Waiting for the Bottom of the Real Estate Market?

RECESSION ENDS IN 2009 Many people have been telling me for years that the real estate market is turning around.  Newspapers and blogs have been enthusiastically predicted that the recession ended and everything was going to be alright.  I heard the real estate market had “turned around” in 2010, but the downward trend continued.  Now new data is coming forward.

Home Prices over the Last 10 YearsAll signs indicate that we are very likely skimming the bottom of the real estate bust, and things are just beginning to look up.  Nationally, many other locations were much harder hit than Massachusetts.  Prices and sales in the Boston area were not has hard hit as Central Massachusetts.  The towns in the Wachusett Region lost an average of 25% to 30% from 2006 to 2012.

October sales numbers jumped 21%, according to the Warren Group.  Meanwhile home prices spiked 4.4 percent, according to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, which also released its October numbers. .  This is the most impressive jump in median prices since the end of the $8,000 home buyer credit in 2010.  Unfortunately, the Warren Group, which includes all sales in Massachusetts, not just Realtor assisted sales, has home prices staying essentially flat.

NEW CONSTRUCTION INVENTORY 112812The new construction starts are down dramatically, as you can see by this chart.  In 2000 there were 850,000 homes built, and by 2005 we reached an all-time high of almost 1,400,000.    Today, we are lucky to see 390,000 built and they cost more than the existing homes available.  The new energy and upgraded code requirements haveNew Construction Inventory added thousands of dollars to the cost of construction.  Material costs have really started to move up as well, which makes new construction more risky.  As you can see, the inventory for new homes for sale is down dramatically, at its lowest point since 1960.

Although the inventory is down in both new construction and existing homes for sale, the advice to buyers is to consider buying sooner rather than later.  It is only a matter of time before the prices do start to move up and the interest rates will unlikely be better.  Buy a home you love and settle in for the long haul as a wonderful place to live, not just an “investment”.

The elections are over, and if our politicians don’t push us over the “Fiscal Cliff“, I believe we will start the slow recovery of improved pricing and reasonable sales pace.  Sellers will need to listen careful to their Realtors when pricing their homes, but the low inventory will help move homes.  I saw the crash coming in 2005, but I never believed it would be a seven-year fall.

What Kind of Real Estate Forecast Can We Make for 2012?

The National Bureau of Economic Research, a group of independent economists, had declared that the recession ended in June of 2009.  RECESSION ENDS IN 2009The Bureau took more than a year to decide that we started the recession in December of 2007 and decided in the summer of 2010 that the recession ended in June 2009.  This recession has been the longest and deepest recession the country ever experienced. 

Many people know that we are now undergoing the longest, slowest, most painful recovery the country has ever experienced.  Now in January 2012, two and a half years after the recession “ended”, we are seeing hopeful signs of life in some areas of the economic picture.  MA UNEMPLOYMENT 1991 TO 2011The unemployment rate in Massachusetts has fallen to its lowest level in a long time to 7.3%.  Some industries are beginning to experience growth and we can only hope they continue to hire and create new jobs.

One area we continue to struggle with is housing.  The actual loss of wealth for so many people in this country is staggering.  The California Association of Realtors has released its real estate forecast for 2012. 

It is interesting to see that in 2005 they sold 625,000 homes and in 2007  that number dropped to 346,900—a 55% drop in the number of sales.  The median price of homes in 2005 was $522,700, but by 2011 the median prices have dropped to $291,000—a 56% drop in value.   All real estate is local, but some parts of California, Nevada, and Florida have experienced over 75% loss in value.

Massachusetts, and particularly Boston, has fared much better than many of the states.  Trulia has come out with its top five places slated for a quicker recovery:  Austin, Houston, San Jose, Boston, (and in particular Cambridge, Newton, Framingham, and Worcester) and Rochester, NY.  Austin and Houston have seen jobs and new construction get a jump-start.  San Jose and Boston areas are home to the technology belt with lots of smart, well-educated people, and Rochester  has had stable prices and economy throughout the downturn.  The take away is that highly educated, tech-savvy cities may push through the recovery quicker than other parts of the country.

Realtors have not been able to see the bottoming of prices yet,  but I expect this year will be it.   Once we have hit the bottom, it will be a slow climb back up, but there truly is light at the end of the tunnel.  I first saw the warning signs of trouble in 2005, and after 6 years of serious turmoil,  I believe we are past the worst.

The new economic reality may be something we have to get used to, because this complete recovery may be many years in the making.  Some people, like seniors, who have done everything right, have had their planned retirement future smashed by the dramatic loss of wealth.  We are already seeing not only seniors, but young college graduates moving back to the family home.  This may be the new reality for now as we all adjust to the slow recovery.  But I am looking forward to 2012 as our turn around year.  What do you think?

The NAR Forecast for Economic Growth

The following chart gives a projected forecast for housing sales, housing starts, and economic growth.  Growth will be difficult for the first quarter of 2009, but if the new president makes good decisions, growth will return and we will make a reasonable recovery.

Our biggest concern will be the fear generated by the pundits and media looking for headlines.  Cool heads will lead us through this difficult time.

NAR Forecast from 2003 to 2010

NAR Forecast from 2003 to 2010

Since business spending will lag behind consumer spending, consumer confidence will be important to our recovery.  The real estate market in Central Massachusetts is showing signs of bottoming out and some recovery.  Inventory is down and prices are attractive.  The severe ice storm and resulting damage will slow activity during the holiday season, but with interest rates coming down, the market should pick up after the first of the year.

The National Association of Realtors used extensive historical data to create the forecasts.  This economic downturn is similar to the downturn after Black Monday in October 1987 and the price correction in real estate has been similar.  The real initial slow down in activity in the market began in the fall of 2004 to 2005, similar to the 1987 to 1989 time frame.  We hit the bottom of the price correction in 1991 with prices returning to 1987 levels in 1996.  In today’s market recovery in the number of sales will take place much sooner than the price recovery.