Saturday, February 5, 2011
A Normal Housing Cycle: Demand may not quite be at where it was in the mid-2000’s, but it is finally following a normal cyclical pattern.
Absent housing rebates, the real estate market is finally functioning on its own. It is easier to gauge where the market is heading. Demand is not being propped up like it was last year in the spring or 2009 in the winter with the first time home buyer tax credits. So, what does a “normal” housing cycle mean to Orange County? After taking down the holiday decorations, stuffing them into their corresponding boxes and then putting them away in the attic, everybody has been able to turn their attention to life as usual. That includes the return of buyer demand. Demand surges at the end of January, levels off in February and then swells to its highest point of the year from March through May, the spring market. At the same time, many sellers know it’s the best time of the year to sell, so a larger number of homeowners place their homes on the market. WARNING TO SELLERS: just because it is the best time of the year to sell, that does NOT mean that buyers are willing to pay a premium for a home in today’s market. Buyers today are “spreadsheet buyers,” meaning they are going to concentrate on the most recent comparable and pending sales to carefully arrive at price. They do not want to overpay for a home and will patiently wait for realistic sellers to negotiate with. My fear for the Orange County housing market is that a number of unrealistic sellers, and even unrealistically priced bank foreclosures, will hit the market like they did last year. I am holding out for a return of the discretionary seller. Sellers should only place their homes on the market if and only if they are ready to do what it takes to sell their home, starting with carefully arriving at price just like buyers. For the spring, expected market time will fall to its lowest point of the year. From June through August, the summer months, the second best time of the year to sell a home, demand will fall slightly, yet the steady stream of homes coming on the market will continue. Many sellers mistaken the summer as the best time of the year to sell a home. Expected market time will rise slightly during the summer market. With the kids starting school, purchasing a home is not as convenient, so demand begins to decelerate further and so does the stream of homes placed on the market. The expected market time during the autumn market remains about the same as the summer. With goblins and ghosts running from door to door chanting “TRICK OR TREAT,” the Orange County housing market transitions to the slowest time of the year, the holiday market. With all of the distractions of the holidays, demand decelerates until it reaches its lowest point of the housing cycle, New Year’s Day. The stream of homes that hit the market slows considerably. Buyers in the marketplace often complain of “nothing new” to look at. The expected market time during the holidays typically rises slightly. This is an outline of a normal housing cycle in Orange County. We have not witnessed a normal cycle in years. There is something refreshing about normal.
Housing Demand: In the last two weeks, housing demand surged.
Demand, the number of new pending sales over the prior month, increased by 26% in the past two weeks, adding an additional 564 homes, and now totals 2,718 pending sales. Thus far this year, demand is a mirror image of 2009, prior to any artificial government stimulus. Last year, there were 530 additional pending sales; but, remember that demand was being propped up by the $8,000 first time home buyer tax credit.
The Active Inventory: the inventory is rising at the same pace as last year.
Two years ago, sellers approached the market with extreme caution. Last year, everybody threw caution into the wind and replaced it with unwarranted optimism. They fell for news of year over year increases in the median sales price and multiple offers on many listed homes. The problem with the median sales price is that it is not an accurate gauge of appreciations or depreciation. It will give an overall feel for where house values are headed, but is not precise. Stack up all sales in a month and take the exact middle value and you get the median sales price. If all of a sudden there is an increase in the number of upper range homes sold, the median sales price is skewed upward. When values were falling like a rock at the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008, only the lower range was selling, the median sales price was skewed lower. Unwarranted optimism is my number one concern for the housing market in 2011. Only realistic homeowners will succeed in today’s marketplace.
In the past two weeks the active inventory added an additional 164 homes and now totals 10,389 homes. Last year at this time there were 2,532 fewer homes on the market.
Expected Market Time and Price Ranges: the expected market time increases as the price range increases.
