Evidence The Housing Bubble Is Bursting?: “Home Sellers Are Slashing Prices At The Highest Rate In At Least Eight Years”

The housing market indicated that a crisis was coming in 2008.  Is the same thing happening once again in 2018?  For several years, the housing market has been one of the bright spots for the U.S. economy.  Home prices, especially in the hottest markets on the east and west coasts, had been soaring.  But now that has completely changed, and home sellers are cutting prices at a pace that we have not seen since the last recession.  In case you are wondering, this is definitely a major red flag for the economy.  According to CNBC, home sellers are “slashing prices at the highest rate in at least eight years”…

After three years of soaring home prices, the heat is coming off the U.S. housing market. Home sellers are slashing prices at the highest rate in at least eight years, especially in the West, where the price gains were hottest.

It is quite interesting that prices are being cut fastest in the markets that were once the hottest, because that is exactly what happened during the subprime mortgage meltdown in 2008 too.

In a previous article, I documented the fact that experts were warning that “the U.S. housing market looks headed for its worst slowdown in years”, but even I was stunned by how bad these new numbers are.

According to Redfin, more than one out of every four homes for sale in America had a price drop within the most recent four week period…

In the four weeks ended Sept. 16, more than one-quarter of the homes listed for sale had a price drop, according to Redfin, a real estate brokerage. That is the highest level since the company began tracking the metric in 2010. Redfin defines a price drop as a reduction in the list price of more than 1 percent and less than 50 percent.

That is absolutely crazy.

I have never even heard of a number anywhere close to that in a 30 day period.

Of course the reason why prices are being dropped is because homes are not selling.  The supply of homes available for sale is shooting up, and that is good news for buyers but really bad news for sellers.

It could be argued that home prices needed to come down because they had gotten ridiculously high in recent months, and I don’t think that there are too many people that would argue with that.

But is this just an “adjustment”, or is this the beginning of another crisis for the housing market?

Just like a decade ago, millions of American families have really stretched themselves financially to get into homes that they really can’t afford.  If a new economic downturn results in large numbers of Americans losing their jobs, we are once again going to see mortgage defaults rise to stunning heights.

We live at a time when the middle class is shrinking and most families are barely making it from month to month.  The cost of living is steadily rising, but paychecks are not, and that is resulting in a huge middle class squeeze.  I really like how my good friend MN Gordon made this point in his most recent article

The general burden of the American worker is the daily task of squaring the difference between the booming economy reported by the government bureaus and the dreary economy reported in their biweekly paychecks. There is sound reason to believe that this task, this burden of the American worker, has been reduced to some sort of practical joke. An exhausting game of chase the wild goose.

How is it that the economy’s been growing for nearly a decade straight, but the average worker’s seen no meaningful increase in their income? Have workers really been sprinting in place this entire time? How did they end up in this ridiculous situation?

The fact is, for the American worker, America’s brand of a centrally planned economy doesn’t pay. The dual impediments of fake money and regulatory madness apply exactions which cannot be overcome. There are claims to the fruits of one’s labors long before they’ve been earned.

The economy, in other words, has been rigged. The value that workers produce flows to Washington and Wall Street, where it’s siphoned off and misallocated to the cadre of officials, cronies, and big bankers. What’s left is spent to merely keep the lights on, the car running, and food upon the table.

And unfortunately, things are likely to only go downhill from here.

The trade war is really starting to take a toll on the global economy, and it continues to escalate.  Back during the Great Depression we faced a similar scenario, and we would be wise to learn from history.  In a recent post, Robert Wenzel shared a quote from Dr. Benjamin M. Anderson that was pulled from his book entitled “Economics and the Public Welfare: A Financial and Economic History of the United States, 1914-1946”

[T]here came another folly of government intervention in 1930 transcending all the rest in significance. In a world staggering under a load of international debt which could be carried only if countries under pressure could produce goods and export them to their creditors, we, the great creditor nation of the world, with tariffs already far too high, raised our tariffs again. The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act of June 1930 was the crowning folly of the who period from 1920 to 1933….

Protectionism ran wild all over the world.  Markets were cut off.  Trade lines were narrowed.  Unemployment in the export industries all over the world grew with great rapidity, and the prices of export commodities, notably farm commodities in the United States, dropped with ominous rapidity….

The dangers of this measure were so well understood in financial circles that, up to the very last, the New York financial district retained hope the President Hoover would veto the tariff bill.  But late on Sunday, June 15, it was announced that he would sign the bill. This was headline news Monday morning. The stock market broke twelve points in the New York Time averages that day and the industrials broke nearly twenty points. The market, not the President, was right.

Even though the stock market has been booming, everything else appears to indicate that the U.S. economy is slowing down.

If home prices continue to fall precipitously, that is going to put even more pressure on the system, and it won’t be too long before we reach a breaking point.

