Dr. Stephen Fuller, one of the region's most followed economists and Director of the George Mason Center for Regional Analysis, spoke the other day on where we've been and where we can expect to be heading in the near future. Here's a summary of his presentation and PowerPoint (thank you to Kim Spear for sharing this with me/you):
- The first quarter 2009 will be the worst quarter since the 1982 recession, which lasted 16 months. He predicted that the recession we're in now will last between 17 to 19 months. Where are in that cycle? The 14th month.
- So what's the good news? "By the time you're back from your summer vacations our regional economy will start to perform better," said Fuller. (I'm ready to start my vacation now.)
- The DC region will enter a recovery cycle in about 5 to 6 months. As before, our region will bounce back before most of the nation.
- Need to buy a house? The residential market is about through its downward cycle here. Residential permits for housing in the District were higher in December 2008 then they were in December 2007.
- Need to finance a house? He predicted that mortgage rates would drop to around 4% within the next two months; and, most likely increase to between 6% – 7% by 2011 due to inflationary pressures.
- So what about the job market? Unemployment usually lags behind the economy by about two years. The unemployment rate will most likely rise to 9.5%, peaking in the first quarter 2010. Nationally, job losses could continue through 2011. Predictions for job growth for the DC metro region in 2009 are between 20,000 – 23,700 new jobs (these are full-time workers – not self employed, contract workers, or part-timers). Our average job growth is around 45,000 jobs per year in this region.
- The Federal government will increase its presence in our market growing to 33.3% of the employment sector. Associations will shrink some, and health, education, and the professional service sectors will continue job growth.
Now I know that Dr. Fuller is a highly-educated and highly-followed economist in the area and I'm just a "real-a-tor", but I will have to respectfully disagree on a couple points:
- "The first quarter 2009 will be the worst quarter since the 1982 recession" - Not when it comes to real estate in the area. January and February have seen quite an up-tick in buyer demand while inventory levels having been steadily dropping since the middle of 2008 and are at the lowest level in years. Buyer demand is up and properties are moving faster than they have in recent years. Multiple offers on good deals are extremely common nowadays. (Even if he's right on this one, at least the worst will soon be behind us)
- "…mortgage rates would drop to around 4 percent within the next two months…" – I'm not quite sure about that. The Fed did everything they could to lower the rates to 4.5 percent and that still didn't happen. With the economy getting worse and lenders outwardly saying that they aren't loosening lending guidelines anytime soon, where rates are today is about as low as I see them going. And even if they do go lower, I don't see it happening within the next two months. I'll definitely come back to this discussion in a few months to see who was right (though I would love to be wrong on this one for the sake of borrowers/home buyers).
Hat tip to ForeclosureIndustry.com
Ahhhh..the $64,000 question, "What's the Loudoun County housing market going to do in 2009?" Well, I just got back from the 3rd annual Dulles Area Association of REALTORS Economic and Housing Forecast Summit to talk about just that. The purpose of the summit was to review current national and local Loudoun County economic and housing market conditions and hear 2009 forecasts (and beyond) from respected economists.
There were three economists who spoke at the event, each giving their own take on things. They were,
- John McClain – Center for Regional Analysis, George Mason University
- Jed Smith – Managing Directory, Quantitative Research, National Association of REALTORS
- Jack Brown – Economist, Loudoun County Government
What happened and why…
All three were pretty much in agreement with what happened and why. The usual culprits and names were brought up:
- Loose lending guidelines
- Highly leveraged economy
- Mortgage-backed securities and liquidity issues
- Weakened lending institutions
- Excessive spending and unrealistic expectations
- Decline in household wealth (housing prices, stock market, etc)
Over-supply of homes
Current economic and housing market conditions…
All three spoke about how the DC metro economy, including Loudoun County, continues to be better off than most other places in the country. They cited overall job growth in the area and that the jobs being lost were being replaced by higher paying jobs, which is better for the local economy (more household income means more money to spend on consumer goods, higher tax revenue, etc). They also agreed that the supply of homes has come down and has plateaued while demand has increased - a good thing.