For Orange County as a whole, the expected market time has dropped in the past month from 5.10 months to 3.82 months today, a slight seller’s market. For homes priced below $750,000, 76% of the active listing inventory, the expected market time is a robust 3.37 months. Even though it is technically a seller’s market, do not expect appreciation. There are just too many distressed homes in the marketplace, keeping a lid on appreciation. For homes priced between $750,000 and $1.5 million, the expected market time is 4.91 months, technically a market in equilibrium. From $1.5 million to $2.5 million, the expected market time is actually at its lowest level in several years. Still a buyer’s market, the expected market time is 9.43 months. For homes above $4 million, there are 277 homes on the market and only 2 pending sales within the last month. That’s an expected market time of just over 138 months. That is most likely an anomaly, but a strong indicator that the highest priced homes on the market should be prepared for a slow 2011.
The Distressed Market: there’s still not much change in the distressed market.
In the past two weeks the active distressed inventory, both foreclosure and short sales, dropped by 13 homes. Not much has changed since last September, growing by only 65 homes, now totaling 4,104. There are 726 foreclosures on the market, adding just two homes in the past two weeks. The expected market time for foreclosures is 1.64 months, a HOT seller’s market. There are currently 3,378 short sales on the active market with an expected market time of 2.85 months, also a seller’s market. Expect the distressed inventory to slightly increase as the year progresses. Do not expect a wave of new distressed activity.
Monday, January 3, 2011
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Now what does that mean for Orange County Real Estate?
First, it is important to clarify that forecasting draws from historical data to predict the future. The fact that forecasts from experts and leading academic institutions have been all over the map is indicative of the uncertainty of the current housing and economic environment. At this point, those that predict the weather are doing a far superior job compared to economists. Forecasting at this point is more of art than an exact science, but I have a pretty strong inclination that the market is not going to change that much. It is going to be a lot more of the same with some minor tweaks. Here’s how I think 2011 will unfold:
• Demand: unlike 2010, demand is going to follow a normal cyclical pattern. Demand was HOT for the first half of 2010 due to the first time home buyer tax credit, and then it fell off a cliff for the second half without any government stimulus. In 2011, there is not a government stimulus program to monkey with demand. For the lower ranges, below $750,000, which accounts for 75% of the listing inventory, the market will become really hot quickly as we roll into the spring. On homes that are priced well, expect a lot of competition with multiple offers and purchase prices very close to their asking prices. This market will remain hot until the market cools in the autumn. For homes priced between $750,000 to $1.5 million, 15% of the active inventory, the market will heat up during the spring, just not as much as the lower ranges. Pricing will be key, as this range tends to be too optimistic right when they first hit the market. For homes priced above $1.5 million, 11% of the active inventory, the market will remain very cold with very little competition. Price is absolutely everything in this range. Unfortunately, this range is made up of the most unrealistic sellers. The problem is that there are just way too many homes on the market all vying for a small pool of potential buyers.
• Pricing: as pointed out above, there are three distinctly different markets in Orange County. As a result, the expectations of pricing should be based upon each price range and not the market as a whole. Regrettably, everybody hangs their hat on the reported median sales price as the best barometer of home values. With three different markets, the median sales price, the middle value, is flawed. In the lower ranges, we can expect very little change in pricing. Keep in mind, that’s 75% of the market. In some really hot areas, the market may even slightly increase. Distressed properties, 49% of the active inventory in the lower ranges, will keep a lid on any real appreciation. For the middle ranges, we can expect slight depreciation in prices. But, with only 17% of this range distressed, the pressure on pricing is not that great. In the upper ranges, distressed properties are not the problem, only 6%. The problem is that there are just too many sellers and not enough buyers. The higher the range, the slower the market. Only those willing to aggressively price their homes will be successful. The pressure on price is greatest in the upper ranges. In this downturn, values in the lower ranges dropped like a rock almost overnight. In the upper ranges, prices have been a lot stickier with fewer distressed homes and a lot more unrealistic homeowners. In 2011, prices will be most volatile in the upper ranges.
• The Active Listing Inventory: the housing market in 2010 was marred by unrealistic homeowners overpricing their homes and sitting on the market. Sellers with equity, sellers without equity and bank foreclosures all fell victim to overpricing. Reports of year over year increases in the median sales price along with reports of tremendous activity and multiple offers mislead everybody in thinking that the market had finally turned. There just are too many distressed homes, high unemployment and uncertainty of the future for values to rise. Instead, buyers have become spreadsheet buyers, pouring over comparable and pending sales, unwilling to pay a premium in order to purchase a home. In 2009, the active listing inventory dropped by 4,000 homes. In 2010, the inventory blossomed, erasing all of the improvements from the year before. In 2011, expect homeowners to have learned their lesson and only enter the market if they really have to sell. The return of the discretionary seller will keep a lid on a rise in the active inventory. This is fundamental to the overall health of the Orange County housing market.
