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Empirical evidence that real estate is nowhere near recovery mode

While statistics about real estate appear to be improving, distressed properties are the concrete blocks tied around the ankles of American property owners and we are not experiencing a recovery yet, even in light of slightly improving indicators.

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Positive signs for real estate – not so fast

In some markets around the country the inventory of real estate for sale, especially homes, has been significantly reduced of late. Buyers are racing to participate in bidding wars spawned by multiple offers on ‘killer’ deals.

I suppose in some of those markets what’s happening is organic in nature. However, it’s my studied opinion that may not be the case for most, if not all of ’em experiencing this phenomena.

Why this phenomena is taking place

The reliable facts can be found entering, leaving, and inside the foreclosure pipeline.

Add up the following:

Homes already lender owned.

Homes in the pipeline — Notice of Default served — process started.

Homes 30-180+ days late in payments — No NOD served yet.

Homes significantly ‘upside down’. Worth WAY less than loan balance.

Homes listed for short sale that never sell, ending up on the REO pile.

This is where it gets dicey. Who knows how many homes all that amounts to? I don’t. Ask those who’ve been keepin’ track, and there’s still significant disagreement on the ultimate number. However, they do seem to fall into a range.

4-6 million homes.

Let’s use the low end here. The temporary backup in the pipeline is due to many outside forces, including, but not limited to the legal problems in the judicial foreclosure states, and banks dragging their feet for their own bookkeeping reasons. This is a minor hairball in the pipeline, not years of tree roots gumming everything up semi-permanently.

In other words, this too shall pass

When it does, there are gonna be folks all over the country wondering what on earth possessed them to not only voluntarily enter a bidding war in this economy, but pay far in excess of the asking price! I hope for their sakes I’m wrong about their specific  market, and they didn’t overpay. It’s my view this is but a bump in the road.

What makes it galling, is that so many first time investors will be sucked into it. Much like the bottom, which according to so many, has been reached several times in the last several years. There are still San Diegans not speaking to me. Not cuz I pleaded with them not to invest in 2007 — ‘at the bottom’. But that 18 months later they not only hadn’t believed me, but were down roughly 10%. Sometimes the only thing worse than being wrong, is being right.

I pray that I’m wrong

I pray I’m wrong about this — on so many levels. The problem remains. Those 4-6 million homes ain’t goin’ away. When the pipeline is cleared, the clog removed, we’ll be back to looking forward to a recovered real estate market. It should be an interesting look back in around 3-9 months.

The mistake that might be in play here, is that the fundamentals haven’t changed. Sure, reduced inventory is a fundamental. But, if said inventory was reduced as a consequence of a short lived ‘hairball’, then the fundamental never really changed, did it? Not from where I sit.

Again, I pray I’m wrong, and hundreds haven’t wasted their hard earned investment capital cuz ‘the worm has finally turned’. It ain’t anywhere near turning — that is, in my opinion.

4-6 million homes is what some call empirical evidence of a yet ongoing real estate foreclosure issue.

Jeff Brown specializes in real estate investment for retirement, has practiced real estate for over 40 years and is a veteran of over 200 tax deferred exchanges, many multi-state. Brown is a second generation broker and works daily with the third generation. With CCIM training and decades of hands on experience, Brown's expertise is highly sought after, some of which he shares on his real estate investing blog.

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39 Comments

39 Comments

  1. Joe Loomer

    March 5, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Jeff, I always enjoy your no-nonsense take on the real estate industry – whether I agree with it or not. I think the interesting “look back” won’t be in 3-9 months, but rather in 2-3 years. Getting this inventory through the pipeline is going to be a measured, deliberate process designed to both keep the impact on non-distressed properties to a minimum (although and further value loss can’t be definded as “minimum”), and to prevent the basketball in the garden hose effect. The Federal Government isn’t done with legal action either – the bond issue is still out there and there will be further settlements with the financial sector over the ranking and bundling of those secondary market securities.
    It’s going to be a 2-3 year bump along the bottom before a serious up-tick.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

    • Jeff Brown

      March 5, 2012 at 11:39 am

      Hey Joe — Good to hear from ya. I agree with you. When I said it’d be interesting to look back 3-9 months from now, I was ONLY referring to this current bump in the road re: the temporary halt in foreclosures. I wasn’t talking about the overall recovery of real estate.

