Stocks Plunge, Consumer Pessimism Grows And U.S. Home Sales Just Hit Their Lowest Level In 3 Years

It appears to be more likely than ever that the U.S. economy is heading for a recession.  On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 301 points as investors were rattled by several very important pieces of news.  Back in 2008, home sales began to fall precipitously just prior to the financial crisis in the second half of that year, and now it is happening again.  Of course home sales are always going up and down, but the numbers that we are seeing now are definitely very unusual.  According to the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales just hit their lowest level in 3 years

U.S. home sales tumbled to their lowest level in three years last month and house price increases slowed sharply, suggesting a further loss of momentum in the housing market.

The National Association of Realtors said on Tuesday existing home sales declined 6.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.99 million units last month — the lowest level since November 2015.

And when you compare December 2018 to December 2017, the numbers look even worse.  According to Wolf Richter, last month existing home sales were down 10.3 percent on a year over year basis…

Sales of “existing homes” — including single-family houses, townhouses, condos, and co-ops — in December, plunged 10.3% from a year earlier, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 4.99 million homes, according to the National Association of Realtors this morning. This was the biggest year-over-year drop since May 2011, during the throes of Housing Bust 1

Those are absolutely horrible numbers, but thanks to high interest rates they aren’t going to get much better any time soon.  Just like a decade ago, this is going to be a very tough time to be in the real estate industry.

During the “boom years”, the west was the hottest region for real estate in the entire nation, but now it is leading the way down.  And last month was just abysmal, with sales falling 15 percent in that portion of the country…

  • Northeast: -6.8%, to an annual rate of 690,000.
  • Midwest: -10.5%, to an annual rate of 1.19 million.
  • South: -5.4%, to an annual rate of 2.09 million.
  • West: -15.0%, to an annual rate of 1.02 million.

Unfortunately, these are exactly the kinds of numbers that we would expect to see if the U.S. economy was heading into a recession.

Investors were also rattled on Tuesday by news that trade talks between the U.S. and China seem to be breaking down

Stocks fell to their lows of the day after the Financial Times reported the U.S. canceled a trade meeting with Chinese officials. CNBC later confirmed the report through a source. White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow denied the reports, saying the meetings are not canceled, giving stocks a boost into the close. China and the U.S. are trying to strike a permanent trade deal with the U.S. Both countries have been in a trade war since last year, slapping tariffs on billions of dollars worth of their goods.

We’ll see what happens, but the Chinese appear to be dragging their feet, and it does not look like there will be a major trade agreement between the two sides any time soon.

And when you throw in the fact that we are in the midst of the longest government shutdown in all of U.S. history, it becomes exceedingly clear that the elements for a “perfect storm” are definitely coming together.

In fact, Peter Schiff is entirely convinced that the coming recession is already “a done deal”…

“And they think simply because the Federal Reserve is no longer hiking rates that they no longer have to worry about the Fed pushing the economy into a recession. Well, it’s too late for that. The rate hikes of the past have already guaranteed that the economy is headed for recession. It doesn’t matter whether they continue to raise rates in the future. The recession is a done deal. It’s just now you have that calm between the storm while investors are still clueless and haven’t yet connected those, what should be, very obvious dots.

When the next recession comes, you will know who to blame.  Every time the Federal Reserve has engaged in a rate hiking program since World War II, it has always ended in either a recession or a stock market crash.  The Fed is the reason why the U.S. economy has been on a roller coaster ride for decades, and now we are steamrolling directly toward the “bust” portion of this cycle.  If we ever want to end this madness, we need to abolish the Fed, and that means that we need to send people to Congress that are willing to take action on these things.

Sadly, it is probably going to take a major collapse before abolishing the Fed becomes a big political issue again.  Economic issues have been on the back burner for a while, but that may be about to change, because pessimism about the economy is growing.  According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans that believe economic conditions are worsening has risen by 12 points over the past two months…

Americans are not feeling very confident about the economy these days.

Almost half (48%) of Americans say economic conditions are worsening, up from 45% in December and 36% in November, according to a recent poll by Gallup, a Washington, D.C.-based research and consulting firm.