• The Distressed Market: even though the shadow inventory is real, do not expect a wave of distressed properties to hit the market. It was two years ago that many were calling for a tsunami of foreclosures as the government was meeting with banks and the buzz of foreclosure moratoriums was in the air. Yet, it never materialized. There just were too many for the banks to liquidate all at once. A flood of foreclosures would have eroded values even more, more banks would fail and the problem could have snowballed into something much bigger. Ultimately, the banks and the government chose not to go that route. Yes, there are a tremendous number of homeowners who have not paid their mortgages. They just have not materialized as foreclosures. Instead, there is a definite process. Many attempt loan modification, which takes months for an answer. Others try the short sale route, which also takes months for an answer, and can be very complicated to put together. Still, there are others who choose to do nothing, and the banks have been slow to respond. The bottom line, it takes a very long time for distressed properties to move through the system. In the end, it will take years to work our way through the distressed backlog. For 2011, we can expect more of the same, a slight methodical increase in the number of short sales and foreclosures, but no dramatic shifts. Buyers should keep in mind that there is increased competition for distressed properties since all buyers are looking for a deal.
• Interest Rates: about a month ago, I thought the big surprise of 2011 was going to be a rise in interest rates. It turned out to be the big surprise to the end of 2010. Interest rates will still be the big surprise of 2011, with rates reaching the 6% mark. There’s a ton of pressure on rates to increase. An increasing deficit with the Fed printing money at warp speed, a government unwilling to cut spending, and no leader anywhere in the world willing to come up with a definitive game plan to get us out of this pickle, translates to mounting pressure on interest rates. If anybody is in the market to buy, they should pencil out the sizeable increase in monthly payments when rates jump 1%. It illustrates how taking advantage of low rates more than offsets any risk in falling values. Unfortunately, not enough buyers shop for homes based upon monthly payments; instead, they focus on price. It really should be the other way around with rates poised to increase.
• Closed Sales: in 2010, there were about 5% fewer residential resales compared to 2009. For the first half of the year the artificial government stimulus made it appear as if the number of sales was going to rebound for the first time since the downturn began in the autumn of 2005. After the stimulus ended, the market dramatically slowed and the market improvements and momentum faded. In 2011, there will be very close to the same number of sales, just not as lopsided as 2010. Instead, the market will follow a normal Orange County housing cycle: a strong spring market, a slightly cooler summer market, an even cooler autumn market and then the slowest time of the year, the holiday market.
Overall, it looks as if 2011 is going to be a lot like 2010. As a society, the American people are getting all caught up in forecasts and numbers. But, when it comes to housing, we are talking about a place to call “home.” There needs to be a return to finding the right place to call home for years, if not decades. In the past decade, we got caught up in taking out 30-year loans only to refinance every few years, or sell and purchase another, and another. It is time to return to carefully isolating the perfect “home” that best fits our needs, lock in the best interest rates in years, and enjoy life in one of the best places to live in the country. Historically, in the long run, a home is a great investment, especially in Orange County.
Happy New Year!
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Interest Rates: Rates are at ridiculously low levels and seem to be taken for granted.
