Housing Bottom Now Expected in 2013, Recovery Looks Weaker, by Colin Robertson, Thetruthaboutmortgage.com


There’s been a lot of interesting housing-related news over the past week, with some good and some bad.

The first bit is that economists finally believe the national housing bottom is near.

Yes, we’ve heard that before, several times, but per Zillow, the economists surveyed are all “largely” on-board this time.

So that’s good news. The bad news is that more than half of the same respondents believe the homeownership rate will continue to fall from the 65.4% level seen in the first quarter.

In fact, one in five think homeownership will be at or below 63% in coming years, which will test the all-time low established in 1965.

For the record, some areas of the nation have already appeared to bottom, and are actually up quite a bit.

In hard-hit Phoenix, home prices are already up 12% from their bottom. In San Francisco, prices are up 10% from bottom.

But New York, Atlanta, and Chicago are still waiting for the bounce.

Housing Recovery Not Looking Too Hot

Meanwhile, future home appreciation isn’t looking as good as it once was.

Back in June 2010, Zillow-surveyed economists expected cumulative appreciation of 10.3% from 2012 to 2014.

Now, the experts only see home prices appreciating a paltry 3.5% for the same period.

That’s $1.25 trillion less in housing wealth than previously expected. Yikes.

So expect an “L” shaped recovery…in other words, a steep decline, followed by many, many flat years. Sure, it may a be “squiggly L” with little ups and downs, but an “L” nonetheless.

That said, make sure you actually like the place you buy, don’t just buy it because you think you’re going to make a killing off it as an investment.

The good news is mortgage rates continue to be absurdly low, with the 30-year fixed matching a record low 3.48% this week, per Zillow.

I didn’t see rates falling that low, so I’ll start eating my hat now.

But I still think the low rates could be a major artificial stimulus, which has led to homeowners listing the worst properties out there of late.

Why the Housing Recovery Will Take Time

If you’re wondering why the housing market won’t bounce back immediately, you merely need to consider all the ineligible buyers.

Let’s start with the millions of underwater homeowners, who won’t be able to move unless they’re rich enough to buy a new house and short sell or bail on their current property.

There aren’t many people this lucky, especially now that lenders actually document income.

Then there are those who still haven’t gone through foreclosure yet, but are hanging on by a thread.

There are plenty who still haven’t been displaced, but will be in the next several years. So there’s a ton of shadowy shadow inventory yet to materialize.

Even those who received loan modifications are in serious trouble. A recent study released by credit bureauTransUnion found that a scary 60% of those who received loan mods re-defaulted just 18 months later.

So there’s a lot of bad news that just isn’t making it to the presses, largely because we are riding the “good news train” right now in the housing world.

All of these former homeowners will also have difficulty qualifying for a mortgage in the future, so they’re essentially out of the mix.

Let’s not forget the millions that are unemployed…they obviously won’t be able to buy a home either, so this explains the dip in homeownership as well.

And it doesn’t bode well for home prices going forward. Consider that as home prices rise, more would-be home sellers will list their properties. This should keep downward pressure on prices for a long time.

It also makes one question if the bottom is really as close as some think, or even for real. We saw misleading upticks with the homebuyer tax credit too, so it’ll be interesting to see if this latest rally has legs

The Truth About Mortgage

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U.S. Housing Market Shows Economic Divide, by Michelle Conlin , The Associated Press


In the United States, it’s starting to feel as if there are two housing markets: one for the rich and one for everyone else.

Consider foreclosure-ravaged Detroit. In the historic Green Acres district, a haven for hipsters, a pristine, three-bedroom brick Tudor recently sold for $6,000 — about what a buyer would have paid during the Great Depression.

Yet just 24 kilometres away, in the posh suburban enclave of Birmingham, bidding wars are back. Multimillion-dollar mansions are selling quickly. Sales this August were up 21 per cent from the previous year. The country club has ended its stealth discounts on new memberships. And Main Street’s retail storefronts are full.

“We’re getting more showings, more offers and more sales,” says Ronni Keating, a real estate agent with Sotheby’s International.

Think of this housing market as bipolar. In the luxury sector, the recession is a memory and sales and prices are rising. But everywhere else, the market is moving sideways or getting worse.

In the housing market inhabited by most Americans, prices have fallen 30 per cent or more since the peak in 2007. That’s a steeper decline than during the Depression. Some people have had their homes on the market for a year without a single offer.

Almost a quarter of American homeowners owe more on their houses than they’re worth. Another quarter have less than 20 per cent equity. About half of homeowners couldn’t get a mortgage if they applied today, says Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics.

Then there is the other housing market, occupied by 1.5 per cent of the U.S. population, according to Zillow.com. The one with outdoor kitchens and in-home spas; with his-and-her boudoirs and closets the size of starter houses. The one that is not local but global, with international buyers bidding in all cash. And where the gyrations of the stock market are cause for conversation, not cutting expenses.

In this land of luxury properties, the Great Recession seems over. Prices of $1-million-plus properties have risen 0.7 per cent since February, according to Zillow. Prices of houses under $1 million have fallen more than 1.5 per cent.

Normally, these two segments of the housing market rise and fall together.

“Luxury is the best-performing segment of the housing market right now,” says Zillow.com chief economist Stan Humphries.

