Monday, December 26, 2011

Housing Market Strengthening But Long Road to Recovery Lies Ahead

The year 2011 is ending on a high note as economists anticipate some signs of recovery ahead. Prices appear to be reaching their trough, visible supply is on the decline, and banks are beginning – just slightly – to loosen lending standards, according to a fourth-quarter report from Capital Economics.

However, Capital Economics warns these positive signs do not point to an immediate recovery.
Taking into account the historic ratio between disposable income and housing prices, homes were undervalued by 23 percent in the third quarter. Homes have not been this undervalued since at least 1975.
Since 2006, prices have declined 33 percent, countering the sharp increases of the boom years. Therefore, “[i]t is
clear that prices don’t need to fall further,” Capital Economics says.
Nondistressed home prices in particular seem to have bottomed out. While home prices declined 4 percent this year, prices of nondistressed homes fell only 0.5 percent.
Having reached the bottom, however, prices will not jump far in the new year. Capital Economics predicts national home prices will remain unchanged over the next two years before seeing positive movement – a 2.5 percent increase – in 2014.
This past year has seen some positive movement in housing inventory with a 20 percent decrease in the number of homes listed for sale over the year. However, supply will remain an obstacle moving forward as the current shadow inventory is estimated at 4 million.
Demand will also continue to be an issue. However, the report notes the market has seen a slight increase in home sales, which it attributes to first-time buyers.
Banks are contributing to rising demand and supply absorption by allowing loans with loan to value ratios of 80 percent or even slightly higher, something that has not occurred since mid-2008, according to Capital Economics.
The overall economy will not help boost the housing market in the coming year as the U.S. will continue to be affected by the euro-zone crisis.
The rental market will continue to be the best-performing segment of the market

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