I have always been fascinated how almost nobody focuses on how rates affect purchasing power. These low rates actually pencil out to be so much better than the $8,000 First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit; yet, the lower rates just have not stimulated demand like the credit. Consider a $500,000, 30 year mortgage at 4.375%. The monthly payment would be $2,496 per month. The same monthly payment at 5.375%, where rates were just one year ago, would be for a mortgage of $446,000. That is a $54,000 difference, almost seven times the tax credit. That’s one way to look at the incredible savings today’s low interest rates offer buyers. Now, let’s take a look at the difference in payment for the same mortgage amount. The payment on a $500,000, 30 year mortgage at 5.375% is $2,800 per month, or $304 per month more compared to the 4.375% rate. In just five years, the savings would be a very impressive $18,240. Over the life of the loan, 30 years, the savings would be $109,440. These numbers are mind boggling. Yet, first time home buyers tripped over each other clamoring to purchase a home prior to the end of the tax credit on April 30th. But, now, in the face of the lowest interest rates in our lifetime, buyers just aren’t rushing to purchase. As soon as the economy starts to improve, interest rates will increase by at least one percent. As a buyer, today’s rates should be very motivating. The best time to purchase is during a buyer’s market with rock bottom rates, not when the market is appreciating again. Unfortunately, low rates don’t seem to sell like an $8,000 credit. So, let’s put phrase it in a way that will sell: “Give yourself an $18,240 tax credit by purchasing now before rates rise just one percent.” For further perspective, rates were at 8% at the beginning of 2000. For a $500,000 mortgage, the monthly payment would be $3,669, an additional $1,173 per month. In 1990, rates were at 10%, which would be $4,388, an additional $1,892 per month. Buyers cannot afford to ignore today’s rates. They should not be taken for granted. As soon as the economy improves, rates will increase and buyer’s purchasing power will begin to erode.
Demand: With the begging of the Autumn market, demand drops 7%.
In looking at demand, the First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit pulled demand forward. To take advantage of the credit, a buyer had to be under contract on or before April 30th. Since reaching the height in demand at the end of April, demand has dropped 32%. Demand, the number of new pending sales over the prior month, dropped by 203 over the past two weeks and now totals 2,690 pending sales, a 7% drop. The incredible rates should spur demand. It will be interesting to see where demand goes over the coming weeks now that the kids have settled in at school.
Active Listing Inventory: It appears as if the listing inventory is climbing towards a peak of 12,000 homes.
The active listing inventory gained 175 homes in the past two weeks and now totals 11,892. The inventory has actually grown unabated since the beginning of the year. If demand was just slightly hotter, the inventory would actually drop. It started the year at 7,165 homes and has increased since by 4,727, a 66% increase. This year marked the exit of the discretionary seller. Instead, the market has been plagued by homeowners who have been sitting on the sidelines anticipating a turnaround in the housing market. With demand artificially stimulated at the beginning of the year by the tax credit, sellers were fooled into thinking that the market had indeed turned around. They took reports of year over year increases in the median sales prices and stories of heated demand and multiple offers as the perfect time to dive into the market. Unfortunately, seller after seller entered the market and anticipated appreciation like just a few years ago and priced their homes at unrealistic levels, thousands of dollars above the last comparable or pending sale. The end result is a ton of homes have been sitting on the market overpriced and the active inventory has increased unabated. A SPECIAL NOTE FOR SELLERS: reduce your home to market value or pull your home off the market immediately and wait for the overall economy to dramatically improve.
Expected Market Time: The lower ranges have slowed but not nearly like the stalled upper end.
For homes priced below $1 million, the expected market time is 3.87 months. This range represents 82% of the active inventory and 93% of demand. For homes priced above $1 million, the expected market time is 12.02 months, the higher the range, the slower the expected market time. This range represents 18% of the active inventory, but only 7% of demand. The slowest range, homes priced above $4 million, has an expected market time of 70 months. The hottest market in Orange County is Foothill Ranch with an expected market time of only 2.38 months and an average list price of $467,000. The slowest market in Orange County is Newport Coast with an expected market time of 12.08 months and an average list price of $4.4 million. The expected market time for all of Orange County is 4.42 months. Last year at this time the expected market time was 2.33 months.
Foreclosures and Short Sales: With demand slowing, the distressed inventory continues to grow.
The active distressed inventory grew by 110 homes over the past two weeks and now totals 4,026 total foreclosures and short sales, levels not seen since April of 2009. The active distressed inventory started the year with 2,555 homes and has since grown by 58%. The distressed inventory now represents 34% of the current active inventory. Last year at this time, there were 2,384 distressed homes on the market, 1,642 fewer than today. The number of foreclosures within the active listing inventory increased by 24 homes in the past two weeks from 684 to 708. The expected market time for foreclosures is 1.84 months, still an exceptionally HOT seller’s market. Short sales, where a homeowner attempts to sell a home for less than the total outstanding loans against a home, requiring lender approval, increased by 86 homes over the past two weeks and now total 3,318. The expected market time for short sales is 3.61 months, much slower than 1.53 months posted last April.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Unrealistic Sellers: Overpriced homes have flooded the market.
