Category Archives: Housing Data

The latest housing data, trends, and analysis.

A Bear Turns Bull: There Is No Trigger For Another Housing Crash

foreclosure_massacreHome prices are basically back to where they were at the peak of the housing bubble, so why aren’t people afraid of another housing crash?

Larry Roberts, one of the most popular “bubble bloggers” explains:

I have a challenge for housing bears: outline a realistic scenario where prices crash from here. I’m an old housing bear; I would be happy to carefully and loudly pontificate on an upcoming market crash, but I simply can’t come up with a realistic scenario whereby it occurs. Sure, there are implausible scenarios, mass investor exodus, suicidal lender policy changes, sudden interest rate spike to 7%+, but nothing that seems very likely — or possible at all.

The premise of the original housing market collapse went something like this: People took on mortgage debt which couldn’t be sustained by current income; those borrowers were going to default, lenders would foreclose, lenders would liquidate their inventory, and the resulting flood of must-sell inventory would push prices lower quickly. For the most part, the bust played out in that fashion until the rules were changed — mark-to-fantasy accounting, loan modifications, shadow inventory, long-term squatting. Once the rules were changed, lenders were able to gain control of the flow of inventory, and house prices bottomed and the bubble reflated strongly. With all these measures in place, and with no pressure to remove them, a housing bust with rapidly declining house prices is very unlikely in the foreseeable future.

I don’t see a crash coming any time soon. As long as supply continues to be restricted and the percentage of all-cash purchases is high, prices simply won’t go down. Sales volumes may continue to decline, but prices will remain suspended where more buyers can’t afford them unless something changes at the banks and they begin approving more short sales or foreclosing on their delinquent borrowers rather than modifying their loans. At some point, we may see a medium-term slow-burn decline like the mid 90s, but a 00s type crash isn’t forthcoming.

Back in 2005, there was a trigger for a collapse: resetting subprime loans. Borrowers had to either sell or be foreclosed on, causing inventory to spike and prices to begin their tumble. Today, however, there is no trigger. Most troubled loans have been modified to the point where owners have zero interest in ever selling. Instead of homeowners being incentivized to sell, they are incentivized to stay. The result is that our normal housing inventory is down by 50-75% across the Bay Area. 

It makes sense that, at some point, prices will become so high that even people with modified 2% interest rates will decide to cash out. At that point, we should see inventory normalize and the rally cool off. 

That point doesn’t appear to be coming any time soon.


Fewer Bay Area Home Sales In December

As the Bay Area’s housing inventory continued to decline through the end of 2013, so did the number of homes sold. December’s existing home sales fell 12.7 percent from 2012. Meanwhile, home prices exploded 23.9% year-over-year.

More, from DataQuick:

Sales almost always increase from November to December, usually around 8 percent. Last month’s sales were 21.3 percent below the December average of 8,529 since 1988, when when DataQuick’s statistics begin. Bay Area sales haven’t been above average for any particular month in more than seven years. The most active December was in 2003 when 12,349 homes sold, while the least active was in 2007, when 5,065 sold.

The median price paid for a home in the Bay Area last month was $548,500. That was 0.3 percent lower than $550,000 in November, and 23.9 percent above $442,750 for December 2012. While the median has been at roughly the current level since last summer, it has increased year-over-year for 21 consecutive months.

The Bay Area median peaked at $665,000 in June and July 2007, then dropped to a low of $290,000 in March 2009. While much of the median’s ups and downs in recent years can be attributed to shifts in the types of homes sold, it now appears most of the current year-over-year gain reflects a rise in home values.

For 14 consecutive months the Bay Area median has risen more than 20 percent on a year-over-year basis.

“If current trends hold, including year-over-year price appreciation of 20-plus percent, the typical home would be selling for $50,000 to $60,000 more by spring. Perhaps twice that at the upper end of the market. That could loosen up quite a bit of inventory. The question then is, how much of the pent-up demand that accumulated during the down years is still there? An additional issue is the fussy mortgage market, although things are moving in the right direction there, slowly,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president.

I can tell you from in the trenches, typical homes are already selling for $50,000 more and we’re still in January. The market is absolutely on fire.

 Bay Area December 2014 Home Sales

Danville Area Housing Supply Non-Existent

The number of homes for sale along the 680 Corridor continues to dwindle, as steady demand gobbles up the few homes remaining for sale. Danville, Pleasanton, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek all have less than a 1-month supply of homes.

2014 is off to a very bullish start for home prices.

Danville Housing Supply, January 2014

*Months of supply represents how long it would take to sell all of the current homes for sale, at the current pace, if no additional homes were listed. The figure measures current supply versus current demand. The lower the number, the more quickly homes are selling, the more likely there are to be bidding wars, and the more quickly prices are being pushed up. A higher number means more homes are sitting unsold and are having to drop prices to compete for buyers.