Another main point they agreed on was that things could be worse. Not only are we better off than a lot of other places in the US, the numbers and overall economy were much worse during the Great Depression and other times since then. We're still at about 93 percent employment and the folks who bought their homes about 7 years ago or later should still be up in their home's value.
They also said that one reason why it's not as bad is because the Federal Government stepped in. Personally, that worries me because we're putting all of our "recovery eggs" in the "Fed basket" – one wrong move and it could all collapse right on top of us. (Hopefully, our country's leaders and economists are smart enough to know what they're doing and not let that happen)
2009 (and beyond) Loudoun County economic and housing market forecasts…
Though they agreed on a lot of things, there were some differences in their forecasts. One economist said that we're looking at a recovery beginning in the summer of 2009. Another said that it may be later in 2009. One wouldn't really comment as to when, but talked about what signs to look for to see the recovery coming.
Though the DC metro area including Loudoun County is better off than most of the rest of the country, I'd say that the summer of 2009 is an extremely optimistic outlook. Even the later part of 2009 seems a bit optimistic. In reality, we still have a bunch of foreclosure inventory to get through and I think there may me a second wave coming soon.
They all said the numbers were getting better or at least slowing their increase. This includes "sub-prime" loans, many of which have already reset. But, none of them could comment about the "Alt-A" and "Option ARMs" that are just now starting to reset and may have a similar negative effect on the housing market as "subprime" loans have over the last few years. (They said they're "working on gathering Alt-A and Option ARM data as we speak")
I'd sum up the economic and housing market summit in a few sentences,
- We may know where we are, but we're not sure exactly where we're headed nor when
- Though things are bad, they could be worse
- The economists were moderately optimistic about the Loudoun housing market in 2009 and 2010
- They should have looked at all the data before making a forecast
We'll see what happens…
Many homeowners are wondering how President-Elect Barack Obama will tackle the housing and credit markets and the affect of that on them personally. That's a question I don't have the exact answer to (nor does anyone really), but there's a good blog post about this topic by Jeremy Hart over at NRVLiving that talks about some of the things that Obama is planning on doing once he takes office.
Here's an exerpt:
"So what's an Obama administration mean to the housing market? Well, his website lays out a plan:
Protect Homeownership and Crack Down on Mortgage Fraud – Obama and Biden will crack down on fraudulent brokers and lenders. They will also make sure homebuyers have honest and complete information about their mortgage options, and they will give a tax credit to all middle-class homeowners.
- Create a Universal Mortgage Credit: Obama and Biden will create a 10 percent universal mortgage credit to provide homeowners who do not itemize tax relief. This credit will provide an average of $500 to 10 million homeowners, the majority of whom earn less than $50,000 per year.
- Ensure More Accountability in the Subprime Mortgage Industry: Obama has been closely monitoring the subprime mortgage situation for years, and introduced comprehensive legislation over a year ago to fight mortgage fraud and protect consumers against abusive lending practices. Obama's STOP FRAUD Act provides the first federal definition of mortgage fraud, increases funding for federal and state law enforcement programs, creates new criminal penalties for mortgage professionals found guilty of fraud, and requires industry insiders to report suspicious activity.
- Mandate Accurate Loan Disclosure: Obama and Biden will create a Homeowner Obligation Made Explicit (HOME) score, which will provide potential borrowers with a simplified, standardized borrower metric (similar to APR) for home mortgages. The HOME score will allow individuals to easily compare various mortgage products and understand the full cost of the loan.
- Close Bankruptcy Loophole for Mortgage Companies: Obama and Biden will work to eliminate the provision that prevents bankruptcy courts from modifying an individual's mortgage payments. They believe that the subprime mortgage industry, which has engaged in dangerous and sometimes unscrupulous business practices, should not be shielded by outdated federal law."
There's another post over at VARbuzz enitled, "How will the Obama Administration affect the real estate industry? Dr. Paul Light et. al. explain". It considers both the good and bad. Worth the read.
On a side note…There's a survey at VARbuzz that asks the question, "How will the election of Barack Obama affect the real estate economy". Take a moment to check out the survey and see what the results of the survery are so far. (It's at the top of the very right hand column of VARbuzz's home page)
We just got our hands on a report entitled "Subprime Lending – Loudoun County Impacts Report", which was reviewed at the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors meeting yesterday (Feb 20). The report covers things such as reduced housing demand; reduced prices and slower homebuilding; and the impact on specific neighborhoods within Loudoun County.
