The banking bailouts shouldered by the US taxpayer continue through the government loan guarantees keeping mortgage rates low to support bubble-era prices. Many homeowners held out hope that if they could just keep current on their mortgage long enough, the government would come to their rescue in the form of a mandated bailout program. Part of this fantasy was not just that people could keep their homes, but that they could keep living their lifestyle as they did during the bubble. What few seemed to realize was any government bailout program would be designed to benefit the lenders by keeping borrowers in a perpetual state of indentured servitude. The only group politicians really cared about helping were bankers. Do you…[READ MORE]

If high-paying export industry jobs are eliminated because of the rising dollar, then home sales will suffer due to diminished demand. The fundamentals of housing demand are job and wage growth. Lenders and the federal reserve can manipulate borrowing costs to impact prices, and they can manipulate mortgage qualification standards to create more temporary homeowners, but this chicanery does not represent fundamental support. The powers-that-be already manipulated rates as far as they can push them, and the endless pleas from realtors to lower lending standards fall on deaf ears. The props are played out. Endless market props can mask a weak market for a time, but for the housing market to really improve, the economy needs to produce more jobs…[READ MORE]

Down payment insurance has the potential to address a serious objection of frightened buyers in the wake of the housing bust. Homebuilders rely on high-pressure sales tactics to close every potential buyer that walks in a model center. They have a quick answer to every possible buyer objection, and they are second only to used car salesmen for creating false urgency to close deals. Since the housing bust, new home sales faltered, and homebuilders responded by offering incentives ranging from tricked-out interiors to interest-rate buy downs. But ever since the bust, homebuilder salespeople were unable to overcome buyer's fears about losing their down payments in another crash, particularly since builders sell at nosebleed prices. A new program may solve the…[READ MORE]

Overall housing inventory is not low, but the inventory available at prices buyers can afford is artificially low. Starting in late 2008, lenders began deferring foreclosures to stem the tide of REO flooding the housing market during a time when buyers were few and far between. This slowed the rate of decline in home prices, but it didn't reverse the downward momentum. Starting in 2011, lenders made significant changes to their loss mitigation procedures. They dramatically slowed the processing of foreclosures, aggressively modified delinquent mortgages, and they stopped approving short sales, particularly if the borrower had assets. As a direct result of these policies MLS inventory plummeted, and remaining homes for sale weren't the must-sell inventory that plagued the market…[READ MORE]

Historically, properties in this market sell at a 18.5% discount. Today's discount is 22.9%. This market is 4.3% undervalued. Median home price is $307,600 with a rental parity value of $405,100. This market's discount is $97,500. Monthly payment affordability has been worsening over the last 5 month(s). Momentum suggests worsening affordability. Resale prices on a $/SF basis increased from $172/SF to $172/SF. Resale prices have been rising for 7 month(s). Over the last 12 months, resale prices rose 3.8% indicating a longer term upward price trend. Median rental rates increased $16 last month from $1,775 to $1,791. The current capitalization rate (rent/price) is 5.6%. Rents have been rising for 12 month(s). Price momentum signals rising rents over the next three…[READ MORE]

Low house prices make for lower debt service payments that benefit the economy as money money is freed up to circulate and buy goods and services. Low house prices are good for the economy because low house prices make for low loan balances and less debt-service. When borrowers have excessive home debt, the excess comes directly out of disposable income. Since consumer spending is such an important component of the economy, the excess interest payments are a direct financial drain. As long as the debt on real estate is excessive and capital is tied up in non-performing assets, the economy will suffer. It’s really that simple. The solution is equally simple: foreclose on delinquent borrowers, wipe out the debt, and…[READ MORE]

Renters forced to pay higher rents don't have the income left over to save for a down payment; thus housing suffers. When bankers examined the common characteristics of borrowers who defaulted on their loans during the housing bust, they noticed that down payment was strongly correlated to default rates. In fact, as the down payment approached zero, default rates rose exponentially. The highest default rates were among homebuilders who depended on zero down buyers often getting a down payment from a charity funded by the homebuilder. This prompted the FHA and the GSEs to ban down payment assistance from third parties other than immediate family. Lenders, homebuilders, and realtors lobbied to eliminate a down payment requirement from the qualified mortgage…[READ MORE]

Contrarian investing requires a good analysis and the faith to act on it. I avoided buying a house during the housing bubble because my analysis of the monthly cashflow showed it was more advantageous to rent than to own. With prices rising rapidly, I was told I was a fool, a cowardly fool who didn't have the balls to cash in on the can't-miss investment opportunity of a lifetime. I recognized an impending disaster. In 2010, when house prices were depressed, nobody wanted to own real estate. The government offered huge tax breaks to anyone willing to buy a home, and because prices were still on a downward trajectory, few people were willing to buy. I recognized a great opportunity.…[READ MORE]

When mortgage rates are low but rising, equity growth comes through amortization rather than appreciation. Equity is the cash value stored in a owner's house. Many people assume equity is the difference between what a house is worth and what they owe on it, but this overstates the reality by 8% or more of the estimated value because if a homeowner needed to convert the house to cash, they would need to sell it, discounting the property from their perceived value and incurring fees and costs in the process. People who purchase real estate use the phrase “building equity” to describe the overall increase in equity over time. However, it is important to look at the factors which either create…[READ MORE]

Historically, properties in this market sell at a 9.5% discount. Today's discount is 12.8%. This market is 3.3% undervalued. Median home price is $510,000 with a rental parity value of $590,000. This market's discount is $80,000. Monthly payment affordability has been worsening over the last 5 month(s). Momentum suggests worsening affordability. Resale prices on a $/SF basis increased from $400/SF to $402/SF. Resale prices have been rising for 2 month(s). Over the last 12 months, resale prices rose 4.3% indicating a longer term upward price trend. Median rental rates increased $19 last month from $2,590 to $2,609. The current capitalization rate (rent/price) is 4.9%. Rents have been rising for 12 month(s). Price momentum signals rising rents over the next three…[READ MORE]

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In Memoriam: Tony Bliss 1966-2012
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