Most commentary on the housing markets — from the industry, from analysts, from the media — all give the impression that the housing crisis is well behind us. One economist in U.S. News & World Report highlighted the slight uptick in new single-family homes this year as fodder for economic growth – well, so is a $4.95 purchase at Ben & Jerry’s ($BJIC). Like we discussed last week, the increase in new home sales isn't worth a hoot!
Nobody sees the greatest long-term trend: The next generation cannot fill the shoes of the baby boomers. It’s smaller, and they simply cannot match the spending power of their predecessors. The economic implications are profound — especially for real estate, because unlike disposable goods, it never goes away! That’s why Chapter three of my book The Demographic Cliff is entitled: “Why Real Estate Will Never Be the Same.”
But there are other short-term dangers that’ll make this bad situation even worse…and almost no one sees them! Long term, the boomer’s decline in housing demand triggered the housing crisis. The shorter-term trigger was the subprime crisis. That’s what happens when you issue a ton of bad loans while home prices keep dropping!
But economists keep pointing at the latest positive numbers to show we’re heading to recovery. Look at the Case-Shiller Index – up almost 16% since the start of 2013! Look at the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s index – up 11% over the same period! Guess what? Those numbers are mostly bogus.
A recent piece from Keith Jurow called Why the Housing Market Collapse Is Set to Resume explains why. Like me with the stock market, Jurow’s one of the only guys warning about a crash in the housing market. He looks at Core Logic, the premier source on mortgage delinquencies. Their data shows that delinquencies have fallen from 2010’s high of 8.6% to 3.9%.
Sounds good, right? Except the largest banks report completely different figures. Wells Fargo & Co. ($WFC) reports a delinquency rate of 13.8%. JP Morgan Chase & Co. ($JPM): 13.3%. And Bank of America Corp ($BAC): 12.9%. Those are a lot bigger than 3.9%! And much more threatening!
Here's the difference: Core Logic Inc. ($CLGX) is reporting the number of delinquencies. The banks are reporting their total outstanding balances. They’re completely different figures! They’re ignoring the fact that those “numbers” include jumbo loans on homes that are $400,000 to 500,000 or higher. When you add them up, that’s millions and millions of dollars on their balances.
What sounds worse? A handful of delinquent homeowners, or millions of dollars outstanding? Core Logic’s just focusing on the one that sounds better! This is why the “housing recovery” is a big fat lie…
Fuzzy Math is Behind the Housing Boom...
To prop up the sector, the banks stopped foreclosing on larger loans in 2010. Putting them back up for sale would have completely saturated the housing market. Home prices would’ve fallen even lower, and too-big-to-fail banks would’ve been nailed! So, they targeted the smaller fish instead.
Almost all of these smaller mortgage loans are bought and guaranteed by government-sponsored agencies like Fannie Mae ($FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC). So they take the losses, not the banks. The average mortgage at Fannie Mae is a measly $159,000. Those are the loans the banks targeted for foreclosure… not the big ones. After all, better to foreclose on the easier-to-sell homes than the ones that could never possibly sell.
So while Core Logic touts a 3.9% delinquency rate, Jurow’s sources show it’s more like 17% to 19% nationwide on the larger jumbo loans. And that’s just nationwide. When you isolate the larger, more bubbly markets where most of those delinquencies on jumbo loans occur, you see results like this…
The delinquency rate of the New York City metro area is 39.06%. The Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area: 37.59%. Tampa/St. Petersburg — where I live — 36.81%. Vegas: 29.74%. And the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet area: 28.25%.
Do you understand how misleading 3.9% is!? There are 19 million people in the NYC metro area alone. And nearly 40% of its homeowners who have jumbo loans are delinquent! If the economy sinks into another recession — which we believe is inevitable — just imagine what it’ll look like if even MORE delinquencies come up. It’ll be especially bad in metro areas with large, delinquent mortgage loans threatening higher losses!
This crisis is not behind us... and the housing market is not going into a recovery. Banks still have the worst loans on their balance sheets. The demographic trends show a net decline for houses from 2015 through 2039. Who cares if 2015 is showing a pitiful rise in new homes sales thus far!
I encourage you to join me on September 10 to 12 at the third annual Irrational Economic Summit to discuss why the boomers are such a threat to our economy. Real estate isn’t the only reason…but it’s a pretty big one. A host of other analysts will join the discussion, including David Stockman, Dr. Lacy Hunt, and keynote speaker P.J. O’Rourke. We’ll tell you exactly how you need to react to this unprecedented demographic situation.
For now, consider your real estate holdings — especially higher-end properties in the major markets. Banks can tighten up on loans very fast if they see the sector start to crack. And don’t buy into the bogus figures that say the housing market’s doing better. We’re warning you — it’s not!
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