Once again, when the government intervenes – this time in housing – the left hand is starting a fire that the right hand is trying to put out. Rising prices for homes are once again pricing out prime borrowers and nobody can "figure out" why this is happening.
It is news like this article reported this morning by the Wall Street Journal that continues to perpetuate the hilarious notion of Keynesian economics as giving a job to one man digging a hole and another job to another man filling it, simply so that they both have jobs.
There is nothing funnier (or sadder) than "economists" struggling to understand how housing prices got so high and why people are taking on more debt in order to purchase them. However, that is the great mystery that the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday morning, making note of the fact that people are “stretching“ in order to purchase homes. What's the solution to this problem? How about just easing lending standards again? After all, what could go wrong?
Apparently blind to the obvious – that forced inflation could amazingly make things more expensive relative to income – "economists" have hilariously blamed this price/debt delta on lack of supply. Of course, no one has mentioned the credit worthiness of borrowers getting worse or the fact that homes prices are being manipulated in order to offer home ownership to people who otherwise may not be in the market.
More Americans are stretching to buy homes, the latest sign that rising prices are making homeownership more difficult for a broad swath of potential buyers.
Roughly one in five conventional mortgage loans made this winter went to borrowers spending more than 45% of their monthly incomes on their mortgage payment and other debts, the highest proportion since the housing crisis, according to new data from mortgage-data tracker CoreLogic Inc. That was almost triple the proportion of such loans made in 2016 and the first half of 2017, CoreLogic said.
Economists said rising debt levels are a symptom of a market in which home prices are rising sharply in relation to incomes, driven in part by a historic lack of supply that is forcing prices higher.
The "lack of supply" argument is just wonderful - a bunch of "economists" finding a basic free market capitalism solution to a problem that has nothing to do with free market capitalism. Perhaps "economists" can also argue that building more, despite the lack of prime borrower demand, will also have the added benefit of puffing up GDP. From there, it's only a couple more steps down the primrose path that leads to China's ghost cities.
And of course, people are worried that we could have a "weak selling season" upcoming. In a free market economy, weakness is necessary and normal. In Keynesian theory, it's the devil incarnate. The Wall Street Journal continued:
Real-estate agents worry that buyers’ weariness from being priced out of the market could make this one of the weakest spring selling seasons in recent years.
Consumers are growing more optimistic about the economy and their personal financial prospects but less hopeful that now is the right time to buy a home, according to results of a survey released in late March by the National Association of Realtors.
At the same time, the average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage has risen to 4.40% as of last week from 3.95% at the beginning of the year, according to Freddie Mac, putting still more pressure on affordability.
These factors “are working against affordability and that’s why you get the pressure to ease credit standards,” said Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae .He said that pressure has to be balanced against the potential toll if underqualified buyers eventually default on their mortgages.
CoreLogic studied home-purchase loans that generally meet standards set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federally sponsored providers of 30-year mortgage financing.
The amount of these loans packaged and sold by Fannie and Freddie increased 73% in the second half of 2017, compared with the first half of the year, according to Inside Mortgage Finance, an industry research group. In that same period, overall new mortgages rose 15%.
As if the signs weren’t clear enough that manipulating the economy and manipulating the housing market has a detrimental effect, the article continued that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are "experimenting with how to make homeownership more affordable, including backing loans made by lenders who agree to help pay down a buyer’s student debt". Sure, solve one government subsidized shit show (student loan debt) with another one!
Is it any wonder that the entire supply and demand environment for housing has been thrown completely out of order? On one hand, the government wants to make housing affordable so that everybody can have it, which closely resembles socialism. On the other hand, they are targeting prices to rise 2% every single year and claim that this is normal and healthy economic policy that we should all be buying into and applauding. The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing!
We were on this case back in October 2017 when we wrote an article pointing out that home prices had again eclipsed their highest point prior to the financial crisis. We knew this was coming. We at the time that the ratio of the trailing twelve month averages of median new home sale prices to median household income in the U.S. had risen to an all time high of 5.454, which following revisions in the data for new home sale prices, was recorded in July 2017. The initial value for September 2017 is 5.437.
In other words, the median new home in the US has never been more unaffordable in terms of current income.
Here we are 6 months later and "economists" are just figuring this out. What's wrong with this picture?
What’s really happening is clear. Instead of letting the free market determine the pricing and availability of housing, the government has continued to try and manipulate the market in order to give everyone a house. This is simply going to lead to the same type of behavior that led Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to fail during the housing crisis.
If we are going to have free market capitalism, the reality of the situation is that not everybody is going to own a house.
Furthermore, while there are many benefits to owning a house, there are also many reasons why people rent. Peter Schiff, for instance, often makes the case that renting is generally worth it because you’re saving yourself on upkeep and it allows you to be flexible with where you live and when you have the opportunity to move. He himself rents property for these reasons, which he often notes in his podcast. Sure, there are some benefits of homeownership, namely that a homeowner is supposed to be building equity in something, but looking again at the situation we are in today, is it worth investing in the equity of a home that might see its price crash significantly again, similar to the way housing prices did in 2008?
The government is creating both the problem and the solution here and instead of trying to continually fix the housing market, they should just keep their nose out of it and allow the free market to determine who should own a house and at what price. Call us crazy, but we don't think that's going to happen.