Reports of tremendous competition among buyers have fueled unrealistic seller expectations. Reports of multiple offers and homes selling quickly have fueled it as well. Reports of an increase in the median sales price did not help either. Yes, there has been a lot of demand and homes have sold quickly, procuring multiple offers. However, none of this would have happened had it not been for a major increase in home affordability. There has been a culture shift in the past few years where people have gone from spending frivolously (and often recklessly) to saving, paying off debt and making sure that every penny counts. Five years ago home buyers were racing to buy homes at whatever price. Today, buyers have become “spreadsheet” buyers, not wanting to pay much more than the last closed sale, regardless of the amount of competition. Sure, after writing offer after offer after offer a buyer is more willing to up the ante a bit and pay a couple thousand dollars above the most recent comparable sale, but they are NOT going to pay an extra $25,000. That is how we have experienced slight appreciation over the past year. In the hottest ranges, buyers have been willing to pay a little bit extra to procure a home. Over the course of the past year, the small incremental increases have amounted to a positive change in pricing. But think about it; a 5% change in pricing did not happen overnight. The reports in a change in pricing are YEAR OVER YEAR. Back in the heydays of the mid-2000’s homes were increasing a lot faster. That just is not the case this time around. Homeowners have been fooled, thinking the market has not just bottomed, it has recovered. There have been so many homeowners who have sat on the sidelines waiting for the market to recover so that they could finally sell. These pent up sellers have been placing their homes on the market at ridiculous values. They have taken an increase of 5% over a year to mean that they can price their home 5% above the most recent comparable sale. Spreadsheet buyers are just not going to bite. The economy is too fragile for this line of thinking. Yes, there is a premium to selling a home with equity versus the short sale down the street; HOWEVER, a buyer is not going to pay thousands of dollars more. The bottom line: sellers really need to take a hard look in the mirror and ask whether or not they really can drop to the realistic fair market value of their home. If not, they need to stop wasting everybody’s time and pull their home off of the market.
Active Listing Inventory: The proof that unrealistic sellers have flooded the market, an unabated increase in the inventory.
This year the Orange County housing inventory has grown by 3,524 homes, a 48% increase. In the past two weeks, the inventory has grown by 355 homes, a 3% increase, and now totals 10,817. Last year at this time the inventory was at 8,946 homes, 1,871 fewer than today. Every range has experienced growth, but the most substantial growth can be found between $250,000 and $1 million with a 71% increase.
Housing Demand: Independence Day typically marks a drop in demand, this year is not exception.
Since artificially peaking at the end of April due to the end of the First Time Home Buyer Tax Credit, an $8,000 incentive, demand has dropped 28%. Demand, the number of new pending sales over the prior month, decreased by 247 in the past two weeks and now totals 2,860, levels not seen since January of this year. From here, demand typically rises slightly and peaks at the end of August before slowly deteriorating for the remainder of the year.
Expected Market Time: After bottoming at the end of April, the expected market time for homes in the OC has increased to its highest level of the year.
With an increase in the active listing inventory and a decrease in demand, the expected market time increased from 3.37 months two weeks ago to 3.78 months today. The overall market is still a “seller’s market,” but it is moving in the wrong direction. Remember, this seller’s market is different. There may be a lot of buyers and a lot of competition, but spreadsheet buyers are unwilling to pay much of a premium over the last comparable sale. At the end of April, the expected market time was at 2.35 months. Last year at this time the expected market time was at 2.66 months. For homes priced above $1 million, the expected market time is 10.61 months. Contrast that with homes priced below $1 million where the expected market time is 3.22 months.
Foreclosures and Short Sales: So far this year, the distressed inventory has grown by 29%.
