When looking at residential real estate, we often tend to focus almost solely on recent price movements in assessing the health of the housing market at any point in time. But as both homeowners and income-earners in the larger economy, of which the housing market is an important component, to really understand what's going on, we need clarity into the larger cycle driving those price movements. The more we look at today's data, the more it looks like that we are in a new type of pricing cycle -- one that homeowners and housing investors have no prior experience with. And the more we learn about the fundamentals underlying the current cycle, the harder it becomes to justify today's home prices on any sustained level. Meaning a downward reversion in home values is very probable in the coming years.
If you believe that the U.S. economy is heading in the right direction, you really need to read this article. As we look toward the second half of 2014, there are economic red flags all over the place.
You would think that with all the surefire bets in housing that people would be dialing up their realtors and heading out every weekend to make those lustful multiple offers presented in PowerPoint format on properties. Yet the overall market data shows a different story. The house horniest of them all, investors, are clearly pulling out of markets including sunny and inflated California. Apparently home prices do matter when making investment decisions. Cash strapped hormonal buyers will keep on buying but housing prices are set on the margin. That margin is becoming razor thin on current volume. I find it interesting that the biggest housing supporter of them all, the National Association of Realtors is also somewhat tepid on this recovery. Why? Because home sales volume is pathetic. Keep in mind they make money on selling and buying. Volume is key. Their model doesn’t work so well with banks holding onto properties like Gollum holding onto the ring and the foreclosure process being dragged out like the forever college student enjoying year 10 at Santa Monica City College. You see this overarching trend occurring in many metro areas across the country. Investors have been propping up the market since 2008. They are now slowly pulling back. You are also starting to see a convergence of analysts putting out their predictions on how overvalued housing is and backing it up with mountains of data. The other side of the argument points to prices. Sure, they’ve gone up but value is created by actual price and that is sort of the point. The answer as always isn’t so simple but using your thinking cap it is important to understand that housing is not a “no brainer” decision in this market.
Did you know that there are nearly 102 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now? And 20 percent of all families in the United States do not have a single member that is employed. So how in the world can the government claim that the unemployment rate has "dropped" to "6.3 percent"? Well, it all comes down to how you define who is "unemployed". For example, last month the government moved another 988,000 Americans into the "not in the labor force" category. According to the government, at this moment there are 9.75 million Americans that are "unemployed" and there are 92.02 million Americans that are "not in the labor force" for a grand total of 101.77 million working age Americans that do not have a job. Back in April 2000, only 5.48 million Americans were unemployed and only 69.27 million Americans were "not in the labor force" for a grand total of 74.75 million Americans without a job. That means that the number of working age Americans without a job has risen by 27 million since the year 2000. Any way that you want to slice that, it is bad news.
No, the economy is most definitely not "recovering". Despite what you may hear from the politicians and from the mainstream media (shrugging off today's terrible GDP print), the truth is that the U.S. economy is in far worse shape than it was prior to the last recession. In fact, we are still pretty much where we were at when the last recession finally ended. When the financial crisis of 2008 struck, it took us down to a much lower level economically. Thankfully, things have at least stabilized at this much lower level. For example, the percentage of working age Americans that are employed has stayed remarkably flat for the past four years. We should be grateful that things have not continued to get even worse. It is almost as if someone has hit the "pause button" on the U.S. economy. But things are definitely not getting better, and there are a whole host of signs that this bubble of false stability will soon come to an end and that our economic decline will accelerate once again. The following are 17 facts to show to anyone that believes that the U.S. economy is just fine...
The US non-recovery summarized in a nutshell: nobody can afford to buy anymore, so everyone is forced to rent. The result: homeownership rate plunging to 19 year lows, while median asking rents just soared to a new all time high. Thank you Ben Bernanke for the "New Normal American Dream."
The housing recovery is ultimately a story of the "real" employment situation. With roughly a quarter of the home buying cohort unemployed and living at home with their parents the option to buy simply is not available. The rest of that group are employed but at the lower end of the pay scale which pushes them to rent due to budgetary considerations and an inability to qualify for a mortgage. The optimism over the housing recovery has gotten well ahead of the underlying fundamentals. While the belief was that the Government, and Fed's, interventions would ignite the housing market creating a self-perpetuating recovery in the economy - it did not turn out that way. Instead, it led to a speculative rush into buying rental properties creating a temporary, and artificial, inventory suppression. While there are many hopes pinned on the housing recovery as a "driver" of economic growth in 2014 - the lack of recovery in the home ownership data suggests otherwise.