  2. Al Lorenz

    March 5, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Jeff,
    Just a ray of sunshine this morning, aren’t ya!

    Actually, I would argue you are talking about a “static” look at the system. There are going to be additional disruptions to the market, from rising gas prices, rising taxes, tax law changes, the upcoming election, middle east uncertainty and what eventually happens to financial markets due to Europe. Yes, the clearing of the hairball (as you call it) in the foreclosure process will change the current market.

    We could have natural disasters that hurt the market too. The tsunami in Japan hurt consumer confidence last year.

    Of course, there could be good disruptions too. Those aren’t quite as easy to list.

    There was a little bump up in 2010 with the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit. Some folks called the bottom before that too.

    The takeaway? Potential sellers who are waiting thinking prices are going to improve in the short term might well be mistaken. I see more signs that show the wait could still be another 5 years or so than that prices are going to go up significantly in the shorter term.

    I suggest a more present approach to the market. If you want to sell, and people are out there buying and bidding things up, by all means, sell.

  3. Greg Lyles

    March 7, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    I run the market stats for my area of Atlanta each month. On average, 50% of all sales are distress sales. Those distress sales have a negative impact on valuations of homes surrounding them. When that happens, owners equity is diminished. When that happens, more owners find themselves closer to the negative equity position. Then more distress sales. Until consumer confidence improves dramatically, the interest rates could be zero and we’ll still be stuck in the same cycle.

  4. bficker

    March 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    I agree with this whole premise. CoreLogic just came out with some numbers for our local area; that we would APPRECIATE 1.3% this year. If you are like me, and it sounds like you are, then that number is probably on the wrong side of the zero. So if I tell people to wait, and CoreLogic is right, and they bought next year, then they MAY spend an extra $2300 on a $200k home. But what if I’M right? What if this hairball gets cleared? What if the election gets wrapped up and there are not political reasons to pressure banks in to not foreclosing as quickly? What if our market drops another 10% (which is completely possible)? Why take that risk?

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Economic News

Is the real estate industry endorsing Carson’s nomination to HUD?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Ben Carson’s initial appointment to HUD was controversial given his lack of experience in housing, but what is the pulse now?

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NAR strongly backs Dr. Carson’s nomination

When President-Elect Donald Trump put forth Dr. Ben Carson’s name as the nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, NAR President William E. Brown said, “While we’ve made great strides in recent years, far more can be done to put the dream of homeownership in reach for more Americans.”

At the time of nomination, the National Association of Realtors (the largest trade organization in the nation) offered a positive tone regarding Dr. Carson and said the industry looks forward to working with him. But does that hold true today?

The confirmation hearings yesterday were far less controversial than one would expect, especially in light of how many initially reacted to his nomination. Given his lack of experience in housing, questions seemed to often center around protecting the LGBT community and veterans, both of which he pledged to support.

In fact, Dr. Carson said the Fair Housing Act is “one of the best pieces of legislation we’ve ever had in this country,” promising to issue a “world-class plan” for housing upon his confirmation…

>>>>>Click to continue reading…<<<<<

#CarsonHUD

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Economic News

Job openings hit 14-year high, signaling economic improvement

The volume of job openings is improving, but not across all industries. The overall economy is improving, but not evenly across all career paths.

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Job openings hit a high point

To understand the overall business climate, the U.S. Labor Department studies employment, today releasing data specific to job vacancies. According to the department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLT) for April, job openings rose to 5.38 million, the highest seen since December 2000, and a significant jump from March’s 5.11 million vacancies. Although a lagging indicator, it shows strength in the labor market.

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The Labor Department reports that the number of hires in April fell to 5 million, which indicates a weak point in the strong report, and although the volume remains near recent highs, this indicates a talent gap and highlights the number of people who have left the labor market and given up on looking for a job.