After every recession since Second World War, housing has led the economic recovery, until now. The renewed vitality in the comparatively small market for luxury homes is not enough to power a full-blown recovery. This bifurcation in the market is yet another reason Michelle Meyer, the chief economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, says her housing outlook is “increasingly downbeat.”

The phenomenon is not limited to real estate. You can see the same split in other gauges of the economy. Sales at Saks versus Walmart. Pay on Wall Street versus Main Street. Corporate profits versus family balance sheets.

The divide is also making credit a perk of the rich. Mortgage rates are the lowest in decades, but what good are cheap rates if you can’t get a mortgage? The banks aren’t granting credit to anyone “who even has a smudge on their application,” says Jonathan Miller, founder of real estate consulting firm Miller Samuel. Applications for new mortgages are at 10-year lows.

Across the country, prices on high-end homes fell after the subprime crash in the fall of 2008. The price on the $25 million mansion became $20 million, then $15 million. Such “bargains” are pushing more luxury buyers to commit to more deals.

There are other factors, too. In Detroit, a recovering auto industry is helping propel high-end sales. All those car executives who have helped turn around the American auto industry used to rent. Now they are using their performance bonuses to buy homes.

Wall Street’s recovery has brought back the market for mansions in the Hamptons, on Long Island, where the number of closings has returned to the 2007 level, and for luxury co-ops in New York City. Because of social-network riches in Silicon Valley, twice as many homes have sold for $5 million or more this year as last.

But in the other housing market, an apartment tower built in 2007 in San Jose, Calif., recently converted to all-rental. The building had not sold a single unit. In Miami, a city that exemplifies the foreclosure epidemic, idled cranes dot the skyline. Unemployment shot up again this summer from 12 per cent to 14 per cent, a level not seen since the energy crisis in 1973. There are so many two-bedroom condos in gated communities with golf courses, private pools and rustic jogging paths that you can pick one up for $25,000, 66 per cent off the price five years ago. But luxury condos priced at $1 million or more are selling as rapidly as they did during the boom.

“In the 20 years that I have been in South Florida real estate, I have never seen a greater divide between those who have and those who have not,” says Peter Zalewski, founder of the real estate firm Condo Vultures.

One big factor in the divide is foreign cash, at least in the world of property. For international buyers, U.S. real estate is the new undervalued asset, and they are big buyers of luxury properties. International clients bought $82 billion worth of U.S. residential real estate last year, up from $66 billion in 2009. In states like Florida, international buyers account for a third of purchases, up from 10 per cent in 2007.

Home Affordability Reaches Generational High, by International Business Times


If you have good credit and savings, now is a great time to buy. According to Zillow.com, “Homes are more affordable than they’ve been in the past 35 years.”

Not only have home values fallen in many key markets, making homeownership more accessible to the average buyer, interest rates are at historic lows, meaning that once a home is purchased, monthly payments are smaller than in our recent past.

Zillow notes that “today’s median home buyer can expect to pay about 17% of his monthly gross income on his mortgage, compared to a 25% average since 1975.”

In the 1980’s, when interest rates were dangerously near 20 percent, this would take up nearly 45 percent of a buyers gross monthly income. In comparison, today’s rates are an extreme bargain.

The main road block to homeownership at this time is access to credit. Although nearly one-third of all home purchases in recent months have been all-cash, that leaves the majority of the market shares requiring financing.

The tightening of lending standards in recent years, though, has been in direct response to the subprime lending trend during the housing boom.

Federal Reserve research indicates that a quarter of all mortgages in 2006 were subprime. This means that these loans were made to borrowers with credit scores below 620-660 and who were unable to put down the traditional 20 percent.

Today, buyers need credit scores in the 700s, with the higher the better. According to Zillow, “Applicants with FICO scores under 620 were virtually unable to get loans at any rate, thus being effectively excluded from the home-buying market. And those with FICO scores below 620 represent almost a third of the population.”

There has also been a return of the 20 percent downpayment. This is in your best interest, as it means savings when it comes to closing costs. “The difference between a 10% and 20% down payment means she now has to save up another $17,220 in addition to any closing costs.” (Zillow)

So, while it is more difficult for many homeowners to get into the market in today’s economy, for buyers who have good credit and adequate savings, homes may never have been more affordable.

Low FICOs Bar One-Third of Prospective Borrowers , Nationalmortgagenews.com


Approximately one-third of Americans are unlikely to qualify for a mortgage because their credit scores are too low, an analysis of 25,000 loan quotes during the first half of September on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace found.

The lead generation website found that those consumers with a credit score under 620 who entered data on the site were unlikely to have even one quote returned, even if they were willing to make a down payment in the 15% to 25% range.

Zillow cited statistics from MyFICO.com that found over 29% of Americans have a score under 620.

The study also found that for every 20-point increase in one’s credit score, the average low annual percentage rate offered to these consumers fell by 0.12%.

Those consumers who had a credit score over 720 had an average low APR of 4.3% on a conventional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. For borrowers whose score was between 620 and 639, the average low APR was 4.9%.

Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries said homes are more affordable than in years, plus mortgage interest rates are at record lows. “But the irony here is that so many Americans can’t qualify for these low rates, or can’t qualify for a mortgage at all.”