This morning we heard from Dr Lawrence Yun (NAR Chief Economist) and Dr. Mark Zandi (Moody's Economy.com) with their financial outlook for the rest of 2010 and beyond. I try never to miss this program as I always find the info interesting - if not always the most accurate.
Now I know there are some of you who are not enamored of Dr. Yun's talks and consider him to be an NAR stooge - but the fact is he has recently been named by USA Today as one of the nations top 10 economic advisors and Dr. Zandi is one spot higher in that ranking than Yun - so say what you will, these guys have some credentials. I personally enjoy hearing from somebody who actually knows housing. Too many economists talk at us and talk about housing from a philosophical point of view - whereas Yun is surrounded by Realtors every day and knows our interests and market. There are trade-offs.
Yun talked quite a bit about the first time homebuyer program and the success that it was. Ultimately 4.4 million buyers will benefit from that credit and just over 1 million of those would not have purchased at this time without the incentive. Given the multiplier effect of real estate purchases this program more than paid for itself in terms of economic benefit to the nation. It also had a significant impact on reducing inventory which in turn helped stabilize prices. Without that inventory drop prices may well have dropped another 8% before finding a bottom and that 8% would have translated to another $1 trillion drop in equity wealth for homeowners. Price stability also translates to fewer foreclosures going forward as the 3rd wave of foreclosures was largely driven by unemployment and negative equity.
Dr. Yun does not believe there will be a double dip in housing prices but that distressed properties will continue to be with us for at least the next two years before we start getting anywhere close to a normal market. Several factors could impact that timing - including such international pressures as a default by Greece and other events but he doesn't believe that will be allowed to happen.
Yun also called out the next crisis, one that I have been talking about for awhile now. That is a housing shortage which could lead to a quicker price recovery, if not another mini-spike. This is driven by the fact that demand is now keeping pace with supply in many markets yet new home builders are not working yet - which could lead to a shortage within two years and force upward price pressure in some areas - specifically ours herein Southern California. Florida is still toast, Arizona & Nevada are still hurting but many areas are climbing back out with some, like the San Diego market, showing double digit price appreciation.
Dr. Zandi titled his address "The Housing Crisis is Over (Almost). He believes we will continue to see minor price slippage in some areas into 2012 until the job market picks up. While as many as 250,000 new jobs have been crated in the past 2 months, we have lost nearly 9 million. He believes we will average 150,000 - 250,000 new jobs per month this year and as many as 300,000 a month by next year. By next year at this time we should see job growth in every sector of the economy except state and local government. But even under is rosiest lens, he doesn't see us approaching full employment (5.5%) until well into 2014.
While some areas, like SoCal, have housing inventories of 2 months or less, much of the country is still struggling with 2 years of homes - although he agrees with Yun that that inventory will be disposed of and if an adequate supply of new homes doesn't begin to appear soon it could precipitate another shortage. He also outlined the four stages of the housing crisis starting with flippers giving homes back to builders in 2006 - that was just a preview of things to come. Stage 2 was the infamous sub-prime melt-down that consumed us in 2007 and the freeze on jumbo loans which is still hurting the recovery of the upper end of the market. Stage 3 occurred in 2008-2009 driven by rising unemployment and falling home equity. We are currently tailing off that state and driving into Stage 4 which is marked by strategic defaults. There are 50 million home mortgages in this country of which nearly 1/3 or 15 million are under-water right now with negative equity. Of those, 4.5 million are either in foreclosure or are 90 days or more late on payments. That translates to more pain to come but it will be somewhat mitigated by an improving employment picture, continued low interest rates (no re-sets) and stabilizing or appreciating equity.
Overall not a bad prognosis from these two. Not entirely rosy but I've certainly heard worse.
Here's the slides to Dr. Yun's presentation: