Saturday, July 24, 2010
Excerpts from an AP Post on July 21, 2010
The housing market, whose collapse pulled the economy into recession in late 2007, is stalling again.
In major markets across the country, home sales are deteriorating, inventories of unsold homes are piling up and builders are scaling back construction plans. The expiration of a federal home-buyers tax credit at the end of April is weighing on the market.
“The Tax Credit simply pulled demand forward. In my opinion, it was a huge use of tax payer dollars that acted as a short term band aid”
On Tuesday, the U.S. Census Bureau said single-family housing starts in June fell by 0.7%, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 454,000. The U.S. started 1.47 million homes in 2006, before the housing bubble popped.
Future construction looks even weaker. Permits for single-family starts fell 3% in June, following big declines in both May and April. "We're hovering at post-World War II lows," said Ivy Zelman, president of Zelman & Associates, a research firm.
Weitz- without a substantial pick up in construction, it will be nearly impossible for the job market to improve.
At the end of June, inventory was up 33% from year-ago levels in San Diego, and by 19% and 15% in Los Angeles and Orange County, Calif., respectively, according to data compiled by John Burns Real Estate Consulting. Rising inventory can lead to price declines later.(Weitz - See story in the Seattle area)
Even falling interest rates aren't enough to whet consumer appetites for housing. Last week, the average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was quoted at 4.57%, according to Freddie Mac, the lowest since its survey began in 1971. But demand for home-purchase mortgages sits near 14-year lows, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, down 44% over the past two months.
The government last fall extended tax credits worth up to $8,000 to home buyers who signed contracts by April 30, causing sales to surge early this year. Those buyers had until June 30 to close their sales until Congress, concerned that the backlog of sales wouldn't close in time, extended the deadline through September.
Analysts long expected the withdrawal of a federal tax credit, which had juiced sales, to lead to a slower-than-usual summer.
"It's the magnitude that's been the issue,'' says Douglas Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae. "The drop-off in activity has surpassed expectations.'' (Weitz - Not if you read our blog)
Reports should show that completed transactions of home sales held up through June. But newly signed contracts in May and June have plunged.
Low mortgage rates and falling prices have made homes more affordable in many markets than at any time in the past decade. But those affordability gains have been offset for many buyers by tighter lending standards, particularly for "jumbo" loans that are too large for government backing. Banks are requiring down payments of 20% and more and strong credit scores because they must hold jumbo loans in their portfolios.
More broadly, the housing market faces two big problems: too many homes and falling demand. More than seven million borrowers are 30 days or more past due on their mortgage payments or in some stage of foreclosure. Rising foreclosures will keep pressure on prices as banks put more homes on the market.
Weitz- I continue to believe that foreclosures will continue to rise as more and more folks turn to strategic defaults. Our policies, as a country, have favored the banks 100%. Many big banks received TARP money (which is often the only publicized tax payer handout). They also benefited from the PPIP program, and continue to benefit from the carry trade (borrowing at 0-1% from the Federal Reserve and investing in treasuries at 4% ....we should all be so lucky), as well as the repeal of 'mark to market' which has allowed the banks to lie their way to 'positive earnings'. Homeowners, conversely, are left paying debt service to banks based on prices that were artificially inflated by those very banks due to lack of lending standards, and creative (to put it kindly) financing structures so they could charge higher origination fees and get paid bigger bonuses.
Last month, nearly 39,000 borrowers received government-backed loan modifications, but more than 90,000 borrowers fell out of the program, the Obama administration said on Tuesday.
Moreover, the pool of potential buyers remains constrained by the unprecedented number of homeowners who are underwater, or who owe more than their homes are worth.
Mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also are starting to push more repossessed homes onto the market. The companies owned 164,000 homes at the end of March, up 80% from a year ago.
Another reason inventory is rising: "Unrealistic sellers have flooded the market" after reports of bidding wars and home-price increases earlier in the year, says Steven Thomas, president of Altera Real Estate, a brokerage in Orange County. The amount of time that homes there have sat on the market there has swelled to 3.78 months, up from 2.35 months in April.
"The sellers think the market's coming back. They've tacked on an extra 5 to 10 to 15%. The buyers aren't going for it," says Jim Klinge, a real-estate agent in Carlsbad, Calif. Over the next six months, "it's going to feel like a double-dip because sellers are going to have to lower their prices."
For more information on your rights in foreclosure, consider seeing a Washington Foreclosure Attorney.
Weitz Law Firm, PLLC
5400 Carillon Point, Bldg 5000
Kirkland, WA 98033
at 9:33 AM