Welcome To The Blackstone Recovery: Over 11 Million Americans Spend More Than Half Their Income On RentSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/13/2014 17:47 -0400
As 11.3 million Americans spend more than half their income on rent, a record increase of 28% in four years, increasingly more are faced with the core "New normal recovery" choice: “We either eat, or we pay rent.” Welcome to the Blackstone recovery...
Did you know that 40 percent of all American workers make less than $20,000 a year before taxes? And 65 percent of all American workers make less than $40,000 a year before taxes. If you work on Wall Street, or have a cushy job with the federal government, or work for a big tech firm out on the west coast, life is probably pretty good for you right now. But the truth is that most Americans are not living the high life. In fact, most Americans are just trying to figure out how to survive from month to month. If we truly did have a free market capitalist system, the entire country would be a land of opportunity and things would be getting better for everybody. Unfortunately, that is not the case at all. The following are 21 facts about "wealthy America" and "poor America" that are hard to believe...
One quarter ago, when we performed our regular update on trends in US homeownership and rents, we said that "The American Homeownership Dream is officially dead. Long live the New Normal American Dream: Renting." What happened since then is that the American Dream briefly became a full-blown nightmare when in Q3 mortgage rates exploded, pummeling the affordability of housing, and ground any new mortgage-funded transactions to a complete halt (don't believe us - just ask the tens of thousands of mortgage brokers let go by the TBTF banks in the past 6 months). Which is why it was not at all surprising to find that the just updated Q3 homeownership rate has remained stuck at 65.1%: the lowest since 1995. And yet Americans have to live somewhere. That somewhere is as renters of Wall Street and other landlords. As the next chart shows, the median asking rent has once again risen in Q3, this time by just $1 from $735 to $736 per month.
As Angela Merkel prepares for her third term - in whatever odd coalition that lurches from the election - the following four charts may surprise many that believe in the core European nations' dominance uber alles. As Bloomberg's Niraj Shah notes, Merkel may find rebalancing the German economy, as its reliance on exports increases, harder than ever. The low levels of growth, high trade balances, excepotionally low consumption and homeownership, and growing "shadow" economy all point to a European core that is far from the beacon of stability so many assume it to be.
President Obama's speech last during the 50th anniversary of MLK may seem sadly ironic now. As he noted, "Dr. King explained that the goals of African-Americans were identical to working people of all races: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing..." but the facts are that, as Bloomberg reports, while, for most Americans, the real estate crash is finally behind them and personal wealth is back where it was in the boom. For blacks in the U.S., 18 years of economic progress has vanished, with a rebound in housing slipping further out of reach and the unemployment rate almost twice that of whites. The homeownership rate for blacks fell from 50% during the housing bubble to 43% in the second quarter, the lowest since 1995. The rate for whites stopped falling two years ago, settling at about 73%, only 3 percentage points below the 2004 peak. As Rev. Alvin Love, who knew Obama in the 80s notes, "it's going to take a generation to get back to the point where homeownership can build wealth in this community."
Barack Obama has been running around the country taking credit for an "economic recovery", but the truth is that things have not gotten better under Obama. Compared to when he first took office, a smaller percentage of the working age population is employed, the quality of our jobs has declined substantially and the middle class has been absolutely shredded. If we are really in the middle of an "economic recovery", why is the homeownership rate the lowest that it has been in 18 years? Why has the number of Americans on food stamps increased by nearly 50 percent while Obama has been in the White House? Why has the national debt gotten more than 6 trillion dollars larger during the Obama era? Obama should not be "taking credit" for anything when it comes to the economy. In fact, he should be deeply apologizing to the American people.
There are very few segments of the U.S. economy that are more heavily affected by interest rates than the real estate market is. When mortgage rates reached all-time low levels late last year, it fueled a little "mini-bubble" in housing which was greatly celebrated by the mainstream media. Unfortunately, the tide is now turning.
The American Homeownership Dream is officially dead. Long live the New Normal American Dream: Renting.