The active distressed inventory has increased from 2,555 homes at the beginning of the year to 3,307, levels not seen since May of 2009. The distressed inventory now represents 31% of the current active inventory. Last year at this time, there were 2,766 distressed homes on the market, 541 fewer than today. The number of foreclosures within the active listing inventory increased by 19 homes in the past two weeks from 559 to 578. The expected market time for foreclosures is 1.73 months, an exceptionally HOT seller’s market. Short sales, where a homeowner attempts to sell a home for less than the total outstanding loans against a home, requiring lender approval, increased by 71 homes over the past two weeks and now total 2,729. The expected market time for short sales is 2.52 months, still a HOT seller’s market.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Housing Demand: Over the last 5 years the average drop in demand was 3.2%, this year it was only 2%.
Whatever the reason, the end of school, graduation, the start of summer, demand cyclically drops at this time of year. The only difference this time around is that demand had already dropped 20% due to the end of the Federal first time home buyer tax credit. When demand reached 3,979 pending sales on April 29th, the height for 2010, and the highest threshold in almost five years, there was a rush to purchase by first time home buyers. That segment accounted for 25% of Orange County’s housing activity. With so many of them pushing to purchase by a deadline, it left a void in demand for the six weeks that followed the expiration. It wasn’t until the past two weeks when the normal housing pattern for Orange County reemerged. Earlier in the year, the market followed a normal pattern as well, until March and April. Demand grew by 30% in those two months, and then subsequently, dropped almost 22% in May and June. Demand, the number of new pending sales over the prior month, decreased by 60 in the past two weeks and now totals 3,107. For the second report in a row, demand is less than the prior year with 522 fewer pending sales compared to 2009. From here, demand typically falls in the next two weeks and then climbs at the end of July. With the distraction of the Fourth of July weekend coming up, that sounds fairly accurate.
Active Listing Inventory: The inventory has continued to grow unabated since the beginning of the year.
Last year the inventory dropped by 36%. This year, however, the Orange County housing inventory has grown by 3,034 homes, a 43% increase. In the past two weeks, the inventory has grown by 345 homes, a 3% increase, and now totals 10,469. This is also the second report in a row where the inventory is higher than last year. Last year the inventory was at 9,188 homes, 1,274 fewer than today. The drop in demand is partially to blame for the increase in the inventory, but keep in mind that it was still increasing unabated when demand was at its highest level in years. We have also heard that the market is really hot in lower price ranges, which is true, just ask any buyer. However, all ranges have experienced an increase in inventory, especially homes between $250,000 and $1 million. For homes priced between $500,000 and $750,000, the inventory has increased by 60%. The reason for the increase in inventory is because there are many homeowners who have held off on selling their home, pent up sellers, who have been waiting for the market to turn so that they could take advantage of the market and sell their home. Homeowners have heard about the hot market in the lower ranges with a lot of activity, multiple offers and homes selling for very close to their asking prices, and in many cases, above their asking prices. The problem is that many of these pent up homeowners are placing their homes on the market at unrealistic levels, thousands above the most recent comparable and pending sales. Buyers in today’s market have become “spreadsheet buyers,” pouring over the comparables and not wanting to pay much more than the last buyer. With demand hot, many are willing to pay a bit of a premium to purchase their dream home, but more along the lines of an extra $5,000, not $15,000 or more. As long as the overall economy’s health is in limbo and more distressed homes are hitting the market, buyers are unwilling to pay an extravagant premium to own a home. As a seller, it is imperative to carefully consider all recent comparable sales, taking into account location and amenities, and price accordingly. Then, listen carefully to how the market responds to your home and make any necessary adjustments.
Foreclosures and Short Sales: Since October 1, 2009, the distressed inventory has grown by 37%.
The active distressed inventory has increased from 2,346 homes on October 1st and now totals 3,217, levels not seen since May of 2009. The distressed inventory now represents 31% of the current active inventory. Last year at this time, there were 2,919 distressed homes on the market, representing 32% of the active inventory. The number of foreclosures within the active listing inventory increased by 29 homes in the past two weeks from 530 to 559. The expected market time for foreclosures is 1.52 months, an exceptionally HOT seller’s market. Short sales, where a homeowner attempts to sell a home for less than the total outstanding loans against a home, requiring lender approval, increased by 108 homes over the past two weeks and now total 2,658. The expected market time for short sales is 2.28 months, still a HOT seller’s market.
