Contracts down: Is housing headed for double-dip?

Contracts down: Is housing headed for double-dip?

Appears May and June may prove very interesting. Sales were hot up until the tax credit first ran out in November. Sellers were upping their prices because they knew people wanted to beat the deadline, qualify for the credit, and would be willing to put a bit more on the table to accomplish that. With buyers pausing to take a breath, it is likely that scenerio will be repeating itself come April. But this time, it appears unlikely the government will again be riding to the rescue with an extension of the tax credit. Following this next round, the RE market will more than likely be left to its own devices to return to health. And it looks like it may yet become worse before it finally stabilizes and starts an upward momentum. Out here in Los Angeles it seems 1 out of every 3 props I check out is a short sale, many of the remaining are REOs. Many of today's short sales will be tomorrow's REOs. Banks have been holding back on releasing their REOs to try to keep the housing prices somewhat up. The loans they didn't put into foreclosure over the holidays in an effort to play good Santa will be coming back to them now. The modification program is coming to an end and borrowers that can't keep up even with the modification, or weren't able to get one, will be in default. Unemployment numbers are still dismal. And we haven't even seen the start of the bottom falling out of the commercial market as has been predicted by many.

Now, I'm still a relative Newbie, having only been studying and learning for the past 4 months, so feel free to take my above prognostications with a grain of salt. My conclusions have been reached after hours of reading RE news and listening to interviews, as well as studying my local market and keeping track of its ups and downs. And my overall conclusion is that low-mid level housing prices will not start back up until late this year or sometime in 2011. High-end props ($1M +) have just begun showing up with regularity on the short sales / REOs lists.

Anyway, hope the following article proves useful to you.

WASHINGTON – The number of people preparing to buy a home fell sharply in November, an unsettling new sign that the housing market may be headed for a "double-dip" downturn over the winter.

The figures Tuesday came after a similarly discouraging report on new home sales, illustrating how heavily the housing market depends right now on government help.

In October, buyers raced to get contracts signed in time to take advantage of a tax credit for first-time homeowners that was set to expire. It has since been extended into spring — and now prospective buyers are taking their time.

The National Association of Realtors said its seasonally adjusted index of sales contracts fell 16 percent from October to November, ending nine months of gains. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected only a 2 percent drop.

"This was bound to happen at some point, although not by this much," wrote Jennifer Lee, senior economist with BMO Capital Markets. She added: "Gulp."

When the tax credit expires this spring and the government phases out programs to keep mortgage rates low, the housing market will have to stand on its own. Many economists doubt it can.

"We're just going to languish at the bottom," said Anna Piretti, senior economist at BNP Paribas.

The last housing downturn helped drag the nation into the worst recession in decades. The expected dip in home sales and prices this winter appears to pose less of a threat to the broader economy.

Orders to U.S. factories, for example, posted a big gain in November, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. So while the housing market remains vulnerable, makers of steel, computers and chemicals are mounting a surprisingly robust rebound.

"We expect housing to just limp along even as the rest of the economy is growing fairly strongly," said Nomura Securities economist Zach Pandl.

Stocks were mixed as the reports offered conflicting signals about the economy. The Dow industrials slipped 0.1 percent, while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.3 percent to its highest close since Oct. 1, 2008.

The tax credit is worth up to $8,000 for first-time homebuyers and was set to expire Nov. 30. Congress extended it through the end of April and broadened it to include a credit of up to $6,500 for buyers who relocate.

Typically, there's a lag of one to two months between when the contract is signed and when the sale closes. To meet the original deadline for the tax credit, buyers would have needed to submit a signed sales contract by the end of October at the latest.

The Realtor group said it expected homebuyers to start responding to the extension by early spring, suggesting that sales will pick up again but fall back later in the year, once the government support is gone.

In addition, the Federal Reserve is buying up $1.25 trillion in mortgage-backed securities to help keep interest rates at or near record lows. That program is scheduled to run out at the end of March, though a sudden jump in rates could force the Fed to extend it.

"We don't want to see mortgage rates rise yet," said Jerry Smith, associate broker with Re/Max Professional outside Denver. "And we certainly don't want to see unemployment get any worse than it is."

For November, new sales contracts were down 3 percent in the West, 15 percent in the South and 26 percent each in the Northeast and Midwest.

The housing market had been rebounding from the worst downturn in decades, helped by the federal intervention. Sales of existing homes surged in November to the highest level in nearly three years, but analysts expect a drop of 10 to 20 percent from November to December.

The most pessimistic analyst forecast came from Daniel Alpert, managing director of the New York investment bank Westwood Capital LLC. He expects prices to fall to 10 percent below the lows of last spring when the government help goes away.

Nevertheless, in some particularly hard-hit areas real estate agents are confident the worst days of the housing bust are over.

Charlotte Wester, a real estate agent with US Preferred Realty in Mesa, Ariz., said homes are so affordable — one house in her area sold for under $50,000 last fall — that houses are drawing multiple bids and often selling over the listing prices.

"I can't see how our prices could get any cheaper," she said.




Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…
It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward. - Amelia Earhart

"The greatest mistake you can make in life is to continually be afraid you will make one." - Elbert Hubbard

Perfect Storm

I have been predicting this for months. Real estate is very, very predictable. I absolutely agree with the article. Within this article is a roadmap for wealth and short term capital gains. My strategy for the next 6 months is simple. Buy as many homes as possible right now at a 50% discount (buy during the dip) and sell them in the spring when the market is a feeding frienzy (sell at the peaks) then when the market turns down again in the fall buy as many as I can with the profits I made selling at the peak (buy at the dip once again)! It is actually so easy I can't believe more people haven't caught on yet. Good job on your research. Now take advantage of this gift that the market (and the government) has created. Just win!


You've got to find your obstacles and call them out! Unsheath the sword, and do battle with whatever it is that holds you back!

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