Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Has the media stopped cheerleading ?

The real estate industry and the politicians seem to be trying really hard to convince Joe-6-pack that the bottom is in, a turn around is just around the corner. A couple of years ago the media would have been all over news like this regardless of what a few naysayers might preach. Lately however, the media hasn't been so kind. In fact nearly all of the major media outlets have articles refuting the claims of the real estate and political pundits.

Like this one from Bloomberg.

We might be looking at a lost generation for U.S. home values.

Far too many analysts are calling a bottom to the housing market after home prices in 20 metropolitan areas declined at a slower pace in February, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Index.

Don’t be blinded by the glint of optimism in headlines about rising consumer confidence and slowing price declines. Demographic and market realities tell a more sobering story.

You won’t see a widespread housing rebound in an economy in which 600,000 jobs a month are lost and foreclosures ravage the most overleveraged areas. These are just the visible barriers to a recovery.

Mortgage lending has also been an unusually tightfisted process of late. Lenders are demanding a 20 percent deposit for home purchases, and want impeccable credit ratings. About 45 percent of U.S. banks surveyed by the Federal Reserve said they had “tightened their lending standards on prime mortgages.” I suspect that number is much higher.

Then there’s the reality that the market is glutted with homes. A record 19 million homes stood empty at the end of 2008.

What you can’t see in the most recent housing numbers is the least-visible driver of home prices today: demographics.

Baby Boomers

The baby-boomer generation, the largest in American history, will be buying fewer single-family homes.

The U.S. is experiencing a 40-year generational peak in consumer spending, one that will lead to “the first and last Depression of our lifetimes,” author Harry Dent predicts in his book “The Great Depression Ahead” (Free Press, 2008).

Although we may not be headed for a 1930s-style Depression, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that boomers are dumping their four- and five-bedroom suburban homes for two- and three- bedroom condominiums.

Trouble Spots

That’s why it’s unlikely that there will be any swift recoveries in Phoenix, Las Vegas or San Francisco, where prices fell 35 percent, 32 percent and 31 percent respectively in February from a year earlier, according to the Case-Shiller Index. More setbacks are coming in central and Southern California and south Florida.

One thing hasn’t changed in this recession: Those who are mobile will continue to move where jobs are relatively plentiful and housing is cheaper.

One of the reasons the housing mania was so damaging was that median home prices rose to about three times average household incomes as opposed to double income levels in 1950. (or TEN times household incomes here in SoCal!!)

Wages simply weren’t keeping pace with housing inflation, so homeowners overleveraged to make up the difference. The wave of deleveraging will depress home prices in most markets.


Kane said...

Fool me once (for all the "positive" outlook on the ever increasing housing prices a few years ago), shame on you.

The media isn't about to be fooled this second time around ...

Oldtimer said...

"Although we may not be headed for a 1930s-style Depression, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that boomers are dumping their four- and five-bedroom suburban homes for two- and three- bedroom condominiums."

I'm calling BS on this statement. In Southern California, condo developments are face-planting en masse. They appeal to a very small segment of the population.

el bee said...

Old Timer,

I think there is demand among Boomers for smaller condos, and that the condo "face-planting" is due more to rampant oversupply.

In cities like Long Beach, for example, there was such a massive influx of condo-conversions during the boom that even a large demographic shift to condos would barely make a dent in the remaining supply.

BrianH said...

I'm just now starting to look at condo's for investments. I just pulled the trigger on a 2/1 in the city where I live for 42k. I manage similar units in a competing condo complex around the corner and know that my rents on this unit are $900 a month. After a $140 HOA, a 20% expense factor (lower than a SFR because association pays for most common expense items), 40k in private money loan with a $267 per month payment I will have a 81% return on my $4,000 total investment. My positive monthly cash flow will be around $270 so I will have my initial investment back roughly 15 months.

I like those types of numbers and am very excited about buying units that nobody is interested in for crazy low prices.

BrianH said...

Sorry folks I got sidetracked with my thoughts on the condo comment above.

We all should be very happy mainstream media is no longer cheer leading real estate.

Every single one of us is standing in front of the greatest transfer of wealth we will ever see in our life. There is so much freaking opportunity out there right now it isn't even funny and every single one of you reading this should be out there figuring out how to catch some of these houses!

FairEconomist said...

There's lots of demand for condos. Just not half million dollar "luxury" condos.

I also stand by my prediction that the sluburbs and ghostburbs that will result from the bubble will destroy the American love for suburban housing tracts, just as the Depression of the 1890's destroyed the love of large fancy houses. The "in" thing for a house will be a short commute, much like the "in" thing for a craftsman house was being easy to take care of. The condos will end up inhabited, albeit with much lower prices. The remote tracts will fare the worst.

Empire Realty said...

Bought a 1,100 sq/ft condo in Fontana for $54k, I have it rented for $1,100 a month.
Monster cash flow, there are many out there, I am in escrow on a second one.

RealEstate Joe said...

Right now there is a huge disparity in markets. We are seeing a sudden surge in multiple offers in the San Bernadino area and regions around military facilities and in the central valley area and Hwy 80 corridor.


In some communities prices have dropped to a point that buyers cannot ignore.

Oldtimer said...

Most of the condo owners I've known over the years rent their units out and eventually sell them. They bought and lived in them until their earnings grew to where they could afford a regular home in a nice neighborhood. Many bought when they were single. When the wife and subsequent kids came along, a condo made no sense.

I keep hearing that aging boomers are going to flee their homes for condos, but I have yet to see that personally. I know lots of aging boomers, and none have seen fit to give up their neighborhoods for an anonymous life in an apartment they own amidst a bunch of renters and absentee owners.

Divorced folks with some dough, people that are out of town alot, and second-home buyers (e.g. Arizonans in San Diego, skiers in Mammoth, etc.) are a good portion of the stable demand for condos in Southern Cal. Beyond that, its seems to be younger folks that can't yet afford a home where they want to live, speculators and investors that drive condo demand.

I'm not knocking the condo lifestyle, but I just haven't seen it widely embraced in these parts. Not in the last 30 years, anyways. Maybe higher gas prices will change things in the future, but call me a skeptic.

golfer_X said...

Aging boomers are downsizing. Many are moving to condos. But around here they aren't. This is the burbs and the advantages of condos are lost here. Most older people moving to condos do it to be close to entertainment, recreation etc. That's just not the case in SoCal. Condo's here were built as a low cost alternative for first time buyers. Many aging boomers around here are moving to those 55+ developments. Those are usually small single story homes on small lots in gated communities. There's lots of them around, Trilogy, MoVal, Hemet, Beaumont etc. My folks live in one of these communities. They are very nice places for seniors. Lots to do, every one is close to your age, nice community centers etc. My folks love it.

Joseph said...

Short Sales: Banks Blocking Way Out Of Foreclosure Crisis


FairEconomist said...

My parents' friends are downsizing to condos. It's not being driven by retirement but by physical limitations making a large house undesirable. Accordingly it didn't happen in their 60's, it's happening now in their 70's.

I don't think baby boomer downsizing will drive the shift; I think it will be a change in preferences. (Boomer downsizing would be filled by echo boomer upsizing anyway.) But the desire for a large house and a large yard is social. They're a big pain to keep up, and pretty much force long annoying commutes.

The desire has been driven by a combination of fetishization of the idealized suburban lifestyle and the large financial gains recently possible by real estate ownership. Well, the second advantage is history and I think the public image of suburban housing tracts is about to shift from Father Knows Best to foreclosure farms and meth labs. If that happens, people will not put up with the disadvantages of suburban houses.