Real Estate is a highly “illiquid” asset class ‘most of the time’. It always has been and always will be. However, some times, such as now - and from 2003 to 2007 as a prime example - when liquidity is flowing like water, Real Estate’s illiquidity is masked. Speculators can do no wrong. Simply having access to short-term or mortgage capital to purchase Real Estate guaranties a double-digit return. This continues until one day, suddenly, it doesn’t; and, the snap-back to the true, historical illiquid nature of the Real Estate sector happens suddenly and is amplified at first. This creates a snowball effect from which both house supply and illiquidity surge at the same time. Price then becomes the liquidity fulcrum and will drop, relentlessly ripping speculators faces off, until capital begins to view the asset class as a relative value once again.
The percentage of homeowners underwater in the US was flat from Q3 to Q4 which doesn’t sound all that terrible until you consider that this figure had fallen for 10 consecutive quarters. Things look particularly bad in Florida and the midwest where more than 25% of borrowers are sitting in a negative equity position. A new report from Zillow says negative equity will become a permanent fixture in the housing market.
The Greenspan Housing Bubble Lives On: 20 Million Homeowners Can’t Trade-Up Because They Are Still UnderwaterSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/20/2014 21:16 -0400
One of the most deplorable aspects of Greenspan’s monetary central planning was the lame proposition that financial bubbles can’t be detected, and that the job of central banks is to wait until they crash and then flood the market with liquidity to contain the damage. In short, China didn’t “save ” America into a housing crisis; the Greenspan Fed printed America into a cheap debt binge that ended up impairing the residential housing market for years to come. In any event, for those Millennials who do manage to accumulate a down payment by the time they are in their early 30s there is precious little starter home inventory available. The Greenspan mortgage debt serfs from the previous generation are blocking the way. Monetary central banking is an economy wrecker. Here is just one more smoking gun of proof.
If a foreclosure happens in the wilderness, does it make a sound? It seems like people have conveniently forgotten that since the housing crisis hit we have witnessed more than 7,000,000+ foreclosures. Do you think these people believe the Fed is almighty and can stop a speeding train or turn water into wine? Apparently some people forget that the Fed failed to prevent the tech bust or the housing bust in the first place. Now, the Fed is somehow the cult leader and the leader will not let housing values fall. The nation still has 9.1 million seriously underwater homeowners on top of the more than 7 million that have gone through foreclosure. It is abundantly clear that the mindless drivel of “buying is always a good decision” is just that. Investors are starting to pull back in expensive states because value is harder to find. I see the lemmings at open houses and you can see the drool at the side of their mouths hoping for a morsel of real estate.
To the DOJ, a $13 billion receipt is the "largest ever settlement with a single entity." To #AskJPM, a $13 billion outlay is a 100%+ IRR. And perhaps more relevant, let's recall that JPM holds $550 billion in Fed excess reserves, on which it is paid 0.25% interest, or $1.4 billion annually. In other words, out of the Fed's pocket, through JPM, and back into the government. Luckily, this is not considered outright government financing.
With Richmond, CA's plans to use eminent domain to "help" underwater homeowners still ongoing (as suits from mortgage-backed securities owners such as PIMCO, Blackrock, and DoubleLine having been initially dismissed), it appears the "wealth transfer" scheme is gaining traction around the nation. As we warned it would, the appeal of this "bailout" - with no thought to the unintended consequence of crushing an entire investing class out of the market (and its implicit rate-increasing result) - is just too strong for local government and sure nough New Jersey town Irvington is moving in that direction. As AP reports, Irvington's plan would focus on using eminent domain to purchase so-called "private label" security mortgages, or ones that are not backed by the U.S. government.
In a nutshell:
- Relatively low unemployment rates for the “Western Leaders” aren’t just an artifact of recent strength in, say, energy production and commodities. These states have consistently outperformed the rest of the country.
- Abysmally high unemployment rates for the “Eastern Super-laggards” have also persisted for over two decades, exceeding all other parts of the country.
- The “Northern Coastal and Great Lakes Laggards” and “Western Laggards and Southeast” fall somewhere between the other two regions, but always favoring the southern states over the northern states.
Not surprisingly, California, Nevada and Florida are more volatile than the other regions, cycling well above and then back toward the Western Leaders in each of the past two decades. Also, the unemployment problems in California and Nevada have been consistently worse than Florida’s unemployment. These trends may or may not persist in coming years. But if your goal is to anticipate the next Stockton, San Bernardino or Detroit, watch the unemployment data closely and pay particular attention to the cities listed here.
