched survey said on Tuesday.

The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas gained 0.2 percent in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, matching economists’ forecasts.

It was the first time prices have gained since April 2011…

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Now, look at what appeared on the finance/investing website MarketWatch.com this morning:

“U.S. home prices fall to nearly decade low”

February prices down 0.8% on the month

U.S. home prices dropped sharply in February to hit the worst level in nearly a decade, according to a closely followed index released Tuesday.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city composite fell 0.8% compared to January levels to take the year-on-year drop to 3.5%. The index is at its lowest level since October 2002. Of the 20 cities measured, 16 had negative readings and only three showed gains.

The decline may be due to the typical pattern of diminished interest during the winter and heightened interest in housing during the spring and summer, as prices rose 0.2% on a seasonally adjusted basis, the first rise since April 2011. S&P says the unadjusted series is a more reliable indicator

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

“S&P says the unadjusted series is a more reliable indicator”

So while the index creators point out that “the unadjusted series is a more reliable indicator,” MSNBC utilized the latest data from the adjusted (less reliable) series for a positive piece about the U.S. housing market, writing stuff like:

“Home prices up for first time in 10 months”

And:

“an encouraging sign the battered sector is starting to stabilize”

To be fair, MSNBC included the following later on in the article:

But on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the 20-city index was down 0.8 percent at 134.20, the lowest since October 2002.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Still, the gist of the piece seems to be that U.S. home prices and the housing market are recovering- something that a number of long-time, reputable housing observers can’t say is true.

So, is MSNBC now a housing shill? Are they trying to put a positive spin on housing as part of a larger effort to get President Obama re-elected, as some would have you believe? I don’t know. But I am certain of this. Theirs isn’t the whole story as it concerns the direction of U.S. home prices and the overall housing market.

Sources:

“Home prices up for first time in 10 months.” MSNBC. 24 Apr. 2012. (http://economywatch.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/24/11369617-home-prices-up-for-first-time-in-10-months?lite). 24 Apr. 2012.

Goldstein, Steve. “U.S. home prices fall to nearly decade low.” MarketWatch. 24 Apr. 2012. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-home-prices-fall-to-nearly-decade-low-2012-04-24). 24 Apr. 2012.

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Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 Housing, Mainstream Media, Propaganda No Comments

2013 Housing Recovery Could Be Dashed By Next Foreclosure Wave

Unbridled optimism about the nation’s economic health seems to be in the air these days- at least for the mainstream media and financial types. There’s no shortage of talk about a strengthening economic recovery, higher stock/401k values, peaking gas prices, and a housing market bottom and recovery.

Hey, all of that sounds good to me.

Problem is, as it concerns housing, many of those claiming home prices are close to bottoming out and recovering are the same ones who didn’t see the recent housing bubble and subsequent crash in the first place.

And, is it just me, or is that spiel about a comeback in residential real estate being played over and over like a broken record? Housing will recover in 2008. Wait, 2009. No, make that 2010. 2011. 2012. And now, Lucia Mukitani writes on the MSNBC website this morning:

The relentless decline in home prices is nearing an end and prices should rise for the first time in seven years in 2013, but a possible new wave of foreclosures could threaten the recovery, according a Reuters poll of economists.

The median forecast of 24 economists polled by Reuters was for the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index to end the year unchanged. That was the same finding back in January for this house price gauge, which covers 20 cities.

“We are expecting a gradual improvement, but if we get a big wave of new foreclosures coming to the market, price declines could be even greater,” said Yelena Shulyatyeva, an economist at BNP Paribas in New York.

The survey forecast the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index rising 2.0 percent next year, up from 1.5 percent in the January survey.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Did you notice the concern about foreclosures? It’s later muted in the piece. Mukitani added:

The survey predicted about 1.5 million foreclosed properties will come on to the market this year. While there is no comparison for this figure, most analysts believe the foreclosure wave has either peaked or is close to topping out.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

That may be so, but it sounds like there’s enough foreclosures in the pipeline- with still more coming- to possibly lower home prices even more. From the CNBC website this morning:

More U.S. homes are entering the foreclosure process, setting the stage for a surge in properties repossessed by lenders this year.

