Beware the False Bottom in Housing
Getting to the "bottom" of the housing market.
In the coming months, housing-market data is likely to show price stabilization in many of the country's hardest hit areas. Pundits, government officials and real-estate professionals will loudly proclaim the worst of our real estate woes are behind us. Back in reality, however, this data will simply reinforce the axiom that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.
The lion share of home price declines have, thus far, been focused in low-end markets -areas where property values became the most detached from housing-market fundamentals. Even though the high end is now declining, sales activity is still heavily concentrated in the country's most distressed markets.
Taking a look at the data below compiled by my firm, Cirios Real Estate -- which depict sales transactions for the part of the San Francisco Bay Area between San Francisco and San Jose known as the Peninsula -- one can see how rising home prices from 2003 to 2007 shifted sales transactions towards more expensive properties. This makes intuitive sense, and should naturally push up both average and median home prices.
Click to enlarge
Since the market peaked, however, notice how the percentage of sales of homes under $400,000 shot up to more than 50% of sales in the first quarter of this year, from as low as 9% in 2007.
Conversely, sales over $1,000,000 that accounted for almost a quarter of transactions in 2007 now make up less than 9% of total sales so far in 2009.
This heavy concentration of sales in low-end markets is skewing home price data to the downside, exaggerating the impact of depressed markets on broad measures of prices.
As the foreclosure epidemic spreads outwards to more well-to-do areas, and job losses force previously stable homeowners to sell into a weak high-end market, more expensive homes will begin to make up a greater percentage of total transactions. This dynamic -- not an overall rise in property values -- is likely to push up average and median home price measures.
In other words, high-end markets will be falling as price discovery rears its ugly head, while low-end markets are flat at best, as price declines reach exhaustion levels and investors step in to buy. High levels of supply and looming shadow inventory of foreclosures will prevent meaningful appreciation in these distressed areas for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, data will show a housing market on the rebound.
No doubt, banks like Wells Fargo (WFC), Citigroup (C) and Bank of America (BAC) will cheer the end of the real-estate slump. Real estate professionals will pound the table that now's the time to buy (just like they said back in 2007). Government officials will proudly assert their mortgage-relief efforts were a success.
Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.
In memory of our fallen friend and trusted colleague, Bennet Sedacca, 100% of the donations made to the RP Foundation through April will be channeled to philanthropic endeavors consistent with the RP mission, working closely with the Sedacca clan in the distribution of those funds. We thank you kindly for your support as we strive to effect positive change in the lives of children.
The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opin=
=3D =3D3D ion about the performance of securities and financial markets by =
the wr=3D iter=3D3D s whose articles appear on the site. The views expresse=
d by the wri=3D ters are=3D3D not necessarily the views of Minyanville Medi=
a, Inc. or members=3D of its man=3D3D agement. Nothing contained on the web=
site is intended to con=3D stitute a recom=3D3D mendation or advice address=
ed to an individual investor =3D or category of inve=3D3D stors to purchase=
, sell or hold any security, or to =3D take any action with re=3D3D spect t=
o the prospective movement of the securit=3D ies markets or to solicit t=3D=
3D he purchase or sale of any security. Any inv=3D estment decisions must b=
e made =3D3D by the reader either individually or in =3D consultation with =
his or her invest=3D3D ment professional. Minyanville write=3D rs and staff=
may trade or hold position=3D3D s in securities that are discuss=3D ed in =
articles appearing on the website. Wr=3D3D iters of articles are requir=3D =
ed to disclose whether they have a position in =3D3D any stock or fund disc=
us=3D sed in an article, but are not permitted to disclos=3D3D e the size o=
r direct=3D ion of the position. Nothing on this website is intende=3D3D d =
to solicit bus=3D iness of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Mi=
ny=3D3D anville mana=3D gement and staff as well as contributing writers wi=
ll not respo=3D3D nd to em=3D ails or other communications requesting inves=
Copyright 2011 Minyanville Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Daily Recap Newsletter