This is more evidence of the national psychological shift that I have been talking about.  People are starting to realize what is happening, and they are becoming deeply concerned about what the future holds.

Well, the truth is that things are going to get a lot tougher.  But instead of getting down in the dumps about it, we need to prepare for what is ahead, and we need to be ready to implement some positive solutions in the aftermath of the coming crisis.

Get Prepared NowAbout the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally-syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including Get Prepared Now, The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.  His articles are originally published on The Economic Collapse Blog, End Of The American Dream and The Most Important News.  From there, his articles are republished on dozens of other prominent websites all over the nation.  If you would like to republish his articles, please feel free to do so.  The more people that see this information the better, and we need to wake more people up while there is still time.

 

Much Worse Than Expected: Experts Shocked As New Home Sales Plunge 8.9 Percent

The U.S. economy is definitely deviating from the script, and we just got more evidence that “Housing Bubble 2” is bursting.  Experts were expecting that new home sales in the U.S. would rise in October, but instead they plunged 8.9 percent.  That number is far worse than anyone was projecting, and many in the real estate industry are really starting to freak out.  And to be honest, things look like they are going to get even worse in 2019.  One survey found that the percentage of Americans that plan to buy a home over the next 12 months has fallen by about half during the past year.  Mortgage rates have steadily risen as the Federal Reserve has been hiking interest rates, and at this point most average Americans have been completely priced out of the market.  Home prices are going to have to come way down from where they are right now, and just as we witnessed in 2008, rapidly falling home prices can put an extraordinary amount of stress on the financial system.

It is hard for me to put into words just how bad this latest number is.  Even though I write about our growing economic problems on a daily basis, even I didn’t expect to see a number anywhere near this bad.  Sometimes a really bad number from one part of the U.S. can drag down the overall number, but that wasn’t the case this time.  According to Reuters, there were “sharp declines in all four regions”…

Sales of new U.S. single-family homes tumbled to a more than 2-1/2-year low in October amid sharp declines in all four regions, further evidence that higher mortgage rates were hurting the housing market.

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday new home sales dropped 8.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 544,000 units last month. That was the lowest level since March 2016. The percent drop was the biggest since December 2017.

But of course it isn’t as if this latest report is coming out of nowhere.  The truth is that new home sales have fallen in four of the last six months, and so a very clear trend is now developing.

Sadly, most mainstream economists still don’t seem to be understanding what is happening.  According to Reuters, the consensus estimate was that we would see new home sales rise 3.7 percent in October, and so an 8.9 percent plunge came as a real shock.

New home sales have now missed expectations for seven months in a row, and the similarities to 2008 are starting to become undeniable.

Sales of previously owned homes have been falling as well.  In fact, in October we witnessed the largest drop for previously owned home sales in four years

Sales of previously owned U.S. homes posted their largest annual decline since 2014 in October, as the housing market continues to sputter due to higher mortgage rates that are reducing home affordability.

If you want to blame someone for this mess, blame the Federal Reserve.

They created a “boom” in the housing market by pushing interest rates all the way to the floor during the Obama years, and now they are creating a “bust” by aggressively jacking up interest rates at a pace that our economy simply cannot handle.

If we had allowed the free market to be setting interest rates all this time, we would not be on such a roller coaster ride.

Just like during “Housing Bubble 1”, millions of Americans have been buying houses that they cannot afford, and that could mean another massive wave of mortgage defaults as this new economic downturn intensifies.  At this point, the debt to income ratio for mortgages insured by the FHA is at an all-time record high

One worrying indicator: The average debt-to-income ratio for mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration, which makes up about 22% of the housing market, is now at its highest level ever.

This is yet another indication that we are even more vulnerable than we were just prior to the subprime mortgage meltdown during the last financial crisis.

Let me try to shed some light on what is coming next.  Even if economic conditions remained stable, housing prices would need to start falling dramatically in order to attract buyers.  In fact, we are already starting to see this happen in southern California and other markets that were once extremely “hot”.  As housing prices fall, millions of Americans will suddenly find themselves “underwater” on their mortgages.  In other words, they will owe more on their homes than their homes are worth.  During the last recession, many “underwater” homeowners ultimately decided to walk away rather than continue to service ridiculously bloated mortgages.