The number of homes that received first-time foreclosure notices rose 7 percent in March from the previous month, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac said Thursday.

That marks the third consecutive monthly increase this year and reflects stepped-up efforts by banks to take action against homeowners who fail to keep up with mortgage payments.

“We’re not out of the woods yet with foreclosures,” said Daren Blomquist, a vice president at RealtyTrac. “There are more batches of foreclosures coming through the pipeline.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Now, foreclosure activity slowed in the first quarter. But not for reasons one might suspect. From MSNBC.com senior producer John Schoen earlier today:

Foreclosure activity fell in the first quarter to the lowest level in more than four years, but mainly because the process of removing people from their homes has slowed. The number of homes just beginning the foreclosure process rose in March for a third straight month, a sign that the nation’s housing problems are far from over, according to RealtyTrac, which tracks the figures.

“The low foreclosure numbers in the first quarter are not an indication that the massive reservoir of distressed properties built up over the past few years has somehow miraculously evaporated,” said Brandon Moore, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac.

He said a large backlog of bank-owned properties that has accumulated over the past few years will put added pressure on the housing market when banks eventually list them for sale.

“The dam may not burst in the next 30 to 45 days, but it will eventually burst, and everyone downstream should be prepared for that to happen,” he said in a news release.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

“Added pressure,” “Dam… will eventually burst.” Sounds like home prices could keep falling. Nick Carey wrote on the Reuters website back on April 4:

Real estate company Zillow Inc says more than one in four American homeowners were “under water” or owed more than their homes were worth in the fourth quarter of 2011. The crisis has wiped out some $7 trillion in U.S. household wealth…

Zillow expects the resurgence in foreclosures this year, combined with excess inventory of unsold, bank-owned homes will contribute to a 3.7 percent national decline in prices before the market hits bottom in 2013 and stays there until 2016.

“The hangover from this crisis will far outlast the party of the boom years,” said Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

So 2013 might not be the year of housing’s recovery?

2014, anyone?

Sources:

Mukitani, Lucia. “Close to bottoming, home prices may rise in 2013.” MSNBC. 12 Apr. 2012. (http://economywatch.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/12/11161950-close-to-bottoming-home-prices-may-rise-in-2013?lite). 12 Apr. 2012.

“First-Time Foreclosure Notices Hit 6-Month High.” CNBC. 12 Apr. 2012. (http://www.cnbc.com/id/47028071). 12 Apr. 2012.

Schoen, John W. “Foreclosures slow as pipeline keeps backing up.” CNBC. 12 Apr. 2012. (http://economywatch.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/12/11145443-foreclosures-slow-as-pipeline-keeps-backing-up?lite). 12 Apr. 2012.

Carey, Nick. “Americans brace for next foreclosure wave.” Reuters. 4 Apr. 2012. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/04/us-foreclosure-idUSBRE83319E20120404). 12 Apr. 2012.

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Thursday, April 12th, 2012 Bubbles, Housing, Mainstream Media, Recovery 3 Comments

Seen On The Streets, Part 1

Real Estate “For Sale” Signs Going Up. Lots Of Them.

There’s more talk recently of a housing recovery being “right around the corner” due to shrinking inventory. A number of media outlets have discussed the decreasing number of existing homes on the market lately. For example, Nick Timiraos wrote in the Wall Street Journal’s Developments blog back on January 19:

“Housing Inventory Ends Year Down 22%”

There were fewer homes listed for sale at the end of 2011 than in any of the previous four years, a positive sign for the housing sector…

The 1.89 million homes on the market at the end of December represented a 6% decline from November and a 22.3% decline from one year ago, according to data compiled by Realtor.com.