To read the full article and review the actual report in its’ entirety, click here.
Yesterday, President Bush signed a two-year, $168 billion economic stimulus package that includes revisions to loan limits on conventional/conforming and FHA loans in high cost areas. The new law boosts the GSE conforming limit to as much as $729,750 through the end of this year, and also raises FHA lending limits to the same level for high-cost areas.
Here’s what the bill says:
In high cost areas, the conforming loan limit, and the upper limit for FHA loan guarantee programs, will be 125 percent of the median home price for the area, not to exceed $729,750.
In areas that are not high cost markets, the conforming loan limit will remain $417,000. The upper limit for FHA loan guarantee programs in "normal" markets will be raised from $200,160 to $271,050.
The language in the stimulus bill is confusing, and the fact is nobody can tell you exactly what will happen to loan limits in the DC Metro area/Loudoun County until HUD publishes the median home price figures that will be used to determine them.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development now has 30 days to publish a database of house prices that will be essential in determining which markets get access to the new "jumbo conforming" or "expanded FHA" loan products. Once HUD has done that, the areas affected and their new loan limits will be released.
Though the current limit for a single family home in the DC metro area/Loudoun County is $362,790, many I have spoken with have speculated that the new limit could be around $625K to $650K. But the NAR and Stanford Group have projected the limit in our area to be $547, 500. This is based on their calculations of the DC metro area median price Q3 ’07 and a 125 percent increase in the limits.
In a post on real/diaBlog yesterday, we talked about the Bush mortgage interest rate freeze plan and how it’s just delaying the inevitable. We would like to see what you think about it, which brings us to this week’s Thursday poll:
As of this morning, the percentage of properties for sale that are in foreclosure/bank owned in Loudoun County, specifically Ashburn, Sterling and Leesburg is:
- Ashburn – 5 percent
- Sterling – 11 percent
- Leesburg – 11 percent
This is an increase over last month and the highest in several years.
One reason why the perecentage is increasing is because we’re looking at the active properties. More new foreclosures are coming on the market than are selling.
These bank owned foreclosures are not selling nearly as quickly as the other properties because they are not yet priced at a point that makes them very appealing to investors or home buyers. Once you factor in what it would cost to bring them up to the standards of comparable properties, you’re just below or at the same total cost. The difference is that you can just buy a move-in condition property and save yourself the time and hassle of getting contractors out to fix it.
Now, as far as a rental investment, there are some that are appealing. With the amount of rent you can bring in based on the current rental market along with the price point and the monthly payment based on a 20 percent down investor loan, you would break even if not have positive cash flow. But once again, we go back to having to spend the time and energy to fix it up along with at least one if not two months worth of carrying costs (PITI and HOA dues). It seems that most investors that are in it for the long haul (rentals) are not willing to spend this kind of time and energy.
The reason why these foreclosures are still not priced aggressively enough is that the banks have not been beat up enough to drop the price to where the market will absorb them. Once they carry these properties for an extended period of time and the number of foreclosure they have goes up even more, they may start to realize that they need to adjust the prices in order to get the properties off their books.
Time will soon start taking its toll on banks though. We’ll start seeing foreclosures/bank owned properties coming down in price and banks will start accepting offers that they’re currently rejecting because they’re "too low".
Congratulations to the Washington, DC metro area including Northern Virginia for being one of the top ten best cities/areas in the country for a job (via Forbes.com). Though it dropped from number one (last year), it’s still number five.
- Raleigh-Cary, NC
- Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ
- Jacksonville, FL
- Orlando-Kissimmee, FL
- Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Honolulu, HI
- Las Vegas-Paradise, NV
- Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, FL
- Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC
How does this effect real estate particularly property values? Well, one of the most important leading indicators of the long-term health of the local real estate market and market values is the unemployment rate/jobs. Northern Virginia has the lowest unemployment rate in the area (one of the reasons why the Washington, DC metro area was number five on the list) and plenty of people are still moving into the area. That helps give the local real estate market (and property values) a healthy long-term outlook.