America’s housing crisis has not gone away. If anything, it is getting more severe. Today, median single family house prices nationwide are down by slightly more than 30 per cent from their early 2006 peak. Fusion IQ, the research group, estimates that excess inventories will push prices down by a further 10 per cent. This is a critical issue because home equity was for years the largest asset on the balance sheet of the average American family.I believe Mr. Zuckerman gets some exaggerated statistics by using month-over-month numbers rather than year-over-year. Natural short-term volatility can easily make month-over-month numbers look far better or worse than the actual longer-term trend.
The sheer number of empty homes overhanging the residential property market points to lower prices. There are an estimated 7m homes empty today, and an estimated 7.7m houses and condominiums behind on their mortgage payments. This is tantamount to a shadow inventory. More than 4m of those are now delinquent and going through some form of foreclosure or related procedures that will put them on the market in the next year or two. Fannie Mae’s 90-day delinquency rate is now roughly 5.5 per cent, double that of a year ago.
Home sales are depressed, too, by competition from some 6m rental vacancies, or 11 per cent of total rental supply. Median asking rents have been declining by an estimated 3.5 per cent over the past year – and that is accelerating.
There is no cheer in the new residential numbers either. January’s new home sales plunged by more than 11 per cent month-on-month to an annual rate of 309,000 units, the weakest on record. It now takes a record 14.2 months to sell a finished house. In the boom years, it took about three.
Even worse, the median price for new homes sold was $203,500, almost a seven-year low, and that for existing single-family homes fell 3.5 per cent month over month to $163,600, a new eight-year low. Inventories rose to a 9.1 month supply, which on top of the shadow inventory of unsold houses and those in the foreclosure pipeline does not bode well for homebuilders or housing. Neither does the sharp decline in mortgage applications to the lowest levels since May 2007 and the rise on the 30-year mortgage rates to more than 5 per cent.
Roughly one in four mortgages today exceeds the house’s value – approximately 10.7m homes. American Corelogic, the research provider, estimates an average deficiency per home of $70,700 or an aggregate of about $800bn. An additional 2.3m homes had less than 5 per cent equity. The remaining equity for many other homeowners is at historic lows. With declining prices beginning to hit the middle to higher ends of the housing market, we are looking at another foreclosure wave.
Mr. Zuckerman goes on to basically argue that tax money should be used to bail out homeowners. I wholeheartedly disagree.