I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but based on what I’ve seen around the Chicagoland area the past several days, inventory levels might be rising shortly. Driving back and forth between Chicago and the western suburbs I’ve noticed an awful lot of “for sale” signs going up in front lawns- more so than what you’d typically expect for the spring selling season. Stately homes, shacks, condos, you name it, and quite a few signs are out. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve seen only two “for rent” signs, both in my neighborhood, which has a lot of multi-family buildings. While Craigslist usually returns a good number of properties for rent around where I live, a quick search revealed only seven available going back to the oldest entry on February 24. Plenty of condominium units up and down my street for sale though. Hmm. I wonder if unwilling landlords aren’t thinking this is the year for finally unloading that ill-timed attempt at a “flip?”

Those who point to improving inventory data as evidence a housing recovery is near might be underestimating what I may be witnessing, which is, quite a few sellers who pulled their properties off the market some time ago to wait for better conditions could be charging back in, emboldened by each bit of good housing news they’ve heard lately. However, more properties placed on the market leads to increased supply, which could keep depressing home prices.

Source:

Timiraos, Nick. “Housing Inventory Ends Year Down 22%.” Wall Street Journal. 19 Jan. 2012. (http://blogs.wsj.com/developments/2012/01/19/housing-inventory-ends-year-down-22/). 2 Mar. 2012.

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Friday, March 2nd, 2012 Housing, Seen On The Streets No Comments

Chicago-Area Home Prices Fall To May 2001 Levels, Condos To August 2000 Levels

Summer 2005. At a party in a Chicago suburb, I found myself unable to escape a conversation about how fabulous the housing market was doing. Although I had already recognized by then it was only a matter of time before the bubble burst, I held back and politely listened to what the partygoers were saying. In a nutshell, they convinced each other they were real estate investing geniuses, on par with Donald Trump or dare I say Tom Barrack.

Fast forward to January 31, 2012. From Mary Ellen Podmolik this morning on the Chicago Tribune website:

Home prices in the Chicago area fell in November for the third consecutive month, putting them back at May 2001 levels, according to a widely watched index released Tuesday.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index found that in November, housing prices in the Chicago area fell 3.4 percent from October and were down 5.9 percent from a year ago. Other than Atlanta, Seattle and Las Vegas, Chicago had the greatest year-over year price decline.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

May 2001 levels. Ouch.

It gets worse. Podmolik added:

Chicago-area condominium prices were down 3.8 percent in November from a month earlier and declined 9.7 percent from November 2010. That put Chicago-area condo prices at their levels in August 2000.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

August 2000 levels. Holy Cow.

And MSNBC.com news services reported this morning:

U.S. single-family home prices fell more than expected in November, highlighting a sector that continues to struggle to make a meaningful recovery, a closely watched survey showed on Tuesday.

The S&P/Case-Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas declined 0.7 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis, a bigger drop than the 0.5 percent economists had expected.

The decrease added on to the 0.7 percent decline seen in October.

Despite all this, I’m guessing mainstream media website headlines asking “Has Housing Bottomed?” or “Is The Housing Recovery Finally Here?” won’t be going away anytime soon.

Last week, the co-creator of the composite index, Yale economics professor Robert Shiller, spoke to Henry Blodget at BusinessInsider.com about talk of a U.S. housing market bottom/recovery. From their exchange:

BLODGET: A lot of people have just called the bottom in the housing market in the United States, and there’s been some okay data recently. Is that your take? That finally housing prices are bottoming?

SHILLER: When people phrase is that way, they say ‘we’ve reached the bottom.’ That suggests that we have the expectation of a major turning point right now. But I don’t see that. I don’t see any reason to think that prices are going to start heading up dramatically now. We do have some good news. Permits are up. Notably, the National Association of Homebuilders Housing Market Index is up and that’s a forward-looking index. But it’s not up very much. If you look at the rate of change it looks dramatic but it’s still at a low level.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

You may recall that Dr. Shiller was one of the few people around to warn anyone who’d listen of the U.S. housing bubble, and was subsequently savaged for it by the housing shills and a number of “investing geniuses.”

Sources:

Podmolik, Mary Ellen. “Chicago home prices slide again in November, to 2001 levels.” ChicagoTribune.com. 31 Jan. 2012. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-caseshiller-20120131,0,5689134.story). 31 Jan. 2012.