But the truth is that economic conditions are not likely to remain stable.  In fact, many are projecting that the approaching downturn will be even worse than 2008.

In such a scenario, millions of Americans will lose their jobs, and that means that millions of Americans will suddenly not be able to make their mortgage payments.  As a result, mortgage defaults will skyrocket and home prices will drop like a rock.  Just like last time around, there could be people that wake up one day and realize that they owe two or three times as much money on their mortgages as their homes are currently worth, and the stampede of people walking away from “underwater” mortgages could become an avalanche.

Needless to say, millions of mortgages suddenly going bad is a scenario that our financial system is not equipped to handle.  What happened in 2008 was absolutely catastrophic for our large financial institutions, and what is coming is going to be even worse.

Of course the big financial institutions will want the federal government to bail them out, but there may not be much of an appetite for more corporate bailouts this time around.

And considering the fact that we are already 22 trillion dollars in debt, we can’t exactly afford to be throwing money around.

The Federal Reserve has set the stage for a giant mess, and it is going to shake the housing industry to the core.

We should have learned from the mistakes that we made in 2008, but we didn’t, and so now we are going to pay a very great price for our negligence.

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.

 

In California, Home Sales Are Plunging Like It Is 2008 All Over Again

What goes up must eventually come down.  For years, the California housing market was on the cutting edge of “Housing Bubble 2” as we witnessed home prices in the state soar to absolutely absurd levels.  In fact, it got so bad that a burned down house in Silicon Valley sold for $900,000 earlier this year, and a condemned home in Fremont sold for $1.2 million.  But now things have changed in a major way.  The hottest real estate markets in the entire country led the way down during the collapse of “Housing Bubble 1”, and now it looks like the same thing is going to be true for the sequel.

According to CNBC, the number of new and existing homes sold in southern California was down 18 percent in September compared to a year ago…

The number of new and existing houses and condominiums sold during the month plummeted nearly 18 percent compared with September 2017, according to CoreLogic. That was the slowest September pace since 2007, when the national housing and mortgage crisis was hitting.

Sales have been falling on an annual basis for much of this year, but this was the biggest annual drop for any month in almost eight years. It was also more than twice the annual drop seen in August.

Those numbers are staggering.

And it is interesting to note that sales of new homes are being hit even harder than sales of existing homes…

Sales of newly built homes are suffering more than sales of existing homes, likely because fewer are being built compared with historical production levels. Newly built homes also come at a price premium. Sales of newly built homes were 47 percent below the September average dating back to 1988, while sales of existing homes were 22 percent below their long-term average.

At one time, San Diego County was a blazing hot real estate market, but now the market has turned completely around.

In fact, the county just registered the fewest number of home sales in a month since the last financial crisis

A combination of rapid mortgage rate increases and decreased affordability, San Diego County home sales collapsed 17.5% to the lowest level in 11 years last month, in the first meaningful sign that one of the country’s hottest real estate markets could be at a turning point, real estate tracker CoreLogic reported Tuesday.

In September, 2,942 homes were sold in the county, down from 3,568 sales last year. This was the lowest number of sales for the month since the start of the financial crisis when 2,152 sold in September 2007.

And it can be argued that things are plunging even more rapidly in northern California.

In the San Francisco Bay area, sales of new and existing homes were down 19 percent in September on a year over year basis…

Home sales in the San Francisco Bay area have been falling for months, but in September buyers pulled back in an even bigger way.

Sales of both new and existing homes plunged nearly 19 percent compared with September 2017, according to CoreLogic. It marked the slowest September sales pace since 2007 and twice the annual drop seen in August.

