"Home Prices Are Out Of Hand Again"

By Bloomberg strategist Christopher Maloney

Home Prices Are Out Of Hand Again

U.S. home prices appear to be getting out of hand again as the gap between home price growth and household real income growth is close to where it was just before the housing collapse.

It’s also notable, and worrying, that the housing market is back in a “flipping frenzy” with non-bank actors climbing aboard to fund the speculation.

Since 1999 year-end through 2015 home prices have risen 76% while household mean real income has grown less than 2%; the millennium-to-date gap between the two growth rates peaked at 84% during 2005-2006 and has risen back to 74% as of 2015 year-end. Gap at year-end 2007 was 75%.

This millennium through 2015 has seen average new and existing home sale prices rise 84% and 55%, respectively, despite the lack of income growth.

Existing and new home sales average prices peaked at $280.2k in June 2015 and $384k in Oct. 2014, respectively; both peaks exceeded levels seen during housing boom.

Over the same period outstanding home mortgage debt has risen 14%, though it’s notable that with the end of easy mortgage credit it has fallen 11% from its June 2008 peak.

Concurrent with this 11% fall, the homeownership rate (63.8% at 2015 year-end) has slid back to levels last seen in the mid-1960s.

Monthly U.S. single-family home price y/y growth hit a post-crisis peak of 10.85% in Oct. 2013 and has since leveled off at ~5% each month since July 2015; this is still easily outpacing growth in real income.

The disconnect between home price growth and the lack of real income growth has led homebuilders’ to turn to the higher-end of the market and for Ginnie Mae to take the lead in mortgage lending.

GNMA offers taxpayer-guaranteed loans to first-time homebuyers who have lower credit scores and smaller down payments than those who obtain loans through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Whereas from 2005-2007 GNMA pct share of net MBS issuance was ~2% each year, during 2014, 2015 and 2016 YTD it is ~67%, according to BofAML data.

Another severe downturn in home prices would be unlikely to play out in the agency MBS market in like manner to 2007-2008 as the Fed now holds ~33% of the outstanding universe and the U.S. taxpayer now guarantees almost all of the market with Fannie and Freddie remaining under government conservatorship.