I’ve received several notes, comments and emails on a couple recent post I put up regarding the state of the housing market. Most people who wrote me sounded a lot the same: The market is going to go down! Some said 30% and even one gentleman said 50%. All who predicted the downfall of the housing market had one thing in common however, and that was that they were ready, waiting and that they were buyers. So, is that what’s going on?
As I put in the heading, these are my thoughts, this week. Next might be different so I am giving a heads up that like the Pandemic itself, opinions are subject to change. OK, with that disclaimer out of the way the question is, do I agree with this gloomy assessment? The short answer is no. I recently pointed out in one thread that it took over 3 years following Lehman’s collapse for the market to hit a low of -30%. Of course, this wasn’t every market either (Reach Out To Tim Here). Some went further like Las Vegas and parts of Florida but others like West LA, maybe hit 20-25%. My local community, the Conejo Valley and along the LA/Ventura County border, saw a drop around 30% at the lowest point. Therefore it stands to reason that if the market were to drop 30% it hardly seems logical that it would drop so much in less time than it took to do so during the Great Recession.
I want to make a couple of other observations here that I think are important. First is demographics. As I’ve been writing for more than half a decade, the Millennials are only now starting household formation. Prior to the Pandemic, according to the National Association of Realtors, Millennials represented 42% of the home buying public. Is that going to change? Yes, it is I’m afraid… it’s going to increase. Remember, Millennials are the largest generation in US history – larger than the Baby Boomers, so yes, they will remain buyers and they will dominate the percentage of buyers in the market for years to come.
My second observation is that inventory is tight and as I’ve written at length, that condition is not going to change. In fact, it may even get worse. Follow me on this. One of the reasons inventory was tight was the afore mentioned increase in the volume of qualified buyers. Another is that seniors were choosing to age in place so unlike previous generations who would move once they got to 70, Baby Boomers and their elders of The Greatest Generation, were not moving and instead modifying their homes to accommodate aging in place. Now ask yourself this: In light of the current health crisis gripping assisted care facilities, would you say it is more or less likely that seniors are going to sell and move into these facilities? Yeah, that’s what I think too: Not a chance. In fact, if you want to find a new career, try mobile nursing or the less skill-required in-home caregiver. The elderly are not moving unless they have no choice. This means fewer homes for sale and that means continued tight inventory for sale.
My third observation is not something that can be overstated. There is a huge difference with the Pandemic Recession and the Great Recession and that is that housing and lending lead the Great Recession which is not the case now. Bad loans, bad borrowers and a bad economy sapped all the equity people had and they found that not only were they out of work they were upside down on their mortgage. With no reason to keep paying for a home worth a fraction of what they owed, short sales and foreclosures ensued. Contrast that with the condition today. Lenders due to Dodd-Frank, are better capitalized than ever before. The stress testes they are had to endure over the past decade will prove to be one of the great saviors of our country and economy because the banks aren’t weak, they are strong (Search for Homes Here). Coupled with the fact that prior to this self-created recession, Americans held the highest level of home equity on record. So, no one is walking away from their worthless real estate, instead they are holding on or if need be, selling and reaping profits. Selling may result in soft prices, perhaps a little lower if demand is insufficient to absorb this new inventory, but no one is handing over keys. They will transact and they will have money in their pocket to carry them forward and most likely help them to buy something albeit perhaps smaller or more manageable. Thus, any decline in value in that scenario is going to be mitigated by tight inventory.
Finally, there is the Federal Government and the Central bank, The Fed. There’s an old saying on Wall Street, don’t bet against the Fed or don’t fight the Fed. This is really important because unlike the collapse of Lehman where the Feds let Lehman fail only to trigger a market collapse and subsequent bailout of the “Too big to fail” companies, the Fed is not going to make the same mistake. Barring the apocalypse scenario with The Corona Virus killing millions and us having no country to come back to, the government is going to support the banks so long as the banks support the borrowers. No one wants a repeat of 2008-12 more than the banks except maybe the Fed.
There you have it. While there may be some softness in prices in a semi near term having as much to do with the logistics of selling in a pandemic, I personally am only hearing rumblings of inventory shortages and buyers who want to buy. I am hearing of multiple offers for home under $1M, increased inquiries and historically low rates. Sure, this thing could get uglier really fast, but I think it’s too early to know that and until we see foreclosure notices go up en masse – and don’t forget there are currently Federal “no foreclosure” rules in place – I wouldn’t bet against the housing market forestalling a real estate crash.
I’d love to hear your thoughts so please share this post (Visit Tim’s Facebook Here) and let me have it! Agree or disagree?