If a new real estate crisis is really happening, these are precisely the kinds of numbers that we would expect to see.  If you still need some more convincing, here are even more distressing numbers from the California real estate market that Mish Shedlock recently shared

  • The California housing market posted its largest year-over-year sales decline since March 2014 and remained below the 400,000-level sales benchmark for the second consecutive month in September, indicating that the market is slowing as many potential buyers put their homeownership plans on hold.
  • Existing, single-family home sales totaled 382,550 in September on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, down 4.3 percent from August and down 12.4 percent from September 2017.
  • September’s statewide median home price was $578,850, down 2.9 percent from August but up 4.2 percent from September 2017.
  • Statewide active listings rose for the sixth consecutive month, increasing 20.4 percent from the previous year.
  • Inventory reached the highest level in 31 months, with the Unsold Inventory Index reaching 4.2 months in September.
  • September year-to-date sales were down 3.3 percent.

Of course a similar thing is happening on the east coast as well.  At this point, things have cooled off so much in New York City that it is being called “a buyer’s market”

New York City’s pricey real estate has become a “buyers market,” new data suggests, characterized by lowball offers and a rise in the number of properties staying on the market for longer.

The latest figures from Warburg Realty show that among higher-priced homes, New York City is in the throes of a “major shift” that reflects a cooling market, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in almost a decade.

“Offers 20 percent and 25 percent below asking prices began to flow in, a phenomenon last seen in 2009,” wrote Warburg Realty founder and CEO Frederick W. Peters in the report, which surveys real estate conditions around the city.

In the final analysis, it is no mystery how we got to this point.

During the Obama era, the Federal Reserve pushed interest rates all the way to the floor for years, and this caused “Housing Bubble 2” to become even larger than the original housing bubble.

Now the Federal Reserve has been aggressively raising interest rates, and this is now busting the bubble that they created in the first place.

So if you want to blame someone for this mess, blame the Federal Reserve.  The Federal Reserve has created huge “booms” and “busts” ever since it was created in 1913, and hopefully the American people will be outraged enough following this next “bust” to start calling for real change.

I have been calling for the abolition of the Federal Reserve for years, and there are many others out there that also want to return to a free market financial system.

History has shown that free markets work exceedingly well once you take the shackles off, and as a nation we desperately need to return to the values and principles that this nation was founded upon.

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.

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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.

Housing Crash 2.0? Experts Warn That ‘The U.S. Housing Market Looks Headed For Its Worst Slowdown In Years’

Is the United States heading for another absolutely devastating housing crash?  It has been 10 years since the last one, and so many of the exact same signs that immediately preceded the last one are starting to appear once again.  Back in 2007, home prices were absolutely soaring and it seemed like the party would never end.  But interest rates went up, home sales slowed down substantially, and eventually prices began to crash.  Millions upon millions of Americans were suddenly “underwater” in their homes just as a crippling recession hit the economy, and we plunged into a foreclosure crisis unlike anything that we had ever seen before.  Well, now the cycle is happening again.  Home prices surged to unprecedented heights in 2017, and this was especially true in the hottest markets on the east and west coasts.  But now interest rates are going up and home sales are starting to slow down substantially.  We certainly aren’t too far away from the next crash and another horrible foreclosure crisis, and many experts are beginning to sound the alarm.

For example, the following very alarming numbers come from a recent Bloomberg article entitled “The U.S. Housing Market Looks Headed for Its Worst Slowdown in Years”

Existing-home sales dropped in June for a third straight month. Purchases of new homes are at their slowest pace in eight months. Inventory, which plunged for years, has begun to grow again as buyers move to the sidelines, sapping the fuel for surging home values. Prices for existing homes climbed 6.4 percent in May, the smallest year-over-year gain since early 2017, and have gained the least over three months since 2012, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Those are definitely troubling figures, but perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that mortgage applications are way down right now

Mortgage applications to purchase both new and existing homes have been falling steadily, and mortgage rates are rising again. Single-family home construction also fell and was lower than June 2017.

Of course economic numbers always go up and down, and just because we have had a few bad months does not necessarily mean that disaster is looming.

But when you step back and take a broader perspective on the housing market, it really does start to feel like early 2008 all over again.

In fact, Nobel Prize-winning author Robert Shiller says that this “could be the very beginning of a turning point”

“This could be the very beginning of a turning point,” said Robert Shiller, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who is famed for warning of the dot-com and housing bubbles, in an interview.