Interest Rates: Interest rates are at a 60 year low and will NOT last.
Everybody is so focused on price and the current historically low interest rates have become an expected part of our real estate market. However, with all of the money that the Federal government has poured into our economy, there is a real threat of major inflation on the horizon. One of the only ways to counter the threat is to raise rates. Due to the lackluster economy, the Federal Reserve is currently stuck and unable to raise rates in the short run, but sooner or later they will be forced to make a change. Rates are predicted to increase to 6% over the course of the next year. As interest rates rise, buyers can afford less of a home. This is best illustrated in an example. For a buyer with an income of $100,000 and putting 20% down, a rise in interest rates from 5% to 6% equates in a drop in home affordability from $590,000 to $540,000, a $50,000 drop. Buyers waiting for that “good buy” may find it next year, but at a price, with higher rates and a larger monthly payment.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Interest Rates: Rates are expected to rise which drops home affordability.
Buyers are motivated to purchase knowing that the expected rise in interest rates will ultimately make their payments go up. But, it is more than that. As interest rates rise, buyers can afford less of a home. This is best illustrated in an example. For a buyer with an income of $100,000 and putting 20% down, a rise in interest rates from 5% to 6% equates in in home affordability from $590,000 to $540,000, a $50,000 drop. With the government no longer committing to purchasing pools of loans, which ended on March 31st, interest rates are expected to rise a full percent over the coming year.
Housing Demand: Demand has not seen these levels since June of 2005
Demand, the number of new pending sales over the prior month, increased by 231 homes over the prior two weeks and now totals 3,979, a 3% increase and the height thus far in 2010. Demand is 347 pending sales stronger than last year at this time and 1,439 stronger than two years ago. Demand should hit a plateau through the remainder of the Spring market.
Active Listing Inventory: The active inventory has continued its gradual climb and just reached levels not seen since June of last year.
Over the past two weeks, the inventory has increased by 174 homes to 9,351, a 2% increase. We started the year at 7,165 listings and have added 2,186 homes to the active inventory to date. Last year, the inventory continued to drop from mid-March to the New Year. The increase seems gradual, but when looked at since the beginning of the year, a 31% increase is pretty profound. Agents in the trenches are stating that there are more overpriced, unrealistic sellers placing their homes on the market. Prior to the start of the year I forecasted that the discretionary seller would return; however, if more and more homes are placed on the market at unrealistic values, the inventory will continue to rise. This rise in inventory could dampen demand. This is a trend that we will have to continue to watch. If you are a homeowner contemplating placing your home on the market much higher than the most recent comparable sales and pending activity, the current market will not support your line of thinking. Buyers are not willing to pay a sizeable sum extra for a home simply because there is more demand and more competition. There is just too much distress that remains in the market and the distressed market is keeping a lid on appreciation.
Expected Market Time: Every price range experienced a drop in the expected market time. The expected market time for all of Orange County dropped slightly from 2.45 months two weeks ago to 2.35 months today. Yet, there still are two distinct markets: homes priced below $1 million, HOT, and homes priced above $1 million COLD. It is important to note that the lower the range, the HOTTER the market. For homes priced below $500,000, the hottest range, the expected market time is 1.6 months. Compare that to homes priced above $4 million where the expected market time is a frigid 29.5 months.
Distressed Inventory: The number of active foreclosures increased while the number of active short sales decreased.
The number of active distressed homes on the market, all short sales and foreclosures combined, increased by only 9 homes in the past two weeks and now total 2,790, or 29.8% of the current active inventory. Last year at this time, there were 3,724 distressed homes on the market, representing 35.9% of the active inventory. The number of foreclosures within the active listing inventory increased by 38 homes in the past two weeks from 416 to 454. The expected market time for foreclosures is 1.12 months, an extremely HOT seller’s market. Short sales, where a homeowner attempts to sell a home for less than the total outstanding loans against a home, which requires lender approval, decreased by 29 homes over the past two weeks and now total 2,336. The expected market time for short sales is 1.53 months, also a HOT seller’s market. Everybody’s looking for a deal, so there’s a lot of competition in purchasing foreclosures and short sales.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Housing Demand: Demand has not seen these levels since the beginning of August 2005.
