Another Coffee Bet

After mortgage rates went over 6% again yesterday, the doomers will be burying the real estate market over the next few months.  You can see why – rates have been dropping for a generation; for them to now go up from 3% to 6% in a few months is unprecedented for today’s buyers:

But having the majority of buyers paying over the list price (especially those paying $100,000+ over list) was unprecedented too. Those who haven’t bought a house yet must be suffering from real estate whiplash today!

Where is it going to go now?

Is there any sort of precedent to reflect on?  When this blog was in its infancy, I made the now-infamous Grand Poobah of Predictions on September 16, 2006 on how I thought the market was going to unravel.  It was contested by many, and Rob Dawg issued his challenge which evolved into the Coffee Bet.

If you’d like to revisit history, scroll down to the bottom here and read the comments too:

Yesterday, I told Rob that I will post my latest thoughts on Monday, and asked him to do the same –  or at least critique what I had to say.  It will give me a couple of days to think of all the variables – which there are several now that have never been in play before!

Come back next week with your thoughts too!


After another weekend of multiple-offer situations where the listing agents made no attempt whatsoever to create a bidding war, and instead just shut down the showings, it’s hard to believe there is any downturn coming our way. When you can get a mortgage rate in the twos, the demand is unyielding.

But some authors still want you to believe that doom is around the corner – they should talk to realtors on the street!  An excerpt:

The price of low-tier housing in San Diego County skyrocketed after the latter half of 2012. 2015 experienced another price increase, due to the boost given by decreased mortgage rates throughout 2015 and 2016. Lower mortgage rates free up more of a buyer’s monthly mortgage payment to put towards a bigger principal. Thus, San Diego’s high home prices continued to find fuel from increased buyer purchasing power.

But in 2018, home price increases sharply declined in reaction to slowing sales and rising interest rates, which began in late-2017. Home prices have since turned back up, but today lack the fundamental support of home sales volume to continue.  The annual pace of increase is now just 5%, lower than in recent years when the annual rise averaged around 10%.

Accurate home price reports run about two months behind current events. Even when caught up, sticky prices tend to persist several months beyond the moment when home sales volume begins to slow. Starting in March 2020, economic volatility and shelter-in-place orders caused home sales volume to decline dramatically. However, historically low interest rates have provided a boost for buyer purchasing power, which has propped up home prices thus far.

Later in 2020, the impact of record job losses will see downward pressure on home prices. The overall home price trend for the next couple of years will be down, the result of job losses and plummeting sales volume. As during the 2008 recession, the drop in sales volume and prices will first be most volatile on the coast, before rippling outward to inland areas.

Link to Article

Sales and pricing should be directly connected to inventory.

When there is hardly anything to buy, sales may decline, but pricing would stay the same or go higher because only the quality homes would be selling.  A surge of homes-for-sale in 2021 would fuel the demand and energize the marketplace… a point.

There will be a fine line between frenzy and glut!

Get Good Help!

Mortgage Mess Ahead?

Low mortgage rates and large down payments are how buyers today are able to afford these lofty prices. Wondering where the big money comes from? Some of it could be from cash-out refinances:

The article has a couple of other zingers too – excerpts:

In recent years, wealthy homeowners have gotten into the cash-out refi game in a big way. A CoreLogic report in January 2019 found 230 active giant refinanced mortgages between $10 million and $20 million — most originated since 2013. Almost half of these loans were identified as cash-out refis. The average amount of cash pulled out was $6.6 million.  Last year, the average had risen to $8.3 million.

Almost 10 million cash-out refis were originated during the wildest bubble years of 2004–07. While a significant number of them have been foreclosed, most still have not.  As I noted in a previous column, mortgage servicers nationwide have been extremely reluctant to foreclose on long-term deadbeats since 2012.

Another column earlier this year laid out the enormous problem of modified mortgages that have re-defaulted one or more times. Close to two-thirds of all sub-prime bubble era mortgages had already been modified by 2015.  The re-default disaster was so great that by mid-2010 there were more subprime modified mortgages re-defaulting than there were delinquent loans being foreclosed and liquidated by mortgage servicers.

The author is probably the biggest doomer on the beat. He called me once and insisted that I agree with him on his gloomy predictions, and when I wouldn’t, he hung up on me.  But his articles here are a good reminder – whatever happened to those loan modifications?

Link to Full Article

Who Will Give Them Away?

Hat tip to PC for sending in this doomy article about the future of real estate – an excerpt:

At some point, housing prices become so expensive that no matter how low interest rates go, the average household simply can’t afford to buy.

We may very well be at that point now. But even if not yet, it’s clear that the tremendous tailwind driving US housing prices since the Great Financial Crisis is sputtering out.

With this year’s plummet in mortgage rates and the seasonally-strong summer months just ended, one would expect a strong boost to home sales. But instead, just reported a highly unusual price drop from July to August — the largest summer decline seen since the company started compiling this data set.