Just like last time, the slowdown is being felt the most in the markets that were once the hottest.  In southern California, home sales just fell to the lowest level in four years

Southern California home sales hit the brakes in June, falling to the lowest reading for the month in four years. Sales of both new and existing houses and condominiums dropped 11.8 percent year over year, as prices shot up to a record high, according to CoreLogic. The report covers Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties.

And as I explained in a previous article, much of this drop is being fueled by a record decline in foreigners buying U.S. homes.

Meanwhile, red flags are popping up on the east coast as well.  New York foreclosure actions have skyrocketed to an 11 year high, and many analysts expect them to go much higher.

If you follow my economics website on a regular basis, then you already know that I have been warning about a downturn in the housing market for months.  As the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates, it was only a matter of time before the housing market really cooled off.  And if the Federal Reserve keeps raising rates, we are going to see home prices collapse, another massive foreclosure crisis, and enormous stress on our largest financial institutions.

This is one of the reasons why we must abolish the Federal Reserve.  By allowing a panel of central planners to determine our interest rates, it is inevitable that artificial “booms” and “busts” are created.

Yes, there are always “booms” and “busts” in a free market economy as well, but they would not be as severe.

In recent months, central banks all over the world have been tightening, and other global real estate markets are really starting to feel the pain as well.  For instance, home prices are really cooling off in Canada, and it appears that they are on the precipice of a full-blown market crash.

When a new recession didn’t hit in 2015 or 2016, a lot of Americans assumed that the threat had passed.  But just because a threat is delayed does not mean that it has been diminished.  In fact, the coming recession is probably going to be substantially worse than it would have been in 2015 or 2016 because of the central bank manipulation that delayed it until this time.

And the signs are all around us.  An indicator that tracks the vehicle buying plans of Americans just plunged to the lowest level in five years, and even USA Today is running articles with titles such as “Are you ready for the next recession? How to prepare now for a potential downturn”.

Yes, we just got good GDP data for the second quarter, but virtually everyone agrees that the number for the third quarter will be significantly lower.  And it would be foolish to ignore all of the harbingers that are emerging on an almost daily basis now.  Just recently, I explained that the U.S. economy has fallen into recession every single time that the yield curve has inverted since World War II, and now it is about to happen again.  We live at a time when there is great turmoil at home and abroad, and the elements for a “perfect storm” are definitely coming together.

It is only a matter of time before the next recession begins, and it looks like it could be a really, really bad one.

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.

12 Reasons Why The U.S. Housing Crash Is Far From Over

Over the past several months, many in the mainstream media have hailed the slight improvement in the U.S. real estate market as a “housing recovery”.  But the truth is that the small improvement in the numbers was primarily due to a significant number of Americans attempting to squeeze their home purchases in before the huge home buyer tax credit expired at the end of April.  Now that there is no more giant tax incentive, real estate professionals all over the United States are fearing the worst.  Mortgage defaults and foreclosures are still at record levels, and a giant “second wave” of adjustable rate mortgages is scheduled to reset in 2011 and 2012.  In addition, there are numerous indications that the U.S. economy as a whole is going to experience a dramatic downturn shortly, and if that happens it is going to be really bad news for the housing industry.  So are we about to see “Housing Crash Part 2”?

The reality is that it has taken unprecedented U.S. government intervention to even stabilize the U.S. housing market.  Now that the tax credit has expired, and as the U.S. economy continues to worsen, there is simply no way (except if we see hyperinflation at some point) that housing prices are going to return to the levels that we saw during the height of the housing bubble.

Banks and other lending institutions all across the U.S. have seriously tightened their lending standards and so it is now much more difficult to get approved for a mortgage.  That means that there are going to be less home buyers in the marketplace.

In addition, while mortgage rates are at record lows right now, the truth is that they will not stay there indefinitely.  When interest rates do start to rise that is going to suck even more home buyers out of the market.

Truthfully, the housing market is not going to be as good as it was during the first several months of 2010 for quite some time.  The entire U.S. economy is on the verge of collapse, and when it does the real estate industry is going to be one of the first to feel the pain.