Demand, the number of new pending sales over the prior month, increased by 126 homes over the prior two weeks and now totals 3,748, a 3% increase and the height thus far in 2010. Last year’s height in demand was reached in June at 3,652 pending sales. Demand is 195 pending sales stronger than last year at this time and 1,374 stronger than two years ago. It seems as if demand is beginning to hit a plateau, so we will have to watch and see if that trend continues over the coming weeks.
Developing Trends: The active listing inventory has continued to gradually increase after bottoming at the beginning of the year.
Over the past two weeks, the inventory has increased by 266 homes to 9,177. We started the year at 7,165 listings and have added 2,012 homes to the active inventory thus far. Last year, the inventory continued to drop from mid-March to the New Year. Towards the end of last year, the drop was probably more in line with the cyclical drop in the inventory that starts in September until the end of the year. Naturally, during the beginning of the year and into the Spring market, more and more homeowners place their homes on the market in anticipation of the strongest time of the year to sell, the Spring market. In 2006 and 2007, homeowners often tested the market and attempted to obtain values above the current fair market value. There were a ton of overpriced listings that remained on the market and were not successful in ever selling. Instead, they just clogged the inventory and it methodically grew, reaching a height in August 2007 of just shy of 18,000 listings. In 2008 and 2009, homeowners no longer tested the market and the discretionary seller emerged. During the second half of 2009, the Orange County active listing inventory continued to shed homes and not as many new, fresh homes were placed on the market. REALTORS® in the trenches were complaining of a lack of inventory and nothing “fresh” to show their buyers. We still here that there is a lack of inventory, but behind the scenes, the active inventory is slowly but surely replenishing in every price range. It remains to be seen if the trend in an increase in the active inventory continues. Will the discretionary homeowner return or will more and more homeowners place their toe in the water, testing the market? We will have to wait and see. There are currently 1,384 fewer homes on the market today than just one year ago and 6,379 fewer than two years ago.
Expected Market Time: The lower the range, the lower the expected market time.
The expected market time for all of Orange County is currently at 2.45 months, a slight drop from 2.46 months two weeks ago. For homes priced below $500,000, the expected market time is 1.63 months, a deep seller’s market. For homes priced between $500,000 and $1 million, the expected market time is 2.84 months, still a seller’s market. For homes priced above $1 million, the expected market time is 9.44 months, the higher the range, the slower the market. For homes priced above $4 million, the expected market time is 38.44 months, or over 3 years.
Distressed Inventory: Again, not much has changed in the distressed inventory.
The number of active distressed homes on the market, all short sales and foreclosures combined, decreased by 33 homes to 2,781 and represent 30.3% of the active inventory. Last year at this time, there were 4,006 distressed homes on the market, representing 37.9% of the active inventory. The number of foreclosures within the active listing inventory decreased by two homes in the past two weeks from 418 to 416. Yes, that is correct. With all of the talk of foreclosures there are only 416 on the market in all of Orange County. The expected market time for foreclosures is 1.01 months. Short sales is a different story; there are plenty of short sales in Orange County. Short sales are where a homeowner attempts to sell a home for less than the total outstanding loans against the home, which requires the lender (or lenders in many cases) to approve the short sale, indicating their willingness to take less than the full payoff of a loan. Most short sales are not fast like their name would indicate and, on average, take months to close. The number of short sales within the active listing inventory decreased by 31 and now total 2,365. The expected market time for short sales is 1.61 months, also a HOT seller’s market. Everybody’s looking for a deal, so foreclosures and short sales tend to fly off of the market.
The Most Absurd Tax Credit EVER: The latest tax credit for first time homebuyers in California is going to run out in mid-May.
I am still scratching my head trying to understand why California approved $100 million towards a first time homebuyer tax credit. These are for transactions that close escrow on or after May 1, 2010. The $10,000 credit is spread out over three years. So, when will the $100 million run out? For every buyer, the state is counting $5,700 against the $100 million. That equates to 17,543 first time home buyers. Based upon the current wave of first time home buyer activity, the credit is forecasted to last less than two weeks. And, if there are buyers that are supposed to closed at the end of this month and are looking to delay closing until after May 1st, the credit may end even sooner.