Remember when Bob Toll, CEO of Toll Brothers, famously said back in 2006 that housing was “dancing on the bottom”? Analysts have been calling various “bottom dances” ever since. The most recent appeared in Bloomberg yesterday:
“The housing market basically has bottomed, but it’s not going to recover any time soon,” Harm Bandholz, chief U.S. economist at UniCredit Group in New York, said before the report. “The housing market is just treading water.”
Granted, the wording is a little different here. Ordinarily dog paddling and the limbo wouldn’t be considered synonymous, but you get the general idea. While there are few outside of the halls of the National Association of Realtors that would dare call for a V shaped recovery, there are those that dare claim that if housing isn’t getting any better, they will go out on a limb and say it isn’t getting any worse. Chris Kitze however, has a list of 29 reasons why things are still rotten in housing:
#1 During the first three months of this year, less new homes were sold in the U.S. than in any three month period ever recorded.
#2 Home prices just keep falling month after month. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city index has fallen for seven months in a row.
#3 U.S. home prices have now declined 32% from the peak of the housing bubble.
#4 In Phoenix, Arizona home prices are now down 56% from the peak of the housing bubble.
#5 Home prices in Las Vegas, Nevada are now down 58% from the peak of the housing bubble.
#6 Nearly 70 percent of all Las Vegas mortgages are now underwater.
#7 Due to the housing crisis, there are now more than 167,000 vacant homes in the state of Nevada.
#8 It is estimated that 25% of all mortgages in Miami-Dade County are “in serious distress and headed for either foreclosure or short sale”.
#9 According to a recent census report, 13% of all homes in the United States are sitting empty.
#10 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 percent of all homes in the state of Florida are sitting vacant. That number is 63 percent larger than it was just ten years ago.
#11 In the city of Detroit alone, there are more than 33,000 abandoned homes.
#12 The average home in the city of Merced, California has declined in value by 63 percent over the past four years.
#13 U.S. home values have fallen an astounding 6.3 trillion dollars since the housing crisis first began.
#14 California had more foreclosure filings that any other U.S. state during 2010. The 546,669 total foreclosure filings during the year means that over 4 percent of all the housing units in the state of California received a foreclosure filing at some point during 2010.
#15 Total home mortgage debt in the United States is now about 5 times larger than it was just 20 years ago.
#16 Approximately 26 percent of all renters in the United States spend more than half their pre-tax income on rent.
#17 It is estimated that 49 percent of all American renters are paying out more in rent than they can afford.
#18 In 1996, 89 percent of Americans believed that it was better to own a home than to rent one. Today that number has fallen to 63 percent.
#19 72 percent of the major metropolitan areas in the United States had more foreclosures in 2010 than they did in 2009.
#20 Two years ago, the average U.S. homeowner that was being foreclosed upon had not made a mortgage payment in 11 months. Today, the average U.S. homeowner that is being foreclosed upon has not made a mortgage payment in 17 months.
#21 In September 2008, 33 percent of Americans knew someone who had been foreclosed upon or who was facing the threat of foreclosure. Today that number has risen to 48 percent.
#22 During the month of January, it was estimated that there were 1.8 million distressed homes in the United States that had yet to be listed for sale. Many analysts believe that this “shadow inventory” will extend the housing crisis for several more years.
#23 In February, U.S. housing starts experienced their largest decline in 27 years.
#24 Now home sales in the United States are now down 80% from the peak in July 2005.
#25 Bank repossessions and short sales now make up approximately 30 percent of all home sales in the United States.
#26 As of the end of 2010, new home sales in the United States had declined for five straight years, and they are expected to be lower once again in 2011.
#27 31 percent of the homeowners that responded to a recent Rasmussen Reports survey indicated that they are “underwater” on their mortgages.
#28 Deutsche Bank is projecting that 48 percent of all U.S. mortgages could have negative equity by the end of 2011.
#29 According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, at least 8 million Americans are currently at least one month behind on their mortgage payments.
I have a much shorter list of reasons why I’d put off the dancing. It all boils down to supply and demand. When demand exceeds supply, there’s downward pressure on the market. In order for housing to achieve a flat line, there would need to be a balance in demand and supply, and that’s not happening any time soon.
The National Association of Realtors currently admits to an 8.4 month supply of homes on the market. They’ll tell you that a six month supply represents a “balanced market”, [making the current inventory “unbalanced”] but there’s more to the current supply than homes that are actually listed.
We’ve heard a lot about the infamous “shadow inventory”– those homes held by lenders that they are holding onto to prevent flooding the market. Here’s an interesting graph that I stumbled across recently. It’s the estimated months supply of shadow inventory by state: [Check out the original article here. It’s worth a read.]
As you can see, housing inventory is basically an iceburg– it’s the smallest part that’s showing. Neither the listed inventory nor the shadow inventory includes the other one– the “I’m-going-to-sell-my-house-as-soon-as-the-market-improves inventory”. Since lenders are liable to trickle homes out of the shadows at the fastest rate they deem safe, it’s likely that this last group will take many years to clear.
No housing isn’t “dancing on the bottom”, “treading water”, “breaking even” or even “holding it’s own”. The better word at the moment is probably “fizzle”.