“Home prices fall more than expected.” MSNBC.com. 31 Jan. 2012. (http://bottomline.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/01/31/10278907-home-prices-fall-more-than-expected). 31 Jan. 2012.

Blodget, Henry. “Housing Bottom? What Are They Thinking?” BusinessInsider.com. 29 Jan. 2012. (http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-01-29/news/30675216_1_housing-bubble-house-prices-robert-shiller#yui-main). 31 Jan. 2012.

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Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 Bubbles, Crash Prophets, Housing, Investing No Comments

Housing Is Back!

Every few days, I see it snuck in somewhere on various mainstream media websites:

Housing is back

Doubtful. A number of housing experts point out that for residential real estate to achieve a sustained recovery in this country, substantial progress has to be made in reducing the glut of properties languishing on the market. The National Association of Realtors reported on August 18:

Total housing inventory at the end of July fell 1.7 percent to 3.65 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.4-month supply at the current sales pace, up from a 9.2-month supply in June.

And don’t forget about the “shadow inventory,” or looming foreclosures that are expected to hit the market. Reuters’ Leah Schnurr wrote yesterday:

“There are probably about 3.5 million loans that should be in foreclosure but aren’t yet, and we’re going to have to work through that inventory before the housing market can come back,” said [RealtyTrac senior vice president Rick] Sharga. “This is a painful but necessary first step to get the housing market back on a more even keel.”

After foreclosure activity slowed down for a period of time, the banks appear to be back in the saddle again. The Chicago Tribune’s Mary Ellen Podmolik wrote yesterday:

Notices of mortgage default, the first step in the home foreclosure process, jumped 25 percent in Illinois last month, putting the threat of additional strain on local housing markets.

In August, 7,264 Illinois households received default notices in August, compared to 5,786 households that had foreclosure proceedings started against them by lenders in July, RealtyTrac reported Thursday. It was the most default notices filed against Illinois homeowners since March.

Illinois’ heightened activity mirrors a national trend. Across the country, 78,880 U.S. properties received a default notice in August, a nine-month high and a 33 percent increase from July…

States where default notices rose more than 40 percent from July included New Jersey, Indiana and California.

Based on inventory alone, it sounds like a sustained housing recovery in the United States is still a ways off.

Sources:

“Existing-Home Sales Down in July but Up Strongly From a Year Ago.” National Association of Realtors. 18 Aug. 2011. (http://www.realtor.org/press_room/news_releases/2011/08/july_ehs). 16 Sep. 2011.

Schnurr, Leah. “Mortgage default notices jump in August: RealtyTrac.” Reuters. 15 Sep. 2011. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/15/us-usa-economy-realtytrac-idUSTRE78E0OM20110915). 16 Sep. 2011.

Podmolik, Mary Ellen. “Mortgage default notices in Illinois surge 25% in August.” Chicago Tribune. 15 Sep. 2011. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/realestate/foreclosure/chi-mortgage-default-warnings-surged-in-august-20110915,0,421789.story). 16 Sep. 2011.

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Friday, September 16th, 2011 Defaults, Housing No Comments

Is Housing In A Depression?

Pew Research Center surveyed more than 2,100 adults in March on their views about homeownership. What did it find? Some 81 percent of people surveyed “somewhat” or “strongly” agreed with the statement that homeownership is the best long-term investment a consumer can make.

-Chicago Tribune, May 8, 2011

I wonder how many survey respondents who comprised that 81 percent agreeing homeownership is the best long-term investment might be reconsidering their answer these days, in light of the latest developments with the U.S. housing market.

Last week, I blogged about CNBC real estate reporter Diana Olick declaring a double-dip for national home prices “official.”

And yesterday, MarketWatch senior columnist Brett Arends suggested that the housing bust is still on. From the MarketWatch website:

If you thought the housing crisis was bad, think again.

It’s worse.

New data just out from Zillow, the real-estate information company, show house prices are falling at their fastest rate since the Lehman collapse.

Average home prices are down 8% from a year ago, 3% over the quarter, and are falling at about 1% every month, according to Zillow.