The following are 12 reasons why the U.S. housing crash is far from over….

#1) Now that the huge home buyer tax credit (government bribe to purchase homes) has expired, the real estate industry is bracing for the worst.  The truth is that a significant percentage of those Americans that planned to buy a home in 2010 really tried to squeeze their purchases in before the April 30th deadline in order to take advantage of the tax incentive.  According to mortgage consultant Mark Hanson, “buyers were bidding on everything and sellers were accepting anything and everything before 4/30.”  Now that the tax credit is over, things could get really slow for the U.S. real estate market.

#2) A massive “second wave” of adjustable rate mortgages is scheduled to reset in 2011 and 2012.  In fact, there are many analysts that are openly speculating that this second wave could be even more brutal than the first wave that we experienced in 2007 and 2008.

#3) The number of home sale closings in May was down more than 5% compared to April.

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

#5) There has been an even more dramatic decline in mortgage applications.  In fact, home purchase applications are now almost 40 percent below the level of just four weeks ago.

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

#7) From all indications, a record number of foreclosures is going to continue to flood the market.  The Mortgage Bankers Association recently announced that more than 10 percent of all U.S. homeowners with a mortgage had missed at least one payment during the January to March time period.  That was a record high and up from 9.1 percent a year ago.

#8) U.S. banks repossessed nearly 258,000 homes nationwide in the first quarter of 2010, a whopping 35 percent increase from the first quarter of 2009.

#9) A staggering 24% of all homes with mortgages in the United States were underwater as of the end of 2009.

#10) People can’t buy houses if they are flat broke.  For the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.

#11) The truth is that American consumers are stretched to the limit and are increasingly finding it very difficult to pay their bills.  During the first quarter of 2010, the total number of loans that are at least three months past due in the United States increased for the 16th consecutive quarter.

#12) The overall U.S. economy is in really bad shape and is rapidly getting worse.  If American workers cannot find good jobs and if they keep going bankrupt in record numbers they simply are not going to be able to buy homes in 2010 or any year thereafter.

Those who are projecting a robust housing recovery are living in some kind of fantasy world.  It is just not going to happen.  Let’s just hope that things don’t get as bad as the numbers seem to indicate that they might.  Another devastating housing crash would just suck the life right out of the U.S. economy.  So let us hope for the best but also let us be prepared for the worst.

The Beginning Of The End

Strategic Defaults: Is It Morally Right To Decide To Simply Stop Paying Your Mortgage?

In 2010, record numbers of Americans are defaulting on their mortgages.  For most of them, it is because they simply cannot afford the mortgage payments any longer.  But for a growing number of Americans, the decision to stop paying on a mortgage is not because of financial hardship.  Rather, after taking a hard look at the numbers, many Americans are simply deciding to walk away rather than continuing to make monthly payments on a home that has dramatically declined in value.  It is called a “strategic default”, and it is a phenomenon that is sweeping the nation.  So why have strategic defaults increased so dramatically?  Well, in some areas of the United States, homes are only worth about half of what they were going for at the height of the market.  So what is the morally right thing to do in that situation?  Should someone “honor the contract” that they signed and continue making payments no matter how hard it hurts, or is the morally right thing to stop making payments on the mortgage in order to put your family in a better financial position?

The truth is that the answers to these questions are not easy.     

In the past year it is estimated that at least a million Americans who can afford to stay in their homes simply walked away.

Take a moment and think about that.

A million Americans that have simply walked away from their homes.

This is something that is absolutely unprecedented in American history.

In fact, 31 percent of all foreclosures in March were deemed to be “strategic defaults” by researchers at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University.  That is up from just 22 percent in March 2009.

So the strategic default trend is accelerating.

And with more than 24% of all homes with mortgages in the United States underwater as of the end of 2009, it is likely that we are going to see a whole lot more strategic defaults.

This is particularly true in areas that were hurt the worst by the real estate crash.  In Arizona for example, it is estimated that 50 percent of all homes are underwater, and in Nevada it is estimated that a whopping 65 percent of all homes are underwater.