Suddenly, many of the most incandescent of the red-hot US housing markets are now cooling off fast. This list of the 16 Fastest Shrinking Housing Markets includes San Francisco, San Jose and Boulder, CO

It’s not just prices that are slumping. Home construction is plummeting in hot markets, too. Take San Diego, which just reported that there were 43% fewer homes built in H1 2019 than the year prior. All of SoCal fell 25% for the same period.

What’s behind the sudden softening?

Well, as mentioned, affordability is a big issue. While wage growth has been anemic since the Great Recession, US household debt is now higher than it has ever been.

Read the full article here:

We should get a steady stream of doom from now on because it’s such good click bait.  Just look for the only answer that matters in each article: who is going to give their house away?

Doom, 2019 Style

One of the more vocal doomers is at it again. 

Here’s a link to an article from 2014 when he thought the sky was falling:

Today’s version – an excerpt:

There are growing signs that U.S. home prices are no longer rising. If this is indeed the case, now is the time for sellers or prospective sellers to take a good look at the state of housing markets around the country.  To make smart decisions, home sellers as well as buyers need to find out whether home price gains are simply slowing or whether housing markets are actually topping out.

An excellent publication,U.S. Home Sales Report, published by real-estate data firm Attom Data Solutions, gives a detailed look at conditions in major U.S. housing markets. This quarterly report provides data on the actual gross profit that sellers pocketed in 124 housing markets nationwide.  It tracks every home sold in that metro and compares the price to what the seller previously paid for the house. An average is then taken for all the homes sold in that quarter. The result is the average gross profit in each metro before commissions are deducted.

More Bubble Talk

This expert says the next recession will cause home prices to come down hard, but we learned last time that people have to live somewhere, and the government will save us.

An excerpt:

Stack’s prescience makes his latest warning particularly ominous. He has dusted off the same Housing Bellwether Barometer that raised red flags more than a decade ago and is watching it to see when — not if — the nation’s booming housing market will turn down.

That barometer, Stack explained, is an index of “the most sensitive stocks in the housing industry” — including homebuilders and mortgage companies. It recovered nicely after the 2008-2009 crash and has been flat for the past few years. But over the past 12 months, Stack said in an interview, it “started to go up like a rocket ship again, similar to what it did back in 2004-2005.

That tracks the anecdotal evidence he’s seen of frantic bidding wars in some of the nation’s hottest markets. “It’s that kind of nuttiness that defines the psychology of a bubble,” he said.

Some key statistics also point to a new housing bubble:

  • The Case-Shiller national index hit all-time highs last December and continues to rise.
  • Case-Shiller indexes show prices in Boston, San Francisco, and Charlotte, N.C. about 10% above their previous peaks; Portland and Seattle, around 20% higher, and Denver and Dallas, 40% higher. These are the new boom towns, replacing Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Miami the last time around.
  • The SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF has quintupled (up 400%) from its March 2009 lows, vastly outperforming the broad S&P 500 , which has gained around 270%.

Stack says the best way to measure housing’s true value is to compare it with long-term inflation, and that measure is also raising a warning flag.

“Median family home prices are 32% above the long-term inflationary trend — in other words it has to fall 32% to get down to where it was,” Stack explained. “That’s not as bad as the 35% in 2005, but it does kind of wake you up and say, this isn’t normal, this is going to end badly.” To me, there isn’t much difference between being 32% and 35% overvalued.

Stack acknowledges there are big differences between 2005 and now. “You’re not seeing the esoteric mortgages, the so-called liars’ loans…,people buying multiple homes, thinking that they can rent it and make money on it,” he said.

Back then there was rampant mortgage fraud, huge demand from Wall Street for subprime mortgage securities and rating agencies giving them black checks, with no regulatory oversight whatsoever. Also, says Stack, there was an inventory glut then and a shortage now that is causing prices to soar.

On the other hand, “you are seeing lending institutions loan 95% or more of the value of the home,” he said. “That is a problem, because when home prices come down, it makes it very easy for the home buyer to walk away from that mortgage.”

One key similarity: “We still have a lot of easy money out there for mortgages,” he said. “We have a Federal Reserve policy today that’s unfortunately like the early 2000s,…, and it’s conducive to bubbles.” The federal funds rate now is very close to the 1% low where Greenspan pushed it, and that triggered the final, disastrous stages of the last bubble.

The big danger, of course, is the next recession, which Stack views as inevitable. “At some point we’re going to have another economic downturn, another economic recession,” he said.  “When we see that downturn…you’re going to see [housing] prices come down quite hard over a period of 12- to 24 months.” He added that he doesn’t foresee a recession until at least 2018.

Stack’s record isn’t perfect — in early 2016 he called a bear market that never happened — but it’s been excellent over the long run, and going back to the 1987 stock market crash, he’s had a knack for spotting bubbles.

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