And the percentage of homeowners in negative-equity positions — with a home worth less than its mortgage — has rocketed to 28%, a new crisis high.

Zillow now predicts prices will fall about 8% this year and says it no longer expects the market to bottom before 2012.

Furthermore, Arends, who’s also a personal finance columnist for the Wall Street Journal, ridicules the idea of a housing “recovery” that a number of housing Pollyannas have been actively pushing for some time now. From the piece:

Here in America we have “zombie homeowners.” Millions of them.

According to Zillow, a record 16.3 million families are upside-down on their home loans. Sixteen million! And many are a long way upside-down. Their homes may never be worth as much as their mortgage. But they are hemorrhaging cash to pay the nut every month.

Recovery? What recovery? This looks a bit like a depression to me.

Olick and Arends aren’t the only ones predicting the slump in residential real estate will continue. Bloomberg’s Hugh Son wrote this afternoon:

A majority of the economists surveyed by Madison, New Jersey-based MacroMarkets predict prices will be flat or drop as much as 7 percent this year as foreclosures add to the supply of distressed properties.

Robert Shiller, the Yale University economics professor who co-founded the forecasting firm, said April 26 that values may decline “another 5 or 10 percent.” Morgan Stanley’s Oliver Chang is calling for a drop of as much as 11 percent.

To be continued.

In more ways than one, it sounds like.

Sources:

Arenda, Brett. “Housing crash is getting worse: report.” MarketWatch. 9 May 2011. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/housing-crash-is-getting-worse-2011-05-09?link=MW_story_popular). 10 May 2011.

Son, Hugh. “BofA Billions in Loan Losses at Stake on Moynihan Outlook.” Bloomberg.com. 10 May 2011. (http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-05-10/bofa-billions-in-loan-losses-at-stake-on-moynihan-outlook.html). 10 May 2011.

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The Housing Bubble Is Pricked

Housing Rebound Ahead?
June 6, 2007

The latest housing headlines come from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which is reporting that home sales and prices in 2007 will decline more than originally forecasted before picking up later in the year. A month ago, the NAR predicted that existing home sales would decline 2.9% and home prices would drop only 1%. Now, the Association is calling for a 4.6% decline in existing home sales to 6.18 million units. They also forecast that the U.S. median existing home price will fall 1.3% to $219,100. The NAR is also revising its new home numbers. The median price for new homes will fall 2.3% to $240,800 with new home sales declining 18.2% to 860,000 units. Last month, they predicted new home prices would remain unchanged with sales totaling 864,000 units. The trade group, representing more than 1.3 million real estate professionals, has revised its forecasts downward several times since the beginning of the new year.

The NAR continues to predict the first annual decline in the median national existing home price since it began compiling data in the late 1960s.

However, the National Association of Realtors did offer a glimmer of hope for the beleaguered housing sector. “Home sales will probably fluctuate in a narrow range in the short run, but gradually trend upward with improving activity by the end of the year,” says Lawrence Yun, an economist for the trade group. In 2008, existing home sales are projected to rise 3.7% to 6.41 million units. The national median existing home price is forecast to rise 1.7%. The median new home price is expected to rise 2.6% next year as well.

It is still too early for the National Association of Realtors to call an end to the housing bottom. The sub-prime mortgage debacle has led to a tightening of lending standards, making it impossible for a growing number of potential homeowners to get credit. Also, the rising number of foreclosed properties is adding more supply to the inventory glut. ZipRealty Inc., a national real estate brokerage firm based in California, just released a report showing the number of homes listed for sale in 18 major U.S. metropolitan areas at the end of May was up 5.1% from the previous month. This is important because on a national basis, housing inventories have typically remained unchanged in May over the last two decades, reflecting the fact that May is a peak home-selling month as families are moving during the summer vacation. The growing inventory of unsold homes will continue to put downward pressure on prices as well as sales, since the remaining buyers will hold off until better bargains come along.