About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Why Another Great Real Estate Crash Is Coming

ForeclosureThere are very few segments of the U.S. economy that are more heavily affected by interest rates than the real estate market is.  When mortgage rates reached all-time low levels late last year, it fueled a little “mini-bubble” in housing which was greatly celebrated by the mainstream media.  Unfortunately, the tide is now turning.  Interest rates are starting to move up steadily, even though the Federal Reserve has been trying very hard to keep that from happening.  A few weeks ago, when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested that the Fed may start to “taper” the rate of quantitative easing eventually, the bond market had a conniption and the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries shot up dramatically.  In an attempt to calm the market, the Fed stopped all talk of a “taper” and that helped settle things down for a brief period of time.  But now the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is starting to rise aggressively again.  Today it closed at 2.71 percent, and many analysts believe that it will go much higher.  This is important for the housing market, because mortgage rates tend to follow the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries.  And if mortgage rates keep rising like this, another great real estate crash is inevitable.

This wasn’t supposed to happen.  Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that he could use quantitative easing to control long-term interest rates.  He assured us that he could force mortgage rates down for an extended period of time and that this would lead to a housing recovery.

But now the Fed is losing control of long-term interest rates.  If this continues, either the Federal Reserve will have to substantially increase the rate of quantitative easing or else watch mortgage rates rise to absolutely crippling levels.

Three months ago, the average rate on a 30 year mortgage was 3.35 percent.  It has shot up more than a full point since then…

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average on the 30-year loan rose to 4.39% from 4.31% last week. Rates are a full percentage point higher than in early May.

And as the chart below shows, mortgage rates have a lot more room to go up…

30-Year Fixed Rate Mortgage Average in the United States

As mortgage rates go up, so do monthly payments.

And monthly payments are already beginning to soar.  Just check out this chart.

So what happens if mortgage rates eventually return to “normal” levels?

Well, it would be absolutely devastating to the housing market.  As mortgage rates rise, less people will be able to afford to buy homes at current prices.  This will force home prices down.

To a large degree, whether or not someone can afford to buy a particular home is determined by interest rates.  The following numbers come from one of my previous articles

A year ago, the 30 year rate was sitting at 3.66 percent.  The monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $1374.07.

If the 30 year rate rises to 8 percent, the monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $2201.29.

Does 8 percent sound crazy to you?

It shouldn’t.  8 percent was considered to be normal back in the year 2000.

And we are already seeing rising rates impact the market.  The number of mortgage applications has fallen for 11 of the past 12 weeks, and this has been the biggest 3 month decline in mortgage applications that we have witnessed since 2009.

Rising interest rates will also have a dramatic impact on other areas of the real estate industry as well.  For example, public construction spending is now the lowest that it has been since 2006.

And I find the chart posted below particularly interesting.  As a Christian, I am saddened that construction spending by religious institutions has dropped to a stunningly low level…

Total Construction Spending Religious

So what does all of this mean?

Well, unless interest rates reverse course it appears that we are in the very early stages of another great real estate crash.

Only this time, it might not be so easy for the big banks to swoop in and foreclose on everyone.  Just check out the radical step that one city in California is taking to stop bank foreclosures…

Richmond is the first city in the country to take the controversial step of threatening to use eminent domain, the power to take private property for public use. But other cities have also explored the idea.

Banks, the real estate industry and Wall Street are vehemently opposed to the idea, calling it “unconstitutional” and a violation or property rights, and something that will likely cause a flurry of lawsuits.

Richmond has partnered with San Francisco-based Mortgage Resolution Partners on the plan. Letters have been sent to 32 servicers and trustees who hold the underwater loans. If they refuse the city’s offer, officials will condemn and seize the mortgages, then help homeowners to refinance.

If more communities around the nation start using eminent domain to stop foreclosures, that is going to change the cost of doing business for mortgage lenders and it is likely going to mean more expensive mortgages for all the rest of us.

In any event, all of this talk about a “bright future” for real estate is just a bunch of nonsense.

You can’t buy a home if you don’t have a good job.  And as I wrote about the other day, there are about 6 million less full-time jobs in America today than there was back in 2007.

You can’t get blood out of a stone, and you can’t buy a house on a part-time income.  The lack of breadwinner jobs is one of the primary reasons why the homeownership rate in the United States is now at its lowest level in nearly 18 years.

And we aren’t going to produce good jobs if our economy is not growing.  And economic growth in the U.S. has been anemic at best, even if you believe the official numbers.

We were originally told that the GDP growth number for the first quarter of 2013 was 2.4 percent.  Then it was revised down to 1.8 percent.  Now it has been revised down to 1.1 percent.

So precisely what are we supposed to believe?

Overall, since Barack Obama has been president the average yearly rate of growth for the U.S. economy has been just over 1 percent.

That isn’t very good at all.

But remember, the government numbers have been heavily manipulated to look good.

The reality is even worse.

According to the alternate GDP numbers compiled by John Williams of shadowstats.com, the U.S. economy has continually been in a recession since 2005.

And now interest rates are rising rapidly, and that is very bad news for the U.S. economy.

I hope that you have your seatbelts buckled up tight, because it is going to be a bumpy ride.