While one can have sympathy for the over-levered, underwater homeowners that took free-money with both hands and feet as house prices surged in the mid-2000s (just like they are now) but the latest moves to 'save' people from themselves in the city of Richmond, CA is raising both market and constitutional concerns. As NYTimes reports, the city is the first to use eminent domain by the local government (in partnership with a 'friendly' mortgage provider) to seize homes, force investors to take a loss on the mortgages, re-issue a new 'lower' mortgage, and allow the homeowner back with positive equity (ready to lever-it-back-up into a new Harley). As Guggenheim notes, this is likely to hurt supply of new mortgages and as we noted previously (here and here), it seems clear that private-label MBS holders will not be happy, consumers hurt as mortgage costs would rise (this 'risk' has to be priced in), and taxpayers unhappy as this is yet another transfer payment scheme to bailout underwater loans.
We first discussed the possibility of state and local governments using eminent domain to 'save us' from further housing issues a year ago but now the NY Fed has gone one step further with an academic-based justification for why this process is not a "zero-sum-game" and will render all stakeholders better off. We can hear echoes of "trust us" in this commentary as the authors explain how multiple valuation methods will be used to ascertain "fair-value" - which has always worked so well in the past - and that we have "little to fear" from the resultant long-term contraction in liquidity or credit as bubbles can only inflate during times of easy credit availability (and that will never happen!) Paying for all this? Don't worry - resources to fund purchases of loans/liens can be raised from public, private sources or a combination of the two. It seems to us that MBS holders will not be happy, consumers hurt as mortgage costs would rise (this 'risk' has to be priced in), and taxpayers unhappy as this is yet another transfer payment scheme to bailout underwater loans.
How Another Housing Bubble Was Blown … And Why
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley
The entire system is corrupt to its core. Both political parties, regulatory agencies, Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, and mainstream media are participants in this enormous fraud. They grow more desperate and bold by the day. The lies, misinformation and propaganda being spewed on a daily basis become more outrageous and audacious. They are using the Big Lie method on a grand scale. They frantically need to lure the muppets into the stock market and the housing market to keep the game going a little longer. You can sense we are reaching a tipping point. The system they have created is mathematically unsustainable. Therefore, it will not be sustained.
Since 2009 all cash buyers have purchased roughly one third of all Southern California home sales. This is a significant number and unlike the early 2000s, many of these buyers are looking to hold onto properties as rentals. A good portion of buying has come from larger hedge funds and an increase of foreign money has caused competition on an already low selection of homes to become more pronounced. The latest inventory report for California is telling in many ways. Many of the larger metro areas in California are seeing annual inventory drops of 50 to 70 percent. Those looking to buy are facing added competition from a variety of unlikely sources. Last year in February we set a record with the number of homes sold to absentee buyers (29.9 percent). Where is all the inventory going in California?
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 an self-perpetuating recovery in the economy - it did not turn out that way. Today, these repeated intrusions are having a diminished rate of return and the risk now is that interest rates rise shutting potential homebuyers out of the market. It is likely that in 2013 housing will begin to stabilize at historically low levels and the economic contribution will remain fairly weak. The downside risk to that view is the impact of higher taxes, stagnant wage growth, re-defaults of the 6-million modifications and workouts, elevated defaults of underwater homeowners and a slowdown of speculative investment due to reduced profit margins. While many hopes have been pinned on the 2012 stimulus fueled, China investing, and supply-deprived housing recovery as "the" driver of economic growth in 2013 - the data suggest that may be quite a bit of wishful thinking.
Moments ago Ben Bernanke released a speech titled "Challenges in Housing and Mortgage Markets" in which he said that while the US housing revival faces significant obstacles, the Fed will do everything it can to back the "housing recovery" (supposedly on top of the $40 billion in MBS it monetizes each month, and/or QEternity+1?). He then goes on to say that tight lenders may be thwarting the recovery, and is concerned about high unemployment, things that should be prevented as housing is a "powerful headwind to the recovery." In other words - the same canned gibberish he has been showering upon those stupid and naive enough to listen and/or believe him, because once the current downtrend in the market is confirmed to be a long-term decline, the 4th dead cat bounce in housing will end. But perhaps what is most amusing is that the Fed is now accusing none other than the US household for not doing their patriotic duty to reflate the peak bubble. To wit: "The Federal Reserve will continue to do what we can to support the housing recovery, both through our monetary policy and our regulatory and supervisory actions. But, as I have discussed, not all of the responsibility lies with the government; households, the financial services industry, and those in the nonprofit sector must play their part as well." So "get to work, Mr. Household: Benny and the Inkjets, not to mention Chuck Schumer's careers rest on your bubble-reflation skills."
A hallmark of Obama’s second term will be wide scale mortgage debt relief.