Housing Slump Ends In 2 Months
June 22, 2007

In an interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday, Bank of America’s Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lewis said the U.S. economy will pick up speed due to a recovery in the housing sector. Lewis predicted, “You’ll see the economy begin to pick up in the third and fourth quarters, and the slowdown in home sales is just about to be over.” He went on to say that the housing market will begin to improve in the next month or two, forestalling a recession, according to Bloomberg. Lewis believes that job growth will lift home prices and reinvigorate construction by early 2008.

However, as Bloomberg pointed out, Mr. Lewis’ views contradict those of other market watchers, including money manager Paul McCulley of Pimco. At a Bloomberg News panel discussion on Tuesday, McCulley insisted that, “The housing-market recession ain’t over. It’s going to be a long, protracted recession.” Some are willing to go farther than that. Mark Kiesel, executive vice president of California-based Pacific Investment Management, said in Bloomberg yesterday, “It’s a blood bath. We’re talking about a two- to three-year downturn that will take a whole host of characters with it, from job creation to consumer confidence. Eventually it will take the stock market and corporate profit.” Nouriel Roubini, a former Treasury Department director under the Clinton administration and head of Roubini Global Economics in New York, added, “It’s not just a housing recession anymore, it looks more and more like an economic recession.” Roubini believes the chance of a recession in 2007 is at “50-50,” greater than the 33% chance former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was calling for back in March.

It will be interesting to see just how Mr. Lewis’ housing prediction pans out 2 months from now. I’m circling August 19 on my calendar!

Paulson Weighs In On Housing
July 3, 2007

Today, U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson spoke to Reuters about a number of economic issues, including housing. Paulson said the U.S. economy is healthy, despite problems with the subprime mortgage sector. The former chairman of Goldman Sachs stated that the downturn in the housing market is “at or near the bottom. It’s had a significant impact on the economy. No one is forecasting when, with any degree of clarity, that the upturn is going to come other than it’s at or near the bottom.” Beyond subprime mortgage woes, Paulson declared that the financial markets looked sound. He said, “Markets are volatile. I haven’t seen a single thing that surprises me- it’s hard to surprise me.”

There have been a number of stories in the news lately pointing to the end of the U.S. housing slowdown. Newshounds and regular readers of Boom2Bust.com might recall some of the more recent ones:

• June 18- The Coldwell Banker Previews International Luxury Survey showed more than half of affluent homeowners expect their property value to appreciate at least somewhat during the next year, with one-tenth of respondents expecting significant gains.

• June 19- Bank of America’s Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lewis said the U.S. housing market will begin to improve in the next month or two, forestalling a recession. Job growth will lift home prices and reinvigorate construction by early 2008.

• June 26- A Boston Consulting Group survey revealed that 55% of Americans believe they can sell their house for more now than a year ago. Nearly three-quarters believe they can sell their homes within the next 6 months at a price they set, and 63% feel that real estate is a good or excellent investment.

I have a pretty good idea that realtors and others dependent on a healthy U.S. residential real estate market are welcoming such statements. Maybe they’ll back off of real estate columnist Mary Umberger, who said yesterday in the Chicago Tribune that, “Real estate agents complain to me that every time there’s a news story about declining home sales, consumers send up a collective screech and run to the sidelines, further suppressing the marketplace.” Umberger talked about the Coldwell Banker and Boston Consulting Group surveys and had this to say:

Obviously, one might point out that a real estate company has a vested interest in promoting positive attitudes about the market, but I’m inclined to believe that both studies do reflect Americans’ conviction that real estate — that is, their real estate – won’t let them down. It’s not unlike the way that every parent of every toddler thinks their little darling is a genius. And it’s why sellers in the last year or so have clung so hard to asking prices that are way too high.

While wishful thinkers refuse to lower asking prices, the inventory of unsold homes continues to grow. As prices inevitably fall, so will consumer spending (no more housing ATM) and eventually, the financial markets.

Surprise, Mr. Paulson!

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Where Housing Prices May Be Headed

While surfing MarketWatch this morning, I came across the following headline:

“Home prices slide, end is near”

How many times have I heard that said this year, last year, and the year before last. Still, I was tempted to open up the March 28 piece by MarketWatch’s chief economist Irwin Kellner. And here’what he said:

Home prices slide, but the end may be in sight
Commentary: Any day now, buyers will see the light

Home prices are sliding but the end may be in sight…

Kellner went on to argue:

Indeed, in my view, we may not be far from a bottoming out of housing prices — if not an actual rise.