The Coming U.S. Real Estate Crash

This week headlines across the United States screamed that new home sales in the U.S. had declined to the lowest level since the U.S. government began keeping track in 1963.  But in the news stories covering this data in the mainstream media, they were always very careful to give their readers lots of reasons why things are going to “get back to normal” very soon.  But the truth is that is simply not going to happen.  Right now the United States is heading for another real estate crash.  The only thing that has been holding it back was the huge bribe (called a tax credit) that the U.S. government was giving people to buy houses.  Now that the tax credit has expired, there is no artificial incentive to buy homes and the real estate market has fallen through the floor.  Unfortunately, there is every indication that things are going to get even worse.  Read on to find out why…. 

The following are 7 reasons why the U.S. real estate market is already a total nightmare….

#1) In May, sales of new homes in the United States dropped to the lowest level ever recorded.  To be more precise, new home sales dropped 32.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 300,000.  A “normal” level is about 800,000 a month.  New homes have never sold this slowly ever since the U.S. Commerce Department began tracking this data back in 1963.

#2) The median price of all new U.S. homes sold in May was $200,900, which represented a 9.6% drop from May 2009.  If prices are still falling on new homes that means that the real estate nightmare is not over.

#3) New home sale figures for the previous two months were also revised down sharply by the government.  Apparently their previous estimates were far too optimistic.  But those were supposed to be really good months for home sales with so many Americans taking advantage of the tax credit right before the deadline.  So the fact that the data for the previous two months had to be revised downward so severely is a very bad sign.

#4) Newly signed home sale contracts in the U.S. dropped more than 10% in May.

#5) According to the U.S. Commerce Department, housing starts in the U.S. fell approximately 10 percent in May, which represented the biggest decline since March 2009.

#6) Internet searches on real estate websites are down about 20 percent compared to this same time period in 2009.

#7) The “twin pillars” of the mortgage industry are a complete and total financial mess.  The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that the final bill for the bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could be as high as $389 billion.  Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac continue to hemorrhage cash at an alarming rate, but the truth is that without them there wouldn’t be much of a mortgage industry left in the United States.

The following are 7 reasons why things are going to get even worse….

#1) The massive tax credit that the U.S. government was offering to home buyers has expired.  This tax credit helped stabilize the U.S. real estate market for many months, but now that it is gone there is no more safety net for the housing industry.

#2) Foreclosures continue to set all-time records.  In fact, the number of home foreclosures set a record for the second consecutive month in May.  Not only that, but the number of newly initiated foreclosures rose 18.6 percent to 370,856 in the first quarter of 2010.  A rising tide of foreclosures means that there is going to be a growing inventory of foreclosed homes on the market.  As of March, U.S. banks had an inventory of approximately 1.1 million foreclosed homes, which was up 20 percent from a year ago.  There is no indication that the number of foreclosed homes that need to be sold is going to decrease any time soon.  This is going to have a depressing effect on U.S. home prices.

#3) Another giant wave of adjustable rate mortgages is scheduled to reset in 2011 and 2012.  This “second wave” threatens to be as dramatic as the first wave that almost sunk the U.S. mortgage industry in 2007 and 2008.  Unfortunately, what this is going to cause is even more foreclosures and even lower home prices.

#4) Banks and lending institutions have been significantly tightening their lending standards over the past several years.  It is now much harder to get a home loan.  That means that there are less potential buyers for each house that is on the market.  Less competition for homes means that prices will continue to decline.

#5) Home prices are still way too high for most Americans in the current economic environment.  Based on current wage levels, house prices should actually be much lower.  So the market is going to continue to try to push home prices down to a point where people can actually afford to buy them.  Right now Americans can’t even afford the houses that they already have.  The Mortgage Bankers Association recently announced that more than 10% of all U.S. homeowners with a mortgage had missed at least one mortgage payment during the January to March time period.  That was a new all-time record and represented an increase from 9.1 percent a year ago.

#6) The overall U.S. economy is caught in a death spiral.  Unemployment remains at frightening levels, a large percentage of Americans are up to their eyeballs in debt and more than 40 million Americans are now on food stamps.  If people don’t have jobs and if people don’t have money then they can’t buy houses. 

#7) The Gulf of Mexico oil spill is the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history, and it is threatening to become one of the greatest economic disasters in U.S. history.  Already, real estate agents along the Gulf coast are reporting that the oil spill has completely killed the real estate industry in the region.  As this disaster continues to grow worse by the day, homes in the southeast United States will continue to look less and less appealing.  In fact, many are now projecting that the crisis in the Gulf will actually crush the housing industry from coast to coast.

So honestly there is not a lot of reason to think that the housing industry in the U.S. is going to rebound any time soon.  In fact, for those waiting for a “rebound” the truth is that we have already seen it.  Where we are headed next is the second dip of the “double dip” that so many of the talking heads on CNBC have been talking about.  For those seeking to sell their homes this is really bad news, but for those looking to buy a home this is actually good news. 

Who knows?  Home prices may actually come down to a point where many of us can actually afford to purchase a home.