That is a whole lot of families that have some very hard decisions to make.

But it just isn’t families that are making these kinds of decisions.  Even the biggest financial institutions in the United States have committed strategic defaults.  For example, Morgan Stanley walked away from five San Francisco office buildings they bought at the height of the real estate boom.

But is it the right thing to do?

Well, let’s look at both sides of the issue.

Why many would say that strategic defaults are morally acceptable….

Many Americans have no problem at all walking away from their mortgages.  After all, they would argue, they never agreed to pay twice what a house is worth.

If they signed up for a $400,000 mortgage, they would argue that they expect to be making payments on a house that is worth somewhere around $400,000.

So is that unreasonable?

After all, if a $400,000 house goes down to $200,000, there are many that would argue that it represents an unforeseen circumstance that negates the deal.

Others would argue that bankers tricked millions of Americans into accepting mortgages that they could not possibly afford, and therefore nobody should be crying for the bankers when people quit paying on those mortgages.

In essence, the argument is that the bankers created this mess so the bankers should be the ones to pay the penalty.

Still other Americans are choosing strategic defaults because it enables them to provide for their families during these hard economic times.

For many Americans, often the choice is between paying the mortgage and putting food on the table.

And because of the massive delays in processing foreclosures these days, many people are finding that they can live in their homes “rent free” for months on end after they stop making payments.

In fact, Bank of America’s credit loss mitigation executive, Jack Schakett, has even acknowledged that many home owners have a huge financial incentive to walk away: “there is a huge incentive for customers to walk away because getting free rent and waiting out foreclosure can be very appealing to customers.”

So how much “free rent” are those who have walked away from their mortgages getting?

According to LPS Applied Analytics, the average home owner in foreclosure has been delinquent for 438 days before actually being evicted.  That is up from 251 days in January 2008.

The truth is that especially in states where the foreclosure process must go through the courts, the systems are simply being overloaded.

For example, in Pinellas and Pasco counties, which include St. Petersburg, Florida and the suburbs to the north, there are 34,000 open foreclosure cases.  Ten years ago, there were only about 4,000.

But there are others that would argue that strategic defaults are 100 percent morally wrong.

Why many would say that strategic defaults are morally wrong….

Those who would say that strategic defaults are wrong would argue that no one put a gun to the head of anyone signing up for a mortgage.

They would argue that “a contract is a contract” and that Americans should fulfill their obligations, no matter how hard it hurts.

The truth is that once upon a time in America, a “strategic default” would have been unimaginable to most people.

Back then, a man was only as good as his word.

Even today, to purposely break a contact is on the same level as purposely telling a lie to many people.

Not only that, but the reality is that a strategic default will ruin your credit for years to come.  Many would argue that it is immoral to ruin your family credit for the simple convenience of getting out of a bad mortgage.

In addition, many would argue that it is wrong to take advantage of the banks by exploiting the delay in foreclosure processing – no matter how evil the banks have been.

After all, do two wrongs make a right?

Plus, in some states there may be additional financial penalties even after you walk away.

Kyle Lundstedt, the managing director of Lender Processing Service’s analytics group says that those who do willingly walk away from their homes are playing a very dangerous financial game….

“These people are playing a dangerous game. There are processes in many states to go after folks who have substantial assets postforeclosure.”

Plus, those who do commit strategic defaults raise borrowing costs on the rest of us.  In the future, banks are going to have to charge all of us higher interest rates on our mortgages in order to factor in the risk that many Americans will simply walk away from their mortgages if their house values go down.

So is it right for everyone else to suffer in the future so that some can get out of bad mortgages right now?

The truth is that it is not the purpose of this article to answer these questions.

The purpose of this article is simply to raise these questions.

We live in unprecedented economic times, and we are all going to be faced with very hard decisions as we move into a very uncertain future.

Strategic defaults pose some very interesting moral dilemmas, and if you ask 10 different people about strategic defaults you are likely to get 10 different opinions.

So what do you think about strategic defaults?

Is it morally right to decide to simply stop paying your mortgage?

Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion….

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