Let’s start with relative values. On average, homes are more affordable today than they have been at any time in the last 35 years.

The average home today costs only 2.64 times median household incomes. You have to go back to 1976 before you find median prices this low compared with incomes.

And this does not take mortgage rates into account. In the mid 1970s, mortgage rates were a lot higher than they are today. To match today’s low rates, you have to go back to the 1950s!

Besides this, hiring is picking up. Economists at BMO Financial Group think as many as 250,000 private sector jobs were created in March — the most in five years. And as they point out, these new hires will need a place to live.

For many, owning is now cheaper than renting; this should also spur demand. Deals abound — especially on new homes that have been vacant for some time. And brokers are willing to lower their commissions in order to close a sale.

A look at the classifieds suggests that homes are selling faster these days than they used to and at prices closer to the original asking price.

Any day now, buyers will see the light. They will realize that the buy of a lifetime is right here right now.

When they do, they will stop bottom-fishing and start buying. This is when prices will stabilize.

It could happen sooner than you think.

Then again, it might not.

“Drop in home prices in January raises fear of double dip”
-Washington Post, March 29

“Home prices near a double dip”
-CNN Moneym March 29

“Home Price Double-Dip Is Here”
-FOX Business, March 29

CNBC real estate reporter Diana Olick weighed-in on the prospect of a housing “double-dip.” She wrote on March 29:

Did I say double dip? Well I’m not the only one.

Today’s home price report from S&P Case Shiller proves the point. Remember, this report is based on the sale prices of transactions that closed in January, but it is also a three month running average. That means that at least two thirds of the price deals were struck in October and November, when mortgage rates were at historic lows, providing more purchasing power; they only began spiking in December.

So prices in the top twenty U.S. Markets were down 3.1% in January, year over year, and the slide is accelerating. Eleven of the top twenty hit new price lows on the index. Only San Diego and Washington, DC are showing annual improvements with San Diego just barely out of the red.

“Keeping with the trends set in late 2010, January brings us weakening home prices with no real hope in sight for the near future” says Standard and Poors’ David M. Blitzer. “The housing market recession is not yet over, and none of the statistics are indicating any form of sustained recovery. At most, we have seen all statistics bounce along their troughs; at worst, the feared double-dip recession may be materializing.”

What’s so indicative of that double dip to me is that many of the markets with the biggest price drops are not those original boom-to-bust markets in California and Florida. Prices in Atlanta are down 7 percent year over year, Chicago down 7.5 percent, Minneapolis down 7.6 percent and Seattle down 6.7 percent. The S&P Case Shiller is now just 1.1 percent above the low of April 2009; I guess we’re not officially in a double dip until we go below that, but we’re pretty close.

Olick stressed the impact of foreclosures on U.S. housing prices. She added:

Here’s one thing we know for sure: Foreclosure inventory volume is outpacing foreclosure sales, and foreclosure sales are already more than one third of the market right now. Distressed properties sell at a big discount, pushing prices down all around them. Banks are pushing to get rid of foreclosed properties now, and pushing to get borrowers in the process out of the process before the state attorneys general and federal regulators come down with some kind of painful settlement. That’s more inventory, as consumer confidence continues to fall. You tell me where prices are headed…

I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Kellner’s claim of rising prices, however. If inflation gets worse, there’s always nominal housing prices to consider.

Sources:

Kellner, Irwin. “Home prices slide, but the end may be in sight.” MarketWatch. 28 Mar. 2011. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/home-prices-slide-but-the-end-may-be-in-sight-2011-03-28). 4 Apr. 2011.

Olick, Diana. “How Low Will Home Prices Go?” CNBC. 29 Mar. 2011. (http://www.cnbc.com/id/42324054/How_Low_Will_Home_Prices_Go). 4 April 2011.

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Monday, April 4th, 2011 Employment, Housing No Comments


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