Good news, bad news, depending on your profession

That said, another recent Department report notes that employers added 221,000 jobs in April and 280,000 in May, but the additions are not evenly spread across industries. Construction jobs rose in April, but dipped in professional and business services, hospitality, trade, and transportation utilities. In other words, white collar jobs are down, blue collar jobs are up, which is good or bad news depending on your profession.

Additionally, the volume of people quitting their jobs was 2.7 million in April compared to the seven-year high of 2.8 million in March. Economists follow this number as a metric for gauging employee confidence in finding their next job.

What’s next

If you’re in the market for a job, there are an increasing number of openings, so your chance of getting hired is improving, but there is a caveat – not all industries are enjoying improvement.

If you’re hiring talent, you’ll still get endless resumes, but there appears to be a growing talent gap for non-labor jobs, so you’re not alone in struggling to find the right candidate.

Economists suspect the jobs market will continue to improve as a whole, but this data does not pertain to every industry.

#JobOpenings

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Economic News

Gas prices are down, so are gas taxes about to go up?

Do low gas prices mean higher gas taxes are on the way? Budgeting for 2015 just got a bit more complicated, if some politicians have their way.

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Gas taxes and your bottom line

Many industries rely heavily on time in their vehicle, not just truck drivers and delivery trucks. Sales professionals hop in their vehicles throughout the day, as do many other types of professionals (service providers like plumbers, and so forth). For that reason, gas prices and taxes are a relevant line item that must be budgeted for 2015, but with politicians making the rounds to push for higher gas taxes, budgeting becomes more complicated.

Gas prices are down roughly 50 cents per gallon compared to a year ago, which some analysts say have contributed to more money in consumers’ pockets. Some believe that this will improve holiday sales, but others believe the timing is just right to increase federal taxes on gas. The current tax on gas is 18.40 cents per gallon, and on diesel are 24.40 cents per gallon.

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Supporters and opponents are polar opposites

Supporters argue as follows: gas prices are low, so it won’t hurt to increase federal gas taxes, in fact, those funds must go toward improving our infrastructure, which in the long run, saves Americans money because smoother roads mean better gas mileage and less congestion.

Gas taxes have long been a polarizing concept, and despite lowered gas prices, the controversial nature of the taxes have not diminished.

While some are pushing for complete abolition of federal gas taxes, others, like former Pennsylvania Governor, Ed Rendell (D) tell CNBC, “Say that cost the average driver $130 a year. They would get a return on that investment” in safer roads and increased quality of life, he added.

The Washington Post‘s Chris Mooney points out that federal gas taxes have been “stuck” at 18 cents for over 20 years, last raised when gas was barely a dollar a gallon and that the tax must increase not only to improve the infrastructure, but to “green” our behavior, and help our nation find tax reform compromise.

Is a gas tax politically plausible?

Mooney writes, “So, this is not an argument that a gas tax raise is politically plausible — any more than a economically efficient tax on carbon would be. It’s merely a suggestion that — ignoring politics — it might be a pretty good idea.”

Rendell noted, “The World Economic Forum, 10 years ago, rated us the best infrastructure in the world,” adding that we “need to do something for our infrastructure, not in a one or two year period, but over a decade.”

Others would note that this rating has not crumbled in just a few years, that despite many bridges and roads in need of repair, our infrastructure is still superior to even the most civilized nations.

Regardless of the reasons, most believe that Congress won’t touch this issue with a ten-foot pole, especially leading up to another Presidential campaign season starting next year.

“I think it’s too toxic and continues to be too toxic,” Steve LaTourette (the former Republican congressman best known for his close friendship with his fellow Ohioan, Speaker John Boehner) tells The Atlantic. “I see no political will to get this done.”

Whether the time is fortuitous or not, and regardless of the positive side effects, many point to a fear of voters’ retaliation against any politician siding with a gas hike, so this matter going any further than the proposal stage is unlikely.

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