August Perspectives by Matthew Gardner
Originally posted on Windermere Blog August 10, 2015
Every year there’s some aspect of the real estate market that becomes a focal point for the media. A few years ago it was whether or not housing would ever recover from the Great Recession. Then it was historically low interest rates and inventory levels. And more recently, it’s whether or not this hyper-paced, multiple-offer real estate market is heading towards another housing bubble. To explore this further, we’d like to introduce Windermere’s new Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, who doesn’t believe there’s a cause for concern, for now.
I’m often asked if we are on the verge of another “bubble” bursting due to an overheated housing market. My response is no, and here are the reasons why:
Fewer flippers: Foreclosures are the preferred property type for home flippers because they offer significantly higher margins. But with the continued drop in foreclosures, we’ve seen a marked slowdown in flipping. Nationally, the percentage of flipped homes has decreased from 6.7% in 2014 to 4% today, and this share is expected to keep declining, signifying a more normalized market.
Lending standards remain stringent: Banks actually learned a lesson from the collapse of the housing market and have made qualifying for a mortgage quite difficult. Even low down payment programs like FHA, that have less stringent FICO requirements, have significantly tightened their standards, thus lowering the risk of lending to borrowers who cannot handle their mortgage obligations.
Home prices are up, but not to pre-bubble levels: Data provided by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices tells us that in the Seattle area, the bursting of the housing bubble led to a 33 percent drop in the index. The index has certainly recovered significantly, but is still 7% below the prior peak.
Interest rates will (eventually) rise: Some fear that rising rates will take some steam out of the market, but growth in employment, and the subsequent drop in the unemployment rate, will lead to wage growth and increasing incomes, which will take some of the sting out of any rate increase.
As you can see, the housing market and economic climate of today are very different from the conditions that led to the housing bubble in 2007. Nobody can predict what’s going to happen with 100% certainty, but given the current state of things, I don’t believe there is a risk of history repeating itself in the foreseeable future.
Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.